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Speakers - Spring 2022

Simisola Macaulay

"No Wahala: The struggle for gendered language as Nigerian-American"  

Talk Description: Growing up, I (Simisola) had a very unique relationship with gender and pronouns. Being Nigerian, I (Simisola) am perceived very differently than I would be here in the West and that has a lot to do with my tribal language, Yoruba: a language without gender pronouns. Where people are just people and instead of being assigned a gender, you are assigned a role. Now I ask, do I continue with my Western identity or embrace a more traditional approach?

Bio: Simisola Macaulay is a rising Senior as SUNY Potsdam double majoring in International Studies and Anthropology concentrating on history, culture, and gender studies. They are the current Vice President of the African Student Association and Anthropology Club, along with being a member of CSTEP (Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program), Emerging Leaders and the Presidents List. She is an aspiring Research Anthropologist, working toward conducting research in West Africa on Traditional Gender and Sexual expression. Simi is avid book and music lover but is most likely to be found petting a dog or wrapped in a blanket.  

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Alif Jakir 

"Cognitive Automation / Augmentation" 

Talk Description: Human beings have always created tools to help push past their natural limits. Endless creative potential is unlocked when human beings use Artificial Intelligence to augment their own imagination and thinking processes. This talk will go over the implications and potential to empower everyone in novel ways, using the cutting edge technology that is beginning to be available today.

Bio: Alif Jakir is a a third year dual degree computer science and data analytics student at Clarkson University. His research is on  Artificial Intelligence at the TARS human computer interaction lab. One of his main interests is understanding the general principles behind human intelligence and creativity, and augmenting it with AI. He likes to ponder questions about where this technology might one day take our world, and how it may change our conceptions of ourselves.


Emma Massa

"Our Brains on Trauma: Emotions and Implications from the Perspective of a Student"  

Talk Description: Students spend their days jumping from class to class, snagging a bite of food when they can, and staying up late most nights to complete their work just to do it again the next day. The days are fast paced, hectic, and one barely gets time to wind down. But...what happens when a student experiences something traumatic? After experiencing a traumatic life altering event, Emma Massa was determined to uncover the implications of trauma on students and pushed for her research to serve as a resource for faculty and staff to learn from. Her research attempts to explain. what trauma is and how it alters the brain, its pathways, and the overall effects on a person's mental and physical health. She then offers a personal account of how she herself and her college life were impacted by her traumatic experience.

Bio: Ms. Massa is a dedicated historian, researcher and student. Driven by her passion Emma takes pride in constructing well-researched projects at her graduate institution as well as checking in on her nearly 75 undergraduate students. As a graduate student, her goals include finishing her Ph.D. and working abroad creating preventative and interventive programming for underrepresented populations experiencing trauma.  In addition to her primary goals Emma has been recognized by SUNY Potsdam for her extraordinary commitment to advocating for her fellow students’ needs and inspiring inclusion among them. In the Spring of 2021 Emma was recognized for her involvement in the representation of homeless students as well as her efforts to the campus food pantry. She then went on to organize one of the most successful students led food drives in the history of SUNY Potsdam with her fellow Emerging Leaders. When she sees a need, she will find a solution.  


Dr. Karen Caldwell

"Learning Out Loud"

Talk Description: How do you learn? What kind of teaching is most effective for your learning? Answering the first question matters more than the second, because you can - and should - be in charge of your learning. Karen Caldwell has been a learner and teacher her entire life, but she didn't have answers to these two questions for most of her life. This is despite her many teaching qualifications and decades of experience around the world. Karen shares surprising research and concrete tips to take charge of your learning with powerful and sometimes uncomfortable, strategies.

Bio: Karen Caldwell, Assistant Professor in the School of Education and Professional Studies, is an adult learning specialist. Karen applies brain and cognitive science to all aspects of her research, teaching, and program development and her (awesome) undergrad and graduate students use digital media to take their applied learning experiences to the next level of content and career competencies. For over two decades Karen has lived and worked in South Korea, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, and is now based in Canada and the US. Her roles have ranged from Trade Commissioner for Canada to program development to English as a Foreign Language Teacher and she remains a curious, cradle-to-grave learner. 

Dr. Kate Cleary

"Food for the Future"

Talk Description: Kate Cleary is a conservation biologist whose research focuses on evaluating the complex relationships between biodiversity and agriculture. She has worked in systems ranging from corn milpas in highland Guatemala, to industrial pineapple plantations in Costa Rica, and most recently, to organic vegetable farms in the Adirondack region. Across these diverse systems, her research has always found that modern industrial agriculture is harmful to biodiversity, but solutions do exist, if we embrace them.  


Bio: Kate holds a BA in English from the University of Richmond, an MSc in Conservation Biology from Colorado State University and a PhD in Conservation Genetics from the University of Idaho. Between these degrees, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and a Fulbright Scholar in Costa Rica, and has also worked for the National Park Service, the US Geological Survey, and private environmental consulting firms. In her current position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at SUNY Potsdam, Kate’s goals are to involve as many undergraduate students as possible with her research program, and to instill in all her students a sense of both urgency and optimism about creating a more sustainable future.   


Madison Bray-Trophia
"Me Too Edu: A Title IX Task Force"

*Trigger Warning: This talk contains content about sexual assault, drugs, and violence. Please be advised.

Talk Description: Campus sexual violence is becoming an increasing problem in the United States. Madison's talk will cover the impact of sexual violence, and how an innovative practice of a designated Title IX ambassador program would help improve the campus community as a whole.

Bio: Madison Bray-Trophia (‘22) is a senior studying Arts Management, Music Business, and Anthropology. She currently serves on three executive boards including the Harry Potter Alliance, Potsdam Music Business Club, and the It’s on Us Chapter. Madison primarily focuses on program development and arts nonprofits, evident in her work with the Crane Institute for Music Business and Entrepreneurship, and the St. Lawrence Arts Council.  

As a campus leader, Madison strives to make the campus a more equitable place for every student and prides herself on being a public advocate for sexual violence awareness and prevention on campus. She hopes that one day, she can bring together her love for community development and arts administration in order to make the world a better place.   


Mallory Wittlin

"Reconnecting Broken Links: The Importance of Cultural Connections for Adoptees "

Talk Description:  The discussion of reconnecting adoptees to their cultures of origins is something almost "taboo", in cases like Mallory Wittlin's. In a time where connections are almost instantaneously made online and where racial conflict and oppression are at an utmost "high", it is necessary to expose and educate adoptees from outside of the country about their culture rather than to shield or "save" them from it. To understand and to live in culture is truly the essence of discovering the self, which is something Mallory Wittlin aims to achieve in herself and others. 


Bio: Mallory Wittlin is a senior at SUNY Potsdam, pursuing her bachelor's degree in English Composition and Creative Writing. Coming from a unique family dynamic, she uses her experiences of being an adoptee from Colombia as a means to narrate creative projects around themes of diversity, acceptance, and racial conflict. With her experiences in working with children from all backgrounds and of all ages, Mallory’s goal in writing is what she also plans on bringing to the classroom, dynamic and unique lessons about representation and identity. Having struggled with her cultural identity, Mallory’s journey of narrating the “adoptee journey” is just the beginning of what is to become of her writing projects, personal growth, and how she plans to teach representation and culture in her future classes as a middle or high school teacher.  


Dr. Seon A Levius

“Coaching Business” 

Talk Description: Talk will demonstrate how he explores the importance of understanding our purpose in life as a precursor to unleashing students' potential in the classroom. Am I destined for mediocrity if I don't know my purpose? For some people, thier faiths help in understanding their purpose. His teaching approach is rooted in students answering five fundamental questions i.e., Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Where am I from? and What I do? Exploring these five questions with students allows him to help them establish the "why". A strong "why" helps students keep thier head in the game even when they feel like they can't go any further, and it unleashes a fearless determination for them to win. This approach was beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic as he was able to lift the spirits of his students whenever they seemed broken and disillusioned. It is the idea that every student already has within them gifts to unleash. But this can only be achieved through focus and hard work.

Bio: Dr. Seon A. Levius is an Assistant Professor of Technology in the SUNY Potsdam Department of Business Administration. He has recently been awarded the Thomas L. and Jane D. Russell Distance Education Faculty Excellence Award for his pedagogy using inquiry-based learning. He has also been recently appointed SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador because of his teaching excellence.  Dr. Levius teaches in the Master of Science in management program—the first fully online degree program at SUNY Potsdam. He holds a Doctor of Business Administration degree from Walden University in Minneapolis and a Master of Science degree in information systems management from the University of Liverpool. Levius also completed Harvard Business School Executive Education programs in digital transformation, and attended the University of Guyana, where he studied public management. Before joining SUNY Potsdam, Levius led the information and communication technology portfolios for two Caribbean intergovernmental and multilateral agencies based in Barbados. His teaching draws from sharing this eclectic knowledge and life experiences to inspire lifelong curiosity.  

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