SUNY Oswego students taking classes in a wide range of majors recently celebrated a two-semester partnership to promote downtown Oswego's Man in the Moon Candies, a sweet campus-community project under the Smart Neighbors initiative.

Marketing plans, multimedia storytelling, photography, sociological analysis, avant-garde filmmaking and sculptured candy molds -- these and more hands-on projects in eight classes across five academic disciplines sought to assist the West First Street business.

"As students, this project helps us step out of our comfort zones," said junior dual major in journalism and creative writing Emily Shaben, who co-produced "Sweet Refuge," a slideshow with special effects. "We forget that a huge part of why we're here is networking and getting out into the community. This project gives us the confidence to do that."

Man in the Moon Candies owner Amy Stone-Lear said she enjoyed the student teams' fact-finding visits to the store: "It was a great experience working with the students and reconnecting with college-age perspectives."

Downtown businesses try in a variety of ways to attract traffic from SUNY Oswego, Stone-Lear said. "I enjoyed introducing students who hadn't gotten around the community to my business and welcoming them downtown," she said. "I really felt honored to be asked, to be the first major (Smart Neighbors) project."

Leigh Wilson, director of interdisciplinary programs and activities for the college, said Smart Neighbors began in 2015-16 as a pilot project with River's End Bookstore. With the support of grants from the SUNY Performance and Investment Fund and the Richard S. Shineman Foundation, Smart Neighbors took its multidisciplinary initiative in "common problem pedagogy" to the next level in 2016-17 with Man in the Moon Candies.

"One of the great things for me with this project, it's worked so well to get students working together, to get them learning about each other's method of approaching problem-solving," Wilson said.

Experimental approach

Participating faculty members are Stathis Kefallonitis in "Marketing Management," Laura Donnelly in "Advanced Poetry," Donna Steiner in "Literary Citizenship," Julieve Jubin in "Digital Photography," Jacob Dodd in "Experimental Filmmaking," Evelyn Benavides in "Race, Class, Ethnicity and Gender" and Ben Entner in "Sculpture 1" and "Sculpture 2."

Kefallonitis, who has been involving area businesses as partners in his marketing courses for six years, said Smart Neighbors adds interdisciplinary scope to the experience.

"Students from their respective classes use their strengths to help other students from other classes," he said. "I think we're one of the few SUNY campuses that do that to this extent."

Marissa Specioso, a graduate student in graphic design and digital media, worked with Smart Neighbors for both semesters. She very much enjoyed seeing the downtown business as both a customer and a consultant/photographer.

"I want to have a business myself someday, so definitely the connection this gives you to the community is a great experience," Specioso said.

Colin Stafford, a senior majoring in cinema and screen studies, said Dodd gave his students great leeway in deciding on an experimental approach to making films about the candy shop. Stone-Lear was extraordinarily cooperative, he said.

"Working with her was one of my greatest experiences here," Stafford said. "She was so open to any ideas you had. She was so open to different things, even if they sounded a bit crazy."

As generous as Stone-Lear was with her time, students such as those in Entner's sculpture classes were generous with their labor, donating molds such as chocolate silhouettes of famous Oswegonians, including Mary Walker.

Many other student contributions in the Smart Neighbors initiative are freely available on