Katie Hèbert, Staff Writer|
On Friday, September 14, Dr. Kristina Johnson was inaugurated as the thirteenth chancellor of the SUNY system. The inauguration took place at the Morris W. and Fannie B. Haft Theater at the Fashion Institute of Technology, with leaders and members from academia, government, business, and philanthropic organizations.
The night before, a celebratory dinner took place at the New York Public Library, where students across the SUNY system gathered to celebrate the inauguration with a number of different performances, such as string quartets, acapella music groups, dance performances, spoken word, and more. Presidents across the SUNY system attended, including SUNY Oneonta’s new president, Dr. Barbara Morris, along with a number of donors and benefactors. The event was hosted by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Two of SUNY Oneonta’s students, Jillian Moczara and Gabe Membreno, attended and performed spoken word poetry at the event. The SUNY Impact Foundation organized the dinner, and noted on their website that due to “the generosity of corporate sponsors listed below, and many SUNY Impact Foundation donors, the dinner raised over $1 million. Net proceeds will be used to fund two initiatives that will secure the educational pathways of SUNY students: A Chancellor’s Fellowship Fund and a Near Degree Completion Grant Fund.”
Moczara and Membreno, both seniors here at SUNY Oneonta, credited their involvement with the event to Robb Thibault, the Hunt College Union Director and the Poetry Slam Association advisor, who reached out to last year’s poetry slam team to invite those interested to the event. Moczara shared that the piece they performed was a love poem, comparing their love interest to their favorite color, yellow, and Membreno shared a poem of his own, called “A Town Together” about growing up on Long Island, sharing the “connection to me being there with all these people sharing many of my experiences with me.” Moczara shared that as the two of them ended their performances, “a number of people sitting at tables quickly told us that they enjoyed our performance as well as caterers and other dinner guests complimenting us throughout the night. We actually received an incredibly nice and sweet email from Dr. Morris thanking and complimenting us, the following morning.”
The two didn’t get a chance to see much of Dr. Johnson at the event, due to preparation of their performances, but “she seemed very kind and passionate about helping SUNY be the best school system that it could be,” says Moczara, “I hope that she’s able to build upon what previous chancellors have done and that she’s even better equipped to help every SUNY student have an amazing college career.” Membreno noted Dr. Johnson’s involvement of feminism within STEM fields, and is excited to see her involvement of that within the SUNY system.
Moczara, President of the Poetry Slam Association, shared joy about being able to be involved with the event: “This experience was literally so amazing and wonderful and fulfilling. I am so happy that I was given the chance to represent a school that has done so much for me. I was able to talk about Oneonta and poetry slam with various other performers and event organizers and it was so great to be able to gush about something that completely changed my life and college experience. I love slam poetry and it was incredibly exciting to be in New York City with one of my best friends doing something we both love.”
Membreno, Treasurer of the Poetry Slam Association, expressed similar joy and excitement sharing, “it was incredibly exciting to be there and perform essentially showing these people who have put so much faith and effort into ensuring we have the resources and opportunities to better our crafts and our characters that we’re grateful and serious about everything we do. Oneonta has always had so much good to offer, and it’s a wonderful thing getting to show people what this place has given me.” The two also got to meet the Master of Ceremonies of the event, Wolf Blitzer, which Membreno says was “equal parts shocking, terrifying, and fun. His alma mater is University of Buffalo, so it meant a lot to have him there and assure us he was proud of the people who are next in line to make names for themselves and bring some of this homegrown good to the rest of the world.”
As described on the SUNY website, Dr. Kristina Johnson is “a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Inventors who holds 118 U.S. and international patents, has published 149 referenced papers and proceedings. She is a fellow of the Optical Society of America, International Electronics and Electrical Engineering (IEEE), the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Before becoming chancellor of SUNY, she was a co-founder and CEO of Cube Hydro Partners, LLC and Under Secretary of Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy under President Barack Obama. In the field of education, Dr. Johnson served as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Johns Hopkins University from 2007-2009 and Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University from 1999-2007.”