board member spotlight
TONYA O. PARRIS '92
Major: Computer Science
Title: President and Founder
Employer: The Parris Foundation, Inc.
Location: New York
Residential Community: Dickinson – Rafuse Hall Computer Science Module (One wing of the
first floor housed with computer science, engineering and math majors
with our own POD)
Campus Involvements: Co-Founder NSBE; Gospel Choir, BSU Youth Program, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Social Action Chair, Co-Rec Football, Basketball and Softball
What experience at Binghamton most relates to what you do today?
That would be my role of vice president and social action chair for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. I served as social action chair both my junior and senior years; I was responsible for all community service programs, both on and off campus. Because Delta Sigma Theta is a public service organization, the core of our purpose rested with quality of the programs I led. Similarly, as president and founder of The Parris Foundation (a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to promoting educational opportunities and fostering awareness in Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM)), I currently lead and serve under-represented communities and leverage both my experience as a community service leader and a computer scientist covering all aspects of STEM.
If you could go back in time and take a class today what would it be?
A human behavior/psychology course. Over the years, I’ve learned that your ability to quickly assess and determine how to work with various personalities will help define you as a good leader.
What did you think you would end up doing on graduation day and what are you doing now?
On graduation day, I thought I would be five years away from teaching computer science at an accredited college or university. However, following my graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and not posessing the PhD that I strongly desired, I took a slight detour to address some challenges at home which required me finding a well-paying job. That job happened to be on Wall Street, and my Wall Street salary fortunately led to me being able to afford to establish The Parris Student Support Scholarship in 2004 and later expanding that to The Parris Foundation in December 2009. So, I am now positioned to provide more scholarships but also to service communities in need of STEM awareness. In hindsight, my current path is better because the number of college students who are entering STEM disciplines is diminishing and I have an opportunity to foster awareness early and influence interest that will hopefully keep our computer science faculty employed across America without solely depending on international students to make up a graduating class. In short, when it comes to STEM, America is behind and my plan is to help us catch up. The real question is, who’s going to help me?
What do you miss the most about Binghamton University?
I miss the campus most. It's breathtaking! I'm not sure I had a full appreciation for it until after I graduated but, fortunately, I get back two to three times a year to enjoy it!
What one thing should every student do before they graduate and leave the University?
Log onto BConnected and set up a profile with a University email address. Also, stop by the Alumni Relations office and ask how you can add value at the next Homecoming.
If you had to give one piece of advice to graduating students, what would it be?
Build relationships with faculty, administrators and fellow students. Getting a degree will get you an interview and maybe a job. Relationships, however, will get you recommendations, referrals, guidance and a career. Like the old cliché says: "It's not what you know, it's who you know!"