Featured Alumni

On the streets: Reina finds career in community service

Liz Reina

Liz Reina ’02 knows what it’s like to be homeless, to be hungry, to be without employment skills.

But she also knows how to help, in part because of what she gained during her time at Alfred University.

Reina is now the associate program director for a single adults shelter that provides services to people who are 55 years or older.

It’s a tough job, Reina admits. She’s dealing with people who often have chronic physical and mental illnesses or are substance abusers, who are poor, and who have a history of homelessness.  While she no longer provides direct counseling for the clients, she supervises case managers, working closely with them, “making sure we are providing the services our clients need.”

What she is doing is far different from being a high school French teacher, which was her career goal when she entered Alfred University.

While she took French and education classes, she became deeply immersed in activities on campus, serving as secretary of Student Senate, then president.  Being Senate president “was the most rewarding experience of my undergraduate career at Alfred,” said Reina.  “I saw what an impact students could have on what happens at the University.”

It was exciting for her to be able to present ideas, and then see them implemented to benefit students, with Jerry Brody, who was then the vice president of Student Affairs, as her mentor.

Being able to work with Charles M. Edmondson, who became Alfred University’s president in July 2000, was also exciting. “I could see the changes, and I wanted to be a part of that,” said Reina.

Her tenure as Student Senate president came during some of the most difficult times in Alfred University’s recent history, including the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that stunned students; the death of student Ben Klein in February 2002 at an off-campus residence; and the decision by the Alfred University Board of Trustees to abolish Greek organizations in May of that year.

She was also president during a time when there were some alleged racial incidents on campus. Under her leadership Student Senate responded by sponsoring a diversity-awareness workshop that drew more than 200 participants, and creating a diversity officer for Senate.

“To have those kinds of leadership experiences as an undergraduate was incredible,” said Reina.  It allowed her to prove to herself that she could take on and meet crises and challenges. “It was just unbelievable to me, as undergraduate, to know that my opinion was being taken into account, and respected.”

The involvement and the chance to serve the student community changed her mind about what she wanted to do. “I was in so many student activities, that I decided I should be looking at a career in higher education or community services,” said Reina.

With that in mind, she decided to do her master’s degree in higher education with a certificate of advanced study in counseling at AU. It was a class taught by Kathy Woughter ‘93, that led Reina to her career in community service.

“She assigned us to find someone we’d never met before in a career field we wanted to learn about, and to interview that person,” Reina said.  She chose an employment counselor at a New York City agency that dealt with men and women on parole.

 After she received her master’s, she worked for that agency for more than two years before deciding to seek a more administrative role, rather than a hands-on one.

She found a position with Volunteers of America – Greater New York, and did quality assurance for the agency for four years before moving into her newest role with the agency three months ago.  In quality assurance, Reina evaluated 25 programs in the agency’s housing division to determine if they were adequately meeting clients’ needs.

Eventually, Reina says she will return to school to get a doctorate, once she decides whether she wants a clinical degree or something relating to public policy. “I miss being in school. I miss the research and studying,” said Reina.

Right now, she is leaning toward a degree in public policy, an interest sparked, in part, from seeing how policy decisions affect her clients.  In March 2011, New York City made a decision to eliminate a long-standing subsidy program designed to allow homeless people to find permanent housing. With the subsidy gone, many of those people will be out on the streets again, Reina fears, placing more stress on the non-profit agencies that try to help.

While she may still be sorting through what comes next professionally, Reina knows her involvement with the Alfred University community will continue.  She is now serving on the Alumni Council, and is a class coordinator for her 10th year Reunion in June.

Even though as a member of Alumni Council she returns to campus twice a year, at least, she says she still “misses Alfred every day.”

4 responses to “On the streets: Reina finds career in community service”

  1. Kathy Woughter Says:
    What a great article! We are so proud to claim Liz as one of our alumni.
  2. Jacquie Lisbin Says:
    Congrats. On your successes, Liz! It was great to know you in the counseling program at A.U. And I was so happy to read this article about your great work!!
  3. Karen Reina Says:
    I'm so proud of you, daughter, for all the good works you do! Mom
  4. Charley Edmondson Says:
    Liz Reina is one of the most memorable students in my long life in higher education. She was a transformational student leader whose "adult" life inspires us all.

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