A reporter from the social news and entertainment site BuzzFeed recently profiled SUNY Canton’s Funeral Services Administration program.
Staff writer Katie Heaney investigated the changing attitudes about death, grieving and the changing gender roles in the industry in an article titled Can The Next Generation Of Morticians Breathe Life Into The Death Industry?
The Funeral Services Administration program is one of the very few four-year mortuary science majors in the United States. It is also one of the only programs of its kind within the SUNY System.
“I love the SUNY Canton funeral service program,” said Katie E. Trombley of Champlain, who was one of the students mentioned and quoted in the article. “We certainly get a lot of hands-on experience and are in close contact with funeral directors from across the state.”
Students tend to be a close-knit group who work with friendly and charismatic professors to learn about the business, according to Trombley. “We are all a family,” she said.
Funeral Services Administration Program Director David R. Penepent spoke very highly of his students, and graduates of the program. “The students in the program are the people that I’d want to take care of me and my family in a time of need,” he said. “Our alumni have a vested interest in the future generations of funeral service professionals, so they are always ready to provide support.
This year, the college completely renovated the program’s classroom space in Cook Science Center, which includes a new chapel space in addition to a combined student lounge and study area. Some classes require students to orchestrate and hold simulated funerals. The new space provides ample access to practice their applied education.
The BuzzFeed article highlights the changing demographic of funeral service professionals. In the past, it has been a predominantly male-led field. Today, more women are choosing to enter the profession, and approximately 60 percent of the 67 SUNY Canton students in the program are female. “Women help bring caring and sensitivity to the industry,” said Penepent, who is authoring his thesis on the gender role characteristics that are unique to funeral directors.
Another changing aspect of the program has been driven by the change in beliefs, according to Penepent. He said as fewer people attend church, the more funeral directors must directly connect with the families to help them say goodbye to their loved ones. To partially address the changes, he runs role-playing exercises to help students interact and understand how to best help the bereaved.
The program and its students have previously been featured by Mountain Lake PBS, and BreakThrough Radio has interviewed Penepent for his thesis topic. The renovated classroom space has been featured on the funeral directors’ blog, SympathyNotes.
About SUNY Canton
SUNY Canton is Northern New York’s premier college for career-driven bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees and certificate programs. The college delivers quality hands-on programs in engineering technology, health, management and public service. Faculty members are noted for their professional real-world experience in addition to outstanding academic credentials. SUNY Canton OnLine offers hundreds of flexible and convenient courses as well as eight exclusively online bachelor’s degrees. The college’s 14 athletic teams compete as provisional members of the NCAA Division III and the USCAA.