Bridging the Divide: Diversity enriches John’s experience of campus life

John Parker

John Parker

For John Parker, SUNY Broome presented him with opportunities he didn’t expect: the chance to become a leader, to bridge cultural divides – and even find the love of his life.

An Engineering Science major from Apalachin, he had heard grumblings in the community after the Student Village opened in 2014. The message underlying those whispers: The denizens of the college’s first and only residence hall are different from their commuter counterparts.

Parker, however, was intrigued and applied to become a Resident Assistant. “I enjoy leading diverse groups of people and I thought it would be a good scenario to improve my leadership skills,” he explained.

He discovered that diversity needn’t be greeted with fear. Sitting down with his fellow students, he learned more about their backgrounds – their struggles and achievements, and the reasons they might have for different views.

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“I used to be very misinformed about different viewpoints and the backgrounds of others here in society. Coming to such a diverse college allowed me to sit down and learn with those who come from different areas and what their backgrounds are like,” he reflected.

The desire to learn new things, particularly about other people, may be an integral part of John Parker’s life. Back in 2014, he had taught himself Mandarin – a difficult, tonal language where a subtle shift in intonation can mean the difference between an insult and a greeting. Two years later, he went to China with his parents to adopt his younger brother, and had enough grasp of the language to translate for them.

His familiarity with Mandarin proved a boon once he became a Resident Assistant. Just two weeks after he began his RA job, an international student from China moved into the Student Village – and could barely speak English. Parker translated for her, took her to local stores and helped her learn about American culture and the campus.

Eventually, the two started dating. This winter, he returned with her to China to see her hometown – and proposed to her in February. The Math and Communications major said yes.

“SUNY Broome was an incubator for my life, when it came to everything from views to my skills, and even finding my fiancée,” he said.

A diverse experience

SUNY Broome was a natural choice for John: His older siblings are Hornets and graduated from the school.

An avid computer programmer from the age of 11, John chose Engineering Science because he wanted to get a broader understanding of hardware and software. He loves projects, and the thrill of circuitry, soldering connections – and seeing a screen come to life.

“Engineering Science is difficult, but it has opened me to up a lot of different experiences throughout engineering,” he said, noting that his professors have significant experience in their fields.

Conversations with his professors during their office hours have had a great impact on his trajectory, inspiring him to improve himself and keep going.  In January, he began an internship at BAE Systems that allows him to put his software engineering skills to work.

During his time at SUNY Broome, he has been able to maintain a fairly high grade-point average, and shared his study techniques and academic tips with fellow Hornets.

On campus, he participates in the International Student Organization, and briefly began an Asian Student Union Club. He has organized campus events, such as a space for remembrance in the wake of the Las Vegas shootings.

After graduating in May, he will attend Binghamton University for computer engineering. After that, the future is open. Maybe he will return with his future wife to her homeland to teach English or work on software remotely. Maybe the couple will stay here, depending on her future educational path.

Wherever the road takes him, John Parker looks forward to it with an open mind, willing to learn and engage.

“The experience at SUNY Broome is extremely diverse compared to other colleges,” he said, reflecting on the people he met here. “We have so many people from all around the country and even beyond coming to a community college, which really shows the reputation and integrity of the school.”