A new program that works to unite students, officers, and all community members is not only defusing potentially tense situations but could be a model that helps towns all across America struggling with the misunderstanding of authority figures. When the school year began, law enforcement leaders in Alfred decided to take a proactive approach by implementing this program, called Shared Space.
“I recently returned from the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference where there was no hotter topic than how to build better dialogues, understanding, and cooperation,” stated Matt Heller, chief of State University Police at Alfred State. “I’m so proud that I could share Alfred’s success story with colleagues, by explaining how Shared Space can bring the law enforcement community together with the African American community and any other interested students. Meeting in a relaxed atmosphere, we discuss current issues and better comprehend each other’s perspectives.”
To begin the dialogue, Heller, Alfred Village Chief of Police Paul Griffith, and Alfred University’s Public Safety Chief John Dougherty participated in a series of lunches held on both the Alfred State and Alfred University campuses. Shared Space stands for: Students and Police Advocating for Community Engagement. The chiefs invited no-holds-barred conversation to encourage authentic and productive communication.
“I think these meetings proved to be very beneficial,” stated Griffith. “I believe education and conversation is a big part of addressing the relationship between the African American community and local police. By showing that all of us can show each other respect and trust, hopefully we have a better understanding of how to work together in shared space and our shared community of Alfred.”
This series of discussions has included pizza lunches, cookie drop-offs, and coffee hours to encourage positive contact with officers. Students noticed how local officers are receptive to their questions and eager to avoid unneeded confrontations.
One participating student noted that while national media may publicize wrongdoing by officers in different towns, “It’s also the community itself that may go about reacting the wrong way,” concluded Kendell Webb, an applications software development major from New York City. “I want to become one of the students who help bridge the gap of communication between the community and the police.”
State University Police, Alfred Police, and Alfred University’s Public Safety Department also hosted a family barbecue dinner to further bond the law enforcement community with students who now welcome this interaction.
“At the barbecue there were no badges, no vests, and no guns and officers brought their family members as well,” Dougherty stated. “The idea is to show our students that police officers first and foremost are people with families, outside interests, and that we are invested to make the community safe for everyone. We are regular community members too, who happened to choose a career to advance the causes of safety and security.”
These Shared Space gatherings can cover any topic and provide an opportunity to discuss situations before they even occur. By talking about how officers need to handle crowd control, altercations, and protecting the public safety, students have the opportunity to ask questions and more fully understand a different perspective from their own.
“That sort of discussion isn't possible when it may be late at night and we are tasked with clearing the street for example,” Heller said. “The idea is to have allies in the crowd who understand why law enforcement officers are doing what it is we are doing. And if they see other individuals acting inappropriately, fellow students can step in and educate their friends to better resolve the situation.”
In recognition of her outstanding efforts as senior director of Human Resources at Alfred State, Wendy Dresser-Recktenwald was recently honored with the Excellence in Human Resources Practices Award.
Presented by the State University of New York Human Resources Association (SUHRA), the award recognizes achievement in improving the quality of programs and services to the university and/or his or her own campus through effective human resources (HR) practices.
Executive Vice President Valerie Nixon said Alfred State is very pleased that SUHRA recognized Dresser-Recktenwald with the award.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Wendy in a number of capacities for many years and continue to be impressed by her knowledge, creativity, and compassion,” Nixon said. “Whether it’s implementing new search, onboarding, or case management software; working closely with supervisors and employees; developing training; or her many other responsibilities, Wendy always keeps the best interest of the college and its employees in mind. We are fortunate to have Wendy as part of the Alfred State family.”
Dresser-Recktenwald, an Arkport resident and a member of the college’s staff since 2000, said she was honored to be recognized on behalf of Alfred State in a room filled with 64 SUNY human resources directors.
“I feel fortunate to be a part of a group of innovative and progressive human resources professionals who have difficult and complex jobs most people do not understand,” she said. “We are all general practitioners trying to stay abreast of an ever-changing legal landscape in the HR world. Through the State University of New York Human Resources Association, I have met the best colleagues who make my job easier through collaboration, and for that I am lucky.”
Dresser-Recktenwald noted that Alfred State’s HR team is made up of a group of incredibly talented and hard-working individuals, and that she could not have attained the award if her own staff and Nixon, her supervisor, didn’t support her efforts.
“It is because of the people here at Alfred State that I was able to gain this recognition,” she said, “and I am thankful for each and every one of them who work hard very day on behalf of the employees of Alfred State.”
Celebrate Service, Celebrate Allegany kicked off its fifth year this past Saturday and proved to be a huge success, as approximately 300 student volunteers from Alfred State, Alfred University, and Houghton College came together to engage in community service projects throughout Allegany County.
Students from all three institutions gathered at their respective colleges and were transported to pre-arranged service locations. At sites throughout much of Allegany County, students worked on projects ranging from outdoor activities such as fall cleaning, to indoor projects such as preparing meals, assembling aid packages, and painting. Overall, 300 volunteers served in 31 projects in 10 different communities.
Alfred State Student Senate President Katherine Holmok, a business administration major from Prattsville, spoke to the important role that the local communities play in students’ lives, and why it is so important to give back.
“Students recognize that the communities in which their colleges reside will be responsible for some of the fondest memories and greatest times of their lives,” she said. “As Student Senate president, I see examples every day of how much our students love Alfred, and how eager they are to give back to the communities that are nurturing them. Celebrate Service, Celebrate Allegany provides a wonderful opportunity for students around the county to demonstrate how much we care on a larger and more visible scale.”
Houghton College Alumni and Community Engagement Director Phyllis Gaerte noted, “What excites me the most when I drive around to check in on students at the different community project sites, is the great conversation and relationship building that happens between students who are serving a common purpose and with the community partner that they are working alongside of. There is no better way to get to know your neighbors.”
Five years ago, a group from Leadership Allegany organized the inaugural service day. The vision of this event has been to build relationships between students and community members, enhance student exposure to the county beyond the confines of the campus, and deliver meaningful help to public and non-profit organizations.
Over the past four years, more than 1,700 students have participated, investing over 10,200 hours of service to Allegany County communities during just this annual day of service alone. This day is scheduled each year on Make A Difference Day - the largest single national day of community service. And locally, the Allegany County Board of Legislators again issued a proclamation making Oct. 22 Make A Difference Day in the county and recognizing the service of volunteers.
Corey Fecteau, service learning coordinator for Alfred University, believes that ”volunteering on Make A Difference Day helps our students better understand Allegany County, their home-away-from-home while they are attending college.” As a result of this event, “Students are prepared to engage meaningfully with their current and future communities.”
The impact of Celebrate Service, Celebrate Allegany goes far beyond a single day, however. For students, it is a way to illustrate and develop a culture and lifestyle of community service, which they will hopefully carry with them throughout their tenure as students and into their lives post-education. For local communities, it enables important tasks, projects, and events to get a jump-start, make significant progress, or come to fruition.
The three institutions rely on donations to help pay for necessary supplies, T-shirts, and transportation for the day of service. This year, financial and in-kind support was graciously provided by Otis Eastern Service, Leadership Allegany, The Greater Allegany Chamber of Commerce, Allegany County Area Foundation, Auxiliary Campus Enterprises and Services (ACES), Cuba Fillmore Fisher’s Pharmacies, Allegany County United Way, Swain Ski Resort, and Alfred Sports Center.
For more information about the Celebrate Service, Celebrate Allegany day of service, please visit www.celebrateallegany.com.
On a beautiful fall day, members of the Alfred State Honors Program took a break from the books to meet some fellow students who competed in The Great Race this summer.
The Great Race, a controlled-speed endurance rally, challenged 109 teams to drive vintage vehicles from San Rafael, CA, to Moline, IL, crossing eight states. Driving a 1953 Dodge Power Wagon, the Alfred State team earned a third-place finish in the X-Cup division. The 6000-pound, 85-horse power tow truck climbed the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains and crossed the Mojave Desert on the nine-day trek.
Honors Program members learned details of the trip from the student team, including that lack of trailer space for the return trip at the end of the race required the students to drive to Alfred from Moline, thus completing a cross-country journey in the 1953 vehicle. Students were treated to a lap around campus in the vintage truck.
In an effort to build more trust, respect, and communication, Alfred law enforcement and safety officers want college students to meet with them and their families. While there are stories from across the nation regarding tension between officers and community members, local officers are taking a proactive approach to increase understanding.
On Oct. 25, a family barbecue is being coordinated by officers from Alfred University, the Village of Alfred, and State University Police at Alfred State, as a way to further bridge the relationship between law enforcement and the student community. The family-friendly event is designed for students to have the opportunity to meet officers in a relaxed environment where everyone can continue a dialogue about their shared interests of family and safer communities. The event is at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 25 and is convenient to both campuses at the corner where Alfred University’s Welcome Center and Alfred State’s main entrance sign are both located.
This gathering is one in a series titled “Shared Spaces” which finds opportunities for police and students to communicate in productive settings. Various pizza lunches, cookie drop-offs, and coffee hours have already increased positive contact between students and officers.
When Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti in early October, the effects on Haitians’ livestock were devastating, causing a major blow to an important aspect of the residents’ livelihood. Looking to help with this problem are two groups of Alfred State veterinary technology students who will be traveling to the country in January and May.
According to Associate Professor of Agriculture and Veterinary Technology Doug Pierson, the students will travel to Les Cayes, where they will put their skills to use caring for residents’ animals by participating in mobile clinics and coordinating with the local veterinary agent.
“We also have a truck that we load up with vet supplies and take out to farmers,” said Pierson, who, along with his wife, Debbie, will be accompanying the students to Haiti. “The farmers just bring their animals to us and we take care of whatever need they have.”
Speaking to the importance of livestock to residents in Haiti, he said, “A Haitian family wants to have livestock because if they have a need that comes up – somebody gets sick and they need to pay a hospital bill, or they have to pay school tuition – they want to have an animal to sell so they can generate the money they need. Animals are almost like a banking system. The typical poor Haitian family survives on bartering and on the livestock they are able to maintain.”
The vet tech students leaving Alfred for Haiti on Jan. 12 and returning Jan. 20 will be Dominique Battaglia, of Baldwinsville; Santina Blair, of Utica; Lynnsie Bennett, of Victor; and Morgan Childs, of Scio. Those departing for Haiti May 14 and returning May 22 will be Megan DiMartino, of Cuba; Rachael Schweiger, of Barton; Caitlyn Roof, of Palmyra; and Alison Sell, of Hanover, PA.
The Piersons’ connection to Haiti goes back more than 15 years, as they had lived near Les Cayes from 2000 to 2003 because of Doug’s involvement with the Christian Veterinarian Mission. Since 2010, the Piersons have been taking groups of Alfred State students over to Haiti twice a year. Initially, the trips centered on reconstruction and involved building trades students, but in recent years, the focus has shifted more toward caring for livestock.
“In addition to having compassion and a heart to want to help, it’s really nice if you bring a skill set so you can be more than a gofer,” Doug said, noting how impressed he has been with Alfred State students who have traveled to Haiti in the past. “We’re kind of uniquely positioned as a college of technology to bring in students with really high skill sets.”
Debbie said she hoped that when Hurricane Matthew hit, all 104 students who she and Doug have taken to Haiti over the years stopped and reflected on the past trips.
“It brings about an awareness of a developing country that maybe they haven’t had in the past,” she said. “I love going back to Haiti. Every time we go, I’m excited about going, but it’s even more exciting being able to see it through the eyes of the students who have never been there. I don’t think we’ve ever taken students who haven’t wanted to stay longer than a week because there’s so much more to do and they want to help.”