December 4, 2018


Volume 13, Issue 09–December 4, 2018



In Between the Holidays

I had hoped to get another issue of the BLAB out before Thanksgiving, but it just wasn’t meant to be.  It’s now December, and I’ll try to get at least one more out before the end of the term.

Catching up on the home front, out generator at the house is now fully installed and functioning.  Interestingly enough, the day after the installation was complete, we had a power outage in our part of Canton that lasted about a minute or two. I woke up because my c-pap stopped providing me with air and asked Jill what happened.  She looked at the clock, saw it was flashing, and said the power must have gone out.  Just as she did, the generator kicked in and the power came on.  About a minute later, it shut off as the power was restored. So, all in all, it wasn’t much of an outage, but we know everything is working as it should be.

My father’s trip back to Las Vegas had a small complication.  I drove him to the airport on November 12 as planned, but his first flight, to Chicago got there late.  He only had a 45-minute connection time, so he didn’t make the Chicago-Las Vegas leg. He did, however, get the airline to put him up at the airport Hilton and book him on the first flight in the morning, so all ended well.  He’s now re-engaging with his friends there, as well as trying to get his electric hybrid vehicle working again, and getting into the swing of all the holiday parties.

Weather-wise, we seem to have gotten into a pattern of having a moderate snowfall (3-6 inches), having it melt off or be washed away (due to weather in the low 40’s), having everything clear for a day, and then getting more snow.  Today is the third time for the cycle and it’s currently snowing very lightly, with some mixed rain and snow turning to snow tonight.  It’s not supposed to add up to much and we’re significantly better off than California has been with their fires and then heavy rain, the South with their heavy rains, or the New England coast with their small Nor’Easters. Hopefully things will quiet down across the country for a while after this.


Funeral for a Friend

I was originally planning to take Tuesday through Friday off for Thanksgiving, but we got a very unpleasant surprise when we found out that a member of our College Council and Foundation Board, Chloe Ann O’Neil, had been killed on November 15 in an automobile accident.  She was driving to visit a family member when someone failed to yield at an intersection and hit her car, causing it to roll over and killing her.  This was even more of a shock because I had just seen Chloe Ann at a College Council meeting two days earlier.


Calling hours were at the Garner Funeral Home in Potsdam on November 19 and the funeral was held at St. Mary’s Church in Potsdam on November 20.  It was a beautiful service, filled with loving memories of Chloe Ann, who had been a civic leader in the North Country for many years.

Chloe Ann was actually born in Watseka, Illinois and her family moved to Syracuse in 1952, where her father worked for General Electric.  She earned her B.S. and M.S. at SUNY Potsdam and taught at Parishville-Hopkinton Central School for many years, where she was much loved by all her students.

Chloe Ann married John G. A. O’Neil, a college professor, in 1966.  They had two children, Beth Ann and John.  Her husband ran for the New York Assembly and won, serving from 1981 to 1992. Chloe Ann was an aide to her husband and then was nominated by the Republican party to run in the special election that was held when John was killed in a car accident in 1992.  She was elected and served in the Assembly from 1993 to 1998.  More recently, she was an active community member and civic leader across the North Country, including volunteering at Canton Potsdam Hospital and serving on SUNY Canton’s College Council and Foundation Board.

Parishville Town Supervisor Rodney Votra, said that Chloe Ann had served as a role model throughout his life, as well as having been his 6thgrade teacher.  “It is a huge loss for the community.  She was a mentor for me, in my current position as supervisor she always stayed in contact.  I was very comfortable calling her when I had questions and needed advice or guidance, and she was always there.  And if I wasn’t calling her, she was calling me saying, ‘Hey kid, what’s going on now?’ She’s going to be missed.”

Rest in peace, Chloe Ann.  You did so much for our community and will be missed by all who knew you. 



I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving break and had their fill of turkey and all the fixings.

Jill decided that she didn’t want me to make a turkey this year, since we always have so much left over and I get tired of it after a few days.  Instead, she suggested that we go over to Brockville Ontario and have some good Indian cuisine there at a restaurant we all like.  It didn’t take much to convince me!  The Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving earlier in the year (the second Monday in October), so it was just a normal workday and the restaurant was open and all was well.  The traffic was quite light, since there wasn’t much cross-border traffic due to the holiday on the American side, and it only took about 50 minutes to get there, including crossing the border.  The food was excellent as always.

After eating, we did a little shopping since there were a number of sales that had started up for the pre-Christmas season.  I even found a new comic book store that had opened on the main street, though they didn’t have anything I really wanted. That’s the curse of having a collection as big as mine—it’s very rare that I find something I want at a price I’m willing to pay and so many of the “rare” comics on the display board are ones that I bought at the time they originally came out for cover price.  Comics associated with upcoming movies usually skyrocket in price (for example, copies of Ms. Marvel #1 are now jumping in price to $100 or more, due to speculators anticipating a price rise with the upcoming Captain Marvel movie [in the Marvel comic universe, Ms. Marvel has become Captain Marvel]).  I paid 50c for a mint copy back in the ‘90’s and there were many more of them sitting in the box, since the comic wasn’t particularly popular at the time). Mark found a few books and a DVD he wanted, and it was back to the USA in time to watch some holiday movies.


Presidents Meeting

I attended a Presidents Meeting last week, which was held in Syracuse.  I left campus on the afternoon of the 26th, and the ride down was a bit annoying because it was raining pretty hard and it was foggy as well.  As it got dark, the visibility got even worse so the trip took a little longer than normal.

The meeting was held at the Marriott, which is located in the former Hotel Syracuse in the middle of downtown.  The Hotel Syracuse originally opened in 1924 and was quite the place back then, featuring 600 guest rooms, retail stores at the street level, and tennis courts on the roof.  It even included an emergency hospital!  Lots of major events in Syracuse were held in its Grand Ballroom and on the Persian Terrace. Visitors at the hotel included Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, Elvis, Bob Hope, and John Lennon.  The hotel joined the Hilton chain of hotels in 1980, left in the 1990s, and closed in 2004 after fighting off bankruptcy for several years and being sold to several new owners.  Various plans to turn it into condominiums and apartments were implemented and almost completed in one of its three towers (Symphony Tower), which according to Wikipedia is still unoccupied due to litigation.  The remainder of the hotel was restored in a massive $75M project, much of which was to modernize and rebuild the guest rooms to a larger modern standard. The hotel reopened in 2016 with 261 rooms as part of the Marriott chain.


I checked into my room, which was quite large (two queen size beds, a desk in the middle of the room, and a couch and chair at the other side) and well appointed.  The meeting began at 6:00 with a small reception, which gave me a chance to catch up with some of the other SUNY presidents.

The main part of the meeting was the next day, where the Chancellor went over her main objectives for the future, which parallel nicely with what we’re doing here at SUNY Canton: Individualized education, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Sustainability, and forming Partnerships.  She is also focused on building a SUNY endowment, expanding online offerings, exploring artificial intelligence and quantum computation, and moving toward 100% clean electricity within the system.  Another initiative, called PRODI-G, is to recruit 1000 diverse faculty over the next 10 years, with SUNY paying 100% of the 1styear salary and 50% of the 2ndyear.  A sustainability loan fund is also being established to fund projects that can be completed within two years, with the payback to happen over 10 years. Later in the meeting, we separated into sectors to discuss and give feedback on issues related to budget and advocacy.

Originally, I was supposed to stay over in Syracuse a second night for an alumni event.  The event was cancelled due to a winter storm coming in from the west. The weather was supposed to turn ugly in the late afternoon, so I left the meeting a little early and got on the road at 2:30.  It had begun snowing in Syracuse, but as soon as I got a little way outside the city heading north on I-81, the snow got lighter and changed to rain as it fell. As I approached Watertown, the weather improved further and I didn’t even need my windshield wipers unless a truck passed by and splashed water from the road.  Route 11 was fine too, with only some intermittent rain, and I got to Canton a little before five, just as it was getting dark.  The snow held off until 8 PM up here, though it got to Syracuse earlier and I hope that my colleagues heading west didn’t have too hard a time of it.  Ultimately, we got about 5-6 inches of snow in Canton that night, which melted and washed away over the next two days.


Holiday Celebrations Begin—Children’s Holiday Party

The December holiday season has begun at SUNY Canton and there are lots of events as usual.  The first, on December 1, was the Children’s Holiday Party for children and grandchildren of faculty and staff.  Our Early Childhood Education programs organize and offer this party each year, and this year’s theme was “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” with lots of crafts and games associated with the various lines from the well-known poem.


The Rendezvous in the Miller Student Center was beautifully decorated and laid out for the party.  Jill, Mark, and I arrived at 12:30, a little before the party began at 1, with some bags of toys, stuffed animals, and DVDs to give to the children.  We put on our reindeer antlers and went over to the welcome table, and promptly at 1, children and their families began to arrive.

Overall, almost 100 children came, enjoyed the crafts and games, enjoyed cookies, ice cream and juice, filled goodie bags, and at about 2:30, lined up for a visit with Santa Claus.

The party ended at about 3:30, with lots of parents stopping to tell me how much they enjoyed it.  A big thanks to faculty members Maureen Maiocco, Christina Martin, Christina Leshko, and Kelly DeHaut, and all our student volunteers for putting on such a fine event!


There are several more events this week, including the judging of the Holiday Door Decorations, the Student Holiday Dinner, the R.A. Banquet, and on Friday, the President’s Holiday Reception.  I hope everyone will be able to come to one or more of these.


It’s Also FAFSA Time

Something that would be very helpful is for faculty and staff to remind our students that the upcoming holiday break is also the perfect time for them to sit down with their parents, significant others, caretakers, etc. to work through the 2019-2020 FAFSA application process.

The College’s preferred deadline is January 1 to ensure applications are considered on-time for potential eligibility for some sources of aid (like SEOG, Work Study, and some institutional scholarships).  Meeting the deadline doesn’t mean the student is guaranteed additional aid, however, it does place them in the best possible position for eligibility.

The One Hop Shop can assist them with the FAFSA.  Simply call the One Hop Shop at 315-386-7616 or email them at if assistance is needed.  It is important to make they have their FSA ID all set and ready to go (parents must have their FSA ID also if the student is a dependent student).  Remember that the 2019-2020 FAFSA uses their 2017 Tax information.

They can also complete their 2019-2020 FAFSA at online.  The FAFSA can even be completed on their mobile device.  The MyStudentAid app can be downloaded from Google Play or from the Apple App store.



Last Time’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s challenge had to do with abbreviations, and our fastest winners being Kelly DeHaut, Janel Smith, Megan Warren, and Robin Gittings.  Just come up to the President’s Office on the 6thfloor of MacArthur Hall to pick up your prize.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. DIY—Do it Yourself.
  2. VIP—Very Important Person
  3. BOGO—Buy One, Get One (Free).
  4. IRS—Internal Revenue Service (or Inland Revenue Service in England)
  5. PDQ—Pretty Darn Quick


This Time’s Trivia Challenge

In keeping with the holiday theme, this issue’s challenge has to do with holiday movies and television programs.

The first five entries with the most correct answers win a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository, as well as the admiration of their peers. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edusince if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. Cartoon about a snowman that comes to life.
  2. A new movie about this character that wanted to end Christmas in Whoville is now playing at theaters.
  3. Movie from 1947 starring Edmund Gwenn and a young Natalie Wood about an elderly gentleman named Kris Kringle who claims to be the real Santa Claus and proves it in court.
  4. Movie from 1942 starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, and Virginia Dale that introduced the song “White Christmas”.
  5. The ultimate holiday classic from 1946, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, about a man who sees what his town would be like if he had never been born.


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November 9, 2018


Volume 13, Issue 08–November 9, 2018


Has It Been That Long?

It’s been almost a month since the last BLAB.  How have you all lived without it?  I offer my usual excuse—it has been so busy, I just haven’t had the time to get to it.

On the home front, we’re in the process of getting a generator installed the house and it’s a complicated procedure.  The generator was delivered about a week ago, and yesterday, the transfer switch was installed in the house and wired in. The transfer switch is the thing that detects when there’s a power outage and turns on the generator to provide electricity to the house.  When the power comes back on, it switches back and turns the generator off.  I’m told that the process takes less than a minute each way.  The person installing the transfer switch noticed another smallish electrical box in the basement and asked me what it was supplying power to.  I had no idea.  At first, he thought it might be a stove, but when the box was disconnected, the stove still worked.  The same was true about our dryer, whirlpool bath, and most of the attic.  However, when in the attic, I noticed that the lights in the “man cave” there (where we keep our DVDs, books, and view-master collection) no longer would switch on.  He went down to the wood room underneath the man cave and lo and behold, there was a switch box down there that I never knew about.  It may also be supplying power to the separate garage building that I don’t even own (it was sold to someone else at some point before I bought the house), but I’m not sure if that’s true.  Anyway, mystery solved.  The people who will hook the generator up to the gas are coming today, and hopefully the job will be complete.

My father will be returning to his winter home in Las Vegas on Monday, so I’ll be driving him up to Ottawa that afternoon.  His flight has only one stop, in Chicago and a short layover.  He usually stays in Las Vegas between November and May, coming back to Canton when the weather gets too hot.  He always has a good time up here, playing basketball and exercising in the CARC most mornings, giving talks about his history, and being with friends in the area. Not bad for someone who’s 91 years old! In fact, he, my wife Jill, and I attended the moonlight madness event for our basketball team last week, and while waiting for it to begin, he decided to try to throw some 3-pointers.


He missed the first few by a little but then got one in, and the folks who had gotten there a little earlier began to applaud.  He missed two more but then sank the second 3-pointer, and everyone in the crowd cheered. I guess he felt that he had accomplished enough, so he waved his hat and sat down.  The whole Moonlight Madness event was a lot of fun.  I had been invited to judge the slam-dunk competition (with three other judges), and it was great, with a lot of fancy moves.


Visit from the Chancellor

On the afternoon of November 6th, Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson visited SUNY Canton for the first time.  Her visit began with a brief one-on-one with me in my office, where we talked about the College’s goals and how SUNY could help. I also shared that we had something in common that she didn’t know about—we had both been featured in comic books, her as a super-hero when she was elected for membershipin 2015 to the National Inventors Hall of Fame for her work on Polarization-Control Technology.

Chancellor Johnson’s National Inventors Hall of Fame Photo

We then drove down to Nevaldine South, where she was immediately pleased when she noticed the electric vehicle charging station there.  Since our Chancellor is an environmental engineer, naturally our first stop was to visit Dr. Adrienne Rygel’s class in the Environmental Engineering lab.

We proceeded from there for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the esports Arena, where Chancellor Johnson was interviewed by local media, presented with her own esports jersey, and took the time to talk to several students about how participating in esports also helps them with their studies.

From there, we walked past the various awards SUNY Canton has won for its Steel Bridge Team, including our first place in the nation finish in 2009.  We will be hosting the national competition next year.

The next stop was in the Southworth Library, where Chancellor Johnson met with student representatives.

A selfie of our student leaders with Chancellor Johnson

Then, in the Miller Student Center, she met with representatives of our faculty and staff.  From there, she came to Cook Hall where she toured our Early Childhood Education classrooms and saw several exhibits of our students’ project work, and was greeted by a visiting delegation from Xi’an, China.

We then walked by the Business program’s Trading Room and the Chapel for our Funeral Services Administration program’s lab and Chapel.

The final meeting was in the MacArthur Hall Conference Room, where we had a nice discussion about what makes SUNY Canton a unique institution, critical to the economy of the North Country.  Chancellor Johnson was presented with a monogrammed laboratory coat (with her name and a picture of our mascot, Roody), safety glasses, and a decorative bag of North Country goodies for her trip home. 

As she left, Chancellor Johnson told me that she had thoroughly enjoyed her visit and was very impressed by what she saw and the many people she met on campus.  A report about her visit and her impressions appeared in the Watertown Daily Times and in the Courier Observer, which you can read here.


Community Solidarity

As everyone is all too aware, there have been a series of horrible events across our country indicating that racial, religious, and political hatred are still all too common.  In the last week in October, two African-Americans were murdered at a Kroger grocery store (after the killer had tried unsuccessfully to break in to the First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown, a predominantly African-American church); eleven Jewish worshipers were murdered at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh while attending services; and pipe bombs were sent by mail to more than a dozen political critics of the President.  Several other murderous incidents have taken place since, including 12 murdered at a dance club in Thousand Oaks on November 7.

There have been many ways that our local community has come together to express solidarity with the victims of these horrible events.  Many local churches offered prayers, sermons, and held discussions.  Memorial prayers and a moment of silence were offered at the Aviva Chernick concerts held at Temple Beth El in Potsdam on October 29 and at SUNY Canton on October 30.  Non-Jewish members of the community joined in services (which were organized by the Four-College Hillel group) at Temple Beth-El on November 2 to show support.  The Hillel students also held a vigil at SUNY Potsdam on November 4.

On November 3, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Canton held a vigil entitled “We Will Arise” to remember the victims and to raise funds for HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the charity organization that was targeted on social media by the Pittsburgh Synagogue gunman).  The ceremony was beautiful and meaningful, involving religious leaders of many faiths and members of the community of many backgrounds.

It was quite moving to see so many people turn out in our small village, joining together to pray, sing songs of solidarity, light candles for the victims, and lay down stones in their memory.  The Jewish prayer for the dead, El Maleh Rachamim (G-d, Full of Mercy), was recited, which goes:

“G-d, full of mercy, who dwells in the heights, provide a sure rest upon the Divine Presence’s wings, within the range of the holy, pure and glorious, whose shining resemble the sky’s, to the souls of the departed for whom charity was pledged to the memory of their souls. Therefore, the Master of Mercy will protect them forever, from behind the hiding of his wings, and will tie their souls with the rope of life. The Everlasting is their heritage, and they shall rest peacefully upon their lying place, and let us say: Amen.”


Open Forums

As promised, we have been holding some open forums to get faculty and staff opinions about our push to incorporate Industry 4.0 at SUNY Canton as well as how to make our financial position at the College even stronger.  Three have been held for faculty and staff, and a third session with our Campus Leadership group was held last week.  The discussions have been interesting, with lots of good ideas being shared.  I’d like to thank everyone who has attended and participated—I think this will be an excellent opportunity for our College and graduates and am looking forward to seeing how it progresses.


Open House

We had another wonderful Open House on October 20, with excellent attendance of students and parents.  Thanks to our terrific Admissions team and the many faculty and staff who participate, Open House is always a good time and it’s great to talk to the prospective students and parents.  When I spoke to the whole group and told them about our Student Opinion Survey results, the audience spontaneously burst into applause!


Speakers and Performers on Campus

SUNY Canton has hosted a number of visitors speaking or performing on campus recently.

  • On October 16, Jennifer Stevenson (Class of ’88), the owner of Blue Heron Realty in Ogdensburg, spoke as part of our Excellence in Leadership Series.Jennifer is a loyal friend of the College who also regularly co-sponsors alumni events.
  • On October 22, Casey McCue (Class of ’92), Director of the Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services for the NY Department of Agriculture and Markets spoke as part of our Excellence in Leadership Series.He serves on multiple state-wide and national committees associated with milk and agricultural production.
  • On October 23, Ricky Richard Anywar, the inspiration for the novel “Soldier Boy” gave a short talk about his experiences as a child soldier in the Lord’s Resistance Army during the Ugandan Civil War as part of our Living Writers Series. He subsequently founded the charity Friends of Orphans to help other LRA Children. He was joined by Keely Hutton, the author of the novel, who had spoken on our campus earlier in the year.
  • On October 30, Aviva Chernick, a Canadian singer from Toronto who performs in Ladino (a Spanish/Herbrew mixture) and Hebrew gave a concert of songs about love, exile, and home in the Cyber Café.  She was accompanied by Joel Schwartz on guitar.  The concert was great!
  • Also on October 30, Mary Karr, award winning poet and best-selling memoirist, spoke as part of our Living Writers Series. She read selections from her recent poetry collection “Tropic of Squalor”.  She is also the author of “Lit”, “The Liar’s Club”, and “Cherry”, which were best-sellers.
  • On November 4, Bart Tuttle, Plant Manager at Corning, spoke as part of our Excellence in Leadership Series. One interesting fact is that both his parents worked at Corning as well—his mother as a secretary (working for them even before the Canton location opened), and his father in production.  Thus, there has been a member of his family working at Corning in Canton throughout its entire history!


SBDC Trip to Plattsburgh

On Friday October 26, I drove over to Plattsburgh for the ribbon-cutting for SUNY Canton’s second Small Business Development Center, located on the campus of Clinton Community College.  As everyone should know, we have hosted an SBDC on our campus for many years which provides services to businesses and entrepreneurs across the North Country, helping them establish themselves, develop business plans, expand, and transition. It’s a vital link in the economic development chain.

The ride to Plattsburgh was beautiful—it was a lovely sunny day, with the only problem being that the sun was always in my face the entire way.  Clinton Community College has a beautiful setting right on Lake Champlain, which could easily be seen from the room in which the ceremony took place.

The event went very well, with several local government leaders telling me how glad they were that SUNY Canton had stepped up to operate the Plattsburgh SBDC.

President Ray DiPasquale

A nice article about the event appeared in the Press-Republican, entitled “Big Effort Gives Rebirth to Business Assistance Organization”, which you can read here.

While at Clinton, I had the opportunity to tour their recently opened Institute for Advanced Manufacturing, which has excellent engineering facilities. CCC’s President Ray DiPasquale and I also spoke about ways our two colleges can work together even more closely in the future.

L-R:  Dale Rice (Director of SUNY Canton’s SBDC), Tammy Mooney (Asst. State Director of  the SBDC, me, Brian Goldstein (Director of  the State SBDC), and Angela Smith (Asst. Director of the SUNY Canton SBDC at Clinton Community College)


Aerial view of Clinton Community College’s Institute for Advanced Manufacture


Hurrying Back to Canton That Afternoon for Trunk or Treat

I had to hurry back to Canton right after the Plattsburgh ribbon cutting to pick up Jill and Mark to participate in “Trunk or Treat”, a really fun Halloween activity.  For those who don’t know, Trunk or Treat means that you park your car to a particular location (French Hall, in this case), open the trunk, and give out candy from there.  The event was organized by SUNY Canton’s Early Childhood Program, whose faculty and students put on a wonderful variety of events throughout the year for the local community.   

Many of the people participating dressed in costumes for the occasion and many decorated their trunks in Halloween themes.  I had to leave (see below) after setting up, but Jill and Mark stayed on for the fun and enjoyed themselves thoroughly.  We gave away candy, of course, but also children’s DVDs and toys. About 300 children from Canton came by, and a wonderful time was had by all.

Jill in her witch’s hat giving out candy

A big thanks to the Early Childhood faculty, Maureen Maiocco and Christina Martin for organizing the event.


Hockey Night!

I had to hurry away from Trunk or Treat because I was double booked—there was also an Alumni Hockey gathering at exactly the same time.  I walked down from French Hall to the CARC (SUNY Canton’s beautiful Athletics Facility) where the gathering was being held in the mezzanine. I enjoyed meeting the many alumni who had been members of our Hockey team in the past, as well as parents of current players, and friends of the program.  It was a nice event, and SUNY Canton won the game that followed, beating Wilkes University 6-4.  Go Roos!



Last Time’s Trivia Contest

There was none!


This Time’s Trivia Challenge

This issue’s challenge has to do with yet more abbreviations.  I give the initials, you tell what they stand for or what they mean.

The first five entries with the most correct answers win a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository, as well as the admiration of their peers. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edusince if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. DIY
  2. VIP
  3. BOGO
  4. IRS
  5. PDQ


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October 16, 2018


Volume 13, Issue 07–October 16, 2018


Welcome to the New Revolution, Part 2

In last week’s issue of the BLAB, I wrote about how we are entering a new industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, which is characterized by the leveraging of internet technologies by industry. We’ve all seen multiple examples of this, ranging from the innocuous (thermostats that can hook to the internet and be programmed from your smart phone) to major disruption of industries (streaming of music drastically reducing cd sales).  A 2017 Pew Research Poll found that 72% of Americans are very (or somewhat) worried about a future where robots and computers are capable of performing human jobs, 76% are concerned that automation would make economic inequality worse, and 75% believe that the economy will notcreate new, better-paying jobs for displaced workers.

Note that the results of the previous three industrial revolutions (see last week’s BLAB for some history) were positive overall, leading to a higher standard of living and increased longevity for most people. Still, revolutions (including industrial revolutions) are disruptive by their very nature.  In each case, millions of people lost their jobs and had to find new ones, often in different industries and in different locations.  In the United States in 1870, some 50% of the population worked in the agricultural sector, but today, less than 2% does.  For non-farm employment, the following table (data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics) compares the percentages of people working in various sectors in 1910 and 2015:

  1910 2015
Forestry and Fisheries   1.0%  0.0%
Mining   4.1%  0.5%
Manufacturing 32.4%  8.7%
Construction   9.1%  4.5%
Transportation and Public Utilities 12.6%  3.8%
Wholesale and Retail Trade 13.3% 23.0%
Finance and Real Estate   2.0%   5.7%
Educational Services   3.5%   9.7%
Other Professional Services   3.0% 28.9%
Domestic Service   8.5%   0.0%
Personal Service   6.0%   1.0%
Government not elsewhere classified   2.1%   8.3%
Other   2.3%   5.9%

The table shows that there have been major changes in various sectors, both downwards (mining, manufacturing, construction, transportation, domestic service, personal service), and upwards (wholesale and retail trade, finance, educational services, other professional services, government).  Similarly, there has been a major shift of where people live and work, from rural areas to cities and suburbs.  One other major difference is in the nature of the jobs in the same category—for example, the mining job that may have required a grade school education in 1910 might have required a high school education in 1950 and a college degree today, due to the need to use and understand the advances in mining technology appropriate to the job.

Given these changes, it is quite reasonable that the public is concerned about what jobs will still exist, what jobs will be created in the future, and what skills and education they will require.

There is a well-known quote about how changing technology affects education, attributed to former Secretary of Education Richard Riley: “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist…using technologies that haven’t been invented…in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”  A viral video, “Did You Know” (originally called “Shift Happens”), is well worth watching (but see the caveat below) and makes some startling projections:

One of the closing slides in the “Did You Know” video reads: “By 2060, artificial intelligence will be capable of performing nearly all jobs currently done by humans” and shows a sequence of people being replaced by robots.  This is quite scary, but it’s also misleading.  Similarly to what has happened in previous industrial revolutions, the following is highly likely to occur:

  • Technology will continue to advance, so…
  • This will disrupt some current industries and cause loss of some jobs, and…
  • Job requirements will continue to change and will require a greater ability to use and understand technology and data, so…
  • People, by using that technology, will augment their own abilities and increasingly form communities of practice where data and analyses are shared, and…
  • These augmented abilities and communities of practice will lead to new insights, new discoveries, new opportunities, and the creation of new industries and jobs.

The set of skills we’re told that graduates need to be conversant with to be prepared for Industry 4.0 looks quite intimidating.

  • Writing and Communications Skills
  • Organizational Skills
  • Customer Service Skills
  • Planning Skills
  • Entrepreneurial Creativity
  • Analytical Problem Solving
  • Continuous Improvement and Lean Practices
  • Sensors and Edge Computing
  • Digital Automation and Controls
  • Robotics and 3D Manufacturing
  • Data Analytics
  • Simulation/Creation of Digital Twin
  • Cloud Computing and Cybersecurity
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  • Business Intelligence and Digital Services
  • Digital Enterprise vs. Digital Thread (how to get the right information to the right people at the right time)

As a College of Technology, looking at the list a little more closely, we can see some familiar ideas.  Writing and communications skills are embedded in our core requirements and are emphasized in many courses and most programs.  Our applied courses usually also emphasize organizational and planning skills.  Many programs have at least one course that emphasizes analytical problem solving and make use of data analytics.  Several of our programs make extensive use of simulation (Nursing with its animatronic patients and model hospital, Early Childhood Education with its resource room, and Engineering with its 3D modeling are three examples).  Our new degree programs (Cybersecurity, Game Design, Mechatronics Technology, etc.) are often directly focused on one or more of these skills.

In order for SUNY Canton to respond appropriately to Industry 4.0 and the rapidly changing future job picture, our College and each of our degree programs will need to answer the following questions:

  • Which of the skills are already incorporated in each of our programs? Do we need to update what we do regarding those skills?  What additional resources will be needed to do update them?
  • Which of the skills not currently incorporated in each of our programs should be added? What resources do we need to do this?  [I’m sure you’ll all agree that not all the skills need to be incorporated into all degree programs!]
  • Some skills may be delivered better in core courses than within courses specific to a major. Which ones?  Will we need new core courses, such as in ethics?  Do we need to update what we do regarding those skills?  What additional resources will be needed?
  • Almost all jobs will require a greater ability to use and analyze data than they do now. What does “data literate” mean today and tomorrow?  What do all graduates need to know about mathematics, statistics, and computing?
  • Almost all jobs will require a greater ability to work together with an increasingly diverse group of colleagues. How do we incorporate this skill?
  • In the future, we will likely need to have the skills to create our own opportunities and to market ourselves. How do we give our students the skills to do this?
  • What effect will enhanced technology and artificial intelligence have on the way we should deliver student services? What additional resources will be needed?
  • What is the best way to ensure that all students at least have the opportunityto become conversant with all the skills and to understand the rapidly changing future?
  • What is the best way to ensure that our alumni can become conversant with these skills?

It’s a big set of issues to deal with, but who in SUNY is better equipped to take a leadership role on this than us?  I’m looking forward to our open forum discussions in the next few weeks.


Last Time’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s contest had to do with things related to the Comic Strips.  Our fastest five winners wereJohn Jodice, Geoffrey VanderWoude, Kerrie Cooper, Robin Gittings, and Elizabeth Madlin.  Others getting all five right (but no disc for you) included Janel Smith, Carmela Young, Kevin Elliott, Terri Clemmo, Kelly DeHaut, and Debbie Flack.  Just come to my office on the 6th floor of MacArthur Hall to get your prize—a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. SUNY.  State University of New York
  2. ASAP.  As Soon As Possible
  3. CFO.  Chief Financial (or Fiscal) Officer
  4. ROFL (on the internet). Rolling On the Floor Laughing
  5. P.S. Post Script


This Time’s Trivia Challenge

No time to write it. The Trivia Challenge will come back next issue.

Posted in Uncategorized

October 11, 2018


Volume 13, Issue 06–October 11, 2018


 Welcome to the New Revolution

With the rise of increasingly sophisticated technology, robots, and computing, many people are getting concerned that the world is passing them by.  There’s a fear that technology is reaching the point where it will replace people and eliminate jobs.  A 2017 Pew Research Poll found that 72% of Americans are very (or somewhat) worried about a future where robots and computers are capable of performing human jobs, 76% are concerned that automation would make economic inequality worse, and 75% believe that the economy will notcreate new, better-paying jobs for displaced workers.

These concerns are also impacting higher education. Parents are concerned about the high cost of college and want assurance that their children will be well prepared for tomorrow’s economy.  Colleges increasingly focus on STEM (and less so on liberal arts and citizenship) and on preparing students for jobs.  The future is increasingly murky, and many people question whether anyone has the answers of how to deal with it.  “What will the working world look like in five, ten or twenty years?” is the overarching question behind many concerns.  More specific questions include:

  • “Will my job be outsourced or replaced by a computer?”
  • “Can people work alongside increasingly sophisticated technology, artificial intelligence, and cyber systems?”
  • “How will ethical issues be addressed in an increasingly technological world?”

Are these concerns misguided?  Past history would largely argue “yes”.  While many people see this as a new phenomenon, it is actually something we’ve seen several times before, because we’re entering a fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0 for short). In each of the previous three industrial revolutions, even as the population rose, more jobs were created than lost, and wealth was more broadly distributed than before.


The first industrial revolution (Industry 1.0, 1760-1840) was characterized by the advent of water power, steam power, and mechanization. Like most things, it had both good and bad outcomes. People ultimately benefitted from a rising standard of living and increased life expectancy, but the use of machinery also resulted in throwing large numbers of farmers and agricultural workers out of a job, forcing many to move to the cities and become factory workers, where they often lived in squalid conditions.  Lack of work, low wages, and the high cost of bread led to riots, uprisings, and massacres. In England, one of the most extreme of the riots was in the textile industry, where workers (known as Luddites, 1812-1817) destroyed weaving machinery in protest of mill owners replacing skilled weavers with cheaper, less-skilled workers.  The army was called in, Parliament passed laws against “machine breaking” (with punishments up to execution), and the rebellion was suppressed.  In the United States, the Civil War can be seen as a moral struggle against slavery, exacerbated by an increasing divergence of regional interests between a North that had entered the industrial revolution and a South that was still largely agrarian.  Even with all the disruption that occurred due to the industrial revolution, the good far outweighed the bad and people were generally better off as a result.

The second industrial revolution (Industry 2.0, 1870-1935) was characterized by rising availability of steel, oil, and rubber, as well as wider access to transportation, electricity, communications, sewage systems, gas, and water. Together with the concept of interchangeable parts, this resulted in assembly lines and mass production, as well as a burst of technological innovation including the internal combustion engine, electric lighting, the telephone, movies, and radio.  The standard of living for most people improved once again, since greater productivity and more efficient transportation lowered the costs of most goods.  However, these same lower prices led to many business failures and major economic depressions.  In agriculture, greater mechanization also led to higher unemployment and further migration to cities.  The negative aspects of Industry 2.0 were described in most forms of popular media. The movie Metropolis (1927) was one of the first films showing the deleterious effects of mass production on the human spirit, and the book Brave New World (written by Aldous Huxley in 1931) was a critical look at a “utopian” world where people were engineered in the womb, sorted by intelligence and labor, and kept happy through a drug called soma.

The third industrial revolution (Industry 3.0, 1945-2000) was characterized by the rise of computers and spread of automation.  As computers grew in memory, they shrank in size and cost and spread from companies and offices across industry and then into homes. Computers were used for a wide variety of automated tasks.  This led to greater quality control and higher efficiencies, but also led to loss of jobs and disruptions of major industries.  The rise of computers was frequently satirized in movies such as Desk Set (1957), and the idea that computers and robots might become intelligent enough to take over was a common theme in all forms of popular fiction (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, 2001:A Space Odyssey, The Matrix), though some saw the rise of computers and automation as mostly positive (The Jetsons, Star Trek).

The world is now said to be entering a new industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, characterized by the leveraging of internet technologies by industry, colloquially called the “internet of things”.  The term originated in Germany from a ten-point high-tech government strategy developed in 2006 for higher education, research, and industry.  The German government would develop a consistentinnovation policy that removed legislative obstacles, prioritize research funding, and expand investments in the future with tax incentives.  They would also work with higher education and industry to strengthen cooperation and increase the number of graduates prepared for research and development careers.

Germany’s 2020 High-Tech Strategy (developed in 2010) is a continuation of the 2006 strategy in which Industry 4.0 is only one of ten key projects, others of which include improving the environment (by creating CO2-neutral, energy-efficient and climate adapted cities; using renewable biomaterials instead of oil, and restructuring the energy supply), better healthcare (by treating diseases more effectively using personalized medicine, promoting targeted prevention and optimized diets, and supporting independent living into old age), sustainable mobility, and issues related to online commerce (creatingweb-based services by businesses and securing identities).

So—what skills do our graduates need to be conversant with to be prepared for Industry 4.0?  The best list I’ve seen includes the following items.  Note that many of our current programs already incorporate some of these skills, and several of our new and planned programs are directly focused on them:

  • Writing and Communications Skills
  • Organizational Skills
  • Customer Service Skills
  • Planning Skills
  • Entrepreneurial Creativity
  • Analytical Problem Solving
  • Continuous Improvement and Lean Practices
  • Sensors and Edge Computing
  • Digital Automation and Controls
  • Robotics and 3D Manufacturing
  • Data Analytics
  • Simulations and Creation of a Digital Twin
  • Cloud Computing and Cybersecurity
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  • Business Intelligence and Digital Services
  • Digital Enterprise vs. the Digital Thread

The current issue of Educause Reviewis devoted to the effect of Industry 4.0 on higher education and the IT industry. It is well worth reading.  It contains the following articles (links provided):

  • Smart Machines and Human Expertise: Challenges for Higher Education (click here)
  • The Future of the IT Profession and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (click here)
  • Scenarios, Pathways, and the Future-Ready Workforce (click here)

I’ll be discussing some thoughts about these articles in the next issue of THE WEEKLY BLAB.  As I mentioned in the State of the Campus Address, we’ll be holding some open forums to discuss how SUNY Canton can best respond to Industry 4.0 in late October and early November, so you may want to read and think about the articles before then.  I hope you can all attend and will share your thoughts and ideas as we move forward.


There’s No Place Like Home…

There’s lots of evidence that students learn best when they have a “sense of place” at their college—somewhere that they can hang out with friends or interact in an informal setting with their instructors and others in their major.  Spaces that give students a sense of place can include their residence hall rooms and lounges, library study areas, departmental locations set aside for students, and mingling places such as cafés and outdoor picnic tables.

While SUNY Canton students rate us very highly on our campus facilities (we were rated #1 in SUNY for study areas, #1 for classroom facilities, #1 for course-related laboratories, and #3 for athletic and recreational facilities), we’re not resting on our laurels—we want our student facilities to get better and better.  Here are some examples of new spaces that have recently opened on campus:

A new lounge for students in our Applied Psychology B.S. program has just opened in Wicks Hall 201.  The room includes individual couchettes, a hi-top meeting table and chairs, a large-screen TV, storage cubes for backpacks, and three computer stations.  It’s nicely decorated and very inviting for department meetings, student organization meetings, studying, and hanging out.


Another new lounge for students in our various Criminal Justice related programs, has just opened in Payson Hall 126.  The room includes individual couchettes, small tables, a large-screen TV, storage and four computer stations.



In Payson Hall 128 and Nevaldine North 113, we have opened two new flexible modality classrooms.  Flexible modality means that the course is offered simultaneously face to face and online, both synchronously and asynchronously.  This format is ideal for adult learners who may have a job, be deployed in the military, and/or have children, and need to be able to switch back and forth between modalities due to work or child care needs.  It’s also an excellent format for anystudent, since face to face students can access the online materials as supplements to review or extend their learning, and online students can access the course lectures either through livestreaming or by watching it as a podcast.



Some additional new facilities I’ve mentioned before include our new eSports Arena, which has gotten a lot of press, and our beautiful new Cyber Café, where students can get food later in the evening and also enjoy small-venue concerts.

Even more is underway.  Coming up in January: the opening of our new Chaney Dining Hall, which will contain several fabulous new features.  More on that in future issues of THE BLAB!


SUNY Canton in the News

SUNY Canton continues to be in the news lately, about a lot of good things.  Here are some examples:

The Ford Motor Company donated a late model Ford Focus to our Automotive Technology program.  “The donation gives our students hands-on access to some of the latest advancements available on the motor vehicle market” said Assistant Prof. Brandon J. Baldwin, who is the curriculum coordinator for the program. This was covered in the October 2 Courier Observer. 

SUNY Canton was rated 26thin the “Regional Colleges—North” rankings in U.S. World’s report on best colleges.  This appeared in North Country Now on September 21.

New York’s governor has called upon all SUNY colleges to have a food pantry on campus.  We’ve actually had one for some time, but we’re looking at various ways we might expand it.  The governor’s plan appeared in North Country Now on September 20.

As part of our eSports effort, a partnership between SUNY Canton and Extreme Networks and Alienware was announced and covered by ESPN.

An article about how SUNY Canton is “Expanding the Ranks of Student Athletes with E-Sports” was featured in a video on ZDNet, featuring Kyle Brown (CIO), Molly Mott (Associate Provost and Dean of Academic Support Services and Instructional Technologies), and Randy Sieminski (Director of Athletics).

An article on how, “For College eSports, Competition is Only as Good as the Tech Behind It” appeared on September 4, referring to SUNY Canton as a case study in how to do it.

The NAC athletic conference’s websitenamed SUNY Canton student athletes Josh Marshall Rookie of the Week in Golf, Allison Wakefield Defensive Player of the Week in Soccer, Marissa Ixtlahuac Player of the Week in Volleyball, and Peyton Robinson Defensive Player of the Week in Volleyball.


Last Time’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s contest had to do with things related to the Comic Strips.  Our fastest five winners were Carmela Young, Kelly DeHaut, Elizabeth Madlin, Jennifer Whittaker, and SPSU’s Alan Gabrielli.  Just come to my office on the 6th floor of MacArthur Hall to get your prize—a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository. Others getting all five right included Greg Kie, Lori Gagnon, Robin Gittings, and Jeffery Stinson.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. He’s five and a half years old, and always getting in trouble with Mr. Wilson.Dennis the Menace.
  2. Originally, Charles M. Schulz wanted to call this strip he created in 1950 “Li’l Folks”, but the syndicate overruled him. Schulz hated the name they used, writing: “It’s totally ridiculous, has no meaning, is simply confusing, and has no dignity—and I think my humor has dignity.”   Peanuts.
  3. This strip is named after a cat with an insatiable appetite for pizza and lasagna.  Garfield. 
  4. This strip began in 1930, about the adventures of a poor young flapper girl and her boyfriend Dagwood Bumstead, who was heir to a railroad fortune. His parents disowned him when he married her.   Blondie
  5. This strip began with its lead character as a college student, but he soon joined the army and has been goofing off there ever since.  Beetle Bailey.




This Time’s Trivia Challenge

This issue’s challenge has to do with abbreviations.  I give the initials, you tell what they stand for.

The first five entries with the most correct answers win a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository, as well as the admiration of their peers. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edusince if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. SUNY
  2. ASAP
  3. CFO
  4. ROFL (on the internet)
  5. P.S.
Posted in Uncategorized

October 2, 2018


Volume 13, Issue 05–October 2, 2018


Life in the Garage

On the home front, the weather has turned cooler which has allowed me to work in the garage to clear out the accumulated junk of decades.  I was pleased with myself the last two weekends, where I was able to put a few hours in each day.  I generated several garbage bags full of junk for the trash, two of clothing for the Goodwill, and two now-empty 20-gallon plastic bins.

It’s funny what you can find when you do this—I came across a very nice metal mobile, which was still in its original box with the various original wrapping materials.  I have no idea when we bought it.  It’s now unwrapped and hanging in our sun room and looking very nice.

I also shifted a bunch of boxes from the left to the right side of the garage so that I could get to the various boxes behind them. You see, I am trying to put all of my comics in alphabetical order so I can find any particular issue I may want to get to, and put any new comics I had acquired in the right places.  I did this for the DC and Marvel comics some time ago, but a few weeks ago, I wanted to do it for the Archie, Dell, and Independent lines of comics.  After putting some 12 long boxes of Archie comics with titles that being with the letter “A” in order, I had finally gotten to the “B”s, but couldn’t find two boxes of Betty and Veronica comics.  Moving the various boxes on the left to the other side of the garage solved the problem—there they were behind them, in one stack with two other boxes of Archie comics later in the alphabet.  I then got things arranged properly up to titles that begin with the letter “J”, but was now missing two boxes of Jughead comics.  This time, I had to move about 100 collapsed boxes (like when you buy them at U-Haul) along the back wall to be able to get to the right back corner, where I finally found them.

Part of the reason I have these problems is that between me, Jill, and Mark, we have a lot of things we like and the stuff accumulates.  For example, you’d think that with well over 10,000 CDs in the collection I’d have everything I want, but you’d be wrong.  This past week, I got three new sets in the mail—one, a box set of super audio CDs of the Beethoven symphonies, conducted by Simon Rattle; the second, a set of two Joan Baez CDs of her 75th birthday concert along with a DVD of the same; and the third, a box set of 56 Leonard Bernstein CDs on the Sony label of choral music, which means I now have everything he ever recorded.  I’m looking forward to listening to the Bernstein box, but I’ve got several others I’m working my way through first, so I probably won’t get to it for another six months or more.


Trip to Albany

I flew into Albany last Tuesday, because there was a SUNY Presidents meeting on Wednesday.  The flight down was quite cloudy but fairly uneventful.  When we landed, there were three fire engines with their lights flashing in the next landing strip and I wondered what they were doing.  It turns out they were there for us, because our plane was leaking a little oil, and the pilots must have radioed the problem in. We landed without incident though, and it was good to see that the fire engines were there in case we needed them.

A new problem occurred when I tried to call for the shuttle van to take me to the hotel.  The hotel’s automated phone service had something wrong with it and every time I called, I either got no answer at all (and no recording), or I got a menu of options which returned me to the same menu when I chose one, or I got through to a person who put me on hold and no one ever picked up.  After 7 or 8 tries, I was thinking of giving up and just taking a taxi there, but then the shuttle showed up to drop off a few pilots, and I flagged it down.  When I checked in at the hotel and they asked me how things were going, I told them my story. After hearing it, they upgraded me to concierge level, which got me a free dinner and breakfast.  So, it all worked out in the end.

The meeting itself focused on budget issues as well as some new initiatives from the Chancellor to increase the number of endowed chairs in the system and to increase the number of diverse faculty, both of which are worthy ideas. There was also an interesting speaker on the topic of exchange programs with Chinese universities, which has gotten to be somewhat of a political hot potato at the federal level in Washington DC recently.

The meeting broke up at about 3PM and President David Rogers of SUNY Morrisville was kind enough to drop me off at the airport on his way home.  When I went up to the ticketing agent, she said “You’re here a bit early” and asked if I’d like to get on the previous flight, which had been delayed because of bad weather.  “Oh yes!” I said, so she checked me in quickly and took my bag over to the plane while I went upstairs to go through airport security. As I came down the escalator to the gate, I was whisked onto the plane and a minute or two later we took off.  All in all, the whole thing only took about five minutes!  The flight home was interesting—there were scattered storm clouds around us, but the pilot did an excellent job of avoiding them and the flight was mostly smooth.


Riding in Cars with Comedians for Coffee

Most of you have probably seen or heard of Jerry Seinfeld’s comedy called “Riding in Cars with Comedians for Coffee” that can be seen on Youtube. Thanks to Morgan Elliott in our Public Relations Office who had this idea, there’s now a SUNY Canton version of it, called “Conversations in Gem Cars with President Z”, though no coffee is involved.

We shot the video a few weeks ago, with me talking to Ibu Smith, who is a junior Sports Management major from Brooklyn, and on our basketball team. Ibu is an extremely nice guy who is really enjoying his time at SUNY Canton and was very easy to talk to. Driving the Gem car was a bit less easy—I’d never driven one before and the first thing I noticed was that it has no power steering, so you really need to wrestle it to make it turn.  I quickly got the hang of it (with the exception of a few jumpy starts) and off we went around campus.

The whole thing was lots of fun and Ibu is definitely the star of the show. If you want to see it, just click below.




Last Time’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s contest had to do with things related to the Constitution.  Our winner were Nicholas Wildey and Edmund Smith.  Just come to my office on the 6th floor of MacArthur Hall to get your prize—a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Which single amendment gives us the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, and the right to petition the government? First Amendment.
  2. What the first 10 amendments to the constitution are collectively called. The Bill of Rights.
  3. What right does the second amendment address?The Right to Bear Arms.
  4. What governing document did the Constitution replace? The Articles of Confederation.
  5. Which of the following has no official role in amending the Constitution: the House of Representatives, the Senate, the States, or the President. The President.



This Time’s Trivia Challenge

This issue’s challenge has to do with comic strips.

The first five entries with the most correct answers win a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository, as well as the admiration of their peers. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edusince if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. He’s five and a half years old, and always getting in trouble with Mr. Wilson.
  2. Originally, Charles M. Schulz wanted to call this striphe created in 1950 “Li’l Folks”, but the syndicate overruled him. Schulz hated the name they used, writing: “It’s totally ridiculous, has no meaning, is simply confusing, and has no dignity—and I think my humor has dignity.”
  3. This stripis named after a cat with an insatiable appetite for pizza and lasagna.
  4. This stripbegan in 1930, about the adventures of a poor young flapper girl and her boyfriend Dagwood Bumstead, who was heir to a railroad fortune. His parents disowned him when he married her.
  5. This stripbegan with its lead character as a college student, but he soon joined the army and has been goofing off there ever since.


Posted in Uncategorized

September 19, 2019


Volume 13, Issue 04–September 19, 2018


On the Road Again

The last week and a half was really busy, with three inaugurations and three remembrance events.  Here’s some of what happened.


Inauguration at TC3

Whenever a new president is inaugurated in the SUNY system, we at Canton try to welcome them and extend our support.  In all cases, we send a certificate of congratulations, as well as a certificate indicating that we have planted five trees in their honor in a New York forest.  I’ve gotten a number of very nice thank you notes about this, and I believe that some other campuses may have adopted the practice themselves.  If the inauguration is relatively local and my schedule allows for it, I try to attend the ceremony personally.  If it’s a sister College of Technology, I’ll try to attend if at all possible.

On Friday September 7th, I drove down to Dryden, NY to attend the inauguration of Dr. Orinthia Montague, the new president of Tompkins-Cortland Community College (affectionately called TC3).  The drive down was pleasant and the traffic was fine down to Syracuse, but there was some construction that led to lane closures on Interstate 81 going through the city which, of course, created a bottleneck.  Everyone agrees that the highway needs to be rebuilt, but there has been more than ten years of debate on what the outcome should be, since the highway is only two lanes on each side and there’s not enough room to widen it without tearing down major buildings.  The three main options are a new elevated highway, a tunnel, or a “street-level grid”, with the thru-traffic being diverted onto I-481 going around the city.  All three options are estimated to cost between $1B and $4B and to take from 7-9 years to complete.  In other words, don’t hold your breath!  The congestion eased after that, and it was smooth sailing down to Dryden, which is where TC3 is located.


TC3 enjoys a very attractive campus with a substantial main building and everyone there was excited about the inauguration. Visiting delegates like me were provided a nice spread for lunch, and soon it was time to put the robes on and join the procession into the ceremony.  The inauguration began with the national anthems of two countries—the USA of course, but also Jamaica, which is where Dr. Montague was born. The guest speakers came from various places in her past, with several from the University of Missouri-St. Louis (where she started as a student service coordinator and was subsequently promoted to director of student life, assistant vice provost, and associate vice provost and dean of students) and from Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota (where she served as vice president of student affairs and chief diversity officer). I had met the Dr. Montague at a previous SUNY presidents meeting, and was very impressed with her plans for TC3, and I look forward to working with her in the future.  The inauguration finished at about 3:30 PM, so after taking off my regalia, I hopped back into the car and headed back north.


Memorial for Ike Cook

From Dryden, I drove back through Syracuse to go to Watertown, arriving at about 6 PM, where I stopped for a quick bite of dinner.  I then drove over to All Souls Church to attend the funeral service for Francis A. Cook at 7 PM.  “Ike”, as everyone who knew him called him, had tragically passed away on September 2 in a UTV accident at the age of 46.  Ike earned his associates degree in Civil Engineering Technology from SUNY Canton in 1993, going on for his bachelors degree at RIT in 1996.  He spent several years as an engineering project manager in Oneonta, before moving back to his home turf (he was born in Adams, NY) in Watertown, where he was a project manager at Bernier, Carr and Associates, and then as a quality-control manager at Chugach Industries at Fort Drum. He started his own company, Blue Line Engineering, with his close friend and fellow SUNY Canton alumnus Jeffrey Turbolino (class of ’96).  The two of them gave a talk as part of our Excellence in Leadership series this past March, which was very well received.

Ike was one of those people who you couldn’t help but like from the moment you met him.  He had an inviting and outgoing personality, which instantly welcomed you into his circle of friends.  I was still about a quarter mile from the church when I noticed that cars were parked on both sides of the road, and as I got closer saw that the parking lot was absolutely full and the line of parked cars extended for another quarter mile. I walked back to the church, where I saw almost 100 people outside in the parking lot, giving a toast to Ike. I later learned that they were mostly members of his fraternity and associated sorority (Delta Kappa Sigma and Delta Sigma Tau) and graduating class from SUNY Canton, paying their respects in the way that Ike would have liked best.  Over the years, he had organized many annual reunions and kept in close contact with them ever since graduation.  Inside the church, there were several hundred additional friends and family members, many of whom told touching reminiscences during the service about what a wonderful father and friend Ike was, and about the good times he shared with everyone at his favorite place in the world, Little Kildare camp in the Adirondacks.


Ike lived life to the absolute fullest, a valuable lesson for us all.  Rest in peace, Ike.  You live on in the memories of your family and multitude of friends.


Rosh Hashanah

The Jewish high holiday Rosh Hashana(New Year) came relatively early this year, on Monday and Tuesday, September 10-11.  On the holiday, tradition has it that each person’s fate is written in the book of life, and ten days later on Yom Kippur(Day of Atonement), that fate is sealed.  The days in between are known as the Yemei Tshuvah(the Days of Repentance) because sincere repentance, charity, and self-reflection can cancel any harsh fate.

The services were held at Temple Beth-El in Potsdam, the only synagogue remaining in St. Lawrence County, and were quite beautiful.  I had been asked to give the sermon on the first day and I spoke about the origin of the word “Israel”, which comes from the well-known story of Jacob wrestling with an angel in the Book of Genesis, and its relationship to the Rosh Hashanah holiday.


Memorial Ceremony for 9-11

I left services a little early on the second day of Rosh Hashanah to come back to campus for the 9-11 Memorial ceremony.  SUNY Canton has had a memorial ceremony every year since 2002, and I’ve attended each year that I’ve been at the College.

I think that everyone remembers where they were when the airplanes crashed into the twin towers, and I remembered walking into the Student Life office at my second college, seeing what was happening on a TV screen, and asking “what movie are you watching?”  It didn’t occur to me that it might be the real thing, but of course it was. It occurred to me that as of next year, this will be a historical event for many of our new first-year students, who will have been born after 9-11.

At our ceremony this year, I said a few words about the importance of memory and Will Fassinger gave the keynote talk.  It’s important to remember those who were lost.  A poem that I have always found to be comforting is ”Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” by Mary Elizabeth Frye which I’ll share here:

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.


Trip to New York—Rockland Community College

After a few meetings on Wednesday morning, I drove to Ogdensburg to catch a flight on Cape Air to Albany, and then took a train into New York City.  The flight was just fine and the taxi got me to the train station early enough so that I was able to change my ticket onto a train leaving one hour earlier (and at no charge, which is unusual these days).  It’s a good thing that I did, because the train wound up getting stuck just before the Spuyten Duyvil bridge, which is a swing bridge between the Bronx and Manhattan that can swing open to allow ships to go by.  It had recently been repaired and when they swung it open a little earlier that day, they apparently couldn’t get it to completely close again.  A work crew was called, and the train I was on had to wait until they gave the all clear. It took about 20 minutes (though it seemed longer), and we slowly crept over the bridge (which is actually quite small) and then got into Manhattan without too much additional delay.

The next morning, I walked down to Penn Station to take a New Jersey Transit train to Suffern, home of Rockland Community College (RCC).  All New Jersey Transit trains from Manhattan make their first stop at Secaucus Junction, a very large station that allows you to change onto trains that originate in Hoboken.  There are eight tracks at the lower level and a bunch more at the upper, and trains go pretty frequently to one place or another.  I’d never gone on New Jersey Transit before, but the trains were quite nice and comfortable and the scenery was pleasant for the hour ride up to Suffern, where I arrived right on time.  There weren’t any taxis around, so I used Lyft for the first time in my life and a car picked me up about ten minutes later and took me to RCC with no problems.  RCC is quite large with very nice facilities, and its campus is in a suburban setting of single family homes.

I went over to the building where they were having a luncheon reception and met a number of faculty and staff from RCC.  We were then led to another room where they had put all the regalia, which mercifully was quite cool, because I was beginning to melt due to the heat and humidity that day.  We robed, but I was then taken to a separate robing area in their Field House, where the various delegates, faculty, and staff were assembling.  We then marched to a third building, their Student Center I believe, where the ceremony took place.

RCC’s new president is Dr. Michael A. Baston.  The very first thing you notice about him is that he is one positive and happy guy with a big grin that regularly breaks out on his face.  His positive outlook has certainly impacted the campus quickly, because so many people at the inauguration spoke about it in one way or another.  Dr. Baston began his career as a public interest lawyer, only later turning to education, where he served for ten years as Berkeley’s Dean of Student Development and Campus Life and then became LaGuardia Community College’s Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs for six years before becoming president at RCC. He is an expert on integrating student success initiatives to advance college completion through guided pathways and has written many papers and articles on the subject.

The inauguration ceremony was quite interesting, beginning with an elaborate invocation involving three different clergy representing three different faiths. Dr. Baston’s speech focused on his own personal pathway to the presidency, and his plans to support students and make RCC the top community college in the nation.


Chancellor’s Inaugural Gala

The RCC inauguration ceremony had run a little late and I wasn’t able to get a Lyft car back for 19 minutes, making me positive I had missed my train back to the city.  When we reached the train station, lo and behold, a train pulled in at that very minute.  I leapt onto it and paid the Lyft driver from my phone, which is a very nice option.  I was able to get into Manhattan just a little later than the original plan, which was good because I needed to get to my hotel, wash up, change into a dark suit, and go to the Chancellor’s Inaugural Gala (fortunately only four blocks away), all in less than an hour.

The Gala was held in the beautiful New York Public Library building on W42ndStreet.  The event was very nice and well attended, with many of the other SUNY presidents present, as well as three previous Chancellors and many other SUNY supporters.  Several musical and dance performances were given by students from Stony Brook, SUNY Potsdam, Oneonta, Fredonia, Purchase, University at Buffalo, and New Paltz.  The performances were all were quite good, as was the meal and the master of ceremonies, Wolf Blitzer of CNN fame, who is a graduate of the University at Buffalo.  Funds raised at the Gala went to support the SUNY Impact Foundation.


Chancellor’s Inauguration

Chancellor Kristina Johnson’s Inauguration ceremony was held on Friday morning at SUNY’s Fashion Institute of Technology.  I took a taxi there, having to walk the last little bit on W. 27thStreet because the street was closed for the event.  The breakfast and robing areas were on the 8thfloor and I had enough time to chat with several of the other SUNY presidents.  We were then called to don our regalia, and marched in campus-founding-order onto the elevator, into another building, and up some stairs to a large theatre where the ceremony was held.  Doug Scheidt was there for the inauguration as well, as a flag-bearer for SUNY Canton in the Chancellor’s procession.

As we walked into the theatre, we were greeted by members of the Stony Brook University symphony orchestra playing Bach’s 3rd Brandenburg Concerto, one of my favorite classical pieces.  It was all I could do to keep from conducting along!  The invited speaker, Robert Freelen, was very interesting, telling a number of stories from the Chancellor’s past, including the time when she was moving into her first-year residence hall at Stanford.  Mr. Freelen (who later became Stanford’s Director of Public Affairs) was the dorm advisor in the room next door.  He heard some banging of boxes and the like as she moved in, but then things got quiet and he heard a knock on his door.  It was Kristina Johnson, who wanted to know if he could lend her a drill, because the dorm rooms were quite small and she wanted to rig up a chain and pulley system so that the beds could be lifted onto the walls when they weren’t in use.  Obviously, Chancellor Johnson was an innovative engineer from the very beginning!

There were a number of other stories including hiding that she had bought a motorcycle from her parents, as well as being a proficient lacrosse and cricket player that supplemented her many professional achievements, which include being a member of the National Academy of Inventors and the National Academy of Engineering, her 118 patents, her induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and her serving in the Obama administration as Under Secretary of Energy.  Her academic background includes being a faculty member at University of Colorado-Boulder, dean at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, and Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Johns Hopkins.


Chancellor Johnson’s speech was quite uplifting, focusing on her vision of creating opportunity and impact, and of making SUNY “more than the sum of its many remarkable parts, and the individual campuses better for being a part of the whole.” She talked about several initiatives, including enhanced collaboration between academia, government, and industry, and the launch of PRODI-G (Promoting Retention, and Opportunity for Diversity, Inclusion and Growth), a program to attract and retain an increasingly diverse and inclusive faculty, with a goal of hiring 1,000 faculty with named chairs within the next decade.  She sees SUNY as an engine in the state’s economic growth, which can help the state thrive in challenging times.

The reception after the inauguration had a lot of good food, including some impressively sized shrimp, salads, sandwiches, and some very tasty farm-to-inauguration ice cream courtesy of SUNY Morrisville.


The Rush Home

I walked the short distance from FIT to Penn Station and got there at about 1PM.  I tried to get onto the 1:20 PM train to Albany but it was sold out, so I took the 2:20 train which arrived only slightly late.  I wanted to get the earlier one because I had a very tight connection with my flight to Ogdensburg—the train arrived at 5:00 PM, and the flight was at 6:05 PM.  I hopped into a taxi as did two others, one of whom was dropped off downtown and the other, by a nice coincidence, who was also going to Ogdensburg.  The traffic on I-87 toward the airport is always busy on a Friday afternoon so we got caught in the inevitable traffic, and about a mile from the airport exit, she got a call from the airline asking if she was going to make the flight.  Assuring them she would, I called out “tell them I’m with you as well” and she did. Two minutes later, I got the same call and assured them we would be there within three minutes.  We got ticketed and through security in no time, and actually got to the gate with 15 minutes to spare.

The flight was quite nice—clear skies and no turbulence at all, with very nice views of the Adirondacks—and we landed on time.  I rolled into Canton at about 8 PM, exhausted but satisfied that everything planned had been accomplished.


Summer Fun

I had promised to write about some of the things I did over the summer, but I’ll have to leave it to my most favorite thing, which was attending a concert in Watertown featuring the double bill of Peter Frampton and The Steve Miller Band.  I joined Joe Rich, our own College Council member and a promoter of the concert (the proceeds support charities in Watertown), his lovely wife Carol, and North Country Community College’s president Steve Tyrell in the VIP section which gave us a very good view of the concert. Peter Frampton was very good, but I was really ultra-excited to be able to see The Steve Miller Band for the first time, since they have been one of my favorite groups ever since I first went to college.  In fact, the very first record I bought at college was a twin album of his “Children of the Future” and “Living in the USA” albums.  Steve Miller did not disappoint and both Steve Tyrell and I were singing along with each song.


Another highlight was when we were invited over to possibly meet Peter Frampton.  That didn’t happen, because he was exhausted after his set (the temperature was almost 100° that evening), but one of the road crew brought by one of Frampton’s guitars, which had been given to him and autographed by Steve Miller (who I’m told never meets anyone and doesn’t even want his picture on his album covers).  The roadie asked “Would you like to see the guitar?”  Needless to say, our answer was yes, and then I took it a step further, asking “Would it be OK if I held it?”  “Sure,” he said, so I took the guitar, handing President Tyrell my iPhone to take a picture, which you can see below.  Of course, I returned the favor when President Tyrell held the guitar.


All in all, it was a wonderful evening filled with great company and fabulous music.  A big thanks to Joe Rich for making it possible and for all the support he always gives to SUNY Canton.



Last Time’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s contest had to do with things related to Disney movies.  Our winners were Stacia Dutton, Kelly DeHaut, Carmela Young, and Terri Clemmo. Just come to my office on the 6th floor of MacArthur Hall to get your prize—a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. Donald Duck’s girlfriend’s name. Daisy Duck.
  2. Mickey Mouse’s dog’s name. Pluto.
  3. First full-length movie released by Disney, way back in 1937. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  4. Movie in which “Be Our Guest” was a featured song.Beauty and the Beast.
  5. Disney’s middle initial was “E”. What does it stand for?  Elias.



This Time’s Trivia Challenge

This issue’s challenge has to do with things related to the Constitution, in honor of Constitution Day.

The first five entries with the most correct answers win a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository, as well as the admiration of their peers. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edusince if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. Which single amendment gives us the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, and the right to petition the government?
  2. What the first 10 amendments to the constitution are collectively called.
  3. What right does the second amendment address?
  4. What governing document did the Constitution replace?
  5. Which of the following has no official role in amending the Constitution: the House of Representatives, the Senate, the States, or the President.
Posted in Uncategorized

September 5, 2018


Volume 13, Issue 03–September 5, 2018


Who’s Number One? Roos Number One!

SUNY conducts a Student Opinion Survey every three years, where they ask students to evaluate their colleges in 61 areas.  I was really happy about the results from the last survey, done in 2015, where SUNY Canton came in at #1 in three areas critical to our students: Tutoring, Library Services, and Library Resources.  I had seen our raw numbers from the 2018 survey a few weeks ago and almost all of them were a fair bit higher than in 2015, but it wasn’t until now that I saw how we compared with the rest of SUNY.

I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of this year’s results—we were #1 in SUNY in 14 different areas this time (and #2 in 12 other categories), and we were #1 in the Tech Sector in 40!  Here are just some of the results (note that there are 7 Tech Sector Colleges, and 27 SUNY State Operated College that participated):

Area Tech Sector (of 7) SUNY Rank    (of 27)
Academic Advising in Your Major of Program of Study #1 #1
General Academic Advising #1 #2
Faculty/Instructor Respect for Students #1 #2
Non-Teaching Staff Respect for Students #1 #3
Availability of Faculty/Instructors Outside of Class #1 #1
Career Planning Services #1 #1
Help in Finding Jobs During College #1 #1
Residence Hall Services/Programs #1 #3
Study Areas (Not Including Studios) #1 #1
Classroom Facilities #1 #1
Course-related Laboratories (Not Including Studios) #1 #1
Athletic and Recreational Facilities #1 #3
Financial Aid Services (Not Amount of Financial Aid Rec’d) #1 #2
College Tutoring Services #1 #1
Quality of Instruction #1 #2
Availability of General Education Courses #1 #2
Class Size Considering the Type of Class #1 #1
Course Registration Process #1 #2
Availability of Online Courses #1 #2
Access to Computers and Related Technology #1 #1
Computing Support Services (e.g., Helpdesk) #1 #2
Library Resources (Physical Collections, Online Databases) #1 #1
Library Services (Reference Support, Research Assistance) #1 #1
Intercollegiate Athletic Programs #1 #3
Student Government #1 #6
Educational Programs Regarding Alcohol/Substance Abuse #1 #3
Student Health Services #1 #1
Personal Counseling Services (Excluding Academic Advising) #1 #1
Health and Wellness Programs #1 #2
Student Input in College Policies/Plans #1 #2
Your Social Support Network on Campus #1 #3
Campus Openness to Opinions of Others #2 #4
Campus Acceptance of Individual Differences #2 #4
Services to Support Off-Campus/Commuter Students #1 #2
Services to Transfer Students #1 #4
Intra-campus Transportation (campus shuttle) #1 #5
College Bookstore Services #1 #2

It’s always exhilarating to get good news, but the results from the Student Opinion Survey are even more meaningful for a couple of reasons.  First, whenever I speak about the College and say how great it is, I certainly hope that people listen and believe me, but it would also be fair of them to ask “How objective is he?  After all, he’s the college’s president!”  Similarly, while our PR materials are uniformly excellent, people might reasonably think “Well, they work for the college.  What else would they say?”  In the case of the Student Opinion Survey, however, we’re hearing directly from the students, who are an objective and independent voice about how well their college experience is working for them.

Second, the results from the Student Opinion Survey evaluate pretty much every area and function of the College.  Some are about academics, some are about facilities, some are about student support services, some are about business procedures and offices, and so on.  To have done this well on the Survey indicates our success across our whole campus.  I’ve often said that each and every one of us is responsible for student satisfaction, retention, and success.  So—congratulations to everyone!  You’ve done fantastically well for our students, and I couldn’t be prouder!


SUNY Canton in the News

I’m happy to tell you that SUNY Canton has also been in the news a lot lately.  Much of the coverage has been about our being the first in SUNY to participate in eSports, which is drawing a lot of attention from some very big places.  For those who don’t know what eSports are, here’s a handy video about our program:


Here’s a list of just some of the articles about our eSports program:

  • The Watertown Daily Times showcased our new eSports Arena and first-year student Alyssa Montgomery’s reaction to it on its front page on August 30,here.
  • The very next day on August 31, the Watertown Daily Times had a front-page story entitled SUNY Canton Professors Look to Break Down the Gamer Stereotype with New Study, here, featuring SUNY Canton faculty Barat Wolfe, Janet Parcell-Mitchell, and Christopher Sweeney.
  • The “Tweet of the Day” on the SUNY News Clips for August 28 featured a tweet that had appeared on ESPN’s website, here.
  • The video game website Kotaku showcased our program on July 9 as the first in the SUNY system, in an article entitled Collegiate Esports is Uncharted Territory, so Smaller Schools are Staking Their Claim, along with four pictures of our facilities and students. You can read the article here, which has appeared on Kotaku websites around the world.
  • The website ecampusnews published an article on August 10 authored by our own Director of Athletics, Randy Sieminski, entitled The Explosive Growth of Collegiate eSports (Part 1). Part 2, to be published in the near future, will be by our own Associate Provost and Dean of Academic Support Services Molly Mott, about eSports in academia, focusing on our game design program.  You can read the article here.
  • The Syracuse Post-Standard featured an article on August 21, entitled Is eSports the Future of College Sports? SUNY Canton invests $500K to Find Out, which you can read here.
  • ESPN tweeted on August 17 about our becoming the second eSports program in the country to compete in Fortnite and FIFA. North Country Now featured an article on this titled Fortnite Battle Royale and FIFA Added to SUNY Cantons ‘eSports’ Lineup, here.
  • ESPN’s website published an article titled SUNY Canton Takes a Holistic Approach to Collegiate eSports back on December 15, here.

With all that coverage, how have our eSports teams been doing?  Not badly at all. SUNY Canton just took 2ndplace in a national Collegiate Star League Hearthstone competition on August 25.  Our team was led by Brian Venard, and beat the University of Texas at Arlington, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of California Irvine, and Penn State, before getting beaten in the final by Florida State University.  Not too shabby—they’re only 10 times our size!

Other recent press coverage includes:

  • Our playing an exhibition basketball game against Cornell University on November 8 appeared in an article entitled SUNY Canton to Face Cornell in Men’s Basketball on September 4, here.
  • Our participation in SOAR (Soar into New Experience Through Local Courses at SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton, North Country Now on August 21, here).
  • Our saving students money on textbooks (College Program Saves Students Money on Textbooks, 7 News on August 20, here).
  • The new academic year (SUNY Canton’s Academic Year Starting Earlier This Semester, North Country Now August 21, here).
  • Our own RooAthletics website on August 20 featured an article titled Twelve Hockey Student-Athletes Named AHCA All-American Scholars, here.
  • Our effort to develop an Entrepreneurship Accelerator (SUNY Canton Seeking Downtown Space for Budding Entrepreneurs, appeared in the Watertown Daily Times and the Ogdensburg Journal on August 3, here).
  • Issues related to 3D printing of guns, featuring our own faculty member, Miles Canino (As New York Battles 3D Guns in Court, North Country Residents Share Their Views, in the August 3rdWatertown Daily Times, here).

Coverage like this doesn’t just happen.  It’s the result of hard work from the areas being reported on, from the faculty, staff, and students who supported them, and from our fabulous public relations staff. A big thank you to all—you make us great and then make us look great.


President’s Annual Report

Each year, every SUNY president is required to send a report to the Chancellor providing an overview of the previous year.  Since we’re super-cool, we actually prepare our report in two different ways—as a print version (which has a set number of pages) and as a digital version (where we can have some fancier graphics and a more innovative interface).  Ours went in to SUNY yesterday, and you can see a copy of the digital version here.


That First Five Minutes

I remember reading somewhere that if you want a publisher to buy your book idea, you have to “hook them” in the first three paragraphs, or else your proposal will go into the reject pile.  Some folks have taken this to an even greater extreme: Back in1920, Ernest Hemmingway is said to have responded to a bet to tell a compelling story in six words, with his answer being “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”  Like most cool stories of this type, this one is apocryphal, with no evidence that Hemmingway ever spoke or wrote about the bet or six-word story.  Instead, it has been alleged that the story was made up in 1974 by Peter Miller, a literary agent, who then published it in a book entitled “Get Published!  Get Produced! A Literary Agent’s Tips on How to Sell Your Writing.”

Hemmingway aside, it is a good idea to get your audience’s attention in the first few minutes, and there’s every reason to believe that this applies to when you’re teaching a class. This week’s Chronicle has an article about this, entitled “Small Changes in Teaching: The First 5 Minutes of Class” by James Lang, which offers some pretty good suggestions.

The first suggestion is to start your class with a question or two that will help students focus on the material.  He cites as examples “What problem is the separation of powers designed to address” and “What forces have eroded the separation of powers” for a class on American Government.

Second, he notes that many faculty start their class with a review of what was covered last time, but suggests that instead of them offering the summary, ask the students to provide it.  He writes “if we want to remember something, we have to practice remembering it.  To that end, learning researchers have demonstrated over and over again that quizzes and tests not only measure student learning, but can actually help promote it.”  I’m a big believer in giving lots of quizzes where any one of them doesn’t count for very much in the final grade.  This helps nudge students to keep up with the course better, and to practice their memory retrieval skills.

Third, he suggests finding out what students already know about the subject, since this “is the foundation on which new knowledge is built”.  Often, students have accumulated fallacies in their learning, which makes it harder for them to learn new things.

Finally, he suggests that each of the first three activities can be improved by having all the students write down their responses.  This allows all students to participate, especially those who are afraid of speaking publicly.

These are pretty simple-to-implement ideas that just may make students more attentive and learn better.


Last Time’s Trivia Contest

Last time’s contest had to do with songs about birds.  Our winner were Kelly DeHaut, Greg Kie, Edmund Smith, Kevin Elliott, and Kaitlin Fuller.  Others getting all five right included Kimberly Boyd, Carmela Young, Robin Gittings, Debbbie Flack, Alan Gabrielli (from SPSU), and Michael Newtown.  Just come to my office on the 6th floor of MacArthur Hall to get your prize—a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository.  Here are the correct answers:

  1. National symbol of the United States. Bald Eagle.
  2. Red breasted bird common in the United States.  Robin.
  3. The Emperor, Rock Hopper, Adélie, and Jackass are all types of this flightless bird.  Penguin.
  4. Fastest bird on two legs, its eyes are actually larger than its brain.  Ostrich.
  5. Pink colored bird whose name means “flame colored” in Spanish or Portuguese, it stands on one leg most of the time, though biologists don’t really know why.  Flamingo.


This Time’s Trivia Challenge

This issue’s challenge has to do with things related to Walt Disney and his films.

The first five entries with the most correct answers win a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository, as well as the admiration of their peers. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edusince if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.

  1. Donald Duck’s girlfriend’s name.
  2. Mickey Mouse’s dog’s name.
  3. First full-length movie released by Disney, way back in 1937.
  4. Movie in which “Be Our Guest” was a featured song.
  5. Disney’s middle initial was “E”. What does it stand for?


Posted in Uncategorized