AlumniCollege of Liberal Arts & SciencesFaculty/Staff News

Inspired by social psychology, alumna transforms student life

Robin Cohen-La Valle ’77 (Psychology and Communication) ’82g (Psychology) can trace her professional track directly back to her master’s thesis.

“In my master’s program in psychology, I was able to work closely with the faculty doing research,” said Cohen-La Valle. “I really got a sense of the impact you could have in terms of social psychology.”

Currently, as one of the College’s Alumni Advisory Council members, Cohen-La Valle continues to bring exceptional insight on student experience and decades of alumni communications to her work at SUNY New Paltz.

A multitude of ambitious prevention platforms for SUNY New Paltz, and other institutions of higher education, were inspired by Cohen-La Valle’s profound interest in social interaction. By co-creating a sexual violence prevention program and establishing a substance abuse prevention initiative, Cohen-La Valle was able to transform her understanding of human behavior and mental health into agendas still implemented today.

“I proceeded to write over a million dollars in grants over six years, which funded prevention work we did at New Paltz,” said Cohen-La Valle. “We had the opportunity to train five other SUNY schools to implement programs similar to ours.”

Cohen-La Valle started her professional career at the College in 1980 and began as the assistant dean of students in 1995, she was then promoted to associate dean of students in 1998. A key participant in the creation of the New Paltz Tavern Owner’s Agreement, another prevention related program, Cohen-La Valle was later a recipient of a Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service.

Most recently, Cohen-La Valle has been appointed interim dean of students within the Division of Student Affairs at SUNY New Paltz, where she works closely with Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Linda Eaton on student judicial matters.

“I’ve evolved to where I can have an educational impact at a very different level,” said Cohen-La Valle.

In her current position, Cohen-La Valle sees opportunities for growth among students. “Even if they have some kind of behavioral infraction, they’re going to learn from that and succeed here,” she said.

Cohen-La Valle’s work outside the College as a licensed mental health counselor and volunteer Red Cross disaster mental health responder, engages not only the New Paltz community through her social understanding, but beyond.

Accordingly, Cohen-La Valle credits her SUNY New Paltz education with forming her career in human services and often reflects on the plethora of programs she implemented and now has the opportunity to oversee.

“When I meet with students about making better decisions next time, they say ‘I love it here,'” said Cohen-La Valle. “Even in this job, I see that current students are very committed to being at SUNY New Paltz.”

Because these students remain her inspiration, as a member of the Alumni Advisory Council, Cohen-La Valle hopes to see opportunities to reconnect evolve for younger alumni.

“I hope that through the efforts of the council we can close the loop and reconnect with the College that brought everyone together,” said Cohen-La Valle. “It’s about asking ourselves how we can weave them back into the current campus as it is now, see them as the experts they are, and invite them back to speak about their stories.”