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  Issue Number 12 • Tuesday, March 9, 2021  


Campus Champion

Robert Binnall became associate director of Residence Life and Housing a year ago, just in time to help draft the office’s first COVID-19 message to students. Every day since, he addresses students’ and families’ concerns. “We listen, we present the full picture, and we take time to understand and find a solution,” said Rob. Rob’s role has expanded to include work with quarantine/isolation transport, move-in and departure logistics, campus policies and timely communications. Shifting the process of recruiting resident assistants and residence hall directors online was a huge undertaking. While they hope to return to in-person recruiting when things are safe, some changes to office processes will benefit staff and students for years to come.

Nominate a Campus Champion

Tuesday, March 9

Trivia Tuesday, online, 9 p.m.

Wednesday, March 10

Panel Discussion: “The World Beyond the Pandemic,” register online, online via Webex, 11 a.m.

Women’s History Month Sandwich Seminar: “Stacey Abrams’ Impact on Georgian Voter Empowerment,” online via Webex, 12:30 p.m.

Study Abroad 101: Old Main, Room 220, 3 p.m.

Virtual Interview Essentials: Register via Handshake or join meeting online via Webex, 4 to 5 p.m.

Wellness Wednesday: Sexual Health Jeopardy, 5 to 5:30 p.m.

Spread the Word for Inclusion: Month of March Raffle, hosted by Best Buddies, Webex link, 7 p.m.

Choose Your Own Adventures: Join History Club for a night of historical fun, Webex link Password: Cortland68, 8 p.m.

Thursday, March 11

Women’s History Month Sandwich Seminar: “Building a Better Bystander: Using Research to Get Men Involved with Campus Sexual Violence Prevention,” online via Webex, noon.

SafeZone Workshop #1 for all: via Webex, register for SafeZone #1, 3 to 5 p.m.

Career: Building a Handshake Profile, online via Handshake, 4 to 5 p.m.

Black Lives and Liberation Forum: Supporting Women of Color, register here, 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Resume and Interview Tips with Meredith Chase: via Microsoft Teams, 5 p.m.

Lecture: Healthcare Leadership MBA and the Business Management MBA with the concentration of Healthcare Management, online via Webex, 6 to 7 p.m.

SGA Virtual Town Hall: Open forum for all students, Webex link meeting number 132 595 4341 Password SGA!, 7 p.m.

Friday, March 12

Custom Pop Sockets and Phone Wallets7 p.m.

Sunday, March 14

Pinterest Party To Go: Choose and pick-up one of five craft kits and join Student Activities Board on Webex to show off your masterpiece, 8 p.m. through Monday, March 15 at 9 p.m.

Monday, March 15

Money Talks Mondays: Goal Setting and Budgeting, online via Handshake, 4 to 5 p.m.

Re-thinking Abilities Workshop: Hosted by the Multicultural Life and Diversity Office, 4 to 6 p.m. 

Green-flix Documentary: “An American Ascent,” virtual watch party, RSVP required, 7 p.m., followed by a live virtual alumni panel discussing diversity and inclusion in the field of outdoor recreation at 8:15 p.m.

Panel Discussion: Women in Sports Media - What does equal coverage mean? with six alumni panelists, hosted by Sport Management Department and Sport Management Club, registration required, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Tuesday, March 16

Beloved Community Panel #2: Online via Webex, Registration link, 6 to 7 p.m. 

Doing Business in NYC: Virtual event, co-sponsored by Alumni Engagement and Career Services. Online via Handshake, 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 17

Lecture: Do Human Rights and Democracy Have a Future in Myanmar/Burma? Online via Webex, 12:30 p.m.

Women’s History Month Sandwich Seminar: “‘When the Time is Right’ – Selling Compulsory Pregnancy to American Women,” online via Webex, 12:30 p.m. 

Distinguished Voices in Literature: “The Paradox of Anthologizing the Globe: Transnationality, Translation, and the Contact Zone of Poetry,” online via Zoom, 5 p.m.

Thursday, March 18

Women’s History Month Sandwich Seminar: “Garifuna Women in Honduras,” online via Webex, noon.

Public Deliberation: The Cost of Health Careregister by email by Monday, March 8, 4 p.m.

Women’s History Month Presentation: “Where would be without RBG? A gender equity program for students,” online via Webex, Students can pre-register on Handshake or join on the afternoon of via Webex, 4 p.m.

Friday, March 19

Cortland Nites: Treasurer Hunt, follow @CortlandNites on Instagram for clues, 8 p.m.

Monday, March 22

Paint and Sip Mondays: Join online event, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Let's Get Ready to Grad School: Online via Handshake, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, March 23

30-Minute Mentor: Therno Diallo ’16, online, 6 p.m.

Presentation: “The Intersectionality Wars,” register online, 6 to 7 p.m.

Women’s Herstory Trivia Contest: Online via Webex, 9 p.m.

Campus community sharing their diverse voices


Jamie Piperato ’12 and Kathleen Altamirano ’20 are among 25 campus community members and alumni who have shared their images and their individual messages of diversity in a poster series displayed around the SUNY Cortland campus and online since last fall.

In late October, the finished portraits were installed in two buildings, the Student Life Center and Moffett Center. Online, campus members were encouraged to view all the posters by visiting the university’s website Since December, the images have appeared in rotation on the student sign-in page of myRedDragon and other locations on the university’s website.

Many of the personal pictures will look familiar. The Beloved Community Diversity Narratives Project comprises a series of posters that visually share the essential life stories of students, faculty and staff members and alumni with the campus and the community.

Jamie Piperato ’12 shared her image and message of diversity in the poster series. Poster images courtesy of Adam Mastoon Transmedia.

“I am extremely proud and honored to have participated in the Beloved Community Narratives Project,” said Piperato, founder and CEO of the consulting company JPHigherEd.

The original presentation reflecting on the finished project took place on Feb. 15. In two upcoming virtual panel presentations, on Monday, March 15 and Wednesday, April 16, participants plan to discuss themes such as race and immigration, gender and sexuality, and mental health and disability, with an audience of students, faculty and staff, and alumni.

The two remaining hour-long Webex presentations are free and open to members of the campus community and alumni.

Organizers want to use the event to highlight the project by giving the campus and alumni the opportunity to talk with the students, faculty, staff and alumni whose narratives and photos were featured.

  • The second event starts at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 15. Panelists will include in addition to Altamirano and Piperato: Jessica Condon ’20, CK Conway ’14 and senior Jade Molly Antoine. Register in advance to attend, and a link will be sent.
  • The third event starts at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16. Panelists will include senior Raquel Berman, Michael Medina ’20, senior Nakeesta Langton and Lauren Christiansen, Career Services internship and student employment coordinator. Register in advance to attend, and a link will be sent.

In fall 2019, members of the campus community were invited to participate in the project. In March 2020, visiting artist Adam Mastoon of Adam Mastoon Transmedia came to campus with a photography team to begin the process of creating the project.

Kathleen Altamirano ’20 took part in the recent Beloved Community Narratives project poster series. Poster images courtesy of Adam Mastoon Transmedia.

“It was a very different experience because I never had a solo photoshoot,” observed Altamirano, an early childhood childhood/childhood education major who was a student teacher in Manhattan at the New York City Public School 51 when she sat for her photo and wrote her own accompanying biographical sketch.

“Adam was very kind and fun, which made the experience very exciting,” said Altamirano, who currently is a fulltime teaching assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at an early learning center for Vivvi at Manhattan. “Yes, it was a privilege to be part of the Beloved Community Narratives Project.”

In 2019, Altamirano became Cortland’s first recipient of the Norman R. McConney, Jr. Award for EOP Student Excellence, given to 42 students from SUNY campuses across the state in memory of one of the architects of the Educational Opportunity Program and a champion for addressing inequities faced by economically disadvantaged and underrepresented populations. The award recognizes students who exhibit academic success, perseverance and leadership qualities.

Now these two graduates look forward to sharing their essential life stories.

“Telling my story was something close to me,” Altamirano said. “I talked about where I’m from and my people. I believe it is important to be proud of where you’re from and to never be ashamed of it.”

“My hope is that students, alumni, faculty and staff follow the lead of these beautiful individuals by leading with love and courage,” Piperato said.

The project’s educational subcommittee, which organized the event, includes AnnaMaria Cirrincione, director of the university’s Multicultural Life and Diversity Office; Evan Faulkenbury, an associate professor of history; and Kaitlyn Flannery, assistant professor of psychology, to organize the presentations.

For more information on the panel series, contact the Multicultural Life and Diversity Office at 607-753-2336.

Poster images courtesy of Adam Mastoon Transmedia.

Cortland recognized again for transfer support


SUNY Cortland’s reputation for helping transfer students held strong during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The university recently was recognized for the fourth consecutive year on the Transfer Honor Roll published by Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society that welcomes high-achieving students from two-year colleges.

The 2021 list highlighted 153 colleges and universities nationwide, including four from the SUNY system. Cortland is New York’s only public institution to be honored every year since 2018. 

“The past year has proven the resilience of our transfer students,” said Greg Diller ’07, SUNY Cortland’s coordinator of transition programs as well as the organizer of its honor roll application. “Transfer students are still doing well, even during these pandemic times.”

The university received 2,350 transfer applications in 2020, with 745 students enrolling. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Cortland’s transfer students demonstrated an impressive commitment to their studies, Diller said.

Staff members from Advisement and Transition raise awareness for course registration during the Fall 2021 semester
Greg Diller ’07, center, speaks with students during the 
Fall 2021 semester. Staff members from Advisement and
Transition handed out goodie bags and answered
questions about registering for classes for the Spring
2021 semester.

Thirty undergraduates earned an annual merit scholarship worth $1,000 from Phi Theta Kappa in 2020 — a record number for the institution. Nearly 200 transfer students were invited to join SUNY Cortland’s chapter of the Tau Sigma National Honor Society, an increase from 143 students in 2019. To be eligible for Tau Sigma, transfer students must earn a 3.5 grade point average while completing at least 12 credit hours.

“It’s great to see our students are doing exceptional work even if they don’t end up joining one of these groups,” Diller said.

Most transfer-specific programs and activities shifted online during the past year, Diller said. That included everything from Orientation and academic advising to Welcome Week events and award ceremonies.

“Like everything, it’s a different scale virtually,” he said. “But we wanted to keep our efforts going online as best as we could so that when we do get back to normal, we’re continuing rather than starting new.”

In order to be named to the honor roll, campus representatives completed a profile using an online tool called PTK Connect. Institutions then were assigned a transfer friendliness rating based on qualities such as transfer student support services, financial aid, admissions outreach and campus opportunities. The top 25% of highest-rated campuses were recognized.

SUNY Cortland’s application continues to highlight several key areas:

  • Advisement and Transition: Housed on the first floor of Memorial Library, this 12-person team helps meet the academic advising needs of all students, especially transfers. Several staff members specialize in transfer credit evaluation. Zachary Wilson, transfer mobility advisor, also works closely with nearby partners in SUNY Broome and Tompkins Cortland Community College.
  • Transfer Planning Sheets and Transfer Equivalency Charts: These online tools help students map a clear path to SUNY Cortland. Planning sheets outline recommended coursework prior to transferring and equivalency charts show how coursework from various institutions will count at Cortland.
  • Transfer Network Team: This group looks to connect new students with classmates who previously transferred to SUNY Cortland. Regular meetings took place on Webex during the pandemic. “They’re still going strong,” Diller said. “Students are always personable and there to answer anything.”
  • Orientation: In addition to several other new student programs, individual advising between faculty members and transfer students occurred online during the most recent summer and winter sessions. “I think that one-on-one face time really helped, especially for transfer students easing with their transition,” Diller said.
  • COR 201: Modeled after COR 101 for first-year students, this one-credit course introduces new transfer students to academic life and the many ways to create a successful Cortland experience.
  • Reverse transfer degrees: Transfer students who come from community colleges without completing their associate’s degree can still earn it while working toward their bachelor’s degree at SUNY Cortland. This opportunity is particularly useful for students pursuing part-time work during college that requires an associate’s degree.

Phi Theta Kappa Transfer Honor Roll logo
Phi Theta Kappa’s Transfer Honor Roll 
included four SUNY institutions in 2021.

Diller expressed an eagerness to organize more transfer-specific events outdoors during the spring semester as the weather improves and safety guidelines allow. He also pointed to lessons learned and improvements made during the pandemic, specifically as they relate to online availability for students.

“In Advisement and Transition, I think we’re more accessible than ever for students and we’ll likely keep some virtual hours after we’re through the pandemic,” he said. “We all want to get back to in-person events because we get that enjoyment out of them, but hopefully we can continue to meet students where they need us.”

Prospective transfer students can contact the Admissions Office for more information about the application process or Advisement and Transition for more information about resources for support.

Visit the Phi Theta Kappa website for more information on SUNY Cortland’s recent recognition, including a full list of all 2021 Transfer Honor Roll members.

Capture the Moment


Natalie Yoder, a senior anthropology major and international relations minor from Fairfax Station, Va., won the first heat of a wellness day triathlon at the Student Life Center. The event involved a 500-meter swim, a 6-mile bike ride and a 2-mile run. Later in the day, Jack Whalen set a new course record with a time of 39:43. The triathlon was one of many events held as part of wellness day to help students rest, relax and recharge.

In Other News

SUNY Cortland celebrates Women’s History Month

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SUNY Cortland is celebrating Women’s History Month with a series of events throughout March.

The National Women’s History Alliance has selected “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced” as the theme for 2021.

All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. The Women’s History Month schedule of events includes:

  • Wednesday, March 3: sandwich seminar, “Caribbean COVID response: Navigating race, gender, and colonialism in international humanitarian relief,” presented by Jena Nicols Curtis, Health Department, online via Webex, 12:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 4: sandwich seminar, ““Then COVID happened, and my work/life balance (which was already tipping precariously) fell off a cliff…” panel discussion, online via Webex, noon.
  • Friday, March 5: TransAction. The third annual conference about the needs and experiences of transgender and gender queer students in the college environment, register online, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 10: sandwich seminar, “Stacey Abrams' Impact on Georgian Voter Empowerment,” presented by Melissa Safford, community health major and board representative for the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), online via Webex, 12:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 11: sandwich seminar, “Building a Better Bystander: Using Research to Get Men Involved with Campus Sexual Violence Prevention,” presented by Eric Schisler, M ’18, online via Webex, noon.
  • Thursday, March 11: SafeZone training. To identify, educate, and support Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Queer, Intersex, Asexual and Pansexual (LGBTQIAP) allies, online via Webex, 3:30 to 5 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 11: Black Lives and Liberation Forum, “Supporting Women of Color,” register online, 5 to 6:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 17: sandwich seminar, “‘When the Time is Right’ – Selling Compulsory Pregnancy to American Women,” presented by community health senior Sydney Gale, online via Webex, 12:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 18: sandwich seminar, “Garifuna Women in Honduras,” a discussion of the Garifuna Women in Honduras, their culture and traditional occupations, and the hardships that they currently face, presented by junior Kayla Sewer, online via Webex, noon.
  • Thursday, March 18: presentation, “Where would be without RBG? A gender equity program for students,” Webex link to be provided by the Gender Policies and Initiatives Council, 4 p.m.
  • Tuesday, March 23: Women’s herstory trivia contest sponsored by Campus Activities and Corey Union, online via Webex, 9 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 24: sandwich seminar, “After Carceral Feminism: Abolition as a Lived Practice,” presented by author Saida Hodžić, associate professor of anthropology at Cornell University, online via Zoom, ID: 86981600442, password: 022421, 12:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 25: sandwich seminar, “Resilient Learners: How to Bend Without Breaking,” a panel discussion on how we can apply the research about resilience and learning to maintain or even increase our academic performance in challenging times. Online via Webex, noon.
  • Wednesday, March 31: sandwich seminar, “Navigating race and gender to ensure that Black Lives Matter: Exploring the role of intersectional feminism in community activism,” presented by Melissa Kiser, local community activistfrom Cortland Black Lives Matter, and Kristina Furi ’20, online via Webex, 12:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 31, SafeZone training, to identify, educate, and support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, asexual and pansexual (LGBTQIAP) allies, online, 3:30 to 5 p.m.

More information is available online through the SUNY Cortland campus calendar.

SUNY lauds Cortland’s diversity initiative

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A new plan to encourage greater diversity, equity and inclusion across SUNY’s 64-campus system uses SUNY Cortland’s three-year-old Multicultural Male Initiative (MMI) as a potential model for other campuses.

The SUNY Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Phase One Action Plan, presented by SUNY Chancellor James Malatras to the Board of Trustees on Thursday, Feb. 25, includes the Cortland initiative in one of the 25 action points recommended  to continue to close equity gaps across the system. Systemwide, students from underrepresented backgrounds graduate at a lower rate than white students. This is especially true of male students.

Cortland’s Multicultural Male Initiative seeks to improve access, retention and graduation rates of men of color — African American, Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native — by providing academic support, professional development and mentoring. It was one of three existing SUNY programs offered as models by the plan.

The SUNY official also credited SUNY Empire State College’s Black Male Initiative and Upstate Medical University’s Mentors in Healthcare program.
“MMI has been highlighted as a SUNY model program dedicated to the social-emotional and academic development of students of color,” said Lorraine Lopez-Janove, chief diversity and inclusion officer in SUNY Cortland’s Institutional, Equity and Inclusion Office.

"The program aims to support the college and career success of men of color by utilizing a holistic approach to promote brotherhood and community through cultural awareness and identity development."  

“It feels good to know that SUNY Cortland has a program like Multicultural Male Initiative to provide support for our men of color students,” said Lima Maria Stafford ’12, assistant director of SUNY Cortland’s Multicultural Life and Diversity Office.

“I love the academic, mentoring and professional development component of the MMI program,” she said. “It’s another way to provide resources to our students, especially those who may not have had the best support coming from high school.”

For the past two years, MMI has held a Men of Color Student Leadership Summit. The third annual summit — on the theme of “Self-Worth, Self-Value, Self-Care” — took place on March 6 via Webex. The event was free and geared to college and university participants in the upstate New York region. Twenty-six universities, high schools or church congregations were represented.

"For SUNY Cortland to have initiatives such as MMI is groundbreaking," said Maxwell Smith, one summit speaker who is a student and the president of Men of Value and Excellence (MOVE). "It allows students to feel more like at home, more comfortable. It allows you to keep on top of your studies while giving you a social presence. It’s excellent all around."

Stafford credits the previous chief diversity and inclusion officer (CDIO), James Felton III, and recent graduate Chris Venant ’19 for developing the MMI program for SUNY Cortland.

The need for such programs has grown as the students moving through the SUNY system have become more diverse. According to SUNY’s recently released plan document, while at enrollment rates for Black and Hispanic/Latinx students grew significantly, there remains a significant achievement gap between those students and  white students.  For example, a 2019 report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), found only 40% of Black students graduated from their first institution within six years, the lowest rate of all racial and ethnic groups except Native American students, at only 39%. Slightly more than half of Hispanic/Latinx students — 54% — graduated within six years of enrollment. These rates stand in stark contrast to the six-year graduation rate of 64% for white students.

SUNY has long been a standard-bearer in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. During his 2021 State of the University System address, Chancellor Jim Malatras noted that SUNY’s commitment to diversity and inclusion was foundational to its original mission.

“SUNY’s founders were acutely aware of the pervasive discrimination that existed at the time of SUNY’s creation and seized the moment to lead by building an institution not only committed to academic excellence but accessible to all New Yorkers regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion or class,” Malatras said.

“In the 73 years since its founding, SUNY has strived to stay true to that mission by meeting the moment of the times. SUNY’s challenge today is to continue to lead in this effort, inspired by the courage and progressiveness of its founders, to provide New Yorkers with a diverse, equitable and inclusive system of public higher education.”

Men of Color Leadership Summit held

Brian_Heat_WEB.gif 03/09/2021

SUNY Cortland's Male Multicultural Initiative (MMI) held its third Men of Color Student Leadership Summit just as the initiative was getting attention from SUNY for its record of success at continuing to close equity gaps across the system.  

The third annual summit — on the theme of “Self-Worth, Self-Value, Self-Care” — took place on March 6, via Webex, complete with a dynamic series of workshops and speakers promoting academic success and goal attainment for male students of color.

Brian Heat was the keynote speaker. As an educational leader, his Maryland-based Diverse Male Student Initiatives Program has transformed the lives of more than 1,000 collegiate males in the areas of academic excellence, manhood development and career/entrepreneurship readiness.

A second major speaker at the event was Juan Miolan ’09, founder and president and vitality coach at Thrive212, Inc.

The event was free and geared to college and university participants in the upstate New York region. Twenty-six universities, high schools or church congregations were represented.

The timing of the summit couldn't have been better to showcase MMI, as Cortland's initiative recently has caught the eyes of SUNY.

The initiative was among only three highly recommended campus programs to be held out as examples in the SUNY Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Phase One Action Plan, presented by SUNY Chancellor James Malatras to the Board of Trustees on Feb. 25.

“It feels good to know that SUNY Cortland has a program like Multicultural Male Initiative to provide support for our men of color students,"  said Lima Stafford '06, SUNY Cortland’s assistant director for multicultural life and diversity and one of many summit speakers. "I love the academic, mentoring and professional development component of the MMI program. It’s another way to provide resources to our students, especially those who may not have had the best resources coming from high school.

The university works to empower men of color with mentoring and programs.

For SUNY Cortland to have such an initiate as MMI is groundbreaking, said one summit speaker, Maxwell Smith of Queens, N.Y., a senior sport management major who is president of Men of Value and Excellence (MOVE).

"It allows not only male students but students of color to have a sense of belonging and a sense of guidance," he said."Being on a SUNY campus for the first time, a lot of students come from a lot of different backgrounds and different places, and it can be a bit overwhelming. I think more campuses should support a program such as MMI."

"Following a very difficult year that included a pandemic and killings of unarmed women and men of color, the MMI committee decided to have the summit focus on student self-worth, self-value and self-care," said Lorraine Lopez-Janove, another summit speaker and chief diversity and inclusion officer in SUNY Cortland’s Institutional, Equity and Inclusion Office.

"I am thankful for our previous Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO) James Felton and recent graduate Chris Venant ’19 for bringing this program to our campus," Stafford said. "It inspired me to want to continue working with our current CDIO Lorraine Lopez-Janove to help bring MMI to light and improve retention and graduation rates of our men of color at SUNY Cortland."

The summit was sponsored by the Institutional Equity and Inclusion Office (IEIO), MOVE, Multicultural Life and Diversity Office (MLDO) and Cornell University Multicultural Student Leadership and Empowerment Program.

The event presentations also included:

  • Christopher Venant ’19, student founder of the Multicultural Male Initiative (MMI) at SUNY Cortland 
  • Jarvis Marlow-McCowin, associate director of the Multicultural Student Leadership and Empowerment Program at Cornell University
  • A panel presentation facilitated by Jarvis Marlow-McCowin, the associate director for multicultural student leadership and empowerment at Cornell University. Panelists included Eric Banks ’13, M ’16, who teaches physical and health education at Westbury (N.Y.) High School; Brandon Manning, student rights and responsibilities coordinator at SUNY Broome Community College; Mark Sanders, representing SUNY System Administration as an assistant director for enrollment management and student success; Timothy Thompson ’17, coordinator of diversity education and support services at Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3); and Bryce Wooden, an Educational Opportunity Program advisor at SUNY Oneonta

Faculty engage students in drone startup pitch contest

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During the fall 2020 semester, SUNY Cortland students in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and GPS technology courses collaborated with others in Computers & Society classes to pitch a business startup that uses drones.

Chris Badurek, associate professor in the Geography Department, and Janet Ochs, coordinator of the Computer Applications Program (CAP), tasked students with thinking about drones in all aspects of life. Students formed teams and met virtually to collaborate on how they would use drones to improve society and solve problems. The teams conducted research, accomplished learning outcomes, submitted proposals based on the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps STEM entrepreneurship education model and ultimately pitched their ideas to a panel of alumni judges.

Mujuni Mutabiilwa, a sophomore mathematics major from Norwich, N.Y., was a member of the winning team that imagined a drone racing program for middle schools. The group’s concept was to make computer programming educational as well as entertaining for children and possibly spark their interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

For Mutabiilwa, who is considering a career in computer science, the drone pitch contest made him consider the possibilities drones may play in his own future.

“It opened my eyes a lot because doing the research, I found out that you can program drones to do specific tasks,” Mutabiilwa said. “In the future, if I’m in computer science or programming or another form of technology, I can definitely see myself using drones.”

Leah Bernhardt, a sophomore graphic design and digital media major from Groton, N.Y., enjoyed the cross-disciplinary aspect of the project and getting to work with business economics and mathematics majors. Her own experiences with using technology in middle and high school was part of the inspiration for her team’s winning pitch.

“I wondered what it would have been like at our high school if we had a drone program,” Bernhardt said. “Our design was a virtual reality drone and I thought it would have been cool if we had that in our middle school or high school and if that would’ve pushed more people toward computer science majors.”

Other pitch ideas from student groups included using drones to decrease plastic in rivers, improving wildlife tracking, expand mapping accuracy for emergency response and delivery drivers and fighting wildfires in the Western U.S.

Judges evaluated student pitches using a criterion of creativity, clarity of presentation, level of technical detail, and use of supporting data.

Alumni judges included:

  • Mary Colomaio ’15, a GIS specialist in Cornell University’s Facilities Department
  • Chelsea Cook ’09, assistant professor of social behavior, neurobiology and behavioral genetics at Marquette University
  • Adelina Prentice ’06, a GIS analyst at drone startup DroneSeed

“The students demonstrated effective use of the lean startup methodology promoted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for STEM technology startups,” said Badurek, who completed three NSF Innovation Corps courses on STEM entrepreneurship during 2020.

The drone pitch contest also provided students with a way to be resourceful and imaginative with students from different disciplines and do so safely and remotely in the midst of COVID-19.

“With the pandemic, Janet and I wanted to provide students an opportunity to collaborate and spend time with other students,” Badurek said. “We also wanted students to have fun developing their ideas and provide an opportunity to speak in front of successful Cortland STEM alumni.”

Badurek and Ochs will present their experiences teaching this course project at the SUNY Conference on Instruction & Technology (CIT) Conference in May.

Another of the learning goals of the pitch contest was to increase the students’ opportunity to seek creative solutions to problems.

“I was very impressed with the creativity of the teams and several students blossomed when giving their final presentations to the judges,” said Ochs.

The other members of the winning team were Nathaniel Pine and Tyjayia Webb. The team of Bettina Bonfiglio, Thomas Jenkins, Ailyah Locke and Amanda Miranda received a judges’ award. Two teams received student choice awards: Clayton Bleier, Dean Corbin and Jaycob White; as well as Michael Conforti, Collin Cummings, Mark Rossini and Zach Saltzman.

Learn more about SUNY Cortland’s Geography Department and Computer Applications Program online.

Film documents African American mountaineers

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Green-flix, SUNY Cortland’s environmental documentary series, will present “An American Ascent,” about the first African American expedition to climb North America’s highest peak, Denali, in a virtual watch party on Monday, March 15.

The 70-minute film, which chronicles the nine-member team as they tackle the grueling, 20,310-foot peak of the continent’s biggest mountain, will begin at 7 p.m.

At 8:15 p.m., a live virtual discussion will take place featuring an alumni panel facilitated by Sharon Todd, professor and chair of the Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies Department. All alumni panelists are department graduates.

The event is free and open to everyone. Participants must RSVP by completing a form to receive a meeting link.

SUNY Cortland faculty and staff can stream the film from the library for free any time before the discussion. For more information, email

Panelists include:

  • Raul “Rocci” Aguirre ’95, executive director of policy, advocacy and science for Scenic Hudson
  • Grequan Carter ’17, program director and leadership development at Inclusive Woods & Us
  • LaAsia Swift ’19, case worker, The Children’s Village; youth outreach worker, Safe Horizon

The nation’s wild places belong to all Americans, but not all of us use these resources equally. Minority populations are much less likely to seek recreation, adventure and solace in our wilderness spaces.

“An American Ascent” shows how the team set out to build a legacy of inclusion in the outdoor/adventure community. The documentary addresses often overlooked issues of race and the outdoors as it follows the team up the mountain, chronicling the many challenges of climbing one of the world’s most iconic peaks.

The event is co-sponsored by the Sustainability Office; the Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies Department; Campus Artist and Lecture Series; and the New York State Master Teacher Program.


Surdam honored by CoSIDA

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SUNY Cortland Associate Sports Information Director Dan Surdam has been selected as the winner of the 2021 College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) College Division Achievement Award.

The award is presented annually to two CoSIDA members nationally – one in the College Division (NCAA Divisions II and III, NAIA, two-year colleges, Canadian/U Sports) and one in the University Division (NCAA Division I). Recipients are current associate or assistant directors in the sports information field with at least 10 years of experience who have made outstanding contributions to the profession and have provided exceptional service to their institution, conference office or intercollegiate athletics affiliated association.

Surdam, currently in his 21st year at Cortland, received the Fraser Stokes Award in 2017 for service and dedication to SUNY Cortland Athletics. He serves as the sports information office's primary media contact for men's and women's soccer, men's and women's ice hockey, men's and women's lacrosse, field hockey and wrestling.

Surdam has overseen the production of the sports information department's athletics publications and produces most of the online historical and student-athlete biographical content for the Cortland Athletics website. He handles public address duties for numerous Red Dragon sports and produces game programs for most of Cortland's home athletic events. Surdam has emceed the Cortland Athletics Awards banquet since 2012 and was the emcee at the 2008 NCGA Women's Gymnastics pre-championship banquet.

A native of Skaneateles, Surdam graduated from Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with a bachelor's degree in writing for television, radio and film. He came to Cortland with extensive experience in media and public relations, and he earned an Outstanding Radio Commercial Award from the New York State Broadcasters Association in 1997. In addition, Surdam is the author of the mystery/thriller novel "The Presence of Grace" and has penned a number of screenplays.

CoSIDA will present a feature story on Surdam in either March or April and plans to release a pre-recorded interview with him in May as part of CoSIDA Awards Month. The CoSIDA special awards are normally given at the organization's annual summer convention, but that event has been changed to a virtual workshop due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

CoSIDA release

Panel to discuss treatment of women of color

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Several campus clubs and offices are extending an invitation to members of the campus community to join a virtual panel discussion on how women of color are treated in society.

The forum honors Women’s History Month by hosting “Black Lives and Liberation Forum: Supporting Women of Color” on Thursday, March 11.

The Webex event will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Presented by the Black Student Union, Campus Activities and Corey Union Office, Multicultural Life and Diversity Office, NAACP, and Residence Life and Housing Office, the event continues the Black Lives and Liberation Forums that have been occurring since June 2020.

Advance registration is required and can be done by completing a form online. Registrants will receive the Webex meeting room details two hours prior to the event start.

The eight panelists include:

  • Adriana Arcangel, a junior majoring in business and economics, minoring in computer applications who is president and treasurer of La Familia Latina
  • Sherron Brown, a founding member of Finger Lakes PULSE, an organization advocating for and serving the LGBTQ+ community
  • Katrina Hodge, Residence Life and Housing liaison for the Multicultural Life and Diversity Office and residence hall director for Dragon Hall
  • Mame Ndiaye, residence hall director, DeGroat Hall
  • Chéri Phillips, assistant professor in the Economics Department
  • Shaneya Simmelkjaer, a senior triple major in criminology, political science and Africana studies who is president of the Black Student Union
  • Jasmiri Valerio, a senior Africana studies major with a minor in political science who is vice president of NAACP
  • Sophia Zheng, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) undergraduate fellow

The discussion during this panel will acknowledge how the women’s suffrage movement did not always include women of color.

Shaneya Simmelkjaer plans to discuss her experience as a Black feminist and the misconceptions about Black feminism.

Topics for Black Lives and Liberation Forums may be based on current events or other important issues. A previous Black Lives & Liberation forum, which was held near the time of the 2020 U.S. presidential elections, discussed the active disenfranchisement and suppression of black voters.

These forums draw attendees who want to educate themselves on issues facing Black people. Students and faculty who have attended previous forums have been eager to participate in more diversity initiatives.

“When they [students] came, they even reported back a sense of ‘I want to get more involved,’” said Simmelkjaer. “It's been very beneficial for them because they feel like they have a space for cultural and intellectual development.”

As president of the Black Student Union, Simmelkjaer has been advocating for SUNY Cortland faculty and staff to take expanded diversity training. Because this forum is a safe space for students of color to share their experiences with racism and microaggressions on campus and in the Cortland community, faculty and staff members are encouraged to attend.

“You can't say you care about the 20 something percent of students of color that go to this school if you don't take the time to critique your pedagogical approaches,” said Simmelkjaer.

One of the many things that attendees can learn from this forum is how to support women of color. Simmelkjaer has offered some suggestions.

“There's so many ways we can support and uplift woman of color. One is to address the ways in which we are oppressed and the second one is changing the narrative around black women.”

This forum is one of many events SUNY Cortland is holding during Women’s History Month. A full schedule is available online.

Prepared by Communications Office writing intern Chelsea Grate

Campus joins Women’s Empowerment Draft

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SUNY Cortland was among 32 SUNY colleges that participated in the 2021 Women’s Empowerment Draft organized by Art Force 5.

Founded at Alfred University, Art Force 5 is focused on celebrating diversity, non-violence and other important topics through community-based art.

The Women’s Empowerment Draft, created in 2020, highlights living and historic women of significance by borrowing the model of a pro sports draft. Art Force 5 created striking portraits of the 32 women picked for this year’s “draft” and put those images on football-inspired jerseys.

Kaycie Sconda, a senior physical education major from Bridgewater, N.J., served as SUNY Cortland’s student representative in the project.

Students from across the SUNY system modeled those jerseys around their campuses and virtually recorded a draft ceremony, explaining each woman’s accomplishments and message.

Sconda’s pick in the Women’s Empowerment Draft was Judy Heumann, a disability rights activist who served in both the Clinton and Obama administrations. Heumann, who fell ill with polio as a child and used a wheelchair for much of her life, founded a group called Disabled in Action in 1970 and lobbied for legislation to support those of different abilities. She was the assistant secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services in the U.S. Department of Education from 1993 to 2001 and was named special advisor on international disability rights for the U.S. State Department in 2010.

The author of Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist, Heumann was also featured in the 2020 documentary “Crip Camp,” which tells the story of a camp in the Catskills for teens with disabilities that Heumann had attended as a child.

Mosaics of the women selected in the draft will ultimately be displayed on participating campuses. Trading cards of the draftees are available online.

View the 2021 Women’s Empowerment Draft on Art Force 5’s YouTube page.

SUNY Cortland planning COVID-19 time capsule

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For many, the past 12 months have been a year to forget.

But that’s not SUNY Cortland’s attitude.

The university is looking to preserve the history of the COVID-19 era on campus, both as a service to future scholarship and also as a time capsule that will be opened during the university’s bicentennial celebration in 2068.

Input and submissions from students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the local community who are engaged in campus life — are currently being sought.

The aim of the project is to help future generations understand the public health challenges SUNY Cortland faced throughout the pandemic as well as to highlight individual perceptions of this truly unique time in world history.

“This is an opportunity for the university community to transform the challenges of today into the historic resources of tomorrow,” President Erik J. Bitterbaum said. “At SUNY Cortland we strongly believe in the value of educational experiences. For more than a year, we have all been living the shared experience of attending this institution during the most devastating pandemic in a century, and we have all been learning from it. This will help make sure those lessons are not lost.”

Health Professor and Director of the Center for Gender and Intercultural Studies Jena Nicols Curtis, an organizer of the initiative, echoed that theme.

“The time capsule gives us the opportunity to reflect on our own individual experiences over the past year — both what we’ve lost and also how we’ve grown,” Curtis said. “It will also, thanks to the guidance of the Library Archives and History Department, allow us to create a historical record of what our campus experienced during the COVID pandemic. From the materials that we donate, future generations of Red Dragons will be able to learn firsthand how we sacrificed and supported each other during a time of great loss and uncertainty.” 

Potential items for inclusion in the project include, but are not limited to:

  • Photographs and video
  • Student and faculty projects and research related to COVID-19
  • Personal statements or recollections of this period in written or audio formats
  • Physical artifacts, i.e., masks, posters, etc.
  • Messages from today’s students addressed to the students of 2068

To submit digital material for consideration, please use this online form. Physical items may be mailed to the library at: Memorial Library, Attn: College Archives, 81 Prospect Terrace, Cortland, N.Y. 13045. For questions or issues, contact the College Archives by email.

A digital exhibition of select items will ultimately be displayed through the College Archives.

For questions, contact Jena Nicols Curtis at 607-753-2979.

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Faculty/Staff Activities

Li Jin

Li Jin, Geology Department, co-authored an article recently published in the journal Sustainability. The paper examines the impacts of climate change and population growth on the water quality of Awash River in Ethiopia where water resources are limited and comprehensive monitoring datasets are lacking. The outcomes of the work help evaluate the efficiency of mitigation measures to curb river water pollution. The paper is titled “Impacts of Climate Change and Population Growth on River Nutrient Loads in a Data Scarce Region: The Upper Awash River (Ethiopia).”

Rhiannon Maton

Rhiannon Maton, Foundations and Social Advocacy Department, recently had her interview with Chicago school nurse Dennis Kosuth published in the journal Spectre. The article is titled ““Front row seat to all that's wrong”: School nurse organizing in Chicago.”

Celeste McNamara

Celeste McNamara, History Department, was appointed book review editor for the Journal of Religious History, published on behalf of the Religious History Association. The Journal of Religious History is an international, double-blind, peer-reviewed journal that aims to publish high quality, impactful scholarship and research that makes original and significant contribution to the field of religious history. The scope of the journal is the history of all religions and their relationship with the human experience across all time periods; the journal explores religion and its related subjects, along with debates on comparative method and theory in religious history.

Katherine M. Polasek

Katherine M. Polasek, Kinesiology Department, co-authored an article titled “Women in Sport and Exercise Psychology: A North American Perspective” that was recently published in the International Journal of Sport Psychology.

Tiantian Zheng

Tiantian Zheng, Sociology/Anthropology Department, is the organizer and chair for a panel titled “Mediating State-Society Relationships Across China, Korea, and the Philippines” to be presented virtually on March 26 at the Association of Asian Studies Annual Conference.

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