Keuka College’s Faculty Development Committee recently held its first Star Faculty Panel -- a forum that featured the committee’s 2020-21 award recipients.
Professor of History Dr. Chris Leahy (Excellence in Academic Achievement Award), Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion Dr. Mike McKenzie (Excellence in Academic Achievement Award), Associate Professor of Art and the College’s 2020-21 Professor of the Year Melissa Newcomb (Excellence in Experiential Learning Award), and Adjunct Instructor of Biology Dr. Dominique Derminio ’11 (Excellence in Teaching Award) gathered on Oct. 7 in the Hawkins Lounge before several dozen students, faculty, and staff to share stories and field questions.
“I am very excited to have the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the incredible faculty we have at Keuka College,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Brad Fuster, who moderated the event.
The panelists shared their experiences on a variety of topics, from writing books, to artistic creativity, to the world of algae.
Dr. Leahy discussed his biography of the tenth president of the United States, “President Without a Party: The Life of John Tyler.”
“He is the only U.S. President who was kicked out of his own party,” said Dr. Leahy. “I wanted to focus my attention on a president most people knew nothing about.”
He also shared how he balances his work and home life and how primary research sources don’t always have to be books—sometimes they can be people.
“I think expanding what students know about historical sources and what comprises historical sources is very important,” said Dr. Leahy. “They hadn’t thought about how conducting an interview or oral history is actually a primary source.”
Prof. Newcomb said she was quite young when she knew she wanted to be an artist -- young enough that the walls of her house were her first canvas. She also discussed the important skills a Keuka College art major must have and her vision for the future of art.
“I think artists are going to be working more collectively, rather than individually,” she said. “I also think the type of art we see is going to become more modern and technology-based in the next five years.”
Dr. McKenzie discussed the impact that his book, “A Country Strange and Far, A History of the Methodist Church in the Pacific Northwest, 1834-1918,” had on his professional career. He also touched on the importance of “place.”
“I am a big believer in how ‘place’ influences us. I grew up in a very agricultural area like Yates County,” said Dr. McKenzie, who was raised in the Yakima Valley in Central Washington state. “These are the kinds of connections I have with my students that help us bond.”
As an alumna of the College, Dr. Derminio has a unique perspective on being a faculty member.
“I know the campus inside and out, as I lived on campus for four years,” she said. “I understand the student frustrations because I went through them. And because I had a lot of the same professors who are now my colleagues, I have a better understanding of their points of view.”
She was also asked about her interest in algae, how algae impact the freshwater supply, and how she shares her passion for science with her students.
“I try to take something that seems mundane and have fun with it,” she said. “And I try and take what my students like and associate that to other areas of science as well, like chemistry or physics. This helps broaden the connection that science is everywhere.”
A similar event, featuring the College’s Professors of the Year, is planned for the spring.