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Seeing Italy Through New Eyes

Venice at sunset (photo by Melissa Newcomb)

In the digital age we live in, the Sistine Chapel isn’t farther than a quick Google search away. Photographs of the ceiling there have richer detail than ever before, information about Michelangelo is available at one’s fingertips on a multitude of websites and inside a plethora of books. But is seeing it on a screen or on a page really the same?

Not if you ask Ann Tuttle, professor of management and one of three faculty members who supervised a group Field Period™ to Florence, Venice and Rome the week after Commencement for 16 Keuka College students.


“It’s not the same to read about it as to experience it,” Tuttle said, contrasting the biweekly meetings members of the group held over months of preparation, to learn history, art, culture, and language with the 10 days the group spent in Italy itself.

“Seeing the things we’d learned about for ourselves was so much better and more meaningful than I could have imagined. Immersion in a culture is fulfilling and moving, it helps you to understand there is more out there than what we know,” Tuttle said.

Shawnee Brown tries her hand at making pasta.

Students and faculty who experienced the wonders of Italy together will share their experiences Monday, Sept. 29 from 5-9 p.m. at the North Education Conference Center, and will also serve refreshments. All members of the college community are invited to come and see the culmination of the trip, much of which was coordinated through Assistant Professor of Education Dr. Denise Love. Last year, Love coordinated a group Field Period™ to Vienna, Prague and the Slovakian cities of Nitra and Bratislava along with Dr. Klaudia Lorinczova, assistant professor of education, and Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art. Newcomb returned for this year’s trip, and the group also welcomed Dr. Jean Wannall, professor of occupational therapy, and her husband, Nathan Wannall, who helped serve as group Field Period™ leaders too.

Following the pattern set last year, students again kept online journals and blogs detailing their personal reflections in words and photographs.

The beauty of Capri

“I imagined Michelangelo spending all of his time in there, working on the perfect detail,” wrote Kelsey Harmer ‘15, after visiting the Sistine Chapel. “At first I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t take pictures, but it made me appreciate the artwork so much more.”

For her part, Newcomb said she was “overtaken with emotion looking at a masterpiece I had only seen in a photograph or video. I could have stayed there all day.”

The trip was educational for her too, even as a professor, she said, especially since she has always dreamed about seeing Rome after studying so much art history.

“I can now say I have seen real masterpieces. I can share the experience and passion with my students. I can reach out to students in a different way now that I have walked through Italy.  Passion will definitely be present in the classroom,” she explained.

Ann & Haley Tuttle ride an Italian gondola.

The group was able to experience making real Italian pasta, riding on gondolas in Venice, visiting Pompeii, and enjoying the beautiful waters surrounding Capri. Of course, some experiences don’t always go according to plan. For example, authentic Italian cuisine is entirely different from the Italian-American food most of the students were expecting, as Brittany Gleason ’15 discovered at an Italian restaurant where, under pressure, she ordered pizza with sausage on it.

“A few minutes later they brought out a large pizza with sliced hot dogs on it. So, today I also learned that ‘sausage’ here means our hot dogs,” Gleason wrote.

Guided daily by an Italian native named Mario, both students and chaperones wrote about their newfound love for gelato, Italy’s slightly more intense version of ice cream. While in the city of San Gimignano, the group was able to get gelato at the famous Gelateria di Piazza, which many consider the best in the world.

According to Kayla Hall ’15, they weren’t kidding.

Kayla Hall '15 gives her gelato a "quality control" test.

“I thought the other places were good,” Hall wrote. “Did you know that the best way to tell if a gelato is of good quality is to hang it upside down? If it falls off you have a lame gelato, but if it stays on, it is one of the good ones. This one stayed on!”

In addition to its rich history of food and art, Italy is also known for its considerable architectural achievements, dating back to the ruins of ancient Rome. Perhaps best-known is the four-level Coliseum, or Flavian Theater. Built of concrete and stone, the stadium was used for animal fights, staged sea battles, and the famous gladiator matches.

“When you look at the Coliseum today the floor is removed, so you are able to see where the slaves were kept before they came up for battle,” wrote Jenna Bird ’15. “This was pretty surreal to experience because we were able to see exactly where slaves were kept essentially before they were sent to their deaths.”

Excavation now reveals formerly hidden layers of the Coliseum (photo by Alyssa Ange)

“Pictures don’t do any place justice, especially when it comes to the scale of architecture,” described Newcomb. “It’s overwhelming but wonderful at the same time.  It makes you really appreciate the experience of how something so massive and beautiful was created, how all the tiny details were created by hand. Each part tells a story, and you could study it for days.”

“Even though we saw so much and maximized our time, there could never be enough time,” Tuttle said, “It made me want to go back, to see more someday.”

The Pantheon in Rome, with its citation honoring Marcus Agrippa, original founder.

“I want to say thank you to Keuka College and all of those that have supported group Field Period™, because it is a life-changing and life- enhancing experience,” Tuttle said. 

Additional students who participated in the group Field Period™ included Alyssa Ange, Shawnee Brown, Amber Callahan, Marina Kilpatrick, Brittany Kuhn, Brianna Longwell, Brooke Reynolds, Anna Tomasso, Haley Tuttle, Justin Merrill, Lakwan Alleyne-Hall and Ian Wentzel.

Persistence Pays Off for OCC Scholarship Winner

Alex Cole

Alex Cole, a marketing and new media coordinator at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, was recently awarded the Joint Presidential Scholarship to pursue a Keuka College master of science degree in management.

This scholarship is awarded to one full-time employee at each of Keuka College’s six partner schools, and provides them a tuition-paid degree through the College’s Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP).

At St. Bonaventure University, Cole interned for three years in the Office of Communications then graduated summa cum laude a semester early in December 2008 with a bachelor of arts in journalism and mass communication. He worked as a freelance writer for six months, publishing several stories, including an award-winning feature series on smoking in the State of New York.

However, he had bigger things in mind. “During high school and college, I discovered I had a real passion for writing, videography and education, and hoped to find a position that combined the three,” Cole said.

In May 2009, he began working as a coordinator of public affairs at OCC, and successfully turned what began as a temporary part-time job into a full-time, permanent position through persistence and quality of work.

Adding marketing, communication, film, video editing, web content management, and social media management to his list of skills gained Cole professional recognition, including a 2010 honor as a Charlton Scholar by the State University of New York Council for University Advancement. He also earned a 2013-14 Spirit Award for Campus from OCC.

Past Joint Presidential Scholarship recipients at Onondaga Community College include from left: Theresa Scipione, Debra Barney, Alex Cole, and Terrence Griffin.

Cole currently resides in Fayetteville with his wife and “college sweetheart,” Laura. They are avid travelers, and when he isn’t continuing his lifelong support of the Boston Bruins, Cole plays the trumpet and, more recently, the bass guitar.

In the future, he plans to continue his work in higher education and “explore new ways we can reach, communicate and resonate with our students,” he said, adding that the degree he’s earning from Keuka College “will go a long way in ensuring I’m able to do that.”

Cole will start classes this fall at OCC.

For more information on ASAP degree programs, contact the Center for Professional Studies at 866-255-3852 or asap.keuka.edu.

Artists Come Together for “Clay Connection”

Collaborative work by Richard Aerni & Carolyn Dilcher-Stutz.

Faith Benedict was looking for a way to inspire the growing number of students in her ceramics class at Keuka College, and the result is a new exhibit: “Clay Connection,” featuring the work of eight regional potters and sculptors from Rochester to Syracuse.

Although most of the artists don’t personally know one another, they have in common a passion for creating art from the same original element: clay. And though each piece began in the same form—as a wet, misshapen lump—the variety of shapes, sizes, colors and uses of the pieces that result reflects the distinct styles and skills of each artist and further contrast just how dynamic clay itself can be.

The array of pieces now adorning new gallery space in Lightner Library even features a handful of collaborative works where two artists teamed together to display the contrast possible between large-scale pottery and small-scale sculpture. While Richard Aerni of Rochester fashioned the foundational jars or pedastals of each piece, Carolyn Dilcher-Stutz, also of Rochester, designed the intricate, hand-sized animals – birds, a deer – atop each one.

Whimsical teapot crafted by John Smolenski

Nearby, other animals, particularly fish, serve as whimsical, cheery handles on several teapots crafted by John Smolenski of Skaneateles. The former Keuka College professor attended the School of American Craftsman at Rochester Institute of Technology, then served as artistic mentor to Benedict and other students during her undergraduate years before he went on to teach high school art in Skaneateles.

The “Clay Connection” exhibit also features the work of husband-and-wife artists Ann Bliss and Steve Pilcher of Butternut Pottery in Jamesville, N.Y., along with Peter Valenti, and David Webster, both of Skaneateles, and Peter Gerbic of Middlesex. Light refreshments will be served at the artists’ reception held from 4:30 – 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4 at the gallery inside Lightner Library, with a brief artists talk from Smolenski on the craft, starting at 5 p.m. The reception is open to the public and the gallery is open daily during library hours.

According to Benedict, her personal connections with potters such as Smolenski led to new connections with additional potters and sculptors until she had gathered eight masters of the craft. The show includes artists using traditional methods of firing high-temperature stoneware, as well as some who use a single-firing technique.

An earthenware piece by Gerbic

Peter Gerbic of South Hill Pottery in Middlesex has been working with clay since 1964 when he first started at the American School of Craftsmen at RIT, where he trained under the tutelage of renowned sculptor Frans Wildenhain. While initially trained in functional pottery, Gerbic said, like his “master” Wildenhain, he eventually moved into sculpture, even murals, which retain the same, brick-colored hue as the earthenware in which he specializes. Even its name, terra cotta, correlates to its nature as “baked earth.”

“At the moment, I’m doing straight sculpture, which means lots of curves, at least the way I do it,” Gerbic said with a chuckle. “My emphasis is more on the sculptural elements – the bark on trees, the way sand or snow moves from the wind, human body forms, fruit forms, the way a stream is etched by the water, rocks that have been sandblasted, or water itself. I’m trying to create my own interpretation with the bedrock of Great Nature behind me.”

Gerbic’s works also include some ceremonial pieces, which he described as “my interpretation of Native forms and designs and representations that speak to larger dimension of our life.”

A work by David Webster

According to Benedict, seeing what other artists are doing, with the same material she works with, will inspire her, not only as a fellow craftsman, but as a teacher.

“It’s important for the students to understand that every one says something different with their work – what is your voice? We’re all on different paths and experience different things,” said Benedict, drawing a contrast between her own functional pottery –plates, bowls, mugs and such – and the bronze or clay sculptures for which her husband, Professor Emeritus of Art Dexter Benedict, is known.

“No two of us are the same,” she said. “When we’re talking about the connection at Keuka College, I think that’s what is exciting about an organization, where you have all this diversity, this common bond of wanting to learn. It’s our glue”

Meet New Faculty: Dr. Daniel Robeson

Dr. Daniel Robeson, a new Penn Yan resident, was recently named chair of the Division of Business and Management and the first director of business analytics for Keuka College. Robeson comes to the College from a prior post as founding dean of the School of Management at The Sage Colleges in Troy and Albany.

With graduate work focused in the area of “radical innovation” (also known as “discontinuous innovation”), Dr. Robeson is qualified to teach a number of subjects, ranging from quality management to macroeconomics to business strategy to finance. His professional background includes three years as a stockbroker, two years in banking, and almost 10 years in international business focused on management and quality assurance in large-scale start-up plants in South America for the former American National Can Co. (now Rexam National Beverage, London).

In 2000, Dr. Robeson transitioned into higher education, completing an MBA and then a Ph.D. at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He began teaching courses at The Sage Colleges in 2006. He was appointed chair of the department of management, starting in June 2008 and a year later, was appointed founding dean of the School of Management at The Sage Colleges. His family ties to Italy Valley and Vine Valley, not far from Keuka Lake, can be traced back to the early 1800’s, and he can even claim a direct tie to Keuka College: his great-grandfather Charles Robeson attended the “academy” here, 1893-96, before it became an all-women’s institution.

Last book read:  I found I can read about six to eight books at any one time, so that’s a complex question: “Big Data and Business Analytics” by Jay Liebowitz is a basic exploration of analytics, kind of a primer on what’s going on in both business and computer sciences, related to new ways to analyze large flows of data we now collect. That’s been an eye-opener.
Another popular press book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” by Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman is very much about the differences in the human mind, the decision-making processes which are fast and done heuristically, versus those that proceed at a slower pace and require more analysis, and how those two systems in the human brain can sometimes conflict with each other.
For pleasure, I really like to read Swedish murder-mystery writer Henning Mankell, who wrote the Wallendar series on PBS, or I like Daniel Silva who writes murder mysteries based in the Middle East but will take you all over the world.
While packing and moving, I came across Plato’s “Republic,” and picked that up. The other book I am reading now is “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy and I’m enjoying that one. I was recently in Russia and had the opportunity to go to Yasnaya Polyana and see his ancestral home and view the grounds.

Favorite quote:  J.R.R. Tolkein: “Not all those who wander are lost.” I think it fits: I move around, I try different things, I learn by experience and that’s worked for me pretty well. So far, so good.

If you could be a fictional character, who would you be and why?
Superheroes come to mind for me. In the Daniel Silva novels, his big character, Gabriel Allon, is an all-around spy, assassin, talented painting restorer, literary type. Not always a benign character, very passionate, maybe too passionate.

How would you incorporate fun components within teaching or within the structuring of an academic division? What makes that fun?:  The day-to-day part, the mechanics, is not that fun for me, but what’s super gratifying is to see a student do a full cycle in their education, to teach them when they’re a freshman and have them again at the end of their program when they’re a senior and be able to note the change. Generally, they are much more poised, more focused and you can see that they’re ready to enter new careers and new worlds. That’s true at the graduate level as well, to see students in their mid-30s/early 40s mature and season up even on a two-week trip to a place like China. Witnessing the result of a person’s education gives me a lot of satisfaction I was part of that.

What are some goals you have for development of the coming Center for Business Analytics and Health Informatics?: It’s early yet but to the extent we can get students into a Field Period ™ or ultimately, [jobs] that are more technical or quantitative with successful companies that are more established, that’s what I’m after. Within business and higher education, when students can describe meaningful work experiences in high-performing companies where the work is technical in nature, that’s the currency of the business and management realm. That’s what gets you the jobs, to be able to sit down with a hiring manager and say, ‘Let me tell you about my experience.’ That’s what gets you in the door.

What specifics might we see in terms of curriculum or other unique projects, partnerships or collaborations? I’m working directly for the president on that initiative, in collaboration with the provost, Dr. Paul Forestell. I envision there will be a curricular component to [the Center], that will be interdisciplinary and probably include some basics in computer science, statistics, information systems and business and perhaps health sciences. There’s not a whole lot of similar programs out there, but I’m looking at NYU, which has a business analytics center. Meanwhile, Villanova and the University of Cincinnati have interesting programs with lots of faculty from different parts of the college. The curriculum may be the hardest piece but in terms of the business side, we are looking at using the Center as a tool to leverage our new START-UP NY designation, the tax-free zone, to bring companies and their challenges right to Keuka College so that we can work on producing solutions. This could provide students research opportunities where they could gain experience and wisdom to ultimately, get better and more technical internships at the companies we bring in. Positions such as data architect, data visualization expert, business analytics specialist … those are the end point in my mind right now.  Our goal is to do a lot of good for the business community, locally and in the larger cities in western New York. Right now, we’re building that capability.

Abbott’s Address: Finding Beauty in Any Subject

Contrary to popular opinion, the field of mathematics is creative, even beautiful particularly to mathematicians. In a similar way, beauty can be found in the general education courses new undergraduate students might be tempted to rush through, as if merely items to check off on a list.

So says Dr. Catherine Abbott, professor of mathematics at Keuka College and the 2013-14 Professor of the Year. Delivering the keynote address Tuesday at academic convocation, Abbott, a 13-year veteran among the faculty, welcomed new freshmen and transfer students to campus and challenged them to seek new learning experiences within the diverse array of possibilities available to them.

Often Abbott says she is asked why she enjoys mathematics, but the question is frequently delivered in much the same tone as when Abbott asked her young daughter why she would want to dye her hair with Kool-Aid. As laughter peppered the rows of those seated in Norton Chapel, Abbott then explained what it is about math that she finds so satisfying.

“Many times students tell me they like mathematics because, ‘there is only one answer,’” she said, adding such a response often tempts her to reply that while there may only be one answer, there are frequently “multiple ways to get there.”

Photo by Stephanie Lockhart '15

Citing the Pythagorean Theorem as one such example, Abbott pointed to some of her favorite distinctive mathematical proofs including one attributed to Euclid, one by former U.S. President James Garfield, and a 1939 proof, devised by American Maurice Laisnez, then a high school student. What all three shared in common, Abbott said, was the desire to create.

So too, Abbott discovered her own creativity – and an appreciation for the creativity of other mathematicians – as she worked to solve complex equations. It sometimes took days, and then weeks to solve questions as an undergraduate and later, grad student, she described. While completing her doctorate, it could take months. While it felt “tremendous” when finally solving a challenging theorem, she said, there were also many other questions she was never able to answer. Still, mathematicians the world over use words like “elegant” to describe the beauty, even poetry within their equations and proofs.

“What makes a proof or theorem ‘elegant?’ I don’t think I could hope to quantify it any more than I could hope to explain my tastes in art, music, or literature—or our current math majors’ obsession with Dr. Who, for that matter,” she said.

According to Abbott, she chose the discipline of mathematics “for much the same reasons my colleagues on the faculty have made their choices. My field is creative, beautiful, challenging, and exciting.”

Photo by Stephanie Lockhart '15

“What about you?” she asked, turning the question to students. “What is going to excite you? Will it be the English course where you learn to appreciate a piece of poetry for the first time? Will it be the history course where you really understand the relationship between World War I and World War II?”

Citing her own experience entering college with an undecided major, Abbott advised students not to hurry through general education courses, lest they miss the hidden beauty of diverse subjects.

“You wouldn’t drive from New York to California without taking time to appreciate the scenery,” she said.

“How do I know this? From my office directly across from Jephson 101, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy some fantastic classes during the last thirteen years,” Abbott said, referring to a central lecture hall in the Jephson Science Center. “So take your time to enjoy these courses.  You may not find your passion, but then again, you may. I wish you success in your journey here at Keuka College.”

Also welcoming news students with brief remarks at academic convocation were College President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera and Robert Schick, chair of the Board of Trustees. The ceremony marks the official opening of the 2014-15 academic year and includes a colorful processional with upperclassman bearing flags from around the world and faculty in regalia lining the sidewalk to Norton Chapel and applauding new students as they enter. The symbolic rite of passage is an annual tradition for the College.

More photos from Academic Convocation.