Mike McKenzie couldn’t figure out why his mother never returned to her childhood home in western Kansas.
“My brother and I tried numerous times to get her to go back,” said McKenzie, associate professor of philosophy and religion. “We thought it would be fun for to see the place and some of her friends. I just didn’t get it.”
He got it after making the trek to Johnson, Kan., himself.
“It’s an utterly exposed place,” recalled McKenzie. “You’re exposed to winds and weather on all four sides.”
And that made life tough for Maxine Carter, her mother; father, who was a wheat farmer; and sister—especially in the 1930s when the Dust Bowl, a period of severe dust storms, caused major ecological and agricultural damage on the Southern plains.
The Dust Bowl lasted 10 years and made activities typically taken for granted—breathing and eating—a challenge. Children wore dust masks and women hung wet sheets over windows to keep the dust out of their homes. Crops were blown away.
So powerful were these rolling waves of dust they would “obliterate the sun,” recalled McKenzie’s mother.
And it wasn’t just dust storms that the young Maxine Carter was forced to survive. Tornadoes, ice storms, and blizzards would “force kids into storm cellars and they wouldn’t know if their farm or home was still standing until they came out,” said McKenzie.
Maxine Carter was born in 1922 and moved to Oregon in 1936. She will never return to Johnson or Manter, Kan., where her family lived before heading to the Pacific Northwest. And her son now understands why.
“My mother had a good home life growing up but a scary place,” he said. “I understand why she doesn’t have fond memories of her early life in Kansas.”
While acknowledging the highly personal nature of this story, McKenzie saw it has a perfect fit for his Environmental Ethics class that he his teaching this semester.
“The Dust Bowl is the greatest environmental disaster in this country’s history, and I decided to do a large segment on it in my class,” he said. “I couldn’t bring my students to Kansas so I am bringing Kansas to them.”
McKenzie teamed with Troy Cusson, instructional design manager in the Wertman Office of Distance Education (WODE), to create a video that features an interview McKenzie did with his mother in January as well as photos his grandfather took in western Kansas in the 1930s.
And, he partnered with John Locke, director of instructional design and multidisciplinary studies in WODE, to construct a Dust Bowl exhibit in a Lightner Library display case.
“Students and others will see artifacts from the Dust Bowl and the display case itself looks like a farmer’s cabin from the 1930s,” said McKenzie. “There is even some actual Kansas dust.”
One of Locke’s biggest challenges was to find a way for people to view the video (it runs on a loop and headphones are available for listening) without impinging on the “rustic” quality of the display. So, he built cabinet and gave it a “rough finish to create an aged look.”
He also created a “window into a dust storm” by backlighting an image of a 1930s dust storm.
“John did a terrific job of bringing 1930s Kansas to life,” said McKenzie.
To further enhance his students’ knowledge of the Dust Bowl, McKenzie is planning a field trip to nearby Hunt Country Vineyards “to see how a modern farmer (Art Hunt) employs sustainability in his day- to-day operations. The class will engage in some hands-on activities and get to see good farming practices put into use, as contrasted with those on the high plains of the 1930s that helped spawn the Dust Bowl.”
Finally, McKenzie recently screened Ken Burns’ The Dust Bowl.
“Everyone loves stories,” said McKenzie. “Ken Burns tells a story and that is what we did. It’s a story about my mom. It’s personal, but at the same time it’s educational.”
Director of Instructional Design John Locke doesn’t teach Internet Marketing, he preaches it.
Former co-owner of an internet marketing company, Locke leveraged new media to help many businesses and not-for-profits raise awareness, increase brand recognition, and convert prospects into loyal customers.
“However, Keuka students are taught to be critical thinkers and the first question they should ask is whether the results I delivered were typical or an exception? Can those results be duplicated, and if so, how? After all, I have been out of ‘the game’ for over five years— that’s a lifetime on the Web.”
Enter actor, producer, and marketing consultant Jodie Bentley by way of Keuka’s Information Technology Services (ITS) and the video conferencing application Adobe Connect. A project to wire Jephson 104 for video was completed just in time to transport Bentley from her Manhattan office to Locke’s 8 a.m. class.
“Jodie has a connection to our area,” said Locke. “She appeared on stage at Bristol Valley Theater in Naples when she was starting out some years back.”
Since then, Bentley has appeared in nationally televised commercials for Eggland’s Best, HBO, Carmax, and Ritz Crackers, to name a few. She also had a role in the daytime drama As the World Turns and the popular Web series Happy Cancer Chick.
As an actor, she cultivated years of experience in targeted branding, successful sales tactics, and outside-the-box marketing strategies in order to compete with the saturated film and theatrical market in Manhattan. As a result, Bentley branched out to build her own highly successful sales and marketing company, The Savvy Actor, from the ground up.
“Through her company, she leverages success in the business of acting, and her keen eye and savvy gift for helping other actors achieve their own goals,” said Locke. “In just five years, The Savvy Actor has worked with more than 1,000 clients across the country and internationally who have booked Broadway shows, national commercials and print campaigns, signed with agents and gotten through otherwise shut doors over and over again.”
Bentley’s company regularly leads seminars and workshops for universities and professional acting schools including New York University, Baldwin Wallace, University of California— Irvine, The York Theatre, Pace University, The Network, and Weist Barron, as well as the Actor’s Equity Association and Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG).
“Her latest venture,” said Locke, “provides another excellent example of the power of internet marketing. The Program is a science fiction script that Bentley and writer Nathan Reid are producing as a short film. They have already signed on some big names, including stunt coordinator Matthew Lorenceau, who won a SAG award for his work on Spiderman 4; David Holden, the music composer from Transformers; and Jason Montgomery, associate casting director on X-Men, First Class, and 127 Hours.”
Their primary goal, according to their Kickstarter.com fundraising page, “is for [this film] to be used as a marketing tool to get the filmmakers access and recognition at all the top movie studios and production companies.”
“Judging by Jodie’s marketing track record and the quality of Nathan’s work to date,” said Locke, “there is little doubt they will succeed, and my students will someday be able to say, ‘I remember when she talked to our class.’”
Bentley took it a step further, commenting after a Q&A session with the students: “With the intelligent questions this Keuka College class asked, I expect some great marketers to emerge.”
Perhaps one of them will market one of Bentley’s future Hollywood projects.
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: http://lightner.keuka.edu
Question: Where can a college student discover that nothing – even outside the classroom- is “off-topic?”
Answer: Keuka College, where learning outside of class can sometimes rival learning from a seat, where everything from icons of Buddhism, to towering wind turbines, to abolitionist history, to tattoo artistry, can invite questions and spark intense discussion among students with a passion for learning and exploration.
But it has not always been so.
Keuka used to have an honor society that began fading and died out in the early 2000s, “so the last decade, we’ve had few opportunities for the intellectually curious student,” said Mike McKenzie, associate professor of religion and philosophy.
Few, that is, until 2009, when then-sophomores Stephanie Lange, Aaron Golly and Kelsey Marquart dialogued with McKenzie about starting a group that could “find a way to learn outside the typical confined classroom setting,” Lange said.
They chose the name Tabula Rasa, which is Latin for “blank slate.”
“It’s the idea that we’re sort of born a sponge and we can fill up with knowledge,” said McKenzie, citing philosopher John Locke as the founder of the concept. “To expand someone’s mind, by definition, you have to get them outside their intellectual comfort zone.”
“A lot of the classes that you take are very cerebral, and you have to work through different problems. This is a step away,” explained junior Ross Gleason of Rockingham, Vt., who is helping lead Tabula Rasa this year with junior Sarah Marquart. “What do you want to learn? Ok, go do it. It’s always more interesting to go and experience something yourself. It allows you to get a broad view.”
Indeed, Tabula Rasa has covered a wide breadth of exploration. For example, the group hosted a former Mennonite, who spoke about her experience, and later, a Buddhist shared elements and icons of that faith. They visited a winery to learn the difference between traditional and organic wines, and stood underneath giant wind turbines at a wind “farm” in Cohocton. And, they explored historic roots of the Underground Railroad during a visit to Auburn’s Harriet Tubman home, William Seward House Museum, and Fort Hill Cemetery, where Tubman is buried. A two-night visit to a private observatory for stargazing was another outing last year.
By John Locke, director of instructional design and multidisciplinary studies
Is Keuka Park the new Roswell?
Judging from photographs taken by students in CMP 265: Computer Visual Design, one might come to that conclusion.
Unidentified flying objects (UFOs) were photographed hovering over Point Neamo, outside residence halls, and various other locales on campus. However, panic has not set in. In fact, students, faculty and staff have been going about their daily routines and paying no attention to the strange objects flying overhead.
That’s because these are photographic “hoaxes” that students created using Photoshop. Call it a high-tech spinoff of the 1938 radio drama based on H.G. Well’s “War of the Worlds,” sans the hysteria but with much more educational value.
“I try to get my students out of the textbook and into a project as soon as possible, so that they can apply what they’ve learned so far,” said Instructor John Locke. “We are all aware that Photoshop can be used for nefarious purposes, so I figure we might as well get it out of our systems early on in the class.”
“I think the UFO project was really fun… we got to put a twist on college life at Keuka and spruce up the campus,” said Maddie Reynolds, a senior educational studies major.
Her photo depicts an odd-shaped spacecraft hovering outside her residence hall while a student points in astonishment at an extraterrestrial who is throwing a soccer ball out of a second-floor window.
As their homework assignment, students photographed the scenes where their UFO “sightings” would be staged, and then they took pictures of everyday, common items to use as their “UFOs.” Back in the classroom, they worked in Photoshop to create a composite of their assorted images.
“It was a great introductory project for us to apply basic skills we have been learning in Photoshop,” said John Miller, a senior organizational communication major.
Miller’s photo shows his friends speeding along in a boat with a flying saucer hot on its stern.
“I showed the photo I edited to my friends that were in it. In disbelief they kept saying, ‘What is that?’ until I explained that I had created the UFO myself,” said Miller.
Locke said “more strangeness can be expected” from his students.
“They have been morphing each other’s facial features onto their own portraits to create an army of CMP 265 Mutants,” he explained. “Every time another mutant is ‘born’ and presented, the class breaks out in laughter. Combining facial features is not a skill they will probably ever use in a practical sense, but in the process, they are becoming pretty competent photo retouch artists.”
Last year around Halloween, students created a collection of horror movie posters that hung in the hallway near the Geiser Refectory. Locke plans to resurrect that project this season, and hopes to display another crop of petrifying posters produced in Photoshop.