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Honoring Hands-on Learning

A semester spent a traveling the Atlantic Ocean while visiting countries in Europe and South America, and daily observations of veterinary work garnered the top awards in experiential learning for senior Erica Rusio and freshman Lydia Watkins at the annual Honors Convocation ceremony May 4 at Keuka College.

Erica Ruscio

During the fall semester,  Ruscio sailed around the Atlantic Ocean on the MV Explorer, an 836-passenger floating classroom, as part of the Semester at Sea program.

“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.

It also earned Ruscio, an English major from Rushville, the Upperclass Experiential Learner of the Year Award, which recognizes learning from Field Period, co-curricular involvement, and community service.

Nominated by Allison Schultz, international student adviser in the Center for Global Education, 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 of the story,” she said. “The concrete experiences can’t be replicated, and can’t be doubled in a book.”

Ruscio said Keuka College and the Semester at Sea program share the same philosophy when it comes to learning: you learn more by doing.

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 College’s 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.

Lydia Watkins

Watkins’ January Field Period at Southtown Veterinary Hospital in Montrose, Pa., solidified her career choice.

The Field Period also helped earn Watkins, a biomedical major from Springville, Pa., the Freshman Experiential Learner of the Year Award. The award recognizes learning from Field Period, co-curricular involvement, and community service.

Watkins, who has known since she was 10 that she wanted to be a large animal veterinarian, was nominated for the award by Andy Robak, assistant professor of chemistry.

“I nominated Lydia because she had a great first Field Period,” said Robak. “She had her first experience working in a small animal veterinary clinic, and built relationships with the people with whom she was working.”

And while the vets at Southtown Veterinary Hospital care for small animals, Watkins still “learned a lot of information about the veterinary field, and I cannot wait to have the V.M.D. in front of my name. By watching the vets, I expanded my knowledge and fine tuned my interests.”

Watkins was able to watch several procedures, including spays, neuters, ACL repair, bone surgery, and a splenectomy. Shortly after her Field Period ended, she was hired as a veterinary assistant. Watkins will work weekends, summers, and other times when classes are not in session.

Watkins said she “loved my Field Period, and now my job, but I still want to work with cows.”

Said Robak: “A lot of students will do similar Field Periods in vet offices, but rarely does it end up in a great relationship like she found. Lydia is also an excellent student, excelling in sophomore chemistry as a freshman, and is well on her way to veterinary school when she graduates.”

Experiential Learners: Keuka’s Dynamic Dozen

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

 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.