Union College News Archives

News story archive

Navigation Menu

Ellen (Sheehan) Smith ’80

Posted on Aug 1, 1999

In a span of ten days this spring, Ellen (Sheehan) Smith '80 traveled to London, Madrid, Florence, Cairo, Dubai, and Bombay.

But this was no world tour vacation — it was work. Smith, vice president for GE Power Systems Energy Services Sales, travels frequently for her job, and it is not unusual for her to visit several of the world's cities in the span of a few days or weeks.

Smith came to Union intending to become a pharmacist, but was intrigued by engineering and graduated a mechanical engineering major. She then entered General Electric's Technical Marketing Program, a three-year program that allowed her to sample a variety of assignments. “GE offered me a lot of choices and a lot of flexibility,” she says. “At that point I really didn't know what I wanted to do.”

Working at GE during the day, Smith took evening courses at Union, earned her master's degree in engineering, and became an electrical engineer in GE's Power Plant Systems. Four years later she was appointed the head engineer for a $110-million gas turbine power station in Cairo, Egypt, serving as a liaison between design engineering and sales.

She continued to move into management roles, moving up through the ranks of GE management. “I always was able to pick hard jobs that made a difference in the business,” she says. “I like to be in the middle of something important to the business.”

Within GE Power Systems, Smith has held management positions in maintenance and operations, parts and product services, and global services engineering. In 1996, she was named to head Power System's Six Sigma Quality Initiative, and in 1998 she was named to her current position, where she works with customers around the world.

“I really do a lot of problem solving, which my engineering background has prepared me for,” she says.

Smith must deal with Power Systems' enormous size while keeping the entire division moving forward, a feat that takes a great deal of leadership. “I think management and leadership skills are learned through life,” she says. “I had a lot of opportunities for leadership through my early years in high school and college, so I had a lot of practice. You have to work at being a leader to be good at it.”

Recently, she has begun mentoring young women early in their careers at General Electric. “I think that this is important to do,” she says. “I hope that I can teach these women some of the lessons that I have learned so that they don't make some of the mistakes that I did.”

Smith says that what she likes best about her job is the people that she works with — both her colleagues at GE and her customers. Yet it is still clear that she loves the travel her job allows — a love affair that began on her term abroad at Union on socialized medicine. “That was the best summer of my life,” she says. It was a summer that she had the chance to relive, albeit briefly, this spring when wandering through the streets of London and spotting the dormitory she stayed in while a student. “It's just the same,” she says.

Read More

Women’s sports have a banner year

Posted on Aug 1, 1999

The 1998-99 athletic season was clearly the year that the women's programs took a step into the limelight.

The success started last fall with soccer, tennis, field hockey, and volleyball; continued through the winter with basketball; and was capped in the spring with lacrosse and softball.

Overall, the twelve women's teams had a record of 102-66-1 (.607). Three — soccer, lacrosse, and softball — won Upstate Collegiate Athletic Association (UCAA) championships, and three — field hockey, softball, and lacrosse — qualified for New York State Women's Collegiate Athletic Association postseason tournaments.

Lacrosse was also invited to the NCAA tournament, the first time a women's team sport had qualified for the national championship tournament.

The success came three years after a campus committee suggested that all of Union's coaches have just one head responsibility to go along with one season as an assistant. The new system means that coaches can focus on recruiting, professional growth clinics, and scouting of the opposition, and can work with players one-to-one outside of the traditional practice time.

Dick Sakala, director of athletics, says that the College has gone beyond the minimum compliance with the gender equity mandates of Title IX, which called for a more equal division of funding and opportunity between men's and women's sports.

“The recommendations that came out of the gender equity committee pointed us in the right direction and gave the programs additional support that we needed to move to the next level,” Sakala says. “We've made a commitment to be in full compliance, as far as the proportion of numbers in participation and in introducing and developing new programs.”

The fall

The soccer team kicked off the year with a record-setting 13-1-1 season. While the team was disappointed that it wasn't selected for the NCAA tournament, it did beat William Smith and tie Williams, both of which went to the NCAA event. Union finished the year ranked second in New York State and sixteenth in the country.

The field hockey team had an 8-6 regular season record and qualified for the state tournament for the sixth time during the 1990s. The tennis team finished third in the state tournament (Union's previous high was sixth) and third in the UCAA event. The Dutchwomen tied the College record for wins in a season with their 9-2 mark, equaling the 1982 and 1994 seasons.

The volleyball team just missed the state tournament when it lost its season finale. Still, the Dutchwomen rebounded from last year's 10-24 season to post a 20-14 mark and finish third in the UCAA tournament.

The winter

While the swim team slipped during the dual-meet phase of the season, it still finished a respectable fourth (out of sixteen) in the state tournament. And the basketball squad won nine games for its best season in the last six years. Happily, the Dutchwomen did not have a single senior on the squad.

The spring

Softball tied Rensselaer for the first UCAA championship, and its 26-11 final record was a Union record. Crew, which is in its second season as a varsity sport, had a 2-2 regular season record. The junior varsity women were third in the state meet, and the varsity women finished tenth (out of thirty) in the Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia.

The best performance of the year belonged to the lacrosse team. Not only did the 1999 team establish a Union record for wins in a season (fourteen), it won its first UCAA championship and became the first women's team ever to qualify for the NCAA tournament. The team won a Union-record ten consecutive games while finishing the year ranked second in New York State and thirteenth in the country. Over the past two seasons, the Dutchwomen are 24-11 with two state tournament appearances to go with the NCAA invitation.

The team success also meant individual recognition for coaches and students.

UCAA “Coach of the Year” honors went to Brian Speck in soccer and Linda Bevelander in lacrosse. Katie Smith earned UCAA “Rookie of the Year” honors in soccer, Sarah Moss was named “Player of the Year” by the lacrosse coaches, Julie Cardettino was “Player of the Year” in softball, and Melissa Colon was the “Rookie of the Year” in softball. Numerous others earned All-Conference and state honors, and Moss, Abby Harris, and Samantha Ryall of lacrosse were named All-Americans.

Sakala says that the College has added personnel and recruiting dollars to the women's program without taking anything away from the men's program. “I think we're poised to see most of our programs on both the men's and women's sides be very competitive for many years to come,” he says.

The College will celebrate twenty-five years of women's athletics in 1999-2000, and it is obvious that a strong foundation has been established for success.

Read More

Trying to help in the Balkans

Posted on Aug 1, 1999

John Donne was right. No man is an island.

Since I believe in putting words to action, I spent part of my vacation in the Balkans. Tired of watching on television people driven from their homes to camps (or worse) and wanting to do something, anything, I tried first to work in a refugee camp. Not being a doctor, though, I hit a wall. However, that was just as well, since the camps were largely disbanded by the time I got to Macedonia.

Next I found myself being told that I could be helpful interviewing refugees about war crimes for the international tribunal. Given my background as a lawyer who has written extensively in this field, I was delighted. The “assignment” changed prior to departure, though.

I was instead asked to help with the Albanian universities in Macedonia and Kosovo. For a college president, the work was certainly relevant; for an American, it turned out to be deja vu all over again.

Why? Because the Serbs in 1990 purged Kosovars of Albanian descent from the ranks of the University of Pristina. Combined with the fact that Albanians in Macedonia comprise officially twenty-three percent of the population (they feel that the real number is forty percent) and had but 435 graduates from Macedonia's two universities in the preceding fifty years, the picture is clear. Jim Crow is alive and well in the Balkans. A case in point: A young woman of Albanian descent, who is in her first year at Macedonia's university, was given a failing mark by her professor. The professor, who had campaigned against Albanians attending the university in Macedonia, flunked her even though she answered all the questions correctly because “she did not understand the final exam.”

Albanians are persistent. In Kosovo, they continued “their” University of Pristina in private homes, with each of the ten faculties taking up residence throughout the city; in Macedonia, Albanians founded a university, also located in donated residencies, in Tetova, but only after the rector and head of the faculty senate served ten- and six-month jail terms, respectively.

Degrees from Macedonia's Albanian university are not recognized by the government, which affects career possibilities, although there is hope for change among Albanians with the formation of a new government. There is also hope for change in Kosovo with NATO firmly entrenched and the Serb forces having pulled out of the province.

For the time being though, Kosovo Albanians wait. Yes, there are immediate issues that the United Nations must address from food to water to electrical and phone service. But the university, untouched by the war, remains sealed to all. Why?

When the Kosovo Parliament created the University of Pristina in 1970, it clearly had the legal right to do so. When the Serbian Parliament forced Albanians out of the university in 1990 – although some argue that Albanians boycotted the university together with other Serbian-controlled institutions –it did so without any more legal basis than the U.S. Congress would have in overthrowing a local or state initiative. And when the Serbs pulled out of the province, the university's legal status reverted to the Kosovars — all of the Kosovars.

At a meeting with Tejnel Kelmenli, rector of the University of Pristina, I was given a wish list, not unlike the one I received from the rector of the University of Tetova. I was also asked plaintively what I could do to help get him back into the sealed facilities of the university that he and other Albanians had been forced from two decades ago. Opening the university would give a major morale boost to the people in the province, because it would signal a return to the pre-1990 situation and provide the intellectual and economic stimulus that any viable community requires. With the law so clear, why not put politics aside and move the situation forward?

I will do what I can with the wish lists, and I will try to bring back some students who will benefit from a college education in the United States. As for getting the United Nations to reopen the university, I can't answer his question or produce the result that the rector wants. But the law is clear, and so should the results be.

No, no man is an island. We are all a part of the continent, a piece of the main, and we should all do what we can, since everyone's death diminishes us all.

Read More

Remembering David Kaplan

Posted on Aug 1, 1999

In 1995, David S. Kaplan '82 was shot and killed near his Arlington, Va., apartment. The Congressional Quarterly, where David worked, a number of its employees, and members of David's family created an endowment fund, with income used to support the College's annual Term in Washington.

Commencement Weekend this year saw a gathering of several individuals involved in the Washington term — Phil Duncan, an editor of Congressional Quarterly; four Washington interns (Suzanne Dougherty '98, Evan Morris '99, Stephanie Slobotkin '99, and Brooke Barylick '00), and Professor of Political Science Byron Nichols.

The following letters offer a warm testimonial to David, still remembered by Congressional Quarterly as “one of the most meticulous, accurate, and at times visionary political reporters in the history of CQ.”

From: Prof. Byron Nichols
Phil Duncan was responsible for setting up the David Kaplan Internship program for a Union student participating in our Term in Washington program. David had been extremely successful at CQ, not just professionally but also in the manner in which his personality had connected him to virtually the entire staff. His death was an emotional blow to many at CQ, particularly Phil Duncan, who had been his mentor.

Phil took it upon himself to promote an internship at CQ for a student at David's alma mater and then to help raise almost $20,000 for an endowed fund whose annual interest would provide an unusual journalistic opportunity for the Kaplan intern.

The first Kaplan intern was Suzanne Dougherty '98 in the spring of 1996. She was followed by Evan Morris '99 in 1997 and Stephanie Slobotkin '99 in 1998. This year's Kaplan intern has been Brooke Barylick '00. The interest from the endowed fund was used to send Brooke to Louisiana for a three-day coverage of the run-off to fill the Congressional seat vacated by Robert Livingston early this year. Out of that trip came two pieces over Brooke's byline in CQ publications in late May.

Phil's primary responsibility is the publication of Politics in America every two years, probably the most used reference work on members of Congress in the United States. He has also been instrumental in helping expand CQ's publication efforts, in hard copy and on-line. Phil is coming to Union this week because all four of the first Kaplan interns will be at this year's Commencement, and he wants to wish them all well. Stephanie and Evan are in the graduating class, Suzanne is returning to campus for the graduation of a close friend (Suzanne is now a full-time employee at CQ), and Brooke is back on campus following the Term in Washington program.

From: Phil Duncan
I'm back from my trip to graduation weekend at Union, where we had a wonderful gathering of all four Kaplan Washington interns.

On Saturday the Political Science Department put on a reception for the Kaplan interns that was attended by faculty and the parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. on hand to see Evan and Stephanie graduate. Byron spoke about Dave and what he meant to CQ, and he praised Dave's family, friends, and work colleagues for launching an internship program that has offered a great Washington journalism experience to Union students. I brought greeting from Bob Benenson, Amy Stern, and Brian Nutting, the people at CQ who are most involved with the Kaplan internship. I said it meant a lot to Dave's family and to us that we've been able to develop something positive out of a tragic loss.

It was a great experience for me to walk the campus paths that Dave knew well, to see all the interns and many of their family members together, and to visit with Byron and his wife. Four years ago, when we first conceived of the Kaplan intern program, I never could have imagined the significant place it would achieve in the life of Union College, and the number of lives it would touch.

Read More

Alumni online community begins

Posted on Aug 1, 1999

Looking to reminisce about old times at Union? Share news of your new business with friends? Send a Union postcard to a neighbor? Create your own web page?

Union's new alumni online community allows alumni to do all these things and more. Features include free web-based e-mail for all alumni as well as information on alumni events, alumni forums, a business card exchange, web postcards, and the opportunity for alumni to create their own web pages.

“The online community allows alumni to keep in touch with one another and with the College,” says Saul Morse, the College's webmaster. “And it's all free for alumni.”

To join the community, alumni should point their Internet browsers to http://www.union.onlinecommunity.com and follow instructions to register for a user name and password. Once obtained, this will give alumni access to other features of the site, which include:

Lifetime e-mail
Web-based lifetime e-mail is available for free to all alumni. New addresses will be a user name of your choice followed by alumni.union.edu. E-mail can be checked from anywhere that alumni have access to a Web browser, and mail can be forwarded to another e-mail account. Using this new account, alumni can send and receive mail with attachments, change passwords, and create multiple mailboxes.

Information on special events
Information about Union events such as ReUnion and Homecoming will be highlighted in the online community, and alumni will be able to register and pay for these events online.

Alumni Forums
Alumni Forums will provide for threaded discussion boards with real-time posting. A job board/networking forum is also included in this feature.

Business card exchange
Alumni may post information about their businesses in a searchable database that will be available only to other registered alumni.

Web postcards
Union electronic postcards will be available for alumni to e-mail to friends and family.

Build your own Web page
The College is offering space and page building tools for alumni web pages. Alumni are encouraged to develop their own pages and then register for a link from one of Union's main pages.

Read More