Faculty & Staff Archives

Rebecca Noel, History

June 24th, 2010 by Nikki-Ann

Rebecca Noel

Rebecca R. Noel has to confess that she really does live in the past. Only that could explain how she found herself in 1808 clothing in May, along with Marcia Schmidt Blaine and various campus and community dignitaries, reenacting for alumni the day when the Holmes Plymouth Academy received its charter to found a school in Plymouth. The skit included a musical number written by Patricia Lindberg of the Education Department and composer Will Ogmundson, along with a short script. As the characters circulated around the tables at the Alumni Weekend luncheon, additional dialogue was improvised, based on research conducted by Blaine, Cynthia Vascak of the Art Department, University Archivist Alice Staples, and Noel. When Plymouth received its 1808 charter to establish an academy, launching a tradition of higher learning in Plymouth that continues at PSU today, Thomas Jefferson’s presidency was winding down and Britain was still “impressing” American sailors into its navy. Research revealed that Plymouth tended to vote Federalist in the early 1800s, unlike most of New Hampshire. Researching and celebrating this bicentennial was a highlight of Noel’s year.

Now in her fifth year at PSU, Noel has turned from creating new courses to polishing the ones she has developed. Noel did experiment with a Writing Fellow in her Writing Connections course, The American Civil War and Reconstruction. Already posted as a fellow in the Writing Center, Social Studies Education major Jessica Dube ’09 became the go-to writing tutor for students in the course, which she was also taking. The use of Writing Fellows has long intrigued Robin DeRosa of the English Department, and as WAC Coordinator, Norl was eager to give it a try. The pilot fellowship proved that the model has potential: students in a course get a peer tutor who knows their course well, and peer tutors get substantive experience in writing pedagogy.

Noel has been involved in numerous other activities, such as a proposed revision of the Honors Program and an effort to assessment all the Writing Connections courses at PSU, to be led by Composition Director Elliott Gruner of the English Department. Noel has also just been elected to the Women’s Studies Council. Phi Kappa Phi, which she directs along with Whitney Howarth, held another successful induction this past spring.

In February, Noel gave a talk at the Plymouth Historical Society entitled “Samuel Read Hall of Holmes Plymouth Academy: New Hampshire’s First Teacher Educator.” Her review of Prodigal Daughters: Susanna Rowson’s Early American Women, by Marion Rust, will appear in the British journal Literature and History within the next year. She will give a talk at a conference at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts in November, and her article “Schooling and Child Health in Antebellum New England” will appear in the book Children and Youth in a New Nation (edited by James Marten), forthcoming from New York University Press on January 1, 2009.

Patrick May, Geography and Social Studies Education

June 24th, 2010 by Nikki-Ann

Patrick May

Patrick May’s eighth year at PSU was a very interesting one, with the obvious highlight being his time as the faculty advisor to eighteen first-year PSU students at the University of Limerick during the fall semester. He taught two PSU courses and then chose an additional three from the UL offerings.  The students took full advantage of the experience, making close friends with their Irish roommates and taking courses in Irish language, folklore, and music.  It was quite an experience for him to live in the student village (clearly college students are much the same worldwide!) but fortunately the university location also provided a great base to explore much of Ireland in his spare time. May’s wife, Patti, visited for a few weeks so they were also able to tour around Dublin, Belfast, and the Dingle Peninsula. May was also able to spend some weekends on his sister’s farm in Kerry and even had the uniquely Irish experience of harvesting fall potatoes!  He became a big fan of hurling (a uniquely Irish sport), the rugby world cup, and enjoyed taking in some local fall festivals, including the famous  Listowel horse races.  May biked quite a bit throughout County Clare and other areas surrounding Limerick city and was particularly fascinated by the rapid changes that EU membership, immigration, and globalization are bringing to the country.  He made good friends with some of the locals and had several very informative personal tours with faculty at local universities.  He hopes to develop a field course for the geography program that will focus on the changing cultural landscape of the area.

The spring semester found May back in Plymouth, adjusting to the massive amount of snow.  He continues to enjoy the Human Geography courses and was happy to offer Political Geography for the first time in a few years. With student choosing such topics as China-Tibet relations and Russia’s claims on South Ossetia it made for an interesting time to study geopolitics!  In his second year as the president of the NH Council for the Social Studies (NHCSS), he’s been very happy to serve on the organization’s board for six years and looks forward to being instrumental in its growth in new directions and services for NH teachers.  The BS Social Science program continues to stay strong as students have had very successful student teaching experiences throughout the state, while a growing number also choose the contract option to meet different needs and interests.

May is back on sabbatical in Fall 2008– his second chance at this after breaking his leg in 2006. He is working to expand the National History Day program and will coordinate the annual conference for the NHCSS.  He also returned to Limerick at the beginning of the semester to coordinate the start for this year’s students and faculty member.  It felt like returning home, so he hopes to make it a regular visit!

Bryon Middlekauff, Geography

June 24th, 2010 by Nikki-Ann

Bryon Middlekauff co led a repeat trip to the Four Corners region of the southwest along with faculty and students from Keene State College, and the University of Wolverhampton, UK. Participants this year included Stephanie Aubert ‘10, Heidi Medlyn ’08, and Dan Walker ’08. After meeting up in Phoenix, AZ, the group hiked well into Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail, explored Anasazi ruins at Wupatki National Monument, investigated arch formation at Arches National Park, and learned about climatic change, and environmental issues in the region. Students teamed up to report upon various topics and issues such as dams and electric generation on the Colorado River, arch formation, cryptobiotic soil formation and preservation, and volcanic activity in the San Francisco Mountains, AZ.

Middlekauff and the Geography, Environmental Planning and Tourism Management and Policy faculty and students are organizing the New England-St. Lawrence Valley Geographical Society annual meeting at Plymouth State for Oct. 31-Nov.1, 2008. Students and professionals from around the New England region will meet to share research, participate in field trips focusing upon Franconia Notch, Quincy Bog, Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest and White Mountains Lodging History.

Mark Okrant, Geography, Tourism Management and Policy

June 24th, 2010 by Nikki-Ann

Mark Okrant

Mark Okrant reached a milestone this past year when his proposed Bachelor of Arts in Tourism Management and Policy was approved by the state board of trustees. The program, which Okrant says is state of the art, begins enrolling students during the Fall 2008 term. An article titled, “Tourism Education as an Investment in the Future: A New Hampshire Case Study,” appeared in the Journal of Teaching for Travel and Tourism. Okrant spent the summer signing copies of his fourth book and second installment of the Kary Turnell Mystery Series, set in historic resort hotels. The book, I Knew You When,  was released at the Mount Washington Resort. The third book in the series, An Icy Reception, set on the ill-fated cruise ship, MS Explorer, is expected to be released in Spring 2009. Okrant chairs the university’s Research Advisory Council.

Kurt Schroeder, Geography

June 24th, 2010 by Nikki-Ann

Kurt Schroeder attended the AAG meeting in the Spring, and presented a paper on the Geography of the Russo-Turkish War (1878-1879).  Schroeder and his wife Elaine took a trip to Alaska for their 30th wedding anniversary, spending time in Anchorage visiting some wonderful museums.  They took the Alaska Rail Road from Anchorage to Fairbanks, and spent two days exploring the Fairbanks area.  Schroeder inadvertently caused a small musk ox stampede.  They also traveled to the end of the northernmost paved road in North America, the Steese Highway.  After returning to Anchorage on the train, they took a three-day cruise around Prince William Sound, viewing glaciers calve and seeing the wildlife.

Professor Peng-Khuan Chong, Political Science

June 24th, 2010 by Nikki-Ann

Peng-Khuan Chong

Peng-Khuan Chong continues his research on civilization Islam and the rise of the opposition parties in Malaysian politics. He traveled to Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia studying the roles of heritage sites in fostering intra-politics and trade among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) community. While in Malaysia, he was made aware of the pending UNESCO’s World Heritage recognition of his hometown Penang. (subsequently designated in July, 2008)

On May 7, 2008 when Governor John Lynch and his cabinet met at Plymouth State University, Professor Chong was honored with the Governor’s commendation Award.

Professor Chong has been fortunate to hear from so many alumni and he looks forward to more contacts.

Michelle Fistek, Political Science

June 24th, 2010 by Nikki-Ann

Michelle Fistek just finished her 25th year of teaching at Plymouth State. She attended the New England Political Science Association Annual Convention last April, participating in a round table discussion about politics in New Hampshire. She did an update of the past year, especially the first in the nation presidential primary. She and Bob Egbert just finished an article on New Hampshire politics for a Political Science Encyclopedia. She is busy redecorating her house and was very proud of installing a low flow toilet all by herself. She enjoys her two red standard poodles and blogging, as well as the friends she has made through both. She loves hearing from alumni — please email her.

Filiz Otucu, Political Science

June 24th, 2010 by Nikki-Ann

Filiz Otucu

Filiz Otucu, assistant professor of political science, continued her work on several campus committees dedicated to global issues and diversity. She especially enjoyed serving on the Internationalization Task Force as they worked to internationalize the PSU curriculum and campus, developing a concise list of factors, knowledge, skills, and attitudes that prepare students to participate responsibly in today’s increasing global society. She loved to participate in researching ways to further assist students, staff, and faculty members in study abroad activities, and finding resources to enhance recruiting and bringing to campus international students and faculty members. Otucu is really excited to be part of these efforts.

Last October, Whitney Howarth and Otucu put together a workshop at the N.H. Council for Social Studies on global resource wars (water, oil, diamonds in Israel, Darfur, and Sierra Leone). The session titled “Natural Resources: Curse or Blessing?” provided content as well as curriculum materials, lesson ideas and conceptual frameworks for teaching this issue.

In June, Sheryl Shirley and Otucu traveled to Turkey to attend an international conference on Nationalism and Human Rights. They presented a paper titled “Walls: Securing Nations or Violating Human Rights?” Their paper examined the two cases, the Israeli separation wall and the American barrier zones, involving the conflict between the security of nation-states and preservation of basic human rights.

In Spring 2008, Otucu became the advisor for the PSU Chapter of Amnesty International Student Organization. She is very proud to be part of this organization and have amazing students working to increase campus and community awareness on Human Rights issues around the world.

This year she kept serving as the faculty advisor for the Plymouth State University Model United Nations Student Organization (PSUMUN), which she enjoys tremendously. She helped the students getting ready for a MUN Conference sponsoring and organizing several campus events. In March 2008, Otucu traveled to Puebla, Mexico with a group of PSUMUN students to attend Harvard University’s World Model UN Conference, a simulation of UN activities with approximately 1,500 student delegates coming from all around the World. She describes it as an incredible learning experience for both herself and her students. Upon returning to PSU students presented to the campus community about their experiences. PSUMUN and she, as their advisor, plans to work very hard this year to organize state/regional Model United ations conference/competition at PSU, hosting various high schools from the region and the state of NH.

Otucu is planning another international trip with her Model UN students to Hague, Netherlands to attend Harvard’s World Model UN Conference in March 2008. She also looks forward to organizing more International Student trips in near future.

Sheryl Shirley, Political Science

June 24th, 2010 by Nikki-Ann

Sheryl Shirley

Sheryl Shirley, Associate Professor of Political Science, delivered a paper at the 49th Annual Conference of the International Studies Association (ISA), in San Francisco, March 26-March 29, 2008. The paper was titled “Outsourcing Counterinsurgency: Revisiting Cold War Counterinsurgency in Central America.” Together Filiz Otucu and Shirley attended an International Conference on Nationalism and Human Rights at Bilgi University in Istanbul, Turkey where they presented a paper titled: “Walls: Securing Nations or Violating Human Rights?” Shirley also traveled to South Africa in June 2007 and spent time in Johannesburg researching the history of apartheid for her Global Problems and Women in World Politics courses.

For the past year, Shirley has served as a Commissioner of the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights. The New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights is a state agency established for the purpose of eliminating discrimination. As Commissioner, she reviewed claims and agency investigations of discrimination complaints.

Shirley also served as the faculty adviser to the Plymouth State University Democrats (PSU Dems). During the presidential primary season, she accompanied club members at local events featuring Democratic presidential primary candidates: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Governor Bill Richardson, Senator Christopher Dodd, Senator Barack Obama, and Senator John Edwards.

Mrs. Kathryn Melanson, Administrative Assistant

June 24th, 2010 by Nikki-Ann

Kathryn Melanson

Kathryn Melanson is entering her 13th year in the department and at the University. Melanson continues to serve on the Operating Staff’s Safety Committee, Parking Committee, and a newly formed committee, Campus Communicators.

Melanson modestly accepted the 2008 Distinguished Operating Staff Award in May of 2008, an award that recognizes operating staff employees for their knowledge and leadership in campus and/or community activities. Recipients also show support, respect, and integrity for faculty, staff, and the University mission.

Melanson continues to volunteer as President and Director of Keeping You, Me & Memories Alive, Inc., a NH non-profit organization that helps people in the Pemi-Baker area whose lives are affected by cancer. The organization’s 9th annual walk was held September 20, 2008 and was the most successful event, raising over $20,000. KYMMA takes great pride in that it keeps 100% of its funds/assistance in the local community. Check out the Web site for further information.

Melanson and her husband Steve welcomed grandchild #4, McKenzi Elizabeth Melanson on July 9, 2008, born to their son Brett and his wife, Alicia. Four grandchildren keep the Melansons plenty busy and on their toes.