5 new faculty members at SUNY-ESF on their work, why they came to the college

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The new professors were drawn to SUNY-ESF for its dedication to environmental science and the opportunity to impact and mentor students.

The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry recently welcomed five new faculty members to its campus for the upcoming academic year.

The professors work in four different departments. Here’s a quick look at who they are and what classes they teach.

John Drake – Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management

This spring, Drake will start teaching his first ever semester as a professor. He’s using the fall to prep for his class “natural resources ecology” and develop a plant physiology course.

The physiology course will be designed by his own expertise, he said. The natural resources ecology class will give students an introduction on how natural systems produce the goods that society uses and values, such as clean water and clean air, Drake said.

Drake’s background in plant physiology is mainly based in Australia. While there, he worked for the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, just before coming to SUNY-ESF.

In Australia, Drake conducted experiments on the effects of carbon dioxide on trees by using tree chambers.

At SUNY-ESF he will be looking to outfit and establish a lab to continue and develop his research. As far as teaching, Drake is looking forward to the mentoring role he can step into with his students, where he can help them realize their goals and give them the tools and resources necessary to complete them, he said.

Mohamed Elzomor – Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management

“Out of the box” describes Elzomor’s class philosophy.

In his senior ethics seminar this semester — focused primarily on sustainable construction management — there are no finals, no midterms and no quizzes, he said.

Instead, students will be guided through problem-based learning, group projects and collaboration with other classes and other departments. Social media will be used as a tool for students to get feedback from their community, colleagues and their professor.

As a student himself and now a working professional, Elzomor said he noticed gaps in how his education prepared him for life outside of school. Along with his class curriculum, he is attempting to teach his students the skills necessary to fill in those gaps, he said.

“You end up leaving school and applying for jobs and no one really taught you how to write or articulate an email, which is the first interface between you and real life outside,” Elzomor said.

What brought him to SUNY-ESF was the capacity for impact, Elzomor said. He wants to focus on helping his students strive and find jobs.

Anne Godfrey – Department of Landscape Architecture

How photography influences the way humans value, understand — and thus — design landscapes for places is Anne Godfrey’s area of expertise. That will also be her focus in the graphic design courses she’s teaching this upcoming year.

At SUNY-ESF, Godfrey will encourage her students to enter into international, professional design competitions and take risks, she said.

“I enjoy helping students understand that taking risks is one of the most important things you can do,” Godfrey said. “And it’s possible.”

The work that she and her students do is speculative, Godfrey said. It doesn’t focus on the future of tomorrow, but the future that is 50 to 100 years away. At SUNY-ESF, Godfrey is also looking to create an interdisciplinary design studio that brings students across environmental design fields together, she said.

Godfrey’s program at SUNY-ESF is designed to answer the question of “How do we make the world a better place in terms of ecological systems and in terms of humans’ place and role in influencing and creating healthier systems?,” she said.

She wants to work with other departments at the college to answer that question.

“People here are open to thinking about the future in major ways and really thinking and exploring,” she said.

Timothy Morin – Department of Environmental Resources Engineering

Morin’s passion for the environment, specifically wetland environments, was sparked when he served in the Peace Corps in Guyana and Lesotho, Africa, from 2008-11.

At SUNY-ESF, Morin will teach an ecological engineering class about the creation and restoration of ecosystems, which he said is a relatively new branch of engineering. He will teach his students to explore the fundamentals of design and the scientific principles underlying them.

SUNY-ESF “seemed like a great fit, and Syracuse seemed like a really fun area to be in,” Morin said.

He wants to have the freedom to choose what direction to take his research in and have the ability to work with friends and colleagues moving forward, he said.

Morin’s research now is focused on land-atmosphere interactions — how gases move between land and atmosphere — and tracking changes in arctic ice formation, to be used for future predictions of methane emission.

Roxanne Razavi – Department of Environmental and Forest Biology

Before coming to SUNY-ESF to teach the toxic health hazards class, Razavi was a postdoctoral researcher at the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University.

Her research, which she plans to continue at SUNY-ESF, focused mainly on mercury pollution in the Finger Lakes: how it accumulates in fish and whether or not those fish are safe to eat.

She also conducted research on the Saint Lawrence River and on reservoirs in Eastern China. Her class will include both undergraduate and graduate students, and the curriculum will be focused on understanding pollutants and their fates in the environment.

“The students I’ve met so far have a really strong sense about what they want to do and what they’re passionate about,” Razavi said. “It’s been fun to help them get to where they want to go.”

Razavi said what drew her to SUNY-ESF, besides it being a good fit for her expertise, was the idea of working at a college entirely dedicated to the study of the environment.

“It’s a really exciting place to come into work every day,” she said.


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