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Robak, Bower, Harnischfeger Win Faculty Awards in 2014

Congratulations to the following faculty members who garnered annual Faculty Development awards for the 2013-14 academic year:

Dr. Andrew Robak, associate professor of chemistry, received honors for Excellence in Teaching, for making science accessible and relevant in his courses. The annual award from the office of Academic Affairs recognizes demonstration of a teaching method that is unique and particularly effective in enhancing the delivery of course material.

According to Dr. Chris Leahy, associate professor of history, who nominated Dr. Robak, “students … have told me how he is able to make course material relevant to them and to their lives.”
In recent years, Dr. Robak has collaborated with Kat Andonucci ‘13 on two independent-studies-turned-art-exhibits detailing the marriage of art and chemistry. And just this spring, students in his senior seminar presented mini-workshops in the Penn Yan community on topics with quirky titles such as “Watt is blowing through your town?,” “People get lost when they travel – why don’t birds?,” “and “How Ocean currents in Europe are affecting the snow falling your back yard.”
In Dr. Robak’s own words, part of keeping a detailed subject like organic chemistry accessible requires  keeping it interesting, too. “Chemistry at its worst is just memorizing a bunch of reactions, and I try to focus the course more on the theme of understanding the world around us,” Robak said. “We can’t really see the molecules and on paper it looks like just a bunch of letters. In reality though, all of those little reactions are what makes our bodies work, LCD TV’s shine and the gas burn in our car. With enough context, the massive significance of a subject like organic chemistry can be recognized.”

As part of his award, Dr. Robak also received $500.

For innovative experiential learning activities as part of classroom or extra-curricular instruction, Dr. Janine Bower, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice, received the Excellence in Experiential Learning award. In her Introduction to Applied Methods in Sociology (SOC 201) class, students do a week-long study of their own behaviors, analyzing food waste and food insecurity. Further, teams of students also interview representatives from local food distributors and food assistance providers to collect information ultimately presented in a shared data set analyzed by the class.

This annual award honors faculty members who have demonstrated innovative, structured experiential learning practices or activities effectively in the classroom, co-curricular settings, the workplace, or in the community which promote life-long learning and career skills students can use to transform their experience into knowledge.
As part of her award, Dr. Bower received $500.

To recognize demonstration of an “exceptional commitment” by a faculty member to advance the knowledge base of their professional field, this year’s Excellence in Academic Achievement award went to Dr. Alice Harnischfeger, assistant professor of education.

According to Dr. Pat Pulver, professor of education and chair of the Division of Education, Dr. Harnischfeger has been active in presenting at and participating in professional conferences this past year and throughout her tenure at Keuka College. In November, she presented the paper “Negotiating Alternative ‘Place’ in School: An Exploration of One Middle School’s Imposed, Constructed, and Possible Spaces” at the American Educational Studies Association’s (AESA) annual conference in Baltimore where she also served as a panelist for a session on Latino Education.

According to Dr. Pulver, Dr. Harnischfeger is also under review for submission of a paper for scholarly publication and is conducting follow-up interviews even after completing her dissertation research.  She also attended the Think College conference in DC in December 2013 to represent Keuka’s D.R.I.V.E program, a collaborative between Yates ARC, Penn Yan Central School District and Keuka College to provide young adults with developmental disabilities an opportunity to mainstream into college life and classes.

On the home campus in Keuka Park, Dr. Harnischfeger is conducting a study on “Peer Mentoring in a Post Secondary Education Program for Students with Intellectual Disabilities: Long Term Impact on Campus Culture and a College’s Traditional Students” with Pulver and Lynley Walter ’10, who is now a marriage and family therapist in the Rochester area.
As part of her award, Dr. Harnischfeger received $500.

In addition to individual awards, other faculty qualified to receive Faculty Development Committee funds to attend academic specialty conferences this year. Recipients included: Jennie Joiner, Yang Zhao, Angela Narasimhan, Athena Elafros, Brian Cerney, Alice Harnischfeger, Melodye Campbell, Laurel Hester, Ruthanne Hackman, Vicki O’Connor, Jen Mealey, Doyle Pruitt, Janine Bower, Mark Wenderlich, Rich Martin, Frank Colaprete, Tom Tremer, Michele Bennett, Carmela Battaglia, Vicki Smith, Dianne Trickey-Rokenbrod, Debra Dyer, Jean Wannall, Peter Kozik and Bill Brown.

Beyond 9 – 5

Carol Sackett and two of her paintings, "Still Waters," left and "Sunrise," right.

By day, Penn Yan resident Carol Sackett manages the circulation desk at Lightner Library, a post she has held for 32 years. But through March 7, visitors to Keuka College can glimpse a different side of her, as seen in three oil paintings gracing the walls of Lightner Gallery.

Sackett’s paintings are on display alongside numerous other works from members of Keuka’s faculty and staff, whose job titles may not necessarily disclose the individuals as creative “artists-in-residence.”

Beyond 9 to 5: The Hidden Talents of Keuka’s Faculty and Staff runs through March 7 in Lightner Gallery,located in Lightner Library. It features  a range of artistic mediums, including painting, photography, ceramics, glass work, digital art, and film.  More than 20 faculty and staff members submitted work for the show, including President Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera.

During a special artists’ reception – open to the public – Thursday, Feb. 21 from 4:30 – 6 p.m., the exhibit will also feature select culinary art from four members of the faculty and staff. The exhibit remains open daily during library hours, available online at:

Hand-painted glass by Doreen Hovey


Meet New Faculty: Alice Harnischfeger

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of profiles on new, full-time faculty members.

One of the things that convinced Alice Harnischfeger to apply for a teaching position at Keuka was the same thing that convinced many students to apply for admission: the College’s commitment to experiential learning.

“Though we can learn much from textbooks, nothing in the ‘real world’ is textbook,” said the instructor of education, who has been teaching for more than 20 years. “The world offers myriad experiences and Field Period offers the chance to try a career before graduation so the students can get as much out of the world as they can.”

“The College’s philosophy matches my own, and I like the education department, the friendly atmosphere, and the beautiful campus. I also find the College innovative. I am excited to be here.”

Harnischfeger  is completing her dissertation for a Ph.D. in education (with a concentration in teaching and curriculum) at the University of Rochester’s (UR) Warner School of Education.

“I was teaching at Penfield High School while I was a part-time student at Warner,” said Harnischfeger. “But I wanted to have the entire Ph.D. experience, including the opportunity to work on research and collaborate with fellow students more, and the ability to attend informational meetings and lectures more frequently. So, I left Penfield to be a full-time student at the University of Rochester.”

Harnischfeger was “one of those kids who always wanted to be a teacher. The aspect about teaching that is most appealing to me is just simply—and not at all simply—the people. I have always been a ‘people person’ and am fascinated by trying to understand them, both as learners and as individuals.”

After high school, Harnischfeger was told not to go into teaching because she would not find a job, so she pursued a bachelor’s degree in psychology. But the siren song of teaching was too strong to resist, so she volunteered at Rochester School for the Deaf (RSD) before receiving her teaching certification in English, science, and special education.

“I was eventually hired as a teacher at RSD and taught just about everything,” she said. “I taught there for two years and at National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) as an adjunct professor.”

Harnischfeger also taught “everything” at Penfield High School for 16 years, “including special education, English, science, social studies, math, and sometimes health, too.  I guess I’m a real jack of all trades,” she said. “The one continuous area I taught was English.”

Harnischfeger, who has also taught at SUNY Brockport and U of R, teaches Societal Prospective in Special Education and Educational Psychology at Keuka.

As a teacher, Harnischfeger has “always taken student teachers because I learn just as much from them as they learn from me. I love their passion and enthusiasm, and I love how they question things and their creativity. I love working with students new to teaching and I find it exciting for them.”

Harnischfeger’s dissertation is titled Identifying Construction in Relation to School Practices on Students who are Alternatively Placed in a School that is Considered Successful by State Standards.

“I want to focus on kids who have fallen through the cracks,” she said. “These are the students with no ‘label’ and other less-obvious students not recognized by the school. My goal is to always consider diverse needs, including those which may or may not be obvious.

“In schools that are considered successful, there are always a certain percentage of students that are not successful,” continued Harnischfeger. “Those are the kids on whom I want to focus. I want to get my students to understand the definition of diversity includes the full student and their needs.”

According to Harnischfeger: “I try to tell my students to teach the whole person, not just teach the content. This ties back into my research interest of trying to understand how people construct identity. I want my students to assist others in seeing the richness in each person as a unique individual and learner. It also connects to my interest in discerning the boundaries of diversity and in recognizing the resources inherent in our ‘differences.’”