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Dream Big

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

SUNY Plattsburgh

By Elizabeth Johnson • Photos by Jessica McCafferty

This month Strictly Business is focused on North Country family members who work together to strengthen and enhance the community, which makes interviewing SUNY Plattsburgh president Dr. Alexander Enyedi and SUNY Associate Andrea Enyedi an obvious choice.

When the Enyedis moved to Plattsburgh in January 2020 when Alex became SUNY Plattsburgh’s 11th president, Andrea brought plans for an outreach initiative called “I’ve Been Admitted to College” (IBAC). IBAC is designed to inspire North Country middle school students to see themselves as future Cardinals. The program involves bringing eighth graders to SUNY Plattsburgh for a half day event where they are encouraged to dream big and imagine their futures with a college education. IBAC targets students at schools in Clinton, Franklin, and Essex counties.

“IBAC is for all North Country eight graders but is seeking to target those who don’t think about college in their future — either there is no family culture of a college education, they feel they’re not smart enough or it’s not something they can afford,” Andrea said.

At IBAC events students participate in a variety of fun, interactive activities including campus tours, breakout sessions led by faculty and a pizza lunch with the college mascot Burghy. They hear personal stories from current students about learning and socializing at college, overcoming fears and financing their education. As a grand finale, President Enyedi presents each student with a “Promise of Admission” certificate and explains that North Country students are important to SUNY Plattsburgh.

“IBAC aligns with SUNY Plattsburgh’s goal to engage with citizens of the North Country and is one of the pillars of the Plattsburgh Next strategic plan. The program is a powerful way to support the current generation of children which is also the next generation of workers,” Alex said.

Educated communities are vital to both the economic vibrancy of the region and the quality of life of its citizens. The value of a college education is well documented – college graduates have more job opportunities, higher earnings and greater job satisfaction.

SUNY Plattsburgh

SUNY Plattsburgh is committed to being a driving force for economic development in the North Country by providing a strong workforce for all local employers and developing professionals in rural areas. The college offers programs in health care, K-12 education, mental health, sciences, business, and entrepreneurship that can improve the quality life of all North Country residents.

Getting local middle schoolers motivated to eventually seek higher education through IBAC events has been embraced by area educators. IBAC has grown in popularity since its implementation less than two years ago. A pilot event took place at SUNY Plattsburgh on November 18, 2021 with 40 eighth grade students from Ticonderoga and Saranac middle schools. This academic year the goal is to host 1,000 students. The event is well on its way to reaching that goal with 550 students attending in Fall 2023 and a waiting list for Spring 2024 sessions.

“I am inspired by the outpouring of enthusiasm from local schools, and the student transformation I witness at every IBAC event. Students arrive in the morning with little knowledge of our campus. But, by the time they leave, they can see themselves as college students and are thinking about what they can study, what clubs they want to join and even how they would like to decorate their residence hall room. That is exactly what we are seeking to happen,” Alex said.

The program will also be effective in the long run. Andrea Enyedi, who worked as Director of Early Outreach programs at Cal Poly Humboldt in Northern California prior to arriving in Plattsburgh, saw a successful IBAC program in action and witnessed positive results. “We are going to demonstrate its effectiveness here in Upstate New York. Our Admissions staff will track IBAC participants to determine whether they enroll at SUNY Plattsburgh when they graduate from high school” she said.

SUNY Plattsburgh

Alex and Andrea Enyedi, both first generation college students themselves, have a long history as a couple and as supporters of public education. They met 43 years ago as students at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada and been together ever since. “Actually, we met as roommates in a student house and instantly became best friends,” Alex said. After Andrea graduated with a degree in psychology and Alex completed a Master’s degree in environmental biology, they were married and moved to the United States for Alex to begin a PhD program in plant pathology/biochemistry at Penn State University.

While Alex pursued his PhD, Andrea worked at an adult literacy council, an experience that opened her eyes to poverty. “Growing up in Canada, I never witnessed the extreme poverty that exists in the rural areas of Central Pennsylvania – and I clearly saw its correlation with lack of education,” she shared. From that point she has worked in the nonprofit world focusing on promoting access to education through family literacy programing and other community development efforts.

The couple moved to Central New Jersey where their son was born, and eventually landed in Kalamazoo Michigan. Alex joined Western Michigan University as an assistant professor of biology, and Andrea worked at Kalamazoo Public Library building a community collaboration around family literacy. She also helped start two nonprofit organizations – Kalamazoo Literacy Council and The First Day Shoe Fund that provides new athletic shoes to kids starting school. Alex thrived as a professor and was recognized with an Outstanding Teaching Award. “I was always trying to be innovative to ensure the students could get a visual of what was going on,” he shared. From using foam pool noodles to explain chromosomes to hosting an in-class disco to simulate photosynthesis, he creatively taught big concepts.

Alex entered administration as Chair of Biological Sciences and was eventually promoted to Associate Dean and finally Dean of Arts and Sciences at Western Michigan University. During that time Andrea became a student again and completed a second undergraduate degree in Rhetoric and Professional Writing. As a capstone project, she conducted a needs assessment of the LGBTQ+ community which laid the foundation for the development of a youth homeless shelter in Kalamazoo.

Supporting the LGBTQ+ community is another united passion for Alex and Andrea Enyedi whose only child is gay. While in Kalamazoo, the Enyedis aligned with people in the community who supported the LGBTQ+ community, working to raise awareness and funds for local organizations. As dean at Western Michigan University, Alex hosted Lavender ceremonies for university graduates who were part of the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate their achievements.

Alex and Andrea have always striven to be champions of underrepresented populations. They have witnessed how education is the best equalizer for opportunity during their journey together - from Michigan to Northern California, where they both worked at Cal Poly Humboldt, to their present time in the North Country. Together, the Enyedis have a laser focus on helping students gain social mobility by earning their degrees and going on to live successful lives. Something that will benefit our region for years to come.

I’ve Been Admitted to College SUNY Plattsburgh 101 Broad Street Plattsburgh, NY 12901

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