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“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.

Bridgette Fletcher Takes a Different Look at TeamWorks!

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of 2015 Experiential Learner of the Year award nominees. Students who are nominated must submit an extensive portfolio in order to be considered for recognition. Their portfolio must document an outstanding Field Period™ experience, strong co-curricular learning, and a community service/service learning component.

Each year before the new academic year kicks off in August, students new to Keuka College participate in several TeamWorks! Adventure program activities on the high and low elements of the Birkett-Mills Challenge Course.

And senior Bridgette Fletcher was no exception. But she wanted to dig deeper than the physical challenge TeamWorks! provides.

“Having participated in a few TeamWorks! programs, I approached Molly [McGuigan, adventure program and TeamWorks! manager] and asked if anyone had ever evaluated what the facilitators do from a psychological perspective,” said Fletcher, a psychology major from Walton. “When the answer was no, I knew I wanted to do my last Field Period™ with this program, and really delve into what it is all about.”

“Bridgette was initially interested in observing my staff facilitation training purely to learn and apply her psychology courses to the groups development,” said McGuigan. However, during our planning it became clear that with her skill level she needed a much larger challenge.”

So, with three days to go until McGuigan’s new staff came, she handed Fletcher a textbook, gave her the facilitators’ personality assessments and a brief overview, and asked if she would use the week of training to determine whether or not this assessment would be useful for adventure facilitators.

“My main objective was to observe and analyze the training process new facilitators undergo before classes start in the fall, to learn the DISC as a tool to assess behavior, and to have the new facilitators be aware of different behavior styles by having them take the DISC themselves,” said Fletcher. “My goals were to better understand adventure therapy, team building, and positive and negative reinforcement. Each participant learned how to manage their behavior style and adapt it to the group so that they all effectively and efficiently worked together.”

“Bridgette single-handedly taught 12 College students about their behaviors, how to interact with others, and how to adapt programming and communication to the personality of clients,” said McGuigan. “Her work not only changed these individuals, but will improve the quality of programming they provide, and has made them better communicators in general. Due to the success of Bridgette’s seminar, and the noticeable improvement of staff quality, this is going to be made common practice for staff training.”

The training for the program consisted of a dozen undergraduate students during a 70-hour week. The facilitators had to work together in various activities to meet a goal, complete every activity the course uses, and create their own.

“Bridgette’s results are comparable to those of certified professionals, which is even more impressive given she had less than one week of preparation,” said McGuigan. “When it comes to working with assessing individuals and groups, she is a natural. She is compassionate, intelligent, and has a follow-through that I don’t see in students any more. She doesn’t just say ‘this is a great idea’ or ‘this would be cool’ she immediately looks to implement it.”

And Professor of Psychology Dr. Drew Arnold agrees.

“In Bridgette’s courses and Field Period™ experiences, she has consistently gone beyond the immediate course requirements to gain a more comprehensive and personally satisfying understanding of her experiences,” said Arnold, a licensed psychologist. “In all of her academic pursuits, she has been a fully engaged and active learner who has shown initiative and very effective critical thinking skills.”

For example, during the three weeks Fletcher took to complete her Field Period™, she observed or participated in more than 100 group activities.

“I found I needed to learn so I could become a better observer, as my behavior style makes me want to participate, be a leader, and complete tasks,” said Fletcher. “Once I stepped back though, I watched the group grow in a variety of ways.”

According to Fletcher, the group celebrated achievements when finishing critical thinking and trust activities, and got frustrated with each other when activities took longer and were more difficult to complete.

“They stepped outside of their comfort zones, did things they wouldn’t ordinarily do, and developed a strong trust with each other,” said Fletcher.

Prior to starting this Field Period™, Fletcher admitted she had not been aware TeamWorks! was therapeutic.

“I merely thought what the facilitators did was icebreakers and had a goal to get strangers familiar with one another,” she said. “I now know it is so much more than that. I am taking away the importance of debriefing, as it puts every participant on the same page with an activity. I believe debriefing is therapeutic, particularly in activities that increased frustration levels, it was helpful in decreasing tension within the group.”

“Bridgette accomplished an extraordinary amount in a few short weeks with very long hours,” said McGuigan. “Not only did she learn all technical facilitation skills needed to be an advanced challenge course professional, she also learned to teach and implement a behavioral assessment that she had no prior experience with. Bridgette has a versatile skill set and an innate ability to understand the big picture. Her meticulous work and passion for the subject resulted in a phenomenal program.”

Arnold adds he believes Fletcher “is a reflective, personable, and thoughtful person who is open to the feelings of others, as well as to differing value systems and new ideas,” he said. “She is effectively self-critical and has insight into her learning and personal developmental needs.”

Added Fletcher: “This Field Period™ changed the way I look at group interaction, and the skills and techniques I learned will be something I possess for the rest of my career. From this Field Period™, I believe I am a better observer, stronger leader, and I began to think critically and analytically. I learned an incredible amount about teamwork, behavior styles, and communication. I could have never imagined that I would learn and grow so much in such a short amount of time.”

In addition to her Field Period™ experiences, Fletcher is a member of the Equestrian Club, KC Tom’s Club (president), Adventure Club, Psychology Club, a New Student Orientation mentor, serves on the Student Senate and the Campus Rec Advisory Council, and is an admissions Gold ambassador, earned a received the Board of Trustees Scholarship.

Kelsey Brown Explores Inner Workings of Hornell City Hall

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of 2015 Experiential Learner of the Year award nominees. Students who are nominated must submit an extensive portfolio in order to be considered for recognition. Their portfolio must document an outstanding Field Period™ experience, strong co-curricular learning, and a community service/service learning component.

Kelsey Brown

For senior Kelsey Brown’s last Field Period™, she chose to explore the inner workings of Hornell City Hall, which she believes will be of great value to use in her future classroom.

The adolescent social studies/special education major from Hornell was able to work in three different departments Codes, the City Assessor, and the City Clerks’ Office.

Each day, she was able to do something different and get an overview of what each department does in order to keep the city running smoothly.

“For my first week, I was working with the city clerks and organizing older historic documents such as birth certificates, building permits, deeds, death certificates, and family tree history,” said Brown, who worked under Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan.

Her second week found her with the codes office. While she enjoyed her experience, she admits it was not as interesting as she would have liked.

“In the codes office, they provide a variety of services to the city, such as issue building and demolition permits, zoning and construction review, and enforcing local codes and zoning laws,” said Brown. “I was able to do a little of everything in the office, including file old property deeds. Some of the deeds date back to the late 1800s, which was amazing. This was probably my favorite job responsibility while I was in this office.”

Brown was also able to work with the city assessor, who she said is in charge of estimating property assessments, grants, and city parallels.

“I thought this office was especially interesting because of the grant writing process,” she said. “There were all different types of grants that were processed in this office, from educational grants to the STAR application. STAR is a New York State School Tax Relief program which provides an exemption on a portion of school property taxes for owner-occupied, primary residences.”

Brown believes that each office plays an “absolutely vital role” in the running of the city.

“The politics in this building are also very distinctive at the city level,” she added. “Although I am interested in politics, working in this on a daily basis made me realize it was something I did not want to do with the rest of my life. But this was one of the most unique opportunities I have had in my time at Keuka College.”

During her tenure at the College, Brown has been a resident assistant, note taker for Academic Success at Keuka (ASK), a front desk worker in Harrington Hall, a student senator, member of the Special Education Club, Lambda Theta Lambda, and Pi Gamma Mu, officer in Sigma Alpha Pi, member of the Education Club (officer and Student Senate representative), Special Education Club, Secondary Education Club, Up Till Dawn, Fit Rewards Plan, and choir.

She also been on the Dean’s List since 2011, has received the Keuka Grant, Blyley Grant, and George H. Ball Achievement Award. She has volunteered in a letter-sending party and participated in walks to raise awareness for suicide prevention and Operation Home Front.

Final Field Period™ Helped Lauren Esposito Reflect on Her Four Years at Keuka College

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of 2015 Experiential Learner of the Year award nominees. Students who are nominated must submit an extensive portfolio in order to be considered for recognition. Their portfolio must document an outstanding Field Period™ experience, strong co-curricular learning, and a community service/service learning component.

During senior Lauren Esposito’s final Field Period™, she learned several things—including that she does not like conducting research.

She would much rather interact with people to obtain the necessary information.

Lucky for Esposito, this Field Period™ allowed for plenty of face time.

“During the Fall 2014 semester, I completed my Field Period™ with Pete Bekisz in the Office of Marketing and Communications to plan the inaugural Green & Gold Weekend and the 125th Anniversary Celebration of Keuka College,” said Esposito. “Most of my Field Period™ was independent in terms of my tasks and duties, as I was given research tasks. In addition to my research, I was able to interact with students, faculty staff, trustees, and alumni to hear their thoughts on the College.”

Leading up to this event, Esposito assisted with the planning of events that occurred during the weekend. She credits her involvement as a student member of the Keuka College Board of Trustees, and being active in student activities and Campus Activities Board as proving to be beneficial in the planning process.

“The weekend was extremely busy with a variety of on campus events, but we tried to ensure there was something for everyone who attended,” said Esposito. “This weekend was rich with history, pride, school spirit, and anticipation for the future of the College. It was a real pleasure to see how much everyone enjoyed themselves.”

Also as part of her Field Period™, Esposito was asked to read through a book on the history of the College and highlight some of the more important and crucial aspects. The information she gleaned will be utilized for the planning of the 125th Anniversary of the College, as well as for writing a sequel to the current book.

“I didn’t mind reading through the history of the College because I love it so much, ,” Esposito said. “It was incredibly interesting to see what has changed, and what has become part of the Keuka College culture.”

After finishing the book, Esposito began to research what other colleges and universities do for their anniversaries, and to see the different ways in which institutions celebrate such an occasion.

“Reading about these celebrations made me incredibly excited for next year’s Green and Gold Weekend, especially because it will be my first year as an alumnae,” said Esposito.

As Esposito’s Field Period™ was directed at the planning of the College’s 125th Anniversary, and because she completed her senior practicum with the Office of Marketing and Communication, she became a permanent member of the 125th Anniversary Committee.

“In addition to reflecting on this Field Period™, I have also taken time to reflect on all four of my Field Period™ experiences, and realized each one has incorporated a passion of mine—student activities, travel, Keuka College, and photography,” said Esposito. “I believe these four Field Period™ learning opportunities have given me invaluable experience and knowledge and have made me into a very well-rounded communicator.”

Added Esposito: “This Field Period™ has given me a variety of takeaways that I will be able to use in my future. I have always loved this campus, but to read, hear, learn and experience it in all forms past, present, and future truly left me with a remarkable appreciation for the institution. This experience gave me a deeper appreciation for Keuka College.”

In addition to her role as a student member of the Board of Trustees, Esposito is a member of the Campus Activities Board, Lambda Pi Eta Honor Society, Sigma Lambda Sigma Honor Society, President’s Leadership Circle, Health and Fitness Club, serves as secretary of her Class Council, is a New Student Orientation mentor, received the Residence Life Recognition and Senate Leadership Scholarship, Mentor Recognition Award, is on the Dean’s List, is a resident assistant, and serves as a tutor for Academic Success at Keuka (ASK).

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 http://asap.keuka.edu/.