Alex Kendrick is working toward a future in computer engineering, while Arianna Wagner will one day help newly released prisoners integrate into society as a probation officer.
Both are accustomed to being among relatively few women in their classes, as members of fields considered non-traditional due to their gender. This year, both won the celebrated Vanguard Award, which is administered by the New York State Nontraditional Employment & Training (NET) Program.
“Do what you love and don’t think about what other people think of you. If you love it, do it,” Kendrick advised students considering a non-traditional career path.
Read on to learn more about SUNY Broome’s Vanguard Award winners.
A Binghamton High School graduate, Alex initially attended Binghamton University, where she majored in neuroscience. But it proved to be a poor fit and not suited to her interests. Instead, she opted for SUNY Broome and a chance to explore her passions – which led her to a previously unforeseen major in Engineering Science.
Classes are challenging, but Alex enjoys the work. At this spring’s Engineering Open House, she showcased one of her class projects: an electronic Tic Tac Toe board that lets the user play against the computer. As with many engineering projects, it’s subject to continual improvement: She and her team recently created a case with the department’s 3-D printer, and they’re making improvements to the programming.
“Right now, it goes for a win then a block,” she explained. “We’re going to try to put in strategy. To do that, we’re going to have to put in every single scenario. We’ll also put in rounds.”
Alex is involved with the Engineering Club and also a networking group for non-traditional students, which has helped her gain confidence in class. She’s already been accepted into SUNY Polytechnic and the Rochester Institute of Technology; she’s waiting for word from her first choice school, Carnegie Mellon.
“It’s so exhilarating and so scary,” she said of her future prospects, which include majoring and then pursuing computer engineering as a career.
Did she ever think, way back in her high school days, that she would be using a 3-D printer and on her way to becoming an engineer? Absolutely not, she admitted with a smile.
“I know how to use a 3-D printer and design things for a 3-D printer. It’s been really great,” she said.
Like many high school students, Arianna Wagner didn’t know what career she wanted to pursue. After a discussion in English class perked her interest in the criminal justice system, she found her calling.
Now the Binghamton resident is majoring in Criminal Justice – Corrections, as well as getting hands-on experience in the field through a job at Broome Security. Professor Kerry Weber, chair of the Criminal Justice & Emergency Services Department, had recommended that she apply, and she jumped at the chance.
Now, she’s a security officer for the government agency, which covers facilities throughout the county.
“I like that we’re not doing the same thing every day,” she said of her law enforcement experience. “My main goal is to become a parole officer. I don’t want a regular job where I do the same thing every day.”
Arianna opted for SUNY Broome because she wanted to stay local, at least for the first two years of college. Affordable tuition also gave her the opportunity to save money for her future, she said.
An added benefit: All of her criminal justice professors have experience in the field, which translates to both fascinating and meaningful classes. “I’m really interested in my classes, which has helped me do as well as I have,” Arianna said.
While considered a non-traditional career for women, there are actually quite a few females in Arianna’s classes, she said. There are, however, differences once you hit the workplace.
“Being in the field, people don’t really look at you the same. You have to show more authority,” she said.
Arianna is also part of the Criminal Justice and Emergency Services Student Association, whose members do volunteer traffic control at events throughout the county, as well as neighborhood cleanups and other activities. Going forward, she plans to transfer to SUNY Brockport to major in social work – a degree that will support her future career as a parole officer.
“In New York State, you need three years of casework experience first,” she explained. “Being a social worker will count.”