News Release: SUNY Poly’s Convocation Kicks Off 2023-24 Academic Year

News Release: SUNY Poly’s Convocation Kicks Off 2023-24 Academic Year

Tuesday, August 29, 2023 - 11:04
News Releases
Karen Belcher speaks at Convocation

For Release:        Immediate – August 29, 2023
Contact:               Joe Abraham, Content Communications Specialist

SUNY Poly’s Convocation Kicks Off 2023-24 Academic Year

Food Bank of Central New York Executive Director and SUNY Poly alum, Karen Belcher, serves as keynote speaker

UTICA, NY – SUNY Polytechnic Institute faculty, staff, administration, and first-year students, recently gathered inside the Wildcat Field House for Convocation, which formally marked the start of the 2023-24 academic year. The annual tradition is a reaffirmation of the university’s commitment to the pursuit of knowledge, and the academic, cultural, and social growth of our entire community. SUNY Poly welcomed Executive Director at the Food Bank of Central New York, Karen Belcher, an alumna of the institution, back home as the event’s keynote speaker.

“Taking the drive here – seeing familiar buildings and stepping onto the campus brought back so much nostalgia for one of the most amazing chapters of my life,” Belcher told the young Wildcats in the audience. “This chapter started me on a path that back then, I would have never thought would bring me to where I am today.  But I thank SUNY Poly for helping to shape me into the person that I have become, both as a human being and as a leader in the CNY community.”

Ms. Belcher has been in the not-for-profit sector throughout her career. During the past 22 years at the Food Bank of Central New York, she has guided the organization through multiple growth opportunities and fluctuations from outside economic influences. In her previous roles at the not-for-profit, Ms. Belcher was responsible for overseeing and managing all aspects of their financials; including audits, insurances, risk management, grants, cash and investment management, technology, human resource functions, and the day-to-day operational management of the organization. While at the helm of the Food Bank of Central New York, the not-for-profit recently made SUNY Poly an agency partner, making a larger variety of foods available to students through Poly Pantry.

During her time on campus, the accounting major and 1994 graduate was very active as a student-athlete, resident advisor, radio host and student leader.

Ms. Belcher told the first-year students to be open to all the opportunities at SUNY Poly as they start their college journey, challenge themselves to step outside their comfort zones, and try something new.

“I hope you take the chance and get involved with a club or group that sounds interesting or fun, that you take a class that piques your interest,” she said. “Try them boldly, confidently and unapologetically. Let your curiosity and passion lead you and guide you down your path for your future.  Never stop learning – be open to all opportunities.  You may be surprised what this does for your future and your career.”

Ms. Belcher was introduced by Officer-in-Charge Dr. Andrew Russell, who explained to the newest Wildcats what it means to be a student at New York’s premier public polytechnic.

“This phrase is at the core of our identity and our aspirations,” he said. “Why? Three things stand out to me: first, the Greek origin of the term ‘polytechnic’ can be translated as ‘skilled in many arts’ – in other words, students become familiar with a diversity of subjects, including technical subjects, in a way that blends theory and practice. This is commonly referred to as ‘hands-on’ or ‘experiential’ or ‘applied learning’ learning-by-doing.

“Second, a ‘public polytechnic’ must be aligned with the broader interests of the public,” Dr. Russell continued. “That is, the application of your expertise to advance societal and humanistic ends, to serve all people, not just a select few … Third, ‘premier’ indicates that our graduates, our partners, and surrounding communities can be confident that we all hold ourselves to the highest standards, and we are always seeking ways to improve.”

Dr. Russell also highlighted the robust and vibrant academic and research ecosystem at SUNY Poly that has and will continue to provide a powerful education-to-career-pipeline for its students.

“Whether you study the social sciences, accounting, engineering, nursing, or interactive media and game design, we hope you will be inspired to find that this campus gives you access to in-demand careers and personal success,” he said. “Put simply, at SUNY Poly, our student success – your success – is at the core of everything we do. And we will support you every step of the way.”

To watch SUNY Poly’s 2023 Convocation in its entirety, click here.


About SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly)
SUNY Poly is charting a path to become New York State’s and the nation’s premier public polytechnic. The university offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in technology, including engineering, cybersecurity, computer science, and the engineering technologies; professional studies, including business, communication, and nursing; and arts and sciences, including natural sciences, game design, mathematics, humanities, and social sciences at its campus located in Utica. Complementing the campus experience and our hands-on approach to providing an affordable, targeted education for in-demand careers, you will also find thriving athletic, recreational, and cultural programs, events, and activities. For more information visit