Alfred University News

Student Senate President Carson Grover explains finer points of leadership, what to do with an empty sour cream bucket

Student Senate President Carson Grover receives a fresh tub of sour cream from President Mark Zupan
Student Senate President Carson Grover receives a fresh tub of sour cream from President Mark Zupan

Four years ago, Carson Grover, a first-year student at Alfred University, was invited to President Mark Zupan’s house for dinner along with other students who, as Carson recalls, had been identified as “potential student leaders.”


ALFRED, NY – Four years ago, Carson Grover, a first-year student at Alfred University, was invited to President Mark Zupan’s house for dinner along with other students who, as Carson recalls, had been identified as “potential student leaders.”

As a high school student in Whitesville, NY, Carson had served in a number of elected offices, including finance chairperson for his class and president of the Year Book Club. He has a succinct way of summing up his philosophy of leadership: “I never considered myself a leader. I just like to make sure things get done.”

Zupan, recognizing a fellow traveler, presented Carson a gift that night: a large tub of sour cream, left over from dinner. Carson took it back to his dormitory and put it in a refrigerator. “I had no idea what to do with it. We ate some of it with some tortilla chips, and that was it. “

But he did know what you’re supposed to do with a leftover container someone has given you, filled with cookies, or cupcakes, or sometimes sour cream. “You give it back,” Carson says. “And you never give it back empty.”

Only problem: he was living in a first-year dormitory, and there was no kitchen for baking anything. He carried the empty container over to Carnegie Hall and dropped it off with a secretary. “They told me President Zupan was traveling. I was sorry. I would’ve liked to return it to him personally, along with some cookies.”

Now president of the Alfred University Student Senate, Carson told that story at Alfred University’s recent Student Leadership Dinner, hosted by the Division of Student Affairs. He recalled being encouraged by Tricia Debertolis, the former Associate Dean of Students, to run for Senate Treasurer; he served in that office and then, with Debertolis’ encouragement, ran for and was elected President of the Senate.

“If someone has to do these jobs, it might as well be me,” he says.

Shortly after the Student Leadership Dinner, he received a note from President Zupan:  “Dear Carson: We received an unusual and unexpected shipment in your name to our office late yesterday. According to the instructions associated with the shipment, the contents are supposed to be used before and during your upcoming final exams/assignments. Please feel free to swing by Carnegie at your convenience to pick up the shipment and put the contents to their designated use as best you see fit. Fiat Lux!”

At Carnegie Hall, President Zupan presented Carson with:

·         Four bags of chips

·         A container of sour cream with the Alfred University logo glued to the top

·         A container of French onion dip

·         A container of cream cheese.

“The French onion dip is already gone,” Carson says. “We ate that up pretty quick. I’m saving the cream cheese, because my family likes bagels. I gave the sour cream to a co-worker because he was having a party.”

The only thing to do now is return the container – with something in it. “I thought about making a sour cream cake, but I don’t have an oven. However, I’ve signed up for an apartment next year, and it has a kitchen, so I’ll be able to return the container along with something I make. Maybe some sour cream donuts.”

Carson is majoring in renewable engineering and minoring in music. He’s keeping busy, of course, which any leader would understand. And next year, he’ll have his own kitchen, so he’ll be even busier. Making a good sour cream donut takes time.