Six Empire State College Students Awarded Bahr Scholarships for 2015-16 Academic Year

By Hope Ferguson, senior writer, SUNY Empire State College

October 8, 2015

Morton Bahr, president emeritus of the Communications Workers of America and college alumnus ’83, ’95, pictured before the capitol building. Bahr is nationally recognized as one of the labor movement’s leading experts on technology and information-based industries.
 SUNY Empire State College has announced The Morton Bahr Online Learning Scholarship recipients for the 2015-16 academic year. (Photo: Morton Bahr)

The Bahr online scholarship supports students enrolled in the college’s Center for Distance Learning studying to complete their bachelor’s online. It was created to honor president emeritus of the Communications Workers of America and college alumnus Morton Bahr ’83, ’95.

Bahr is nationally recognized as one of the labor movement’s leading experts on technology and information-based industries.

Available to anyone across the country, the Bahr online scholarship expands access, primarily for union members and other workers, by providing financial support leading to a high-quality SUNY Empire State College degree.

“Congratulations to the 2015 scholarship recipients,” said Bahr. “Today’s jobs are rapidly changing and increasingly complex, which places new demands on working men and women. Lifelong learning and online education are now becoming part of mainstream employment. A scholarship to Empire State College provides working men and women with help paying for college, the opportunity to learn online while holding down a job and the skills they need to keep learning throughout their lifetime.”

“I join Morton Bahr in congratulating the 2015 scholarship recipients,” said Merodie A. Hancock, president of the college. “Many recipients have taken advantage of the Bahr online scholarship to get their bachelor’s in Labor Studies, with the goal of starting or advancing a career within organized labor. Several more have earned degrees in other areas, such as nursing, business and human services. The Bahr online scholarship helps working men and women pay for tuition and Empire State College helps them complete a bachelor’s, while they are balancing jobs, families and community commitments.”

About the Bahr Online Scholarship Recipients

The six recipients of the scholarship this year are:

Carol Storrs, of Auburn, N.Y., who works as a senior account clerk for the city of Auburn, had been a stay-at-home for 20 years, yet always dreamed of going to college. Then two things occurred: She observed her daughter earn a four-year degree completely online and her company was privatized, with the new administration requiring that all but entry-level positions be held by someone with a bachelor’s degree. Storrs, who always had an interest in human resources and labor issues, enrolled in the college to earn her degree. She also is the treasurer of her local CSEA unit. She has found that her studies have come in handy during negotiations with her employer. “I am overseeing the transition to an automated water meter reading/billing system,” she said. “I have seen firsthand how important it is to keep up to date on new technology and the difference it can make to workers.”

Kathleen Miller, of Ballston Spa, N.Y., a mother of two, is employed as a program assistant at the Parsons Child & Family Center. She applied for the Bahr Scholarship because her spouse is a member of the CWA. She is earning her bachelor’s degree in Community and Human Services. “I want to help people and make a difference in other peoples’ lives,” she said. Although an assistant, she says that “caseworkers frequently discuss their cases with me, exchanging ideas to rectify a case issue. I have learned a tremendous amount through these interactions about the available services and programs for those in need.” Once she earns her bachelor’s degree, she hopes to work as a case manager herself.

Kimberly Patterson, of Pittsburgh, Penn., works for the Allegheny County Office of Property Assessments as a valuation analyst. She is a member of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who has been working for Allegheny County for more than 26 years. She earned an associate degree while supporting herself as a clerk typist. Her longtime desire is to earn a bachelor’s degree. She attended night classes at the University of Pittsburgh, but had to drop out due finances. She then began taking courses at the National Labor College, whose students later merged with Empire State College’s Harry Van Arsdale Jr. School for Labor Studies.

Emma Manno, of Equinunk, Penn., is a stay-at-home mom and a member of Local 825 Operating Engineers. She is earning an associate degree from Empire State College, and hopes that the degree will open up more career opportunities and help her gain financial independence. She started her higher education at SUNY Sullivan. After taking a break, she now hopes to earn her degree in Human Development and has maintained an A average while studying through the college’s Center for Distance Learning. “It is important to me to give my all to my coursework. By studying online I am pretty much in charge of my education,” she said. “I have a strong passion for human development and behavioral health. I have strong desire to help other people and obtain the background necessary to be able to achieve this goal.”

Stacy Kempf, of Alden, N.Y., is a member of CWA and employed by People, Inc. as a team leader. She’s also a wife and mom who had to postpone college immediately after high school, but is hoping to improve her life by earning a degree. So far, undecided on an academic concentration, she is eyeing human services, psychology and business. “My employer, People Inc., is a nonprofit agency that assists individuals with disabilities,” she said. “My job is my passion and it is very rewarding to have positive effects on the lives of those who depend on me to assist them. Any of these fields would allow me to further my career with People Inc., or a similar company. If I combine my work experience, educational success from high school and the experience I have from previously being a volunteer firefighter, I know I will pick up where I left off academically.”

Suzanne Baxter, of East Syracuse, N.Y., works as an administrative assistant for NYSUT and is a member of CWA Local 1141. A cancer survivor and mother of two, Baxter learned in March, after five years, that the cancer was eradicated. “It reawakened unfinished goals and created new ones,” she said. She began to lead by example for her family in the areas of healthy eating, physical exercise, home cooking and living more frugally. “As a result, I hope my family will learn that a balanced lifestyle includes time for your family, but for yourself…I am showing my children how charity can have a positive effect for not only those who in in need, but for us as well.” Baxter hopes earning a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity will afford her opportunities for advancement in her career. “I want to show my girls, 11 and 14, that you can succeed when you put in the effort.”

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Did You Know

SUNY Empire State College will participate in “America’s Parade,” held annually in New York City on Veterans’ Day, Nov. 11.

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Layla Abdullah-Poulos

Hope Ferguson

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