One of the most valuable lessons Class of 2019 Salutatorian Reuben Slater ’19 (History; Anthropology) learned at SUNY New Paltz is that it’s okay to turn to your community for help when you need it.
“In high school I was reluctant to seek help with work,” he said, “but here I realized I didn’t need to be ashamed to put myself out there and ask my teachers and other students for help. It’s actually a beautiful part of the learning process.”
In the four years since he came to New Paltz from Brooklyn, New York, Slater has honed skills as an historian, an archivist and a critical thinker, discovered a passion for archaeology, and grown into a student leader.
“Even before I became part of this community, this campus resonated with me,” he said. “I felt like this is a place where you can easily integrate and build yourself up.”
He quickly got to know other history majors in his classes, and later made connections with a broader network of students through his service in residence hall government.
“I started to branch out more in my second year,” he said. “I joined the Bouton Hall government and was the hall representative, so every week I would go to campus-wide meetings. I got to know a lot of people who really care about this community.”
“I love that history teaches you critical thinking skills, and how to construct an argument well, but I also wanted that emphasis on studying cultures to get at why we are who we are,” he said.
“I got to do that kind of work at the Archaeological Field School for the past two years. The first year I was a student, and it was an amazing experience to see how you can unearth an artifact, put it in context and tell a whole story about it. Then last summer I was crew chief, so I got to oversee the site and help teach archaeological methods and analysis. I had never really done much like that before. I learned a lot about taking on a leadership role.”
Slater went on to develop his archaeological work into an Honors Program thesis. The experience challenged him to apply all the different skills – historical research, anthropological inquiry, excavation and archiving – that have defined his academic experience at SUNY New Paltz.
He’ll continue applying those skills after graduation, when he joins the Rockefeller Archive Center in Tarrytown, New York, as an archival assistant.
Before then, he’s preparing to address his community one last time, as the student speaker at the Saturday, May 18 Commencement Ceremony for College of Liberal Arts & Sciences majors.
“I really feel like I’ve made lifelong connections here,” he said. “If there’s a ‘New Paltz ethos,’ I feel like that’s it.”