A first-year student who works in the Public Relations office once referred to his new life in college as a “balancing act.” “There's classes and studying,” he explained. “You've got to eat and sleep (at least a little). There are parents to call, and friends to see. Then there's a job or an internship, research to do, and papers to write. And on top of all that, there's a sport, or a club (or several), or volunteering.”
In short, it's life on the balance beam.
Despite the strains, many Union students enjoy the challenge and eagerly join activities, both on and off campus, that provide fun, relaxation, and enrichment. For a few weeks this winter, we followed a few of them. Meet John, Jeremy, Erin, Lindsay, Dennis, and John-and their balancing acts.
On the Run
Aside from the occasional jog, John Metz, a native of Oceanside, N.Y., didn't do a lot of running before high school. Then, at the beginning of his freshman year, he was convinced by a friend-an avid runner-to run cross country to get in shape for basketball season.
So John Metz started to run. In his first race, Metz beat the friend who convinced him to run. By the end of the season, he made the varsity team. When it came time to sign up for a winter sport, however, Metz found himself in a dilemma. There he was, standing in the middle of his high school-does he enter the room with the sign-ups for basketball, or does he go across the hall into the room with the sign-ups for indoor track?
Metz never played basketball again, and he hasn't stopped running.
In high school, he participated in every season of cross country and indoor and outdoor track. At Union, he's done the same, while maintaining an outstanding academic record.
From the spring of 1994 through the winter of 1995, Metz, a mathematics major, earned a 4.0 grade point average
and a Presidential Award for Academic Achievement. Add to that the fact that he tutors in the calculus crisis center and has written a music review or two for the Concordiensis.
He's casual about his success and how's achieved it.
“I just kind of do my work,” he says simply, shrugging his shoulders. “I get up, go to class, do work, go to practice, eat dinner, do some more work and go to bed.”
Except on Saturdays, which are meet days. “I don't do work then,” he says. But sometimes he brings his books to meets-just to feel a little better-although they usually remain untouched.
Metz says that running is his break-his fun-from work. What a break. He runs six to seven days a week, with a week or two off between seasons. Although he says he does better at track, he likes cross country the best, because he finds it the most interesting.
“I'm more of an endurance runner,” he explains. “I lack in strength a little bit and have some trouble on hills, but I still like cross country.” Last fall he was captain and one
of the top runners of the men's cross country team.
Metz will enter the the College's master of arts in teaching program this fall and would like to teach high school math. He sees coaching somewhere down the line but wants to focus on his own running career for awhile.
“I'd like to do well in some road races and then move up to marathons in six or seven years,” he says. But, according to Metz, there is no ultimate goal in running. “It's just always out there. It never really stops.”
And neither does he.
She thinks nothing of the time
“No matter how busy I am, there's no reason I can't give four to six hours a week to something this worthwhile,” says Erin Spaulding, a junior psychology major and sociology minor.
The “worthwhile activity”
in this case is Little Sister Lydia Cook, a ten-year-old from Schenectady.
Spaulding was a Big Sister during her senior year of high school and got involved during her freshman year at Union,
when she was paired with Lydia.
Not only does Spaulding gladly spend the four to six hours a week required of all Big Brother/Big Sister volunteers, she also is a member of the organization's executive board and has been a case aide for Stephanie Wolos, on-campus coordinator for Big Brothers/ Big Sisters.
Wolos calls Spaulding a “big recruiter” who has gotten many other Union students involved in the program-so many, in fact, that the Union involvement is the largest of any group
in the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters effort.
This important accomplishment has been fairly easy, Spaulding says. “Lydia comes to campus a lot, and other students see me having such a great time with her. I love Lydia and people see that.”
That visible interaction, coupled with events such as the annual Spring Olympics, which brings to campus 300 children who are on the waiting list for a big brother or big sister, makes students realize how many needy children there are and what a wonderful experience it can be, Spaulding says.
Erin and Lydia spend time together each week both on and
off campus. Last fall they went apple picking and hiking and saw Lydia's first waterfall. They go to parks and playgrounds, watch movies when it's cold, and play cards. “She kicks my butt,” Erin says, laughing.
She clearly enjoys making a difference in others' lives. This year, she is the co-coordinator of the newly-formed Safe
Space, a peer support hotline for victims of sexual abuse. She is a member of Sigma Delta Tau sorority, played varsity soccer for two years, and is involved in intramural sports. After college? Spaulding knows that she would like to continue working with children and has considered going to graduate school for child psychology.
Off to the White House
To John Vero, students who don't pay attention to politics represent a problem-a problem that he is trying to fix.
A junior political science major from Albany, N.Y., Vero helped start the Union College Democrats in his freshman
year. Their goal-a goal shared by their friendly rivals, the Union College Republicans-is to get students involved in the political process regardless of party preference. The two groups have worked together to bring local candidates to campus, and they have held voter registration drives.
“More and more students are getting registered to vote,” Vero says. “Students have to realize that we have a voice, and that politics really do affect us.”
It's obvious that Vero thinks and cares a lot about politics. And about being a Democrat. “I identify with the ideals of Democrats. I think that the country should help people,” he says.
To Vero, politics is an opportunity to make a difference-a difference he would like to make at home in the Capital District. He already has his sights set on Albany's mayoral seat. But Vero does not ever want to be called a politician. “I think that we should get rid of that word, politician. How about public servant?” he asks.
Vero already has a significant amount of public service.
He has worked on local and national campaigns; been an assistant in the City of Albany's
Office of Equal Employment, Equal Opportunity and Fair Housing; and served as a planning intern in the City of Schenectady's Department of Development.
He has also clerked at a law office in Albany, a logical step for someone who plans on attending law school. He hopes that becoming a lawyer will give him the resources he will need to pursue his political career.
As a student, Vero has excelled. He was on the Dean's List in both his freshman and sophomore years, maintaining a 3.6 grade point average. He is a co-chair of the Pre-Law Society
and a member of Union's
Academic Affairs Council and Phi Delta Theta fraternity.
His next bit of experience will be at the pinnacle of the American political process.
Like many Union students, he is participating in the Political Science Department's term in Washington, D.C. Unlike most students, Vero is heading for the White House, where he has landed an internship after piles of applications and security clearances. He is extremely ex
cited about working at the White House under President Clinton, whom he greatly admires and respects. On the budget issue, for example, “He is standing up for what he believes is best for the people, and for that I have to admire him.”
Last year, when President Clinton was in Albany, Vero and four other Union College Democrats-Peter Curry, Rachel Cohen, Catherine Hedgemen, and Andy
Coccia were invited to ride in his motorcade, an experience Vero describes as “unbelievable.”
The studio Jeremy
Jeremy Goverman walks into the small garage behind the Arts Building and flips on the radio. The soft sound of classical music fills the dusty room. Finished and unfinished pots sit on shelves, garbage bins hold used clay and discarded pieces, and a wall of cardboard boxes holds the new clay.
He quickly clears an area on the work table and unwraps a piece he's been working on. It's a platter that will be hung on the wall, he explains. He carefully turns it over and scratches
the leather-hard clay with a needle tool. Wiping the gray surface with a damp sponge, he attaches pieces of clay that, after firing, will be strong enough to be supported by a nail.
Before Jeremy Goverman there was no ceramics program at Union; no classes were offered through the Visual Arts Department; there was no such club; there wasn't even a potter's wheel on campus.
Now, thanks to Goverman, there is a studio, a club, and several students, faculty, and staff who have learned how to throw pots.
Goverman started throwing pots during his junior year at Thayer Academy in Braintree, Mass. under the instruction of his teacher, Steve Branfman. Because he wanted to attend Union but didn't want to give up pottery, he stressed his interest in pottery during his admissions interview and asked about getting something started.
With support from the College's Internal Education Foundation and David Winnick '75, he purchased the equipment needed to begin the club-a couple of potter's wheels, a kiln,
and some clay. He began his small studio in the greenhouse and moved to the garage after the greenhouse was taken down to make way for the new Yulman Theater. By his sophomore year, Goverman was giving pottery lessons to students,
faculty, and staff.
He also was continuing with his own work-mostly raku fired vases and vessels. He has had his work shown at the Impressions Art Gallery in Boston, the Fuller Art Museum, and at Union, and he has sold several pieces. For an independent study, he experimented with ceramic slab wall hangings. “It was a lot harder than I thought it would be,” he says.
Goverman, who graduates in June, will pass on his ceramics club duties to Robin Macdonald, a fellow Thayer graduate who has been helping Goverman give lessons since she arrived on campus in 1993.
What's next for Goverman? Will he travel to New York to struggle as an artist or enter a fine arts program? “No. I think that being a potter would be really difficult. So I want to go to medical school,” he quips.
A biology major and psychology minor, Goverman was on the Dean's List for the 199495 academic year and had a 4.0 grade point average last fall. He has applied to thirteen medical schools across the country and is considering going into surgery-“since I like to work with my hands,” he says, focusing on the piece of pottery he's working on.
The magic moves her
“I am Mary Margaret McKenna O'Keefe,” says the young woman with a soft Irish lilt. “I spent most of my life in Massachusetts and moved to Schenectady to be close to my daughter.”
With lowered eyes, folded hands, and soft sadness in her voice, the young woman in a baseball cap and jeans quickly and easily takes you to another time and place.
Mary Margaret, a seventy-year-old Irish woman, is Lindsay Coppleson's favorite character. Coppleson, a performing arts and English major, created Mary in Forum Theater, a class taught by Barry Smith, associate professor of theater. The class was conducted in an apartment
off-campus, fictionally named the John Howard Payne Home for Adults.
For the class, each student created his or her own elderly character who interacted with the other characters in the class. The students remained in character throughout each class session and had to deal with situations and emergencies created by Smith.
Coppleson loved her character and thought the class was one of the best acting classes she's ever taken. Even though there was no traditional performance, she says it was some of the best acting she's done at Union.
And she's done her fair share. During her sophomore year, she landed a role in Spike Heels. Since then, she's played Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman and had a leading role in The Servant of Two Masters, the inaugural performance in the Yulman Theater.
Outside of Union, she's spent the past two summers at theater workshops in Burlington, Vt., at the Practical Aesthetics Workshop and at Harvard
University with the American Reperatory Theater Company.
Growing up in Chicago with her parents-avid theater goers-she was exposed early and forever addicted to theater. “There is a magic in the story telling. There's such a magical aspect to theater,” she says. “It has always excited me so much and I became passionate about it; I passionately wanted to know how it was done. And I learned it's the best thing since sliced bread.”
Acting, she says, is “an insane rush. Like skydiving. It's athletic. It's like playing a really challenging game. And there is contact-you have contact with the character, with the audience, with the other actors. You get all pumped up!”
Coppleson still gets nervous (“Oh, yeah,” she says with a laugh) and finds opening night the scariest. “It's the real taste test. But sometimes you just hit it. You've done your homework, you're focused, and you're hitting all the emotional notes. It's the best when the audience is completely silent. You have all of their mental energy and that's a nice thing coming back at you.”
Although she says acting is just a hobby, it is a hobby that
she would gladly do for the rest of her life, and is thinking about going to graduate school for acting.
She plans to take a year off before beginning graduate study. Interested in both politics and writing, Coppleson may want to try her hand at either one for a while and is thinking about working on the Democratic Presidential campaign in her home city of Chicago.
Teacher. Role model. Friend. Counselor. Student.
One simple phrase cannot be used to describe a resident assistant. And one simple phrase cannot be used to describe Dennis Lucario, head resident assistant of West College.
Lucario, a senior psychology major and Africana studies minor, became a resident's assistant during the spring term of his sophomore year because he was looking for a challenging way to become involved with students.
Being a head resident assistant takes a lot of work, commitment, and time management.
Lucario mananges a staff of five resident assistants and is in charge of the general maintenance and well-being of West College and its residents. “My job is to provide a community that fosters both respect and individuality,” he says.
In his first year as a head resident assistant, Lucario says that the job has its “ins and outs, but it's manageable and I really do enjoy it.”
Lucario especially enjoys working with freshmen. “It's interesting to see them develop, mature, and change from day one through the end of the year,” he says.
The challenges of being a resident assistant are often tied to time management. “There's a lot of give and take … a lot of sacrifice. You have to learn not to
over-schedule, and you have to allow time for yourself as well as for everyone else. You have to always keep that daily planner handy,” he says with a laugh.
Lucario is also a member of ALAS (the African and Latino Alliance of Students) and the Film Committee, and he tutors twice a week at a local elementary school. Last fall, he volunteered at a group home in Schenectady.
All these activities allow
Lucario, who was born in Belize and grew up in the Bronx, to meet diverse people with different backgrounds and different points of view. This interest in diversity was one of the reasons that he was one of the first twelve Union students to spend a term abroad in Kenya.
“It was a wonderful growing experience,” he says. In addition to taking classes, Lucario worked in a group home and he worked with street children. “It was unbelievable. These kids were starving, eating out of garbage cans. It was a moving experience.”
He has kept in touch with many of the friends he made in Kenya and would someday like to go back to visit.
He says that his position as a resident's assistant and his summer spent working in the Admissions Office have been a stepping stone for him, opening up some career options. He is planning on going into student services-either admissions or residence life-after he graduates. He would like to work in one of those areas for about a year before going on to graduate school.