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Meet New Faculty: Social Work, Spanish and Nursing

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of Q&As with full-time faculty members who recently came aboard at Keuka College. Today, meet three of our professors.

Dr. Margaret “Malia” Spofford-Xavier, assistant professor of Spanish and intercultural studies, currently teaches all Spanish classes as well as ENG 207 (Latin American literature and society) and INS301R (Intercultural Studies). She joined the faculty at the start of the 2015-16 academic year.

Last book read: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Favorite quote: “Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.” (Author unknown)

If you could be a fictional character, who would you be, and why:  The Little Prince has always charmed me with his optimism and creativity.

What makes teaching fun:  I enjoy getting to know students as they transform their dreams into reality through critical thinking and hard work.

What do you do for fun?  I like to jog, kayak, and garden. I spend time with my husband Bruno and two children, Nicholas and Olivia. We enjoy cooking, being outdoors, swimming, and visiting the library.

Christopher Clinton, assistant professor of social work, directs the BSW field placement program for the Division of Social Work. Currently, he teaches Social Work Practice I, SW Policy II and Senior Practicum.

Last book read: Joseph Campbell “The Power of Myth”

Favorite quote: “I have the world’s largest collection of seashells. I keep it on all the beaches of the world … perhaps you’ve seen it,” by Steven Wright.

If you could be a fictional character, who would you be, and why: The Cat in the Hat, the greatest of iconoclasts, challenger of authority all the while awakening the mind and spirit to a new world of possibilities that would have otherwise remained hidden.  Be careful what you wish for children, this cat will surely take you to the edge of your comfort zone, hang you by your feet staring down at the abyss of new possibilities and consequences and then throw you back on your comfy-cushy couch begging for more….and once that iconoclastic kitty-cat leaves, you will never be satisfied with your once-accepted status quo. Best of all, after all that mayhem and unadulterated fun, you don’t have to lift a finger to clean up. Let’s not forget that he also banished Dick and Jane to the bookshelves of the humdrum and uninspired: ”What would you do if your mother asked you?”

What makes teaching fun:  When the effort and consciousness of teaching dissolves and we are effortlessly learning, consumed by the moment and collectively transformed by the experience. Spontaneous forays into role plays all the while making new connections between seemingly disparate concepts that fold into one another as if they were puzzle pieces effortlessly falling into place before our very eyes. How did that happen?

What do you do for fun? Hiking or hiking and hunting for mushrooms, listening to and playing music, tennis and kayaking.

Dr. Darlene Del Prato, professor of nursing, teaches Philosophy and Theories of Teaching and Learning, Nursing Theory and Research, Teaching and Learning Environments and Governance, Health Care Policy, Teaching and Learning Methods. She joined the faculty in early 2015.

Last book read: Parker Palmer’s “The Heart of Higher Eduction: A Call to Renewal”

Favorite quote: “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”  Vince Lombardi

If you could be a fictional character, who would you be, and why: Hmm, I don’t typically read fiction.

What makes teaching fun: The energy and exchange of ideas!

What do you do for fun? I enjoy being on the water, long walks in nature, gardening, and spending time with family and good friends.


College Will Offer Master of Social Work Degree

Starting this fall, Keuka College will offer a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program, in two formats, at the Keuka Park home campus and in the Syracuse region. The MSW program is a 65-credit, clinically focused program designed to prepare graduates with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide effective psychotherapy and psychosocial services to clients at an individual, family, and group level.

The MSW also prepares graduates to act in an administrative and supervisory capacity, and to serve as leaders in dynamic communities and organizations. Students with an MSW degree are eligible to take a state licensing exam after graduation, and can then begin serving diverse client populations in settings including schools, community-based agencies, health care systems, legal systems and more.

Recently approved by the New York State Board of Education Office of the Professions, the Keuka College MSW program will be offered in two formats. Roll-out of the program will begin this fall, with two cohorts of advanced standing MSW students.  One cohort of full-time students will study weekdays at the Keuka Park campus near Penn Yan, and will complete the program in May 2016, while a second cohort of part-time students studying in the Syracuse region, will complete the degree in 21 months of primarily evening classes once a week. Both advanced standing formats include clinical practicum work, similar to an internship. A first-year foundation program for applicants with a non-social work bachelor’s degree will begin at the Keuka Park campus in the fall of 2016.

Stephanie Craig

Stephanie Craig, chair of the Keuka College Division of Social Work and associate professor of social work, is thrilled to see the MSW program launch after nearly 10 years of dreaming and planning.

“It’s so exciting to see the vision come to fruition,” Craig said, adding thanks to the many faculty members and administrators who’ve invested time and labor over the past several years to support the College’s efforts to add the new degree. “I see growth ahead and an outstanding MSW program at Keuka College.”

After the initial launch year, the College will begin offering the advanced standing MSW program at select off-site locations in full-time or part-time formats. Students have the opportunity to personalize the focus of their studies through the selection of different electives. According to Dr. Doyle Pruitt, a licensed, certified social worker, MSW program director and assistant professor of social work for Keuka College, the College has offered bachelor’s degrees in social work to adult students at multiple community college locations across upstate New York through its Accelerated Studies for Adult Program (ASAP) format, and some of those will be considered for expansion of the MSW in future years.

Dr. Doyle Pruitt

Elective courses and initial field work placements have been structured so that students will be prepared for work within systems such as the Veteran’s Administration, health care settings, prison systems and community agencies, particularly those that may be located in the areas where the MSW program will be offered, Pruitt described. For example, Yates and Schuyler counties have some of the lowest numbers of MSW practitioners in the state, she said, noting that social work is a profession always in demand.

“Our program allows students who are committed to their local communities to receive their education without having to be uprooted and risk not returning,” Pruitt said.

And that will benefit communities across the greater Finger Lakes region, as well-prepared Keuka College MSW graduates provide services appropriate to the unique demands of rural areas and under-represented populations, said Dr. Paul Forestell, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Dr. Paul Forestell

“For 125 years Keuka College has remained true to the vision of our founder, George Harvey Ball, to graduate ‘superior men and women who shall bring strength to the nation and help to humanity,’” he cited. “Our new Master of Social Work program continues that tradition.”

According to Pruitt, an MSW degree can be more marketable than degrees for marriage and family therapists or licensed mental health counselors, due to the structure of insurance billing in New York State.

“We’re preparing graduates to be eligible to provide clinical services, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and so on. The clinical degree allows them to provide therapy, but they could also choose to take their career in an administrative or service direction, so it’s really setting them up to be competitive in the marketplace,” Pruitt said.

Applications for the new MSW programs have a deadline of June 15, 2015. For more information on the program, please visit online at:, or for more info on how to apply, please contact Admissions Counselor Patricia White at [email protected] or (315) 317-8455. 


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.”

Honduras Trip Inspires Social Work Student

Young friends Jamie and Kristen with Sarah, second from left, and misson teammate Jennifer, right.

When Sarah Ameigh flew to Honduras in August she carried two suitcases and a carry-on bag. The carry-on held her clothes and personal items, while the suitcases were crammed with fabric. Intended for the women of Tegucigalpa, the capital city, the fabric was destined for use in sewing and crafting small items such as table runners, scarves and tote bags the women sell in order to support their families.

Poverty is rampant in Honduras.

In Honduras, poverty is nearly as rampant as the crime caused by roving gangs – primarily fueled by the drug cartels. With many men caught up in illegal gang activity, or busy working harsh jobs, few children see their fathers; often, siblings don’t even have the same mother and father, Ameigh described. As such, education and empowerment to learn skills that can sustain a family become critical. Indeed, each of the 13 other travelers also flying with Ameigh filled their own suitcases with other supplies, medicine or craft materials needed to benefit the schoolchildren and families they came to serve with the “Border Buddies” mission organization.

The myriad of socio-economic issues facing the families and children in Honduras was a fascinating study for Ameigh, who is completing a bachelor’s degree in social work through Keuka College, studying each week at Corning Community College through the Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP).

“Social work is all about human service. One of the main goals is to be out there and help promote change and social change,” she said, explaining that the primary purpose of the service trip was to add four new classrooms and a kitchen to a school building used for 250 children ages four through 12. The trip was sponsored through Ameigh’s home church, Victory Highway Wesleyan Church in Painted Post, and was the 30th visit in nine years that members of the church have made to that city and its mission outposts, she said.

According to Ameigh, all 250 schoolchildren had been “plastered in” to just six classrooms and most had no place to eat at school, one of the few places that can help counter the poverty at home. Even so, there are few books, but because the children have no better comparison, they are simply happy to be there, she said.

This gated school was built by the "Border Buddies" mission two years prior to Ameigh's trip.

Like many other locales within the city, the school grounds were gated because of the threat of gang violence. According to Ameigh, the threat was so strong that mission team members were not allowed to go near the gates as they worked on the building repairs in order to ensure their safety. The team members heard that gang initiations often require killing another gang member or a personal family member and learned that only one in three children is safe from the threat of assault.

Building school rooms for the kids provides a safe place to learn, so they can get off the streets and have a good job,” said Ameigh, who missed one week of her ASAP classes to participate in the trip, but had the full support of her professors, Susan Grover Vanpelt and Doyle Pruitt.

Overlooking the capital city: Sarah, right, teammate Nada, center and missionary Glenda, left.

While Ameigh completed a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2002, after a brief stint in the banking industry, she switched jobs and started working for the Steuben County ARC. Ten years later, the passion for her work prompted her to enroll in the Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) for a bachelor’s degree in social work. Ultimately, she hopes to complete an MSW degree and become a licensed clinical social worker with a focus in counseling, she said.

On the first full day of service, the mission team set to work transforming the shell into new schoolrooms. While Ameigh helped sand walls, then prime, paint and sand some more, others including her older sister Bethany worked on the roof of the building. As the week, and work, continued, the team – which ranged from two 15-year-old boys to adults in their 50s – made visits to other local schools in the afternoons. While a few women would instruct native women in the sewing and craft techniques, others such as Ameigh would keep the children busy playing games such as soccer, or learning their own arts and crafts.

In contrast to Sarah’s two suitcases stuffed with fabric, Bethany Ameigh carried plastic “melting beads” in her two suitcases, Sarah said. Gathered with string, the beads are melted with an iron into fun shapes, Sarah Ameigh said. The two sisters learned that balloon animals were also quite a draw and that Honduran children have a funny habit of coating their bodies with the colored dust from sidewalk chalk decorating the ground.

The children made crafts from "melting" beads brought by the service team.

Citing her course in human behavior, Ameigh said much of life success is impacted by the environment a child grows up in. The missionary couple hosting the team from New York’s southern tier emphasized especially to men in the group “to be sure to spend time with the kids because fathers aren’t really part of their lives,” said Ameigh.

“Unless something intervenes, they’ll end up in the same situation as their family [members],” she said.

Children made a special presentation to the group on the final day of their visit.

Recalling how the missionary couple described the rescue of one young man, previously living a life of crime and violence, Ameigh said the trip helped show her the value of the career she’s pursuing.

“He’d leave after school Friday, party the whole weekend and come back on Monday. But he’s now part of the youth group, has to show up two nights a week, hold to a certain grade standard, and [sell food] around the barrio to make money,” she described. “The missionaries are saving one life of a child on the streets and now these kids are working and going into a trade there,” she said, comparing the trade system of Honduras to the colleges of America.

“The mission of social work is to help empower people to make change in their own lives – we’re not doing it for them,” Sarah said, citing the women and their training in sewing and crafts as one example.

Sarah with a young friend

Despite the shock of the extreme degree of poverty and crime, the children were endearing, Sarah said, recalling one little girl named Jamie who brought Sarah’s sister Bethany a sugar wafer one morning – a small treat that must have cost the little girl nearly all she had – but was so distraught she did not have another for Sarah that she ran, crying, all the way to the store, in order to buy a second treat to share.

“I hated to take it, but they said you should so that these children can learn the empowerment of giving, too,” Sarah Ameigh said. “It was weird coming back because of what we saw. It’s dirty, it’s dangerous and you come back and you’re in culture shock. You look at your house and say, I don’t need this. I don’t need that. It changes you.”

Snapshot of a Graduate: Nakita Simons ’14

Editor’s Note: Where can a Keuka College degree take you? This is the sixth in a series of snapshot profiles on members of Keuka’s Class of 2014.

Simons, left and fellow social work graduate.

Nakita Simons ’14 of Prattsburgh began a new job May 27 as a foster care caseworker for Steuben County Department of Social Services (DSS). The Prattsburgh resident first truly explored the social work field when she conducted her sophomore Field Period™ with DSS and had “a great experience,” Simons said.

The work went so well Simons applied for a high-profile BSW Child Welfare Scholarship from New York’s Social Work Education Consortium in her junior year. Winners of the scholarship are essentially guaranteed a two-year job as a child welfare caseworker with a county DSS agency and can also earn additional scholarship money for a master’s degree in social work, provided all goes well in a semester-long practicum during their senior year. Thanks to her 3.9 GPA and her record of stellar service in multiple volunteer and leadership roles outside the classroom, Simons not only landed the scholarship and job with Steuben County DSS but was named one of six student Social Workers of the Year for the Genesee Valley Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). She will be pursuing her MSW online through a program offered by Fordham University.

Simons said she found the College social work program faculty “really helped me to get the most out of my education. They were supportive and encouraging. They got to know you on a personal level and helped me to discover my passion and reach the goals I set for myself.”

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