Sage 2013 Excelsior Fellow Highlights


This past fall (2013), approximately 80 individuals newly graduated from college, graduate and professional schools from across New York State and the nation began their service as Excelsior Service Fellows.  The Sage Colleges is extremely proud to have contribute 10 of those 80 "best and brightest," who are called to career in public service.  Being an Excelsior Fellow is an honor, privilege and full-time commitment.


conklSara Conklin, B.A. in Environmental Studies

New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal.




Tell us a little about your current responsibilities and projects.

Working as an Environmental Analyst, I conduct environmental reviews of state and federally funded projects that provide housing for seniors, handicapped and low-income families.

What other projects, activities, goals and/or skills development are you looking forward to over the course of your Fellowship?

I am really looking forward to the professional development side of the program. I am also excited to gain a better understanding of the environmental review process and the laws and regulations that direct it.

High Points of Sage Experience
I had a summer-long internship at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Office of Climate Change, which was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned a tremendous amount about the environmental policy. I was lucky enough to be given an incredible amount of responsibility and opportunities to attend meetings and conferences. I also drafted the first edit of a tool that helps coastal communities in New York State measure their resilience against climate change.

I also had a work study at the Sage Office of Admission giving tours to potential students. It was a great way to get to know the campus and staff. It was a great experience to meet future students and tell them about everything Russell Sage has to offer.

Is there anything else you would like the reader to know about you? 

My goal is to start my master’s degree coursework by next fall. In order to retain a position with NYS after the fellowship, I will have to take a civil service exam; so, I will also be studying for that in the near future.


Giovanna J., B.A. in Political Science, '13

Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, Public Finance Office.




Tell us a little about your current responsibilities and projects.

I work mainly as a research analyst and take on different pertinent projects.  I am working on a salient project that is very sensitive for the President of the company. I am also assigned to shadow different bond issuances, as well as monitoring bonds once they have been sold to prevent default.

What other projects, activities, goals and/or skills development are you looking forward to over the course of your Fellowship?

I should be visiting the other branches of my company and hopefully circulating between NYC and Albany to undertake other projects. I want to learn how our government works from an insider’s perspective and explore different tasks. I believe it will give me a better understanding of where I want to go after my fellowship ends. I’d like to strengthen my written and oral abilities as well.

High Points of Sage Experience
While at Sage I participated in S.A.L.A.N.A., an organization that celebrates different backgrounds, ethnicities and races by providing multicultural educational programs to the campus community. I also participated in V.I.B.E and Sage Gems: V.I.B.E focuses on building self-assurance and respect, and Sage Gems focuses on building women’s pride, respect and development at Sage.

I interned with Professor Eileen Brownell as her T.A in Contemporary Business and also research assistant. Following that internship I studied in Costa Rica, where I took classes in human rights, tropical medicine and international relations. Although I have been speaking Spanish my whole life, I also took classes in Spanish to better my speech and writing ability in hopes of one day becoming an immigration attorney or public advocate for native Spanish speakers.

Is there anything else you would like the reader to know about you?

I really enjoy writing, researching and community service. I find it very fulfilling. I was sure I wanted to be a Lawyer for 21 years and just shortly after starting at DASNY I let go of that security blanket and I decided to explore and form a career for myself that better fits me and my interest, which I’m still learning about. The experience has changed my life and opened doors I didn’t even know were available to me. I just have to continue to be proactive, engaged and willing to feel uncomfortable and ask questions. I’d like to continue my career in public service at the state level and learn all that I can. However, ultimately my goal is to someday work as a Diplomat for the United States.



Heather Lacis, B.A. in Arts and Society, '13

Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, working in Adolescent, Women and Children Services, Clinical Services Unit.


Tell us a little about your current responsibilities and projects.

I am currently working on two projects. First, the adolescent LOCADTR (level of care for alcohol and drug treatment referral), will be the project I work on for the majority of my two year fellowship. With the help and guidance of my co-workers and supervisors, I have assembled a clinical advisory panel , the first step in seeing this project all the way through development to completion over the course of my two years. The LOCADTR is integral to determining the appropriate level of care based on a patient’s risks and resources. The LOCATDR is also important as the state moves forward with the Medicaid redesign as the information gathered by the tool will inform patient eligibility for waiver services.

I am also working with the NY SAINTS grantees. The SAINTS (serving adolescents in need of treatment services) grant is designed to improve access and quality of treatment for adolescents as well as expand the use of nationally recognized evidence based programs. I have been helping the project director to compile current training modules and crosswalk them with adolescent needs, in the hopes of fulfilling the workforce development piece of the grant requirements.

I have also been invited to sit in a workforce development workgroup, and to give suggestions on what new training modules might be helpful. On top of these two projects I’ve been reviewing parents, caregivers, and provider’s resources on the OASAS webpage and finding where some new resources might appropriate. I also have been visiting providers and clinical administration to get a better idea of what a day looks like in an adolescent treatment program, and what the opportunities and challenges are for staff and administration.

I am scheduled to attend several conferences covering different topics pertaining to adolescent specific challenges and will be receiving training in an adolescent evidence-based practice. 

What other projects, activities, goals and/or skills development are you looking forward to over the course of your Fellowship?

I am very excited about receiving the training that is being offered to clinicians as this information is something I can carry forward whether OASAS hires me after the fellowship period or not. I am also very excited to see an important project like LOCADTR through from ground floor, up. The SAINTS grant is offering me a wide variety of opportunities to learn everything from research and development to project coordination. I hope to continue working with the clinical services unit but also look forward to learning more about what other departments within the agency do. OASAS is in a great transition period, as are many healthcare and family centered agencies. The Medicaid redesign and implementation of the ACA is creating many opportunities to make improvements in the care New Yorkers are receiving. These same Opportunities present challenges that I have the privilege of being a part of, and influential to.

High Points of Sage Experience
I volunteered with The AIDS Council at the Dining Out for Life event as an ambassador and, along with other volunteers, raised $120,000 to help those living with AIDS in the Capital Region. In World 420 I engaged in service learning at Bethany House in Troy, spending time with and getting to know the needs and desires of the some of the homeless population.

Is there anything else you would like the reader to know about you?

In the future I would like to continue my career with OASAS. So far this has been an amazing opportunity and I’ve been working with fantastic people. Going to the treatment centers highlights the great need for people who are compassionate and caring in the field of addictions.  I feel the work that is being done at OASAS is so important in affecting change and improvement in care.


rileyMackenzie R., B.S. in Environmental Science, '13

New York State Department of Health, Wadsworth Center, Director's Office.


Tell us a little about your current responsibilities and projects.

a.) The Newborn Screening Program at the Wadsworth Center screens all infants born in NYS for detectable, treatable conditions. This program is the largest program at the Wadsworth Center. In early 2014, the Newborn Screening program will be moving from the Empire State Plaza, Biggs Laboratory to the David Axelrod Institute on New Scotland Avenue. Before my placement, the planning to move this program was well underway. Right now I’m working with various administrators to effectively transition this move. Some of these projects include:

  • Organizing flow charts to help track new orders from start to finish
  • Figuring out how and where to store the new equipment being received
  • Mapping out the parking accommodations for the employees moving to the David Axelrod Institute

b.) The Wadsworth Center administers legislatively authorized extramural grants which help support research in stem cells, breast cancer and spinal cord injuries. Each specific research area is comprised of a board. I have been working with the director of this program and am working on various projects which include:

  • Writing the meeting minutes for the Spinal Cord Injury Research Board regular business meeting
  • Helping to implement a new procedure for the review of subcontracts in accordance to the rules and regulations of New York State’s Master Grant Contract

What other projects, activities, goals and/or skills development are you looking forward to over the course of your Fellowship? 

The administrative aspect of working in a public health laboratory is vital in maintaining the clinical and research laboratories at the Wadsworth Center. Over the next two years, I look forward to working with the various departments in the Wadsworth Center to protect and promote the health of New York’s citizens. I’m especially looking forward to projects in the Division of Laboratory Quality Certification and am excited to gain improved leadership skills.

High Points of Sage Experience
I played tennis, as captain, for three seasons on the girls' team and one season on the boys' team while at Sage. I was a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and of the TriBeta society. I received the Phi Kappa Phi award as a sophomore, and the Scholar Athlete of the Year Award in 2010-2011 for the Skyline Conference. I have been on the Dean's List for multiple semesters and received High Honors for a few of those semesters. I presented at the TriBeta Regional Conference at Dominican College for the independent  research I did. Through SAAC, I have volunteered with the Ronald McDonald House and the Special Olympics. I also participated in an Elementary School reading program through SAAC, studied abroad in Australia in Spring 2012, and was the student speaker at the SCA Baccalaureate Ceremony.

I found that everyone at Sage was always willing to go the extra mile to help you with what you needed. I greatly enjoyed my years at Sage and would recommend it to anyone.



ramnMatthew R., M.A. in Teaching, Social Studies, '13

Governor's Office of Employee Relations.



Tell us a little about your current responsibilities and projects.

My responsibilities include:

  • Take part in labor relations, primarily between NYS and the Public Employees Federation (PEF), as well as CSEA to a lesser degree. Provide NYS agencies with assistance in dealing with issues that arise with union employees in regard to current contracts.
  • Review contract and non-contract grievances from PEF that have reached a step 3 appeal at our agency.Currently part of team writing new statewide training series for supervisors throughout NYS.
  • Piloting statewide supervisor training for GOER prior to its implementation.

What other projects, activities, goals and/or skills development are you looking forward to over the course of your Fellowship?

Developing my management skills through the professional development component of the fellowship; learning more about the intricacies of my agency and where I can make myself more marketable to employers; and meeting new people and networking as much as possible to enhance future career opportunities.

High Points of Sage Experience
Student Teaching at Guilderland High School (10th Grade, Global History)  Student Teaching at Doyle Middle School (7th Grade, American History)  Student Teaching at Mechanicville High School (9th Grade Global History).

The History faculty for the MAT program was exceptional. Dr. Schechter, Dr. Leibo, and Dr. Scotnes created an excellent environment for discussion and learning.  I cannot say enough about these faculty members and how proud I am to have been able to study under them.



jennaJenna Sarvis, B.S. in Law and Society, '13

Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), Counsels Office.


Tell us a little about your current responsibilities and projects.

During the course of my two year term with DOCCS, I will be rotating through out specified areas that will give me the most beneficial and meaningful experience. For example, my placement in Counsels Office will last six months, after that time period I will be placed in Special Housing Unit for three months, after which I will be going to a different area to learn about the Department. 

I am currently working on various policy updates.  I have also visited Correctional Facilities to gain a better understanding on the day to day issues the facility officials deal with. I want to take advantage of everything that is offered to me during the Fellowship, to do that I will be working with different offices to have a full understanding of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

What other projects, activities, goals and/or skills development are you looking forward to over the course of your Fellowship?

I would like to return to school to gain a Masters in Public Administration.

High Points of Sage Experience
Internships at Saratoga Town Court, Spring 2012 and Capital Region BOCES, Summer 2012-present.

I very much enjoyed my time at Sage. The professors I had were always very encouraging and engaged me in my studies in a way that I never had before. I felt empowered and proud of myself for all of my accomplishments. 

Is there anything else you would like the reader to know about you?

Member of the Junior League of Albany.