Alumni Profiles

My Future after SUNY Plattsburgh

Kathleen O’Connell, Class of 2002

  • B.A. in Studio Art
  • Assistant Professor, Middle Tennessee State University

“My favorite class at SUNY Plattsburgh was Introduction to Printmaking. When I began to study printmaking I didn’t know anything about it. I fell in love with the process and the outcome. The feeling of scratching into a zinc plate, wiping the plate with ink and being able to produce multiple printed copies seemed too good to be true! I remember watching a lithography student process and print off of a flat stone and I thought it was the most bizarre and magical thing ever seen. In that class I learned the process, but I also discovered a passion that still drives much of what I do today, creatively and as an instructor. I have continued to make prints, non-stop, since that class.

“As with any experience, this program is what you make of it. I chose to challenge myself, and my professors encouraged me raising their expectations accordingly. My frequent interactions with all of my art professors provided me with necessary feedback, encouragement and the right amount of challenge.  As a professional currently working in a public university I can attest that the SUNY system is well-known and widely recognized. The Art Department remains strong. In practical terms, I appreciate that I did not leave school with a huge debt.”

Portrait of Nicolas GaudreauNicolas Gaudreau, Class of 2004

  • Professional Fundraiser
  • M.A. in Museum Studies, Syracuse University
  • B.A. in Art History, SUNY Plattsburgh

Nicolas Gaudreau excelled as an art history major specializing in 19th-century French prints and feminist art history. While completing his studies, Mr. Gaudreau interned at the Plattsburgh State Art Museum, where he attracted the support of numerous donors that enabled him to acquire 16 works for the permanent collection, including prints by Cassatt and Picasso among others. He also curated a large exhibition of those works in Feinberg Library’s Kent Gallery. Nick had raised over $30,000 for the Museum before he graduated. During his student years, he was Vice President for the Arts in the SUNY Plattsburgh Student Association, served as a teaching assistant, and worked with studio art majors to assist them with best professional practices.

Mr. Gaudreau went on to earn his master’s degree in museum studies at Syracuse University, concentrating in museum development and administration. He has now been a professional fundraiser for cultural organizations for over a decade. Using his love for the business of art that began at SUNY Plattsburgh, he has represented the financial needs of cultural organizations to philanthropists ranging from Presidents to the Imperial Court of Japan and he has raised millions of dollars in support of crucial community programs, including free summer camps for inner-city youth and an ambassadorial tour for cultural exchange through the U.S. State Department. Nick has worked with a children’s museum, an art school, a Native American decorative arts museum, a contemporary glass museum, and a Japanese garden. He is currently the Associate Director of Individual Giving with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City.

Mr. Gaudreau credits his education as an art history major at SUNY Plattsburgh for the trajectory of his career, saying, “It wasn’t just the course work that gave me what I needed to succeed. It was a great group of professors that pushed me to take every opportunity available.”

Portrait of Danny ChangDanny (Shyang-Min) Chang, Class of 2007

  • Major: Art Studio, Graphic Design
  • Occupation: Senior Product Designer at Shutterstock Inc.
  • Graduate School: Parsons, M.F.A. in Design and Technology

“I loved the package design class. It’s hands-on and challenging. One project was to design a package for eggs. We had to design using the form-follows-function principle — something which looks awesome and still protects the eggs from impact.

“Professor Norman Taber is one of a kind. He is humorous and always makes learning into a fun and enjoyable experience. He also knows how to lead the students into what they love to do for the rest of their lives. I did an independent research for package design with him. We dived into package design for high-tech products. That research helped me bridge what I learned in school with trending markets and design needs.

“Unlike design school, the graphic design at SUNY Plattsburgh is well-rounded with other fine art classes. You don’t have to make a decision until you find something you love. How many designers have ever experienced oxy-fuel welding for sculpture? I did.”


Matt Blodgett, Class of 2005

View Matt's Recent Work

  • B.A. in Fine Arts, Double Concentration in Graphic Design and Printmaking
  • Graphic Designer, Equal Vision Records

I Gained the Confidence I Needed to Succeed

"In my last year at SUNY Plattsburgh I really found my true passion in terms of "fine art." I started doing many collages on wood panels and since I have left school these works have progressed and continued to grow. I have been lucky enough to exhibit such works in many galleries throughout the Capital District as well as in Cape Cod, Baltimore and New York. None of this would be a reality without education and guidance I received at SUNY Plattsburgh.

"I currently work for a record company located in Albany NY called Equal Vision Records. I have been with the company since March of 2005. I started out doing color separations (outputting screens for screen-printed apparel) and designing T-shirt designs. After a year and a half with the print shop, I was hired on with the art department in the record label offices to be one of 3 graphic designers. I am still in this position and my job duties include creating postcards, flyers, posters, magazine ads, t-shirt designs, press kits and web banners."

Matt's Advice for Art Students

"Take advantage of the class sizes and the resources offered by your professors. Also keep your art history books and don't sell them back, for they are wonderful to have after college and make for wonderful references. Have fun, don't stress but pay attention and stay on task."

Anne Polashenski, Class of 1998

View Anne's Recent Work

  • B.A. in Studio Art, Double Concentration in Painting & Printmaking
  • Assistant Artist Teacher, Joan Mitchell Foundation (JMF)
  • Professional Development Team Member (JMF)

"Saturday art classes help students in our middle school class prepare their portfolios to apply to art high schools in the New York City area. I also work part-time for the Professional Development team at JMF conducting research regarding social activism in the art classroom. I give workshops regarding these topics."

My Internship Started My Career

"I had the opportunity to work at Pace Editions Print shop in New York City, starting as an intern, then as a part-time assistant for over a year. I had met a master printer from Pace Editions at SUNY Plattsburgh during my junior year. My printmaking professor at Plattsburgh was a previous colleague of this printer and encouraged me to follow up once I moved to New York and was an excellent reference for me."

The Professors Gave Me the Freedom to Grow

"I had a special relationship with the art department and was given a certain amount of independence because of my self-motivation, hard work and ambition. The study abroad program I participated in inspired me culturally and artistically. Furthermore, the Art Department helped prepare me for my post-undergraduate endeavors."

Anne's Advice for Art Students

"I have advice for current art students: I strongly advise you to take time off after undergraduate studies (if you are thinking about going to graduate school). It is really important to have some space from education and to create your own discipline in terms of your art-making practice. I think it is also very helpful to start paying those student loans off in regards to getting a taste of 'real life.'"

Dennis Delay, Class of 1996

  • B.A. in Studio Art
  • School Counselor, Brewster Pierce Memorial School (K-4) and Smilie Memorial School (K-4) in Vermont's Chittenden County.

"In the SUNY Plattsburgh Art Program, I was really excited to acquire many of the fundamental skills that artists use in a variety of media, e.g., drawing and observation skills; composition, color theory, and working in a variety of paint media; etching, lithography, monoprint and monotype, and bookmaking; and working in mixed media/installation. I also felt that I had the flexibility to focus my work on specific themes and ideas that I was most interested in.

"I loved SUNY Plattsburgh's diversity, nestled as it is in rural upstate New York. I loved its commitment to the arts as evidenced by its burgeoning sculpture garden. And I loved its geography, with the province of Quebec just over the border, the Adirondack High Peaks on the horizon, and Lake Champlain literally a stone's throw away."

Studying Art Led Me to a Rewarding Career

"Both counseling and art-making involve processes of self-exploration and personal development. While "talk" is the traditional medium used in counseling, working with children requires a more flexible and diverse approach. Art is one medium of many that I use with children in counseling; play, writing, music, and role-playing also represent therapeutic approaches.

"A solo exhibit of paintings, some minor pieces of published writing, and graduate scholarships were certainly all related to my experiences at SUNY Plattsburgh, but the most special accomplishments I think are in my day to day interactions with children, parents and teachers. My college experiences rounded me in such a way that I can empathize with students that love one subject but just can't seem to put it all together in another subject; in the classroom, I can teach about conflict resolution with verbal/written means, with a drawing, and/or through role-playing."

Caring Professors Reach My Goals

"Fond of science, math, and the creative process, I entered SUNY Plattsburgh as an engineering major. All it took was one semester: despite fine marks I knew my heart wasn't in it. Fritz Kissner was my first advisor and he was more interested in helping me to in find the right path as a learner than in keeping me in the engineering program. He supported my subsequent change of major unhesitatingly.

"Bruce Butterfield's fiction and writing classes quickly taught me that I had somehow managed to miss just about everything having to do with writing and language arts, yet in two semesters I understood and could apply the fundamentals of communicating through writing - a skill set that is required in both work and life.

"Finally, Diane Fine taught me the fundamentals of countless printmaking techniques while also taking personal interest in my journey as a student and as person (as well the journeys of many, many other students). Her art, teaching, and activism continue to inspire and influence me."

Dennis's Advice for Art Students

"Don't hesitate to step outside of the hallways of your program of study; take a random class or two while you have the chance. Spend some time getting to know the locals. And get into the Adirondacks at some point in your first year!"

Rachel Davis, Class of 1992

Rachel Davis

  • B.A. in Studio Art
  • Freelance Designer, Madison Children's Museum in Madison

"As a freelance designer for the Madison Children's Museum in Madison, Wisconsin, I design hands-on exhibit spaces for children 2-12 years of age. I think my major prepared me well for the work I do now. I am happy to be working in a creative field where I combine good design, clear concepts, and my imagination."

The Confidence I Gained Here Has Helped Me Succeed

"I think my undergraduate experience prepared me for graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and for several large scale projects that I have undertaken since. I recently published a portfolio of prints by ten painters and sculptors. I certainly would not have been able to successfully complete this project if I did not feel confident in my ability as an artist/printmaker.

"I have such good memories of Plattsburgh. I loved the town and its proximity to Montreal, Burlington and the Adirondack Mountains. The art faculty was outstanding and I must say the majority of the classes I took during my four years were demanding and the professors who taught them were engaged and excited about what they were teaching. They encouraged an interdisciplinary approach to art making, set high standards for students and were outstanding mentors."

Rachel's Advice for Art Students - Take an Active Role in Your Experience

"Look at the course catalog in the same way that you did the toy catalog. Try to take a few electives that have nothing to do with your major or try a subject matter you know nothing about.

"Join a club that interests you or volunteer in the community. Get to know Plattsburgh as a town and not just a place you are living in temporarily."

Whitney Cookman, Class of 1976

Whitney Cookman was a Fine Art major and is now Senior V.P. at Random House, Inc.

The Art Program was an Excellent Experience

"20 years after I graduated, I attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania for some executive training. It was then that I truly realized how rounded, deep, and excellent my college experience at Plattsburgh was. The Art program taught me how to think and how to think visually.

"Almost all of my professors and fellow students made impressions on me. Two faculty members, in particular, had great effect on me--Rick Mikkelson and Glen Hoover (two "opposites", by the way!) I really liked the small class size and personal attention of the faculty.

"I keep in contact with five or six of my closest friends from Plattsburgh. It's been more difficult with the faculty as most have moved on or retired. I still keep in contact with Rick Mikkelson (I think I took every drawing course Rick offered in the 4 years I was at Plattsburgh--including our Sunday morning drawing sessions-known as Donuts & Dylan-!)."

Whitney's Advice for Art Students: Show Up and don't be Afraid of the Weather!

"Don't be dissuaded by the far-north, weather issue. It was actually fun and became a source of pride to us students (plus, you'll never appreciate spring as much as when it finally hits Plattsburgh!). The college is in a beautiful location, with great people, and is close to Montreal. You just can't do better than the Adirondacks at your back, Lake Champlain at your feet, and the Green Mountains of Vermont across from you!

"Take advantage of everything - try everything. Plattsburgh State offers some amazing experiences but, like the rest of life, you gotta show up."

Shea Gonyo, Class of 2002

Visit the website of alumnus Shea Gonyo. In his final weeks as a student at Plattsburgh State, Shea designed a previous version of the Art Department website. He now works in Flash-based Web design for the firm Firstborn Multimedia.

Scott Wild, Class of 2002

Scott Wild was a 2002 graduate of the Graphic design program. His strong design and typography skills landed him a job at Computer Games magazine as their designer. He is responsible for the look of a national magazine with a circulation of 150,000 monthly. Scott manages a production artist, but is responsible for much of the layout himself. He also designs a CD-ROM that is included with each issue and looks forward to adding his own motion graphics to the interface of these game demo disks. Immediately after starting the job, Scott was given the task of designing the format for a new digest sized entertainment magazine, a project that will allow him to be on the ground floor of a brand new publishing venture.

Ryan Collette, Class of 2006

View Ryan's Student Work at SUNY Plattsburgh
  • BFA, Concentration in Graphic Design
  • In-House Graphic Designer
  • Art Director for three outdoor sporting goods companies
    • Tecnica USA, a ski boot/footwear company
    • Blizzard Sport USA, a ski company
    • Rollerblade, the largest rollerblade company in the world

The Art Program Prepared Me for My Career

The art courses provided by SUNY gave me knowledge and creativity that I use on a day to day basis. Both David Powell and Norm Taber had a large impact on preparing me for life after collage.

Michael Shoenig, Class of 1999

Michael Shoenig studied with Raphael DeSoto privately from age 12 and attended the School of Visual Arts after High School. After 23 years living in various locations around the country, he moved back to New York and attended SUNY Plattsburgh as a non-traditional age student, where he renewed is passion for art while achieving his deferred dream of completing his B.A. in art. After graduating in 1999, Michael moved back to San Francisco where he is currently employed by the San Francisco Opera. He maintains an art studio in San Francisco, and continues to pursue his career as an artist; regularly exhibiting and selling his artwork.

Daniel Ehrenberg, Class of 2004

Daniel Ehrenberg, whose concentration is Graphic Design, graduated in May of 2004. He has done two summer internships one for U.S. Game systems in Stamford Connecticut and one for in New York. These internships have provided Dan with opportunities to put his training and skills to good use and turn out profession printed matter that strengthens his portfolio.

Here's what Dan says about Graphic Design, "my goal in design is to communicate visual clues that form clean, powerful messages. I subscribe to the idea of simplicity and striking a balance between aesthetics and visual communication."

Joseph Russ, Class of 1972

  • Major: Art
  • Occupation: Painter

The art department had teachers who were very competent and easily accessible to all students. They were down to earth and knew their subject matter. 20th Century Art History with Rick Mikkelson was the best-prepared course I ever had. Each lesson had a life of its own and was very engaging. It was like the Dead Poet’s Society with Robin Williams.

SUNY Plattsburgh was an excellent education for a very good price. It was in a beautiful area of the country and not terrible far from New York City. I would tell anyone who is thinking of going to SUNY Plattsburgh to not thing too hard but just do it.

Questions, Comments, Suggestions?

If you would like more information about art at SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact:

Norman Taber
Office: Myers Fine Arts 206
Phone: (518) 564-2495

Kimberly Hall-Stone, Secretary
Office: Myers Fine Arts 220B
Phone: (518) 564-2179
Fax: (518) 564-2199

SUNY Plattsburgh
Art Department
Myers Fine Arts 220 B
Plattsburgh, NY 12901