Before Brockport: A Faculty & Staff Spotlight
Learn about a few interesting jobs held by faculty and staff members before they joined the campus community.
Ann Bunch, Professor, Department of Criminal Justice
Forensic Anthropologist with the U.S. Army
Before Ann Bunch taught criminal justice at SUNY Brockport, she spent seven years working as a forensic anthropologist with the U.S. Army. While her laboratory was based in Hawaii, she spent most of her time traveling to other countries, typically in Southeast Asia, searching for the remains of soldiers that were missing in action (MIA).
Bunch would oversee the process of excavating and searching extraction zones for either bones or personal material that she could use to identify soldiers that had been MIA, often for decades. Reaching the extraction zone often involved long hikes up a mountain or a helicopter ride with the locals from the area. The extraction zones were determined by eyewitness accounts and previously gathered information throughout the decades that led up to their mission.
“Sometimes these zones would be a small six-by-six-foot square, and other times they could be the size of a football field,” Bunch said.
One of Bunch’s most memorable assignments was the Last Flight of Bomber 31. She led a 10-person Army recovery team with the goal of finding any remains of seven MIA soldiers from World War II and identifying them. The story of the extraction was featured on PBS, and her team eventually identified four of the seven missing soldiers.
“The entire experience was memorable, because I was able to get out of my shell after being a solitary graduate student,” Bunch said. “I got to see how a team works and gels together all while exploring different countries around the world.”
Paul Schreiner, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre & Music Studies
Technical Director for a Traveling Opera
Paul Schreiner has traveled thousands of miles as the driver, technical director, and lighting designer of a traveling opera. His goal was to keep the operation — which consisted of two trucks, 12 actors/actresses, some lighting equipment, sound equipment, and an entire stage set for two different opera performances — constantly moving to its next performance.
“I have driven every mile of I-95 from Fort Lauderdale to the Canadian border and beyond,” Schreiner said. “A typical day involved driving anywhere from 100 to 500 miles, unloading and setting up an entire set, then working with lighting for the performance.”
Schreiner also focused on the opera’s performances. The traveling group performed for all different audiences and venues. Sometimes he arrived at a venue with a crew waiting for him to help with the lighting house for thousands of viewers. Other times he would show up at a small high school in Wisconsin that had almost no lighting equipment to work with, let alone a crew.
“Every experience was different, and I had to manage all this within a handful of hours before our performance,” Schreiner said. “It was an odd combination of stressful, fun, and exhausting.”
Being on the road with the same people, all day, every day, for months at a time as you travel across the country created a near familial bond within the group. However, like a family, they shared their own struggles.
“You not only have to learn how to manage your emotions, but how to read others,” Schreiner said. “But knowing that we were all in it together was what helped us bond and get through it.”
Alisia Chase, Associate Professor, Department of Art
Alisia Chase had worked as a caterer and after-hours chef at a jazz club, but it wasn’t until her best friend and her husband opened a farm-to-table restaurant in Minneapolis, MN that she began trying her hand at desserts as a pastry chef.
“I was fascinated by the chemistry and precision involved in pastries,” Chase said. “They really only have three basic ingredients: flour, sugar, and fat, but it is how you manipulate those ingredients that matters.”
Chase spent nearly three years working at the restaurant making popular dishes among customers, such as Boca Negra (a flourless, chocolate-packed torte), or creating ice creams using unconventional ingredients that she could find in the refrigerator, such as sage or rosemary. Working at a farm-to-table restaurant, she placed a high priority on using what was on hand to highlight the importance of fresh ingredients and a low-waste cooking environment.
“That restaurant was truly one of the first in Minneapolis to understand the importance of fresh, local produce and meat,” Chase said. “They were very inventive with using what was on hand and seasonal and gave me the courage to think outside of the box when it came to desserts.”
Peggy Barringer, Office Assistant, Student Accounts & Accounting
Canal Bank Walker
Imagine a job where you could spend hours peacefully walking along the Erie Canal. Peggy Barringer spent two seasons as a canal bank walker doing just that, but it wasn’t always quite as peaceful as it seems.
“Everyone always asks me, ‘How can I get a job like that?’ And while it was wonderful, it comes with its own problems,” Barringer said. “Walking outside for eight hours might mean sunburn one day and trudging through snow, sleet, or rain on another.”
Barringer would walk along each side of her assigned section, looking and listening for any oddities in the canal or on the path itself, including bridge damage, leaks, or debris that blocked the path.
As an amateur photographer, she would take photos of the canal and any animals she would see throughout her day — including all the dogs and their owners that she made sure to know all the names of. She walked nearly 1,300 miles each season, which led to a healthier lifestyle and greater appreciation for nature.
“I always knew it was a transitional thing, but I always say that this job enriched my life,” Barringer said. “The people I met, the photos I took, and being out there with nature… it was a great gig.”
Donald Streeks, Lecturer, Department of Accounting, Economics & Finance
Treasurer (Asia-Pacific Region) and Operations Manager (Philippines) for Kodak
The Eastman Kodak Company hired Donald Streeks in 1990, but it wasn’t until 1996 that he was sent to work in Tokyo as the treasurer of its Asia-Pacific region.
Streeks spent most of his time in Tokyo traveling to Kodak subsidiaries working on “putting out fires.” He would help with internal audit reports and work on receiving financing from international banks. Streeks also met his wife in Tokyo, where she worked for one of Kodak’s subsidiaries in product localization.
After 18 months there, Streeks received a promotion to operating manager for the branch in the Philippines, located in the City of Manila. Before moving there, Streeks tried reaching out to the finance instructor to better understand the situation. After a handful of calls and no emails, he was beginning to get frustrated, until he finally received a shocking response.
“It turns out that they had suffered a typhoon a few days prior, and they were unable to respond because of it,” Streeks said. “It was something that really helped open my eyes. I was just thinking that they were being lazy and not responding, but it turned out to be a situation that I never would have even fathomed as a possibility.”
Streeks spent nearly 18 months in Manila before returning to work in Rochester in 1997. He eventually left the company to teach and often shares an important lesson he learned at the job with his students.
“I always tell them that if you make your wishes known at your job, you increase your chances of making them happen,” Streeks said. “From the beginning, I made it known at Kodak that I wanted to work overseas, and when the opportunity was available, they chose me.”
Barbi Clifton, Lecturer, Department of English
State Assessment Content Developer
Have you ever wondered who was behind the questions on the state exams that you took throughout high school? Barbi Clifton has worked as an assessment content developer on English exams for more than a decade.
“Everything is done virtually, so I am able to work from home on multiple different state exams from across the country at once,” Clifton said. “We are assigned to create a batch of ‘items’ that fulfill certain pieces of the states’ core requirements of learning.”
The “items” Clifton writes consist of both a question and answer, whether it be multiple choice or a reading prompt. Her experience writing for state assessments often intersects with her current teaching at Brockport for her course on children’s literature. While researching for state assessments, she finds useful passages and information that she can use in her curriculum.
“I find these examples are useful for my students, as it helps them understand what they are looking for with certain grade levels,” Clifton said. “For example, how to avoid using fourth-grade level words for a third-grade exam.”
While Clifton is still involved with state assessment writing, one of her most memorable moments on the job was back when her own children were going through school.
“I would tell my kids to bring home the material they are working on for their tests, and I would compare and get ideas for my questions,” Clifton said. “They were always so excited to bring home their test materials knowing that they were helping me out.”