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, 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.

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.

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.