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A Passion for the Social Work Profession

Hailed as a student who is passionate about the profession, and one with exceptional character and integrity, Brandon Jones ’15 was recently named one of six 2015 Student Social Workers of the Year for the Genesee Valley division of the state National Association of Social Workers (NASW). The Sodus resident, winner for Keuka College, received his award at a March 11 banquet, cheered on by Jen Mealey, associate professor of social work, Dr. Ed Silverman, assistant professor of social work and Stephanie Craig, chair of the division of social work.

Prof. Jen Mealey and Brandon Jones '15, NASW winner.

The NASW award recognizes social work students who have made significant contributions in the field, including service, social justice, dignity, integrity and competence. And Jones’s contributions are indeed significant.

In addition to stellar academics that place him in the top three percent of social work majors at Keuka College, Jones is heavily involved in a number of campus groups and activities. He works as a peer mentor serving students with special needs in the campus DRIVE program (which stands for Diversity, Responsibility, Inclusion, Vision and Experiential Learning). He has participated in the annual Hunger Banquet event for the past two years, seeking to raise awareness about poverty to fellow students, faculty and staff, and he also works as a note taker in the Academic Success at Keuka College (ASK) office. Further, Jones is an active member of the Association of Future Social Workers (ASFW), the Psychology club, the LGBTQ Resource Center, PRIDE and Peer Advocates.

Currently, Jones is conducting his senior social work practicum with the LGBTQ Center of the Finger Lakes in Geneva, building additional advocacy skills already gleaned from lobbying on behalf of the LGBTQ population with fellow students attending the past two Equality and Justice Day gatherings in Albany. He is helping the Geneva organization plan FLX Pride, an LGBTQ festival, and begin programming for a twice-monthly support group for 13-to-22-year-olds across Yates, Wayne and Seneca Counties known as You Are Not Alone (YANA).

“I’m helping individuals with the coming out process or just being there if they want to talk. I’m more knowledgeable now about the LGBTQ community, in my terminology and all,” he said, adding that he has a personal life motto to strive to eliminate oppression and discrimination and promote acceptance. “I’ve always been an activist, but definitely the social work program brought it out in me.”

According to Mealey, who nominated Jones for the NASW honor, “Brandon is a charismatic individual who draws people to him,” offering undivided attention, and a listening ear.

“Brandon understands that being a social worker means participating in the suffering of other human beings. He holds each individual he interacts with in high regard,” Mealey said, adding that he is as passionate about advocating for the elderly, military veterans, and children as those in the LGBTQ community.

Jones credits Mealey, who visited his high school during his senior year, for inspiring him about the opportunities within the social work field and introducing him to Keuka College.

According to Jones, the leadership skills he developed at Keuka College helped him conquer the nerves he used to feel as a freshman, particularly when speaking in front of groups.

Jones with professors, from left, Jen Mealey, Dr. Ed Silverman, and Stephanie Craig at the NASW awards banquet.

“Now, I’m so prepared, it’s easy and I’m a natural,” he said, crediting his Keuka College professors, particularly Craig and Mealey, for support and encouragement to do his best. “I don’t know where I’d be without them, to be honest.”

Following graduation, Jones plans to attend grad school at Marywood University in Scranton, Pa. for a master’s degree in social work. He was awarded a $5,000 scholarship and his undergraduate honors earned him status as a second-year graduate student with advanced standing, meaning he will be able to complete his master’s degree in May 2016.

“It’s going to be a challenging program but I’m definitely ready and prepared,” he said, citing the 518-hour internship Marywood requires. Thanks to his four Keuka College Field Period™ experiences, “I’m not worried about that at all,” he said.

Indeed, his last two Field Period™ experiences went so well that his supervisors at both the Newark Manor Nursing Home and Rehabilitation and the Blossom View Nursing Home in Sodus, wanted to offer Jones a paid position for the exceptional care he was told he provided to elderly residents. With his plans for a master’s degree, he wasn’t able to accept the offer Blossom View was able to make, but said both Field Periods™ were “amazing” experiences.

Jones said he still hasn’t settled on which population to serve long-term when it’s time to join the workforce —LGBTQ or the elderly.

Mealey and Jones celebrate his NASW award.

“I’m torn—I want to work with both, but I know I can’t do that,” he said. “I’m leaning more toward the field of geriatrics, just because I work really well with the elderly and I feel like it’s my calling.”

No matter which path Jones takes in the field of social work, his professors are confident he will make his mark.

“Brandon is a shining star who offers his warmth to those that cross his path,” Mealey said. “We are proud of what he has accomplished thus far and look forward to his future success in the profession.”

START-UP NY Partnership a Boost to College and Community

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.


O'Brien, Robeson and Griffin

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.

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Outstanding Adult Students Recognized by RACCE

Heralded among 10 Rochester-area colleges as the cream of the crop, three adult students enrolled in Keuka College Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) degree programs earned Outstanding Adult Student awards in the 31st annual awards ceremony of the Rochester Area Colleges Continuing Education (RACCE) network.

College RACCE President Lindsay McGloon, left, with Toomey, Carter and Payne, far right.

The three Keuka College recipients—Ana Toomey of Marcellus, Natalie Payne of Canandaigua, and Lakesha Carter of Rochester – are pursuing master’s degrees in management with ASAP cohorts  at Onondaga Community College, Finger Lakes Community College and Monroe Community College, respectively.

College RACCE President Lindsay McGloon congratulates Toomey, right.

Toomey works as a service expeditor for Welch Allyn in Skaneateles, and will graduate May 25. A two-time winner of professional awards within her organization, Toomey said she hopes to serve as a role model for her two young children. She currently volunteers in her local community as a clown and costumed character for non-profit organizations and fundraisers, and said she takes pride in making people of all ages smile. Her most recent volunteer work was for Breathe Deep CNY (LUNGevity), a fundraiser for the Cayuga County Home Daycare Association, and a benefit for a local child with a rare form of cancer. Toomey earned a 4.0 GPA and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in leadership.

Payne, right, is congratulated by Keuka College RACCE coordinator Lindsay McGloon

Payne has worked as the communications and programs director for the Finger Lakes Cultural & Natural History Museum since 2010, and will graduate May 25. As the first female in her family to earn an advanced degree, Payne said she hopes her accomplishment will serve as inspiration to her future children, and she and her husband are expecting their first child this month. Payne’s volunteer service includes the Strassburg Sock Keuka Lake Triathlon, the 2012 Arts at the Gardens festival at Sonnenberg Gardens, and the 2013 Celebrate Service … Celebrate Yates committee. She currently volunteers for the Downtown Pantry outreach of Crosswinds Wesleyan Church in Canandaigua. In 2013, Payne was recognized as part of a female leader spotlight in the Finger Lakes Women magazine.


Carter graduated with high honors in December 2013, and was a speaker at her commencement ceremony, earning a bachelor’s degree in organizational management. Eager to advance into an upper management position, Carter is currently taking master’s classes in the management program with Cohort 157 at MCC.  She is an active member of the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) for the Urban Suburban program in Rochester, and through her work for PAC, has helped to coordinate student volunteer activities, plan and execute health and wellness fairs for parents and children, and assist parents in advocating in their children’s educational setting.  Carter said she believes her perseverance and success as an adult student has made her a good role model for her own children, and she hopes they will be inspired to further their own education too.


Additional colleges participating in the April 30 RACCE ceremony at Mario’s via Abruzzi in Pittsford included the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, St. John Fisher College, Empire State College, The (SUNY) College at Brockport, Genesee Community College, MCC, FLCC and Roberts Wesleyan College.

Simmons Showcases Photography at Keuka

Abby Simmons loves the Finger Lakes. Perhaps that’s why its rolling hills, rural landscapes and colorful foliage feature prominently in her photography.

sunset, tractor, silhouette, abby simmons, finger lakes, landscape, rural, field, orange

Simmon's sunset shot of a tractor in a local field

One night, heading to her parents’ farm in Bellona, Simmons crested a hill near Tomion’s Farm Market (off Route 14A) and noticed a tractor in a nearby cornfield. She pulled over and was absorbed in taking dozens of photos of the tractor’s silhouette against the setting sun, when her parents drove by.  They stopped when they saw her wading through the field with her camera.

“They catch me doing that a lot,” Simmons said with a smile.

The tractor at sunset image and many others will be featured  in the Lightner Gallery at Lightner Library at Keuka College Sept. 2 – Oct. 31. An artist’s reception will be held 4:30-6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, where light refreshments will be served.   Gallery hours may be found online at

This will be Simmons’ first solo show. Her work first caught the eye of Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art and curator of the gallery, during last winter’s staff and faculty art exhibit. Simmons has worked as a staff member for Keuka’s D.R.I.V.E program for the last year-and-a-half. (more…)

Blink and (Don’t) Miss It

Kurt Brownell in Lightner Gallery

Like many artists, Kurt Bownell has to balance the commercial with the personal.

The Victor resident is a commercial photographer with a Rochester studio and a client list that includes such corporations as Wegmans, Constellation Brands, Democrat and Chronicle, Unity Health and several universities. The clients commission Brownell for everything from beauty shots of growers, produce and culinary arts to corporate executives in their workplace environments.

His day job keeps him so busy that his personal photographic love – outdoor landscapes – often happens on the fly, such as when he snapped shots of the rolling hills of Cohocton on a pit stop as his family returned from a vacation.

Cohocton Cloud Shadows, courtesy Kurt Brownell

Perhaps that’s why Brownell’s new exhibit at Keuka College, “Up Close and Far Away-Landscapes,” is such a treat for him. The exhibit runs through Jan. 4, with an artist reception Thursday, Nov. 29 from 4:30 – 6 p.m. at Lightner Gallery inside Lightner Library. The exhibit is open to the public; library hours vary and can be found online at:

Ford Street Sunset, courtesy Kurt Brownell

“This is what I like to do when I’m not being told what to photograph,” he said. “This is what I gravitate toward naturally. I can go without any agenda and shoot what I feel, what I like, what I find.”

Many of his images, which he refers to as “interpretive landscapes,” are “stitched” composites of 10-20 different shots, melded together to create one final, full panorama for the viewer.

A Kurt Brownell panorama