Congratulations to SUNY Empire State College’s 2013 Bahr Scholarship Recipients!

’83,’95 Alumnus Morton Bahr’s commitment to education, leadership, and the SUNY Empire State College community continues to motivate and inspire students to earn their bachelor’s degrees while working completely online.

Morton Bahr

In 1983, Morton Bahr graduated from SUNY Empire State College’s Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies. In 1985, he became President of Communications Workers of America, and led 700+ union members through 20 years’ worth of technological, economic, and global changes in the telecommunications industry.

Determined to share all of his success with future leaders, Bahr implemented the Bahr Scholarship Foundation at SUNY Empire State College to assist Center for Distance Learning (CDL) students to earn their college degree. To honor his past, scholarship preference is given to union members and their families.

Dean of the Center for Distance Learning, Dr. Thomas P. Mackey

“We are grateful to the generosity of Morton Bahr for providing so many of our learners over the years with such an outstanding opportunity to achieve the dream of a college degree. Bahr Scholars enrich our academic community because, like many of our learners, they are pursuing online degrees while representing the workforce. It brings a vibrant mix of experience, application, and knowledge to our learning environment,” said Dean of the Center for Distance Learning, Dr. Thomas Mackey.

Join the College community in offering congratulations to this year’s recipients: Jennifer Jacobs, Mendy Thorsland, John Llewellyn, Jordan Marsh, and Kenya Coleman.

Jennifer Jacob
Keep your head high and your goals in mind, don’t ever give up.”

Jennifer Jacob is a Library Clerk at Gates Public Library in Rochester, NY.  She lives nearby in Hilton, NY with her husband, Dan. Jacobs is in pursuit of Bachelor of Science in Community and Service with a Concentration in Human Services.

What is your overall professional goal? How will your degree help you attain this?
My overall professional goal is to become a children’s librarian within our local public library system. A degree in Human Services will assist me in making the most of the interactions that I have on a daily basis with the public in the library setting. So many individuals visit the library not only for books but for referrals to community services or for reliable information. Knowledge of psychology and human services will assist me in providing even more individualized services to patrons.

Why are you excited to be selected as a Bahr Scholar? What does this mean to you academically?
Being selected as a Bahr Scholar is a huge honor. Not only am I excited and grateful, but I am also aware that we are role models and representatives not only of Empire State College, but of our unions as well. Academically, this means a great deal to me. Without this scholarship, it would have been very difficult for me to complete my degree because although I maintain excellent grades, my college funding is due to run out, leaving me with some potentially difficult decisions.

How did you find out about SUNY Empire State College?
I attended the Center for Distance Learning upon graduating from high school, however as a 17 year old, I was not the most disciplined of learners. After maturing, entering the workforce for a number of years, getting married and purchasing a home, I decided that I was ready to re-enter college. Since I was now an adult learner with a family and full time job, attending Empire State College’s Center for Distance Learning was the only method of obtaining my degree that would work with my busy schedule. Although challenging, I am now responsible enough to rise to the challenge and have become an excellent student, priding myself on earning excellent grades.

What advice do you give to other students just starting their college education?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support. So many students think that they can do it alone, or are ashamed to ask for help but obtaining a college education is challenging, especially if you are an adult learner. There are resources and support for you.

Mendy Thorsland
“Take it step by step…You will get there!”

Mendy Thorsland, RN, is an elementary school nurse at Watkins Glen Central school. She is working on a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing through the Center for Distance Learning. A local to Seneca Lake, Thorsland enjoys hiking, biking, and outdoor activities with her husband and their three children.

How Will Your Degree Help You Professionally?
I feel that health care is a field that is always in transition and if a nurse (or any health care professional) does not learn continually, they will not be able to keep up as time goes on. While this can often be done through professional journals and membership to professional nursing organizations, when I made my transition into school nursing, I felt I needed a more thorough education. While getting my Bachelor’s is not required for my current job, I feel that it will help to secure my position in an occupation that I love.

From an Academic Standpoint, What Does the “Bahr Scholar” Title Mean To You?
I am very excited and proud to have received the Morton Bahr Scholarship. It has given me the incentive to live up to the high standards Mr. Bahr demonstrated.

How did you find out about SUNY Empire State College?
I began Empire State College shortly after finishing nursing school in 1996 at the urging of my father-in-law, Martin Thorsland who was working for Empire State College. Unfortunately, they did not have the RN to BSN program at that time and that was where my heart was.

John Llewellyn
“When you can completely engross yourself in something you love, the college experience will never be burdensome. Stick with it. Your biggest regret in life may turn out to be giving up on your education.”

John Llewellyn, President of Local F-7, is a Firefighter/Hazmat Technician and EMT with West Point Fire and Emergency Services. Llewellyn will earn his degree in Labor Studies with a concentration in Labor-Management Relations. He enjoys New York Yankees baseball, New York Giants football, and spending time with his wife Sabrina and two children.

What is your overall professional goal? How will you grow through your education?
My goal is to work in labor. At this point, I am looking into work at the district or national level within the IAFF or working as a mediator with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. A degree, specifically one in the labor studies area, will help me in these endeavors immensely. The new knowledge I am gaining in my studies here at ESC is giving me more of the background and information I will need to work in either of these fields.

Why are you excited to be selected as a Bahr Scholar?
I am excited to be a Bahr Scholar because it gives me another standard to strive for. Morton Bahr’s ideas and writings on the lifelong nature of learning really struck a chord with me. I feel that the example Mr. Bahr has set will motivate me not only to get the most out of my educational experiences, but also to encourage others to do the same.

How did you find out about SUNY Empire State College?
I originally found out about ESC from a former union leader about 10 years ago. After completing my associates degree, I began researching online bachelor’s degrees for labor studies, which led me here.

What advice do you give to other students just starting their college education?
Find something you’re passionate about. This may take some time but it pays dividends over the course of your education.

Jordan Marsh
“Never be afraid to ask for help; especially within the Center for Distance Learning; they have so many available resources and are of tremendous suport.”

Jordan Marsh will earn a Bachelor of Science in Labor Studies. He currently works for the  IUE-CWA GE & Aerospace Conference Board. A former semi-pro hockey player, an aspiring Ironman competitor and an avid Adirondack hiker, Marsh also enjoys coaching his sons’ hockey team.

What is your overall professional goal?
How will your degree help you attain this?  My overall goal is to obtain the tools to successfully advance my career and do so in a manner that will benefit myself and my employer.  My degree will give me a solid foundation in reaching this goal and the knowledge to ease the process.

Why are you excited to be selected as a Bahr Scholar? 
I am very excited to be selected as one of the Bahr Scholarship award recipients, as it validates the hard work that I have put in.  Academically speaking, it gives me an added boost of confidence that I can continue my education and solidified my decision to continue on by enrolling into a Master’s Degree program once my Bachelors is complete

How did you find out about SUNY Empire State College?
I was a graduate of the SUNY system and grew up in Saratoga Springs, so I had always known of SUNY Empire State.  After researching all of my options, SUNY Empire State College was hands down the best option for me in regards to my major.

What advice do you give to other students just starting their college education?
Stick with it!  I received a Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Brockport in 1998 and decided to change professions later down the road.  I went back to college 14 years later and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.  If you work hard and truly put in the effort, you will reap the rewards of your hard work.

Kenya Coleman
“Empire State College is a place that gives you easy, friendly access to everything you need to know to make things better for your academic study from beginning to end.”

Kenya Coleman works for the United University Professions (UUP) as Meeting and Travel Assistant/Assistant to the Vice President for Academics. She will pursue her degree in the Business, Management, and Economics area of study, and in her free time enjoys scrapbooking and spending time with her family.

Why are you excited to be selected as a Bahr Scholar? What is your goal?
I am very excited to have been selected as a recipient for the Morton Bahr Scholarship. It made me feel like I am starting off on the right path to something great. My overall goal is to gain the necessary skills knowledge to earn my bachelor’s degree.

Best of luck to this year’s scholars as they connect with their mentors, prepare for fall classes, and continue on their educational journey at the Center for Distance Learning!

Mother-Daughter Teamwork: From Girl Scouts to Graduation

Alison (on left) and Heather (on right) are pictured here representing the Girl Scouts of America as Pax Lodge volunteers Hampstead, England.

After her family relocated from Poughkeepsie, NY to Middletown, CT, Heather Bentley could no longer attend in-person classes at Dutchess County Community College.

“Dutchess had some… online courses available, but most were campus-based and I had to work at least part time. My mom was working on her degree through SUNY Empire and she recruited me to take my first course, an independent study she designed, called the ‘Social Impact of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts’ taught by Himanee Gupta Carlson,” said Bentley, who has been a girl scout for 20 years.

Heather completed that course and the rest is history…She will complete her associates in May 2013 in The Arts, and plans to continue on to complete her bachelors degree in Media Arts. Her mom, Alison Bentley graduated in January 2013 with an Interdisciplinary degree in Organizational Communication. Together, they will attend the graduation ceremony in Saratoga Springs in June.

Vote YES to keep $25 Student Activity Fee

The State University of New York mandates that the college conduct a referendum every two years so that students vote on whether to keep the current Student Activity Fee ($25)  as mandatory. Students will receive information directly, and the vote will take place between November 26 and December 7th.  

Thanks to the student activity fee fund, SUNY Empire State College students have seen many new direct and effective benefits. The annual student academic conference, enhanced graduation ceremonies, access to the alumni community offering job postings and career advice, an online resume service, lectures, group study, student art shows and an increase in student scholarships are just a sampling of what the fee supports.

The student activity fee greatly enriches the academic experience with so many events, activities and projects for students. Currently, the fee is billed on the student’s regular bill. This fee has not been increased in seven years and it is the lowest in SUNY.

Please vote “yes” to keep the $25 Student Activity Fee and support future college events!



Better Teachers, Smarter Students: National Science Foundation Grant Will Impact STEM Education in New York State Schools

Dr. Oriz (l) and Dr. Matias (r)

“Right now far too many intelligent and talented students are leaking out of the educational pipeline,” said SUNY Empire State College Professor Dr. Phillip A. Ortiz, area coordinator and mentor in Natural Science at the college’s Center for Distance Learning. That’s why Ortiz and faculty colleague Dr. Audi Matias worked on a grant proposal to bring mentoring resources middle school students interested in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

 Ortiz and Matias played a key role in writing and winning this $2.95 million National Science Foundation grant written to SUNY, the New York Academy of Sciences, and SUNY Empire State College.  The grant will help bring to scale a successful afterschool program in which SUNY graduate students and postdoctoral fellows mentor middle schoolers from high-need school districts in STEM-related topics.

 “The need for students to be more proficient in STEM subjects is increasing. By collaborating, we can help more K-12 students succeed while also providing graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with the opportunity to earn credit and become better teachers. I look forward to continued work on this project,” said Ortiz.

Gratitude. Motivation. Inspiration: Keith Gurgui Changes the Tide

Keith Gurgui

In August 2009, Keith Gurgui had a lot to be thankful for. Varsity Crew Team Captain. Kingston High School Graduate. Active Lifeguard. Headed to Philadelphia University in the fall to begin his freshman year of college. To celebrate, Gurgui went on vacation to Bethany Beach, MD. Two days later, as he went for his final dive of the day, his landing changed his life forever.

Now 2012, with a home elevator, handicap-accessible vehicle, and daily OT and PT, Gurgui is paralyzed from the neck down. Still, Gurgui said, he “has a lot to be thankful for”.

“Through my accident and rehabilitation I have learned first-hand about the complex lives individuals with disabilities are forced to live, and the programs out there to support them. One of my goals is to advocate for the issues and concerns of this group to encourage support, equality, and research among politicians, doctors, scientists, social service organizations, schools, and anyone else who can help make life as equal and accessible for all,” said Gurgui, who is working to earn his Bachelor of Science in Communication & Political Science at SUNY Empire State College.

Keith, with his sister, Jackie

Gurgui realized that to be a more effective advocate, he would need education, training, and experience. He knew he’d benefit from college courses, however travel and attendance in a traditional classroom on a regular basis would be a challenging task, for both Keith and his family.

“After being introduced to Empire State College, I realized I could still earn my bachelor’s degree without the transportation or accessibility issues of a campus-based program. With a SUNY name and courses delivered completely online, I knew I found my opportunity. I was accepted to Empire State College in 2010, and enrolled in my first class called ‘Disabled in America’,” he said.

Speaking his assignments into Dragon NaturallySpeaking, a voice-to-computer translator, and clicking through a reflective dot on a head mouse, Gurgui has successfully completed five classes to date, and is actively engaged in his summer coursework.

“I go to school for what’s in my head, not in my hand…For the knowledge, not the piece of paper. I have a personal stake in laws and regulations and the people they serve,” Gurgui said. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos recognized this and selected Gurgui to be a member of the New York State Department of Health’s Spinal Cord Injury Research Board, which distributes grants to qualifying researchers around the state interested in specifically treating spinal cord injuries.

And that’s not all. In addition to a part-time course load, Gurgui works his day job as a Systems Advocate at the Resource Center for Accessible Living (RCAL). This is the same independent living center in Ulster County that assisted him back in 2009. He also attended the World Stem Cell Summit in Detroit, MI to learn about regenerative medicine’s research trends and treatment programs.

 What’s next for Gurgui? He has aspirations to start a fundraising organization to raise money for spinal cord injury research. However, he quickly added, “I keep busy. But the ultimate goal I work for every day is to get out of this chair.” And based on his accomplishments, there’s no doubt he has the motivation, commitment, and perseverance to accomplish it!

Serendipity: When Things Just Fall In To Place

Stephanie Martino

Quote from CDL student Stephanie Marino to her mentor, Dana Henson:
“I have had the lovliest serendipity since coming to ESC. I love school! I choose classes that complement each other and I have been able to cross-reference ideas and make connections every single semester. My online classes are off to a good start!”    

When you connect with the “right” college, and the “right” classes at the “right” time, the decision to return to school is positively reinforced. The quote above captures Stephanie Marino’s enthusiasm for her goal to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Studies with a Concentration in Ethnic and Multicultural Studies through the Center for Distance Learning at SUNY Empire State College.

Marino, originally from Omaha, Nebraska, dropped out of college 30 years ago to pursue a career in music. She described herself as a “terrible student”. At age 50, she returned to ESC after a recommendation from her friend and ESC professor Silvia Chelala.  

“What an amazing time in my life! I want to say that this is one of the best decisions I have ever made.  The ESC staff from mentor to bookstore to professors and my classmates, have made my life richer and I have proven to myself that I really am a good student!”, said Marino, who currently works as an English teacher in Italy.

Upon graduation in 2013, Marino plans to continue her studies and pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching.

“It’s a Pleasure to Finally Meet You”: Sharing A Graduation Story

Ruby Tan and Dr. Bidhan Chandra

Please enjoy this post, written by Dr. Bidhan Chandra, after he met his student, Ruby Tan, for the first time (in person) at Saturday’s graduation festivities.

Saturday’s graduation ceremony was truly great and memorable. I can’t imagine how much planning and hard work went in for making this event so memorable and so flawless. I would like to congratulate and thank everyone who was involved in the event planning and execution.

The student speakers were excellent. One of them was Ruby Tan. Ruby was my student in my International Business course in 2009. By chance, we were seated at the same table for reception after the graduation ceremony. We were very happy to meet each other. She said that I was her only mentor that she was able to meet so far. This made me feel so special. My wife (Usha) and I had wonderful conversations with her and her family. Her sister and brother-in-law came all the way from Singapore to be present and to celebrate Ruby’s achievement.

I have attended and enjoyed all CDL graduations ever since I joined CDL in 1996. I feel that these graduation events are the only opportunity for me, as a mentor, to see the fruits of our collective work as faculty, professional, and staff. It is a great joy to see the students and their families together. Please consider attending the graduation ceremony next year if you could not attend this year’s.”

– Written by faculty member and Area Coordinator, Dr. Bidhan Chandra

Lucia Ducci: Italian Language Professor and A Friendly Tour Guide

Lucia Ducci and Amy Hensberry at the Ponte Vecchio.

In January term, distance-learning students Amy Hensberry and Chris Roos completed the CDL course Introductory Italian: Language and Culture. A few days after the semester ended, they hinted how fun it would be to go meet their instructor, Lucia Ducci, in person, in Florence, Italy, to practice their skills. Without hesitation, Ducci answered, “Come visit!” and the rest is history.

Amy and Chris admire il Duomo in Florence, Italy.

Two months later Amy and Chris were standing in Palazzo Vecchio, chatting with Lucia, sipping on cappuccino, and ready to stroll through the Boboli Gardens.

“I enjoyed meeting my students (now friends!) in person and realize what a huge passion they have for Italian language and culture,” said Ducci, a native Italian who speaks fluent English and French languages. “I was very happy to see that they could interact using proper Italian not only with me, but with the waiter, taxi cab driver, and hotel staff, too,” she added.

In 2007, Ducci studied at the University of Florence, Italy, to earn her Ph.D. in International Relations and Contemporary History. She worked at Holy Cross College in Worcester, MA and at Boston College in Boston, MA for three years, before she decided to return to Italy to be closer to her family and friends. After returning to Italy, she always felt a tie to her students back in the States.

Chris Roos and Lucia Ducci Take a Break!

“I was on my couch, reading the New York Times, and I saw an ad for SUNY Empire State College. I immediately sent in my resume,” she said. A few months later, she was hired, teaching Italian language courses, and working to develop a new “Intermediate Italian” course for CDL. “Teaching at Empire State College is a wonderful opportunity for me. Although I have to stay up late because of the time difference, I can work in an American environment (which I love!), and stay and live comfortably at home here in Italy,” said Ducci.

Planning a visit to Florence? Lucia welcomes your email at Buon Viaggio!



Rochelle Campbell: Author, Blogger & Short Story Artist

Rochelle Campbell was a self-proclaimed “typical (almost) baby-boomer who eschewed any all all things tech~y”. But that was so 2009…before she completed Empire State College’s Digital Storytelling course, taught by Dr. Tom Mackey.

Flash-forward to today…No longer a novice, this author, blogger, and short story artist fired up her Kindle this week and uploaded her first novel-length book, “Opening Up” on Amazon. Previously she published a collection of short stories called, “Leaping Out on Faith“, also available at Amazon.

Earlier this month, Campbell launched her “Notebook Blogiary” which features book reviews (and a clever ‘notebook’ rating scale); life vignettes; samples of her completed short stories or essays; and her thoughts and comments about all things reading or writing related.

“It has been a world wind few weeks!”, said Campbell, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Studies with a concentration in Written Communication at Empire State College in 2010. “This class [Digital Storytelling] helped me see that social media and various technology platforms could be my friends,” she said. Based on her immediate success and outstanding creative talents, Ms. Campbell has found herself a modern-day electronic collection of BFFs!

Connect with Rochelle Campbell on Twitter @NotebkBlogairy or via email at

Bahr Scholarship Opportunity for Union Members and their Families

“This is my second semester with the scholarship and with the financial help it has surely helped reduced the stress of going more into debt. I will have my bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in human resource management. I have learned so much that I feel I would not have learned in a traditional classroom.”
Bahr Scholar, Kelly M.
Bachelor of Science in Business, Management and Economics

Bahr Scholars and the Center for Distance Learning
This scholarship, created in the name of Empire State College alumnus Morton Bahr, assists union members and other workers by furthering their educational goals and enhancing educational access through distance learning.

As a Bahr Scholar with Empire State College Center for Distance Learning (CDL), you can earn your entire degree online. Busy, working adults are increasingly turning to the web for quality education that fits into their lives. Whether you’re on the road or prefer to study from the comfort of your home, the Center for Distance Learning offers you the chance to reach your goals.

Work With Faculty
Online learning offers dedicated, disciplined students the ability to earn a degree or upgrade skills with our proven web-based education delivery. You will have the opportunity to work with a faculty mentor to develop an individualized degree program that builds upon your interests, life experiences, needs and goals. Through this flexible program, you may work at times and locations that are convenient. Students communicate with faculty and course instructors by means of e-mail, telephone and through discussion areas online.

Stimulating, Challenging Courses
Center for Distance Learning courses are completely self-contained and are highly interactive through discussions with the instructor and other students.  With online learning, you progress at your own rate, and as a Bahr Scholar, you can take up to 2 courses for a maximum 8 credits per term. Keep in mind, however, that online courses are rigorous, requiring the discipline of systematic study, concentrated reading and carefully written assignments. To be successful, you will need to set aside substantial blocks of time for study, logging into your courses at least three times per week.  For example, with a 4-credit course, you should plan on a minimum of 10 hours of study time per week.

Other Bahr Scholars share their thoughts:
Catherine G. –
“I finished my Associates Degree at Empire this past May and wasn’t sure I was going to continue to work for a Bachelor’s Degree. I have kids in college and high school and their education is more of a priority for me. Thanks to this scholarship, I will be able to complete my degree.  I am planning to earn a BS in Business Management and Economics.  I am excited and thankful for this wonderful opportunity.”

Zsuzsanna S. – “… I’m one year away from completing my degree in Social Theory, Social Structure and Change. Being a student at ESC has been a fantastic experience, and I met some really great people in the past two years.”

Robin J., B.S., Human Resources and Communications – “When the statement came from ESC the other day my husband and I looked at the $1700+ total and said to each other (again!) that without the Morton Bahr scholarship there’s no way I could be doing this.  It’s something I will remember for the rest of my life and always with deep gratitude and awe that there are people like Mr. Bahr out there whose ideals translate into action to make this a better world for working people.”

Cheryl O., B.A., Community and Human Services – “I felt like I had won the lottery when they called me! After I finished my degree plan and looked at all those classes it seemed like a huge hill to climb, but now I will be finished at the end of this year and get my degree. Never would have been possible without the scholarship! The best part is all of the support from the mentors and other staff at ESC.  I will miss that the most when I graduate, you get so much help and support here!”

Nancy D., B.A., Human Development – “This scholarship has made my life fantastic, and has given me amazing confidence in myself.”

Need More Information?
View this short video to tell you more about online learning at Empire State College or or additional information on the Morton Bahr Online Scholarship, visit this link to apply!

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