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SUNY Canton North Country and Sustainability Advocate Receives SUNY Chancellor’s Award

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A SUNY Canton professor who has painted his career using the Adirondack landscape as a canvas just received SUNY-wide accolades for his creativity.

Matthew Burnett rows a canoe while wearing his Chancellor's Award medallion.
SUNY Canton Professor Matthew J. Burnett of Saranac Lake received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities. Two of Burnett’s colleagues gave him his medallion during a boating excursion on Saranac Lake.

Matthew J. Burnett, a Canino School of Engineering Technology faculty member who teaches in the Graphic and Multimedia Design program, received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

“Professor Burnett's art is a product of his rural Adirondack upbringing,” said SUNY Canton President Zvi Szafran. “His work highlights the natural beauty of upstate New York and infuses his passion for environmental protection and activism. His art is not observed, it is experienced.”

He infuses nature and conservation into nearly all his creative pursuits, which has earned him international acclaim. While continuing to paint and draw, Burnett has recently turned to 3D printing technologies to create his interactive public works.

“He uses many perspectives to guide his pairing of fine arts and technology,” said Christopher Sweeney, Ph.D., who is Burnett’s contemporary, and SUNY Canton professor. “Whether floating 3D-printed computer programmed vessels on the river or projecting enhanced video onto monumental forms, the immensity of Mr. Burnett’s vision insists on the observer becoming a willing participant, sometimes even a builder, of the experience.”

After returning from a Fullbright Scholarship at Munich University of Applied Sciences in Germany, Burnett created the interactive public display “Convergence,” where he printed floating translucent plastic pods containing small lights. He released the buoyant creations into the Grasse River. The small light-emitting vessels changed colors as they floated downstream.

“Professor Burnett is an extraordinarily creative person who treats his students, coworkers and colleagues with absolute respect,” said Johannes Brombach, Ph.D., a professor for work science and ergonomics from the University of Applied Sciences in Munich. “In his work he encourages, challenges and coaches the students. For him there is no effort that is too great to give the best support he possibly can give.”

Burnett is probably best known locally for developing the week-long Adirondack Experience Photography Course, an immersive experience that uses the region’s most prominent assets as backdrops for students’ education. Photographs from the course have been displayed in the Southworth Library Learning Commons.

He was one of the first faculty members to respond at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic by 3D printing face shields for frontline medical workers. His current area of research includes recycling plastic filament for 3D printing. Very recently, he was elected as the presiding officer of the faculty assembly, the governing body for the college.

He earned his Master of Fine Arts from the Maine College of Art and his Bachelor of Arts from SUNY Plattsburgh. Burnett lives in Saranac Lake with his wife, Amy.

The Chancellor's Awards for Excellence are SUNY System-level honors conferred to acknowledge and provide recognition for consistently superior professional achievement and to encourage the ongoing pursuit of excellence. 

About SUNY Canton

As Northern New York's premier college for career-driven bachelor's degrees, associate degrees and professional certificate programs, SUNY Canton 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 23 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 SUNY Canton Kangaroos 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.