Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of profiles of new, full-time faculty members who have joined the Keuka community.
Robert Dischner loves being in the classroom and said it’s always been his dream to be a college professor.
The former director of learning and development for utility companies such as Niagara Mohawk and National Grid, joined the full-time Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) faculty this year and sees many similarities between the corporate night classes he once led for utility company staffers and the ones he now teaches for Keuka management students in cohorts in Corning and Elmira.
Business experience was woven through his professional career, which includes nearly 30 years of human resources and professional development work. Dischner even had a brief stint as a stockbroker, before he landed his first teaching job: instructing company employees of Niagara-Mohawk in finance and accounting.
In addition to developing employees in technical disciplines, his department set up a corporate university that sought to expand the role of a traditional training department.
“We wanted to educate our employees, not train them, and doing that at night was the way the industry was headed. I didn’t realize at the time, but I was practicing, in a classic way, the model that Keuka has,” Dischner said of ASAP’s once-weekly evening classes, small-group cohorts, and modular format. “It’s a great way to do research and learn at the same time.
“I started off working in the field, then in the training department teaching and getting involved with major change initiatives,” added Dischner, who ultimately found himself in charge of technical training in gas and electric utilities, with approximately 80-90 people reporting to him. But the classroom called to him still.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s in education, and a Ph.D. in education, all from the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB). While his dissertation was in education, it included a focus on business development and reinforced a passion for the difference between training and teaching, he said.
“My business background is strong. I feel that I and all the ASAP instructors have a tremendous blend of degrees and experience and that goes a long way for the students in the classroom to know that you’ve been there and presided over business plans and the kinds of things we’re asking them to do,” Dischner said.
“We stress critical thinking in ASAP,” he said. “That’s another thing I’m very interested in – informal logic and rhetoric and things like that, looking critically at an author’s argument. That’s something I always do in the classroom. A focus on the writing and presentation skills and critical thinking are things I think are really successful.”
To this day, Dischner is still connected to the utility companies where he developed his human resource skills. He continues to serve as electric historian for Niagara-Mohawk, and he has even gone back to school to pursue more learning that sparks his curiosity.
“I was an online skeptic and I decided I’d go back [to school] to get an associate degree in electric theory and also experience what an online education is like so I can speak to that,” Dischner said. “I enjoyed it.”
Previously, Dischner taught classes as an adjunct instructor at schools across Central New York, including Mohawk Valley Community College, Onondaga Community College and Cayuga Community College. He transitioned from part-time to full-time teaching for many reasons.
“Now I have a chance to get in the classroom and be on the front line where the magic really happens,” he said.
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