Katie Bigness ’09March 24, 2016
Jeffrey Heiser ’76March 24, 2016
Alumni Spotlight: Antoinette (Toni) Lawson
Liberal Arts, Class of ‘99
Founder and CEO of Women With Voices LLC
Where You'll Find Her Now
As a struggling artist, my 9 to 5 job is working for home health care with disabled individuals. When I am not working my day job, I am working on my passion which is play writing. I am the founder of Women with Voices LLC which is an organization dedicated to voicing issues and concerns happening today. The organization primarily focuses on theatrical productions that address women’s issues.
Inspiration at Cobleskill
In high school, I had no idea where I wanted to go for college or even if I wanted to attend college at all. However, Mr. Cobbins came to my high school for recruitment and convinced me to come to SUNY Cobleskill. I started college having no idea what my path would be. I decided to pursue a degree in Liberal Arts and try college for two years. I thought, “I’ll give it a shot.” I took a variety of classes including business, drawing, and psychology. I fell in love with psychology and greatly admired Professor Hoeher. She became such an inspiration to me and Hoeher is the reason why I wanted to go into psychology.
Another professor that truly inspired me was Jonathon Post. I have no idea where he is today but his creative writing class made me realize my talent for writing. He pushed me to write a short story when I did not want to and although I was mad at him for pushing me to write it, I was happy with the results. I graduated in 1999 from Cobleskill and went on to UAlbany where I majored in Sociology with a minor in Psychology. While I was at UAlbany, I ran into Professor Post one day. I talked to him about my major and my plans and all he said was, “That’s too bad” and walked away. I could just tell by the look on his face that he was devastated that I wasn’t writing and thought that I was wasting my talent. At that moment, I made the decision to get back to my passion and started play writing.
Passion for Diversity
When I first came to Cobleskill, one of the first things that I thought was “nobody here looks like me.” As a girl from the Bronx, I felt out of place and had major culture shock. I got involved on campus and tried to find an outlet for people of minorities to feel welcome. Hearing about all of the diversity that SUNY Cobleskill has on campus today, I am so happy and it made me realize that you always have to go through something hard to make it better for someone else.
"I got involved on campus and tried to find an outlet for people of minorities to feel welcome. Hearing about all of the diversity that SUNY Cobleskill has on campus today, I am so happy and it made me realize that you always have to go through something hard to make it better for someone else."
Women with Voices puts on a variety of plays in Albany. In February, for black history month, we are going to have a play called “2014.” The play will talk about issues in the community of people of color, recent outcry about police brutality, and people of color being desensitized to the media. We need to be come together in the hard times, not fall apart.
A recent play we did, “Broke Housewives of New York,” started in Albany and made it to Broadway in Manhattan. It’s a comedy yet it’s full of sadness because it puts social struggles into perspective. It discusses many problems women face today, including financial struggles.
I feel so accomplished being able to tell my story to other students interested in attending SUNY Cobleskill. It makes me feel like I am on the right track and should keep doing what I’m doing. I feel like all of my hard work has paid off after being on Broadway and it’s incredible. I’m not with any major organization and it makes me realize that it’s just you, just one person trying to change everything.
Students, Take Note
There is a lot to look at and realize when you come to Cobleskill for a visit. I couldn’t believe all of the changes from my life in NYC. I was so used to tall buildings and having everything in walking distance. When I got to the town of Cobleskill, I was blown away by all of the trees and having to use transportation to get around town. Never judge a book by its cover because when you’re coming from different walks of life, you have this picture of what Cobleskill is and it’s something completely different when you get there – so make sure you take the time to visit campus in person.