A printable version of this newsletter can be found on the SUNY Digital Repository
Edited By: Pamela Beach
By Rebecca Ostrander
Michael Herman ’05
We all want to leave something behind in this world. For 2005 alumnus Michael Herman, his time as a student at SUNY Brockport planted seeds that would grow into branches of lasting change reaching from Rochester, to New York City, and even as far as Tanzania. Michael majored in Creative Writing and Theater and was a member of the Honors College. For his honors senior thesis project, he wrote and directed a production of an original play. After graduation, he went on to found the Outer Loop Theater Experience in 2009, a company based in Rochester, NY.
The Outer Loop eventually opened a second location in New York City in order to reach a wider audience. There, the company spent four years growing within the new community. In 2016, during the time leading up to the heated presidential election, Herman was hired to travel with a group of artists to Tanzania—and so the Humanity Project was born. A life-changing project for both Herman and the residents of Mloka, Tanzania, this endeavor was a massive success, resulting in the construction of a brand new maternity clinic. To this day, Herman considers the village in Tanzania to be a second home, as it is the only one of the three places where he owns a house—a house built and gifted to him in thanks by the residents of the village.
Fast forward to March of 2020: the Outer Loop’s season was just getting underway and Herman was about to embark on another journey to Tanzania. Then COVID hit and everything had to be shut down. But Herman did not allow this to discourage him. He took the challenge in stride and immediately called a board meeting with his core artistic staff. There, they went back to their central values and mission statement: to develop new work and connect communities. He asked, how can we still do this under the new normal of COVID-19? The answer to that question came in the form of a new initiative: the Empathy Project. Herman quoted former president Barack Obama, explaining that our country and the world at large were experiencing an “empathy deficit.” His goal with this new project was to “raise awareness that we’re all connected” and “be a little more empathetic in our approach to one another.” Herman’s goal was to connect people through storytelling—only now in a virtual format.
He took charge immediately, assembling a group of ten artists from around the world and organizing a live virtual performance night. He and his team worked hard to create an experience that captured the essence of live performance—the connectedness one feels when witnessing a production with other audience members. They set up a virtual lobby, compiled a playlist for audience members to listen to while waiting for the performance to begin, and sent out recipes for hors d’oeuvres. This way, audience members could be eating the same foods and listening to the same music even while physically distanced. They even mailed out special candles so the viewers could all be smelling the same scent. If they could not inhabit the same room, then this was the next best thing. Volume 1 of the Empathy Project centered around the pandemic, and the utter disconnect everyone felt. It brought people together and made them feel less alone. The Empathy Project was a massive hit, reconnecting people to the arts during a difficult time and satisfying a desperate need for community.
Volume 1 had barely come to a close when George Floyd’s murder sparked protests across the nation. Once again, Herman felt called to action. According to the Outer Loop’s website, the Empathy Project: Volume 2 asked the question “what place do artists, theater and empathy have within our current experience and how can we create art that reflects that experience?” Unlike most theaters across the country, the Outer Loop had its two most successful years after the start of the pandemic. Herman credits this to the team’s willingness to “jump out there first” and “take initiative to adapt.” He believes that it was during his time at SUNY Brockport when the seeds of this mindset were planted—those same seeds that would eventually grow into the Outer Loop, the Humanity and Empathy Projects, and all of his other accomplishments.
Herman felt supported and uplifted by the faculty and staff here at Brockport. It was the SUNY Brockport theater department that gave him the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. for a playwriting intensive where he met the people who connected him to a graduate program at Carnegie Mellon, as well as his eventual mentor. When asked what advice he would give to current students, Herman said “to be open to new ideas and new ways of thinking,” and not to be afraid to challenge the ideas presented to you. He tells students to “fight for the approach you feel is best for your work,” because you may learn that you are right—or you may learn ways to improve and grow.
be open to new ideas and new ways of thinking… Michael Herman ’05
When looking to the future, Herman hopes to expand the Outer Loop even further, reaching other communities in need across the globe, from Chicago to Haiti and beyond. At the end of our interview, I asked Herman how he would like to be remembered by the world, and by the community of Brockport. He responded, “as an artist and a visionary—someone who created art and change, and used one to do the other.” I think it is safe to say that he has done, and continues to do, just that. What Michael Herman will leave behind is a better world and a community of greater empathy.
Honors Thesis Spotlight
By Elisabeth Blair
Katriana Belknap is a student who wears many hats. Being involved with campus life from the start, she commanded her college experience and made the most of what SUNY Brockport has to offer. When asked about her decision to attend Brockport, Belknap expressed that it was Brockport’s engagement with their prospective students that appealed to her.
“I chose Brockport because I toured 20 different schools and of all the ones I went to, they reached out the most, they were the easiest to get ahold of, the easiest to talk to, and I could just tell that I’d actually be more than a number here. I’d be actually valued as a student and I really liked that. That’s why I chose Brockport.”
Currently, Belknap is in her last semester at Brockport and looks back on her time here with gratitude. She is an Exercise Science major, but more than that, she has participated in many clubs and organizations on campus. Belknap joined the Honors Club, became a member of Phi Sigma Sigma, participated in the Leadership Development Program, and is an honors peer mentor to prospective students. Being a part of so many organizations has changed her college experience for the better.
“It honestly made it for me. Otherwise, I would’ve just been going to class and going home, and it wouldn’t really have been an experience. I would’ve just been going to school. I love being involved. I’ve always had something to do. I can’t just sit around. It’s given me a purpose and a way to give back to the campus. A lot of it started when I wanted to get into physical therapy and have a good résumé. But I stuck with these things because I actually liked and enjoyed them. They were great ways for me to meet with faculty and professors and make a lot of friends on campus. It made me feel like I had a purpose.”
Being a part of the Honors College here at Brockport offers many new ways to challenge oneself as a student like taking on a larger course load and completing a thesis. Belknap has strived for more challenging opportunities when it comes to education. From her avid participation in her high school honors program to her involvement in SUNY Brockport’s student life, she opened new opportunities to grow and expand her abilities.
“In high school I was in the International Baccalaureate Program, so it seemed like the natural next step to become an honors student. It seemed like a good way to push myself. Having to write my thesis really pushed me and opened a lot of doors for me. It made me realize some interests that I didn’t think I had.”
At first, Belknap wasn’t sure what to do for her thesis topic. Dr. Melanie Perreault, her thesis director and a professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Sports Studies and Physical Education, had a project in mind and invited Belknap to work with her on it. She worked closely with Perreault on a collaborative project that was important to both themselves and their fields of study. Her studies in exercise science and her passion for advocacy led her to write her thesis on physical education and children with disabilities. Since she finished her thesis, she has submitted it to the British Journal for Visual Impairment. Her paper has recently been accepted and is currently in press!
“I did my research on kids with visual impairment and functional body image. More specifically, the way they view their body’s functionality as opposed to how it looks. The idea of being able to advocate for children with disabilities or the visually impaired really inspired me. They don’t have equal opportunities with physical education like the rest of us. For me the main thing was being able to find that, yes, physical activity does improve their functional body image: therefor we should advocate for more programs that are able to get them more involved with physical activity.”
Combining your career and your passions is the best way to get the most out of your time in school and work. Belknap was able to combine her passions with her honors thesis. After graduation, Belknap will be attending Nazareth College for their physical therapy program. She is leaving SUNY Brockport with the mindset that she thoroughly immersed herself in the college experience.
“I want to be remembered as someone who worked hard and cared. I gave my all to Brockport. I was very involved.” Her extracurricular activities speak for themselves when it comes to being involved. She always looks for opportunities to grow as a person and this quality will follow her wherever her career takes her.
Outside of school, Belknap is a social butterfly who likes hanging out with friends and family. She spends her time being outside or reading a good book. Belknap offers this advice for any prospective honors students coming into the program: “Just give it your all. Don’t be the person who just goes to class and goes home. College is a time to explore who you are as a person and to make your lifelong friends. So go get out there, join clubs, make that résumé look good, honestly. Do what makes you happy. Don’t just make college about school and work,”
The Honors College is place for students to explore their educational strengths, weaknesses, and improve themselves through a community of other engaged and driven students and faculty. Katriana Belknap is a great example of just what honors students can achieve in their short four years here at SUNY Brockport.
By Caleb Carr
On June 5th, 1967, Israel went to war against a coalition of Arab states. Known as the Six-Day War, it sent many surrounding countries, as well as local civilians into a panic. One of those civilians was our very own local Brockport supporter, Rosie Rich. Born in 1933, in Endicott, New York, Rosie grew up as the youngest of five to Italian immigrant parents. She attended SUNY Cortland and the University of Buffalo, earning her Bachelor of Science in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation and her Master’s of Education. Rosie then began her teaching career right here at SUNY Brockport as an Assistant Professor of Health and Physical Education. After six years of teaching, she was granted a sabbatical and found herself in Beirut, Lebanon embarking on a journey she would not soon forget. While in Beirut on a three-year contract, she was given the mission to establish the first program for women in Health and Physical Education at the American University of Beirut. With no equipment and no help, she sought out student teachers from Brockport. Rosie began this mission by starting the first full-year overseas student teaching program through SUNY Brockport. During her first two-and-a-half years teaching in Beirut, she focused on learning about the culture and providing her students more opportunities to be physically active. To promote a physically active lifestyle, Rosie built a combination field where multiple different sports could be played. It was on this new field that she taught her students sports such as tennis, basketball, soccer, and volleyball.
Located right next to Israel, Lebanon was put on notice when tension between Israel and The United Arab Republic began to rise. The university needed an evacuation plan in case the war became too dangerous. As one of the university’s best professors, Rosie was the only woman invited to join a committee where she was charged with making a plan that would evacuate the roughly 5,000 Americans in Beirut in less than 24 hours. This plan’s confidentiality was critical and challenging as Rosie was left to her own resources to figure out how to assist evacuating the hundreds of Americans to assigned to her. Two weeks later, Stage One began.
On June 5th, 1967, the evacuation plan began. Ordered to get her group to the evacuation center and then out of the country, she helped hundreds of Americans onto buses, to the airport, and then onto planes. Four flights left on June 6th, followed by one every 15 minutes on June 7th. Rosie found her way onto a plane headed for Athens. It was here that she stayed for three weeks, before returning to Beirut on June 28th. Since this was her third year on a three-year contract, she sent in her letter of resignation. Unfortunately, due to the recent war, there was no one willing to take her job. After deciding to stay a fourth year, Rosie wanted more of a challenge. While still Director of Physical Education at the University of Beirut, she also became the Acting Dean of Women at International College, an all-boys school that was accepting girls for the first time. Juggling these two jobs was exactly the challenge Rosie sought, but after just a year in the two positions, she made the decision to travel back home and begin a new journey.
Having traveled westward across the Atlantic Ocean whenever she visited home, Rosie decided to finish her trip around the globe and head east. Her travels were many including Iran, India, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, and more. She ended her adventure with a trip to Hawaii. Following her world adventures Rosie began teaching at a small elementary school in Canada. She had many more jobs, such as director of a travel school in New York City, and Assistant to the Dean of Students at St. Francis College in Pennsylvania, before she and her husband made their way back to Brockport to retire.
Now, Rosie is an active participant in Brockport’s Lifelong Learning and Mornings with Professors programs. The Lifelong Learning program, directed by Dr. Jason Dauenhauer, provides retirees a chance to go back to the classrooms and continue learning, free of charge. Each semester, participants are allowed to pick one of the many different classes offered by the program. They attended the weekly classes with no expectations. They don’t have to do assignments, quizzes, or tests, though they can choose to participate if they’d like. Some treat it like a real class, taking notes and studying at home, while others prefer a less active approach by sitting in and enjoying the pleasures of learning without the stress of completing assignments. Lifelong Learners hold a college ID and receive many student privileges such as library access, discounted parking rates, and discounted gym membership. Rosie is currently in her twelfth class of the Lifelong Learning program. She has taken courses including Ageism, Women in the Mediterranean World, Introduction to Forensic Anthropology, and American Film. The Mornings with the Professors Program is also available to any Lifelong Learner. This program meets most Tuesdays during the semester, with varying topics taught by professors from disciplines across campus.
Rosie and many others are extremely grateful for these opportunities at SUNY Brockport to continue learning and interacting with students and faculty. She is excited to continue her learning for many more years and loves that she can call SUNY Brockport home! Rosie is a true gem of SUNY Brockport and the local community.
By Gabby Castania
Emma Hampston ’22
College can be a lot to process, especially if you’re an introvert going away for school. Unknown surroundings filled with many new faces, and all of it happens as you dive headfirst into your studies while also discovering your own self. It’s a period rife with change, anxiety, and transitions, but also one that is fulfilling and full of many exciting moments. Through all of these challenges, Emma Hampston, a 22-year-old senior from Albany, found her voice by pushing herself in new and unexpected ways during her time at SUNY Brockport.
Emma Hampston moved to Brockport at the begining of her freshman year. A gymnast throughout grade school, the college’s club gymnastics was one of the main draws that helped her choose Brockport. She spent two years participating in the club and a subsequent two leading it as president, a journey which has taken her to both state and national competitions.
But gymnastics wasn’t SUNY Brockport’s only allure to Emma. Since enrolling, her major and goals have changed and expanded, and she’s currently majoring in mathematics and minoring in computer science, in addition to adolescent-inclusive education courses. Emma says her favorite part of the math program is the collaborative mentality of the faculty and students.
“Math can be hard and tedious,” said Hampston with a smile, “but when you’re working with other people in the math lounge at Brockport, all writing up on the boards, trying to solve the problems together and everyone’s contributing their own ideas and thoughts, it just makes it a lot more fun to work through the hard problems.”
However, math, she’s learned, can’t be limited only to equations. In the summer of 2021, Hampston undertook an internship at Arizona State University, where she was part of a team using applied mathematics to attempt to model prospective treatments for prostate cancer.
It’s where the computer science part of her studies come in: today, a lot of complex math is done by way of coding. Hampston explained it by saying, “It’s easier to do automated math, and that’s what coding can do.” Her internship at ASU was almost completely based in writing code, and when she begins another with Excellus this coming summer, she’s aware it will be much the same.
Using math to work on complex coding has been so impactful for her that it has become the subject of her Honor’s thesis. She’ll focus on the parts that she contributed to the internship at ASU, while looking at the overall picture of what her and her team were hoping to achieve. She and her partners firmly believe that, if they’re successful, they have the potential to drastically improve the lives of the over 250,000 men in the US alone who will receive a prostate cancer diagnosis each year.
Despite her already-busy schedule, Emma has found time to make herself seen around campus, too. When she first moved to Brockport, Emma spent her freshman year living in the Honors Living Learning Community, LLC for short. She encourages students both new and returning to consider dorming in an LCC as well. Her experience was nothing short of spectacular, in addition to presenting at Scholars’ Day with her residence hall neighbors, academically-centered recreation activities like trivia nights, and immersing herself in studies, Emma says the opportunity to mingle has been important to her.
By participating in the Honors LLC for one year as well as the Honors Club for two, Emma has been able to meet all kinds of people that she might not have otherwise. She said it’s a great chance to mix with people. Upper classmen, she says, are more than willing to share their experiences with the first-years, with everyone helping each other toward their individual goals.
But while these things were helpful for her, Hampston attributes a lot of her success in breaking from her shell to the Honors College peer mentor program, both as a mentor and as a mentee. “My mentors made me so comfortable,” she recalls. “I think about what questions I had when I was a mentee, and I feel good knowing… that we’re there for them, not just as a mentor or somebody above them, we’re their peers.”
In addition to peer mentoring, Emma also works for admissions as a tour guide for incoming students, as well as tutoring in both the regular tutoring office on campus and also for students in the Educational Opportunity Program.
Now in her senior year, Emma’s eyes have turned toward the future as she contemplates which passion to pursue after graduation. She has applied to graduate school with the idea of becoming a math professor, but is considering taking another semester to finish earning her teaching certificate before beginning a grad school program.
She enjoys tutoring and helping people understand the complex world of math, well aware that success in math doesn’t come as naturally for others. “Math hasn’t always been easy, and struggling through it has made it easier for me to explain a lot of things to others. I like trying to help people try to understand this subject they view as something they don’t like or that they think they can’t do. I try to help them see how interesting and fun it can be.” Not only does her work in tutoring assist other students, but it also benefits her as well: she says that some of the questions people ask her remind her of things she’d like to continue solving, too.
Her decision between two impactful career paths moving forward is something that many students can relate to. But with her hard work, dedication, and a little help from the friends she has made along the way, Emma is looking forward to what’s next for her. She says her time at SUNY Brockport has truly helped shape her as a person.
“I came in being so afraid of everyone and everything, feeling like they were judging,” Hampston said. “But people want to help. I didn’t need to come in being so nervous.”
When asked for advice she’d give to other students that she wished she could have given herself, Emma was firm in her belief that opportunities abound at Brockport. “The people here want to help you. If you have something in your head that you want to do, do whatever you can to get there. Go for what you feel like your goals are!”
The people here want to help you. If you have something in your head that you want to do, do whatever you can to get there. Go for what you feel like your goals are! Emma Hampston ’22
Liz Blair is majoring in English with a Creative Writing concentration and a Multimedia Journalism Minor. She is a junior, but with a number of credits that make her a senior. She’s on the staff of The Stylus, the campus newspaper. Her interests are reading, writing, and baking.
Gabrielle Castania is a senior in the final semester of her Creative Writing degree. After taking a few years off from school to work, she is extremely happy to have come back and finished her undergraduate degree at Brockport. When she’s not writing for fun or for school, she can be found immersed in other hobbies, playing guitar and bass, studying foreign languages, and creating new dessert recipes from scratch.
Caleb Carr is set to graduate in 2024. He is a Journalism Broadcasting major with interests including running for Brockport’s Track and Field Team, watching sports such as basketball and football, kayaking, hiking, and playing video games.
Rebecca Ostrander is in her junior year, double majoring in Creative Writing and Theatre, as well as minoring in Film Studies. She is interested in storytelling in all of its forms and hopes to one day publish her own writings and be involved with the production of theatre and film.