When Canandaigua native Amber Smith graduated from Keuka College in 2011, she had dreams of the Big Apple.
Forging her own path at the College, Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in management, but fleshed out her concentration in theatre and minor in communication studies by investing time acting in campus plays, serving as president of the Arion Players (drama club) and honing leadership skills. For example, she coordinated special events such as an all-arts or improv night for the Arion Players.
When she graduated, there were three potential career options in mind: acting, hip-hop dance or managing her own business.
Now a New York City resident, the dancer/actress/singer has begun to make her mark in choreography, putting her hip-hop dance talents to use in three music videos and now, serving as co-choreographer for the Bristol Valley Theater production of “Rent,” which runs through July 19 in Naples. She is also a cast member.
“In the ensemble, I sing and dance a lot as I play about six different characters minor to the show. Singing and dancing are what I love to do,” said the Canandaigua native.
As a co-choreographer for “Rent,” Smith has choreographed the tango sequence and dance sequence – two of the biggest numbers – with what she calls a “softer side.” Where other versions of the show have portrayed characters dancing with little thought or intent, Smith’s choreography seeks to echo the lyrics and rhythm of those songs in the physical movement, she said.
Audience members may also see elements of hip-hop in the choreography, a nod to Smith’s dance specialty. Her music videos include two for rap artist D’Chrome Foster and one for the rock band dec3. In addition to dance, Smith has sung backup vocals for Foster, and will return to the Big Apple following “Rent” to record vocals for his next album and then choreograph his next music video.
Smith sees great marketability when a performer can sing, act and dance on stage or screen, so she plans to continue choreographing whenever the opportunity arises. Ultimately, however, she would love to utilize her business skills as a manager in the music industry, she said.
“I’d really like to help guide people in developing their entertainment careers,” she said. To that end, Smith believes her Keuka College education prepared her well for success.
She cited faculty members Mark Wenderlich, professor of theatre, and Ann Tuttle, professor of management, for their guidance and encouragement to pursue her dreams, push herself to success and be confident in her decisions. In addition, the “small-town friendliness” that encompasses the campus community has served her well in New York City, where she said people respond positively when she interacts with them in a warm, open way atypical of big-city residents.
“The atmosphere at Keuka College sticks with you and helps you relate to people on different levels,” she described.
If it takes a little while to build up the business side of her career, Smith is not worried. Meanwhile, she stays busy auditioning for roles, taking dance lessons and more on top of her job at a couture children’s boutique inside the Plaza Hotel.
“If someone offers me a part in a show, there’s no way I’d say no,” she explained. “Who’s going to say no when you can sing and dance and do what you love?”
Keuka College President Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera announced on Monday two new community-based scholarship packages. The scholarships are in honor of the College’s 125th anniversary and pay homage to Keuka College’s century-old reputation as a pillar of community and regional service, empowerment, and engagement.
The “Back to Business” scholarship aims to combat unemployment in Yates County and the counties surrounding Keuka College, including Steuben, Schuyler, Seneca, Livingston, Ontario, Monroe, and Wayne. All accepted applicants to the College’s on-campus Master of Science in Management (MSM) program from these counties will automatically receive the scholarship, valued at $15,500. Keuka College’s accelerated MSM program, which was recently ranked by The Financial Engineer among the top 50 in the United States, enables students to earn a graduate degree in business in ten months of intensive, full-time study on the College’s Keuka Park campus.
“In this current job market, management graduate degree holders are almost 20 percent less likely to be unemployed than those who have only a bachelor’s degree,” said Dr. Daniel Robeson, chair of the Division of Business and Management and director of the College’s Center for Business Analytics and Health Informatics. “And those with a graduate degree in management will enjoy approximately $12,000 more in gross salary annually over the course of one’s life…. that translates to an extra $1,000 per month.”
The second scholarship program, developed in conjunction with the Hillside Family of Agencies, provides two $22,000 scholarships each year to students who are involved in the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection and are interested in four years of undergraduate study on Keuka College’s Keuka Park campus.
“At the White House College Opportunity Day of Action in December, much of my time was spent talking with presidents from other colleges and universities about ways in which we can make higher education more accessible,” said President Díaz-Herrera. “Community partnerships, such as the one we’re announcing today with Hillside, are one of the many ways in which Keuka College is showing our commitment to accessible, affordable private education.”
Keuka College is a member of the Yes We Must Coalition, a consortium of institutions of higher learning striving to increase degree attainment of low-income students and students from underrepresented populations. Combined, the 36 member institutions will produce an additional 3,200 graduates by 2025.
Those who are interested in learning more about these scholarship programs are encouraged to contact the College’s Office of Admissions at (315) 279-5254 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is also available online at www.keuka.edu.
Late last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced 13 more businesses will be coming to the Empire State as part of the START-UP NY program—including one at Keuka College.
Sensored Life LLC, which manufactures MarCELL, a remote monitoring device that allows customers to protect property and monitor activity while they are away, will be located in the Skaneateles Building at Keuka Business Park. MarCELL detects temperature, humidity, and power conditions.
The company expects to add 17 new jobs—from warehouse workers to software engineers—to the Yates County work force.
START-UP NY was designed to provide major tax incentives for businesses to relocate, start up, or significantly expand in New York State through affiliations with public and private universities, college, and community colleges.
Sensored Life was founded by Michael O’Brien and James Odorczyk, two successful serial entrepreneurs.
O’Brien; Dan Robeson, professor and chair of the Division of Business and Management and founding director of the Center for Business and Health Informatics; and Steve Griffin, CEO of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center, joined Doug Lippincott for the Feb. 3 edition of Keuka College Today on WFLR.
The trio discussed the impact the START-UP partnership between Sensored Life and the College will have on the campus and community.
Dr. Daniel Robeson, a new Penn Yan resident, was recently named chair of the Division of Business and Management and the first director of business analytics for Keuka College. Robeson comes to the College from a prior post as founding dean of the School of Management at The Sage Colleges in Troy and Albany.
With graduate work focused in the area of “radical innovation” (also known as “discontinuous innovation”), Dr. Robeson is qualified to teach a number of subjects, ranging from quality management to macroeconomics to business strategy to finance. His professional background includes three years as a stockbroker, two years in banking, and almost 10 years in international business focused on management and quality assurance in large-scale start-up plants in South America for the former American National Can Co. (now Rexam National Beverage, London).
In 2000, Dr. Robeson transitioned into higher education, completing an MBA and then a Ph.D. at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He began teaching courses at The Sage Colleges in 2006. He was appointed chair of the department of management, starting in June 2008 and a year later, was appointed founding dean of the School of Management at The Sage Colleges. His family ties to Italy Valley and Vine Valley, not far from Keuka Lake, can be traced back to the early 1800’s, and he can even claim a direct tie to Keuka College: his great-grandfather Charles Robeson attended the “academy” here, 1893-96, before it became an all-women’s institution.
Last book read: I found I can read about six to eight books at any one time, so that’s a complex question: “Big Data and Business Analytics” by Jay Liebowitz is a basic exploration of analytics, kind of a primer on what’s going on in both business and computer sciences, related to new ways to analyze large flows of data we now collect. That’s been an eye-opener.
Another popular press book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” by Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman is very much about the differences in the human mind, the decision-making processes which are fast and done heuristically, versus those that proceed at a slower pace and require more analysis, and how those two systems in the human brain can sometimes conflict with each other.
For pleasure, I really like to read Swedish murder-mystery writer Henning Mankell, who wrote the Wallendar series on PBS, or I like Daniel Silva who writes murder mysteries based in the Middle East but will take you all over the world.
While packing and moving, I came across Plato’s “Republic,” and picked that up. The other book I am reading now is “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy and I’m enjoying that one. I was recently in Russia and had the opportunity to go to Yasnaya Polyana and see his ancestral home and view the grounds.
Favorite quote: J.R.R. Tolkein: “Not all those who wander are lost.” I think it fits: I move around, I try different things, I learn by experience and that’s worked for me pretty well. So far, so good.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be and why?
Superheroes come to mind for me. In the Daniel Silva novels, his big character, Gabriel Allon, is an all-around spy, assassin, talented painting restorer, literary type. Not always a benign character, very passionate, maybe too passionate.
How would you incorporate fun components within teaching or within the structuring of an academic division? What makes that fun?: The day-to-day part, the mechanics, is not that fun for me, but what’s super gratifying is to see a student do a full cycle in their education, to teach them when they’re a freshman and have them again at the end of their program when they’re a senior and be able to note the change. Generally, they are much more poised, more focused and you can see that they’re ready to enter new careers and new worlds. That’s true at the graduate level as well, to see students in their mid-30s/early 40s mature and season up even on a two-week trip to a place like China. Witnessing the result of a person’s education gives me a lot of satisfaction I was part of that.
What are some goals you have for development of the coming Center for Business Analytics and Health Informatics?: It’s early yet but to the extent we can get students into a Field Period ™ or ultimately, [jobs] that are more technical or quantitative with successful companies that are more established, that’s what I’m after. Within business and higher education, when students can describe meaningful work experiences in high-performing companies where the work is technical in nature, that’s the currency of the business and management realm. That’s what gets you the jobs, to be able to sit down with a hiring manager and say, ‘Let me tell you about my experience.’ That’s what gets you in the door.
What specifics might we see in terms of curriculum or other unique projects, partnerships or collaborations? I’m working directly for the president on that initiative, in collaboration with the provost, Dr. Paul Forestell. I envision there will be a curricular component to [the Center], that will be interdisciplinary and probably include some basics in computer science, statistics, information systems and business and perhaps health sciences. There’s not a whole lot of similar programs out there, but I’m looking at NYU, which has a business analytics center. Meanwhile, Villanova and the University of Cincinnati have interesting programs with lots of faculty from different parts of the college. The curriculum may be the hardest piece but in terms of the business side, we are looking at using the Center as a tool to leverage our new START-UP NY designation, the tax-free zone, to bring companies and their challenges right to Keuka College so that we can work on producing solutions. This could provide students research opportunities where they could gain experience and wisdom to ultimately, get better and more technical internships at the companies we bring in. Positions such as data architect, data visualization expert, business analytics specialist … those are the end point in my mind right now. Our goal is to do a lot of good for the business community, locally and in the larger cities in western New York. Right now, we’re building that capability.
Faculty members who teach in the Division of Business and Management bring significant, real-world experience to the classroom.
For example, take Rita Gow, associate professor of accounting, who came to Keuka College in 2005 after a distinguished career at Ernst & Young, a public accounting firm in Boston, Mass. She also worked for a Fortune 500 company, not-for-profit organizations including the Susan B. Anthony House (a national historic landmark), and a family-run insurance agency.
“Teaching is a different culture than I was used to, but I did what I tell everyone—persevere,” said Gow, who retired after the 2013 fall semester. “It’s OK to try new things, to take a chance and do something different. Change can be invigorating.”
In fact, change was the focus of the speech she delivered at academic convocation—her reward for being named Professor of the Year in 2011.
Gow said change “pushes us outside our comfort zone.
“But it’s good to step outside that box,” she said at the ceremony. “We all feel a bit of anxiety at some point—this is not necessarily a bad thing. It can motivate you.”
And motivation is what can help students who may be struggling in their classes.
“If a student is simply willing to try, work hard and persevere, they will succeed,” said Gow. “The College has had some fantastic success stories, including those who work for one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms or have done well in graduate school. We have had students work at both Ernst & Young and KPMG, and many have found success at both large and small accounting firms.”
Reflecting on her years at Keuka, Gow said “there are a lot of hard-working people [here] and I’ve been lucky to work with some really great students, like Joe DeBarr ‘12. He came to Keuka, while his twin brother went to SUNY Albany. Both were accounting majors. Every so often, I’d ask Joe how he liked it here and if he was considering transferring to Albany. Each time, he said ‘no’ [to the second part of the question]. While he enjoyed visiting his brother, the culture at Keuka was a perfect fit for him.”
After graduation, both brothers applied—and were accepted—to Syracuse University for graduate school.
“To me, this is a great success story,” said Gow. “It says that even though Keuka has a small accounting major, we have proven over and over that it is still rigorous enough to compete with a larger program.”
Gow said ”it’s been fun to see the students come in as freshmen and evolve into seniors. I like that I may have had a part in helping students grow, even if they are not accounting majors. I like that about my job.
“Sometimes, I’ll get a note, or card, or Facebook message from a former student thanking me for teaching them. It’s not always obvious to them at the time that they will use what they have learned here. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard ‘I wish I’d paid more attention in accounting…’”
If she had collected those nickels, she might have saved them and used them to visit her daughter, who will move to Capetown, South Africa.
“My husband and I might use Capetown as a jumping off point to travel some more,” said Gow. “We will also visit my son and his wife in Virginia, who have three daughters, including twins. They are all under 3-years-old.”
And while Gow plans to travel, Keuka Lake will always be home.
“We live on Keuka Lake and we love it here, so we plan to stay,” said Gow. “I am active in the community, including serving as treasurer for the Keuka Housing Council, and the board of the Yates Community Endowment Fund. I may also teach Accounting for Managers, a course I have taught before, in the Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP).”