High-Tech Listening: iPhone App for Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are better than ever; they’re slim, customized, discrete and technologically advanced. They are no longer the devices of the past that your grandparents kept in a drawer only to wear for an occasional outing. They are digital and brimming with connectivity. Hearing aids can connect to any device that is Bluetooth compatible, such as a computer, television, cell phone, land line phone, music device, car system and more. If the target device is not Bluetooth, then an adaptor can be utilized.

Collage of hearing aids throughout history

Hearing aids throughout history

Recently a variety of hearing aid companies have introduced another advancement: iPhone compatibility. Apple’s “Made for iPhone Hearing Aid” program allows the iPhone to act as a remote control for hearing aids. When moving from one sound environment to another, such as entering a noisy restaurant, adjusting the volume or switching the hearing aid’s pre-programmed environment settings is easily done with the iPhone app. In addition, the app can be used to select an input source, such as cell phone, TV or music, so that sound is delivered from the source directly to the hearing aid.

If you would like to find out more about hearing aids, please contact the SUNY New Paltz Speech Language and Hearing Center at (845) 257-3600.



From New Paltz to Japan to England: Alum Pursues Advanced Studies Abroad

William Borchert

William Borchert

William Borchert ’10 lived locally when he was an undergraduate at New Paltz, commuting from his hometown of nearby Marlboro. But for his graduate studies, Borchert decided it was time to conquer some other continents.

After graduating from New Paltz in three years with three majors (biology, history, Asian studies) and three minors (business administration, evolutionary studies, and religious studies), Borchert attended Meiji University in Tokyo to study the Japanese government’s response to pandemic influenza. From there, he went to the University of Tokyo, where he wrote a thesis comparing the effectiveness of treatments for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and earned his master’s degree in international health. The next leg of his journey will take place at England’s Cambridge University, where Borchert is pursuing a Ph.D. in public health.

“I knew I wanted to study medicine in the future, so I didn’t change my majors – I just added them,” says Borchert. “When I graduated, I was a little bit more on the social science side as opposed to the biological science side. Science should never take a backseat, but I realized that medicine is not only science alone. Medicine is also an art.”

He adds, “I’m glad I have that background. It was a good preparation.”

Borchert already had some history with Tokyo, as he studied abroad at Sophia University while he was attending New Paltz. He also worked for the Center for International Programs as an undergrad.

Aside from his Japanese language abilities, Borchert says the skills he gained from his professors and from working in the International Office have gone a long way in his post-New Paltz endeavors. He says he always makes a point to visit his biology professors whenever he’s stateside, and lists biology Professor Jeffrey Reinking and psychology Professor Glenn Geher among those who particularly influenced him.

“Behold the power of SUNY,” says Borchert, who graduated from New Paltz debt-free thanks to federal grants and staying close to home. “I’m very glad I went to a SUNY.”

IDMH Director Discusses Malaysian Airlines Disaster with CCTV America


James Halpern

On Wednesday, July 23, 2014, Psychology Professor and Director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) Dr. James Halpern joined CCTV America, an American division of the international news broadcaster China Central Television, to discuss the recent Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 disaster.

Halpern shared his expertise in disaster mental health practices by answering several questions about the grieving process of those who lost loved ones on Flight 17 when it was shot down on July 17. He addressed such topics as how leaders should help people cope, whether the crash investigation will prolong the grieving process, and what advice he would give family and friends to help victims cope.

Halpern is often requested to provide trauma counseling to victims immediately following major disasters such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, and Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. He is also regularly sought out by regional, national and international media to comment on best practices in disaster counseling and treatment after national and international crises.

If you are a professor or professional who has a particular area of expertise and you would like to make yourself available for media inquiries about that expertise, please fill out the experts database form on the Office of Communication and Marketing web page at https://www3.newpaltz.edu/experts/.

For more information about the Institute for Disaster Mental Health, please visit: www.newpaltz.edu/idmh

Grace McDermott ’11 Reflects on Her Studies Abroad and the Benefits of a Public Relations Education

Grace McDermott

Grace McDermott

By Despina Williams Parker

Grace McDermott ’11 is both practical and a risk-taker. She pursued a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a public relations concentration to make herself more employable in a competitive field, and jetted to Ireland for a life-changing semester abroad.

Upon graduating from New Paltz, McDermott earned a master’s degree in international tourism at the University of Limerick, where she studied abroad as an undergrad. After a stint as a staff writer for a travel magazine in Australia, she worked as a lecturer and teaching assistant at the University of Limerick. She has chosen to remain in Ireland to further her studies, and will transfer to Dublin City University this fall to pursue a Ph.D. in public relations.

Her research focuses on Middle Eastern and North Africa (MENA) women “bridge bloggers” of the Arab Spring who have reached a global audience through posts written primarily in English. Her dissertation will explore the new ways MENA women are getting involved in the global political conversation via social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

After a brief visit to New Paltz this summer, where she lunched with associate professor and mentor Donna Flayhan, McDermott took time to share her experiences at New Paltz and abroad.

You’ve helped students from New Paltz going to the University of Limerick for study abroad and master’s programs. How would you describe the importance of studying abroad to those who have never had the opportunity?

Hands down, it was the best decision of my life thus far, and I know if I hadn’t made that decision my life would be totally different now. As a result of my study abroad I made new friends as well as professional contacts and had experiences I really believe moulded me into a more confident, successful and more importantly, happy individual. Studying abroad absolutely changed my entire way of thinking and my perception of the world and myself. It most importantly showed me the value of taking risks. I loved the university I studied abroad at so much I decided to continue there, and do my master’s. I actually know of a few other SUNY New Paltz students who did the same at the University of Limerick.

You mentioned in your dissertation proposal that an examination of bridge bloggers through the lense of gender has not yet been undertaken.  Why do you think such a focus is important and what do you hope to accomplish with your dissertation?

The Arab Spring has been a hot topic in the last few years on the news, in academia and on the political stage. The actual role or importance of social media is often emphasised in popular news but is actually a point of debate for many. My research focuses on female bridge bloggers. Bridge bloggers is a relatively new term which references bloggers who communicate across cultures. In my research, bridge bloggers references Middle Eastern and North Africa (MENA) women who use English as their primary form of communication on blogs, with the intention of communicating with audiences globally. This group of women is of particular importance because they are defying widespread stereotypes and ideologies of Arab women, and the Arab world. Blogs provide a unique look into the lives of many groups who have historically been marginalized and silenced. In order to fully understand the Arab Spring, we have to listen to men and women alike, which is what I am hoping my research may accomplish.

The public relations concentration has found a home in the newly created Communication Studies department at New Paltz.  What do you think of the restructuring of the Communication Studies and Digital Media/Journalism into distinct departments? 

The restructuring of the programs seems like a good idea to me. In my experience employers across the board were more interested in my P.R. knowledge than anything else. It is very important to be a good writer in any field, and I am not of the opinion that “journalism is dead,” but I do think that journalism is not what it once was. Especially through my research, it is clear to me that with the expansion of social networking, everyone is a journalist. This is not to undermine the importance of journalism, but to note that journalism is a difficult way for anyone to financially support themselves anymore. Having a degree in public relations seems like a practical, smart move for students. P.R. pays my bills, and on the side I work as a journalist to feed my passion. A public relations degree would get students jobs, and that’s the most important part of any degree.

You’ve kept in touch with New Paltz faculty and stress the importance of faculty mentors – both in college and beyond.  How have Professor Flayhan and others helped guide you in your career path?

SUNY New Paltz is such a wonderful place, and I was so lucky to have been a student there. While at SUNY New Paltz, I had the fortune of coming in contact with numerous staff that really influenced my learning. Professor Flayhan, particularly, went out of her way to help me find my first, second and third internship. Years later, she wrote me recommendations for my first job, my Ph.D., and even for research grants. Throughout the years she has been my most important professional mentor and I go to her for advice regularly. She has been a major inspiration behind my decision to continue my studies, and the lessons I learned from her classes stick with me still. To any SUNY New Paltz student, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of making, and maintaining, contact with lecturers like I have with Professor Flayhan. Professionally and personally, mentors are essential, and New Paltz has so many great professors, it shouldn’t be hard to find a good one.

What’s next for you?

The next three years I will be working towards my Ph.D. in Ireland. I am presenting a paper at Oxford in September and am hoping to present at more conferences in the upcoming year. I am hoping when my Ph.D. is finished to write a book. I would also love to work for a company like Google or the United Nations, and maybe spend some more time lecturing in Europe. Long-term I hope to come back home to New York where my family, the beach, and my all-time favourite—Dunkin’ Doughnuts—are, but until then I am enjoying the ride that SUNY New Paltz started for me.


Amber Greene ’03 advocates for citizens of NYC

Amber Green

Amber Green

After graduating from New Paltz, Amber Greene ’03 wasted no time putting her public relations degree to work. Now, 11 years into her career, she’s joined the latest incarnation of New York City government as policy director in the Office of Public Advocate.

“Oftentimes, policy is done in a vacuum,” says Greene. “In my role, we try to look for those issues that don’t get attention … and try to just address the issue going on, and not make it political.”

As policy director under newly elected public advocate Letitia “Tish” James (who is second in line to the mayor), Greene’s office exists as a watchdog to help the citizens of New York City “cut through the nonsense and red tape” when it comes to addressing “failures in service” on behalf of city government. These issues run the gamut from neglected public housing facilities to overcrowded schools infested with mold and rats.

What drew her most to James, Greene says, was her shared commitment to many of the issues she felt strongly about – particularly affordable housing, which Greene was intensely interested in while pursuing her master’s degree in public policy from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (which she completed in 2012).

“My whole goal of going to grad school was to figure out how to create affordable housing and reduce homelessness,” says Greene. “I was really looking to get involved with the work (James) was doing. … Her involvement to try to reduce the homeless population in New York City prompted me to really want to work for her.”

Greene’s first job after New Paltz was in Newark, N.J., doing environmental remediation for a brownfields project. She left that position to join the staff of the New York State Assembly as the public affairs coordinator for then-Assemblyman Richard Brodsky.

Greene then spent six years in city government working for the New York City Office of Emergency Management, where she directed the Ready New York campaign “to ensure the safety and preparedness of all New Yorkers” and initiated several disaster preparedness programs that are still functioning today.

“It was the best job,” says Greene. “You wouldn’t think disasters could be something that makes you want to go to work, but every day was different.”

Following graduate school, Greene worked in Washington, D.C., as a communication consultant on educational policy, where she educated clients (including the Gates Foundation and other large philanthropic entities) on how to improve public education opportunities worldwide.

Upon returning to New York from Washington, Greene seized an opportunity to meet then-city mayoral candidate Bill Thompson when he spoke at her church in Harlem. She struck up a conversation with him, and a few months later, was offered a job on his campaign as policy director.

When Thompson’s campaign ended, Greene pursued the policy director position in James’ office.

Greene says her public relations degree from New Paltz prepared her immensely for her career, from being a spokesperson to “being mindful of trying to speak in sound bites” to “knowing the mic is always on.” Extracurricular activities like the campus TV and radio stations taught her about the demands of media.

“In terms of my ability to do public speaking, that’s something I learned at New Paltz by giving presentations in front of the class,” says Greene. Her theories of persuasion course, particularly, taught her how to “bring people where you want them to be” through her words.

Greene says the late Margaret Wade Lewis (black studies) “was so instrumental in learning about my heritage as an African-American woman.” She also credits all the help she’s received over the years from Professor Patricia Sullivan, who she remains in touch with today.

“She is still my mentor,” says Greene of Sullivan. “She’s gone above and beyond, and I really value her friendship and advice.”

Greene sees her continued engagement with New Paltz simply as a way to return the favor for all the help and advice she was given when she was a student. She returned to campus in 2012 to give a lecture at the Honors Center called “Making Connections: Academic and Career Paths Beyond SUNY New Paltz,” and occasionally gives career advice to new graduates who call her for tips.

“People have always helped me, so I believe in paying it forward,” says Greene. “It doesn’t involve anything but time and commitment for me. That is what was given to me, so I feel it’s important to do that.”

Documentary on Voodoo and Christianity Wins Telly Award


“Uneasy Sisters: Voodoo and Christianity in New Orleans” features Voodoo and Yoruba priestess Ava Kay Jones, who is also a devoted Catholic.

By Despina Williams Parker

A documentary showcasing the unlikely union between Voodoo and Christianity in New Orleans’ culture has earned digital media and journalism lecturer Thomas Cznarty a Telly Award.


Thomas Cznarty

“Uneasy Sisters: Voodoo and Christianity in New Orleans,” which Cznarty co-directed with executive producer Casey Grayson, earned the bronze Telly in the online video category. The Telly Awards were founded in 1978 to honor excellence in local, regional and cable television commercials, and has since expanded to include television programs and non-broadcast productions.

“The Telly Awards are very important because the award is given out by industry professionals, and that recognition for the film might help it possibly get broadcast,” said Cznarty, who is shopping the film to a New Orleans PBS affiliate, with hopes for a broadcasting deal.

The documentary debuted at New Paltz on April 24, 2014, as a featured selection of the annual Communication and Media Week. The screening was followed by a question and answer session with the documentary’s star, Ava Kay Jones, one of New Orleans’ most prominent Voodoo and Yoruba priestesses.

Like other Africa-descended residents of New Orleans, Jones has synthesized elements of Catholicism, Voodoo and Yoruba into a creole spiritual practice. In the documentary, she hoped to dispel the myth that Voodoo, which was brought to America by African slaves, is a dark religion incompatible with the teachings of the Old and New Testaments.

Jones agreed to star in the film without compensation, and provided a glimpse into a religion that is closely guarded by practitioners. “She felt that Voodoo had been marginalized in the media and in Hollywood for decades. She wanted to show that Voodoo could be for good. To have her in our documentary really lent it credibility,” said Cznarty.

Cznarty will follow up his award-winning work with two new documentaries slated to begin filming this summer: an examination of homelessness in Ulster and Orange Counties and a short film on the Gardiner distillery, Tuthilltown Spirits.


Uneasy Sisters Trailer from Casey Grayson on Vimeo.

Alumni, Students Comprise Film Crew of “Liner Notes”

SUNY New Paltz communication and media professor Gregory Bray ’00 (Communication and Media) has assembled a team of fellow alumni for the production of “Liner Notes,” a film based on a stage play written by his brother, John Patrick Bray ’00 (Theater).

Greg Bray

Gregory Bray

Bray said that after numerous productions and readings of “Liner Notes” were performed nationwide, he and his brother John, a playwriting and screenwriting professor at the University of Georgia, decided to collaborate on bringing the play to the big screen.

“I saw two readings in New York City, and after talking with John about the work, we came to the conclusion that it would make a terrific film,” said Bray. “It’s a dramatic comedy, or perhaps a comedic drama.”

“Liner Notes” tells the story of Alice, a young woman from Rochester, N.Y., who learns of the suicide of her estranged father, Jake, a lead singer of a popular CBGBs-era rock band in the 1970s. She drives to Georgia to reconnect with Jake’s former guitarist, George, who she convinces to come with her on a road trip to visit her father’s grave in Montreal.

“This is the major portion of the film – their road trip, their interactions, their visit to an open mic bar in New Paltz, N.Y.,” said Bray. “Alice is one of my favorite characters I’ve encountered in any medium. It takes a particular level of determination to drive from Rochester, N.Y., to northern Georgia, only to turn around and drive all the way to Montreal to visit a headstone.”

Bray said the story is “ultimately a meditation on what it means to be a rock star, and what kind of damage does celebrity culture create? At the same time it’s a story of two very different people taking a journey together, and learning about themselves through each other.”

“Liner Notes” also serves as “a love letter to music,” Bray said. “There’s something immediately nostalgic about music. It can serve as our own autobiographies. We hear a song on the radio, and suddenly it’s that summer day from 20 years ago we wish we could revisit. Or a first dance.”

The film is being shot in and around New Paltz, with a crew entirely made up of New Paltz digital media production alumni: Jason Latorre ’11, first assistant director/editor; Tara Latorre ’11, social media director, Matt Brunner ’14, swing crew/grip; Vincent Carnevale ’13, director of photography; Brenna Landerkin ’13, art director; Ian Todaro ’14, camera crew; Carol Lee ’06, post production; and communication and media lecturer Joseph Vlachos ’04.

Bray said he is also in the process of enlisting several current students who have indicated interest in serving as production assistants, and that final audio mixing will also be done at SUNY New Paltz with the help of student assistants.

For more information about “Liner Notes,” check out the film’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/linernotesmovie, or on Twitter (@linernotesmovie) or follow the conversation via the hashtag #rememberjake. Bray also plans to launch a contest for #rememberjake videos on video sharing social network Vine, with a prize to be presented for the best user-created video.

Freeman Reflects on 38-Year Service to Psychology Department

Phyllis Freeman1

Dr. Phyllis Freeman enjoys her retirement party with long-time colleague James Halpern and Department Chair Glenn Geher. The party attracted over 100 attendees, including current students, past students, current colleagues, former colleagues and administrators.


“A liberal arts education should encompass the heart and soul along with engaging the mind.”

Dr. Phyllis Freeman retired in December 2013 after over 38 years of impassioned service to New Paltz’s academic community.

Psychology Chair Glenn Geher interviewed Freeman for the summer edition of The Self Monitor, the department’s alumni newsletter. The following is an excerpt of the lengthy and illuminating interview. Read the full article here.

Undergraduate Preparation

I entered NYU, the University Heights campus (in Bronx, NY) as a pretty naïve freshman, intent on declaring a pre-med major and focused on an eventual career in psychiatry or maybe internal medicine. Going to college and living on campus was especially challenging for me since I had spent two and a half years on home instruction and only returned to public school as a second semester 10th grader. At NYU, I was assigned an academic adviser during orientation and registered for his Intro Psych class during the fall of 1966. He was a junior professor named Philip Zimbardo. Being in his class changed the trajectory of my professional life. He modeled how a passionate, energetic, creative, and somewhat intimidating professor could engage a class, and how an adviser could affect a student’s life choices. I did well academically, and he encouraged me to major in psych (I still have the letter he wrote me on my office wall).

Graduate School

NYU prepared me for the rigors of graduate life at Bryn Mawr College (the oldest graduate school for women in the US). Graduate school involved all-encompassing lab and classroom and library work 24/7. I took care of a fish and a rat colony, fixed and wired experimental equipment, took a full load of five classes even during the dissertation year, and of course, conducted research on animal learning in fish, rats, pigeons, and cats. (I even attempted to classically condition cats while Marty Seligman watched me!) I chose Bryn Mawr from the places that accepted me since it was famous for the study of the evolution of animal learning (one of the founders of the field of Comparative Psychology, M.E. Bitterman, was chair of Psychology). I was an NDEA Fellow for my first three years. I’m not sure why the Defense Department thought that our work on learning would aid the defense of the United States, but this fellowship paid my tuition, and I promised to give back at least three years of teaching in exchange. I think I have repaid that debt!

SUNY New Paltz

On a hot day in August 1975 I arrived via bus to New Paltz for my job interview. I remember being asked by Bob Presbie, a member of the hiring committee and a radical behaviorist, whether I could teach Perception and how I would do it. Despite never having taken a course in Perception (undergrad or grad), I remember saying “of course,” and that I intended to teach a unit on consciousness as part of the course. Bob said something like “But there isn’t anything to consciousness.” The Chair of Psychology, Howard Cohen, also asked me to teach Experimental Psychology (Research Methods) which at the time was a laboratory course that included a unit on animal learning. I knew I could teach students to train rats to lever press! I was offered a one-year, nonrenewable position, substituting for a member of the department on sick leave. My salary was $12,000. I spent that year working late into the night trying to stay one chapter ahead of my students in the Perception text!

The 1970s and 1980s saw a number of positive – and some very challenging – times for our department. The graduate program started and we attracted both undergraduate and graduate students who were among the very best students any university could teach. I offered the first course in Comparative Psych at the College and started research on the behavioral effects of prenatal methadone exposure on the developing rat fetus. Getting money for animal food and bedding was always a struggle, as was passing the rigorous state inspections.

Changes in the Psychology Department

In looking back over the last 38 years, I can identify a number of ways that we have changed for the better from the “old” days:

1. Our department expects outstanding teaching (as it always did) but now coupled with progressive and sustained scholarly publication.

2. Students are more fully involved in our research activities.

3. Many of us are engaged in research activities and teaching that is service-oriented.

4. The psychology field has expanded to now include evolutionary psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and health psychology, cutting-edge research areas.

5. Our department faculty now more closely reflect the diversity of our society.

Teaching Philosophy

I think I’ve been known as a demanding but kind and fair teacher. I know that I have been heavily influenced in my thinking about what should happen in the classroom by exploring the scholarship of teaching along with my own teaching experiences. Numerous authors’ writings about pedagogy have challenged me to teach well and to keep trying to get better. Parker Palmer perhaps more than any other writer has persuaded me that who we are in the classroom is as important as what we teach. I returned to his eloquent essays every few semesters for a reminder of why I teach and why it can matter. Broadly conceived, I believe that a liberal arts education should encompass the heart and soul along with engaging the mind. I know what people are capable of achieving when tested to their limits and when their accomplishments are acknowledged or celebrated. In the classroom and the laboratory, I strived to teach as a full human being. In Palmer’s words I teach to “rejoin soul and role.”

Phyllis Freeman2

Dr. Freeman reunites with former graduate students, Dr. Steve O’Rourke, Dr. Julian Keenan, Dr. Steve Rappleyear, and school psychologist Adam Hammond.

What’s Next

The process of ending a long teaching life at New Paltz has not been easy. As I leave my office of almost 30 years, give away my books, and file my course lectures notes, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for this career, and of course some sadness. I am saying goodbye to colleagues, some of whom I have known for almost 40 years. I am about to say farewell forever to students who I have taught, learned from, and walked next to on their educational journey. Over the last 38 years, more than 30 students who I mentored have earned Ph.D.’s or Psy.D’s in psychology, and many are making their way as academics, clinicians and researchers. I am proud of this legacy.

There is poem by T. Roethke in which he tells us that this is “one of the few professions that permit love.” Love of subject matter and love of students, I think he means. In my classroom, I have challenged students to aim higher, to learn to think like scientists, to grow and to change. My students have challenged me to confront my own views, to crack open my own assumptions, to find ways to present material that matters in their lives, and to have the courage to “be” in the classroom. And yes, they have let me love them while teaching from the inside out. I will take the lessons I have learned about myself from this teaching life to my next role. I feel full with the possibilities ahead of me.