Retired Professor Conducts Research on Tick-borne Illnesses

For some faculty members, “retirement” is not a term to be taken literally.

Suny New Paltz web portraits.

Dr. Phyllis Freeman

After more than 38  “productive and rewarding” years at SUNY New Paltz – including serving as an undergraduate and graduate instructor, an early director of the Honors Program, dean of the Graduate School, and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences — psychology professor emeritus Phyllis Freeman has joined the Hudson Valley Healing Arts Center (HVHAC) as a clinical research associate. She spent her sabbatical year working at the Center, and was thrilled to be invited by Medical Director Richard Horowitz to join the team when she retired in January.

The HVHAC specializes in the treatment of Lyme disease and other tick-borne disorders, and Freeman is currently conducting a number of diagnostic and treatment studies of the MSIDS model (Multiple Systemic Infections Disease Syndrome) developed by Horowitz for chronic illnesses. In addition to coordinating research projects with laboratories, drug companies, and other treatment centers nationwide, she also educates her fellow HVHAC staff on challenges facing chronically ill patients and their caregivers.

“At this point of my life, it is enormously rewarding to put my health psychology research and teaching experiences to use in service to those so ill with long-term tick-borne disease and associated illnesses,” said Freeman.  “Tick-borne diseases are an enormous public health crisis. The latest CDC estimates are that at least 300,000 Americans contract one of these tick-borne illnesses (Lyme disease) each year.”

Freeman’s current research assistant, Meredith Johnson, is a graduate of the Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling program at SUNY New Paltz. She has also joined forces with her former SUNY New Paltz colleague, associate psychology professor Maryalice Citera, to conduct validation studies of the MSIDS model.

Professor Traces History of ‘Hardwired’ Metaphor in Brain and Behavioral Sciences

Giordana Grossi, Professor of Psychology, presented “Hardwired: History of a Misleading Metaphor” at “NeuroGenderings III: The 1st international Dissensus Conference on brain and gender” in Lausanne, Switzerland (May 8-10, 2014). NeuroGenderings is an interdisciplinary network of neuroscientists, social scientists, and cultural scientists which “aims to elaborate innovative theoretical and empirical approaches for questions of sex/gender and sexuality for neuroscientists; to analyze the social and political underpinnings of the ongoing “cerebralization” of human life and especially of sex/gender, and to discuss the impacts of neuroscientific sex/gender research in sociopolitical and cultural fields.”

“Hardwired” is a term borrowed from the field of engineering and refers to the fixedness or unchangeability of a structure or function. In her presentation, Grossi argued for the need to critically analyze how the concept of “hardwired” is used in brain and behavioral sciences, as its meaning is opaque and typically not defined. Indeed, its meaning shifts when used in different contexts, even within the same text. This lack of precision leaves the door open for misinterpretations, especially in works written for the general public, in which information on how the brain develops and changes with experience is rarely discussed.

In her lecture, Grossi explored how the hardwiring metaphor moved from the field of engineering into the brain sciences at the beginning of the 1970s, and showed how such transition was soon accompanied by the reframing of the term’s meaning in terms of origins (i.e., from fixedness to innateness and genetic determinism). She also discussed why the use of the term in brain and behavioral sciences should be discontinued.

Speech-Language and Hearing Center Closed July 21 – August 29

The SUNY New Paltz Speech-Language and Hearing Center will be closed from July 21 through August 29. During this time, hearing aid appointments for audiological clients will be conducted on the lower level of the building. Work on the Center and building infrastructure is being done to prepare for an upcoming renovation. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Questions should be directed to Sandy DiStasi, Secretary of the Communication Disorders Department, at (845) 257-3600.


Essay on WWI Infant Mortality Exhibition Earns History Department’s Best Seminar Paper Award

Melissa Franson

Melissa Franson (History, ’14) received the History Department’s Best Seminar Paper award for her essay, entitled “National Baby Week: Saving the British Race.” She is pictured receiving an Outstanding Graduate certificate from SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian.

By Despina Williams Parker

An essay on a World War I infant mortality exhibition that did not provide any meaningful solutions to the problem it was convened to address has earned the History Department’s first ever Best Seminar Paper award.

Recent graduate Melissa Franson (History, ’14) wrote the essay, entitled “National Baby Week: Saving the British Race,” during associate professor Andrew Evans’ spring senior seminar on World War I. The essay examines the National Baby Week exhibition, held July 2-7, 1917, in Great Britain during the middle of World War I.

Franson said she’d hoped to explore the general topic of women and children during World War I when she encountered an advertisement for National Baby Week during her initial research using the Sojourner Truth Library’s digital archives. In the London Times editions published during the period, Franson found advertisements, articles and posters that provided a window into the event.

As she continued her research, Franson uncovered statistical evidence that undermined the stated purpose of the exhibition. “I found the [infant] mortality rate was actually declining during the war years rather than climbing,” said Franson, who believes the exhibition organizers’ anxiety had less to do with actual infant deaths than with British military casualties and maintaining social status.

“What alarmed British society was the high mortality rate of British soldiers in the war, especially the officers who exemplified the ‘desirable’ characteristics of the British race, and thus the context of National Baby Week encompassed a larger concern over the survival of the British race during the war,” Franson noted. Her research suggests that “the aim of the organizers of National Baby Week was not so much to help with the infant mortality rate but to ensure that the ‘right’ kind of babies were being ‘saved.’”

Franson cites as evidence the type of events held during the exhibition – garden parties, parades, a beautiful baby show – which did not speak to the actual causes of infant mortality, such as poverty, malnutrition and substandard medical care.

A book entitled, Maternity: Letters from Working Mothers, edited by Margaret Llewelyn Davies, brought to light what the exhibition’s lavish offerings obscured. The letters provided first-hand accounts on the myriad ways poverty affects families, and the hardships that result in infant deaths.

“The National Baby Week exhibition did little to address the problems facing lower class families, yet purported the desire to save the babies. Given that the promoters and organizers of National Baby Week were predominantly members of the upper-class of British society and the problems of infant mortality were felt primarily by lower-class British families, I found it fascinating that the event largely ignored the larger problems found in British society that caused infant mortality,” Franson said.

History faculty members who taught the senior seminar during the 2013-14 school year selected papers for the award, and a prize committee made the final selection. Evans said the committee felt that Franson’s paper was “a model of the interplay of evidence and argument. She insightfully analyzes the way a particular event (National Baby Week) elucidates larger social and cultural issues of British social classes. She also provides a comprehensive historical context for that analysis.” Franson received a small monetary award for her work.

Franson also earned the honor of being named one of the History Department’s “Outstanding Graduates.” The campus-wide program recognizes the academic achievements of exceptional graduates from all New Paltz departments. A recognition ceremony was held in May, and Franson received a certificate from President Donald Christian.

Evans called Franson one of the History Department’s “real stars.”

“She’s one of those students who is ferociously learning all the time,” he said.

In the fall, Franson will attend SUNY Binghamton, where she has been accepted into the PhD program for history with full funding. She said she considers herself a “social historian,” and will focus on early American history and the subfields of women’s history and British history.

She credited History Department faculty members Evans, Louis Roper, Susan Lewis and Reynolds Scott-Childress with inspiring her to “reach for the next level.”

Digital Media Lecturer’s Basketball Documentary an Official Selection at Hoboken International Film Festival

Ray Williams Knicks 1reduced

Ray Williams achieved fame as a New York Knicks point guard, but ended up bankrupt and homeless. He is one of the subjects of Thomas Cznarty’s documentary, “After the Sweat Dries.”

By Despina Williams Parker

There are hoop dreams, and there are harsh realities.

“After the Sweat Dries,” Thomas Cznarty’s cautionary tale about the often cruel aftermath of athletic success, was an Official Selection at the Hoboken International Film Festival, held May 30-June 5 in Middletown, NY.

In the documentary, Cznarty, a New Paltz Digital Media instructor, sought to explore a topic that he believes has not garnered adequate media attention. “We wanted to inform athletes, sports enthusiasts and the layperson that after the stadium lights dim low and the cheering crowds go home, professional athletes need to have goals beyond sports, because their window of success is fleeting.”

The film profiles the lives of former New York Knicks point guard Ray Williams and Seton Hall University basketball assistant coach Shaheen Holloway. Both men experienced admirable success in the game, but their lives outside the stadium took very different turns.

Williams, who played 10 years in the NBA, found his career suddenly over after a contract dispute with the New York Nets. Once accustomed to a salary of $4-5 million a year, Williams could not sustain his former lifestyle. Within a decade, he had blown through his NBA pension, was homeless and living in his car.

Ray Williams

Williams was photographed living in his car by a Boston Globe photographer.

Holloway, a Queens native, was a standout guard for Seton Hall from 1996-2000. After leading his team to the NCAA Tournament, his college career ended when he broke his ankle in three places during a game at Syracuse.

Holloway would go on to play in the European basketball league, but returned home to help raise his daughter, who was struggling academically. He has experienced great success as a Seton Hall coach, and gives back to his community by hosting summer basketball camps for youth. His daughter is now a Seton Hall undergraduate student.

Cznarty sought to highlight the differences in the two men’s responses to adversity. While Holloway was able to bounce back from disappointment and pursue positive career and personal changes, Williams proved completely unprepared for life after the NBA. “Ray didn’t have a back-up plan,” Cznarty said.

Just as Williams’s life seemed to briefly take a turn for the better – a profile in the Boston Globe led to a job with the Mount Vernon recreation department, and he reunited with and married a former girlfriend – Williams developed cancer. In less than a year after Cznarty visited him at his home, Williams passed away without ever seeing the finished documentary.

At the June 2 screening at the Hoboken Film Festival, held in the Paramount Theater, the film received a positive response from attendees. “After the screening, everyone applauded loudly. It made an impact on the audience, so that was very rewarding,” said Cznarty.

Cznarty returned two nights later to attend the screening of the short film, “Choices,” by his student and Digital Storytelling standout Catherine Kaczor. Cznarty called the fictional film, about a young, disillusioned woman, “beautifully rendered.”

Tom Cznarty

Thomas Cznarty

This year, the Hoboken International Film Festival had over 1,500 film submissions, and a jury of industry insiders accepted less than 10 percent. Only a handful were documentaries.

Cznarty said festival success is crucial, as numerous distribution company representatives attend the screenings and broker deals with filmmakers. “The goal is to sell the film and get it broadcast and get a distribution deal,” he said.

In June, “After the Sweat Dries” won the Accolade Competition’s Award of Merit in the short documentary category. Accolade is a juried, international awards competition, and the Award of Merit recognizes “notable artistic and technical productions.”

Cznarty has also submitted the film to the Sundance, South by Southwest and American Film Institute festivals, and hopes to showcase his work in these venues in the fall and winter.

– Despina Williams

Professor Examines the Evolutionary Psychology of Marathon Running

Marathon.By Despina Williams Parker

Marathon running is not evolutionarily natural. So why do runners enthusiastically race for 26.2 miles, sprinting through pain, sweat and unpleasant weather?

Glenn Geher

Glenn Geher

It’s a question Glenn Geher, Professor of Psychology and Director of New Paltz’s Evolutionary Studies Program, attempts to answer in the recent article, “Long May You Run: The Evolutionary Psychology of Marathon Running,” published in the online magazine, Marathon Running.

In it, Geher notes that while early hominids exercised, on average, much more than modern man or woman, they would not likely have engaged in marathon running or the kind of intensive training that prepares one for it.

Geher positions marathon running within the framework of the evolutionary psychology of signs, which he defines as “signals to others as well as signals to oneself.”

Runners get positive feedback from others who marvel at their strength and determination, but they also receive internal rewards. As Geher noted of his own recent 4-hour-43-minute race through the New Hampshire seacoast: “I learned that I’m a hard-worker – that I can put my immediate interests to the side to reach a bigger goal – that I can achieve something extraordinary (even if my time was slower than my times from a decade ago!)”

Geher believes marathoners share a sense of accomplishment and bolstered faith in their innate potential. “From an evolutionary perspective, it strikes me that I learned something about myself with this experience,” Geher wrote of the New Hampshire marathon, “and the many brave souls who ran alongside me (and who often passed me) learned the same kinds of lessons. If I can do this, I must be capable of lots of great things. And this sounds to me, like a pretty adaptive lesson.”

In an interview with LA&S, Geher noted that marathons and other types of extreme, voluntary physical challenges are “something of a luxury and an artifact of modern living.”

“For the thousands of generations in which people were hunters and gatherers exclusively, I don’t think folks would have had much time for hobbies or extra-curriculars,” he explained. “They could have been happy with a job well-done, but I don’t think a guy from 100,000 years ago who said, ‘Kids, I’m going to be running without hunting for food or anything else useful for two hours a day for the next three months – and I’ll be exhausted all day afterwards’ would have necessarily been very popular. I think that many of the ways that humans now challenge themselves are only possible in light of the comfortable lives we’re able to live in a modern society.”

Geher frequently writes about his hobbies and personal interests in his Psychology Today blog, entitled Darwin’s Subterranean World. Geher’s marathon running article was originally published on the blog.

“The blog has been a great opportunity for me to address lots of things that I find interesting from an evolutionary perspective. Topics have ranged from such issues as dog ownership, Bob Dylan’s lyrics and coaching little league to Star Wars, hiking and marathon running,” Geher said.

Read the complete article, “Long May You Run,” here.

– Despina Williams


Digital Media Alumni Win Top Honor at SUNYWide Film Festival

Jogger John

“Jogger John” is the subject of an award winning documentary by 2013 Digital Media alumni Kaleigh Griffin, Claudia Gallo, Lindsay Nimphius and Keri Sheheen.

By Despina Williams Parker

The Digital Media and Journalism Department is pleased to announce New Paltz alumni’s grand prize win at the SUNYWide Film Festival, held in April at the SUNY Fredonia campus.

The documentary, “First Name: Jogger, Last Name: John,” by Kaleigh Griffin, Claudia Gallo, Lindsay Nimphius and Keri Sheheen, all 2013 graduates, earned Best in Festival.

The 15-minute film, which was directed, written and produced by Griffin, tells the story of “Jogger John,” a homeless man and former drug addict who became a Woodstock, NY treasure. Gallo served as cinematographer and co-edited the film with Sheeheen. Nimphius scored the film.

The festival was founded in 2009 as an opportunity to showcase the cinematic excellence of students and faculty from the SUNY system.

The young filmmakers were thrilled to receive the award.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all and it came as such a wonderful surprise,” said Griffin. “I can’t wait to tell Jogger John. He’s always so happy when I tell him about another accomplishment the film makes.”

The project was created as part of the Seminar in Digital Filmmaking capstone course last spring. The documentary premiered at the Woodstock Film Festival and earned the Second Place Documentary award at the annual international Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts in the spring.

View the trailer for the documentary here.


New Paltz Alumna Brought Enthusiasm for Evolutionary Psychology to EvoS Program

Briana Tauber

Briana Tauber

By Despina Williams Parker

Recent graduate Briana Tauber (Psychology, ‘14g) was a very visible and active contributor to New Paltz’s Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) program.

The interdisciplinary program introduces students from a variety of disciplines to the core ideas of evolutionary theory. EvoS offerings include courses in anthropology, art history, biology, black studies, communication disorders, English, geology, history, physics and psychology.

Tauber said she was drawn to the EvoS program after taking Psychology Professor Glenn Geher’s Evolutionary Studies course her junior year. Rooted in evolutionary psychology, the course examined the evolutionary origins of human behaviors. “I really loved the material and I wanted to get involved,” said Tauber.

As an undergraduate, Tauber worked as a research assistant in Geher’s Evolutionary Studies lab. During her graduate studies, she continued to contribute to the EvoS program, both as a teaching assistant and president of the campus EvoS Club.

This spring, Tauber took a lead role in organizing the ninth annual Northeastern Evolutionary Psychology Society (NEEPS) conference, held at New Paltz from April 10-13. Tauber organized student volunteers, tracked registrations and juggled a variety of conference tasks. The approximately 200 participants came from five continents, and participated in a variety of lectures, book signings and other events at the Terrace and Lecture Center.

EP lab at NEEPS 2014

Tauber (second row from back, second from right), joins Psychology Professor Glenn Geher (front row, left), and fellow EvoS enthusiasts at the Northeastern Evolutionary Psychology Society conference in April.

Tauber’s work as the EvoS Club president also garnered the attention of the campus’s Student Association. Tauber accepted the club’s Outstanding Scholarship Award during a ceremony on April 30 in the Student Union Building. The award recognized the club’s efforts in connecting students to distinguished, evolutionary studies speakers.

Tauber’s work in evolutionary psychology culminated with a master’s thesis on the subject of deception detection and trust in mating behaviors. Tauber drew from Geher’s book, Mating Intelligence Unleashed, which she helped edit, in developing her research. Tauber was intrigued by the gaps in the scholarship on how people choose mates, and particularly, their ability to spot the liars from the earnest suitors.

“It’s really relevant now because you have all of this online dating,” Tauber noted. “People fall in love online and they’ve never met this person face to face, and it’s not the person they thought it was.”

Tauber used the online survey generator Survey Monkey to poll over 300 participants on their romantic experiences. Her research revealed several interesting findings. Extroverts proved better at detecting deception than introverts, which Tauber believes speaks to extroverts’ greater experience interacting with people in general, (and presumably, with a greater number of liars.) Women who were more promiscuous were also less trusting of their mates.

Though Tauber graduated this May, she maintains close ties to her psychology mentors. She is slated to co-edit, with Geher and other scholars, a book tentatively titled The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Studies. The book will examine the interdisciplinary nature of evolutionary studies and explore its future in higher education.

Tauber said the opportunities for student/faculty collaborations were among the highlights of her time at New Paltz. She will miss the daily interaction with her psychology professors and peers.

“I’ve spent a quarter of my life here. It’s sad to leave,” she said.

Head of Her Class


Arielle Rubinstein

By Despina Williams Parker

For the second year in a row, a graduate of the Communication Disorders Department has been named class valedictorian. Arielle Rubinstein, who double majored in linguistics and maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA, delivered the class of 2014 commencement address on Sunday, May 18, at the Old Main Quadrangle.

At New Paltz, Rubinstein distinguished herself as excellent student and leader. She served as president of the National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association (NSSLHA), which advocates for communication disorders organizations. Through her work with the association, she organized fundraisers for the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders and invited experts in the field to campus to deliver lectures.


Rubinstein (second from right), served as president of the National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association at New Paltz. She is shown with fellow association members Alexandra Lavrentieva, Catherine Schembri and Victoria Guido.

As a student, she interned at a special services elementary school in her hometown of Robbinsville, N.J., where she learned valuable skills that she will apply in her chosen career as a speech language pathologist. “It gave me a good foundation of what it means to be speech pathologist, especially working with a population that’s so impaired,” she said. “It was more meaningful because you were helping students really communicate.”

In her senior year, she worked in the Communication Disorders Department’s Early Intervention Clinic, conducting therapy with both a client and parent. “The point is to make the parent the therapist,” Rubinstein noted. “You’re working with children with language disorders and delays and showing parents how to model language with the child and engage the child in play to produce language. You are showing parents how to create an optimal environment for the child to communicate.”

Rubinstein said her client, a two-year-old girl, made significant progress during their time together. “By the end, she was initiating her own play, using three- and four-letter words to express what she wanted, and had more consideration of other people within her play situations,” she said.

Rubinstein has been accepted into New Paltz’s Master of Science in Communication Disorders program. Though she was accepted at other schools, Rubinstein said she liked the “sense of community” at New Paltz.

“I know all the professors really well. I was one of those people who always went to office hours to get help, and I felt like they were always there for me when I had a problem. They want you to do well. They’re really encouraging and supportive,” Rubinstein said.

Rubinstein noted the importance of developing relationships with professors and getting involved in campus life. The class valedictorian advised her New Paltz peers to take an active role in their education.

“Things aren’t always going to come to you. You have to go out and work for them,” she said.

Watch Rubinstein’s valedictory address here.