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When Joseph Agori ’23 first arrived at SUNY Potsdam, he planned on keeping his head down, going to class, and getting his degree. Instead, he shed an inherently introverted mentality to become a leader on campus. As a resident assistant, peer counselor, student ambassador, and president of the rugby club—he took advantage of every opportunity that came his way.

Joseph Agori paddles down the Hudson River with his friends during a whitewater rafting trip offered through SUNY Potsdam's Live Now program.

“I used to be shy, but I wanted to get out of my shell. Looking back, I’ve definitely grown. I really enjoyed my time at SUNY Potsdam over the last four years. If I could do it again, I would,” Agori said.

Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Agori heard about SUNY Potsdam after an admissions counselor visited his high school in the city. “It was the best option financially and they offered my major. I wanted to get away from home, because I had been in the same environment since I was three years old,” he said.

My favorite thing about SUNY Potsdam is the people. You feel safe. In Brooklyn, you walk into a store and you won’t say a word, but here, everyone is saying hello to you. It’s a nice community.”

Joseph Agori '23

During his sophomore year, he became a resident assistant on campus—overseeing the social and emotional well-being of first year students at Bowman Hall. Through his nuanced leadership role, he realized how much he enjoyed talking with people and helping his classmates, especially during the pandemic, and chose to pursue a degree in psychology.

“During Covid, we needed more mental health awareness. An RA isn’t a counselor, but you do work with people and check in with your residents. It felt natural. I really like to help people, which made me want to be a counselor, so I decided to go to the psychology department, talk to the professors there, and see which classes I should take for that career path,” he said.

That’s when he met Dr. James Fryer, a professor in the Department of Psychology, who became his advisor, and helped him map out the academic path for his new major. During one of his advising sessions with Dr. Fryer, he learned about an internship opportunity as a peer counselor in the College’s Counseling Center. “That was a great decision. Peer counselors are the first line of defense before talking to a licensed counselor. They suggest students talk to a peer counselor first because someone their age understands them more. We aren’t giving advice, it’s about helping them see what’s going on, talking through it, and giving them resources,” he explained.

He didn’t stop there. Agori was hired as a student ambassador in the Department of Admissions where he helped to answer questions for prospective students and lead tours around campus. “I really loved that job. Initially, I never wanted to do all these things, but I just felt like Potsdam in general, the people, make you feel comfortable. I had the mindset that I wanted to get out of my comfort zone,” he said.

Joseph Agori applies makeup backstage during the fall 2022 production of "Night of the Living Dead."

Joseph Agori performing on stage during the fall 2022 production of "Night of the Living Dead."

Joseph Agori performs on stage during the spring 2022 production of "Almost Maine."

During his senior year Agori branched out even more, taking the stage as an actor in “Night of the Living Dead” and “Almost Maine,” the latter of which required him to memorize lines for three different roles. At the same time, he took on another leadership role as the president of the rugby club. He also explored his creative side by enrolling in a photography class with Iggy Beerbower in the Department of Art.

Joseph Agori shakes hands with SUNY Potsdam President Suzanne Smith during the College's Commencement ceremony on May 20, 2023.

As Agori moves back to New York City after getting his degree, his future is wide open. He’s initially interested in exploring real estate photography, with the future goal of putting his psychology degree to use as a therapist or counselor—helping people in the real world in the same way he did at SUNY Potsdam.

Article by Jason Hunter