April 18, 2011
Albany is the political center of New York, constantly buzzing
with breaking news, heated debates and meaningful legislation. From
senators to assemblymen, legislators to lobbyists, the city is
filled with hard-working and active elected officials, many of whom
are graduates of St. John’s University.
A group of 45 students got to witness the hustle and bustle of
Albany firsthand and learn from our alumni as part of the
Alumni Insider’s View…New York State Capital program.
trip started with an early-morning bus ride to Albany, arriving at
the Sign of the Tree Restaurant located in the heart of the Empire
State Plaza. There, St. John’s alumni in the State Assembly and
State Senate spoke to students about their careers and how they
transitioned from college students to accomplished
Brian Browne ’93C, ’97G, Assistant Vice President of Government
Relations at St. John’s, moderated the panel and provided
“The students on this trip come from an assortment of different
majors and colleges that make up the University,” he said. “Albany
and the government touch on every aspect of life, whether you go
into Business or Education or Social Work. No matter what field you
ultimately choose, it’s going to be impacted by what goes on here
in Albany and the panelists with us here today.”
The alumni then shared their personal stories, advising students on
how to become a desirable candidate for a job in politics.
Hon. William A. Colton ’78L, New York State Assemblyman of District
47, worked as a Public School Teacher and Lawyer prior to becoming
an elected official. He spoke about his interesting transition into
John’s gave me the foundation, the skills and the knowledge for me
to fulfill all of my ambitions,” he said. “It prepared me for
teaching, prepared me for law and I became very active in the
community, which got me ready to become a politician. That
was the key – the basic knowledge that I attained, I got from St.
John’s, and the direction that I took it in came from me. I think
that will be true for most of you.”
Hon. Diane J. Savino ’86C, New York State Senator of District 23,
echoed this sentiment and recommended that students not be afraid
to show ambition when looking for jobs.
“We want people who are enthusiastic, people who are self
starters,” she explained. “It’s hard to learn if a person has those
qualities just from a resume. My advice: don’t worry so much about
where you end up – enjoy the journey on the way there.”
Hon. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. ’86CBA, New York State Senator of
District 15, served as the Guest Speaker during lunch, sharing his
advice on how to pursue a career in politics.
“There are many ways to get involved in Albany,” he noted. “We
handle local, statewide and even national issues, so there are a
lot of great opportunities out there. I always hope to help open
the door for St. John’s students through an internship or job. It’s
my way of giving back to a school that gave me a chance.”
The second panel featured alumni who work primarily as
lobbyists and advocates. Their discussion focused on the advantages
and challenges of working in the Albany area.
Robert Ungar, Esq. ’87L, Counsel at Law, shed light on the
important role that lobbyists play in the political spectrum.
“My job is to talk to legislators about the urgent needs of my
clients and what they need in order to maintain themselves in this
tough economic climate,” he said. “I’ll tell you, it’s been a
difficult year, but it’s very professionally rewarding because it’s
so challenging. And remember: the economy is cyclical. You’re all
young enough that you’re going to get through this rough period,
and you’re also going to ride the wave when it improves and see
prosperous times ahead.”
Students enjoyed listening to the panelists and learning about
their personal journeys from St. John’s to Albany.
“The panelists are so helpful because they give you the real deal
and don’t beat around the bush,” said Brianna Pippens ’12CPS. “For
instance, Sen. Savino mentioned that she was a Psychology major at
St. John’s and still ended up working in politics. Those are two
areas that many of us would not associate together, so her story
shows how diverse this field is and what possibilities there are in
The trip ended with a tour of the Capitol, allowing students to
pose for photos on the famous Great Western Staircase and to
briefly observe both the Senate and Assembly in action.
Mitchell T. Zink ’12C found the tour of the Capitol fascinating and
hopes it will be one of many trips he’ll be making to Albany
throughout his career.
“In a way, it’s like seeing where hopefully I’ll be working in the
future as an elected official,” he said. “Everyone talks about
Albany, but so few actually see it, so I feel like this has really
given me an extra edge.”