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Keuka College News > Author Archives: Rachel E. Dewey

All Business About Medical Service

If Jacob Banas is described as something of an over-achiever, it might be well-deserved. The graduating college senior from Delmar, N.Y., near Albany, decided in the spring of his sophomore year to add a second major —organizational communication—to the English degree he was already pursuing. That meant adding a couple of 18-credit semesters to meet requirements for both degrees.

Then he also decided to start training as an EMT so he could begin volunteering for the Branchport-Keuka Park Fire department. By October of 2013, Banas had started his 160-hours of EMT training, even staying on campus over Winter break to continue four-hour class trainings on Tuesday and Thursday nights, that ran through March 2014.

“My Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would get up for my 8 a.m. class, and not stop till 11 p.m. and maybe be up later with homework,” he recalled. “It’s a miracle I survived that semester.”

But by April 2014, Banas had passed the EMT course —which he dubbed a “First Aid class on steroids”— and could begin volunteering as a first responder on emergency calls. Soon after, Banas also joined the ambulance corps in Penn Yan. More training hours were required and Banas was recently awarded the 2014-15 Yates County award for the most individual training hours in EMT service by any medic for the year. According to Banas, the 185 training hours he logged between 2014 and 2015 does not include his 145 hours on duty or additional volunteer hours with the fire department.

“It’s a surreal moment of closure for me as I’m finishing my time here at Keuka College, to be recognized by so many friends I’ve made at both departments,” he said, calling the award “a really nice recognition.”

Banas now holds basic EMT certification, which means there are limits to what he can do or the medications he can administer. At basic certification level, EMT’s can manage fractures, head/neck or back injuries, motor vehicle accidents, cardiac issues, or allergic reactions. However, basic EMT’s are not licensed to carry narcotics or perform emergency intubations to manually open a patient’s airway as a certified paramedic would be licensed, he said.

Banas said he tries to maintain at least one to two shifts a week at the ambulance corps. “Every now and then, there’s an emergency near the College that the fire department will be called to and I respond in my free time,” he said.

EMT duties can also include driving the rig.

According to Asa Swick, director of operations for the Penn Yan Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Banas is often the first on-scene when an emergency call comes in for an incident on the College campus.

“Often, Jake is already there and he’s been able to assess and start a needed treatment and he knows so many of the staff and students, he’s on a first-name basis with most, and has a good handle how to best help them,” Swick said.

“College students make great responders, they’re looking for stuff to do in a new school, it benefits the community— it’s a win-win all the way around. Students are wonderful to work with because they already want to learn. You’re just providing them another opportunity (for an activity) and a skill they can use for the rest of their lives,” Swick said, noting that Banas’s reputation is “outstanding.”

“Jake is a great medic, gets along with everybody, and fits in really well. He’s told us that if he can find a job in his current field, he’d love to stay and we’d love to see that too. I’d love to have 20 college students that are as active, involved and dedicated as Jake. If I could have 20 Jakes, this community would be in really awesome shape,” Swick said.

Banas snapped this Instagram photo while accompanying a news crew at Albany Medical Center.

And how does Banas see his EMT volunteer service fitting in with his unusual degree? It was just another step along his personal journey to discover his passions, he said. While he could see himself fitting into the medical field, patient care is not the strongest pull. When a friend’s mother suggested he consider hospital management, Banas began incorporating the suggestion into his required Field Period™ experiences.

In the winter of 2015, he conducted a Field Period™ in the PR department of the Albany Medical Center, writing press releases and updating a 60-page crisis communications plan, assisting staff who coordinated media interviews for the physicians and even going into the ER with a news crew to observe a patient’s deep-brain stimulation procedure. The news crew had been following the patient’s treatment for Parkinson’s disease so they were permitted in the operating room without violating patient privacy laws known as HIPPA laws.

Banas in the OR of Albany Medical Center, observing brain surgery.

Then, for spring semester 2015, Banas conducted his 80-hour senior practicum in the Community Services office of Finger Lakes Health in Geneva, so he could get a feel for similar work at a smaller hospital. He assisted staff on wellness programming to teach local schoolchildren better exercise and nutrition habits, ran the social media component of New Visions, an after-school program where high schoolers provide transport and food services to patients, and continued standard PR work writing press releases and maintaining a database of published media clips on Finger Lakes Health.

Between the two hands-on experiences, “it definitely confirmed for me that working in the hospital setting, but maybe not in patient care is where I’d see myself someday,” said Banas, who hopes to pursue a master’s in hospital administration in the future.

Jake Banas and his family celebrate his graduation.

Before graduating with his dual degrees May 23, he accepted a position as Marketing and Visitor Services Assistant at the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection in Canandaigua.

Dr. Anita Chirco, professor of communication, has served as Banas’s academic advisor and said he exemplifies the “can-do, hands-on spirit of a true Keukonian.”

“On top of the countless hours he has put in to succeed at the double majors in English and Organizational Communication, the hours of training and volunteer service he has invested in his EMT work in Keuka Park and Penn Yan have enriched our college and community immeasurably. I am so proud of him,” she said.

“Go for It!”

Buoyed by high spirits and sunny skies, the 488 members of the Keuka College Class of 2015 and marched forward into the future, inspired by words of advice and encouragement from two high achievers. Saturday marked the 107th Commencement Exercises for Keuka College.

Both U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D- N.Y.), and Dr. T. Alan Hurwitz, president of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. relayed personal stories of overcoming adversity, offering advice to the graduates how to turn challenges into stepping stones.

While pursuing his first degree in electrical engineering, Dr. Hurwitz had no tutors, interpreters or note-takers, and had to rely entirely upon lip-reading. In one especially challenging electronics course, he had the option to take an F as his grade and repeat the course, or take a D and move on. After careful consideration, Hurwitz chose the F “because failing meant that I had another chance,” he told graduates.

Dr. T. Alan Hurwitz

“After the second time around, I got an A,” he said. “As you embark on your careers or post-graduate studies, remember that failure is not the end. Failing at something does not mean that you are a failure. It simply offers you an opportunity to learn and grow and do better the next time.”

Indeed, Dr. Hurwitz’s own story showcases his drive to overcome the many challenges and barriers he faced growing up as a deaf child in Sioux City, Iowa, before eventually rising through the ranks at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology to become its president. After a 40-year career at NTID, Dr. Hurwitz went on to become president of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., which, similar to NTID, serves students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Sen. Chuck Schumer

In a similar way, Sen. Schumer also made the most of a challenge faced after earning his bachelor’s degree. After missing an opportunity to travel the world for one year on an all-expense paid scholarship, Schumer stopped moping, dusted himself off, graduated law school and went on to earn his first seat as a NYS Assemblyman at the age of 23.

“The fact that you’ve gotten this great education at Keuka College and the fact that you are the first generation to grow up amidst this new technology so it’s almost instinct to you means one thing: If there was ever a time to figure out what your dream is and reach high for it, even if it seems hard to get to, now is that time,” Schumer told graduates in a surprise visit to the stage. “Reach deep down inside yourself. See what you’re made of.  See if you can achieve that dream. My advice to the Class of 2015 is very simple: Go for it!”

“It’s not only my hope, not only my prayer, but indeed it is my confidence that you will succeed with flying colors and achieve your dreams,” Schumer said.

In additional activity at Commencement:

Lauren Esposito poses for a group selfie with the Class of 2015.

For more photos from Commencement, click here.

Murray Receives Keuka College/FLCC Joint Presidential Scholarship

Newark resident Johnathan Murray, assistant director of the One Stop department at Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC) in Canandaigua, received the Keuka College/FLCC Joint Presidential Scholarship at a May 1 reception attended by his FLCC colleagues and representatives from Keuka College.

President Díaz-Herrera, Murray and FLCC President Barbara Risser

The Joint Presidential Scholarship gives an FLCC employee the opportunity to pursue a Keuka College degree tuition-free through an Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) cohort meeting for weekly evening classes at FLCC. When one employee completes the major requirements of his or her degree program, another can apply. Murray will begin a program to earn a Master of Science degree in management (MSM) Aug. 27.

He was selected for the award by Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera, president of Keuka College, and Dr. Barbara Risser, president of FLCC. Both were on hand during the presentation, when Murray received a standing ovation.

“I am deeply honored to have been selected for the Keuka College/FLCC Joint Presidential Scholarship, and touched by all the support I have received from my friends and colleagues,” said Murray. “Thank you!”

Keuka College partners with several community colleges across upstate New York to offer ASAP courses at each host campus; some of the partner schools also offer the Joint Presidential Scholarship to their employees. At FLCC, the most recent recipient was Jon VanBlargan, a financial aid counselor who received his Keuka College MSM in 2014. Lynn Freid, director of workforce development for FLCC, received the Joint Presidential Scholarship to pursue a Keuka College bachelor’s degree in organizational management, graduating in 2012. In addition, Mike Fisher, registrar/director of the One Stop department and Murray’s supervisor, received his Keuka College MSM in 2010.

Left to right, Mike Fisher, registrar/director of One Stop, Murray, assistant director of One Stop, and Carol Urbatis, vice president for enrollment management at FLCC.

Murray got his start at FLCC as a student aide at the Wayne County Campus Center in 2003. After earning his associate degree from FLCC in 2005 he went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in business administration/accounting from Rochester Institute of Technology. In 2005, he also became the evening coordinator of FLCC’s Newark facility. He became a One Stop department specialist for FLCC five years ago, and since December 2011, he has served as the One Stop assistant director. In his free time he enjoys bird-watching, digital photography, cooking and baking with friends.

“My work is an important piece of my life,” said Murray. “I enjoy working in higher education and watching students mature and find their passion. The MSM program at Keuka will permit me to improve upon our service to our students and came highly recommended from my peers who have completed the program before me.”

Leadership and service are core components of Keuka College’s MSM program, which was recently ranked as one of the top 50 MSM programs in the country by The Financial Engineer. Candidates are evaluated for admission based on, among other things, their prior academic experience, volunteer and community service history, and leadership potential.

Keuka College’s MSM program is offered at nearly a dozen partner locations across western New York, including GCC’s Batavia campus. The program features a rigorous accelerated format designed for working professionals, allowing them to earn their degree in 18 months. For more information, visit

College Garners $5K Grant to Replant Outlet Trail

Dr. Bill Brown and Emily Bower '18 will collaborate on a project to remove wild parsnip from the Yates County Outlet Trail.

From Penn Yan to Dresden, the 7-mile Outlet Trail beckons anyone wishing to enjoy the beauty of nature while walking, riding horseback, bicycling, hiking, or traversing mid-winter on snowshoes or cross-country skis. The scenic trail now popular with artists and photographers once served as an old right-of-way for a former railroad connecting Keuka and Seneca Lakes.

Despite its natural beauty, the trail harbors something unpleasant —an infestation of wild parsnip, which can blister human skin when sap from its leaves, stems, flowers or fruit is exposed to sunlight. So it’s ideal that Keuka College recently won a $4,999 grant to remove large patches of wild parsnip along the trail and replace it with two native flowering plant species —turtlehead and joe-pye weed.

Wild Parsnip, the plant which will be removed from the Outlet Trail through this project.

The project, which was funded through the Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM), headquartered at the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, will begin June 1 and will serve a dual purpose as a Keuka College Field Period™ research project for rising sophomore Emily Bower ’18. Under the guidance of Dr. Bill Brown, assistant professor of biology and environmental science at Keuka College and Emily Staychock, an invasive species educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County, Bower will dig out large sections of wild parsnip at the roots and then replant the same areas with the two native flowering species. To protect the new plants from disturbance by deer, they will be fenced with 6-foot high “page wire,” Brown said.

Emily Bower '18 and Dr. Bill Brown along the Outlet Trail

Digital learning is a new objective for Keuka College and is being woven into the curriculum and its signature Field Period™ program. As such, Bower’s Field Period™ will also contain a digital component: assisting Staychock in creation of a GPS-based map and database documenting locations of many invasive plant species along the trail including honeysuckle, Japanese knotweed, spotted knapweed, Tree of Heaven, and common buckthorn. Bower and Staychock will use iMap to plot locations of the invasive plants for further monitoring or later removal by others.

“All my friends walk the trail and visit the waterfalls, so having the opportunity to help something we use all the time is wonderful and it’s also great to give back to the community,” Bower said. “I’ve always been interested in doing research and having a research project. My family has a small farm and they’ve had to deal with invasive plant species so gaining more experience in that area will help.”

Bower said she was eager to conduct her second Field Period™ this summer because she plans to conduct most within the medical field, to reach her goal of becoming a pediatrician. Since she plans to submit applications to grad schools such as UNC-Charlotte and Syracuse Upstate Medical University in her junior year, she wants to finish as many of her four required Field Period™ experiences before then as she can.

“This [one] was different,” she described, adding that the outdoor setting, summer housing and financial stipend to complete the Field Period™ project added to its appeal. “I couldn’t say no.”

Bower added that she’s hoping to glean as much as she can from working with Dr. Brown and also to confirm her choice to focus on a bio-medical concentration during her undergraduate years, versus going into research or another area, such as botany.

Joe-Pye Weed in flower, image courtesy WikiMedia

“The hands-on experience is really what interests me, and it’s where I learn the best,” Bower said. “110 percent of the reason why I came to Keuka is for the Field Period™ [program] and the small school atmosphere.”

As the wild parsnip is removed during the project, the three scientists will be studying whether the new plantings of turtlehead and joe-pye weed will “suppress future growth of wild parsnip, and we’ll see if they attract more pollinators, and therefore increase local butterfly populations,” Brown said.

The turtlehead plant, image courtesy WikiMedia

“I chose the turtlehead on purpose because the Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly requires it for part of its life cycle. The adults will nectar on the flowers, eggs will hatch on the leaves, then the caterpillars will eat the leaves as they develop on the plant,” Brown said. Other butterflies that could be attracted to the new plants also include the Great Spangled Fritillary and the Silver-spotted Skipper, he said.

After Bower’s Field Period™ concludes, Brown and volunteer members of the Friends of the Outlet Trail organization will continue to monitor the new plantings to assess the long-term effect on the trail’s plant life and butterfly populations, “probably for the next few years,” he said.

College Will Offer Master of Social Work Degree

Starting this fall, Keuka College will offer a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program, in two formats, at the Keuka Park home campus and in the Syracuse region. The MSW program is a 65-credit, clinically focused program designed to prepare graduates with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide effective psychotherapy and psychosocial services to clients at an individual, family, and group level.

The MSW also prepares graduates to act in an administrative and supervisory capacity, and to serve as leaders in dynamic communities and organizations. Students with an MSW degree are eligible to take a state licensing exam after graduation, and can then begin serving diverse client populations in settings including schools, community-based agencies, health care systems, legal systems and more.

Recently approved by the New York State Board of Education Office of the Professions, the Keuka College MSW program will be offered in two formats. Roll-out of the program will begin this fall, with two cohorts of advanced standing MSW students.  One cohort of full-time students will study weekdays at the Keuka Park campus near Penn Yan, and will complete the program in May 2016, while a second cohort of part-time students studying in the Syracuse region, will complete the degree in 21 months of primarily evening classes once a week. Both advanced standing formats include clinical practicum work, similar to an internship. A first-year foundation program for applicants with a non-social work bachelor’s degree will begin at the Keuka Park campus in the fall of 2016.

Stephanie Craig

Stephanie Craig, chair of the Keuka College Division of Social Work and associate professor of social work, is thrilled to see the MSW program launch after nearly 10 years of dreaming and planning.

“It’s so exciting to see the vision come to fruition,” Craig said, adding thanks to the many faculty members and administrators who’ve invested time and labor over the past several years to support the College’s efforts to add the new degree. “I see growth ahead and an outstanding MSW program at Keuka College.”

After the initial launch year, the College will begin offering the advanced standing MSW program at select off-site locations in full-time or part-time formats. Students have the opportunity to personalize the focus of their studies through the selection of different electives. According to Dr. Doyle Pruitt, a licensed, certified social worker, MSW program director and assistant professor of social work for Keuka College, the College has offered bachelor’s degrees in social work to adult students at multiple community college locations across upstate New York through its Accelerated Studies for Adult Program (ASAP) format, and some of those will be considered for expansion of the MSW in future years.

Dr. Doyle Pruitt

Elective courses and initial field work placements have been structured so that students will be prepared for work within systems such as the Veteran’s Administration, health care settings, prison systems and community agencies, particularly those that may be located in the areas where the MSW program will be offered, Pruitt described. For example, Yates and Schuyler counties have some of the lowest numbers of MSW practitioners in the state, she said, noting that social work is a profession always in demand.

“Our program allows students who are committed to their local communities to receive their education without having to be uprooted and risk not returning,” Pruitt said.

And that will benefit communities across the greater Finger Lakes region, as well-prepared Keuka College MSW graduates provide services appropriate to the unique demands of rural areas and under-represented populations, said Dr. Paul Forestell, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Dr. Paul Forestell

“For 125 years Keuka College has remained true to the vision of our founder, George Harvey Ball, to graduate ‘superior men and women who shall bring strength to the nation and help to humanity,’” he cited. “Our new Master of Social Work program continues that tradition.”

According to Pruitt, an MSW degree can be more marketable than degrees for marriage and family therapists or licensed mental health counselors, due to the structure of insurance billing in New York State.

“We’re preparing graduates to be eligible to provide clinical services, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and so on. The clinical degree allows them to provide therapy, but they could also choose to take their career in an administrative or service direction, so it’s really setting them up to be competitive in the marketplace,” Pruitt said.

Applications for the new MSW programs have a deadline of June 15, 2015. For more information on the program, please visit online at:, or for more info on how to apply, please contact Admissions Counselor Patricia White at or (315) 317-8455.