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Alumni Profile: Theresa Sanders

As the head of the Urban League of Long Island, Theresa Sanders (M.S. ’03) teaches people the economic value of diversity and inclusion. Jun 27, 2022

“I have always enjoyed what I call ‘the freedom of life’ on Long Island,” says Theresa Sanders (M.S.’03). “As a kid, I could ride my bike and play outside. When I was starting my family, I bought a house down the street from my parents. There was always a shared sense of community.” It was a pace and quality of life Sanders loved but never took for granted. “It reinforced for me that there was work to be done on a professional level to allow more people to enjoy this lifestyle.”

This passion led Sanders to work for the Urban League of Long Island, an affiliate of the National Urban League, the nation’s largest civil rights and urban advocacy group. “I love teaching people the economic value of diversity and inclusion. It brings forth the full value of the community,” says Sanders. “You can talk about the moral and ethical value of being inclusive, but a lot of people won’t care because they are protected by a level of comfort. The fact that the local economy loses millions of dollars a year because of inequality often makes an impact on people who might not otherwise take inclusion into consideration.”

Sanders, now the president and chief executive officer, was already working at the Urban League of Long Island in 2001 when she decided to pursue a master’s degree in instructional technology at New York Tech. “Working full-time and getting my degree was a struggle,” she admits. “I had two children, two foster children—I was working, making dinner, checking homework, and then sitting down to do my own homework.” Despite the struggle, Sanders found the time and dedication she put in to be incredibly valuable. “I don’t think I realized at first how important this education was going to be to me as a community leader,” she says. She was especially inspired by the classes she took with Professor Stan Silverman. “My time at New York Tech with Professor Silverman ended up shaping my current use of technology in so many different ways.

“We were already providing instruction at the Urban League through courses in life skills and banking, but the introduction of technological instruction helped us leverage the education resources, helping with after-school homework and college applications,” she says. Sanders’ background in technology instruction also served an important role during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We had to switch all our services to remote, which meant shifting all of our constituents, workers, and parents to use and embrace technologies. In order to do that, you have to understand it and like it yourself.”