Introducing Our New Great Danes

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Each academic year presents a new group of unique and academically-talented students that will be integrating themselves into the University at Albany.

This fall, UAlbany is welcoming 2,670 freshmen to the Class of 2020 from an applicant pool of 23,799 – the largest ever received. More than 1,300 new graduate and 1,100 transfer students are also entering the University.

Quick facts on UAlbany’s Class of 2020: 

·         The class boasts an overall high school average of 89.9 

·         258 students are enrolled as Presidential Scholars

·         204 students are joining the University’s Honors College

·         One of the most diverse classes in University history, students come from 26 states and 17 foreign countries

Want to learn more? Here’s just a small sample of the students beginning their UAlbany journey:

Anastasia Irizarry, Class of 2020, Intended Criminal Justice Major

Growing up with a six siblings and a single mother was not easy for Anastasia Irizarry. A native of the Bronx, her family was constantly relocating homes to make ends meet.

“I had to adapt in many new environments, twice moving from the Bronx to Florida, then to Rochester, then back to the Bronx,” Irizarry said. “It was hard to continue moving to new places and make new friends.”

Despite the relocating, Irizarry was able to overcome adversity and become the first in her family to graduate high school. She’s also the first to enroll in college – thanks to UAlbany’s Educational Opportunities Program (EOP).

Outside of her academic achievements, Irizarry was a volunteer for the buildOn programwhich has assisted thousands of people devastated by the 2010 Haiti earthquake. She helped build homes and schools for two weeks.

“I know what it’s like to not have much. Being able to help others in their time of need really helped me grow as an individual,” Irizarry said.

Gina Torres, Class of 2018, Digital Forensics and Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity Major

Gina Torres never thought she would pursue a career in law enforcement. That changed after her father was tragically murdered in 2009.

“As you can imagine, it had a huge impact on me,” Torres said. “I want to become an FBI agent or digital forensic analyst to help bring criminals to justice.”

A graduate of Albany High School, Torres enrolled at Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) in 2012. She earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice last spring and decided to continue her education at UAlbany 

“UAlbany’s degree offerings will help me become better qualified for multiple positions in law enforcement,” Torres said. “I am looking forward to becoming part of the University community. I believe it will help me tremendously with all aspects of life: socially, physically, and educationally.”

Torres is also joining UAlbany’s softball team. She played softball and basketball at HVCC.

Nicholas Daniel Gonzalez, Class of 2020, Intended Political Science Major

Usually your professional career remains on hold until graduating college. Brooklyn native Nicholas Daniel Gonzalez took a different approach. He began an acting career on Sesame Street at just age 12.

Beyond Sesame Street, Gonzalez was also part of “A Christmas Story, The Musical” during its national tour and has appeared in the hit Netflix television show “Orange is the New Black. 

“Following my ‘Christmas Story’ tour, I continued auditioning for new projects,” Gonzalez said. “My agent contacted me regarding try outs for a new Netflix television show called ‘Orange is the New Black.’ I was casted for the part of Emiliano, Dayanara’s brother.” 

Gonzalez is excited for the next chapter of his life as a UAlbany student. “I’m really looking forward to the all the different opportunities offered by the University and ready to be a Great Dane,” he said.

Charlie & Gaby Shames, Class of 2020, Intended Human Biology Majors

They may be separated by four years in age, but White Plains, N.Y. natives Charlie and Gaby Shames have enrolled together into UAlbany’s Honors College.

After high school, Gaby spent a gap year in Israel, followed by two years of service in the Israel Defense Forces. She returned to the United States this year to pursue higher education.

The siblings’ decision to attend UAlbany will carry on the legacy of their mother - Jodi Becker ’89.                    

“UAlbany was the perfect fit for us,” Gaby said. “I’m really excited to get back in the classroom again and share this experience with my brother.”

Convocation and Schedule of Welcome Events

On Friday, Aug. 26, UAlbany will host its second annual Convocation Ceremony. This year’s event will take place in SEFCU Arena from 4 – 7 p.m. The ceremony is open to all new students, their families and members of the University community.

In the days following Convocation, new students will learn first-hand what it means to be a Great Dane through a full schedule of events and festivities.

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