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Potsdam Prepared: COVID-19 Updates

Find your calling. Find yourself.

An uncommon college experience in Northern New York.

400
Annual Arts Performances
11:1
Student-to-Faculty Ratio
134
Academic Programs

Immerse yourself in a campus culture that's as eclectic as you are.

Landscape of Discovery

As he mastered sculpting, painting and graphic design in SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Art, Evan Blondell ’06 had no way of knowing that he was planting the seeds for a fruitful career as a landscape architect. Armed with an artistic eye, and years of training, Blondell now works in major urban centers to transform the landscape into breathtaking parks that intertwine modern design with nature.

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New Ways to Think About Success

Dr. Tasia White ’12 has a newly minted Ed.D. and passion for transforming how people view their own professional success. She wants them to be fulfilled by their work, and that part is trickier than some think. As national interest turns to the need for greater support of diversity in the workplace, White is in a position to offer the perspective of both a woman of color and a person who made the study of such diversity—and the barriers to it—the subject of her dissertation.

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From Zeppelin to Mozart

Introduced to music on his father’s electric guitar, Alex Mariano ’21 played the songs of Led Zeppelin and Van Halen throughout his youth. Now he’s pursuing a music performance degree at The Crane School of Music where he’s been mastering the classical guitar under the guidance of Dr. Douglas Rubio.

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Raising the Bar

As a preamble for her education and career, Sara Behuniak ’14 found herself playing the role of a lead defense attorney in high school. A reading of Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” set the stage for a mock courtroom trial as Behuniak and her classmates brought the pages of Capote’s non-fiction masterpiece to life—and in doing so, she found her true calling.

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SUNY Potsdam’s TikTok Sensation

A refuge from the grief of COVID-19 became a way to connect with millions of viewers for alumnus Daniel Mertzlufft '15. His viral TikTok videos struck a chord with many, including the Late Late Show’s James Corden, who recently hosted him on the show and featured Mertzlufft’s latest hit, “The Thanksgiving Musical,” a tension-relieving romp through collective pandemic realities, holiday foibles, and even post-election drama.

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Building Stronger Students

The mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are only just beginning to be documented, but SUNY Potsdam alumna Jennifer Hutchins is out ahead of the curve. Through a new program to build mindfulness practices in North Country schools, Hutchins is giving students tools to work through their pain and confusion—on their own terms.

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A Guiding Light for Diversity Initiatives

Since he started at SUNY Potsdam in the fall of 2019, Clifton Harcum has been supporting diversity initiatives on campus, and creating unique opportunities for students to get out of their comfort zone and have an engaging college experience. Last spring, he launched an alternative spring break program for students of color, providing them with a fully funded week-long journey throughout the Adirondack region.

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Seeing the Future Through the Past

Marla Jacobs ’20 drew strength from her Mohawk heritage to overcome daunting challenges and finish an archaeology degree with three minors. Hard at work on a new display for The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, she continues to help build our knowledge of Indigenous peoples and their role in the ancient Adirondack landscapes.

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Taking the World by Storm

From an immersive experience in SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Modern Languages, alumna Meghan Sullivan ’11 launched an impressive career with the United Nations World Food Programme in Haiti—humanitarian work focused on food insecurity in the Caribbean nation, where around 3.7 million people are in desperate need of assistance.

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Between Mummies and Motherhood

Powered by a SUNY PRODiG Fellowship, a passion for anthropology and a wealth of lived experience, Kathryn Allen is inspiring other women to pursue their interest in the STEM fields.

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Leader Among his Peers

As a resident assistant in Bowman Hall, and a peer counselor in the Center for Applied Learning, Jason Perregaux ’21 has continued to embrace leadership roles throughout his time at SUNY Potsdam. While helping other students, he’s also been on his own path of discovery—balancing his business classes with vocal performances at Crane, and weaving in his faith through his involvement with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

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Combating Disease Through Education

Like an antibiotic rapidly flowing through the blood stream to combat an infection, Whitney Callaghan ’17 & ’21 has used her knowledge to help fight the spread of diseases in Northern New York. The SUNY Potsdam alumna took her degree in community health and parlayed it into a career with the St. Lawrence County Department of Public Health—where she’s busy overseeing contact tracing efforts in response to COVID-19.

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The Curious Cases of Nasser Malit

Dr. Nasser Malit has volunteered his time with the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Unit since 2011. In the role of a forensic anthropologist, he narrows and focuses the almost endless possibilities surrounding a skeleton or a shard of calcium. Malit’s early research prepared him for this work, taking him deep into the Great Rift Valley in Kenya where he excavated a 7,000-year-old human skeleton in partnership with the famed paleoanthropologists in the Leakey family. His forensic anthropology students now benefit from his vast knowledge while examining bones in his lab.

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Lost and Found in the Adirondack Mountains

A university's classroom isn't always what you think. In the SUNY Potsdam Wilderness Education Leadership program, students build inner strength and outer savvy in the deep woods of the Adirondacks.

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The Man Behind the Music

The otherworldly sound of an orchestra playing Adagio for Strings can be lost without someone like Dr. Douglas McKinnie, the audio and video streaming engineer at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music. Since 2014, McKinnie has worked behind the scenes at Crane to ensure that hundreds of performances are professionally recorded—leaning on two decades of experience as the chief engineer of live sound at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

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The Value of Connections

Emily Morse ’21 is primed for success in the computer science industry because of the many SUNY Potsdam alumni who dedicate time and resources to the computer science department. This summer, Morse took part in a remote internship with the Griffiss Institute and the Air Force Research Laboratory, made possible by her connections with alumni and support from a generous scholarship established by Haden Land ’84.

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A Veteran’s Passion for Medicine

After serving in Afghanistan as a hospital corpsman during a seven year stint in the U.S Navy, Kellen Bertrand ’21 returned stateside and set his sights on getting a degree at SUNY Potsdam. He’s now in his final year at the College, and wrapping up a degree in biology and chemistry all while maintaining an impressive 4.0 GPA. In the spring he will be applying to medical school where he plans to parlay his success into a lifelong career.

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Home in the North Country

For more than two decades, SUNY Potsdam Professor Tony Betrus ’93 & ’94 has continued to have a positive impact on his students, promoted a passion for learning, and emphasized the importance of technology. His dedication to education runs in the family. His wife Kristen (Schneider) Betrus ’95, mother Barbara '91, and brothers Ryan '95 & '02 and John Betrus '97 & '01 all received their degrees from SUNY Potsdam and transitioned to careers as teachers—proving that there’s something special when you set foot on the campus.

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Global Music Connections

Through trips to India and Ireland, working with the West African Drum and Dance Ensemble, and co-founding a Taiko drumming group on campus, Bridgid Bergin '15 paved the way to a career in ethnomusicology. She now works for the International Contemporary Ensemble in NYC.

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Murals for the Masses

Art Professor Amy Swartele recently completed a vibrant mural in downtown Potsdam. After securing a grant for professional development, she has been expanding the scope of her work and learning the nuances of creating large scale murals—all with the goal of launching SUNY Potsdam's first-ever mural painting class in the fall of 2021. 

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Working Hard for Others

SUNY Potsdam alumna Serena Rockingster '19 could have gone many places for her advanced degree, but she stuck close to the North Country in hopes of setting up a counseling practice that will help bring healing to Vermont’s underrepresented populations. 

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Taking the Lead

When Adam Smith ’15 entered SUNY Potsdam his freshman year, he never imagined he would be backpacking throughout the Adirondacks or scaling walls of ice and rock. Through the wilderness education program he gained leadership skills that set the stage for a successful career in outdoor education. Now he’s come full circle, back at SUNY Potsdam as an instructor in the same program where he was once a student.

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Their Essential Nature

When dozens of creatures wait in an empty building for you to show up, you know you’re essential. Among the unheralded individuals who keep a college campus going when no one is around to notice, two SUNY Potsdam studentsAmber Rudolph ’20 and Morgan Gregg ’20trudge through an echoing Stowell Hall three times a week on a mission: to care for, feed and give companionship to a mottled cadre of turtles, aquarium fish, geckos, bearded dragons and snakes.

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High Fashion Mask-erade

The accomplished fashion designer and savvy entrepreneur Saad Hajidin ’88 has turned his company InPhorm into an ally in the fight against COVID-19—shifting his focus from manufacturing women’s activewear to producing protective face masks. The SUNY Potsdam alumnus has been working with his factory in Thailand to manufacture protective face masks that are fashionable and eco-forward, while also meeting guidelines set forth by the FDA.

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From a Tiny Studio

Stretching skyward from the tiny studio at the back of her Potsdam home, Rivka Rocchio, an assistant professor of theatre, uses her phone to record yoga techniques for her students. Her routine—like with every other professor and student at SUNY Potsdam—has shifted inward in the wake of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and the social distancing that followed. Rocchio has responded—using technology to bridge the physical chasm between her and her students. 

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The Next Best Thing

Making solutions, preparing samples, and studying reactions and the formation of complex ions in the lab—the show must go on. Fitting chemistry challenges onto the flat face of a computer has become a sudden and unexpected specialty for John Proetta '09. An instructional support assistant at SUNY Potsdam, his forte has traditionally been lab chemicals. Now, he has been thrust into the role of crafting and facilitating a unified approach to the online delivery of chemistry lab instruction. In a world where the old playbook has been thrown out, Proetta finds himself on tight deadline, working one-on-one to help instructors in their scramble to present their materials through the screen.

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Notes From the "New Territory"

Monday marked the start of all online classes at SUNY Potsdam, the continuing journey toward our academic goals and with these, a test of our collective will and capacity. Our campus community members are offering snapshots into their own personal “new territory.” One benefit of these posts is that they may help us learn new methods and gain ideas from each other.

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Rising Out of Darkness

As a wounded service member returning from Iraq, alumnus James Wilkes ’01, ’06 & ’10 re-entered civilian life with a battery of injuries, including significant memory loss. For the past 15 years, he has been continuing to climb out of that darkness left behind in war. After receiving degrees in biology, business administration, and instructional technology and media from SUNY Potsdam, he went on to an impressive career at IBM. In his spare time, he tackles the most daunting endurance races on the planet—including recently completing the Quintuple Anvil Triathlon, with 703 miles of biking, running and swimming.

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Setting the Record Straight

Archaeology students Adam Jacobs ’20 and Mindy Thompson ’20 are determined to spread the historical and archaeological truths of their Akwesasne Mohawk heritage through SUNY Potsdam’s 2+2 Archaeological Studies Program where students complete their first two years at St. Lawrence College, and their involvement in Potsdam begins with a single archaeology class each semester to limit the amount of commuting necessary. By their third year, students are fully matriculated at Potsdam.

 

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Finding a Higher Octave Down Under

Jenn Belisle ’20 has thrown the doors of possibility wide open. The Crane School of Music student broadened her horizons when she took the plunge and traveled on a teaching assignment to another hemisphere.

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Choices Toward Love

For those willing to juggle university classes and commitment to children, the challenge of being a student parent also offers the sweet rewards of family. SUNY Potsdam parents Megan and Zachary Bovee share their story.

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Natalia Anapolis ’20

With a tank of air on her back and fins on her feet, Natalia Anapolis ’20 stepped into the Coral Sea off the coast of Australia. The scuba diving adventure was a completely new experience for her—foreshadowing her work in Australia over the next few weeks as she stepped into a classroom as a student teacher for the first time. Last fall, Anapolis spent 13 weeks Down Under where she got to explore the continent, while also completing her student teaching placement as part of her degree in childhood/early childhood education.

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Mountains Give New Form to LeighAnn Montaglione

The Adirondacks have stretched and formed LeighAnn Montaglione '20. When she graduates in May, she’ll take a suite of skills with her that will help connect her dual passion for photography and conservation.

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Neishja Ransom ’17

After growing up in East Harlem, N.Y., Neishja Ransom ’17 never expected to be bushwhacking through the Adirondacks or dangling from rock climbing walls, but that all changed when she came to SUNY Potsdam. The wilderness education program provided her with skills ranging from wilderness first aid and rock climbing to leadership in the backcountry that she parlayed into a leadership position with the Girl Scouts of Greater New York.

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Kelley DiPasquale '20

Set high in the Rocky Mountains, Banff, Alberta, is known for its world-class skiing and prestigious film festival. But for Kelley DiPasquale, a non-traditional student in the music business program at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, it was something else entirely that drew her to the snowy mountain town. DiPasquale is in the middle of a six-month-long audio recording internship at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. The hands-on practicum has allowed her to oversee professional audio recordings for bands like the Rapidgrass, a Colorado-based bluegrass quintet, and work with jazz drummer Jerry Granelli, best known for recording the “Charlie Brown Christmas” album with the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

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