To build community

Even at the center of a whirlwind of class and activities, SUNY Sullivan student Nichole Connal wants to make all feel welcome here. Just as she was.

Story contributed by SUNY Sullivan.
Posted 3/16/22

LOCH SHELDRAKE, NY — Stop by any activity or event on SUNY Sullivan’s campus, and there’s a good chance you’ll encounter student leader Nichole Connal, a double major in …

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To build community

Even at the center of a whirlwind of class and activities, SUNY Sullivan student Nichole Connal wants to make all feel welcome here. Just as she was.

Posted

LOCH SHELDRAKE, NY — Stop by any activity or event on SUNY Sullivan’s campus, and there’s a good chance you’ll encounter student leader Nichole Connal, a double major in environmental sciences and liberal arts and sciences/humanities.

Whether she’s making Thanksgiving baskets at the college’s food pantry, transplanting garlic at a garden club meeting, or representing students in the Student Government Association (SGA) and as the student trustee on the College’s board of trustees, Connal is usually close to the center of activity at SUNY Sullivan, working to help others and make her campus and community stronger.  

“Since I have become a member of the SUNY Sullivan family, I have grown a strong connection to the college, staff and students,” said Connal, a Ferndale resident. She emphasized the staff and students she’d met—“some of the hardest-working” people “who share the same goals and drive to succeed and to better our community.”

The great outdoors

Like many first-year college students in 2020, Connal started her college career with fully online classes, but SUNY Sullivan instructional assistant and community garden coordinator Kathryn Scullion said that Connal was quick to take advantage of outdoor activities on campus.

“When I decided to hold Garden Club meetings outdoors on campus in fall 2020, Nichole was the first student to reply to my email,” said Scullion. “She attended every week during the 2020-21 school year, as long as the weather permitted, to help with planting and harvesting and preparing for our seed sale fundraiser.”

During the winter, there was snowshoeing, and in spring Connal was part of the outdoor Earth Day event, Scullion said.  

Jamie Brooks, coordinator of student activities, said Connal’s strong work ethic and dedication have helped make many student events successful. “Nichole has participated in student activities almost daily this semester,” said Brooks. “She is always willing to try something new and rally her friends to events.”

A newcomer’s perspective

Connal is originally from Queens, and said she moved up to the area in eighth grade and developed a deep appreciation for the community. “I could not imagine myself without having met the people I have throughout my years here. I am forever grateful for this loving community that accepted me,” she said, stressing that her experiences as a newcomer to the region continue to inspire her work as an active student and SGA member. “I hope everyone realizes that the community that I and the other SGA members want to build is a community in which everyone feels that they are important, accepted and loved.”

Student voice on the board

In addition to being an active and voting member in SGA, Connal is the student representative on the college’s student conduct committee, a member of the garden club, a student representative on the sustainability committee, and volunteers at the college’s food pantry.

In addition, this fall, she was appointed as the student trustee on SUNY Sullivan’s board of trustees, where she has quickly made an impact and strong impression.

“One of my favorite visits to the college was to meet Nichole,” said chairwoman Dr. Nancy Hackett at a recent board meeting. “She has all of those traits that we want every single one of our students to have, and she is so focused on doing it all.”

As the student trustee, Connal is a voting member of the board and serves in working group meetings.

“We are thrilled to have Nichole on the board of trustees,” said SUNY Sullivan President Jay Quaintance. “During her time at SUNY Sullivan, she has demonstrated her commitment to the college through participation in various activities, clubs, and meetings and has established herself as a leader on campus. We look forward to the contributions she will make as a board member by bringing the student perspective to the table.”

A ‘passion for the sciences’

One of the ways Connal maintains her campus and community commitments is by merging them with her passion for studying science. In addition to a SUNY Sullivan Presidential Scholarship, she is the recipient of the 2020 SUNY Sullivan Foundation Renaissance Scholarship for her volunteer work on a Sullivan Renaissance project in her community. This past summer, Connal was accepted to participate in SUNY Sullivan’s Bridges to Baccalaureate program, an eight-week summer research program at SUNY Purchase, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Though the Bridges program was online in 2021 because of the COVID pandemic, Scullion said Connal and the other students in her lab group did a remarkable job studying the effect of urbanization on wildlife, using trail camera footage and other data collected on the SUNY Purchase campus.

“After the Bridges program ended, Nichole continued to volunteer on the SUNY Sullivan campus through the rest of the summer working in the community garden and helping to clear, maintain and mark the campus’s Woodland Trail,” Scullion said, adding that Connal has been assisting in the science labs this semester through a work-study position funded through the Bridges program.

Connal said she’s begun looking at four-year environmental science and environmental studies programs in the region and is especially interested in research.

“Being a part of this community has allowed me to find my passion for the sciences and grow a stronger connection to nature,” she said. “I will be forever grateful for the opportunities I was provided with at SUNY Sullivan and all the people I have met throughout this journey.”

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