THE ALUMNI COLLECTIVE A QUARTERLY MAGAZINE CELEBRATING 60 YEARS
LIFELONG LEGACIES Many of us have a moment, a time in our lives, to which we are easily transported by a seemingly innocuous sensation. Memories flood our minds and we go back to that feeling of contentment, excitement, comfort. Perhaps we revisit a chilly fall day at home, the air heavy with the smell of bread baking; an early morning run, the dewy grass reminding us of preseason training at the height of an athletic career; paint in an art studio; or discovering a love of literature, the light streaming through the window in the reading nook at Nana’s house. For so many in our community, that extraordinary time is SUNY Adirondack. And, thankfully, we are able to return to this place we love to work and learn. At SUNY Adirondack, we are infinitely proud of the community we nurture for our students, alumni and employees.
We focus on each individual’s needs and challenge them to become the best versions of themselves, with which they in turn contribute to the well-being of our community.
When our alumni come home to work at SUNY Adirondack, we welcome them with joy. We honor their experiences and encourage them to share the happiness they find here with their colleagues and students. Within these pages, our alumni-employees share why they return to the college, why they work here and how they are part of us, part of what makes SUNY Adirondack so much more than just desks, rooms and buildings.
VOL. 4 | SEPTEMBER 2021
MUCH LIKE THE COLLEGE COMMUNITY, SUNY ADIRONDACK ALUMNI ARE A MICROCOSM OF OUR BROADER COMMUNITY. They come in as students, searching, find themselves here, then bring their gifts out into the world as caring agents of change. In this quarterly magazine, we celebrate our alumni who go out into the world, then return to share their love of community and learning right where it all began, at SUNY Adirondack.
Chefs Digital Communicators Graphic Designers Historians Information Technologists Messengers Outdoor Enthusiasts Political Scientists Security Officers Success Coaches Support Staff ... and so much more
EMPLOYS 460 PEOPLE SUNY ADIRONDACK EMPLOYEES
52 PERCENT OF PEOPLE
TO OVER 40
25 PERCENT OF PEOPLE
TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
AN ASSOCIATE DEGREE
GIVE NEARLY 9,000 VOLUNTEER HOURS
IN OUR COMMUNITY.
WHO EARN A BACHELOR’S DEGREE ATTENDED COMMUNITY COLLEGE
WHO EARN A BACHELOR’S DEGREE
PREVIOUSLY EARNED — National Survey on College Graduates
FORTY-SIX PERCENT OF UNDERGRADUATE
STUDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES ARE ENROLLED
IN A COMMUNITY COLLEGE. DANIELLE THOMAS HOMETOWN: GRANVILLE, NEW YORK 2017 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, LIBERAL ARTS 2019 GRADUATE OF SUNY PLATTSBURGH, BACHELOR’S IN PSYCHOLOGY 2021 (ANTICIPATED) GRADUATE OF UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY, MASTER’S IN LIBRARY SCIENCE CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK LIBRARY SERVICES ASSISTANT
“I love working in a close-knit community. In 2015, I was awarded work-study my first year as a student at SUNY Adirondack. I was able to find a position in the library, which I fell in love with almost instantly.
The most rewarding thing since then is being able to help our students with their research needs. Our faculty, staff and community helped me see how this college is so valuable. The success I had here as a student and now as an employee helped me realize how proud I am to be a part of this college.”
“I love what I do. I really look forward to training students to be better than I was. The saying ‘Planting seeds and not being able to sit under the shade’ is a cool way to put it, so they can pass the knowledge on as well.”
HOMETOWN: NORTH WARREN, NEW YORK 2003 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, CULINARY ARTS 2015 GRADUATE OF SUNY OSWEGO, BACHELOR’S IN VOCATIONAL EDUCATION TEACHING CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK INSTRUCTOR OF CULINARY ARTS By the time he was 22 years old, Matt Bolton was a chef at a four-star restaurant and had earned numerous prestigious international culinary awards typically granted to graduates of the Culinary Institute of America or Johnson & Wales University. But Bolton is a proud graduate of SUNY Adirondack. “SUNY Adirondack gave me the same education, if not better,” Bolton said. “I think it definitely set me up for a lot of success in the industry.” Bolton fell in love with the restaurant industry in high school, when he took a job at Friends Lake Inn. As the North Warren graduate was looking at colleges, the chef under whom he worked convinced him to stay on and continue learning in the kitchen while attending SUNY Adirondack. At the time, the college’s culinary program was so small, it shared a workspace with the cafeteria staff. “I really liked the small, tight-knit classes,” Bolton remembered. “We had the same students in the same classes, all the way up until we graduated, which was really nice, that’s how you form bonds and friendships. I was comfortable.”
And he thrived under the guidance of Chef Bill Steele — a “great mentor,” Bolton said — under whom he was awarded the college’s Parnassus Award/Culinary Arts. Bolton graduated and continued working at Friends Lake Inn, never considering a career doing anything else. But in 2012, Steele called: SUNY Adirondack was expanding its culinary program into a building on Bay Road and wanted Bolton to sign on as an adjunct professor to help run it. “I really had no inkling at all to be an educator,” he said. “I always took local high school kids and gave them a job at Friends Lake Inn, but that was three or four at a time, not 60 to 70 students at a clip.” But when Steele said he planned to retire a few years later, Bolton enrolled at SUNY Oswego, from which he earned a vocational education teaching degree. He is now a full-time instructor of Culinary Arts at SUNY Adirondack and played an integral role in the program’s successful transition to its downtown Glens Falls hands-on culinary facility, Seasoned.
“That move really opened the program up for a lot more changes,” he said. “We saw a huge increase in enrollment and, now that we have Seasoned, we are a public fixture in the community.” Since Seasoned’s inception, Bolton has helped forge relationships with regional farmers and vendors, from whom the food prepared at the restaurant is provided. He also signs the restaurant — and his students — up for every event he can.
“Our culinary program was always a hidden gem,” he said, “but now it’s out in the open.” The program’s reputation extends far beyond the region, too. “When I first started it was, ‘Oh, it’s a community college,’” Bolton said. “But we changed their perspective; now a really good percentage of people realize it’s a high-quality education, especially in culinary.” For the price, Bolton said, there isn’t a better value. “We’re one of the best tuitions in the state and you get as good, if not a better, education than at any of the big-name schools.”
“I needed something more and SUNY Adirondack really provided that for me.”
Phoebe Wells believes life is made up of little defining moments and, for her, those fleeting instances started at SUNY Adirondack. The Corinth native was a junior in high school when
she tagged along with her mom, a longtime educator, to drop off some paperwork at the college. “We were talking about what I wanted to do when I grew up, looking at different options for extracurricular activities, and she
just happened to mention her friend in high school did her senior year at what was then ACC,” Wells recalled. “It was one of those moments when something happens in your life that really resonates with you. I latched on to it.”
Wells applied, spoke to her guidance counselor and within a month was sitting in the SUNY Adirondack Registrar’s Office. “I needed something more and SUNY Adirondack really provided that for
HOMETOWN: CORINTH, NEW YORK 2013 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, LIBERAL ARTS 2015 GRADUATE OF COLLEGE OF THE SAINT ROSE, BACHELOR’S IN COMMUNICATIONS WITH CONCENTRATION IN PUBLIC RELATIONS AND ADVERTISING CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF ENROLLMENT COMMUNICATIONS me,” she said. “It really prepared me for the next step in life.” She attended the college her entire senior year of high school, graduated, then attended classes for a year before transferring to The College of Saint Rose, from which she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications. “The professors at SUNY Adirondack and the material here were on par with those at Saint Rose,” Wells said. “I said that before I worked here and I will continue to say that.” While attending Saint Rose, Wells took an internship at iHeartRadio, where she was able to experience the communications lessons that captivated her in SUNY Adirondack classes.
“I remember sitting in Kevin Ankeny’s Intro to Mass Media class, and it was the first class that I was like, ‘Oh, this is something I’m really into,’” she said. “It was one of those moments, ‘This is the path I’m going down and it’s the right path for me.’” After earning a bachelor’s degree, Wells worked in a few communications-related jobs and eventually returned to iHeartRadio. “COVID hit and I evaluated my life and looked at what options there were for me to stay in radio, and I didn’t like the outlook. I really like this area and didn’t want to have to move to a city,” she said. “COVID just put into perspective what I wanted out of life.” She started a job search and when she saw the assistant director of
Enrollment Communications position listed at SUNY Adirondack, she knew it was right. “Again, one of those moments: ‘This is where I need to be and this is what I need to do.’ I believe certain things in life, you just know are right for you,” she said. “That’s what I felt for this position because I hold so much respect for this college and the education I received here — and not just the real education, but real-life skills. “Making that decision to come here my senior year of high school, it changed the trajectory of my life. Being a teenager is hard and when you’re a teenager who hasn’t found yourself yet and you go to a small school, well I knew I needed to do something different, and SUNY Adirondack was just that perfect fit for me.”
HOMETOWN: SOUTH GLENS FALLS, NEW YORK 2014 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, LIBERAL ARTS, HUMANITIES & SOCIAL SCIENCES 2017 GRADUATE OF MARIST COLLEGE, BACHELOR’S IN COMMUNICATIONS CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK ENROLLMENT TECHNOLOGY SPECIALIST “Once I started working here, I realized the human aspect of the college. Yes, my position is very numbers and data driven, but the relationship side of a community college cannot be duplicated at a higher level. It’s one of the best things about SUNY Adirondack.”
“I didn’t realize quite how much SUNY Adirondack was providing until I went to a four-year college.”
HOMETOWN: WHITEHALL, NEW YORK 2014 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, MEDIA ARTS 2018 GRADUATE OF ROCKY MOUNTAIN COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN, BACHELOR’S IN GRAPHIC DESIGN CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK MEDIA ARTS PROGRAM ASSISTANT Jessika Erickson spent a decade working a series of retail jobs, until the day she decided she had enough. “I remember being in the mind-set that I was stuck,” she said. “I worked a lot of minimum-wage retail jobs and I was, at that point, very much over it. I was tired of the retail environment, but felt that was all I was qualified to do.” She enrolled at SUNY Adirondack, unsure of what she wanted to do but hoping her love of photography would lead somewhere. “I picked Media Arts because of the photography aspect, something that always appealed to me,” she remembered. Erickson earned an associate degree, then transferred to Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, from which she earned a bachelor’s degree.
Today, she is the Media Arts program assistant at SUNY Adirondack, overseeing labs, lab assistants and the lending library; maintaining equipment; ordering supplies; and handling some clerical work. She loves her job because she gets to interact with students; express herself creatively designing signs and developing branding; and help students learn to use the extensive technology SUNY Adirondack offers to achieve their goals.
“That’s the thing I love the most: helping the student and seeing the gleam in their eyes when they really make something and it’s not just theoretical on the screen,” she said.
Discovering that passion after years of being unhappy with work is a gift, she knows. Erickson attended college straight out of high school and didn’t do well. “I wasn’t in a mature mind-set,” she said. “I didn’t get a lot of out it, barely went to class and wasted the opportunity.” In the decade between leaving college and starting at SUNY Adirondack, she said she grew up and learned a lot about herself. “I was determined going to SUNY Adirondack wasn’t going to be a wasted opportunity because I was conscious of my privilege of coming back to school and being able to do that, where before it was given to me,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I had ownership of that choice, but at 28 I did and I wanted to make a change in my life.”
HOMETOWN: GLENS FALLS, NEW YORK 2001 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, LIBERAL ARTS 2003 GRADUATE OF FASHION INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, BACHELOR’S IN FASHION DESIGN WORKING ON MASTER OF FINE ARTS DEGREE, VERMONT COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF MEDIA ARTS “I didn’t even really consider anywhere else. I was 17 and knew I wasn’t really ready to go anywhere. From a cost perspective, SUNY Adirondack just made so much sense.”
“The college that at first didn’t accept my application ended up going on to award me a bachelor’s, a master’s and a Ph.D., and all because I was able to start my education at SUNY Adirondack.”
HOMETOWN: GLENS FALLS, NEW YORK 2010 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, LIBERAL ARTS 2012 GRADUATE OF UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY, BACHELOR’S IN HISTORY 2015 GRADUATE OF UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY, MASTER’S IN HISTORY 2020 GRADUATE OF UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY, DOCTORATE IN HISTORY CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK INSTRUCTOR OF EUROPEAN HISTORY Evan Sullivan applied to University at Albany and was rejected, so the Glens Falls High School graduate decided to take a few courses at SUNY Adirondack. “Part of it was my bad grades not enabling me to get into a four-year university and part of it was I wanted to stay close to home and not have a to pay a huge amount of money to get my general education out of the way,” he said, explaining his decision to attend SUNY Adirondack. “I was way too undecided to commit to going to a four-year school without knowing what I wanted to do.” He enjoyed political science classes, but an internship in a congressman’s office quickly convinced him he wasn’t interested in a career in politics. He narrowed his focus to history and education, then transferred to a bachelor’s program at The College of Saint Rose. “I pretty quickly realized I didn’t want to do that either,” he remembered.
“My interest was more centered on doing upper-level history courses and getting really deep into the topics.” A perusal of a University at Albany course catalog excited him, so he transferred. There, he poured himself into history, earning a bachelor’s degree, then a master’s and, in May 2020, a doctorate. “The college that at first didn’t accept my application ended up going on to award me a bachelor’s, a master’s and a Ph.D., and all because I was able to go to Adirondack and start my education there,” he said. Sullivan returned to SUNY Adirondack to take classes in German as a language requirement for graduate school. At SUNY Adirondack, the atmosphere was relaxed, giving him space to explore his interests. “It really helped me go out of my comfort zone and experience different types of classes, which helped me grow and be able to hone my passion.”
While at SUNY Adirondack, Sullivan more than once thought how amazing it would be to earn a doctorate and return as a professor. “I’d love that, and it just so happened the job opened up when I was pretty close to finishing my degree,” said Sullivan, who is now an instructor of European history at the college. “Sometimes I have to pinch myself,” Sullivan admitted. “I spent how many years sitting down and reading books about all these different aspects of history, and I thought it was so cool that in grad school, I got paid to read and write, and now I get paid to share this passion I have. I absolutely love it.”
HOMETOWN: QUEENSBURY, NEW YORK 2010 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, LIBERAL ARTS 2012 GRADUATE OF UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY, ENGLISH CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK ADJUNCT PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH “I have an affinity for SUNY Adirondack. It took me five years to earn an associate degree as a part-time student working full time. I was thrilled for the opportunity to return as a part of our positive network to provide the same support I received.”
“I’ve never really lost touch with SUNY Adirondack, because I had friendly relationships with past professors, we’d hang out and catch up and it’s really great to see that. I don’t think you could get that at a big four-year school. Not everybody can have that experience, but here, I think you could.”
Nick Kosby had a good job he liked, but he wanted some room to grow. After working in information technology for Stewart’s Shops for a few years, Kosby decided to return to college. “I felt like to expand within the company, I wanted to go back to college and learn about IT networking,” Kosby said.
He attended SUNY Adirondack straight out of high school, earning an associate degree in Media Arts, then completed a bachelor’s degree in photography from Burlington College. But his day-to-day work at Stewart’s was trouble-shooting technology issues for the regional network of convenience stores.
He knew immediately that SUNY Adirondack was the right fit. “I had a great experience there, they had the program I was looking for and, as a returning adult, I wanted a class to take seriously,” he said. “I knew the quality of classes would be there.”
HOMETOWN: WHITEHALL, NEW YORK 2010 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, MEDIA ARTS 2012 GRADUATE OF BURLINGTON COLLEGE, BACHELOR’S IN PHOTOGRAPHY 2015 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: COMPUTER NETWORKING CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK INSTRUCTOR OF IT NETWORKING Kosby wasn’t disappointed. When he finished his Information Technology: Computer Networking degree — centered on the Cisco Networking Academy curriculum — he was overqualified for the position on which he had set his sights. “I had more knowledge than I needed to work,” he said. While he waited for a position to challenge him to become available, he saw that SUNY Adirondack was hiring an instructor in its technology department. “I knew I always liked teaching people in a low-key way, helping them out with computers, but I never thought I’d be a teacher,” Kosby admitted. “But it has been great so far.” What he first liked about working in IT — problem solving — keeps him excited about teaching, without the
monotony of facing the same issues every day. “I get to use my head, even in onthe-spot decision-making if a lesson doesn’t go the way you want it to,” he said. “My office job was the same every day: After a year or two, I got to know these problems and they just weren’t a challenge for me. Here, the material is the same, but the students and how they learn are always different: You can’t just teach something black and white; there will always be gray that people aren’t going to understand.” The self-described lifelong lover of learning is constantly expanding his knowledge, studying the latest in technology to stay on top of his game. “I think it’s exciting connecting the whole world through wires and radio waves,” he said.
And he loves how SUNY Adirondack has connected the stages of his life, first as a traditional student, then as an adult learner and now as an instructor.
“The college isn’t just a college. It’s a community hub, too. The students are from all walks of life in the community, at different stages in life,” Kosby said. “Getting to experience that, to be part of that and experience it too on the other side of the desk is interesting. SUNY Adirondack has been a staple in my life.”
HOMETOWN: GLENS FALLS, NEW YORK 2002 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, DATA PROCESSING 2012 GRADUATE OF FRANKLIN UNIVERSITY, BACHELOR’S IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY CURENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK DIRECTOR OF ENTERPRISE APPLICATIONS, IT SERVICES “Coming from a modest-income family and not necessarily being the best student, SUNY Adirondack gave me the opportunity to explore and discover higher education at a highly reasonable cost. When I interviewed (for this job), I hadn’t been on campus for years. The landscaping, the newer buildings and the buzz of campus life was a huge factor in my coming on board — it was an indication the institution is willing to invest and grow for the benefit of the community.”
“Everything in life is about networking. SUNY Adirondack’s StartUp ADK has the people to hook up with for your business — the people who come in want to help and they are there to teach what they’ve learned and to share their contacts. It’s an amazing program.”
1991 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, MECHANICAL TECHNOLOGY 2019 GRADUATE OF STARTUP ADK CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK MESSENGER
When Laura Baker’s then18-year-old son said he wanted to start his own contracting business, she signed him up for SUNY Adirondack’s StartUp ADK. “I was hoping he’d see how much work and paperwork it is, all the things you have to do and it would discourage him,” she said. “I think running a company is a big responsibility for anyone, especially an 18-year-old.” Instead, the course, which she attended with him — “I told him, ‘I want to have the same knowledge, in case you have questions,’” she explained — steeled his determination. “It only encouraged him,” she laughed. “They literally lay out everything for a business.”
StartUp ADK featured a series of speakers discussing various aspects of entrepreneurship — insurance, marketing, resources for small businesses and accounting, among others. “I cannot believe what they pack into a two-hour course once a week,” Baker said. “If you didn’t learn it in that classroom, you had all the resources you’d need to reach out to — most of them free.” Today, using tools left to him by his late father, 20-year-old Jonathan Baker is running a successful contracting firm, with two employees on payroll and a growing list of satisfied customers. “It’s a big responsibility to say, ‘I’m going to be my own boss,’” Baker said of her youngest son. “I made sure he had the tools to know where to turn. StartUp ADK is an amazing program.”
Baker knew anything the college offered would not disappoint. Her love story with the college started years earlier, when she met the man who would become her husband in class in 1989. “We were a couple within six weeks and married within two years,” she said. “We had the same interests, took the same classes, had the same dreams and ethics — it was a friendship that turned to love.” Baker’s husband passed away a few years ago, but her love lives on, in part through their connection to SUNY Adirondack, where she serves as messenger. “I would work four jobs to keep working at SUNY Adirondack,” she said. “I love every part of SUNY Adirondack.”
“The faculty at SUNY Adirondack have a lot of outside knowledge. They’re there not because they have to be, but because they want to be and want to teach what they love and that’s really cool.”
HOMETOWN: BALLSTON SPA, NEW YORK 2015 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, OUTDOOR EDUCATION 2017 GRADUATE OF PLYMOUTH STATE UNIVERSITY, BACHELOR’S IN ADVENTURE EDUCATION CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, ENTREPRENEUR During long backpacking trips, SUNY Adirondack Outdoor Education professor Mike DeFilippo has a habit of issuing each of his students a trail name. On one particular trek into the great outdoors, he dubbed a 20-year military veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan “Colgate” because he always had a smile on his face. After the trip, the student texted him, thanking him. “He said that his whole life, he was never known as a happy person, never really got into stuff and was always off to the side,” DeFilippo recalled. “But he found his ‘thing’ on the trail.” “That’s why I love what I do: You can actually change things, you don’t need to have a lab coat or a doctor’s office to make people’s lives better,” DeFilippo said. DeFilippo grew up in a business-savvy family, but when he graduated high school, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. “The only thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to waste money,” he said. He enrolled at SUNY Adirondack and met with his advisor. As she listed off programs offered at SUNY Adirondack, he jumped at what sounded good.
“She said, ‘Adventure sports,’ and I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I am really outdoorsy,” DeFilippo said. “I ended up loving the program.” “SUNY Adirondack is a phenomenal school,” he said. “I never understood with my friends, they take all these advanced classes at big schools and the credits don’t transfer.” DeFilippo earned an associate degree, transferred his credits to Plymouth State University in New Hampshire and earned a bachelor’s degree in adventure education. He returned to Ballston Spa after graduation, and started managing two family businesses. Within a few months, SUNY Adirondack needed someone to teach some Outdoor Education courses and DeFilippo jumped at the opportunity.
“I love it. There’s no better feeling than taking someone who has never seen the sky without street lights and teaching them to read a map in the classroom, to seeing them on Day 4 on a backpack trip, and they have such a transition,” he said.
“There’s such a reward in having a student who has no experience and they’re shy and you’re teaching them to poop in the woods and they’re cooking over a fire when they don’t even know how to cook for themselves at home.” DeFilippo loves that his job keeps him doing what he loves. He manages an ice cream stand and a restaurant; owns property in Jay in the High Peaks, where he loves to hike and ski; and owns and manages seven rental properties. So leisure time is pretty limited. “This really helps me pursue my passion of being outdoors and not stuck in kitchens all the time or in my administrative office,” he said. “I’m someone who makes the best of every opportunity,” he said, “and SUNY Adirondack has everything you could ever hope and dream for.”
MIKE LEADS A TEAM-BUILDING EXERCISE ON CAMPUS IN 2014.
“I’m a community college student, I am a product of SUNY Adirondack — and I did it as an older student with two kids in tow. I think when students see that, that they can do it, I see that in their eyes, when they realize, ‘I can do this, I can find a new path, forge forward, perhaps change my own life by going through and doing this education.’”
When Wendy Johnston attended SUNY Adirondack as an adult learner and mother of two, she had professors who challenged her to think critically and nurtured her inquisitive nature. “Any time you have an instructor or professor who is so very passionate about what they do can ignite that spark in you,” said Johnston, who grew up in Whitehall, and moved
at age 10 to Long Island, where she graduated high school and started college. She returned to the region after finances prevented her from finishing college. Then, she married, had children and became what she describes as a “super volunteer.” “It was not until 13 years later that I drove on to SUNY Adirondack’s campus the week before Spring semester
was supposed to start in 2002,” she said. “I enrolled in one class, to just dip my toe in, but one class led to full time, then a bachelor’s degree, then grad school. I came back as faculty in 2008.” Johnston earned an associate degree in Liberal Arts Humanities & Social Sciences with a concentration in English from SUNY Adirondack, a bachelor’s degree with distinction in
HOMETOWN: WHITEHALL, NEW YORK 2006 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, LIBERAL ARTS HUMANITIES & SOCIAL SCIENCE WITH A CONCENTRATION IN ENGLISH 2006 GRADUATE OF COLLEGE OF ST. JOSEPH’S, BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN ENGLISH WITH A MINOR IN POLITICAL SCIENCE 2008 GRADUATE OF UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY, MASTER’S DEGREE IN POLITICAL SCIENCE CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE English with a minor in political science from the now-defunct College of St. Joseph’s, and a master’s degree in political science from University at Albany.
the stage,” Johnston said. “It’s more a collaboration and partnership, and guiding them to think about the material and question the material and become those critical thinkers.”
“It seemed like a leap going from English to political science, but the more I thought about it, most of the work and things I looked at as an English major had a political bend to it,” she said, noting that her capstone paper was about the democratic principles of Walt Whitman. “It was a good marriage, as politics was always my interest.”
That was more of a struggle during the pandemic. “There’s an energy, you walk in to a classroom and there’s a low-level buzz between the students. You hear some really good conversations and for me, that’s what’s missing. We’re seeing each other, technically, face to face, but what’s missing is that kind of buzz and energy. I don’t want to say it’s less personal, but it’s nowhere near as energized,” she said.
That was encouraged by professors she had in English and political science at SUNY Adirondack, in turn affecting how she teaches. “Inspiration comes from everywhere and teaching is inspired by the teachers of the past,” she said. In the classroom, she said it’s important for her students to see her as human. “We’re not the sage on
The same cannot be said about Johnston, who despite being past her PTA and Girl Scout leader years, can still be considered a super volunteer. She has earned Chancellor’s and President’s awards for excellence in faculty service; serves as a delegate representative and is vice presi-
dent-elect to the Faculty Council of Community Colleges, a SUNY-based group; has served multiple roles in campus shared governance, including chair and vice chair; advisor to Student Senate; and completed a Lumen Circle Fellowship and received a Lumen Circle’s Certificate of Effective Teaching Practice.
“I certainly believe in civic engagement and that starts in your community and SUNY Adirondack is my work community and my broader community,” she said. “I teach political science and I’m constantly telling my students to get involved as part of civic participation in democracy. If I’m going to try to instill that in my students, in my mind, I have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”
“I think a lot of people think to go to college, it has to be a big name, but you get as good of an education here and you can move on without much debt.”
HOMETOWN: QUEENSBURY, NEW YORK 2016 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, CRIMINAL JUSTICE 2018 GRADUATE OF SUNY PLATTSBURGH, BACHELOR’S IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK CAMPUS SECURITY OFFICER As Meghan Dugan patrols SUNY Adirondack’s Residence Hall, she greets students by name, chatting with them about their
community college is always looked over, but I got the same education and all my credits were accepted when I transferred.”
classes, professors and plans for the weekend. As part of the college’s security team, she has a vested interest in the well-being of the student body. And, as an alumna of the college, she can relate to their experiences.
By the time she finished her associate degree at SUNY Adirondack, she was ready to move away and chose to live on campus at SUNY Plattsburgh.
“Getting to know the students is my favorite part of the job,” said Dugan, who earned an associate degree in Criminal Justice from SUNY Adirondack, then a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Plattsburgh. “It’s not even just the job of being security; it’s nice to be able to get to know the students on a more personal level, so we have respect for each other.” Dugan was only 17 when she graduated from high school and, while she knew she wanted to study criminal justice, she wasn’t quite ready to leave home. “SUNY Adirondack was definitely a good option,” she said. “I feel like
“I really liked living in the dorms,” she said. “It helped push me out of my typical boundaries.” The confidence she gained helps in her role as a security officer, her first job in the field. “This is a good starting place,” she said. “This job is helping me prepare for the future.” Security team members include retired corrections officers, a former police chief and people with years of security experience in other industries. “I learn a lot from them,” she said. She also credits her time at SUNY Adirondack for preparing her for success in this role, and in what she plans for the future: working as a court officer or probation officer.
The extensive writing required in English courses helps in the reports she writes daily and presentations to classes makes it easy for her to talk to anyone. The personal attention she received was important to her growth as a student and person.
“Every professor I had, I was able to go to them and have a conversation and they really got to know me as a person,” she said. “SUNY Adirondack is more personalized to you and that’s a lot more helpful than being in a class of 60-plus students where no one acknowledges you or gets to know you.”
“When I graduated from SUNY Adirondack in 2018, I was sad, I can’t lie. I wasn’t sad I was graduating, but I thought I’d never see the people who really helped me to get where I’m at today. You see those professors and staff members who put time into you. I had a lot of mentorship, I’m indebted for life to SUNY Adirondack, they saw who I was as a person.”
Student Success Coaches
HOMETOWN: SOUTH BRONX, NEW YORK 2018 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION 2020 GRADUATE OF SUNY POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE, BACHELOR’S IN BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION AND MANAGEMENT CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK RESIDENTIAL STUDENT SUCCESS COACH Jac’Quan Thompson doesn’t like cold weather, so he decided to attend SUNY Adirondack. The South Bronx native considered two colleges — SUNY ADK and Clinton Community College — but the lake-effect wind that rocks the cliffside Lake Champlain campus convinced him Queensbury would suit him just fine. “Nobody in my high school ever went to SUNY Adirondack, so they had no information about SUNY Adirondack. But I saw that and Clinton Community College and, well, I’m not a winter person,” Thompson said. Proximity to area attractions and businesses was part of the draw, but once he moved to campus, he fell in love with so much more than the vistas and wing night specials downtown. “Since day one, everyone I’ve met has been nice and everyone is helpful,” said Thompson, who earned an associate degree at SUNY Adirondack, transferred to SUNY Polytechnic, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree, and is now a residential student success coach on the SUNY ADK campus. “I love being back here and making an impact on the students,” he said. His experience as a student was packed with life lessons. “I was going through my first semester thinking, ‘Everything is going to be great,’ telling my mom, ‘I’m doing amazing,’ and I was really confident I was going to
come home with something to show,” he remembered. When grades were released, that confidence evaporated. “I was on academic probation. I had to recheck those syllabi and take a reality check. I grew up in the South Bronx, in the worst spot in the projects,” he said. “I didn’t come up here to not make it. I knew I had to make a change.” The student-athlete — a basketball player for the Timberwolves — started writing goals on the wall of his Residence Hall room. “I ended up doing everything I set out to do,” he said. Participating in the Free Enterprise Competition as a member of the SUNY Adirondack team helped Thompson more clearly see what he wanted. As one of three students representing the college at the annual event, Thompson helped develop a concept for a new product at McDonald’s. “We had to create a new menu item for millennials; they didn’t have any criteria, just said, ‘Figure things out.’ I’m a first-generation student with a 0.7 GPA, then the people I’m with, they’re doing great with school, one was into acting and I was just like, ‘Wow, business isn’t even his major, he’s just here for a good time,’” Thompson recalled. “It was probably the most fun experience,” he said. “You know when you’re paired up with a great team
and you flow so great and everyone is putting in the work and the great ideas are flowing and it seems like you can’t go wrong that day?” The SUNY Adirondack team presented its plan for sweet potato hash browns and took first place in the competition. “That was my best college highlight, a turning-point moment,” Thompson said. “Driving home, my head was filled with thoughts that I just need more of this, this is just the beginning.” “You grow up a certain way and when you leave, you leave with those same habits,” he said. “It’s not until you’re in a different area that you realize you need to make a change to get better. Freshman year was a roller coaster, but I’m glad I finished on top of the ride.” Now, he uses his hard-earned success to help SUNY Adirondack students. “I feel like all these students need is to believe in themselves and that belief is going to come in the weirdest ways,” Thompson said.
“I like making an impact on the students who are going through what I was. Helping them create their futures and seeing their faces when they see something they worked hard for come through, it makes you proud.”
“As soon as I got here for a campus visit, it felt like home.”
Student Success Coaches
HOMETOWN: MARGARETVILLE, NEW YORK 2017 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, BUSINESS 2019 GRADUATE OF PAUL SMITH’S COLLEGE, ENTREPRENEURSHIP MANAGEMENT CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK RESIDENTIAL STUDENT SUCCESS COACH The one who got away, the missed flight, the happenstance meeting that changes a life. Endless songs and romantic comedies have capitalized on the butterfly effect, but such an occurrence — or, rather, non-occurrence — changed the trajectory of Gabby Fronckowiak’s life. Her first few months at SUNY Adirondack, Fronckowiak traveled to her hometown of Margaretville — two and a half hours each way — every weekend. “I finally stayed here for one weekend, got to talk to and really connect with my roommate — we just clicked immediately,” Fronckowiak remembered. “She’s still my best friend, to this day; she’s like family now.” That weekend another student convinced Fronckowiak to attend a club fair on campus. “From there, I loved my college experience,” gushed Fronckowiak, a residential student success coach at SUNY Adirondack. “If I hadn’t stayed that weekend, I definitely wouldn’t have stayed at SUNY Adirondack.” She went on to become a resident assistant, treasurer of the College Activity Board, vice president of the Residence Hall Association and an orientation leader in the summer. “I fell in love with higher education. I think the RA position is really what opened
up my mind. My sister and I were the first in our family to attend college, so I liked being able to relate to students on my floor who struggled.” Fronckowiak studied business, then transferred to Paul Smith’s College, from which she earned a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship. But she knew something didn’t quite fit. “I still knew business wasn’t what I wanted, but I was like, ‘I went to school for this, I have to do something that fits,’” she said. She took a job at Twin Farms in Barnard, Vermont, a gorgeous location she described as “amazing” with “celebrities visiting all the time.” “After one summer, I dead-set knew hospitality wasn’t for me,” she said. Her alma mater, Paul Smith’s, was hiring an admissions counselor and recruiter for the West Coast, so Fronckowiak applied and was hired. “I absolutely loved it, I loved traveling and meeting students, attending different higher-ed events.” When the COVID pandemic hit, though, travel slowed to a halt and she realized she didn’t want to live in the North Country forever. “I was coming down to Glens Falls every weekend,” she said. “I knew when I started at Paul Smith’s that SUNY Adirondack was what I wanted.”
When an academic success coach position opened, she applied and returned home. Now, she helps students through some of the challenges she faced as a first-year student. “I didn’t struggle academically, but I did struggle being away from home, making friends and making campus home.” Along with colleague Jac’Quan Thompson, she loves how relatable they are to students. “We’re not paid to tell people we love this school, but we genuinely do love it,” she said. “We both transferred to great schools, but we haven’t held on to those relationships the way we did to the ones we formed here.”
“When students send me an email saying, ‘I’m completely lost, I have no parental help, I don’t know what I need to do,’ I walk them through it and say, ‘I’ve been there, I’m here to help and hold your hand if you need it,’” Fronckowiak said. “I love building this community.”
“I hope my kids look back and can say, ‘Wow, she did it.’”
HOMETOWN: SOUTH GLENS FALLS, NEW YORK 2006 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, LIBERAL ARTS CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK SECRETARY, ENROLLMENT & STUDENT AFFAIRS When a new employee was hired for a temporary position on campus, the department supervisor introduced her to Kim Palmer. After a brief visit, the newbie and supervisor closed the door to the Enrollment & Student Affairs office where Palmer is secretary and, as they walked down the corridor, he told her, “If you need anything, Kim either knows the answer or how to get it.” That vast knowledge, which covers a wide array of subjects, was earned throughout a more than 30-year relationship with the college. “I’ve enjoyed being in and out of different offices,” said Palmer, who was originally hired in the Office of Continuing Education and has since worked in Counseling, Human Resources, Admissions, the Registrar’s Office, Advisement and Testing, and Student Activities, as well as her current post. “I feel like I’ve learned a little about a lot of stuff.” When Palmer graduated from South Glens Falls High School in 1984, college wasn’t on her radar. After working odd jobs for a few years, she thought she wanted to study radiology at Glens Falls Hospital, so she enrolled in math and science courses at SUNY Adirondack to prepare. “I took those two and decided, ‘No, I don’t want to do that,’” she remembered.
Instead, she worked as a secretary at Finch Paper and, in 1990, sat for a senior typist exam through Civil Service. She was eventually hired in SUNY Adirondack’s Continuing Education office. “I found out that as an employee, I could take classes,” she said. ”I was newly married, we had no kids, so I enrolled part time.” Throughout the years, Palmer left the college to raise her children — a daughter and a son, now ages 26 and 21, respectively. But each time she was ready to return to work, she sought a job at SUNY Adirondack. “I just always liked it, there was something that drew me in,” she said. The last time she returned to SUNY Adirondack as an employee, in 2000, was for good. And, she continued pecking away at a degree, too. In 2006 — nearly 20 years after taking those first math and science courses — Palmer graduated.
“It was my story, being an adult student and trying to balance everything.” Palmer’s daughter also attended SUNY Adirondack, first earning a degree in liberal arts, then after working for a few years and realizing she wasn’t passionate about her work, another in nursing. Throughout her career, Palmer has made many good friends on campus, some of whom have retired or left the college. “I can retire next year. I don’t want to go anywhere else. I like what I do, the office I am in and the people I work with. I am now nearing the end. It will be a bittersweet decision when the time comes.”
“It was a personal goal,” she said. “I wasn’t doing it for any reason other than, ‘I’m going to have a degree.’”
Her journey, though, inspired others, and she was nominated and selected to be commencement speaker that year. KIM AWARDED HER DAUGHTER, MARISSA, A SUNY ADIRONDACK DIPLOMA IN 2016.
“By being a part of the college on the employee level, I can help make students feel as comfortable and safe as I felt while attending SUNY Adirondack. I wanted to work somewhere that was like a close-knit community and SUNY Adirondack checked that box for me. I was proud to be a Timberwolf as a student and I'm extremely proud to be a Timberwolf as an employee and community member.”
make the most difference in peoples' lives. We catch those people who aren't prepared for college or don't feel they are capable enough. Their experiences on our campus can either be the gateway to education or the last stop.”
“I love when that light bulb goes off, when I know I made that connection. When a student comes up to me after class or emails or text and it might be the most quiet student ever, and they say, ‘I want to change my major’ or ‘Now I know what I want to do.’ When they’ve been trying to find their way the whole time they’ve been with us, and I must have said or done something that changed that. … Those kinds of things to me are tremendous, better than any paycheck; that is my paycheck.”
continue my education. I was shy as a teenager and the smaller classes and tight-knit campus was a better environment for me. The college is important because it provides the best opportunities for students to start their journeys and grow as individuals before moving to large colleges where they may be lost in their first years without some experience in a college environment first.”
HOMETOWN: NORTH CREEK, NEW YORK HOMETOWN: BAKERS MILLS, NEW YORK 2002 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, 2005 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, COMMUNICATIONS & MEDIA ARTS BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION 2007 GRADUATE OF UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY, 2005 GRADUATE OF SUNY PLATTSBURGH, BACHELOR’S IN ACCOUNTING AND BUSINESS BACHELOR’S IN PSYCHOLOGY ADMINISTRATION WITH A CONCENTRATION IN 2016 GRADUATE OF MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY, FINANCIAL ANALYSIS MASTER’S IN COUNSELOR EDUCATION WITH AN 2008 GRADUATE OF UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY, EMPHASIS IN STUDENT AFFAIRS MASTER’S IN PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNTANCY CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK COLLEGE CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK FINANCIAL SERVICES ACCESS COORDINATOR STAFF ACCOUNTANT “I see community college as the place where you can
HOMETOWN: QUEENSBURY, NEW YORK 1990 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, KELLI HATIN BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION HOMETOWN: QUEENSBURY, NEW YORK 2007 GRADUATE OF SUNY EMPIRE STATE COLLEGE, 1992 GRADUATE OF SUNY ADIRONDACK, BACHELOR’S IN BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION 2014 GRADUATE OF SUNY PLATTSBURGH, 1994 GRADUATE OF SIENA COLLEGE, MASTER’S IN LEADERSHIP BACHELOR’S IN MARKETING AND MANAGEMENT DOCTORAL CANDIDATE OF NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY, 2005 GRADUATE OF WALDEN UNIVERSITY, DOCTORATE IN HIGHER EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK 2016 GRADUATE OF CAPELLA, DOCTORAL DEGREE STUDENT SUCCESS ADVISOR CURRENTLY: SUNY ADIRONDACK PROFESSOR OF BUSINESS “SUNY Adirondack was the best place for me to
Whoever first said, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” isn’t clear — it is as often attributed to Mark Twain as it is to Marc Anthony and even Confucius — but there remains great merit in the message. At SUNY Adirondack, we work hard and we love what we do. We are fulfilled by this calling of education, of empowering people to change their lives and fulfill their potential.
The commitment of our faculty and staff resonates with students, who flourish under their attention and tutelage. Students discover themselves and, often, their life’s work while at SUNY Adirondack. In fact, we are honored to have many alumni return to us as employees, to pass on to a new generation the incredible experiences that helped shape them as students. Our alumni-employees carry on a legacy of passion and progress, one started with the college’s founding in 1961 and built for decades upon shared goals of lifelong learning, strengthening our region’s economy and contributing to our community through many means. The enthusiasm and encouragement our alumni-employees first found in the halls of SUNY Adirondack is evident in their work here. They share their unique viewpoints and life experiences, hoping to ignite in others the same passion and to fuel future generations. In this issue of Community Roots, we pay tribute to those who return to SUNY Adirondack and share their deep commitment to this college and the communities we serve. Sincerely,
Kristine D. Duffy, Ed.D. President
“Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
GREAT FUTURES START HERE. FIND EVERYTHING YOU NEED AT SUNY ADIRONDACK.
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