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Hats Off to these Hands-on Learners

It should come as no surprise that the national leader in experiential, hands-on learning recognizes achievement in that area.

And this year, the recipients of the College’s Experiential Learner of the Year Award are Meghan Roberts and Molly McGuigan.

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Meghan Roberts

Roberts, a senior organizational communication major from Alton, received the upperclassmen award, while the freshman award went to McGuigan, an organizational communication major from Conklin. The awards were presented at Honors Convocation, a highlight of May Day Weekend.

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Molly McGuigan

To be eligible for the Experiential Learner of the Year Award, students must maintain a minimum grade-point-average of 2.5, secure their adviser’s approval, and submit an application, essay, and portfolio that includes Field Period learning contracts, evaluation tools, experiential resume entries, letters from off-site supervisors or faculty members, or examples of relevant class work.

Meghan Roberts

Four years ago, Roberts remembers sitting with a stack of college brochures and mailings, trying to decide what college would be best for her to attend.

The experiential learning opportunities at Keuka College were the “major aspects” that drew her attention.

“I was excited to take advantage of the experiential learning opportunities and gain as much experience as possible over my four years at Keuka,” said Roberts, an Alden resident. “After my first Field Period, I knew I had made a great decision.”

An early childhood education major, Roberts’ first Field Period was with a day care center. The Field Period convinced her early childhood education was not a good career choice for her, so she changed her major to organizational communication.

“Now, with all four Field Periods completed, I realize that they have not just given me experience, they have helped me apply the skills I learned in my classes to actual situations,” said Roberts. “Field Period has allowed me to bring skills and knowledge I learned at my sites to the classroom, and provided me with more confidence, not only in myself in the workplace, but also the confidence to try new things and travel to new places.”

Those “new things and places” included obtaining a position in Hong Kong, China.

“I received a job posting from Josh Ficks (manager, TeamWorks! The Birkett Mills/Keuka College Challenge Experience) about a corporate team-building team leader position in Hong Kong; so I applied for it and I got it,” said Roberts. “About a week after graduation, I will move to Lantau Island, Hong Kong to work for Treasure Island Corporate Adventures. I will meet with corporate organizations to discuss their goals and objectives for the programs, writing business proposals, and also leading and facilitating the activities.”

If not for a summer job and Field Period at Heyburn State Park (Plummer, Idaho), Roberts says she might not be heading to Hong Kong.

“My job as a compliance officer was to collect payment envelopes from each of the nine pay stations in the park, regulate the parking areas and write tickets to those who did not pay, regulate and enforce rules in the campgrounds, maintain trails and vehicles, take down broken boathouses, and help construct docks, she explained.”

One day ,when she was off duty, Roberts saw a commotion by the docks, and relied on her classes and past Field Periods, including one in January 2006 when she went to Louisiana to aid Hurricane Katrina victims.

“I ran to the dock to see what the problem was,” said Roberts. “When I got to the docks, two young men pulled a motionless body out of the lake and onto the docks. A nurse began to perform CPR on the young man. I called 911, then the main office to radio the ranger on duty.”

After a few minutes, Roberts got word that a helicopter would be coming to transport the young man to the hospital.

“I don’t think that I would have been able to handle this situation as calmly and efficiently as I did if it weren’t for my past Field Periods and communication classes,” said Roberts, who found out later that the young man’s life was saved.

After spending the summer in Idaho, Roberts decided to return to Heyburn State Park and complete her final Field Period.

One of the park’s attractions is an 87-passenger cruise boat. Over the summer, the assistant manager of the park and the cruise boat manager were discussing the financial problems with the cruise boat, the Idaho.

“They were talking about how they aren’t attracting a lot of people to go on the cruise,” said Roberts. “When I heard this discussion, I asked questions about their marketing efforts. I also mentioned that there are no signs in the parking area or by the cruise boat to advertise that there is a boat at the park.”

A conversation with the assistant manager about her organizational communication major and marketing minor led Roberts to think about how she may be able to help Heyburn’s cruise boat.

“I developed an entire marketing plan, met with the managers of the park, and worked on implementing my plan,” said Roberts. “If it weren’t for my Keuka classes I would have never been able to do this Field Period. Through my marketing and communication classes, I learned a great deal about businesses, marketing strategies, and how to create and implement a marketing plan.”

For Roberts’s final project in her marketing planning class, she had to create a marketing plan for a real business, so she chose Heyburn. She spent the fall 2007 semester researching the demographics of the area, competitors, and the potential market. When she went to Heyburn in January, she brought her sample marketing plan. After sharing it with management, she began to make changes to it with their input.

“I was able to finish the marketing plan for the cruise boat while I was there, and began to implement my marketing ideas,” said Roberts. “I was very excited and proud to see a piece of work from one of my classes be used for a real business.”

Molly McGuigan

McGuigan made quite an impression at WSKG-TV, the public television and radio station in Vestal where she conducted her Field Period.

In fact, she so impressed her supervisor, the Conklin resident was offered a part-time position during the summer months.

“I plan on taking this job to learn everything that I did not have time to learn over January,” said McGuigan. “Working with WSKG has opened my eyes to the many different varieties of television, and has helped me to realize exactly how many connections I have with people in the industry. I fully intend on using these connections to help me learn as much as I possibly can.”

To that end, McGuigan was able to see and participate in myriad aspects of the station while conducting her first Field Period.

“I feel I learned about as many aspects of television production as are possible in one month’s time,” said McGuigan. “Whether it was being a ‘white-card girl,’ assisting in a commercial shoot, or just pulling wires, I was always active.”

McGuigan spent time in an editing suite, customizing promotional materials or editing a television show. She also assisted in the creation of a weekly television show that featured local artists.

“During shoots I was the designated ‘white-card’ girl and helped to set the white balance for all of the cameras,” said McGuigan. “For the majority of the shoots I was assigned the job of wire pulling, and had to trail the handheld camera making sure the cameraperson did not trip over the wires.”

McGuigan was able to be in control of a camera on one shoot, worked in the control room for another, and was able to go on two on-site shoots to create a promotional commercial for PBS’ annual travel auction.

“The first site was La Tourelle, the famous spa in Ithaca where the Dali Lama stayed on his visit,” said McGuigan. “We got to film the room in which he stayed in while he was there. The next shoot took place closer to Keuka College, at Geneva on the Lake, where I helped control the lighting and gave my input on several of the scenes within the shoot.

“When the camerawoman could not figure out how to get a shot without the bedpost in it, I came up with the idea to use an alternate angle which was actually used.”

In addition, McGuigan spent a “good deal” of time conducting research online and the library for Watson and Johnson, a comprehensive documentary that captured the stories behind the lives of George F. Johnson, the leader of the world’s largest shoe manufacturer (Endicott-Johnson Shoe Co.) and Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM.

Each activity taught McGuigan something new about a career in television production, “but most importantly it taught me new things about myself, and reinforced things I already knew.

“It taught me that I could handle new technology,” she said. “Prior to this experience, the only thing I thought I could do with a computer was type an essay or write an e-mail. After this Field Period, I found I could work with programs such as Final Cut Pro to make commercials, and work a video camera, the teleprompter, and recording devices in the control room.

“It strengthened my belief that I am a fast learner in that I picked many of these skills up within a day or two, and my rapport with my colleagues reinforced my people skills,” said McGuigan.

McGugan could not have imagined a more exciting or beneficial Field Period.

“My experience at WSKG-TV set an immeasurably high standard for my future Field Periods,” said McGuigan. “If I had the opportunity to go back and do it all again, I would in an instant. All of the activities in which I was allowed to partake helped to paint a clear picture of what life in production is like, and has helped me to make a decision about my future.”

Added McGuigan: “Field Period has truly inspired me, and the opportunity to do this type of work on a daily basis cannot come soon enough.”

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