SUNY Canton Faculty Members Named 2019 Online Ambassadors

Two SUNY Canton professors have been recognized by the Open SUNY Center for Online Teaching Excellence (COTE) for their contributions to distance learning.   

Michelle L. Currier, Ph.D., who is an instructor in the Criminal Justice Department, and Assistant Professor Marela M. Fiacco, Ph.D., who teaches in the Healthcare Management program, have been named as 2019 Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassadors. 

Marela Fiacco and Michelle Currier stand in front of a projected SUNY Canton OnLine Website.
Assistant Professor Marela M. Fiacco, Ph.D., (left) who teaches in the Healthcare Management program, and Instructor Michelle L. Currier, Ph.D., who teaches in the Criminal Justice Department, were recently named Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassadors for their accomplishments in distance learning.

According to Open SUNY, Teaching Ambassadors must be “exemplary online SUNY educators, who are enthusiastic and effective in online teaching, and who can be positive and strong advocates for online teaching in our SUNY community.” 

They were nominated by Christina M. Smith, an instructional technologist in SUNY Canton’s Online Learning Department.

“We are proud to have both Michelle and Marela as part of our online teaching faculty,” Smith said. “They are both excellent examples of educators who are willing to implement new and exciting pedagogies to enhance the student experience.”

In addition to being an experienced online instructor and course developer, Currier has presented and published research on a variety of student retention and relationship-building efforts and is the chair of SUNY Canton’s Student Online Learning Advisory Committee.

“In my research, which has centered around teaching and learning in a 21stcentury education environment, I have found that cultivating relationships between students and their institutions is of critical importance in building student satisfaction, success, and retention,” Currier said.

Fiacco has also developed numerous online courses and oversees the four-year Healthcare Management degree, which can be completed entirely online and is the college’s most popular program. She was part of a select group of professors who piloted SUNY Canton’s Flex Class program, an initiative that allows online learners the option to virtually attend and participate in on-campus lectures in real-time.

“To me, student engagement is the most important aspect of online learning,” Fiacco said. “Flex classes allow an online student to have a similar classroom experience as an on-campus student, which includes interaction with their classmates and professor.”

Both received their awards at the Open SUNY Summit March 7 in Syracuse. The conference brings together educators from across the state to discuss best practices. A student panel during the event included SUNY Canton student Sharon Wager, a senior in the online Legal Studies program, and SUNY Canton alumna Vanessa Trotter, a graduate of the online Management program. Both discussed how course design, support services, and faculty engagement impacted their learning.

“I enjoyed meeting the other panelists, and the faculty who attended found our session insightful,” said Trotter. “They were receptive to using the information to better serve their own students.”   

SUNY Canton is a pioneer in distance learning and currently has 18 online programs in areas such as finance, law, business, nursing, criminal justice, and homeland security. In addition to numerous national accolades for teaching with technology, the College recently received recognition from COTE for outstanding student support services.

“This award speaks to our efforts to create a vibrant experience for online students that encompasses academics, student life, support services and athletic opportunities,” said SUNY Canton Associate Provost and Dean of Academic Support Services Molly A. Mott.  

About SUNY Canton

SUNY Canton is Northern New York’s premier college for career-driven bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees and professional certificate programs. The college delivers quality hands-on programs in digital design, engineering technology, health, management and public service. Faculty members are noted for their professional real-world experience in addition to outstanding academic credentials. As SUNY’s leader in online education, SUNY Canton OnLine offers hundreds of flexible and convenient courses as well as 18 online degree programs. The college placed first in 14 categories in a SUNY-Wide Student Opinion Survey, most notably in career services, tutoring, library resources, and classroom facilities. The college’s 15 traditional athletic teams compete at the NCAA Division III level as part of the North Atlantic Conference. SUNY Canton also features varsity eSports and cheerleading. 

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