For the public good

Shanise Kent with her daughters.

Shanise Kent, center, with daughters Sela, at left, who graduated from Hudson Valley Community College and Shayna, at right, who graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. 

Civil service is a way of life for Shanise Kent, JD/MBA ’06.

Growing up, Kent’s mother was a secretary at Binghamton University and her father worked for the New York State Department of Transportation. So, it was a natural fit when Kent picked a SUNY school and enrolled at UB to study political science and pre-law as an undergrad.

Kent planned to become a practicing attorney after graduating from the JD/MBA program, but instead began her own civil service career in higher education — she says by happenstance.

“I was a first-generation, low-income college student when I started at UB,” she says. “I had a daughter during my sophomore year and a second daughter 16 months later. I graduated in four years, and immediately enrolled in graduate school at UB. Shortly after completing my JD/MBA, I was divorcing and with two young children, and I accepted a position at Binghamton University to be home near family.” 

At Binghamton, Kent’s first role was with the Research Foundation for SUNY. She served as coordinator of the McNair Scholars, a federal educational outreach program designed to motivate and prepare students from disadvantaged backgrounds for graduate studies. 

“I thought I’d be there for two years, and now 16 years later, I’m still in higher education,” she says. 

During those 16 years Kent has served in several roles, successively rising through the SUNY ranks. She also was associate director of the National Science Foundation funded Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) and co-principal investigator for the LSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate program.

In 2014, she was named director of diversity programs and initiatives at Binghamton’s Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering, where, among her many duties, she developed and implemented the school’s strategic diversity plan.

Then, in 2017, Kent moved from Binghamton to the University at Albany, where she is currently assistant dean of the Graduate School and director of the Office of Professional, Adult and Continuing Knowledge.

Throughout her career, Kent says her School of Management MBA has set her apart in the field.

“Having an MBA has helped me look at the bigger picture — to be able to take a lot of information, synthesize it and think about the long-term effects,” she says. “It’s also helped me be a better manager.”

This strategic mindset has allowed her to discover the best ways to introduce the next generation of first-generation students to higher education, from adult learners to historically underrepresented minority groups.

“I believe education is a public good, and my public education gave me opportunities and resources — and it was affordable,” she says. “I had gotten into some private schools, but we wouldn’t have been able to manage the tuition, frankly. SUNY has great schools from Buffalo to Albany.”

Outside the office, Kent enjoys gardening, and is in the process of earning a certification in pollinator stewardship. She also spends time renovating her home with her husband, who, naturally, is also a civil servant in his role as history teacher at Cobleskill-Richmondville High School.