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From ‘Big Boom Boy’ to Professor of the Year

Mike Rogoff’s college career got off to an inauspicious start.

He blew up the chemistry lab at Hofstra University.

“I started my college career as a pre-med major because I planned to become a psychiatrist,” explained Rogoff, Keuka College’s 2012-13 Professor of the Year who delivered the keynote address at academic convocation today (Aug. 27). “Things went pretty well in my biology courses, but chemistry was another story. I was barely making it through chemistry lecture with a D- average but the big problem came when I blew up the chemistry lab.”

No one was hurt, but “‘Big Boom Boy’ got bounced from pre-med,” recalled Rogoff.

But then he “bounced back.” Rogoff changed his major to psychology and the rest is history.

“It’s great if you start with a major that fits you right away and you stay with it throughout college,” said Rogoff, who joined Keuka faculty in 1971, “but don’t feel like a failure if your first major just doesn’t fit your talents and interests. These changes help you build your personal and professional identity. They help you find out who you are, what you’re good at, and what you really want to do.”

Rogoff credited one of his teachers (Dr. Vane) and adviser (Dr. Cohen) for helping him “grow into my new major” and building his “confidence as a learner.

“I needed that support,” he said. “I didn’t feel good about myself when I bombed out of pre-med. As a matter of fact, I felt downright stupid. But my adviser helped me flip things around. He reminded me that I had done pretty well in my biology courses even though I had a hard time in chemistry.”

According to Rogoff, he also got a lot of support from the upperclass psychology majors, and by the time he finished at Hofstra, he was on the Dean’s List and admitted to all seven of the graduate schools to which he applied.

“Not too shabby for the ‘Big Boom Boy,’” quipped Rogoff, who holds master’s and doctoral degrees from Cornell University.

Said Rogoff: “My main message here is that you’ll have the same opportunities as you grow into your career. Here at Keuka, you’ll have access to many circles of support and that will help you continue to develop your competencies and interests. You’ll continue to gain insight into who you are, what you can do, and what you want to do.

“Let us help you accomplish your dream,” added Rogoff. “Let us help you develop your competencies, and let us help you build your support and bounce-back skills. Increasingly, you’ll be able to put into place the circles of support. You’ll be able to help others build resilience. All of this can help make the world a better place.”

Academic convocation marked the official opening of the 2013-14 academic year and College President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera and Robert Schick, chair of the Board of Trustees, welcomed new students to campus.

Schick urged the students to get involved.

“Make a new friend every day: another student, faculty member, any of the staff of the College. Immerse yourself into the very fabric of the College by joining clubs and participating in sports as a participant or fan.”

Friendship was also on the president’s mind. He told the students they could “expect to make plenty of friends, many of who will become lifelong friends. You can definitely expect to make memories that will last a lifetime.”

He also said they can expect to make a difference—both on campus and in the larger community.

“Community service at Keuka is important,” he said. “Last year alone, our students devoted more than 60,000 hours of service.”

More photos of Academic Convocation.

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