May 25, 2017

Assoc. Prof. Rebecca Fraser, at Van Arsdale Center for Labor Studies, Receives Hall Award for Innovation

Rebecca Fraser, Hall Award for Innovation
Fraser, third from left, is pictured with President Merodie Hancock, right, and colleagues.

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - May 25, 2017) Rebecca Fraser, an associate professor at The Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies of SUNY Empire State College, has received the Empire State College Foundation 2017 James William and Mary Elizabeth Hall Award for Innovation. She was recognized at the All College Conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. for founding, expanding and continuing to lead Labor Writes, the center’s interdisciplinary anthology of student writing and art. Fraser won the award for the innovative ways she has used the publication to improve student engagement across the labor center.

“Innovative uses of texts and finding new ways of teaching are hallmarks of SUNY Empire State College,” said Merodie Hancock, president of the college. “I commend Rebecca and her colleagues for finding a different way for some of the voices of our students to be honed and then actually heard by an audience. Labor Writes provides an unparalleled experience to bring our trade students into a meaningful academic community.”

“I'm very honored to receive this award, as it is really for the Van Arsdale students whose writing and art appear in Labor Writes. In addition, all of our associate degree students read and discuss this anthology in their College Writing course. And that is where the innovation comes in – when we place student writing next to that of professional writers, and students begin to see that their writing also is valued.”

Colleague Sophia Mavrogiannis, director of academic support for the labor center, said, “One of the greatest challenges we face at Van Arsdale is helping our apprentice students see themselves as writers and thinkers who have a voice, and a place in the academic narrative.” She added that many of the labor students admit to choosing education in the trades because they did not like to write and hoped to avoid it. However, seeing their writing and art published in an attractive journal has emphasized that their backgrounds and creative expression have intrinsic value.

In order to ensure that students across the center have the opportunity to publish, whether they are earning associate or bachelor’s degrees, the writing is integrated into the first-year curriculum. Labor Writes was born of two earlier journaling efforts, Lights On (2007) and The Power of the Journey (2008). Fraser and her colleagues saw how involved the students became in putting together an anthology, working on every aspect, from the title and cover to final layout, and realized that using an anthology as a primary text in students’ first year would demystify the process and improve student engagement with other texts. The journal won a 2012 SUNYCUAD (SUNY Council for University Advancement) Award for Effective, Efficient and Elegant Publications. This year’s publication marks the seventh volume and work is underway for the eighth.

Fraser earned her Ph.D. in Composition and Rhetoric from New York University, her M.A. in English from Radford University and her B.A. in English from Thiel College.

About the Hall Award for Innovation

The James William and Mary Elizabeth Hall Award for Innovation is given periodically to a college employee who creates, or puts into effect, an innovation that advances Empire State College’s mission and benefits the college’s students.

About SUNY Empire State College

Empire State College, the nontraditional, open college of the SUNY system yearly, educates nearly 19,000 students worldwide at eight international sites, more than 30 locations across the state of New York, online, as well as face to face and through a blend of both, at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels.

The average age of an undergraduate student at the college is 35 and graduate students’ average age is 40.

Most Empire State College students are working adults. Many are raising families and meeting civic commitments in the communities where they live, while studying part time.

In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each undergraduate student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career.

Working with their mentors, students design an individual degree program and engage in guided independent study and coursework on site, online or through a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to choose where, when and how to learn.

The college’s 78,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more.

The college was first established in 1971 by the SUNY Board of Trustees with the encouragement of the late Ernest L. Boyer, chancellor of the SUNY system from 1970 to 1977. Boyer also served as United States commissioner of education during the administration of President Jimmy Carter and then as president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

More information about the college is available at