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Students Tackle Real-world Problems

Project-based learning is a cornerstone of the Alfred State culture. When students tackle real-world problems, they learn how to think, not what to think. They can also engage in meaningful civic engagement developing solutions to ongoing community challenges.

A recent example took place in Apalachin, NY, from March 11-16. Mark Payne, assistant professor, Heavy Equipment Operations, led a group of eight students during their spring break to engage in stream remediation. The team utilized heavy equipment such as bulldozers, excavators, wheel loaders, and an articulated truck to redirect the Apalachin Creek stream bed and create a berm that will better control any future flooding. The group invested long hours each day to ensure the work would be completed by the end of the week. Thankfully, all benefited by having Culinary Arts instructor, Brian Decker, prepare excellent meals on site to keep up the energy level and enthusiasm!

This trip was the fourth relief team Professor Payne has organized with the Heavy Equipment Club to assist this region of New York after the historic flooding from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. The first team served in the Schoharie area to clear debris. The second team worked with the Owego-Apalachin school district to rehabilitate a drainage system to mitigate future flooding. The third team began the work on the Apalachin Creek as well as rehabilitated a local cemetery at the request of Senator Tom Libous’ office. This fourth team sought to move beyond cleanup to provide a solution at Apalachin Creek that would mitigate and redirect future floods from having such a devastating impact in the future.

This project was made possible not only through the initiative, expertise, and service of this team, but also through the collaboration and support of corporate, non-profit, and local/state government agency partners. Right down the road, Binghamton University again was a valuable partner by providing housing and parking options to the group throughout the week. Monroe Tractor donated the trucking of a bulldozer, excavator, wheel loader and an articulated dump truck to this project. And, LeChase Construction LLC working with ZMK Construction donated another bulldozer to the cause. Exaktime also donated time tracking software to allow the students to log and manage their time on the project. Finally, the team worked very closely with Tioga Soil County and Water and the Upper Susquehanna River Coalition to identify the need for stream remediation and develop a clear plan to fix this ongoing community challenge.

Students have taken on leadership roles gaining valuable experience in logistical organization, project planning, collaboration, and real world experience on heavy equipment. Local residents have expressed their appreciation that their property and lives are now safer through the efforts of this team. And, all stakeholders appreciate the value of coming together to develop solutions to local challenges. The expectation is that future efforts will continue to leverage these strong partnerships to create solutions in communities that continue to recover from the flood damage.

You can see a video that includes interviews and footage by visiting the following feature by Twin Tiers CW 2 or Fox 40 WICZ.

group of heavy equipment operations students during their spring break

Standing alone (green shirt):
Christopher Addison, Hamburg

Front, left to right:
Angel Cavanaugh, Whitesville; Cody Madigan, Bath; Kevin Nicoletti, Cochecton; Wayne Carroll, Jr., Bath; Michael Kashdin, Buffalo; and Mark Payne, associate professor, heavy equipment operations, Building Trades Department.

Yatani Presents at Oxford Round Table

YataniDr. Choichiro Yatani, professor of Psychology in the Social & Behavioral Sciences Department at Alfred State, recently attended the Oxford Round Table, a five-day international conference at The University of Oxford, England. Entitled “The Enemy Manufactured: Nationalism, Religious Fundamentalism and Nuclear Weapons,” he presented his peace psychology research, an empirical and theoretical study of “the deadly cocktail” of the three variables, to the forum on public policy. His conference trip was funded by an Alfred State Faculty Scholarship Grant and SUNY’s United University Professions’ (UUP) Individual Development Award.

The reception and opening dinner began with remarks by Canon Brian Mountford, Vicar of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, for 25 years, and Dr. Charles Mould, the former secretary of the Bodleian Library (c. 1320) and Fellow, St. Cross College, Oxford. The facilitator of the forum, Dr. Mountford, has just published Christian Atheist – belonging without believing.

Seventeen experts and scholars selected by the forum organizers introduced themselves along with their specialties of religion, education, linguistics, law, political science, cultural anthropology, psychology, biology, and business administration. The topics ranged from “Arab Spring in North Africa,” “Iran and the World Order,” “Israel’s and Palestine’s Futures,” “Religion and Politics,” “Religion and Public Schools,” “Religious Fundamentalism and Nuclear Power,” and “Interfaith: Art and Belief.”

Yatani’s paper first reviewed Americans’ nuclear disarmament movement in the early 1980s. He briefly summarized four variables: nationalism, anti-Soviet/Russians, knowledge of nuclear weapons (the lack thereof), and powerlessness, as responsible for the discrepancy between high anti-nuclear sentiments and low anti-nuclear actions; and, he also indicated a turning point of American politics under the Reagan presidency in the 1980s which characterized the Americans’ strong nationalism coupled with anti-Sovietism/anti-Russians and the military buildups, conventional and nuclear weapons, as best symbolized by the height of the Cold War. Yatani argues, “Psychologically speaking, the nationalistic, anti-Soviet/anti-Russian sentiments were politically convenient and powerful not only to mobilize hostility abroad but also to undermine progressive social policies and suppress labor unions and peace movements at home as ‘liberals’ opposed to ‘conservatives,’ those against Reagan presidency inspiring the strong America. This Cold War mentality still permeates in our national politics even after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

“The rise of religious fundamentalism was another characteristic during the Reagan presidency. Ronald Reagan’s presidential election campaigns were supported by fundamentalist preachers and their congregations (e.g., Moral Majority, The Christian Coalition, and The Christian Right). In return, it appears President Reagan used the religious terms for the “enemy” Soviet Union, “’evil’ empire,” in his speech to the National Association of Evangelicals on March 8, 1983. Twenty years before, the US Supreme Court had prohibited state-sanctioned prayer in public schools in 1962 and mandatory Bible reading in public schools in 1963 while the US was at Vietnam War abroad and faced anti-war and civil rights movements at home. It is of little doubt to affirm that the United States witnessed a strong association between religion and politics during the Reagan presidency despite its long-time Constitutional commitment to the separation of church and state since the founding of the Republic.”

Through his peace research and his teaching psychology for over 30 years, Professor Yatani suggests internationalism over nationalism, an emphasis on global studies and diversity in practice, and encourages pursuit of academic excellence in higher education, which he believes would be a formidable force against anti-intellectualism deeply associated religious fundamentalism. At the end of his presentation at the Oxford Round Table, he pointed out a salient phenomenon in the Republican presidential campaigns between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, a revival of the 1980s in which both candidates admire President Reagan and his economic policy—Reaganomics and their strong suggestions toward the US military intervention over Iran’s nuclear threats while the US is still haunted but has not solved what A Nation at Risk by the US Department of Education (1983) revealed during the Reagan presidency. The United States’ educational system is failing to meet the national need for a competitive workforce and the foundation of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.

Dr. Yatani’s first forum appearance was at its 20th anniversary in 2008 on “Civilization at Risk: Seeds of Strife” and gave a talk entitled “American Images of the Enemy: With Us or Against Us.” His paper was published in 2009 in K. Alexander (Ed.), Terrorism and global insecurity: A multidisciplinary perspective (New York: Linton Atlantic Books, Inc.).

Find out more about the Oxford Round Table at http://www.oxfordroundtable.com/.

ASC Wins “Customer’s Choice Award” for Best-designed BUV

Students with 2011 BUVFive baccalaureate-level mechanical engineering seniors at Alfred State College, under the guidance of their project advisers, SUNY (State University of New York) Distinguished Service Professor Dr. Edward Tezak, and Ray Gleason, instructional support technician, competed in the 11th annual BUV (basic utility vehicle) competition recently in Indianapolis. A BUV is, according to the Institute for Affordable Transportation (IAT) which sponsors the competition, a vehicle to help meet peoples’ everyday needs in developing countries. Besides rural transportation, BUVs also represent a mobile power source for further development. Thanks to a thrown bolt on the shive, the part of the CVT that controls the drive belt, during the Enduro Run the last event, the team was forced to make repairs on the course. Without the correct length bolt to replace it, team member Kevin Sullivan was able to jury rig one with electrical tape that allowed the vehicle to finish the event. However, despite these difficulties, JAARS (formerly the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service), a group that provides technical support such as aviation, information technology, and media for missionary programs, awarded Alfred State the “Customer’s Choice Award” for the best-designed vehicle. It was presented by Mike Smith, the organization’s automotive supervisor/trainer.