Deaf Education and Empowerment in Ethiopia

Ethiopia_2014_Empowerment_GroupParticipation in the Visions Global Empowerment Deaf Education and Empowerment program this summer renewed my love for traveling in Africa and strengthened my desire to awaken and increase Deaf Awareness in others.

In July and August I Ethiopia_2014_Empowerment_Youth1had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Ethiopia on a service trip. My experience of Ethiopian culture and of cultural exchange was amazing. As part of the trip, we participated in Deaf Leadership Capacity training workshops with local Deaf adults, teachers and profeEthiopia_2014_Empowerment_Youth2ssionals in the field of Deafness. Also working in partnership with the Ethiopian Deaf Community, we conducted activities for Deaf children, youth and young adults. One of my favorite activities with the Deaf youth was to have them create a book about themselves. Then we had each student share their book with the group.

I especially enjoyed gaining insight into Ethiopian Deaf Culture. One similarity to American Deaf Culture that I observed was the desire for clear communication, expressed by being straight forward and getting to the point when conversing. It was intriguing to be immersed in the culture and to compare Ethiopian Sign Language to American Sign Language. There were differences in many signs and we had interpreters. After a short time signing together we were able to find ways to clarify things and communicate appropriately. It was a fantastic trip!

Ethiopia_2014_Empowerment_LeadersIn collaboration with Visions Global Empowerment, SUNY New Paltz will be offering a Study Abroad Program to Ethiopia in summer of 2015, June 15-27. For information about this opportunity contact: Rebecca Swenson at

For information about Visions, visit:

-Post written by Rebecca Swenson, SUNY New Paltz Lecturer in the Deaf Studies Program and the Dept. of Communication Disorders


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.



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.”

Media and Journalism Week Kicks off April 23

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences hosts its annual Media and Journalism Week, featuring a keynote presentation by a television studio executive, alumni panel, screenings of two films and a launch party for The Little Rebellion, a student-produced multimedia news publication.  All events are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served at most events.

Schedule of Events

KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: 4/23 6 p.m. Honor’s Center 
Things kick off with a keynote presentation on Wednesday April 23rd at 6 p.m. at the Honor’s Center in College Hall. Barry Katz is the Senior VP/ General Manager NEP Studios New York. At NEP Studios, Barry is responsible for the overall management and operation of nine independent television studios in New York City, playing a key role in sales, client management, staff development, and studio design and build. Barry has led the way in HD studio development – opening six HD studios since becoming General Manager. Studios include spaces for The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Al Jazeera America, and Glen Beck. Learn about his career and opportunities in the broadcast industry for all majors.

FIRST SCREENING: 4/24 6:30 p.m. LC102
Thursday, April 24th kicks off the first of two film screenings. Join New Paltz Professor Tom Cznarty for the film ‘Uneasy Sisters: Voodoo and Christianity In New Orleans.’ Professor Cznarty co-directed the film. It was be screened at LC 102 at 6:30 pm April 24th. Ava Kay Jones will be presenting a Q&A after the documentary.

ALUMNI CAREER PANEL: 4/28 11 a.m. in SUB 62/63

Our alumni career panel will be on Monday, April 28.  Panelists include Erin Brady (05’, Producer Nightline) Claudia Gallo (13’ Assistant Editor WWE), Kaleigh Griffin (13’ Independent Producer), Kim Mas (Assistant Graphics and Video Editor at Hearst Digital), and Sarah Miller (Writer/Producer for NBC’s TodayShow).

Lorna Tychostup

Lorna Tychostup’s Film “Bordering on Treason” will be screened Tuesday, April 29.

SECOND SCREENING: 4/29 6 p.m. LC102
Our second screening will take place on Tuesday, April 29 at 6 p.m. in LC102. The film ‘Bordering on Treason’ is a documentary that focuses on photo journalist and journalism professor Lorna Tychostup’s visits to Iraq shortly after the U.S. invasion in 2003. Her work, deemed ‘bordering on treason’ by Fox News, takes a human look at the Iraqi people during the war.

THE LITTLE REBELLION LAUNCH: 5/1 6p.m. College Terrace
Finally, join the Media and Journalism Society for The Little Rebellion Launch Party at the College Terrace on Thursday, May 1 at 6 p.m. Come celebrate our multi-medianews publication created by students in the journalism program and advanced editing class. There will be games, prizes, and lots of food.

Let’s celebrate an excellent year together in style!
Media and Journalism Week is presented by the Media and Journalism Society (a Broadcast Education Association Student Club) and The Department of Communication and Media. Special thanks to Campus Auxiliary Services and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.