March 20, 2018

SUNY Empire State College Excellence in Professional Services Award Goes to Suzanne Orell

Susan Orell, third from left, is flanked by last year's winners, Amy Giaculli and Alison Brust and Officer in Charge Mitch Nesler.

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – March 22, 2018) Suzanne Orrell, Ph.D., received the Empire State Foundation Award for Excellence in Professional Service at All College 2018 in Saratoga Springs this month. Orrell, who is director of academic support at the college, was lauded by colleagues for her student-centered approach and tireless work on their behalf. She has made adaptions for students under the Americans with Disabilities Act, including having one student’s textbooks translated to voice. She has traveled throughout Central New York to meet with and assist students on evenings and weekends – times most convenient to the student. She has coached unsure students, such as one who was intimidated by the math in statistics, to success. That student, under Orrell’s tutelage, earned a B.

I congratulate Dr. Orrell for winning this award,” said Vice President for Advancement Walter Williams. “It is selfless leadership such as hers that translates to student success. Her oversight of other the academic support professionals, and her assistance to mentors and students has led our students to greater academic understanding, ultimately enabling them to graduate and become the educated citizens they want to be, with the ability to pursue their career dreams.”

In their nominating statement, the faculty of Central New York wrote that Orrell had a “proven track record of commitment, dedication, and service to working with students, and to the college, which goes above and beyond the normal call of her duties.” Orrell also works in college governance, serving on the Committee on Undergraduate Studies and Policies (CUSP) and Undergraduate Committee for Academic Policy, serving as co-chair at a time the college was undergoing significant change under ESC 2.0.

She has been a leader in promoting academic excellence, including the prevention of plagiarism by introducing faculty to tools to help prevent acts of dishonesty from occurring. 

Dr. Orrell has a Ph.D. in geology, and her academic area of expertise is science and geology. She has a number of academic support specialists working for her, who take their cues from her dedication to students and her work, encouraging them as they work with students, especially difficult cases.

Said a colleague, “Dr. Orrell is not only student-centered and a strong advocate for our students, but she also is very compassionate and empathetic, qualities that make the most vulnerable students find it easy to work with her.”

About the Excellence Award in Professional Service Award

The criteria for selection for the Foundation Award for Excellence in Professional Service speaks to superbly fulfilling the responsibilities of the position, demonstrating initiative and strong leadership skills and providing excellence in decision making as well as problem solving. This year’s recipients exemplify excellence in their service and commitment to the college. 

About Empire State College

Empire State College, the nontraditional, open college of the SUNY system, educates nearly 18,000 students worldwide at eight international sites, more than 30 locations in 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 degree 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 course work onsite, 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