Union College News Archives

News story archive

Navigation Menu

Commencement Goes Hollywood

Posted on Jun 7, 1996

Film writer, producer and director Phil Alden Robinson '71 will be honorary chancellor and deliver the main address at the College's Commencement exercises on Sunday,
June 16, at 10 a.m. in Library Plaza. Robinson will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree.

Author Andrea Barrett '74 will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree. NBC Nightly News Anchor Tom Brokaw will receive an honorary doctor of laws.

About 650 students are to receive degrees; more than 500 bachelor's degrees, 137 master's degrees and one doctorate.

Robinson wrote and directed Field of Dreams, one of the most popular films of recent years and a nominee for the Director's Guild Award, the Writer's Guild Award and three Academy Awards including Best Screenplay Adaptation and Best Picture. Among his
other film credits is Sneakers, which makes several quiet references to a small
college in upstate New York. He was a political science major at Union and worked as a
newsroom intern and producer of documentaries at WGY radio and WRGB-TV. After graduation,
he produced films for the Air Force's Aerospace Audio-Visual Service. He worked as a
freelance writer, director and producer for network television and feature films. He wrote
the screenplays for All of Me, In the Mood and Rhinestone.

Barrett has established a reputation as one of the best contemporary American writers.
Her recent Ship Fever and Other Stories was praised by The New York Times for
its “sheer intelligence, its painstaking attempt to discern and describe the world's
configuration. The overall effect is quietly dazzling ….” After graduating from
Union with a biology degree, she pursued graduate study in zoology but eventually changed
to medieval history where she became fascinated with fictional possibilities of medieval
European society and decided to pursue writing seriously. She published her first novel
Lucid Stars
in 1988 and has since added Secret Harmonies, The Forms of Water, The
Middle Kingdom
(a Literary Guild Alternate) and Ship Fever.

Brokaw, anchor and managing editor of the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, is
equally at ease covering major events in world capitals to capturing the flavor of
small-town America. He was NBC's White House correspondent during the Watergate era, and
has covered every presidential election since 1968. He has written articles, essays and
commentaries for The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles
His awards include an Emmy for the NBC News special “China in Crisis”
and another Emmy for coverage of the Midwest floods in 1992.

The ceremony will take place in Library Plaza, rain or shine. Faculty will assemble for
the processional in full regalia in front of Alumni Gymnasium at 9:15. (In the event of
rain, in the Humanities Building.)

Faculty also are invited to a reception on Saturday, June 15, at 3:30 p.m. in the Nott
Memorial hosted by President Roger H. Hull and Dr. Anne E. Dyson. There will be a
Baccalaureate Commemoration following at 5 p.m. in Memorial Chapel.

Read More

Engineering: A New Curriculum

Posted on Jun 7, 1996

First-year engineering students arriving this fall will take on something that students before them could only anticipate for the first two years of study: engineering

As part of the revised engineering curriculum starting this fall, planners have scrapped what Dean Richard Kenyon calls the “have faith” approach: that all the math and physics students learn the first two years would eventually lead to engineering.

Instead, freshmen engineers this fall will take a “Fundamentals of
Engineering/Computer Science” module – one of three continuous year-long modules – that will examine the social, political and cultural contexts of engineering problems, not
just math and science, Kenyon said. In addition to faculty from engineering and computer science, the module will be team taught by faculty from departments including economics,
philosophy, sociology or environmental studies.

“If there has been something missing from engineering education over the last 40
years, it is context,” Kenyon said. “We've done a great deal of analysis,
technique and skill. But we haven't fully developed the social, cultural or intellectual
contexts of engineering.”

First-year students also will take a year-long module of integrated math and physics
courses. Traditionally taught separately and with little or no coordination, students have
had difficulty transferring their math skills to physics and relating those disciplines to
engineering. Math and physics will be team taught by faculty from both departments. The
objective, explains Kenyon, is to strengthen students' understanding of the relationships
between mathematics and physics as well as to provide a better bridge from the sciences to
engineering subjects.

Besides the two year-long modules – Fundamentals of Engineering, and Integrated Math
and Physics – students will take the full-year “GenEd” module of freshman
preceptorial and two inter-related history courses.

The second year of the program, while still under development, will continue the core
concept through the first term. Students who complete the second year in any of the
engineering disciplines will remain eligible to move into the third year in any program
except computer science. Students may transfer to computer science by making up required

The third year will focus on studies within the particular discipline, but the concept
of engineering as the basic discipline will remain. The penultimate experience in all
disciplines will take place during the fourth year in a comprehensive engineering project
of a disciplinary nature. Most projects will be year-long and involve students from more
than one discipline.

Students will be encouraged to pursue a Term Abroad or international exchange or a term
in industry without the need to substantially lengthen the duration of their undergraduate

In the past year, the College has developed new exhanges for engineering and computer
science with the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez, the Czech Technical University in
Prague, the Technical University of Wroclaw in Poland, the Middle East Technical
University in Turkey, and the University of Wales in Swansea.

The revision of the College's engineering curriculum was supported by a grant of
$750,000 from the GE Fund.

Read More