SUNY Adirondack Alumni Association
Interview with Drew Schiavi, Class of 2003, who joined cable sports giant ESPN in 2012 as an associate director after seven years as technical director at WRGB in Schenectady: "Kevin Ankeny always preached this: You get out of it what you put into it."
If you’re a sports fan, perhaps you’ve dreamed of working for ESPN
Drew Schiavi, ’03, is living the dream.
Drew is a graduate of SUNY Adirondack’s Radio & Television Broadcasting program and is an associate director for the Bristol, CT-based cable sports giant. He joined ESPN in 2012 and is assigned to produce pieces for college football half-time shows and wrap-up shows, as well as for the various iterations of SportsCenter, ESPN’s signature program.
Drew grew up in Malta, NY, and graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 2001. He earned an A.A.S. in Radio/TV Broadcasting from SUNY Adirondack in 2003 and a B.S. from SUNY Oswego in 2005. He’s been married for three years to Randi Schiavi, a full-time nursing student at Tunxis Community College in Connecticut.
We spoke to Drew by phone in mid-November, just as the college football and National Football League seasons were kicking into high gear.
Q: First question: What exactly is an associate director?
A: An associate director is primarily a set-up man for the director. It’s my responsibility to protect all of the sponsorship elements. I’m responsible for getting “color shots” – cheerleaders leading, fans cheering, and such – from the game sites and pre-producing those segments so we can deliver them to the talent at the proper time.
One of the popular pieces I work on is “The Final Verdict.” It’s a popular pre-produced segment featuring (ESPN college football announcers) Rece Davis, Lou Holtz and Mark May. We produce the segments and then get them ready for other shows for air.
Q: How did you find your way to ESPN?
A: After I graduated from SUNY Oswego, I spent seven years at WRGB in Schenectady as a technical director. It was a great experience but I couldn’t go any farther up the ladder at WRGB. I needed a taller ladder to climb. Channel 6 had a total staff of about 150 people, while ESPN has a staff of seven thousand.
Anyway, I had a college roommate who worked at ESPN, and he hooked me up. I joined as a network control operator in 2012 and became an associate director in June of 2014.
Q: Where are you on the ESPN ladder right now, and how far up can you go?
A: Well, I’m an associate director, and then you go to director and then coordinating director then supervising director. At that point, the titles get a little foggy after that. But everybody knows who the boss is – the one with the big office.
Q: How hard is it to put together the pieces you produce?
A: It takes 15 to 20 people to put together the college football halftime package, not to mention the studio crew. And the interaction with the talent is great, but the level of interaction with the talent depends on which show you do. It’s easy to talk with the SportsCenter crew because we’re sitting in the same production pods and we have more personal interaction with them.
With the College Football show, the talent comes in at about 11 a.m. on a Saturday. I come in at 5 p.m. and they are already out there. Holtz, May, Brian Griese, they’ve been on the air a while…and Scott Van Pelt or Rece comes in to anchor.
Q: Who inspired you at SUNY Adirondack?
A: Kevin Ankeny (director of the broadcast program), without a doubt. He was, and is, a one-man promotional department for the program. He’s incredibly intelligent and preaches that if you’re willing to work for it, it can be done.
You’ll hear a lot of advice from people who say, aww, it’s hard to get a job in the field, everybody wants to be there, all the checklist stuff. But it can be done in spite of the advice of others, and I’m proof of that.
When I entered the program, I thought I was going to go into radio. I was smart kid but radio mostly appealed to me. I loved music and I liked people, so I gravitated toward radio. But the more TV classes I took, the more I liked television. And once I transferred to Oswego, I took more classes with a concentration in TV.
Q: So is Al Roker (the TODAY Show weatherman and SUNY Oswego alum) the icon up there that he appears to be?
A: It’s funny – they had a lot of SUNY Oswego alums come in and talk to the students, but Al was not on the list. The program liked to taut alumni in other fields, like one alum who was the Vice President of Fox News. They did engage a lot of alumni, though, including my now-ESPN colleague Steve Levy. Levy was such a presence in hockey broadcasting that they named the press box in the college hockey arena after him. Oswego was one of the few colleges to regularly broadcast its hockey games.
Q: Let’s get down to business. So - should college football players be paid?
A: I understand the stipulation that student athletes should be paid in big-time programs. These guys should get something when hundreds of millions of dollars are being earned on their likenesses. They are turning hundreds of dollars into hundreds of thousands of dollars for the big football schools. But the idea that (former Ohio State University star quarterback) Terrelle Pryor can’t give an autographed jersey in exchange for a tattoo is ludicrous. And this idea about an underpaid workforce seems unfair. But to offer the players contracts? No.
Q: What do you think about the idea of a college football playoff to determine the eventual national champion?
A: This is important stuff, but the NCAA is particularly myopic on this issue. Have they looked at the success of the men’s basketball Final Four in March? They should apply that same thinking to football.
I would prefer eight or 16 teams in a playoff, if it’s structured the right way. A 16-team playoff would be ideal. The champions of each of the 10 major conferences would get automatic bids, and then there would be six at-large bids. Whatever happens, though, it’s good for ESPN, since we have the rights to the playoffs for a while.
Q: What impact has social media had on sports coverage, and on the product you put on the air?
A: Well, social media has its place. It’s both helpful and intrusive. See, in the old days, you put on a sports show, and you hoped it was good, and then you waited for the overnight ratings to see how you did, or you read the next day’s reviews in the paper. Now, though, the feedback is immediate.
The programming is global but you have to keep it insulated. You can’t cede creative control of the show to the viewers. Someone has to make these creative decisions. But instant feedback can lend immediacy to the show.
Q: What advice do you have for young people looking to forge a career in broadcasting?
A: Kevin Ankeny always preached this: You get out of it what you put into it. The time you put in working with the equipment, the better off you will be. It’s going to take more than the baseline effort to be successful. At the completion of this program, you should be ready to go into the workforce.
Another thing Kevin said stuck with me, too: Ask for double what you want, and you’ll get half of what you ask for.
Finally, let me say this: Dedication is required. When I left SUNY Adirondack, I didn’t want to go to Oswego. I really felt I was ready to go into the workforce. The funny thing is, I started directing Oswego’s hockey broadcasts, and the things I learned at SUNY Adirondack applied directly to what I was doing at Oswego.PLEASE NOTE - The opinions expressed by Drew Schiavi in this interview do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the employees or owners of ESPN Inc., the Walt Disney Company or the Hearst Corporation.
(This interview was published December 15, 2014.)
Interview with Larry Pringle, SUNY Adirondack Class of 1972, who has spent 45 years in education teaching science to junior high, high school and college students in Western Massachusetts. - "SUNY Adirondack took a smart talking little brat and kicked him in the butt and made something out of him."
Larry Pringle, ’72, has taught science and math to junior high, high school and college students in the Springfield, Massachusetts area for 45 years and shows no signs of slowing down.
Larry is a native of Kingsbury and attended SUNY Adirondack from 1964 to 1966 at the college’s Hudson Falls campus. The self-described “wise-ass punk little kid” earned an associate degree from SUNY Adirondack, a B.S. in science from Castleton State College in Vermont and two masters degrees, one from Westfield State and one from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, both in Massachusetts.
He and his wife Danusia, a retired math teacher herself, live in Belchertown, Massachusetts and have three adult children.
We caught up with Larry by phone on an afternoon in early November when he wasn’t in the classroom.
Q: What motivated you to attend SUNY Adirondack?
A: I graduated from Hudson Falls High School when I was 16. My dad worked at the G.E. plant in Fort Edward and my mom worked in the G.E. office. I thought I would take a year off and then go work at G.E. But my parents didn’t want anything to do with that. By April of my senior year, I hadn’t applied to any colleges. But my parents did not agree with that plan so they drove me to Plattsburgh and Potsdam to see the campuses there.
At the end of the trip we got back here and we pulled into the old campus in Hudson Falls. We got out of the car and they marched me up to the front desk and my parents said, “Sign him up for September!” (Laughing.) I have not regretted it. It was the best two-and-a-half years of my life up to that point. It made me grow up. I was a wise-ass punk little kid.
Q: Did you have a direction in mind when you enrolled here?
A: I started in engineering, but my math skills were not up to par. I switched to a liberal arts degree but took science and math courses. I eventually earned my associate degree. I finished the degree in 1966, but I didn’t sign up to get my diploma until 1972. In the 1960s, we were hippies and protesters and it was not the thing to do to walk in graduation. But in my early adulthood, I thought, that place meant a lot to me and I’d really like to get a diploma from there.
I really wanted a taste of college life, to live in a dorm, so I transferred to Castleton State where I earned by bachelor’s in science. Castleton State was about the limit that my parents could afford.
I started a master’s degree in secondary school administration from Westfield State (now Westfield State University) while I was teaching in Springfield. I was about two years into this program when I was accepted into a master’s program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. For a two year period, I was teaching full-time and taking classes at WPI one night a week and at Westfield another night. I also held down a second job and it was during this time we had our first child.
Q: Who inspired you at SUNY Adirondack?
A: There were three faculty members who really made a difference: Don Rumsey, Norm Enhorning and Milton Crater.
Don was a professor of engineering and he was very professional. You did not deviate from his instructions. You did things his way.
Norm Enhorning and Milt Crater were history professors. Milt was a lunatic but he was very well-versed in his area. He wanted me to pursue a career in history. Ultimately, I didn’t, but it was because of him that I read a lot of history. I also took some chemistry classes from Hal Burrell.
I learned a lot about Revolutionary War history from Professor Enhorning. A former colleague of mine is a big Revolutionary War historian and re-enactor who happens to live in Lexington, Massachusetts. He can point out points of interest and battles fought that April 15 shot for shot. I’d like to get him and Norm together and just let them go at it.
The faculty was like a big family back then, and let me say this: Those people were not afraid to use a little discipline on you. They made a big difference in my life.
Q: Have you been back to the campus since 1972 when you signed up for your diploma?
A: Not in a while. My mom still lives in Vaughn’s Corners – she’s 95. I would like to come down to campus and look through the buildings. I still want to learn from others. I’d like to talk to some of the chemistry instructors and ask, “How are you doing things?” It still fascinates me.
Q: Your teaching career in Massachusetts spans 45 years. How did you go from teaching junior high students to community college students?
A:I started teaching in Springfield at the junior high school in January of 1969. I taught at Springfield for 35 years, from 1969 to 2003. General science, physical science, chemistry and algebra – I think my ACC teachers would be spinning in their graves if they knew I taught algebra. (Laughing.)
In 1988 I started teaching as an adjunct at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) nights and summers.
My decision to switch from nights and summers to a part-time day schedule at STCC was sort of made for me. I was at STCC one day and the chemistry department chair dragged me into her office, pointed to a class schedule on the wall for the fall of 2003 and she said, “There’s your schedule for the fall.” So I took an early retirement from Springfield schools and I’ve been at STCC ever since.
Q: You must have seen and experienced a lot in your years in the classroom.
A: In 45 years of teaching, I have seen the best and worst of students. Many of my students have gone on to careers politics and have become great citizens of their communities. The captain of the local detective squad and a number of police sergeants are my former students. On the other hand, 11 of my former students are serving life sentences without parole.
Q: What’s the worst trend you’ve seen your teaching career?
A: There are three that come to mind: The suffocating reliance on high-stakes standardized testing. The idea that education/teaching should follow a business-like plan like we are making some type of widget thing-a-ma-jig. And a well-meaning but misplaced idea that it is wrong to do anything that would negatively affect the student’s self-esteem. We are graduating students from both high school and college who are full of faux self-esteem and little usable knowledge and/or skills.
Q: Any retirement plans?
A: I have no desire to stop teaching – I love it. As long as I have something to offer students, I’ll keep doing it. I keep joking with my colleagues that one day, a student is going to walk into their offices and say, “Professor Pringle just keeled over and died.” They’ll have to pry the dry-erase marker from my cold, dead hands.
But I look back at two of the institutions of higher learning I attended – ACC and WPI. Between those two places I learned a ton of stuff. But SUNY Adirondack – well, they took a smart talking, snot-nosed little wise-ass brat and kicked him in the butt and made something out of him.
You can contact Larry at firstname.lastname@example.org. He would like to hear from anyone who attended SUNY Adirondack during 1964-1966.
(This story was published November 17, 2014.)
Interview with Becki Cramer, SUNY Adirondack Class of 2013, and Director of Communications at the New York State Recreation and Parks Society, based in Saratoga Springs. - "I learned that I could learn how to do things."
Becki Cramer, ’13, is a Saratoga County native and Director of Communications for the New York State Recreation and Parks Society, a non-profit organization based in the Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs, NY. The NYSRPS promotes quality recreation and park opportunities for New Yorkers through education, training, and technical assistance for local and state governments.
Becki Cramer, Class of 2013
Becki is responsible for the group’s promotion, outreach and marketing strategies for programs, services, publications, and membership relations, development and retention.
A graduate of South Glens Falls High School, Becki was a stay-at-home mom and came to SUNY Adirondack as a returning adult student. She earned a Communication and Media Arts Certificate at SUNY Adirondack and was the student speaker at the college’s commencement ceremony in 2013.
We spoke to Becki by phone during a typically busy day in late September.
Q: What brought you to SUNY Adirondack?
A: I went through a divorce – a major change in my life – and I needed a way to support myself. I raised two sons and I was a stay-at-home mom for all those years. I was employed as a trainer for people with traumatic brain injuries and focused specifically on communications disorders. I needed to change the direction in my life and so I enrolled in the Media Arts program at SUNY Adirondack.
As I progressed through the program, I discovered I had the ability to learn things that were hard and complicated. I was not computer savvy at first and could do nothing on the computer, but I learned that I could learn how to do things.
Q: Was there anyone here who inspired you and challenged you to grow?
A: Kevin Ankeny (the director of the radio/television program) is an awesome guy. I learned a lot in his Mass Communications classes and learned a lot about video and audio production. I’m getting ready to produce webinars for the Society, and his video production classes paved the way for that success. A lot of what I learned came from him.
Nick Paigo (the Technology Division chair and graphic arts professor) helped me learn about Adobe products, and I’m using that education in editing publications and the Society magazine.
(English professor) Lale Davidson was instrumental as well: I took a speech class from her and she gave me the confidence to talk to our membership and visit with our patrons.
I remember my time at SUNY Adirondack as being a great time. The students, the teachers – I have nothing but fond memories at SUNY Adirondack. I’m very grateful for the experience I had.
Q: How did you come to join the Recreation and Parks Society?
A: I saw a job posting for Director of Communications and thought it was a perfect blend for both my old and newly acquired skills. I loved being outdoors and the position aligned with my values. It was an agency I felt good about and promoting.
We think it’s important to include everyone in thinking about the use of green space. We want to redefine what ‘recreation’ means; it’s not just about sports. We strengthen communities by giving people the ability to recreate together.
I feel honored to be a paid staff person with this organization. People here are committed to doing what they can to bring health and wellness values to parks and recreation areas. I’m excited to be part of an organization where people are committed to promoting positive change in their communities through recreation.
I want to keep growing and learning. I’ll stay here as long as I can continue to grow and be challenged.
Q: Given budget considerations and space limitations, how are local governments addressing the need for green space and other parks and recreation opportunities?
A: Recreation and parks departments are becoming more innovative in reaching out to bring people together. For example, we are bringing more art and theater offerings to parks. Parks appeal to a broad variety of people and we want to appeal to a different demographic, and not the ones we normally appeal to. At some point, we realize how vital green space is to the health of communities. We’re moving towards the point where doctors will write prescriptions for people to get outdoors into the green space for their health and well-being.
Q: What concerns you about the future of parks and recreational areas?
A: My main concern is that recreational areas and parks will not receive the attention or value they deserve from municipalities, and that the responsibility for recreation in of some of the green space areas will be shifted over to the municipal Department of Public Works. When municipalities look to cut costs, parks and recreation budgets are the first places to be cut, and most parks and rec budgets are operating on a shoestring anyway. Most parks and recreation jobs are not considered civil service job, and those jobs are gone in a minute.
Generally speaking, DPW crews can make the areas safer and the departments are concerned with safety, but there’s more to recreation than just keeping parks safe. A certified recreational professional brings a lot to the table and can enhance and engage the community.
Q: What other obstacles did you have to overcome to get to where you are today?
A: It took me two years to complete my Communication and Media Arts certificate. I call it my “ABM Degree”: All But Math. I am a numerical dyslexic – my condition is called dyscalculia and it’s a learning disability. I am proficient with words, but numbers float around in my head. I have difficulty with spatial relationships and can’t express in numerical terms just how far away things are. I can’t organize sequences of numbers in my mind. But that’s okay because I am very proficient in working with words.
Q: What’s next for you, personally or professionally?
A: If I could wave a magic wand, I’d see myself on the Outer Hebrides (an island northwest of Scotland), working on a photo journalism book. Part of the goal of my going back to school was to become a better photographer.
I’d like to study the traditional crofting lifestyle there – sustenance farming. It’s a lifestyle that’s disappearing, but it’s been in existence for hundreds of years.
Q: Lastly, what’s your favorite form of recreation?
A: I like being outdoors in the woods with my camera. And I like canoeing. My favorite lake is the next little lake I discover.
(This story was published October 14, 2014.)
Interview with Steve Mann, SUNY Adirondack Class of 1992 and PGA Head Professional at Wollaston Golf Club, Milton, MA - "I feel blessed and fortunate to make a living in and around this sport."
Steve Mann, Class of 1992, is entering his 14th season as the PGA Head Professional at Wollaston Golf Club in Milton, Massachusetts. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of SUNY Adirondack’s Lyman A. Beeman, Jr., Golf Tournament on Friday, May 30, at Hiland Golf Club in Queensbury, Steve will return to the area to give players a free short game clinic on the practice green near the 1st tee from 11 a.m. to noon.
Steve Mann, Class of 1992
Steve earned an associate degree in business administration and marketing from SUNY Adirondack in 1992, but did not play on the college golf team: he was a golf professional by that time and was ineligible to make the team. He grew up in Queensbury and now lives in Metro West Boston with his wife Glenna and children Tyler and Brooke.
We spoke with Steve by phone during a typically busy day in mid-April:
Q: When were you aware that golf was going to play a huge part in your life?
A: I was introduced to golf at the age of six by my father and cousin. I got my first golf lesson from Tom Haggerty, the Head Pro at Glens Falls Country Club. Haggerty, along with longtime Head Pro Tom Smack at The Sagamore Resort, were the two professionals I looked up to. Everyone I’ve worked with in the business has inspired me in some way. I feel blessed and fortunate to make a living in and around this sport.
My first professional job was as assistant pro at the Country Club of Troy. I took a number of assistant jobs after that and finally became the first PGA Head Professional at Olde Kinderhook Golf Club in Kinderhook, NY. That was a great job because I absorbed a lot of knowledge about golf course design and routing of the golf course, and it helped me in my next job at Wollaston.
Q: Have you played with any current touring pros?
A: When I worked at Pine Valley Golf Club in New Jersey and Wannamoisett CC in Rhode Island, Billy Andrade and Brad Faxon would come in and give clinics and do fundraisers. I’ve been blessed to play a few rounds with a number of pros celebrities. I played with Ian Baker-Finch, who is now a golf commentator for CBS and won The British Open Championship back in 1991. I’ve been able to play a number of great courses around the world including Augusta National, Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Seminole & Ballybunion. I’m headed back to Augusta in October, and it really is a special place. I’m extremely thankful to be able to play some fantastic courses due to the relationships I have made in the golf industry.
Q: You are going to be hosting a short game clinic at the Lyman A. Beeman Tournament here on May 30. What’s the one piece of instruction you pass on to most of the amateurs who attend your clinics?
A: If you are going to improve your game, you need to invest the time and the hard work. Golf is a hard sport – it takes commitment and patience. But I always tell players that if you want to improve and shoot lower scores, you need to start at the hole and work back. Give some time to improve your putting, then work on chipping and pitching, then wedge shots. If a weekend player wants to lower his or her score, then that player needs to spend an equal amount of time or more on the short game than he or she would on hitting balls on the practice range. If you spend a half-hour hitting the driver, spend 45 minutes on putting and hitting pitches and chips and wedge shots from 100 yards in.
Q: Where is the game headed?
A: Well, we already have the attention of the guys – we need to focus on getting families, women and juniors to play more golf and have fun. That’s the future of the game and where our industry is focused currently.
Q: Has the change in equipment improved the game much for the average player? And how do those equipment changes impact the pro game? Pretty soon the anchored putters (long-shafted putters) will be outlawed on the PGA Tour.
A: The equipment is getting better. The improvement in woods and irons and hybrids have made average golfers better and made the game more fun for all. The long-shafted and anchored putters and belly putters are making the game enjoyable for the average players who have bad backs or the yips, for example. Freddie Couples has a bad back and struggles with the conventional size and style putter so he uses the belly putter. But the verdict is still out. As of January 1, 2016, anchored putters will be outlawed for the pros, and I’m sure there are a number of professional players now who will find different ways to adapt. A couple new things on the market are counter balanced putters and the popular Super Stroke oversized grip to minimize the hands and wrists during the putting stroke. I would hate to see Freddie or Bernhard Langer stop playing competitive golf because anchoring will be banned. That might be a hard pill to swallow for some players.
Q: As a golf professional, you must have helped many people find joy in the game. Do you have a favorite story about someone you tutored?
A: I have been teaching all level of players for numerous years. It is rewarding each day to watch golfers improve regardless of their current handicap. One student in particular who is also a good friend of mine qualified for the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness, Ohio, in 2011. He took up the game later in life nearing age 30. He made a commitment to improve and we worked intensely over a five to six year period and you have to do that to succeed. He asked me to caddie for him at the tournament and although he missed the cut, I believe he was oldest contestant in the field. It’s that sort of success from someone I’ve helped and shared knowledge with that really excites me.
(This story was published April 16, 2014.)
March 26, 2014 - Nursing alumni gather to discuss the possible creation of a Nursing Alumni Group
The SUNY Adirondack Foundation hosted a reception March 26 for all SUNY Adirondack Nursing Program alumni to discuss the creation of a Nursing Alumni Group. Sarah Ghent, Class of 1980, has taken up the cause and will coordinate the effort.
Trish Kelly, Class of 2010; Sarah Ghent, Class of 1980; and SUNY Adirondack Health Sciences Division Chair Donna Healy discuss the creation of a Nursing Alumni Group.
SUNY Adirondack Nursing Lab Coordinator Kathy Rittenhouse and Misty LaCross, Class of 2013, chat at the reception.
Interview with Sarah Ghent, SUNY Adirondack Nursing Class of 1980: "You have a good solid nursing education, and the professors and students both have a profound interest in excelling."
Sarah Ghent, Class of 1980, has spent most of her working life in the health care field after earning an associate degree in nursing from SUNY Adirondack. Now in what she calls “semi-retirement,” she’s taking on another task: spearheading an effort to create a SUNY Adirondack Nursing Alumni Group.
Sarah Ghent, Class of 1980
Sarah will be attending a Nursing Alumni Reception at the college on Wednesday, March 26, from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. to gather information and feedback on what nursing alumni need and what programs they’d like to see implemented.
After earning her associate degree from SUNY Adirondack, Sarah served as an RN Cluster Leader and Associate Primary Care RN at Glens Falls Hospital. Her work has taken her from Staten Island, NY (where she and her husband Gary raised four children) to Albany, Schenectady and western New England with career stops at Staten Island University Hospital, MVP Healthcare, Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield, HIP of Greater New York, Bayley Seton Hospital on Staten Island, and most recently Mohawk Valley Medical Associates (MVMA) in Schenectady. Along the way she earned a BS in health and human services from Columbia Pacific University in San Rafael, CA.
She and her husband have seven grandchildren.
We spoke with Sarah during a recent visit to the SUNY Adirondack campus:
Q: Being raised downstate, how did you come to get your degree at SUNY Adirondack?
A: I began to pursue a career in business, but I became ill and was exposed to the health care field early on. That experience led me to become interested in nursing. After having four children, I went back to school and took part-time courses at City University of New York on Staten Island.
We moved around a lot because of my husband’s career, and we were looking for an opportunity to relocate. There was a question over whether my CUNY credits would transfer to SUNY Adirondack, but Gary said, “If you can transfer, we can move.” It worked out that the credits did transfer, and we moved to Hadley.
I finished my nursing degree at SUNY Adirondack and graduated in May of 1980. Dr. Peg Felmly was chair of the department at the time, and I thank her to this day for the opportunity. There was always a comfort level with her, even at that time. SUNY Adirondack offered a good solid nursing education, and the professors and students both had, and still have, a profound interest in excelling.
Q: Your career brought you to many different stops. Why did that appeal to you?
My career has offered me an opportunity to relocate and reinvent myself. In general, the health care field allows a person to fit in at different locations, whether it involves becoming a member of home care staff, developing quality improvement, undertaking utilization review or reviewing quality of care.
The stops along the way have been varied, but I never stopped learning, and that’s important. In this field, you learn through other people’s eyes. Any experience you have can teach you.
Q: What do you see as the future of nursing?
A: I think “specificity” is the key word. There are certifications for each area now. Much of the care is outpatient now, rather than inpatient care. Much of the health care field is becoming more technologically integrated. But skilled people are still needed to carry you through. As a patient, you can’t just rely on the computer. And if you are seeking employment in the field, the technology allows employees to become more mobile.
I think because of this, education requirements for nurses are increasing, and that’s why we’re excited about the 3+2 Bachelor’s Degree Option in nursing between SUNY Adirondack and the SUNY Plattsburgh Extension Center. It’ll soon be necessary for RNs to have bachelor’s degrees, and it’s great that we’re establishing a program here.
Q: Why do you think it’s important to establish a good connection between current nursing students and our nursing alumni?
A: I enjoy learning, and I enjoy learning from young people. It gives us the ability to interact and share knowledge, and we are able to teach each other. It’s all a learning process. If you are constantly learning, you are not becoming complacent.
At the (March 26 Career Day and Reception) I’ll be gathering as much information and I can.
Q: How has the health care field evolved during your career?
Well, we’ve gone from providing “medical care” to “health care.” Technology has changed the field and pharmaceuticals have changed the field. As I said, it’s all about specificity. It used to be that a physician or medical professional had an office staff of five or six people, but with all the specialties now, sometimes those staffs grow to 20 or 30 people.
The health care field has also opened up an opportunity for more people to find employment. There is a shortage of qualified physicians, and that has led a lot of nurses to seek careers as PAs (Physicians’ Assistants) or Nurse-Practitioners.
Q: What’s the most important thing you have learned in your career as it progresses?
A: I think we have to continue to keep the Quality of Care Circle intact. That is, patients, physicians, insurers and health care providers need to be in the loop; we all need to be included in that tight circle.
(The above story was published February 21, 2014.)
Interview with Dennis Harris, Class of 1996 and Senior Engineer at Ball Aerospace: "You have a treasure in SUNY Adirondack."
Dennis Harris, Class of 1996, was, by his own words, “a state worker with no direction” when he enrolled at SUNY Adirondack in the early 1990s. His decision to go back to school came after several years working for the New York State Department of Developmental Services. His interest in astronomy led to his current position as a senior engineer at Ball Aerospace, where he and his team recalibrated and delivered the Solar Backscattering Ultra Violet instrument (SBUV/2), which monitors ozone levels in the atmosphere. Dennis established a scholarship through the SUNY Adirondack Foundation for returning adult students like himself.
Q: Did you grow up in the area?
A: No. My dad was in the Navy, so we lived all over the world – Southeast Asia, California, Alaska, and Colorado. I moved to upstate New York in 1986 and got a job as an aide at a facility for the developmentally disabled. After a few years of that, I had a life change and decided to go back to school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I had an interest in astronomy and science, and that led me to my current position.
Q: Was there any one person at SUNY Adirondack who had an influence on you and the direction you took?
A: Two people, actually. Jane Owen (a member of the counseling staff) and Rich Ring (professor of English at SUNY Adirondack) were my instructors in a College Survival course, a course for at-risk students. And I was high-risk – I was a returning adult student who had no idea of what he wanted to do. But they saved me. They showed me the door to the possibilities in life.
I graduated SUNY Adirondack in January of 1996 at the ripe old age of 37. I wound up going to The University at Albany and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics, and then earned an MBA from the University of Phoenix.
Q: How did you get the job at Ball Aerospace?
A: I got it through networking with an engineer who was working at Ball. In 2004 I moved to Colorado and started working at Ball Aerospace. I worked for Raytheon in California for a while and then came back to Boulder to work with Ball in 2010, and I’ve been there ever since.
Q: What does a Solar Backscattering Ultra Violet Instrument do?
A: The monitoring system is attached to a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather satellite and it measures ozone levels in the atmosphere. The layer protects the earth from the ultra-violet rays of the sun. It appears that the ozone holes in the atmosphere have gotten smaller over the last decade, due mainly to less CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) being released into the atmosphere. The ozone layer is thinner over the North and South Poles, and the layer grows and shrinks seasonally, which is a naturally occurring phenomenon.
I’m currently the integrated product team leader for the next generation of ozone measuring equipment called the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite, or OMPS. The flight unit is flying on the SNPP (Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership) spacecraft and was launched in October of 2011. The mission is to provide data continuity from previous efforts. This is very important to me personally.
Q: You established a scholarship for returning adult students at SUNY Adirondack through the college’s Foundation and you were back in town this year to meet with the two recipients. Why did you establish this scholarship?
A: I make yearly contributions to the Foundation, and it was split into two scholarships. I knew from personal experience how difficult it is to be a returning adult student, and I thought it was time to pay it back, to coin a phrase. I was the recipient of a scholarship as a returning adult student and it meant a lot to me.
I was really impressed with the Foundation’s ability to choose such deserving students for the scholarships, some good people who could use the help.
Q: It’s clear SUNY Adirondack had an indelible impact on your life.
A: I love the college. If I could get a job that contributed to the college, I’d be working there. You have a treasure there in New York in SUNY Adirondack. I am just very happy to contribute in any way I can.
(The above story was published December 17, 2013.)
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