Discover the Unique Passions of Keuka College Faculty Beyond the Classroom

Five of the College’s professors discuss their favorite hobbies and activities during the Spring STAR Faculty Panel.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

From thrift shops to podcasts to the seat of a bicycle, Keuka College’s faculty pursue a diverse array of interests beyond their academic disciplines. During the Spring STAR Faculty Panel, held March 13 in the Hawkins Lounge, five professors shared insights into their unique hobbies and how these activities provide much-needed decompression from their work.

Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy Dr. Beth Jordan draws parallels between running Syracuse’s Cradle and Beyond at Mission Central thrift store and her profession, emphasizing the importance of building relationships through listening. For her, connecting with clients and donors alike fosters a sense of community akin to her practice.

“The people that come into the shop are those that seek us out,” said Dr. Jordan. “They don’t want to take their things to a bigger box shop because they know we’ll take the time to listen to their stories. It’s all about building relationships with us, the same as in my OT practice.”

Relationships are something Professor of Chemistry Dr. Andy Robak found through his love of comic books. Fueled by his childhood passion, he finds solace in the world of superheroes. His love for comics has even led to the creation of a podcast, delving into the New Marvel Universe.

“It gives me an opportunity to talk about one of my interests and comics are really good fun,” said Dr. Robak, who shares podcast-hosting duties with a friend. “It’s cool. In the New Marvel Universe, they took our world in 1986 and they created the White Event, which gave one in every 2 million people some sort of parallel superpower. We have 85 episodes, so lots of content, but a small core fanbase.”
Associate Professor of American Sign Language Sharon Kocher seeks solace in creative expression. From woodworking to wool art, she finds therapy in crafting, viewing art as a medium to tell stories and explore her identity.
“My art is part of my way of life, and when the everyday stressors get me down, I find my outlet is the opportunity to be creative,” said Prof. Kocher. “I enjoy art of all kinds. If I see something that has been done, I want to put my spin on it.”

Speaking of spinning, Associate Professor of Social Work Dr. Phil Miller believes there is nothing better than hopping on a bicycle and setting off for a long ride. An advocate for cycling, Dr. Miller extols the activity as a means to mental clarity and balance. He credits cycling for fostering a meditative state, providing him with a way to solve problems and gain insights during his rides.

“Oftentimes, I come up with some solutions or insights regarding a problem I’ve had,” said Dr. Miller, who adds his favorite place to bike is the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs through western Virginia and North Carolina. “It gets better when I climb hills. When climbing a 10-mile hill you have a lot of time to think.”

While the leg-pumping miles of a good ride make Dr. Miller feel better, Dr. Beth Russo says spending time in “blue spaces” – that is, natural or man-made water sources – is the secret to her happiness. She is a proponent of the therapeutic benefits of “blue space,” emphasizing their restorative powers on mental health. 
“Blue space is a mildly meditative state,” said Dr. Russo, “because when we are near water, the actual waves of the water, and the color and the light bouncing off the water, is restorative and good for our mental health. While the science is still emerging, it has been shown that you can decrease some of your stress by being in blue spaces.”
The STAR Faculty Panel is sponsored by the College’s Professional Standards Committee. The event was moderated by Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Dr. Brad Fuster.

Dr. Brad Fuster

It was a wonderful afternoon and these are always a lot of fun, It’s one of my favorite things about working at Keuka College.

Dr. Brad Fuster