Kristi Confortin
Kristi Confortin ’14
June 6, 2016
Christina Ilowiecki
Christina Ilowiecki ’13
June 21, 2016
Show all

Santino Aniek ’14


Alumni Spotlight: Santino Aniek

Agricultural Business Management, Class of ‘14

Santino Aniek, whose long journey has taken him from Sudan to New Hampshire…by way of Cobleskill.

Beginning in the 1970’s, and for decades afterward, South Sudan was hell on earth. A civil war raged, resulting in more than two million people killed and two million more displaced. Santino Aniek was born into this crucible – and miraculously escaped.

“I was very young, and I was separated from my family in the confusion of an attack by government soldiers,” he says. “I found myself following some other people from my village toward the Ethiopian border, travelling at night, subsisting on wild fruits and leaves, and drinking pond water. It took six months to reach Ethiopia, where we were received by the U.N. Commissioner for Refugees. They separated the unaccompanied minors from the rest of the group, and it was then I realized that I was completely alone.”

Over the years that followed, Santino was shuttled briefly back through Sudan, then to Egypt. When he reached the age of 18, he was deemed competent to chart his own future, and, at the suggestion of a relocation advisor, he chose to emigrate to Utica, New York.

While knowing very little English upon his arrival, he soon enrolled at Mohawk Valley Community College.

“I struggled a lot with the language,” Santino says, “and I largely relied on English-to-Arabic translation material to get through my studies.” Nevertheless, he completed two years at Mohawk Valley, taking courses that he thought would begin paving his way toward medical school.

"But then the realization struck him that Sudan, while sitting on great mineral resources, had constant struggles trying to maintain food production, and that perhaps those problems could be best solved through education. “Agriculture is a very big deal there,” says Santino, “because it has always yielded so little. I realized that I could maybe help do something about that. So I decided to begin studying agriculture, and that made coming to SUNY Cobleskill a logical decision.”

"The campus became my home, and I loved it."
Two years later, in 2014, Santino graduated from the College with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Business Management. “I still struggled a bit with English,” he notes, “but, thankfully, by the time I graduated, I’d become much more proficient in the language.” It was, in other words, yet another obstacle he had managed to overcome.

But SUNY Cobleskill gave Santino a great deal more than simply a fine education. “The students and professors became my family,” he says. “The campus became my home, and I loved it.

I was very sorry that SUNY Cobleskill didn’t have a graduate school. I would have stayed there as long as possible.” But graduate school – and, ultimately, a career in public administration – were now firmly in his plans, and today Santino is in his second term at the University of Southern New Hampshire in Manchester.

As to his ultimate goal Santino says, “I want to refine my leadership and management skills so I can help bring change to parts of the world where public systems, from agriculture to infrastructure, are crippled by corruption and lack of vision. I know the fight for accountability and proper governance in places like Sudan will take generations to win. But it will never be won without people who can bring their education to bear on the situation. I want to be one of those people.”