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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Road to Physical Therapy
SUNY Potsdam’s exercise science program has been a treadmill to success for Lucas Rucci ’20 and Wilber Parada ’20. Now in their final semester at SUNY Potsdam, both students were just accepted into the Doctor of Physical Therapy programs of their choice.
Nicole Weed ’20
Nicole Weed ’20, a senior in the Department of Anthropology, is currently working on a Presidential Scholars project looking at how technology has affected language and communication over time. With opportunities to work as a research assistant for Dr. Lydia Rodriguez and as an intern for Dr. Faris Khan, the culmination of her experiences has been paving the way for graduate school and a successful career as a linguistic anthropologist.
Tabitha Brown '20
It’s never too late to go back to school. Just ask Tabitha Brown who is back in college after a 25-year hiatus. After raising a family and homeschooling her children, she decided it was time to complete her bachelor’s degree—starting the same year her daughter went off to college. Brown is now excelling as a non-traditional student in SUNY Potsdam’s Department of History where she has been delving into local history projects to explore Northern New York’s past.