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Associated Colleges Faculty Complete NEH Summer Seminar at SUNY Potsdam

July 19, 2019

SUNY Potsdam Hosts Annual National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar on ‘Problems in the Encounter Between College & Prison’

Eight faculty members from the Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley recently completed an intensive interdisciplinary summer seminar through SUNY Potsdam’s National Endowment for the Humanities Faculty Development Program.

Each year, SUNY Potsdam offers an NEH Summer Seminar open to faculty from the four area universities, providing them with valuable opportunities to enrich their knowledge of the subjects that they teach and research, by working with distinguished outside experts, studying alongside other scholars and instructors, and undertaking individual projects of their own design.

This year’s NEH Summer Seminar was titled “‘They Call it Culture’: Problems in the Encounter Between College and Prison,” and was led by visiting scholar Daniel Karpowitz, who is a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute and a visiting assistant professor of political studies at Bard College.

Karpowitz led the group of eight faculty participants in examining contemporary programs to bring undergraduate college programs inside prisons, against the broader social landscape of contemporary American inequality. The seminar was held from July 1 to 17.

The participants in this year’s NEH Summer Seminar included:

  • Matthew Chick, visiting instructor of politics, SUNY Potsdam
  • Dr. Robert Cowser, professor of English, St. Lawrence University
  • Dr. Nancy L. Lewis, associate professor of sociology, SUNY Potsdam
  • Dr. Liz Regosin, Charles A. Dana Professor of History, St. Lawrence University
  • Rivka Rocchio, assistant professor of theatre and dance, SUNY Potsdam
  • Dr. Pamela Thacher, professor of psychology, St. Lawrence University
  • Dr. Jeremy van Bloomestein, chair and associate professor of sociology, SUNY Potsdam
  • Dr. Penny Vlogopoulos, assistant professor of English, St. Lawrence University

Karpowitz led participants in discussions about inequality, looking at mass incarceration on the one hand, and educational hierarchy on the other. The seminar concluded with critical assessments of existing state models being developed to offer college study in prisons.

This seminar has been a precious opportunity to dig deeply into work we all do and care about deeply: to explore the purposes of higher education, the role of both the university, and the prison, in contemporary America, and the pitfalls, and potential, of doing college-level work with people in prison. It’s been rigorous, challenging, and a lot of fun—and we all feel that the intellectual work we’ve been doing is feeding directly back into our practical endeavors,” Karpowitz said. “Even better, we’ve been able to do this as teachers and scholars at private liberal arts colleges, public universities, and inside state agencies. Personally, I feel as if I've made friends with all the members of the seminar, and my family has simply loved Potsdam, the campus, and the surrounding area.”

Dr. Geoffrey Clark, a professor of history, organizes the seminar in his role as director of SUNY Potsdam’s NEH Faculty Development Program, which for more than 40 years has supported interdisciplinary study and scholarly exchange in the humanities.

To learn more about research and faculty development resources at SUNY Potsdam, visit

About SUNY Potsdam:

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit

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