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Geneseo Marks Start of Academic Year 2021–22

President Denise Battles speaking at SUNY Geneseo's Opening Convocation on August 27 (SUNY Geneseo photo/Keith Walters '11).

Two convocations welcomed new and returning students and faculty to campus for the beginning of fall classes.

New Student Convocation on August 26 marked the official start of the academic year at Geneseo. Faculty and staff attended the event in academic regalia to welcome new students into the Geneseo community. The event included a keynote address by Suann Yang, associate professor of biology, who encouraged students to make Geneseo their home.

“My hope for you is to become part of this community, not by changing who you are so that you fit in, but by changing our community to create space for us all,” Yang said. “Each of us, through our identities, perspectives, and experiences, brings something special and vital to our community. We can connect through the things we care about and help each other to live true to our diverse values. I ask you to support each other as we grow and discover new things that are important. I encourage you to both listen and speak out on behalf of yourself and others to keep these values—and our community—strong.”

Alumni speaker Waleed Mahmood ’07 (communication, international relations minor) currently serves as the Director of Resource Management at Digitas Health, a global advertising agency focused on health and wellness companies. Mahmood advised students that there is magic in authenticity. “Each one of you brings something unique and special to the student population. … What you possess, others do not. You may look, sound, and behave in ways that others may consider different. But I implore you; be an unapologetically true version of yourself. Eventually, you will realize that what you thought would be a drawback is your most powerful and coveted strength.”

SUNY Geneseo President Denise A. Battles delivered her keynote address “Geneseo at 150—Taking the Long View” at the Opening Convocation for faculty and staff on August 27. Battles has completed her sixth year as president and highlighted recent accomplishments during a difficult year; outlined enrollment and financial challenges; and identified actions to help sustain the college’s success, including the development of our next five-year strategic plan.

“Over the past year we have made remarkable strides, despite the daunting nature of the COVID-19 pandemic layered atop the many other challenges we—and higher education more broadly—face,” she said. “While much of our attention was necessarily on the near term as we planned and responded to the demands imposed by the public health crisis, it’s to our great credit that we made impressive strides that will benefit us in the long term: adopting an innovative new curriculum, endorsing transfer-friendly policies, and articulating and acting on our intention to become an antiracist college.

Battles concluded with a challenge “to embrace and extend that capacity for long-term thinking as we plan our college’s future, and in doing so, honor those visionaries who did similarly in establishing and advancing our college. Let us be bold, fearless, and innovative. Geneseo deserves no less.”

2021 award recipients announced at convocation:

Art Hatton Award for Excellence in College Advancement
John Linfoot, Director of Special Development
Susan Romano, Director of Financial Aid

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service
Noreen Mazurowski, Administrative Assistant 1, Communication

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service
Leah Root, Publishing/Web Services Developer, Milne Library
Chris Sandefer, Senior Programmer Analyst, CIT

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities
Karleen West, Associate Professor, Political Science and International Relations

Drs. Carol and Michael Harter Endowment for Faculty Mentoring Award
Catherine Adams, Associate Professor, History
Ahmad Almomani, Assistant Professor, Mathematics
Jennifer Guzmán, Associate Professor, Anthropology

Distinguished Professor
Robert Goeckel, Professor of Political Science and International Relations

Distinguished Service Professor
Gerard Floriano ’84, Professor and Chair of the Department of Music and Director of Choral Activities

Faculty promotions and appointments announced at convocation:

Sara Burch, continuing appointment with promotion to associate professor in biology
Jennifer Guzmán, promotion to associate professor in anthropology
Sheryl Larson-Rhodes, promotion to associate librarian in the Milne Library
Ming Lei, continuing appointment with promotion to associate professor in communication
Alla Myzelev, promotion to associate professor in art history
Jason Ozubko, continuing appointment in psychology
Ken Pan, continuing appointment with promotion to associate professor in School of Business
Pallavi Panda, continuing appointment with promotion to associate professor in School of Business
Michael Rozalski, promotion to professor in the School of Education
Crystal Simmons, continuing appointment with promotion to associate professor in School of Education
Lytton Smith, promotion to professor in English
Brandon West, promotion to librarian in the Milne Library
Karleen West, promotion to professor in political science and international relations
Alan Witt, promotion to associate librarian in the Milne Library

Staff promotions and appointments announced at convocation:

Kristina Barsema, Associate Director of Student Life
Shane Cowdrick, Assistant Director of Facilities Maintenance
Marla Ernest, Assistant Director of Student Life
Amy Freese, Registrar
Courtney Havens, Access Opportunity Programs
Madelyn Herbert, Endpoint Systems Analyst
Travis Kershner, Computing and Information Technology
Meg Reitz, Residence Life
Susanna Rubright, Sponsored Research
Steven Schunk, Energy Specialist
Christie Smith, Director of Admissions
Flossie Stephens, Assistant Director of AOP
Heather Wilhelm-Routenberg, Assistant Dean for New Student Transitions


Robyn Rime
Senior Writer & Editor
(585) 245-5529