THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 12, Issue 3–November 7, 2017
Travel Here, Travel There
I tried really hard to get an issue of the BLAB out a few weeks ago, but the past month has been super crazy in terms of travel, conferences, and other stuff, so this issue will be a bit long, and let’s just get right to it.
The month began with me driving down to Lake Placid on October 3 to welcome the state-wide Human Resources group meeting to the North Country. It has always been my experience that folks who work in HR are among the nicest people in higher education. Almost all are motivated by wanting people to be treated fairly, wanting to be helpful, and wanting their respective colleges to be successful—three excellent motivators. This group was no exception, and I enjoyed meeting a number of them and giving a welcome to the area.
Montreal, Back Home, and Montreal Again
On October 10, I drove up to Montreal to participate in the Conference of the Americas on International Education (CAIE), sponsored by EduCanada, Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan), four Montreal universities, and several other organizations.
Driving up to Montreal wasn’t too complicated—I left at 2 PM on November 10, crossed the border just north of Massena on the bridge to Cornwall, Ontario, and from there it was just taking the 401 east, which becomes Quebec Autoroute 20. When I hit the suburbs, it seemed that every highway in Montreal was under construction simultaneously, meaning lots of places where the road was reduced to a single lane and traffic was backed up and very slow. This added a bit more than an hour to the 2 hours and 15 minutes the trip should have taken with normal traffic, but all in all I got to the hotel before it got dark. The hardest part was actually figuring out what parking entrance I should take for the hotel—there were three of them side by side, the first two going to an underground mall and the third being hidden by a sculpture on the sidewalk. I checked in, and the conference began with a reception that evening on the terrace of the Palais des Congrès de Montreal—a combination shopping mall and meeting facility.
Montreal at night from the Palais de Congrès balcony
The reception and the conference were interesting in that they were held in four languages—English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Very few people were there from the U.S., but there were a lot of folks from Ontario, Quebec, Mexico, Central America, and South America. During the sessions, headphones were provided so that you could hear a translation if the speaker was speaking in a language you weren’t fluent in.
I had a chance to meet some interesting people, and there was a meeting of the non-Canadian participants with representatives of the U.S. Consulate in Montreal to discuss international issues. I gave a talk about Internationalization of Higher Education on the third day of the conference. Several of the colleges involved expressed an interest in working with SUNY Canton in various ways, which we will explore.
Montreal is always a nice city to visit and the hotel was well located—there were lots of good restaurants nearby, and it was right next to the Place des Arts and the Musée d’art contemporain. There was a very large shopping mall under the hotel, and there were many interesting sights along the St. Lawrence river nearby.
Montreal from my hotel window
When I left on Friday afternoon at 5:00 P.M., I thought the traffic was going to be a nightmare but it turned out to be just fine—no traffic jams and smooth sailing. I stopped for dinner in Massena and got home at about 8:30.
On Saturday morning, I spoke at the Admissions Open House which had a nice crowd of students there. In the afternoon, I went to an event honoring Canton’s Army Reserve Unit (the 366th) for its many achievements. I was proud to be there, and they were kind enough to give me the unit’s challenge coin. In the evening, I attended the Canton Fire Department and Rescue Squad’s Annual Appreciation Dinner, where I had the pleasure of seeing SUNY Canton’s EMS Squad win a special award. They’re a great bunch of students, faculty, and staff who do a lot to keep our community safe. In their first eight months of operation, they responded to more than 100 emergency calls and 14 event standbys. They have also worked with Colton Rescue and Tau Phi Zeta (the Vet Tech honor society) to learn pet CPR. Congratulations team!
On Sunday, it was back to Montreal for the 4th Inter-American Meeting of Technical and Technological Institutions of Higher Education (EIESTEC) conference, which was sponsored by the Inter-American Organization for Higher Education (OUI-IOHE) and the Quebec Collèges d’enseignement général et professionnel (CÉGEPs). That’s a lot of acronyms!
The CÉGEP colleges are the first step in the Quebec higher education system, consisting of essentially the 12th grade and the first two years of college. They offer two tracks—one that corresponds to liberal arts (two years in length), and one that corresponds to technology (three years in length, one of which is liberal arts). Most of the CÉGEP colleges offer programs in French, but some offer them in English as well.
I gave two talks at the conference, a PowerPoint on Best Practices in Internationalization in the Americas on Monday, and a commentary on Recognition of Acquired Competencies on Tuesday. Both went well, and drew a lot of interest in working with SUNY Canton. On Tuesday afternoon, I went on a visit to two CÉGEPs in St. Jean sur Richelieu, a place I’d visited many years earlier where by sheer luck, I had run into a major ascension of the International Hot Air Ballooning Association, which was quite spectacular. We returned to Montreal at 6:00 PM, and I hightailed it for home (again, no traffic), stopping for dinner at a nice restaurant in Cornwall.
A Few Days in Canton
Wednesday and Thursday were filled with meetings. On Wednesday, I enjoyed saying a few words and helping cut the ribbon for our newly renovated Cyber Café, located in the Southworth Library. It looks great, with both long and high tables for students to eat and use their laptops on, and will be open five nights a week from 7-10 PM for those needing a late snack. We also plan to hold small concerts and events there at night in the future. On Thursday afternoon, I spoke briefly at the Tau Phi Zeta honor society induction ceremony for new members. It’s a wonderful organization that the first national chapter of the society was started at SUNY Canton.
I had to run from there to our new Digital Design Lab open house and ribbon cutting ceremony, where I also gave a brief speech. The new lab is a great facility that will serve our new Game Design and Technological Communication degree programs, as well as our Graphics and Multimedia Design program. The room was packed with students from the College and also from the community, wanting to see our cool computers, facility, and virtual reality set up.
L-R: Doug Scheidt, Mike Newtown, Roody, me, J.D. DeLong
Niagara Falls and Those Disappearing Railroad Blues
After a quiet weekend, it was off to Niagara Falls on Monday, October 23 to speak at the SUNY 4th Annual Applied Learning Conference. Since there’s no good way to get to Niagara Falls from Canton, I drove down to Syracuse’s Amtrak station, left my car there, and took the train to Buffalo.
The station in Syracuse is convenient enough, being just off I-81 near where my father used to work, and it hosts Amtrak, Greyhound, and Trailways, as well as the local transit buses in Syracuse. There’s plenty of parking, and the station itself is a long rectangle with Amtrak on the far left side and the buses on the right. There’s a variety store and a sub shop there too.
While the station is quite functional, it’s a long way from the older art deco style New York Central train station (which itself replaced two earlier ones). Before it was built, train tracks used to go at grade level through downtown, causing considerable snarling of traffic as Syracuse grew. The tracks were then elevated, and they and the new station began service in 1936. The station was big and beautiful, three stories high, and had ten tracks to serve all the passenger and freight trains that came through.
Syracuse’s 1936 New York Central station
Things had changed by the time I was a small boy. In 1962, railroad traffic had declined considerably, and the station was closed, being too expensive to operate. The tracks were torn down (except for the one closest and the one furthest from the building, which are being restored) to make room for Interstate 690, and the trains moved to a smaller and less elaborate station at the freight yards in East Syracuse. When I was 12, my grandmother came to the U.S. from Israel, flying into NYC and taking the train up to Syracuse. I remember us picking her up at the East Syracuse station, and while waiting, visiting the newsstand and finding Marvel comics there, which I had never seen before (my local drugstore newsstand didn’t carry them). I picked up my first issue of the Fantastic Four that day, skipping over Spider-man #18, since the cover said “The End of Spider-man” and I figured if it was the last issue, why buy it? Little did I know about hype at that tender age! The East Syracuse station was replaced by the current one in 1999, which has a single track for passenger trains—the westbound ones are switched onto that track, and then off it after loading.
Back when I was in high school, I worked at the then Greyhound station in Syracuse, which occupied the bottom floor of the art-deco New York Central railroad station from 1964 to 1996. It was still quite nice, though the upper floors were sealed off. Today, the station serves as the home to Time Warner cable.
Amtrak trains are quite comfortable and pleasant for travel, but once you go west from Albany, they’re frequently delayed by freight traffic. The train I was taking actually went through to Niagara Falls and Toronto, but I was afraid it would be too late to pick up my rental car (the Niagara Falls location closed at 5PM), so I got off in Buffalo instead at Exchange Street station. The trip to Buffalo was quite nice, and went through a lot of beautiful fall scenery, arriving in Buffalo at about 4:15 PM, just a little late.
Today, Buffalo has two Amtrak stations, both puny compared to the heyday of train travel. The station in Depew (a suburb) is just a small brick square building with a fair amount of parking available. I figured the Exchange Street station would be more imposing, but it is even smaller. Buffalo’s Central Station is no longer used (though there are plans to restore it for other purposes) due to its large size and cost of operation, which is a pity because it is a smaller version of Grand Central Station in NYC and was quite beautiful in the past.
Buffalo’s Central Station, no longer in use and overgrown with weeds
Buffalo’s Central Station Interior–very similar to Grand Central Station
As it turns out, Niagara Falls has a beautiful new train station built around the old border customhouse, so I was sorry that I wound up missing it.
The attendant at the Exchange Street station didn’t know if Enterprise Rent-a-car picked up at the station, but I assured her that it did, and after about 30-minutes wait, someone finally got me and I picked up my rental car and drove to Niagara Falls. After checking in to the hotel, I drove over to a restaurant to had dinner with President Murabito from Niagara County Community College, who after which gave me a tour of NCCC’s beautiful facilities for Culinary Arts, which were only a block or two from the hotel!
The next morning, I walked over to the Conference and Event Center, which was across the street from the hotel. After a light breakfast, I was part of a panel discussion consisting of Presidents Heath (SUNY College of Optometry), Nye (Finger Lakes Community College) and me, speaking on how applied learning has been implemented on our campuses, along with opportunities and challenges. The talk was well received, and quite a few people came up to me saying how far ahead we are at SUNY Canton in this area. The conference’s keynote address was given by Dr. Amelia Parnell, VP for Research and Policy at the National Association of Student-Affairs Professional Administrators (NASPA). She gave an excellent talk on “Unlocking the Potential of Applied Learning Experiences: 5 Key Steps”. After lunch, I took a quick walk down to the Falls—I had just enough time to walk there, take a few pictures, and come back—and then got into my rental car to drive to Buffalo’s airport.
SUNY Days in DC
The flight left on time at 5:40, and I wound up sitting next to Marc Cohen, the President of the Student Assembly for SUNY and a member of the Board of Trustees. We had a nice chat on the flight, and arrived in Washington DC at 7:00 PM. I asked Marc if he wanted to split a cab with me, but quickly found out how old-fashioned I was—he used his iPhone to get a Lyft car, which arrived about a minute after we got to the pick-up zone. We were at the hotel by 7:20, where I checked in. Marc was tied up with a call and was going to skip dinner, so we went our separate ways. I texted Lenore VanderZee (SUNY Canton’s Executive Director for External Relations) to see if she wanted to go, and she had arrived just a little bit earlier, flying from Watertown to Philadelphia, and then to BWI, taking a Lyft from there. We found a nice Indian restaurant (what else?) only a few blocks away, and had a very nice meal.
The meetings began the next day, with a small get-together in the morning, followed by our going over to the Cannon House Office Building to meet with our own congresswoman, Elise Stefanik. Congresswoman Stefanik is always quite welcoming, and we had a good discussion about where SUNY Canton is going, how she and her staff might be able to help us, and about the status of various legislation (Financial Aid, DACA, etc.) that will affect higher education. She was called away for a floor vote on the Tax Bill, and we talked a bit longer with a Patrick Hester, her Senior Legislative Assistant.
L-R: Lenore VanderZee, me, and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik
After the meeting, we departed for the Senate Office Building, and joined colleagues from SUNY Farmingdale, SUNY Alfred, SUNY Maritime, and SUNY Morrisville to have a meeting with Senator Schumer’s staff, on basically the same subjects. After stopping for some coffee and to sit down a little, we then went over to the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center for an Alumni and Congressional Reception.
The reception was quite nice, and afterwards, we took another Lyft car to go to the same restaurant as the night before, since we had enjoyed it so much. This time, not only did the restaurant have excellent food once again, but it had a good jazz/R&B combo providing entertainment! What could be better?
The next morning, it was back to the Capitol Visitor’s Center for talks by several congresspersons, Senators Gillibrand and Schumer, the Chancellor, Board Chair McCall, and several others.
Chancellor Kristina Johnson
The talks finished around 1:30, so we all went back to the hotel, got our suitcases, and several of us shared a Lyft over to Reagan Airport for the flight back to Syracuse. The flight didn’t leave until 5:50, but that just gave us a chance to chat, meet up with a bunch of SUNY people (including SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum and and SUNY Morrisville President Dave Rogers) and people-watch. While sitting there, we saw Senators Lindsay Graham (South Carolina) and Rand Paul (Kentucky) walk by, and no doubt a few more that we didn’t recognize. The flight took off just a little late, and arrived in Syracuse at 7:30 PM, where I bummed a ride from President Rogers to the Syracuse Amtrak station, got my car, stopped in Watertown for a bite of dinner, and got home about 10:30.
Back Home for a Few Days…
I had a breakfast meeting the next morning (October 27) at 8:00 with our Student Government Leaders. It’s always great to meet with them and get the student perspective on things, and I told them about what we had learned in DC about some student issues. This was followed by a Campus Leadership meeting at 10:00, where V.P. of Student Affairs Courtney Bish, Director of Residence Life John Kennedy, Athletics Director Randy Sieminski, and Director of Facilities Planning Mike McCormick presented metrics and gave talks on plans for their respective areas. At noon, I attended a luncheon to thank our various Faculty Athletic Liaisons, followed by a few more meetings. The next morning, we had another Open House for students. The Band (Dan Gagliardi on vocals and bass, Lenore VanderZee on vocals and guitar, Rosemary Philips on vocals and mandolin, and me on rhythm guitar) played for about 40 minutes while people visited the various tables representing the academic programs, financial aid, student services, and student organizations. I gave my usual welcome speech, and then went home to rest for the remainder of the weekend.
One More Trip—This Time to Maine
On Monday morning (October 30) at 8:05 AM, Randy Sieminski, Courtney Bish, and Patrick Martin (Asst. Athletic Director and Compliance Director) drove to the house to pick me up for our road trip to the University of Maine at Farmington, where we were visiting the North Atlantic Conference (NAC), looking into the possibilities of membership. MapQuest said the trip should take about seven hours, and under normal circumstances, that might have been true. The night before, there had been a lot of rain in Canton, with wind gusts up to 50 mph. It was only sprinkling when we left, and the weather actually improved a bit as we neared Plattsburgh. We took the ferry over to Burlington, and the water was really choppy, but otherwise fine. The weather held across Vermont, and we stopped for lunch in St. Johnsbury at a nice restaurant. When we entered New Hampshire, we saw that they had gotten the worst of the same storm we had, with winds there reaching 80 mph. There were uprooted trees everywhere, with various trucks clearing away the debris, lots of trees being held up by leaning on power lines, and in some places, lines down and electricity out.
When we got to Gorham, NH, we had to detour north, because a small bridge on U.S. Route 2 was blocked. There are no alternative east-west roads anywhere near there, so we had to swing 45 miles north on State Route 16, through Berlin and Errol up to Rangely, ME before being able turn south again to get to Farmington, adding about 1.5 hours to the trip. While heading north, we saw more uprooted trees, though it was also quite beautiful up by the lakes, forests, and mountains of northern NH and Maine. Our hotel, fortunately, still had electricity even though half the state of Maine didn’t. When we went out to dinner that night, we had to check to make sure the restaurant had power too. The restaurant was very nice and the food was good, but the service was incredibly slow. Even though there were tables open, we had to wait a small while to be seated. It was a bit weird—waitresses came by regularly to go into a back area to get something, and some came by periodically to wipe down the tables (sometimes three different times!). It was a long while before they took our order, and by the time the food came, we were the only ones in our seating area. When we finished and left, we were the only people there except for those at the bar.
We got together to go over our presentation and have lunch, which we ate at a nice Thai restaurant near the campus, and then it was time to do the presentation for real at the college’s Student Center. The presentation went well, and the discussion afterward was promising.
On the way back home, we called to find out if U.S. 2 had reopened, and were pleased to find out that although it was only one lane at a time, the road was no longer blocked. The ride home was therefore much faster than on the way there. We saw a few trick-or-treaters out for Halloween on the way, and stopped for dinner just north of Burlington, getting some subs. The ferry ride was so smooth I didn’t even realize we were moving until we were nearly in Plattsburgh. I got dropped at home at about 9:30 PM, which wasn’t too bad. The rest of last week was filled with meetings, and that brings us right up to date!
Fortunately, there isn’t too much travel coming up in the rest of November or December. I’ll be going to the SUNY Diversity Conference in Albany from November 29-December 1, and then to New York City for a SUNY Presidents Meeting from December 13-15, but that’s it until the New Year. January will be all travel again, though.
Last Time’s Trivia Contest
Last time’s contest finished the alphabet with word that begin with the letter “Z”. Our fastest five responders with all five correct were Joseph Leroux, Joel Canino, Jennifer Church, Patrick Hanss and Christina Lesyk. Stop by my office on the 6th floor of MacArthur Hall to get your prizes—a duplicate CD from the vast Szafran repository. Others getting all five right included Doug Scheidt and Michelle Connolly.
Here are the correct answers:
- Animal that’s either black with white stripes or white with black stripes, depending on how you look at it. Zebra.
- The five-digit number you’ve had to put on letters since 1963 to help the mail move more quickly. The expanded number now has nine digits. Zip Code.
- Ruler of the Greek gods in mythology. Zeus.
- The 12 astrological signs. Zodiac.
- Rigid airship filled with hydrogen—the most famous met tragedy at Lakehurst, NJ when it blew up. Zeppelin. The one that blew up was the Hindenburg.
This Time’s Trivia Challenge
Since we’ve finally reached the end of our trek through the alphabet, this issue’s challenge will start a series about songs, this time being songs about railroads. As usual, the first five 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.
- In the children’s song, I’ve been doing it “all the live-long day”.
- Glenn Miller had a huge hit about this Tennessee train, where “Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer, than to have you ham an’ eggs in Carolina.”
- Where the Monkees told you to take the Last Train to.
- According to Count Basie and Duke Ellington, the train you take to get to Sugar Hill way up in Harlem.
- Name of the song where Simon and Garfunkel were “Sitting in a railroad station, got a ticket to my destination.”