Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of profiles of 2015 Work Study Supervisor of the Year nominees. The winner will be announced at a luncheon Wednesday, April 15.
Xong “Sony” Yang, international student advisor, arrived on the Keuka College campus in October 2014.
She “jumped right in” to her position and “immediately” began giving projects to her work-study students, including senior Crystal Billings.
“From what I saw, Sony made the transition into her new position smoothly, and was excited to work with Keuka College’s International Students Services,” said Billings, a sociology major from Groton.
The projects that Yang had Billings work on have included reorganizing the file system, bulletin boards, and various other creative projects, including working on a Lunar New Year display. During these projects, Billings welcomed the constructive criticism Yang provided.
“Sony has been extremely patient and I have greatly appreciated that,” said Billings. “Without the critiques she has given me, I would not have been able to grow as a student, or an employee. I believe she is understanding, and I am always able to talk to Sony to solve any problem.”
And that dialogue goes both ways. As Billings seeks to improve her role in the office, Yang is also actively seeking feedback from Billings and the other work-study students in her office.
“Sony has asked how she can improve as a supervisor,” said Billings. “She is conscious of how she is doing, which to me, shows that she wants to be the best supervisor she can possibly be.”
In addition to talking with Billings about the projects in the office, Yang “also makes sure that I am all right in other aspects such as health and academics,” said Billings, “which means a lot to me, because it shows that Sony cares about me.”
And Billings wants to model Yang after she graduates next month.
“Sony has encouraged me to work hard in this position, as she knows I would like to go into student affairs after I graduate from Keuka College,” said Billings. “She has been helpful with giving me advice and figuring out my path. It is evident that she cares for all of her students, which is what I would love to be able to show when I am in the field.”
While Billings does not know where she will work in higher education, Yang inspired her to apply for a graduate assistant position in the international programs office at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
“I believe that it is because of the experiences that I have had with Sony that I want work in international programs outside of Keuka College,” said Billings. “She has influenced me to be the best I can be when I am in the field and have my own work-study students.”
Added Billings: “I have really appreciated being able to work with Sony during my senior year. She has shown me who I want to be when I get into the field and that means a lot to me. I believe Sony will go far as a work-study supervisor, since she cares so much about her workers. She really loves what she does, and that makes all the difference.”
Editor’s Note: The 2013 Experiential Learner of the Year award nominees will be recognized at a May 2 luncheon. The freshman and upperclass winners will be announced at Honors Convocation. May 4. Here is a capsule look at the nominees:
Josh Beaver, a senior political science/history major from Terre Haute, Ind., nominated by Chris Leahy, associated professor of history:
Beaver said he has had numerous chances to explore potential career paths though Field Period, and he knows firsthand that it works.
“I came to Keuka knowing I wanted to be a doctor, but through coursework and Field Period, I figured out that was not the path for me right now,” said Beaver. “At the end of my junior year, I changed my major to political science/history, a passion second to science. What a difference. My grades are better, I feel less stressed, and have a smile on my face.”
Beaver completed his January Field Period at Vigo County Historical Society Museum in Terre Haute and it helped him realize he made the right choice switching his major.
“I was an assistant curator during my time at the museum” said Beaver. “I conducted research to help prepare for a new exhibit on the evolution of the transportation system in Terre Haute and the Wabash Valley in Indiana.”
He had the opportunity to work as an archivist, working to find photos, newspaper clippings, old documents, and selected items to go into exhibit.
“I also conducted grant research, and realized this Field Period solidified what I want to do with my career,” said Beaver. “In addition, I was able to design the cabinet layout and write the text to accompany the exhibit’s artifacts.”
Beaver participates in Celebrate Service… Celebrate Yates, Spiritual Life Advisory Board (SLAB), the Multicultural Advisory Group, and spent three semesters as a member of Student Senate.
Lydia Watkins, a freshman biomedical major from Springville, Pa., nominated by Andy Robak, assistant professor of chemistry:
Lydia Watkins has known since she was 10 that she wanted to be a large animal veterinarian. But for her first Field Period, she shadowed the vets at Southtown Veterinary Hospital in Montrose, Pa., a small animal clinic.
Watkins was able to watch several surgeries, including spays, neuters, ACL repair, bone surgery, and a splenectormy.
“I learned a lot of information about the veterinary field, and I cannot wait to have the V.M.D. in front of my name,” said Watkins. “The practice moved to a larger space and I went home for spring break to help them officially open the doors. While I was there, I was hired as a veterinary assistant.
“By watching the vets, I expanded my knowledge and fine tuned my interests,” she said. “And while I loved my Field Period, and now my job, at Southtown, I still want to work with cows.”
Logan Ackerley, a junior political science major from Liberty, nominated by Sander Diamond, professor of history:
Like many students at Keuka, one of the reasons Logan Ackerley enrolled at the College was Field Period.
“My first two Field Periods were disappointing, and I began to dread having to look for a place for my third one,” said Ackerley. “But then I took Europe in the World with Dr. Diamond, which reminded me why I chose my major. It made learning interesting again, and I once more began to see Field Period as the opportunity it was meant to be.”
So Ackerley thought of possible Field Period sites and found the Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City.
“I assisted a museum educator with activities for special needs high school students,” he said. “I was nervous because I had never worked with special needs students, or any students older than elementary school. But this became one of my most significant tasks, especially because I was asked to take over that program while I was there.”
This experience gave Ackerley “great knowledge about how a museum department works. My Field Period allowed me to develop not only professionally, but personally as well. It made me think critically, solve problems creatively, and gave me a level of motivation I’ve never had before. It also confirmed my career goal to become a museum administrator.”
Ackerley is involved with the Arion Players Drama Club, serves as treasurer of the Political Science and History Club and C.H.A.O.S. Club, and performed a monologue from The Diary of Anne Frank during Keuka College’s Fine Arts Night.
Alex Morgan, a junior biology major from New Berlin, nominated by Andy Robak, assistant professor of chemistry:
According to Alex Morgan, Keuka College takes the ideas of experiential learning and amplifies its importance with Field Period.
“As a biology major with a concentration in biomedical studies, I plan to become a doctor,” said Morgan. “I have taken the opportunity of Field Period as a path to explore different areas of the medical profession so I can narrow down which I’d like to pursue.”
Morgan spent his Field Period at the Bassett Clinic, a family medicine clinic in Sherburne with Dr. David Haswell, who Morgan said would often quiz him on information pertaining to a patient.
“I was able to see ordinary medical cases, as well as cases of walking pneumonia, Necrotizing fasciitis, a rare flesh-eating disease, infantile projectile vomiting, flu, prostate and testicular exams, suture removals, and pap smears,” said Morgan. “I was also able to listen to a patient’s carotid artery through a stethoscope.”
Morgan serves as president of Rotaract, and is a member of the President’s Leadership Circle, Keukonian, and Chemistry Club.
Crystal Billings, a sophomore social work major from Groton, nominated by a former Follett (College bookstore) employee:
Crystal Billings worked at the Red Cross Homeless Services Program in Ithaca for her January Field Period, and said the fast-paced, multi-faceted environment gave her the opportunity to work with a broad spectrum of clients.
“Going into the Field Period, I was not quite sure what to expect,” admitted Billings, who worked at the shelter and Friendship Center, a place where people could drop in during the day. “I thought I would serve food and answer the phone, and learn how a homeless shelter operates and what resources it provides.”
However, the experience was “so much more than that,” she said.
“I did different things each week, including covering for my supervisor in the office, helping with the children’s Christmas party, and working with parolees, including a man who had murdered three people,” she said. “I also provided direct client services, interacted with shelter residents and the chronically homeless, and dealt one-on-one with several clients who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse.”
Because Billings learned she was able to work with those on parole, she now wants to try a Field Period working with adolescent parolees at a school near her hometown.
During her Field Period, Billings saw the great need at the Red Cross, and wondered what she could do to help. An active Zumba participant on campus and at home, she thought a Zumba-thon would be the perfect idea.
“I organized and promoted the Zumba-thon, and I hoped to make $50, but realized $115,” she said. “I was proud of myself and excited to give back.”
Billings said working at the Red Cross Homeless Services Program helped her help others, “which is what I truly want to do with my life. This was an amazing experience and I wish I could have stayed longer.”
An active participant in the Association of Future Social Workers (AFSW), Billings has also been a member of the Arion Players Drama Club.
Courtney Ray, a junior social work major from Cato, nominated by Stephanie Craig, associate professor and chair ofsocial work:
Ray has always known she wanted to help people, and why she chose social work. But she was unsure which area of the field to pursue until her January Field Period, when she worked at LCSW Counseling Solutions under Stephanie Gregory, a counselor.
“I believed I would gain more knowledge about counseling, and I did, but the entire Field Period went above my expectations,” said Ray. “Stephanie asked for my opinion and feedback on several functional behavioral assessments, a problem-solving process for addressing student problem behavior. I was also able to sit in on evaluations, counseling and therapy sessions, as well as gain intervention knowledge.”
While Ray was an observer during the counseling sessions, she and Gregory would process what went on after they ended.
“This allowed me to connect and understand what the client may be going through,” said Ray. “It’s what I liked most about my Field Period because it felt like this is where I belonged.”
The process of therapy has always interested Ray, and she said being able to “connect with a complete stranger by helping them through whatever is going on in their life is meaningful. After sitting through these sessions, I can see myself going into the marriage and family side of counseling.”
Ray is active in Peace Club, Up ’til Dawn, Association of Future Social Workers (AFSW), Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and serves as a peer advocate.
Shane Devlin, a sophomore childhood studies education major from Manchester, nominated by Pat Pulver, professor and chair of education:
Shane Devlin spent his January Field Period in a self-contained special education classroom of nine students in grades 3-5 at Kelley Intermediate School in Newark. After working with teacher Kristen Nardozzi, he realized one of his Field Period goals: what it’s like to work with students with special needs.
“They don’t always get the right answer the first time, so it takes more time and a better explanation to get those key ideas,” he said. “I found I liked working with smaller groups, as I was able to gain a better understanding of the disabilities each student had. The spectrum ran from ADHD to autism, to speech and hearing impairments.”
He was able to work with students on math assignments, and one particular student with ADHD.
“I worked one-on-one with him and while I found the lessons challenging because he couldn’t sit still for long, I remembered it was not his fault and I learned to be more patient,” said Devlin.
A resident assistant, Devlin also serves as a Student Senate representative, and is a member of the cross country team.
Ashley Larimore, a senior organizational communication major from Horseheads, nominated by Anita Chirco, professor of communication studies:
One of the reasons Ashley Larimore chose Keuka was because of the Field Period experience.
“I trusted that completing an internship five months into my freshman year would give me the opportunity to see if organizational communication was indeed right for me,” said Larimore. “Little did I know at the time that my first Field Period would do much more than reveal I had chosen the right major. It led me to a job offer in the admissions office, three months before graduation.”
Four years later, Larimore’s other three Field Periods have equally had a major impact on her. For her final Field Period, she split the required 140-hours into two 70-hour Field Periods, one in the College’s marketing department and one with Java-Gourmet, a local small business that sells coffee, spice rubs, marinades, and chocolates.
“As a student ambassador in admissions, I am familiar with the arsenal pieces the College sends to interested students,” said Larimore. “But they are outdated and need to be revamped. While in Keuka’s marketing department, it became my job to help create these pieces, both in print and digitally. I learned the importance of editing and developed my design skills as I revamped some marketing pieces. This Field Period experience enabled me to refine my writing skills, and develop my familiarity with InDesign.”
“Working at Java-Gourmet allowed me to refine my social marketing and media skills, as well as learn webpage management and networking skills,” said Larimore. “I also was able to take some of the products home to use in recipes and document my success on social media, as well as update the company website.”
Larimore is involved in Sigma Delta Tau, the international English honor society; Sigma Lambda Sigma, the service, leadership, and scholastic honor society; is president of Lambda Pi Eta, the national communication honor society; and is a member of the President’s Leadership Circle, Students Helping Students, and Center for Spiritual Life. She is also a member of the Student Judicial Panel and mentor.
Erica Ruscio, a senior English major from Middlesex, nominated by Allison Schultz, international student adviser in the Center for Global Education:
During the fall semester, Erica Ruscio sailed around the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Semester at Sea program on board the MV Explorer, an 836-passenger floating classroom.
Ruscio said the philosophy of the Semester at Sea program and Keuka College are one in the same—it all comes down to experiential learning.
“I went to 12 countries, took classes, attended seminars, navigated through unfamiliar cities and new experiences, and discovered new understandings of what it means to be human. It was the coolest thing I have ever done,” said Ruscio.
Through co-curricular involvement, community service, and exploring the world, Rusico said she has taken learning far beyond the traditional four-walled classroom.
“As an English major, I love books, but they only tell half the story,” she said. “The concrete experiences can’t be replicated, and can’t be doubled in a book.”
For example, Ruscio said she didn’t just read in a book what South Africa was like, “I explored it myself and made friends there. I didn’t just see a picture of the native people of the Amazon; I spent the night in the jungle with them. I didn’t just read a statistic about poverty in Latin America; I played with the kids in the Argentine slums.”
Ruscio said that she now has more faith in the opportunity to try, take chances, make mistakes, and try again.
“Experiential learning, which embraces the whole person, is what I received from Keuka College and the Semester at Sea program,” she said. “I haven’t just ‘done’ this experience, I’ve become it.”
An active participant in the Arion Players Drama Club and the Women’s Center Advocacy Club, Ruscio also serves as a TeamWorks! facilitator, editor of Red Jacket, and is a writing tutor. She also lends her time and talents to the Literacy Volunteers of Ontario and Yates Counties.
Amanda Markessinis, a freshman organizational communication major from Albany, nominated by Anita Chirco, professor of communication studies:
Amanda Markessinis spent her January Field Period at the Times Union newspaper in Albany, and said the hands-on learning experience she acquired from this Field Period went beyond what she expected.
“By being immersed in the journalism industry, I learned how it works, the different jobs at the paper, and whether or not I believed I fit in this job,” said Markessinis. “I worked with Jennifer Gish, a features editor and sports writer, who wanted me to experience the journalism career to the fullest. So every day she would present me with new tasks.”
Gish had Markessinis craft interview questions, write blog posts, work with other reporters on stories, and set up interviews for her own stories.
“I wrote a ‘dos and don’ts’ for exercise in the health section of the paper during my first week,” said Markessinis. “Working and being treated like a professional made me want to do my best, and gave me insight into what I can expect if I were to pursue a career in journalism.”
She said her experience at the newspaper taught her more than just the basics of journalism—it shaped her future.
“Now, not only am I a better writer, I am also more familiar with my strengths and weaknesses,” said Markessinis. “I have not only added to my resume, I have reevaluated my goals and the directions of my career path. This Field Period taught me that while I like aspects of journalism, I don’t want to go into the field.”
Markessinis participates in Enactus, For the Kids, and was a leader at the Center for Spiritual Life’s winter retreat.
Sierra Lynch, a junior psychology major from Watervliet, nominated by Athena Elafros, assistant professor of sociology:
Lynch completed her January Field Period at Sunmount Developmental Disabilities Service Office Center for Intensive Treatment (CIT) in Tupper Lake.
Lynch’s activities included observing people with anger management issues, attending training sessions, writing lesson plans for the sessions, and witnessing the behavior of those on the CIT unit, including sexual assault perpetrators, who may also have been victims.
“This experience taught me about psychiatric examination, the field I wish to pursue, by forcing me to see another perspective,” she said. “I want to work with inmates who have mental health problems, and this Field Period gave me that opportunity.”
She said she came to realize her potential through her experience, which she has used in and out of the classroom.
“I learned about different perspectives and ways to handle situations I came across, and will come across. And, I learned to clearly communicate my ideas,” said Lynch.
But she admits she had a hard time hearing the personal stories of the consumers, which are what those at CIT are called.
“During my last week there, the consumers started to open up and tell me about themselves,” said Lynch. “Some of the stories ripped me apart because of the terrible things they had been through. Even still, this Field Period confirmed I do want to pursue a career in psychiatric examination.”
An Academic Success at Keuka (ASK) notetaker, Lynch also works in the ASK Center, is a member of the Arion Players Drama Club, Psychology Club, and Sociology, Criminology, and Criminal Justice Club.
Thanh Thi Hoang Do, a senior management major from Hanoi, Vietnam, nominated by Patricia Speers, ESL academic skills counselor in the Center for Global Education:
The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C., served as a classroom for the month of January for Thanh, who served as an intern in the human resources department for the Court.
“Human resource management will require me to deal with many different types of people in my career,” said Thanh, “and luckily, the U.S. is an excellent place for me to get that experience because of its diverse population.”
While she didn’t have much to do with the court cases, Thanh completed research and created a training session with her supervisor’s guidance. In addition, she co-facilitated the session with another intern. She also created and updated personnel files, screened resumes, and scheduled interviews.
“I believe Keuka College has prepared me with the knowledge to help discover the outside world, and I am impressed by the Field Period program,” said Thanh. “It helps me combine my class lesson with the work environment. My last Field Period made me more mature, professional, and experienced. Applying the knowledge that I received at Keuka in the business setting was a great opportunity for me.”
Thanh has a work study position in the Center for Global education, was in the fashion show, serves as treasurer of the International Club, participated in Celebrate Service…Celebrate Yates, and is a transfer student mentor.
For more than 20 years, students pursuing social work degrees at Keuka College have participated in a day of service at the Salvation Army in Rochester.
The annual event held every Friday before Thanksgiving, provides students a hands-on learning opportunity and the chance to make a difference in the community, said Stephanie Craig, chair and associate professor of social work.
“Our students provide the personnel for the Salvation Army to maintain its mission to the community at holiday time,” said Craig. “We help with the Christmas Assistance Registration, where needy families and individuals sign up for food and toys for Christmas.”
According to Craig, the students interviewed hundreds of individuals who applied for assistance.
“Students asked personal questions about income and expenses in households,” said Craig. “The information is then put into a computerized database and an appointment is printed out for the individual or family. Some students also filled Christmas stockings with age-appropriate toys to be given out during distribution days later in December.”
For Samantha Luce, a senior social work major from Batavia, working at the Salvation Army “helped me know how to interact with clients and meet different people. It made me familiar with some of the paperwork and computer work I could be doing, and it allowed me to work and learn on my own.”
For example, Luce said she “learned how to better approach certain situations and individuals, which helped me put textbook material into real-life practice.”
Freshman social work majors Allyson Strauf, a resident of Homer, and Dundee resident Haley Brown completed intakes.
“The Salvation Army was a place where I was able to interact with people and talk to them positively, and people responded positively back to me,” said Strauf. “I learned more social skills and what it really is like to work with people on a personal level.”
Brown agrees, and credits her Keuka classes for preparing her for this experience, and a career in social work.
“My classes helped me a lot with what to expect,” said Brown. “What I learned in my classes prepared me for the type of people I could meet and how to act around them.”
Crystal Billings, a sophomore social work major from Groton, was responsible for giving tickets to the clients for food and toy distribution.
“With that, I explained what they would need to bring,” she said. “I also helped fix any holds that were placed due to someone not having the proper paperwork or identification.”
Billings said volunteering at the Salvation Army helped her work with people who are in many different situations. She also credits her classes with “understanding that everyone coming through the door is there to get help. The fact that they were asking was a big deal, because it may have taken a lot to do that.”
Colleen Booth, a junior social work major from Rochester, enjoyed her time volunteering at the Salvation Army.
“I had the experience of meeting individuals, putting their information into the system, and updating their information if they are already in the system for this wonderful benefit,” said Booth.
Added Booth: “I chose social work because I truly love helping people and giving them hope that things will get better. I believe volunteering is just a small part of giving back to the community. My classes have given me the confidence and knowledge to help people in my community, and to become more professional at my job.”