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.
The annual spring Student Art Show at Keuka College returns next week to the Lightner Gallery and the variety and depth of creativity and expression in the pieces installed has Assistant Professor of Art Melissa Newcomb excited to share them with the public.
“I can’t wait for the students to show off what they’ve been working on in Allen Hall,” she said, referring to the campus building housing the art program classrooms and studios. “There is some really powerful work. Every year, these students are raising the bar in the quality of work they create, and it’s incredible to see what is happening in classes now that we have 20 students enrolled in the Art & Design major.”
The exhibit features students showcasing a variety of photography, illustrations, mixed media, ceramics, sculpture, drawing and design created in this year’s art classes and will run from March 9 through April 12 with an artists’ reception to be held 4:30 – 6 p.m. Thursday, March 12. Light refreshments will be served and guests will be able to browse the walls and pedestals of the Lightner Gallery in Lightner Library to hearts’ content.
If Prof. Newcomb is thrilled with the students’ work, the pride and enthusiasm from the students involved is even more palpable.
“The student show is an incredible way for students to show off their creativity, hard work, and talent, and I am always amazed when I see the artwork,” said Bridgette Fletcher ’15, who is exhibiting three portraits from her 11-part “Reflection” series, and an abstract image. Her inspiration for the series stemmed from recent campaigns about women’s perceptions of beauty and how they interpret what they see reflected in the mirror.
“I was incredibly proud of how the portraits turned out and I am honored to have them displayed in the student show,” Bridgette added.
In a different twist on reflections, one assignment in the digital photography course required students to take a self-portrait, but portray themselves in a different way than others usually see them. Art & Design major Kayla Medina ’17 took that opportunity to show sides of herself others don’t usually see.
“I decided to show my artistic and serious side, because many people know me as funny, goofy, laid back, and always smiling,” Kayla said.
Bringing others closer to the artists through their work is something that excites Lauren Esposito ’15, who is exhibiting photographs taken during the fall digital photography course.
“Creating art is such an incredible and intimate process; it allows for the individual to relax, express, create, and reflect,” said Lauren. “It’s even more incredible to see the work from others. We have so many talented students here at Keuka College and without the variety of art courses, most of that talent would be unknown.”
That principle is even more poignant for Lauren, who said art courses have introduced her to new people who have become some of her closest friends. As a senior, most of her academic hours are spent with the same few students pursuing the same degree (organizational communication), but art courses add a new dynamic, she said.
“I’ve also learned to communicate in an entirely new way through the variety of pieces I created in Foundations of Art and Design to Graphic Design to Digital Photography- which was my favorite art course,” Lauren said. Reigniting her passion for images even pushed her to conduct a photography Field Period™, she said, adding that it was the favorite of the four she has completed as a senior.
Other works from other courses, including ceramics (taught by Faith Benedict, adjunct professor of art), sculpture (taught by Sam Castner), graphic design, mixed media and drawing and painting will highlight the depths of creativity and artistic expression coming to the forefront around campus. According to Marina Kilpatrick ’16, having Prof. Newcomb select one of your pieces for the student show is always a great feeling, as is the energy generated when students, professors and other guests come together at the artists’ reception.
The show itself provides “a fantastic opportunity for art majors and minors to get to see their work displayed because it gives them that confident boost that many may need. I know that’s what it did for me,” Kayla added. “Ms. Newcomb has put a LOT of work into this show, and I know the show will be a hit. I’m so excited to see everyone’s work up and on display.”
The requests were simple: a teddy bear, a baby doll, books, CDs, puzzles, pajamas, and slippers.
And for the 46 residents of Penn Yan Manor Nursing Home, these requests—and more—were fulfilled by 23 members and advisers of Keuka College’s Student Senate and Sigma Alpha Pi Honor Society.
“Heather Reed, activities director at the nursing home, contacted me and asked if we had any student groups interested in pairing up with Manor residents,” said Eva Moberg-Sarver, director of student activities. “Britani Pruner, a junior English major from Penneville and president of Student Senate, jumped at the chance to help. She then worked with members of Sigma Alpha Pi, who volunteered to co-sponsor the event.”
Erica Piedmonte, a senior management major from Auburn and secretary of Sigma Alpha Phi, assisted in the delivery of the gifts.
“My mother made two of the residents two hand-knitted scarves each, and I gave them everything they requested,” she said. “I think this was a great opportunity to give people some Christmas spirit.”
Madeline McColgin, a junior unified childhood/special education major from Penn Yan, liked adopting a resident “because I work in a group home, and I know how the residents feel when they do not get Christmas and do not get to see their families. Each resident said ‘thank you’ to me and you could tell they were filled with joy from having us there.”
After speaking with each of the residents, Reed sent over paper angels with gift ideas, according to Moberg-Sarver.
“The residents’ wish lists were heartwarming,” said Moberg-Sarver. “Some of them offered to share gifts with their spouse who was also at the Manor, or asked for donations to local places in need for the holidays. Each student was able to take an angel and choose gifts according to these wishes.”
Piedmonte bought things like holiday pins, blankets, books, and calendars, while McColgin gave her resident a blouse, earrings, and a CD. Stephen Funk, a junior psychology major from Homer, donated money to Milly’s Pantry in honor of his resident.
“She was so pleased with this kind gesture she had a thank you card written for Stephen before we left the building,” said Moberg-Sarver. “One student purchased a baby doll for a resident who never had one growing up.”
Carlie Ellison, a senior occupational science major from Belfast, “felt great after leaving Penn Yan Manor. I felt like I had made someone’s day, and it made me feel a little better about myself. It was great spending time with residents, hearing some of their stories, and seeing pictures of themselves and their families in their rooms.”
Another highlight of the gift delivery for Piedmonte was being able to “sit down with one of the residents I bought for and having a long talk with her.”
Ellison “would like to do it for holidays throughout the year.”
Other students who participated in the delivery included Meghan Marks, a senior childhood education major from Horseheads; Jeff Miller, a sophomore occupational science major from Bloomfield; Becky Allen, a sophomore childhood/special education major from Oxford; Taylor Smith, a junior occupational science major from Webster; and Bridgette Fletcher, a junior psychology major from Walton.