SUNY New Paltz salutatorian Sery Pak ’21 (Biology) of Orangeburg, New York, says she focused on two goals during her time at the College: fostering relationships with friends and mentors, and preparing for a lifetime of travel and service as a global citizen.
“The greatest thing about New Paltz is the people,” said Pak. “The people here are the nicest, most welcoming, and accepting people I’ve ever met.”
Pak built those relationships through extensive engagement on campus, jumping into student clubs and organizations almost as soon as she arrived at New Paltz. She has served as vice president of New Paltz Association of Science Academia for the past two years, and as treasurer of the South Asian Cultural Association, among other activities.
While staying busy outside the classroom, Pak also made time to hone her skills as a humanitarian. An aspiring medical doctor, she volunteered in Honduras with Global Brigades during the summers of 2018 and 2019, helping set up health clinics, provide clean water and build eco-stoves for the local community. Additionally, she has interned at Ellenville Regional Hospital where she has helped to make healthcare more accessible and to reduce the over-usage of emergency room visits and hospitalizations within Ellenville’s rural community.
Pak credits the faculty at New Paltz for helping her build the confidence to apply her expertise regionally and internationally. Again, she says, it was the people who transformed her experience.
“The faculty fostered an environment that allowed me to excel,” said Pak. “I would not have been able to get through my college career without my professors guiding me along the way, especially Dr. Mass and Dr. Haselton who were there since my first year at New Paltz, Dr. Dhar for propelling my interest in research, and Prof. Rooney who challenged me to break out of my shell and taught me to look beyond my own perspective.”
Like many other students, Pak has been taking classes online since March 2020. She was able to excel in her virtual classrooms, but it was not without some sacrifice.
“I think the most arduous part of this experience was the fact that I couldn’t go through this with my friends by my side,” said Pak. “It made me appreciate so much more the good times I had before Covid. My last year at New Paltz was under extraordinary circumstances, but I was motivated by the small moments that reminded me that I can make it to the end.”
Pak will continue working toward an international career in health care when she enrolls in Stony Brook Renaissance School of Medicine this fall.