THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 11, Issue 1–August 24, 2016
Summer is almost over, and I’m sure we can all agree it went by extremely quickly. It used to be that summer was a time for rest and refreshing of the brain cells, but for me at least, each year it gets busier. The BLAB has been on hiatus most of the summer since my time has been devoted to other things, but it’s back again for its 11th year of news and random thoughts.
I hope everyone who was off for the summer had a good time and is rested up for what I’m sure will be a busy and engaging fall. I took the week of July 4th as vacation, but really didn’t go anywhere then or the rest of the summer. It’s so nice up here I don’t really feel the urge to travel except to the local rivers, lakes, and mountains.
The big change at the Szafran homestead is that we had a patio put in, and it turned out really well. We had been thinking about having this done for a year or so, to fix up an area that had a honeysuckle tree that was overgrown and scratching at our window. Provost Doug Scheidt beat us to it and had one put in at his house, and when I saw how nice it was, I hired the same folks (J&J Groundworks–I think the owner is an alum of ours) to put one in for me. It has been unusually hot this summer, with temperatures going into the 90’s on multiple occasions, and it’s a bit buggy when the sun goes down and it cools off, so I haven’t put the patio to as much use as I’d like. The weather has been nice the past few days, so we’re now enjoying it, and will probably have a few barbeques in the near future.
Patio area, before…
Patio area, after!
I also bought a Bluetooth speaker to use on the patio. It weighs about a pound and the sound is very nice. It plays whatever my iPhone is streaming, so long as it is within 75 feet of the phone, and holds its charge for well over 24 hours of constant play. The sound carries well all over the patio so it’s perfect for that purpose. Pretty cool for something that costs $30 or so.
It has also been a good summer for buying CDs. I ran into a yard sale in town where the person was selling bins of very fine quality classical and jazz CDs, and I ultimately bought out everything, which included some 200+ super audio discs. The sound on these is just fantastic, and I’ve been enjoying going through and listening to them over the past few weeks. There are still plenty more that I haven’t gotten to, so I’ll be enjoying myself for some time to come.
Grand Tour of Campus
While many of you will have been away for the summer, there are many new things that have recently been completed or that will begin this fall. Folks have been really busy making our campus a more beautiful and welcoming place for everyone to enjoy. Here’s a nice campus tour you’ll want to take to see them all. A big thanks to Greg Kie for all the nice pictures!
When you first drive onto the campus from Route 68, you’ll immediately see several beautiful flowerbeds, containing a riot of purple, white, and other colored blooms.
Along the side of Cornell Drive, you’ll see the new LED light poles which provide more light but consume less electricity.
Something you won’t be able to see are the new underground gas lines that will assure our ability to keep the campus warm during the winter. A bit further up the road at the Y, you’ll see the beautiful new electronic sign welcoming folks to campus, giving information about the day’s events, and providing directions to major campus buildings.
If you swing left at the Y, next on our tour will be French Hall, with its beautiful new windows and entranceways, refurbished offices for Admissions, Advancement, Administration, and the SBDC, and its newly repaved parking lot (Lot 8).
It’s worth a stop, because on the grounds adjacent to French Hall you can visit the Memorial Rock, a place for reflection, remembrance, and celebration of life. The memorial was installed last February by our Student Government to remember Elliot Mullings, a well-liked student majoring in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement Leadership who passed away in Spring 2014. Right alongside is the campus’ new Butterfly Garden. It’s quite lovely with the plantings that have already attracted quite a number of butterflies and bees. The Butterfly Garden was funded through a Campus Enhancement Award from the SUNY Canton Foundation, and students in Prof. Rajiv Narula’s Introduction to Environmental Science course and members of the Environmental Change Organization on campus will be responsible for its upkeep.
Continuing down the road, you’ll pass MacArthur Hall (don’t worry—we’ll stop there on the way out) and Dana Hall (which will be renovated beginning next year) and come to newly paved Parking Lot 3. If you stop there and walk over to Heritage Hall, you can see the newly renovated wing of that residence hall. It’s quite nice, and our plans are to redo one wing every year until all the residence halls have been totally refurbished.
From there, continue around the loop, enjoy the beautiful views of the Grasse River on your left, and make a right turn on Miller Drive. Go down to the end, park at Lot 13, and enter the Miller Student Center. Group to the first floor and look for one of our two newly refurbished casual dining spots—the Rendezvous in the Underground Lounge—where you can get a sandwich, pizza, salads, and many other tasty items.
Once you’ve eaten, walk upstairs to the second floor and head for Room 224, home of the College’s Ready Center, which opened last March and has offices of lots of helpful folks who would like to meet you. The Center offers students help with advising, career services, and international programs. It’s a great facility whose motto is “College Ready, Career Ready, World Ready”.
The Miller Campus Center is so nice you’ll probably want to stay for quite a while, and if you do, in Room 222, we will be opening the new Center for Diversities and Inclusion this October. The Center will be a great space for students to talk about issues related to diversity with our two new co-Chief Diversity Officers, Lashawanda Ingram and Bill Jones, as well as for small-scale events and just to hang out and learn more about the diversity that is one of our campus’ greatest assets. With the support of North Country Senator Patty Ritchie, a grant was obtained to fund the renovations for the Center. Two additional grants were obtained to support the Center—one for outreach to Native American students in the Akwesasne Nation, and one to support the Center’s programming. Many thanks to Lashawanda, Bill, Doug Scheidt, Lenore VanderZee (Executive Director for University Relations) and Courtney Bish (Vice President for Student Life) for their grant writing, planning, and support for this effort.
Now go out the front doors of the Miller Campus Center onto Roselle Plaza, and to your left you’ll see the newly refurbished Southworth Library, with its lovely windows and copper fixtures. Stop in and say congratulations to the librarians, because the library was rated #1 in all of SUNY for both resources AND services! The Cyber Café is located in the the library in case you want a cup of coffee and a dessert, and will be renovated later this year as well.
Return to the Miller Campus Center, go down to the bottom floor and back to your car, and drive around the loop staying to the right, until you get to Parking Lot 5. Walk up the ramp and go into MacArthur Hall, which we skipped before. In the unlikely event you’re still hungry, stop at the newly refurbished Roos Court (replacing the former JT’s), where they had a preview tasting this week, and I can personally attest that they look very nice and the food is quite good, with a variety of cool new offerings.
For our final stop, take the elevator up to the sixth floor, turn right, and walk toward my office in Room 616. As you walk you will see the updated Gallery of SUNY Canton Directors and Presidents. It’s pretty darned nice, and the pictures have all been reframed and appear in date order, including the interim and acting presidents who served throughout our College’s history but weren’t represented before. A huge thank you goes to the following people for their help on this project—Michaela Young (Assistant to the President), Greg Kie (Senior Media Relations Manager), Pat Hanss (Director of Physical Plant), Stan Robert (General Mechanic), The Frame Mill (Paul and Roberta Heer), and Mike’s Trophies. When you’re done seeing the gallery, come in and say “Hi”. I’ll be waiting for you.
Now that our tour is complete, go outside and do it again, walking this time, to work off all the food you ate!
Agriculture and More Agriculture
When I first came to SUNY Canton, people asked me what new programs I might want to offer at the College, and one of the things I mentioned was trying to bring agriculture back in some form. Back in the day, SUNY Canton began as a School of Agriculture, later becoming an Agricultural and Technical Institute (ATI) and then an Agricultural and Technical College (ATC), before assuming our current name and identity. Over the years, we drifted away from the agriculture area, with our current programs in Veterinary Technology being the only programs in the area we still offer. When we announced we were seeking approval to offer Agribusiness as a step back toward our “roots”, there was a lot of interest and positive comment. We have recently heard that the program was approved by SUNY—we are awaiting the final step, which is approval by the State Department of Education.
Perhaps because of this, I now find myself chairing the Agriculture Subcommittee of the St. Lawrence County Economic Development Report, as well as co-chairing the Agriculture Subcommittee of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council. This means that I meet a lot of people involved in the agriculture sector, and I’m learning a lot about agriculture in the North Country. Agriculture is a major employer in the region, and brings in a lot of revenue. The face of agriculture has changed over the past 20-30 years—it is now much more technological (the dairy industry is the biggest employer of mechatronics engineers in New York, for example), more global, farms are much larger on average, there is a big farm-to-table movement developing, there are many new environmental and tax laws that need to be addressed, and there is a huge demand for people willing to work in the field.
While meeting with some of our local farmers, I was surprised to learn that salaries are quite high even for entry-level workers with a high-school degree (some places are paying almost $15/hour now, even before the Governor’s new plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 in our region at some point after 2021), and double that with a background in agriculture and technology. The problem the farmers are facing and that we at the College are trying to help address is that they can’t get enough local graduates at either the high school or college level to work in the industry.
It’s been really interesting to learn about, and it will be even more interesting as SUNY Canton becomes more and more active in the agriculture disciplines in the future.
I travel a fair bit, so I thought it might be a good idea this summer to get one of those Global Entry cards that make it easier to go to (and come back from) other countries and also gets you an automatic TSA pre-check at the airport. In addition to filling out some paperwork, you also have to have an interview, and as it turns out, the nearest place to do that to Canton, NY is in Canada! The location is on the island between Canada and the US where I-81 crosses the St. Lawrence river. The fastest way to get there was to cross into Canada on the bridge in Ogdensburg, drive down the 401 (which is like a US interstate), and cross a toll bridge onto the island.
I did that with no problem, except I couldn’t find the building where I was scheduled for the interview. I was expecting something fairly large and imposing, like most government buildings, and there was nothing like that on the island. After a mile or so, I saw the Canadian duty free store on my right, and I knew that the border had to be soon thereafter, so I pulled in through a set of (I came to find out) one-way gates. Well, the Global Entry place wasn’t there, and when I pulled out of the parking lot onto the only way you could go, I found myself on a one-way road out of Canada. I saw a security agent walking down the road and asked him where I had gone wrong, and he told me to do a U-turn on a little road through the median, which took me right back to Canadian customs.
When it was my turn to go through, the border agent asked how long it had been since I was last in Canada, and raised his eyebrows when I said “about two minutes” and explained what had happened. He laughed (I guess I wasn’t the first person who had done this) and told me the Global Entry place was in a small shopping plaza on the right, and cautioned me not to cross the bridge—if I did, I’d have to turn around and pay the toll again. I drove cautiously back up the road, missed spotting the location again, but saw the bridge looming ahead, so I quickly pulled into the parking lot to my right and finally spotted the Global Entry office—a non-descript door with a small sign on it. Another sign was hanging in the window saying “closed until 12:30”, which was fine, since that was when my appointment was. At 12:29, the door was unlocked and I went in, whereupon they asked me some questions, took my fingerprints, and the interview was over. They said I’d get the card in an unmarked envelope in about a week.
As long as I was down there, I figured I’d check to see if there was an Indian restaurant nearby, and sure enough there was—in Gananoque, Ontario. I crossed the bridge (no toll going north) and drove the nine miles. The restaurant was on Main Street, which I figured would be the main street in town (clever me, right?), but it turns out it isn’t—the main street is King Street, with Main Street being a small road off of it that goes down to the river after you pass downtown. When I got to the restaurant, I found that it was take-out only—nowhere to sit indoors, but you could take the food (packed up to go) outside to a picnic table they had out front, so that’s what I did. After eating, the ride home was nice since I decided to take the Thousand Islands Parkway back, instead of the 401.
The first time I tried to use the card was two weeks ago, on an alumni visit to Ohio with Anne Sibley, our Vice President for Advancement. We decided to fly out of Ottawa since that offered the best connections to Columbus, so back into Canada I went over the Ogdensburg bridge. When you fly to the US from Ottawa, you go through US customs at the airport before you take off (which is a bit weird), and I had to fill out a customs form asking what I had bought in Canada (which, of course, was nothing at all). I went through the customs booth and asked if they wanted to see my passport or my Global Entry card, and they said that I could have used the card earlier in the path (which I had missed seeing), and avoided going through customs at all. OK—live and learn. We flew from Ottawa to Washington-Dulles, and from there (on the same plane, as it turns out) to Columbus, arriving at about 11:15 PM.
The alumni visits the next day went very well, meeting two delightful families—Dr. and Mrs. Kasheed Mohammed (as well as their son, Hafiz) in Columbus, and then driving down to Cincinnati to see Mr. Jim and Judy Golden. Dr. Mohammed has had a very interesting life, coming from India to the US via Trinidad. He is a fellow chemist who is the co-inventor of the liquid form of Splenda, the artificial sweetener.
Mr. Golden was involved in the development of the first set of Star Wars toys for Mattel. When I see what these toys bring today, it’s a pity I didn’t meet him way back when to buy a few sets!
We flew back from Cincinnati to Newark, and after spending about 30 minutes stuck on the plane since the jetway wouldn’t work, moved to another gate and got out just in time to make our connecting flight to Ottawa. Landing in Ottawa, I looked high and low for a place to use the Global Entry card, and once again failed to spot it. Maybe next time. At least I was in the TSA pre-check line for each flight, though the airports were quiet enough so that it only saved me a minute or two.
Articles Worth Considering
Each issue of the BLAB, I’ll try to include a link to an article that I’ve read recently that makes an interesting point that I think is worth considering. If you have an opinion about the article, positive or negative, I’d love to hear it.
Here’s this week’s article, from this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education. The author says we shouldn’t penalize students for late work. To access the article, click here.
Last Time’s Trivia Contest
Last time’s contest dealt with word that begin with the letter “i”. Our fastest responder with all five correct was Julie Cruickshank, followed by Tony Beane, Kimberly Ferree, Katie Kennedy, and Terri Clemmo. Just come to my office on the 6th floor of MacArthur Hall to get your prizes—a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository. Here are the correct answers:
- Sweet and cold summer treat. I’ll take two scoops. Ice Cream.
- House made out of ice. Igloo.
- Its capital is Jerusalem. Israel.
- Swedish store selling furniture you have to put together. IKEA.
- John Lennon song that has as its chorus: “You may say that I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one. Imagine.
This Time’s Trivia Challenge
Continuing our trek through the alphabet, this issue’s challenge is about words that begin with the letter “j”. Everyone with all five correct wins a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository, or whatever else I’ve dredged up as a prize. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO email@example.com since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them.
- It starts the year.
- Two atom bombs were dropped there to end World War II.
- Superman’s cub reporter friend.
- He started on Welcome Back Carter, and later moved on to Saturday Night Fever, Pulp Fiction, and Get Shorty.
- Dolly Parton begged her: “Please don’t take my man…Please don’t take him even though you can.”