Schiller C. Joseph ’04 draws on his Geneseo foundation to help others in his career.
By Schiller C. Joseph ’04
I’m a first-generation Haitian American. My parents came to the United States in the 1970s and were both college graduates. Growing up, I did not have a clear vision of what I wanted to do after high school, but my parents were clear that I was going to college. In high school, I was a good student with a lot of extracurricular activities and great recommendations, but I did not score as high as I wanted to on the SATs.
My guidance counselor suggested a number of colleges, in particular Geneseo for its education, and I wanted a small-college experience very different from the New York City/New Jersey suburbs where I was raised. He said I could apply through Geneseo’s Access Opportunities Program (AOP) because it is for students like me who may not have the test scores but have a high academic drive and a determination to succeed.
In my opinion, standardized test scores do not dictate what you can accomplish or what really goes into a person’s heart and determination to learn. I am a true example of that.
As part of the application process, I met with Geneseo AOP students. I listened to them and understood their path to Geneseo. I was told that if I did well at Geneseo, I could get into any graduate program I wanted. I was sold.
During my week-long AOP summer orientation, I found close friends and could not wait for the semester to start. Those friends are closest to me today.
Isom E. Fearn, the head of AOP at the time, told me, “You have an opportunity. You can either take it and run with it, or you can waste it.” I took the opportunity and I ran with it. I was able to create a life for myself and my family, thanks to a Geneseo education.
Early on, I learned that I had a passion for government and wanted to help evaluate and improve social welfare programs. The AOP program provided invaluable support, such as discussion and tutoring sessions, which helped me see course material through a different lens. As a political science major, I was a member of the Model UN club, attended conferences at Harvard University, and served as class treasurer in my first year. I also completed an internship with the US Department of Justice in the Civil Rights Division in Washington, DC—all because of Geneseo.
After graduation, I was still unsure of my path. I wanted to think about graduate school, but I had an immense desire to work and understand the world in a different way. My first job after Geneseo was very different from the rest of my career positions, but it was very impactful. I worked as a mental health technician on a schizophrenia ward at New York Presbyterian Hospital. I learned we all need to be cognizant of the struggles we all go through and help our fellow man. My experience inspired me to earn a master’s in social work.
My Geneseo mentor, the late political science professor Kenneth Deutsch, wrote me a graduate school recommendation letter. He knew with my political science background, writing skills, and legal studies minor that I could do great work to help social welfare and government programs achieve maximum efficiency to help people.
In graduate school, I learned about social welfare policy and how government and policies impact citizens.
In the years since, I’ve worked for the Legal Aid Society, advocating for kids in the juvenile justice system and exploring alternatives to incarceration. I also worked against fraud, waste, and abuse in health care programs nationwide for the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General. After moving to DC, I helped universities offer graduate programs online at a company named 2U and inspected and evaluated social welfare programs for the DC government’s Office of the Inspector General.
I have helped kids come back into the community and live their lives in a positive manner after they committed crimes. I also learned a lot along the way by understanding patients with acute mental health issues, and I’m proud to have helped a company establish itself so universities could spread their wings online and reach more students. I’ve earned awards from the DC Office of the Inspector General for community outreach, finding ways for the government to distribute Naloxone to treat fentanyl overdoes, and being part of a team that uncovered more than $1 million dollars in fraud in health and human service programs.
Today, I work as a senior management and program analyst at the US Treasury performing inspections and evaluations of programs within the Internal Revenue Service.
Looking back, I realize could not be where I am without Geneseo, my professors, and the AOP program. I remember what Dr. Deutsch told me when I wanted to get a social work degree: “You can use your skills to do good, and that is what it is about in life.” I aspire to do that, always.
Now, almost 19 years after my graduation, I want to meet with AOP students in DC and at Geneseo. I was one of them. I know how hard it can be to establish yourself. During my time at Geneseo, I learned so much, and I realize how far I have come. I want to give back.
Schiller C. Joseph ’04 is a senior management and program analyst for the U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C. He has served in a series of positions in the government (city and federal), nonprofit organizations, and the private sector. He received his bachelor of arts from SUNY Geneseo in 2004 and a master of science degree from Columbia University in 2008.