Rensselaer is a diverse community of student dreamers and doers who share several characteristics. They are drawn to science, engineering, technology, and to disciplines ranging from architecture and business to literature. Rensselaer students love to tackle complex problems, and they have a sincere desire to improve the world. Now, a soon-to-be graduate from Rensselaer’s Class of 2009 will join the ranks of alumni who came to Rensselaer seeking a pathway to greatness that is uniquely their own.
Graduating with a double degree in biology and management, and motivated by her passion for social responsibility and her desire to save and preserve the environment, Brittany Tofinchio, who hails from Shelton, Conn., says she is equipped to make a difference in any community that she chooses to live in.
But, the truth is that Tofinchio has been making a difference in the lives of her family, classmates, friends, community members, and strangers since birth.
“For a long time, I’ve known that you can’t take life for granted, and in anything that I choose to pursue, I am always looking to help people and let them know that despite life’s challenges, things will be fine,”
Known by many for her self-confidence, fierce determination, passion for learning, innovative approach to problem-solving, and leadership and negotiation skills, Tofinchio has never allowed the fact that she is a congenital bilateral, below-elbow amputee impede her progress. Born missing both her hands and part of her arms below the elbow, she has overcome tremendous challenges. In her own words, she sees herself “a normal person like everyone else.”
For the last three years at Rensselaer, Tofinchio took up to 20 credits toward her degrees each semester. Along the way, she found time to work as an intern for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in the Office of the General Counsel. In 2008, she held a summer internship position with the Environmental Protection Agency in New York City. A year earlier, Tofinchio worked as an intern for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Gloucester, Mass., in the National Marine Fisheries Service division.
“Brittany is a focused, driven, and professionally committed young lady who is on her way to becoming a productive member of society,” said Frank Wright, clinical assistant professor and director of the undergraduate program in the Lally School of Management & Technology, who served as Tofinchio’s adviser.
In preparing her for the adult world and a future career, Tofinchio’s parents David and Laura Tofinchio emphasized that Brittany wasn’t to be treated special due to her disability. As part of the many life lessons they taught her, they always told her that it was very important for her to be upfront regarding her abilities.
“Many people may look at me and wonder how I write or type,” Tofinchio said. “One of the first things that I will try to bring up in an interview is that I am able to do everything that the job requires, and in case I do need help, I have no problem asking for it.”
While at Rensselaer, Tofinchio pursued a plethora of activities that included joining the Alpha Phi International Fraternity, the Rensselaer crew team, intramural soccer, and serving as a team leader for several projects in her management classes.
“I have had many great opportunities in my lifetime and at Rensselaer that have helped me to grow as a person,” Tofinchio said. “Graduating will be the greatest accomplishment for me in my life thus far. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything.”
By all counts, Tofinchio’s academic, experiential, social, and personal experiences will help her as she embarks on the next journey of life. Following graduation, she will head off to Pace Law School, located in White Plains, N.Y., to pursue a Juris Doctor with a concentration in environmental and international law.
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