As a Student Ambassador, Danika McMurray functions in some sense as the face of SUNY Broome. In fact, she’s often among the first faces that prospective students see as they tour the campus.
“I love that job with all my heart,” said McMurray, a sophomore who is completing her degree in Individual Students in Liberal Arts, with a focus on political science. “I’m a firm believer that a college education is the ticket to the middle class. I absolutely love meeting students on campus who met me as a tour guide.”
McMurray, a Union-Endicott graduate, is deeply passionate about SUNY Broome – and about a number of other topics, from higher education and the environment to civics.
She started grade school a little earlier than her peers – at the age of 4 – and came to SUNY Broome as a freshman at the age of 17. The college credits she earned in high school also transferred, and will allow her to complete her degree a little early, in December rather than May.
“I knew what I was passionate about, but I didn’t know what route to take,” she said of her choice to attend SUNY Broome. “This would let me take classes and feel it out, and move on.”
She developed an interest in social justice years ago, heading her high school’s chapter of Amnesty International as well as its Gay-Straight Alliance. That led her to focus on political science, and the development of a life goal: To earn a Ph.D. and become a college professor herself, teaching students about the government and the political process.
On her journey, SUNY Broome’s dedicated faculty members have been a source of inspiration for Danika. Dr. John Pierog, from the History, Philosophy & Social Science Department; Professor Carla Michalak, who teaches political science; English Professor Ellen Brand; Biology Professor Dr. Richard Firenze – all are passionate about their fields, and make class interesting for students.
“They’ve all been very encouraging and inspiring. I admire these people,” she said.
Once on campus, she immersed herself in campus life – and in the larger community. She’s executive vice president of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and has been a peer tutor since her first semester on campus. This fall, she started the College Democrats student club and, off-campus, was also elected vice president of Broome County Young Democrats.
She’s also had the chance to work in the political world herself through applied learning experiences. She worked for Kim Myers’ campaign for Congress, and this summer interned at U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s office in Binghamton.
In addition to answering phones, she also worked on policy memos – and the writing skills she developed in Professor Brand’s English class helped a great deal, she said. During her internship with Schumer’s office, she had a chance not only to learn more about the workings of politics and issues in Upstate New York, but also to forge friendships with her fellow interns.
It’s a lot to juggle – coursework and internships, campus and community involvement, and her work as an ambassador. A “big believer in mental health and balance,” McMurray makes it all work by using Google Calendar, adjusting her commitments as necessary and keeping company with fellow students who are just as dedicated to success. Her parents are also unwavering sources of support.
She plans to transfer to Binghamton University for her bachelor’s degree. The horizon is wide open for her Ph.D.: Maybe Stanford, or Rutgers, or the University of Pennsylvania.
Her advice to students?
“Get involved as soon as possible and don’t be afraid to try new things as a freshman,” she said. “Follow your heart. Whatever you’re passionate about will lead you to good things.”