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Potsdam Prepared: Fall 2021 Updates

The Reporter

The Reporter is SUNY Potsdam's news portal for faculty and staff. It features important information and announcements including campus policies, upcoming events, benefits information, grant information and updates about colleagues’ accomplishments.

Chords of Success

Wheeling a large Lyon & Healy harp through the halls of SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music is nothing new for Shannon Boyle ’20 & ’22. For more than a decade she has been mastering the harp at Crane, first in middle school and high school through the National String Project, then as an undergraduate student, and now while pursuing her master’s degree in music performance. Through an outpouring of scholarships, she will be graduating in May without any debt as she looks ahead to the future as a musician and educator.

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An Unwavering Trajectory

After devising an ambitious plan to complete her undergraduate degree in just three years, Cashlynn (Jaggers) Colbert ’19 & ’21 immediately landed a job as an art teacher at Salmon River Central School. Now she is back at SUNY Potsdam, wrapping up an educational technology specialist master’s degree program, all while balancing her responsibilities as a full time teacher.

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Hammering Out the Past

From analyzing rocks within the walls of the geology lab, to visiting rocky outcrops around Northern New York, Megan Heins '20 gained valuable skills as an undergraduate student at SUNY Potsdam. Now she's completing a master's degree, with plans to get a Ph.D. in the field of micropaleontology.

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Making an Impact in Africa

Balancing his education at SUNY Potsdam with his commitment to the U.S. Army Reserves, Joseph Bovee ’23 is in the midst of a nine-month-long deployment to Niger, Africa. He’s been busy fostering relationships with local communities in the region, using humanitarianism as a tool to thwart terrorism throughout the country. He will be back on campus in the spring of 2022 to continue working on his degree in exercise science, with the goal of one day opening his own gym and continuing his career in the military.

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A New Lease on Life

Leaving behind a decade-long career as a paramedic, Laura Schappert ’08 & ’22 returned to SUNY Potsdam for a fresh start. She’s now pursuing a degree in biology, and gaining hands-on experience as a beekeeper, researcher, and caretaker for a lively cohort of amphibians within the walls of Stowell Hall. 

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Skating into a New Age

Guided by the enduring passion of her mother, Breanna Cardinal ’22 latched onto figure skating at a very young age. Now she’s working side-by-side with her mother as she coaches young figure skaters in northern New York, while pursuing her degree in business administration at SUNY Potsdam. As she enters her senior year, Cardinal will be looking for ways to intersect her passion for figure skating with her marketing and social media management skills—hoping to one day run the social media platforms for a major sports organization.

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Choosing Potsdam

From the beaches of Long Island to the mountains of Northern New York, Grace Conway ’24 jumped at the opportunity for a change in scenery when she graduated from high school. Now she’s pursuing a degree in environmental studies at SUNY Potsdam, and after just one year at the College, she's already receiving grant funding to assist Dr. Glenn Johnson with his ongoing efforts to protect threatened Blanding’s turtles in Northern New York.

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Slingshot to Success

Just four years removed from The Crane School of Music, Jordan Olinsky ’17 is already making a name for himself in the music business industry. After graduating from SUNY Potsdam in 2017, Olinsky immediately landed a job as the northwest division manager for Buffet-Crampon, a music company that has been manufacturing wind instruments for close to 200 years. In 2019 he received a promotion and moved to Houston, Texas, where he oversees an even larger market as the southwest division manager for the company.

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Seeds of Change

In an ever-changing world, SUNY Potsdam is at the forefront of adapting with the times, and developing relevant academic offerings for students. During the Spring 2021 semester, Dr. Christa Haifley offered a Cannabusiness class for the first time—one of three new courses that will form the backbone of a Cannabis Studies minor currently being developed at the College.

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The Perfect Balancing Act

Pursuing a degree at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music is a daunting task in and of itself, but Natalia Buitrago ’21 went the extra mile, recently graduating with a double major in music performance and music business. Over the past four years she has not only continued to refine her abilities as a musician, but she learned valuable entrepreneurial and communication skills.

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On the Front Lines

A community health major with graduate school on the horizon, Monica Montero ’21 just wrapped up her senior year with an internship like no other—working for the American Red Cross to assist asylum seekers in Texas. After completing the necessary online trainings and certifications this spring, Montero was deployed to Midland, Texas, to support undocumented teenage boys seeking refuge in the United States.

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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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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 contact tracers for the College.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 Curious Cases of Nasser Malit

Dr. Nasser Malit has volunteered his time with the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Unit out of Ray Brook, N.Y., 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 in 2004, 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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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 Jon 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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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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Murals for the Masses

Amy Swartele, who has been a professor in the Department of Art for the past 20 years, just 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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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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