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Snapshot of a Graduate: Briana June

Editor’s Note: Where can a Keuka degree take you? This is the sixth in a series of snapshot profiles on members of Keuka’s Class of 2013.

Briana June ’13 earned her degree in unified childhood education/special education, with a concentration in American Sign Language (ASL) and a minor in mathematics.

After applying to over 50 schools along the East Coast, including many in New York state, she was offered a position in Upper Marlboro, Md. at Prince George County Public Schools teaching American Sign Language to 6-8th graders in Thomas Johnson Middle School. June said she was initially discouraged that her degree did not seem to be paying off right away.

“I chose to push grad school off for a year to not limit myself to locations for a school in this tough economy. I certainly was lucky to receive this offer!,” she said.

While the job did not spring directly from a Field Period internship or student teaching placement, June said she believed one Field Period at the Cleary School for the Deaf on Long Island, and additional ASL experience factored into the job offer.

June said she valued the hands-on learning gained through her Field Period internships, and the direction she now wants to take her career, even though she is not yet 100 percent sure where she will pursue a master’s degree. She added that the encouragement and one-on-one assistance from professors in both the education and ASL divisions was also beneficial.

“They were always there for individualized help whenever you needed it, even if it was without an appointment, which is big for someone like me who always asks questions. Without the help from my professors always encouraging me and never losing hope in me (even when I did), I definitely would not be where I am today,” June said.

To explore what might be in your future with a Keuka degree, request more information.

A “Blank Slate” To Fill

Students Elise DeAndrea and Marie LaBrie on a Tabula Rasa visit to Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn where Harriet Tubman and William Seward are buried.

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.”

Icons of Buddhism were discussed at a Tabula Rasa event.

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.

Designing ‘Til Her Hands Fall Off

While finishing up part of the set design for the Keuka College spring play last semester, Danica Zielinski broke her hand.

The then-freshman pushed ahead, however, eager to finish her set work and fulfill duties as assistant stage manager for Rabbit, Nina Raine’s dark comedy, staged at the Barn, Keuka’s theatrical performance space.

“I have arthritis and was doing splatter-painting when I heard a crack. But I kept going until I finished and went to the doctor after the set was done.  It hurt, and sure enough, I was in a brace for about two months,” Zielinski recalled.

Perhaps that sacrifice made news that her set design won a merit award, from the Kennedy Center American College Theater (KCACT) Region II festival competition, all the more sweet.

“I was ecstatic,” said the Congers resident.

Red accents enhanced the black themes in Zielinski's set design for Nina Raine's dark comedy, "Rabbit."

“She’d never designed a set before, which makes it remarkable she received that [award] on her first design,” professor of theatre Mark Wenderlich said, adding that Zielinski auditioned for an acting role as a first-semester freshman and he didn’t pick up on her design talents until he observed her drawing during rehearsals. (more…)

Traversing the Globe – Art, ASL and All

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories saluting members of the Class of 2011. We asked division chairs for story ideas and they in turn contacted faculty members for suggestions. We believe they came up with some terrific profiles.

Portrait by Erik Holmes, Class of 2013

Beth Staehle has big plans after graduation – plans big enough to take her to other countries.

The Canandaigua resident loves American Sign Language (ASL) and can’t imagine her life without it. As the child of two deaf parents, she excels at ASL and can always rely on interpreting to supplement her income. However, after different majors – and colleges – she’s found a new love in political science and history, which is the degree she will receive May 29.

Now the Keuka senior is looking forward to a few months interpreting at the Rochester Institute of Technology to save some money to start what she calls her dream internship next spring – ideally at a museum in London, New York City or Buenos Aires, Argentina. Then Staehle hopes to move into graduate work in museum studies.

“Signs” of Her Time

Some of Alicia Wimmer’s favorite moments from her January Field Period at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Philadelphia are of playing with small children inside their classrooms.

Of course, with occupational therapy, each kind of “play” has a purpose.

For one little boy, moving water between cups helped exercise and strengthen a deformed arm. Manipulating Play-Doh was a common activity for others. And pumping arms and legs on swings inside a therapy room was crucial to calm and focus other children so they would be able to concentrate on schoolwork in class.

But therapy holds a greater challenge when the child working with an occupational therapist is also deaf or hard-of-hearing and relies on ASL (American Sign Language) to communicate.