Advocate for the Underrepresented
Christian Alberto grew up in the small town of Amsterdam, N.Y., 22 miles west of Albany, but longed to be part of a larger, urban community. As a graduate student in the Master of Science in Education program at Baruch’s School of Public Affairs, he has made this dream a reality—and is working toward ambitious professional goals.
Baruch College Alumni Magazine caught up with this star student to ask him about his current studies and his goals for the future.
BCAM: You received your undergraduate degree from the University at Buffalo. Tell us about that experience.
CA: I had a great experience at the University at Buffalo. I earned a BA in psychology, and during my studies, I traveled abroad to my country of origin, the Dominican Republic. It was a life-changing experience. In the DR, I was able to learn about and live out my cultural heritage. I also interned in the Orientation Department of Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre Y Maestra (one of the most respected universities in the country), where I oversaw and helped pioneer programs that enhance the Dominican student experience.
BCAM: Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
CA: As an undergrad, I developed a strong passion for working with students in higher education. I knew that my bachelor’s degree wasn’t going to be enough to allow my aspirations to come to life, so I decided to pursue a master’s degree in higher education administration.
In particular, I want to advocate for and support underrepresented students so they don’t have to struggle in the ways I did. Being a first-generation American and college student meant I didn’t really have anyone to turn to for support. My grandmother (who raised me) didn’t have any knowledge of or experience with higher education.
BCAM: How did you find out about Baruch’s MSEd program?
CA: My internship coordinator at the University at Buffalo was a great help in my search for a good master’s program in higher education. Since I wanted to move to the big city upon graduation, my top choices were New York University and Baruch.
BCAM: Why did you choose Baruch?
CA: I chose Baruch over NYU because, honestly, Baruch felt more like home. Baruch is a public school with a great reputation, and it really looks out for its students. Immediately after I applied and was accepted, Baruch contacted me, offering me a graduate assistant position. What a great opportunity! I couldn’t pass it up. No similar offer came from NYU.
Aside from that, at Baruch you get more bang for your buck—quality education at an affordable price.
BCAM: What’s your favorite thing about Baruch’s MSEd Program?
CA: I really like the professors. Not only are they highly qualified, but they genuinely have the students’ best interests at heart.
My favorite thing about Baruch overall, though, is what it stands for: diversity. Baruch is recognized nationally for graduating the highest percentage of underrepresented students: low-income, ethnic minorities, and first-generation college students. How awesome is that! One of my career aspirations is to help further what Baruch as an institution is already doing!
BCAM: You are participating in SPA’s Washington Semester Program. What do you hope to accomplish in D.C. this spring?
CA: I am interning at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), where my primary focus will be access and success of students. For example, I’m exploring such questions as, How does financial aid affect access to higher education, and how can we use financial aid to promote and/or enhance student success? I am learning about and working on federal issues related to student financial aid.
As previously mentioned, I’m an advocate for underrepresented students. Having background knowledge of financial aid—where it comes from, how exactly it works, areas of complication—will enable me to better assist students navigate their higher education experience, especially since affordability is the most determining factor in whether students pursue higher education or not.
BCAM: What are your career plans? 5 years out? 10 years out?
CA: Five years out, I’d love to be working as an EOP/SEEK* counselor. The goals of EOP/SEEK programs—access, equity, and support for underrepresented students—mesh perfectly with my interests and passions. Being a counselor for such a program would allow me to counsel and advise students, advocate for them, teach courses, conduct educational workshops, lead student groups, and execute new programs that would enhance the student experience.
In 10 years, I’d like to be finishing up a PhD or EdD degree program in urban education or higher education. I’d like to be a professor someday, teaching courses on equity and race relations and promoting equality and diversity. If possible, I’d like to remain a counselor for EOP/SEEK too. Perhaps do both.
*The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and the Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) program were established to provide comprehensive academic and financial support to capable students who, because of academic and economic circumstances, would otherwise be unable to attend a postsecondary educational institution. EOP is for SUNY students; SEEK, for CUNY students.