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Potsdam Prepared: COVID-19 Updates

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Love and Music

As an alumnus of SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, Drew Coles ’11, has come full circle, and is now leading Crane’s music business program as an assistant professor and program director. Leaning on the experience he’s acquired as a musician and entrepreneur through the Metropolitan Players—a highly successful wedding band business he launched with his wife Erin Coles ’12—he is sharing his real-world experiences with his students, and preparing them for successful music business careers.

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Persevering Through the Pandemic

As we wrap up the Spring 2021 semester wraps up, we take a look back at the moments that showcase our strength, unity and perseverance during the global pandemic.

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Putting Things in Perspective

During the pandemic, one thing has become perfectly clear to SUNY Potsdam alumna Latesha Fussell ’11, ’12 & ’14—family is what matters most. As a single mother balancing a full-time job, while also pursuing a doctoral degree in education, she needed to make a change. Fussell recently accepted an impressive new position at Cornell University as the director for diversity and inclusion, and in the process, moved closer to her family where she found a support system that she desperately needed.

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Answering the Call

COVID-19 has presented challenges that we never could have imagined. Social distancing, wearing masks, and weekly pooled saliva testing have become as familiar to the campus community as late-night visits to the library. This semester, nine SUNY Potsdam students have embraced the challenge, and are giving back to the campus community as part of a new internship to meet the demands of the global pandemic—answering the call as newly appointed contract tracers for the College.

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Finding her Layer at SUNY Potsdam

Using cutting-edge technology in SUNY Potsdam’s geology labs, Rachael Savoie ’21 has been analyzing the rich shale and limestone from the Joggins Formation in Novia Scotia—digging back 300 million years in search of answers.

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The Path of Persistence

As both a full-time student and a full-time employee at SUNY Potsdam, Angella St. Denis ’21 has learned to make the most of every moment, spending her days studying and her nights working on campus—all in pursuit of her dreams.

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Discovering Her Path

A passion for the arts took root at an early age for Marie Amell ’21, who is now wrapping up her senior year at SUNY Potsdam, and completing an animated film for her Presidential Scholar’s project—all while preparing for a career as an artist.

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Staying Fit During the Pandemic

Adaptation—the pandemic forced it and we can see it all around us. Right in step with the spirit of innovation are Tanya Hewitt and her exercise science students, who have found some unique ways to stay fit while gyms have been closed.

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Finding Her Voice

Once an introverted first-year student at SUNY Potsdam, Kiara Espinal ’21 has continued to develop skills as a public speaker and artist, on a path of discovery to find her voice and become a leader among her peers.

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Rising Leader in Health Education

A native of Canton, N.Y., with five generations of family history rooted in the North Country, Meghan Conklin ’21 wanted to stay close to home after graduating from high school—and SUNY Potsdam proved to be just the right fit. Now she is completing her degree in community health, wrapping up hands-on internships, and working as a youth ambassador for International Adolescent Health Week.

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The Good Fight

A sense of service defines the work of Pamela Charleson, who has found ways to turn the challenges of her own experiences into gifts and important lessons for others.

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Serendipity and Divine Providence

Dr. Lonel Woods has had an illustrious career as opera singer, Broadway actor, and music educator—the latter of which has been his greatest passion, with 12 years of experience as a dedicated professor of voice at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music. He was recently selected as the interim dean of The Crane School of Music, a new role that he is embracing with open arms and a fresh perspective.

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Rising on the Wings of Dance

Zoe Walders '16 has refused to let a pandemic quash her creative spark. Dedicated to the art of dance, she brings her talents full circle in a new filmed dance-theatre production presented by her alma mater.

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Harnessing the Power of Justice

As the nation responded to incidents of racial violence and injustice last year, Dr. Peter McCoy was compelled to make his advocacy more tangible by establishing the Racial Justice and Equity Scholarship at SUNY Potsdam—supporting students who are committed to advancing the cause of racial justice and equity on campus. In McCoy’s estimation, “Now is the perfect time to harness the power and the interest and the energy that we are all feeling to make a difference.”

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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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70 degrees and above for the next week! A great way to wrap up the semester as we head into finals next week. ☀️#PeopleOfPotsdam #SUNYPotsdam

70 degrees and above for the next week! A great way to wrap up the semester as we head into finals next week. ☀️#PeopleOfPotsdam #SUNYPotsdam

Essance Farrell ‘21, left, an international studies major, and Prabjeet Kaur ‘21, a biology major, soak up the sun this afternoon while roller skating in the Academic Quad! #PeopleOfPotsdam #SUNYPotsdamGrad
Commencement celebrations and viewing parties are right around the corner! Show off your Potsdam Pride with our free printable signs, pennants, party banners and food toppers. Don't forget to use the hashtag #SUNYPotsdamGrad so we can see how you are celebrating this milestone!

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🎓 #PotsdamProud #PeopleOfPotsdam #SUNYPotsdam
🌷😎 #SUNYPotsdam
Kate Cleary, an assistant professor of environmental studies, uses her cell phone to connect with 7 remote students in her Biodiversity Conservation class during a field trip this morning. 🐾 Her students learned about an ongoing research project to monitor wildlife with game cameras. 🦇They also got an inside look at bat acoustic monitors and microphones that Cleary uses as part of her research on bats. #PeopleOfPotsdam #SUNYPotsdam #PotsdamProud
Spring is in the air at #SUNYPotsdam! 🌷
Happy #TeacherAppreciationWeek from #SUNYPotsdam! 🧑‍🏫📚👩‍🏫🍎
May the fourth be with you! 🌌 #SUNYPotsdam #Maythe4thBeWithYou #StarWars #StarWarsDay #TheMandalorian
As part of a service-learning project for Dr. Heather Sullivan-Catlin’s Environment & Society class, Adriana Hernandez ’21 was busy constructing birdhouses with her friends on Saturday outside Maxcy Hall. 🦜 The new birdhouses, with handwritten messages from the students, will be installed in a “low mow” zone alongside Pierrepont Ave. The project is a collaborative effort between the Department of Environmental Studies, the WISER Center, and the President's Sustainability Team.🌏 #PeopleOfPotsdam #PotsdamProud
Meanwhile, the snow was melting beautifully on the first day of May in Potsdam, NY. 🤔❄️ #SUNYPotsdam

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