February 4, 2022

PRODiG Students Spotlight

The goal of the SUNY Empire PRODiG Scholars Program is to support undergraduate and graduate student-scholars from historically underrepresented groups, including women in STEM disciplines, to progress into doctoral programs and faculty positions at institutions of higher learning. The 2021-22 Scholars cohort is comprised of 10 undergraduate and 10 graduate participants across fields of study and at different stages of their journey toward a career in academia. This series will feature the students who are currently involved in the program, along with their goals and areas of academic interest. To learn more about this program, click here. 

Pam Doran, 2021-22 PRODiG Scholar 

Pam Doran is a SUNY Empire 2021-22 PRODiG Scholar pursuing a Master of Arts in learning and emerging technology at the college. She recently graduated magna cum laude from SUNY Empire earning a Bachelor of Arts in educational studies with a focus in education technology. 

Pam is an education technology assistant at Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES, and has years of experience in IT and web design.  She was instrumental in creating Project Code Spring, a coding and STEM program at the Desmond-Fish Public Library, including the planning and developing of their Innovation and Learning Center.

She is an aerospace education member of the Civil Air Patrol, which is a Congressionally-chartered, federally supported non-profit corporation that serves as the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. Pam is also an ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) -certified instructor.  ISTE is a nonprofit organization that serves educators interested in the use of technology in education.

Pam is currently working as a research assistant for Lila Rajabion, Ph.D., investigating cybersecurity issues surrounding the prevalence of remote working during COVID-19.  She is examining how to identify where breaches occur, their impact, and techniques to prevent future attacks.  Another research interest is related to Pam’s passion for how assistive technology can help English language learners succeed and thrive in the public-school system.  Professor Rajabion has been guiding and supporting Pam's own research on linguistic segregation in public schools and how it can be mediated with assistive technologies.

Pam resides in Columbia County, NY. She has a blackbelt in tae kwon do and is a two-time national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) champion.

 Samantha Pagan, 2021-22 PRODiG Scholar


Samantha Pagan is a SUNY Empire 2020 -21 PRODiG Scholar pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree with a focus on food systems and public health. She has returned to school after 10 years in the field of nutrition education and culinary arts.  Samantha is a community organizer using food and the act of cooking as a
means to foster space for conversation around the relationships we have with food, ourselves, and our communities.

She has led culturally competent nutrition education programs such as The Sylvia Center's Teen Apprenticeship Program and Green City Force's Food Advocacy Program. In her role as the director of programs at The Sylvia Center (2016-2018), Samantha led the organization’s curriculum development, evaluation, and relationship building within the communities served. She utilized a community-supported model to identify the needs of each borough within NYC as well as Columbia County, NY to develop a STEAM-focused program. In addition, Samantha established a criterion for cultural competency in the delivery of curriculum and development of culturally relevant recipes.  She also served as the lead on communications to the Board of Directors, community partners, and media collateral.

Samantha has collaborated with several community-based organizations in all five NYC boroughs to deliver cooking programs to youth in New York City Housing Authority community center after-school programs. Such programs include: The Boys and Girls Club, CAMBA, Children's Aid, Good Shepherd's Services, Grand Street Settlement, Green City Force, Henry Street Settlement, Saint Nick's Alliance, and United Activities Unlimited. She also traveled to Mexico with the Lower East Side Girls Club to develop a farm-to-fork culinary student exchange.

As a research assistant for John Lawless Ph.D., MPH, Samantha is currently researching mental health disparities in the field of couple’s and family therapy. She is conducting a literature review based on the work in top family therapy journals and writing a synopsis on the language, discussions, and practices that might have changed over the last five years.

Samantha is a Queens, NY native who enjoys metalsmithing and jewelry making, watercolor painting and sketching still life, and hydroponic gardening.

 Jason Russon, 2021-22 PRODiG Scholar

Jason Russo is an Opportunity Program student and a 2020-21 PRODiG Scholar at SUNY Empire State College pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in cultural studies with a concentration in the arts.

He has run his own marketing consulting business, Ottavio Media, for 14 years. As a digital marketing director, Jason has experience in generating marketing strategies, content management, web development, graphic design, Facebook/Instagram advertising, analytics, e-commerce, email campaigns, and team/project management.
Jason recently received the Nicholas Pekearo Memorial Scholarship in Creative Writing, which is awarded to SUNY Empire students who have demonstrated writing ability and experience.

In 2022, an excerpt from Jason’s novel-in-progress–working title HONK–is slated to be published in The Nervous Breakdown; a quirky, taste-making, online journal, that has launched the careers of many new writers, some of whom are collectively referred to as the ‘alt-lit’ movement.

Jason is a research assistant for Cindy Conaway, Ph.D., associate department chair for Literature, Communication, and Cultural Studies, who is currently developing two courses in the area of digital communications. He is using his work experience as a social media manager and a content creator to help design coursework. Jason’s two internships with SUNY Empire’s Office of Communications and Marketing– first in the communications department, and currently in the graphic design department– helps him research and design learning activities and outcomes in his role as a research assistant.

In the future, Jason plans on exploring and researching modern communications’ impact on our lives.  His hope is to teach in a variety of areas such as social media marketing, the music industry, creative writing, and graphic design.

Jason is a writer, composer, and artist based in Brooklyn and central New York. His work appears Hobart, Ghost City Press, No Contact, and beyond. He has recorded and toured with Mercury Rev, Pete International Airport, and Hopewell, among others. He loves spending time with his family and is interested in genealogy and ancestry.  



We’re here to help.

Empire State University's 1Stop Student Services is a partner in your successful student experience. Visit www.sunyempire.edu/1stop or contact 1stop@sunyempire.edu.

800-847-3000, ext. 2285