Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of features on recipients of the Judith Oliver Brown Memorial Award. The award, named after the late 1963 Keuka graduate, is supported by Brown’s family and the Class of ’63. It is designed to assist students who pursue a culturally-oriented Field Period™.
For junior Jenna Soldaczewski, traveling and exploring new cultures is something she and her family are passionate about. They have traveled to various locations in-and-out of the United States, which she said has allowed her to expand her horizons and grow culturally.
“My parents planned our family vacations to learn all that we could about the landmarks, local history, and culture [of the places we went],” said Soldaczewski, an occupational science major from Cheektowaga. “For example, while in Mexico we climbed the Mayan ruins in Coba, and visited Tulum. We have also explored the island of Aruba from end to end, admiring wild life and beautiful sea creatures.”
And thanks to receiving the Judith Oliver Brown Memorial Award, Soldaczewski has the opportunity to expand her travels as she will explore the British Isles for her summer Field Period™.
“This is an entirely new experience for me as I have never been across the Atlantic Ocean,” she said.
But she is not the only Keuka College student who will travel to the British Isles for her summer Field Period™. Sophomore Brianna Schlemmer, another recipient of the Judith Oliver Brown Memorial Award, is also embarking on her first trip across the Atlantic Ocean. She is particularly looking forward to visiting Ireland, and is intent on learning more about her family’s Irish heritage and kissing the Blarney Stone, something her grandfather and great-grandfather have done.
“My family has strong roots in Ireland, so this Field Period™ gives me the chance to explore my family’s Irish heritage,” said Schlemmer, an American Sign Language-English interpreting major from Rochester. “It also offers me experiences that will bring me deeper into the culture of Ireland.”
Schlemmer is particularly keen on exploring Dublin, where her great grandfather was “often” invited to visit his friend, President Eamon de Valera, third president of Ireland who served from June 1959-June 1973.
“I’ve always wanted to be able to make my own memories in Ireland and share them with my children and grandchildren,” said Schlemmer. “I want to gain a deeper appreciation for my heritage and where my family originated. This trip will help me expand my horizons and enrich my life.”
Soldaczewski also plans to create her own experiences and memories to share, particularly with future clients.
“My goal is to take in all I can about the culture, history, and geography of the British Isles and apply it to occupational therapy,” she said. “Dealing with all walks of life is a very large part of the role of an occupational therapist, and experiencing new cultures will give me some exposure to this. I will need to communicate with all different types of people in my career, and this trip will help prepare me for all of my future endeavors.”
Both Soldaczewski and Schlemmer intend to immerse themselves and share in the culture, land, food, lifestyles, and experiences of those who call the British Isles home. They both also believe travel is one of the greatest ways to “experience life outside of your hometown, state, and country,” said Schlemmer.
“The world was made for us to explore,” she added. “I want to try new food, music, clothing, and more. I want to enhance my cultural experience by trying everything and anything. If that means trying Ireland’s bangers and mash, or London’s deviled kidneys, then I’ll do it.”
Added Soldaczewski: “I have heard from my professors and peers that studying abroad changes you as a person. It enables you to look at things with a whole different perspective. This trip will forever change my life.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
During Shannon Engle’s social work practicum as a job developer for Challenge Workforce Solutions in Ithaca, she noticed there wasn’t a training manual for those in her position. Her solution? Create one.
As a job developer, Shannon, a social work major in Keuka College’s Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) helps prepare adults with disabilities to enter and remain competitive in the workforce. Specifically she assists individuals in identifying their skills, goals, and strengths within the realm of competitive employment.
At her practicum, Shannon was charged with creating, implementing, and evaluating a curriculum called the Pro-Skills Workshop. The challenge was to help job seekers with disabilities and other such challenges learn about “soft skills” they would need to be successful at their job.
“The series of nine training sessions focuses on interpretation and use of appropriate professional engagement and nonverbal communication such as tone of voice, body language, appropriate eye contact, as well as understanding and responding to employers,” said Shannon.
Shannon and Emily Koester, another job developer spent 40 hours creating the first six lessons, totaling 12 group hours. Now, the Pro-Skills Workshop series covers nine subjects and 27 group hours, and participants receive a certificate of completion.
Recently, Challenge Workforce Solutions received a $364,186 grant from the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities through the Balancing Incentive Program (BIP) Transformation Fund. The award will support the transition of workers from sheltered to community-based employment, and will expand outreach to students to support their transition from school to work.
According to Shannon, the Pro-Skills Workshop series she helped create will be utilized within the grant as one of the expanded offerings for area high schools, along with helping prepare recent graduates for entering the world of work. Another key aspect of the BIP grant is to help transition individuals from contract production departments into rewarding community-based services.
As it happens, community-based services are something Shannon is quite familiar with. Raised by her grandparents, she grew up watching her grandmother work for a non-profit agency that supported individuals with developmental disabilities, give back to the community, advocate for “at-risk” populations and strive to make a difference.
Following in her grandmother’s footsteps, Shannon worked for one non-profit agencies upon graduating from high school.
“I worked with individuals with disabilities for six years, but began to feel stuck,” she said. “So I changed professions and did something totally different, but the work was not as enjoyable for me. After three years, my department was outsourced and I had the opportunity to go back to college. I saw earning my bachelor’s degree as an opportunity to advance my skills, knowledge, and employability.”
Shannon had some challenges of her own to face. Prior to enrolling at Keuka College, Shannon said she enjoyed working on the micro level and was hesitant to work in a group. “Group work was going to be new professional territory for me, as I felt intimidated in that setting,” said Engle. “But I took a group process class which helped prepare me for the planning and collaboration that occurred during the development of the Pro-Skills Workshop series. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed collaborating with my classmates, and my Challenge colleagues.”
Another course she credits for preparing her was a research class. And while she admits she struggled with the terminology and the research process, “[Assistant Professor of Social Work] Dr. Gretchen Rymarchyk was supportive and available to answer my questions. What I learned helped me approach my senior practicum with a critical eye and focused intent on my research assignments.”
Said Dr. Rymarchyk: “Shannon is a high-energy, proactive, and eager student who embraces big opportunities. She will be an asset to any agency.”
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of features on recipients who received Field Period™ scholarships. Junior Emily Michienzi received a Judith Oliver Brown Memorial Award. The award, named after the late 1963 Keuka graduate, is supported by Brown’s family and the Class of ’63. It is designed to assist students who pursue a culturally-oriented Field Period™.
From a young age, junior Emily Michienzi’s mother instilled in her a desire to see the world and expand her horizons. That is why she has always believed that travel is one of the greatest forms of education.
And the Lake Pleasant resident will get the chance to do both as she travels to London during her January Field Period™. Michienzi intends to learn about the social problems plaguing England’s capital city as a participant in Comparative Social Issues, a sociology course offered through Cayuga Community College.
“As a sociology and political science/history major, this trip will greatly enhance my education,” said Michienzi. “In my sociology courses, we often discuss culture. One concept that is foundational in sociology is cultural relativism. This concept is when we see another culture and its practices in its own right, rather than using our culture to judge another’s as right or wrong.”
By traveling to London and experiencing a new culture, Michienzi intends to use cultural relativism “in a more practical manner and then translate that practice into my classroom discussions and other course requirements.”
This trip also appeals to Michienzi’s interest in history.
“America’s history with Great Britain frequently comes up in my class conversations and readings,” she said. “We always compare our government to Great Britain’s since our government was influenced by theirs. One of our day trips in London will be to Downing Street, the British seat of government. I will be able to see their government up close and learn, while on site, more about their government. By seeing this, I will be able to understand how our government is similar and different from Britain’s and then share that knowledge in my classes.”
In addition to visiting Downing Street, Michienzi intends to visit the British Museum, Parliament, and Windsor Castle, among other sites.
“These sites will show us not only the history of one of the world’s super powers, but also the culture and issues the country has faced over time,” she said. “From Britain’s era of serfdom to their current struggle as a world power, we will learn how Britain has changed and impacted the lives of its citizens and the world.”
Added Michienzi: “This trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity that will change the way I think, and understand the world and my classes here at Keuka College.”
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of features on recipients who received Field Period™ scholarships. Senior Mackenzie Ellis received a Judith Oliver Brown Memorial Award. The award, named after the late 1963 Keuka graduate, is supported by Brown’s family and the Class of ’63. It is designed to assist students who pursue a culturally-oriented Field Period™.
For senior Mackenzie Ellis, Keuka College has always encouraged and promoted diversity, challenging students to see the true value in a global mindset.
Ellis, a biology major, says she has been “blessed” with the opportunity to experience other cultures through the people she has met on campus and by attending the various programs offered by the College.
“This is a commendable portion of my education at Keuka College,” said Ellis, a resident of Owego. “However, the knowledge and understanding I have gained can only be further enriched by visiting the places I have learned so much about. My favorite was always Africa. With no travel experience to date, the first country I would like to check off my long list of places to experience is South Africa.”
By visiting South Africa during her Field Period™, Ellis believes she will not only enrich her college experience, but also the experiences of those with whom she interacts after she returns to campus.
“South Africa boasts a plethora of well-represented cultures and religions, which will allow me to continue to be globally minded,” said Ellis. “By traveling to South Africa, I will inevitably acquire a refreshed world view, in addition to firsthand experience with other religions and societies.”
And Ellis will take advantage of her Field Period™ opportunity by engaging in a variety of activities which will allow her to see the various facets that make up the culture as a whole.
“I plan to meditate at a Buddhist temple, visit a Hindu temple, and volunteer at orphanages,” she said. “I also plan to visit a an Apartheid museum, and speak with those who experienced Apartheid before its collapse. By doing so, I will develop a more personal understanding of the challenges and suffering facing minorities. I believe that through understanding our mistakes in the past, we may improve the future.”
Ellis also intends to visit an animal reserve; tour Cape Town and Cape Town University; go to UShaka Marine World; enjoy the Durban Botanical Gardens; and visit the Phansi Museum, host of one of the biggest and most spectacular collections of African arts and crafts in the world.
According to Ellis, she also has the “rare” opportunity to partake in a traditional Zulu wedding, “a treat not normally extended outside the Zulu culture itself,” she said. “This unique experience will allow me to celebrate life and happiness in a different way, to complement my new understanding of oppression and pain.”
Added Ellis: “Traveling is an essential part of becoming a well-rounded adult in today’s global society. In order to fully appreciate and succeed in the world, we must take the opportunity to immerse ourselves in other cultures and ways of living. By traveling to South Africa, I will develop beyond my current experience thus complimenting and completing my education here at Keuka College in the most effective and memorable way possible.”