Sabrina Sarro ’16
Hometown: Queens, N.Y.
Major(s): Sociology, English
Minor: Creative Writing
Anticipated Graduation Date: May 2016
Honors Program Student Advisory Board
Treasurer, College/Shango Hall Government
Residence Hall Student Association
Event Coordinator, In Living Color
Union Programming Council
Study Abroad: Italy
How did you discover New Paltz?
I transferred to New Paltz from a small liberal arts school called Goucher College. It was too expensive, but I was looking for a school that embodied some of the same qualities – a small, community feel; a wide range of academics and interdisciplinary programs; and a place where I could emotionally grow and expand my thinking. I visited New Paltz and automatically fell in love. The main things that confirmed my decision were the Honors Program, the Black Studies Department, and the camaraderie I felt during my first tour of campus. The school was small, everybody knew each other, and there was this wonderful tolerance and acceptance in the air. There’s a plethora of activities, and an impressive set of faculty members. The campus is beautiful and peaceful. It was a place where I wouldn’t be socially exhausted; where I’d be able to do numerous things but remain focused and structured. New Paltz establishes the perfect equilibrium between letting the student grow but also being there for support.
Did you know what you wanted to study when you came to college?
I was a theater major at Goucher, leaning towards the arts. I had a poor background in race relations and black history. My racial identity in general was very poorly constructed. After coming to New Paltz, I took an Honors seminar called “Racism and the Social Sciences,” and that completely reshaped my trajectory and career path. As soon as I came here, I felt so welcomed into the black community. I became a whole new person, much more informed and aware of my surroundings. I completely switched gears and started studying sociology and black studies. New Paltz changed the way I think about the world, who I am as a biracial female, and how I can synthesize the information I learn into all areas of my life. I always tell people that New Paltz really did change my life.
How have you connected with the area?
I participated in a program called Saturdays of Service and learned so much about environmental sustainability, agriculture, food insecurity, homelessness in Ulster County, organizations like the Brook Farm Project and Regional Food Bank. There is so much rich history and political-social dynamics right in my own backyard. At Goucher, I was so focused on the school that I forgot to look outside of campus. New Paltz helped me look outside myself and give back to the New Paltz community and Ulster County, to reach out and volunteer. I feel like New Paltz has also helped me connect more with nature, climate issues, the mountains; I go on hikes with the Honors Program, we went on a Clearwater sailing trip, on a Bannerman Castle trip, to Storm King, the Dia:Beacon, and places I’ve never heard of.
New Paltz changed the way I think about the world,
who I am as a biracial female, and how I can synthesize
the information I learn into all areas of my life.
What’s been your most challenging course?
An Honors Seminar called “The Individual and Society.” It’s a history and literature course, but it also has a lot of western components. We read The Iliad, the Bible, The Odyssey, Samuel Beckett. It was a big challenge for me. Luckily, I’m strongly committed to my academics, and I really bonded with the professor, Hamilton Stapell. But the first couple of weeks, I struggled. It was rigorous, not only because it was an Honors course, but the professor held us to very high expectations, and I wanted to meet them. I got a “C” on the first paper and frantically ran to his office. Gradually, I started becoming a better writer and orator and learning how to synthesize information, and I got an “A” in the course. When I studied abroad in Italy, I was learning about Leonardo da Vinci, and I was able to bring in all of this historical knowledge I remembered from the class. I saw Professor Stapell on campus and said, “Thank you! I used your material!”
How have you benefited from the Honors Program?
It’s where my heart is on campus. It’s phenomenal. That’s where I’m centered, where I work. I’m always there, involved with the Honors Program Student Advisory Board. I’m attached at the hip with Dr. (Patricia) Sullivan. She’s absolutely wonderful – always friendly and kind, always has her door open. She really wants the best for all students.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to get a dual master’s degree in social work and public health at Columbia University, and then work in policy or urban administration. I’d like to work in food politics, specifically, with communities of color and elderly populations. Marion Nestle’s book Food Politics really changed my life.