Onika T. Jervis ’93 (Biology) ’06g (Education Administration and Supervision) has devoted her career to creating a strong sense of community among people of color in higher education. Her affinity for SUNY New Paltz, coupled with a passion for fostering change, makes Jervis a great match for the Alumni Advisory Council, to which she was appointed in 2014.
“I want to be an advocate for both current and new alumni of color,” said Jervis. “I want to make sure we’re building community, that the programs we’re putting on look and feel like our population.”
Inspired by her New Paltz experience as a student resident assistant, Jervis now has a rich professional history in higher education that includes work at Morgan State University, SUNY New Paltz, Barnard College, and Columbia University. Currently she is associate director of graduate placement and university summer programs at Xavier University in New Orleans.
“Much of my professional career has been inspired by my work with Dr. Margaret Wade-Lewis for the Minority Recruitment Program (MRP) where I helped to raise scholarship funds,” said Jervis.
Wade-Lewis, who passed away in December 2009, was a beloved member of the College faculty and will be remembered for her many contributions, including cultivating the College’s Black Studies Department. It was while working for this program that Jervis found her own sense of leadership within her alumni cohort.
“This experience allowed me to keep alumni involved with the life of the College, and it helped me advocate for the responsibility we all have to give back,” she said.
Jervis has planned previous First World Reunions and is planning the next First World Reunion in May 2015. Prior to serving on the Alumni Advisory Council, Jervis has also served as chair of the Advisory Board for the College of Liberal Arts and Science. She is also a member of the Alpha Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
A dynamic educational background and the distinctive experiences Jervis had at the College were pivotal in engendering the passion for advocacy and student development that now helps fuel her service on the Alumni Advisory Council.
“I want to see the College have a prolific alumni association,” said Jervis. “I want alumni to know they are connected wherever they go. I want to see SUNY New Paltz sweatshirts when I walk through the airport – I want to build that.”