Aiming for the top: How SUNY Broome inspired Branden to reach his potential

Branden Desmond

Branden Desmond

Branden Desmond dares to dream big.

Interested in politics and law, he’s already run for public office – conducting a write-in campaign for Smithville town supervisor. While he netted only 15 votes, he actively hit the campaign trail, connecting with his fellow residents.

Perhaps his political career began a bit earlier at Greene High School, where he ran for student council president twice – on a communist ticket. (His slogan: “Go red for Greene.”) His interest in communism began in high school, when he began researching the topic, and culminated recently in a research project for SUNY Broome’s challenging Honors program.

His long-term goals: Become an attorney, visit the tomb of Lenin and someday make a run for the White House, contributing to the betterment of his country. His presidential role models are the Roosevelts, both Theodore and FDR.

“I want to be president. I’ve dreamed about it since I was about 12,” he said.

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‘A second home’

Desmond enrolled in SUNY Broome at the very last moment. He was set to go to the University at Albany, but the campus just didn’t feel right and he opted to stay closer to home.

“When I first took my tour of the campus, I knew that this is where I wanted to be,” he said. “SUNY Broome has almost become a second home to me since I first started. I have met amazing teachers here, and have had a chance to grow both academically and as a person.”

While he was a B+ student in high school, he strived for excellence in college, achieving a near-perfect GPA every semester. He has a dual major in Paralegal Studies and Liberal Arts, to help prepare him for law school down the road.

He enjoys the challenging nature of the Honors Program, and the connections he forged with professors Steven Call and Leeland Whitted, with whom he conducted his Honors project.

“I like the freedom it gives me in class, especially in connecting with a teacher you like. It really shines when you have that interaction,” Branden said of the Honors Program.

In his Honors project, Desmond drew on his interest in communism and explored how its principles were enacted – or not – in societies such as the Soviet Union, Israel and North Korea, as well as Europe prior to World War II. He also explored American communities, such as the Transcendentalists, which espoused communist principles.

While Desmond has a deep appreciation for communist ideals – the pooling of resources and shared ownership by the people, and the focus on altruism in particular – he found that all too often it can lead to a totalitarian society, so-called “barracks communism” in which life is bureaucratically regimented. Rather than nation-states, communism proved more successful in small-scale communities where people pool their resources. (Communism, he points out, is also distinct from the socialism found in many European countries, in which a private sector exists and people have their own money and resources.)

The ideals underpinning communism often get lost in the West, especially considering the legacy of the Cold War during which communist societies were viewed as “The Red Menace.”

“It truly is beautiful, the idea of everyone working together for the betterment of society,” Desmond reflected.

Outside of class, Branden aids his peers as a tutor and is president of the Tutoring Club. He also has a work-study job in Liberal Arts, aiding Professor Lisa Strahley, and works as a supervisor at CVS. Life can be hectic and he averages only four to six hours of sleep at night, juggling schoolwork with his employment.

What keeps him going? “I tap into that ambition and passion for everything,” he replied.

He’s also co-manager for sales for Blues on the Bridge, a popular music festival in downtown Binghamton. He became involved with the event as a summer job in high school selling advertising, and his work blossomed from there. His role in the event converges with his interest in law, as it requires him to know about contracts.

‘Life-altering’ connections

Like many local students, Branden pondered transferring to Binghamton University. His professors, however, urged him to broaden his horizons and consider the Ivy League – Cornell University, or even Harvard. He’s applying to both, with the eventual aim of getting into their law schools.

In essence, Branden views his ambitions in law and politics as two sides of a larger system of societal justice. In some senses, politics is a macrocosm of justice while attorneys operate in the microcosm, as they seek justice for their individual clients.

While Branden Desmond has enjoyed many aspects of his SUNY Broome experience – the academic rigor, the campus and the community – he credits his professors with making his time here truly memorable and shaping his path to come.

“SUNY Broome has been life-altering,” he said. “If I hadn’t met Professor Whittaker or Professor Call, I wouldn’t have come to grasp my intellectual potential.”