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Posted on Nov 26, 2001

There was nothing I can disagree with in Roger Hull's summer essay, “Challenging our assumptions,” until I got to the last paragraph, when he wrote “that we must continue to reexamine what we do so that Union will continue to bring out the best in the people here” and “that cannot be done by remaining ever under the same regimen.”

If that regimen produces success academically, physically, and socially, why change it? With due respect to Thomas Jefferson, if a man stays in good shape, his boyhood jacket will fit. I have one my father bought for me when I was nineteen years old. I still wear it at age sixty-nine.

Although President Hull doesn't ever mention the F or S words, I presume that the Greek system of fraternities and sororities will be under the total control of the administration, and The Plan for Union is their extinction.
This issue reminds me of the Washington State initiative campaign I headed in 1978. This had to do with preserving a students right to attend his or her neighborhood school. The Seattle Public School District imposed upon itself mandatory racial busing. School board members said that cross-town busing would be an exciting social and educational experience for all participating students.
Furthermore, busing would cause equal educational opportunities for minorities that would otherwise be denied. The day before the general election, one of the leading newspapers stacked the letters to the editor, showing eighty percent opposed to our initiative.

We won the election by a two to one majority vote. The initiative was immediately enjoined in Federal District Court and ultimately declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court by a 5 to 4 vote. Twenty-two years later, cross-town busing has almost completely stopped, the enrollment of the district is less than half of what it was in the '60s, the entire school district has become racially segregated, and academic achievement test scores show as much or greater disparity between Black, Hispanic, and Native American students compared to White and Asian students.

I share this story with you because I can see its very close parallel with what you are going to do. You are proposing a quick fix social engineering solution. In the case of improving Black, Hispanic, and Native American academic achievement, the answer is education, not busing. In the case of residential and social disparity at Union, the answer is to provide equal residential and social settings for the independents, not forced assignments for all students.

Bob Dorse '53

Seattle, Washington

The Plan for Union calls for the creation of a House System, designed to give every student access to a social group and to good social and residential space. Every student will be randomly assigned to membership in one of the houses before arriving on campus as a first-year student. Greek social organizations may continue, although members, like all students, will live in randomly assigned residence space.

All houses will be expected to contribute to the intellectual, social, and cultural life of the campus.

Implementing The Plan for Union

In reading the letters about The Plan for Union in the summer issue, I see both ambivalence and enthusiasm from alumni. My college roommate, Ben Volinski '68, whose son was at Bowdoin when the same kind of plan was implemented, thinks it's a great idea. I see it as a plan whose time has probably come, but like Mark Ziskind '82, I see it as addressing symptoms rather than problems.
As with all private, nineteenth-century colleges in the Northeast, Union is essentially reclaiming now-valuable real estate on campus for its own purposes and, to be sure, the fraternities have put themselves in a position where they were “subject to removal.”

However, in 1965, my freshman year, the only social entertainment provided by the College was one mixer with Green Mountain Junior College three days after I arrived, exactly the same service provided my father's freshman class in 1937. Fraternities offered the only social life available.

If any fraternities at Union do remain viable, in my opinion, it will be because they will establish an off-campus presence (relatively easy in economically-depressed Schenectady) and because the College does not offer suitable alternative social venues and/or opportunities.

For years the faculty and administration have whined about the Greek system, or at least about the fraternities at Union. Now a plan that has the ability to render fraternities redundant is being implemented. The question remains: what positive steps are the administration going to take that will further benefit Union? What if the residences don't replace the fraternities as social hubs? What will the College do then? Union, of course, will survive, but will it be a better place?

Richard L. Brickley, Jr. '69


The Korean and Vietnam memorial

I read with interest your very small item about the dedication of a memorial to veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars. I was in the class of 1967, but when my class graduated I was serving as an infantryman on the Bong Son plain in South Vietnam as part of the First Air Cavalry. More than once I wondered if I would wind up listed as a dead alumnus on some memorial plaque at my old school or college.

Nevertheless, I am glad to hear that there is a memorial. Many colleges would just as soon bury any past connection to the Vietnam conflict (although there seems to a certain cachet for teaching courses about Vietnam), but the dead and wounded are victims of the politics and deserve to be remembered.

John Herrick '67

Portland, Maine

Remembering Jackson's Garden

I read the article on Jackson's Garden in the Summer 2001 Union College magazine with great enjoyment. My father, Alexander J. Arony '42, M.D., proposed to my mother in the Garden. Following his graduation from Albany Medical College in 1945 and a stint in the Army Air Forces, I was born, and we all moved into the top floor of Silliman Hall. That's where I spent my first four years at Union while dad was campus physician and professor of health before going into private practice in Guilderland, N.Y. Vague memories of walks in the Garden on sunny days and visits to the greenhouse to see the frogs still make me smile.

The second four years was as a member of the Class of 1970. During that time I returned to the Garden to study and get away for a while. My fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, also took on the project of cleaning the various and sundry debris and refuse from the Brook That Bounds through the length of the Garden one spring. That turned out to be quite an undertaking once we got into it, as it apparently had not been done in some years.

I understand that there have been threats to encroach on the Garden or do away with it over the decades, as space on campus is limited. It is heartening to see it thriving in the twenty-first century, as I am sure many more will find it as enchanting as I have.

Phil Arony '70

Charlton, N.Y.

Remembering Seward

I enjoyed the recent article on William Seward. I also am a lawyer, and grew up in the Auburn, N.Y., area. I do note one omission from the article, however, the William Seward House located in Auburn. It is a wonderfully maintained period house and museum that is on the National Register of Historic Sites. When I toured there a few years ago, there was a picture postcard with the distinctive silhouette of Eliphalet Nott on one of the walls. Apparently, Secretary Seward and President Nott corresponded with some regularity for many years.
I am forwarding a copy of the article to the Seward House and include a copy of their web page address for anyone interested, www.sewardhouse.org/welcome/seward-w.htm.

Alan Humbert '77

Watertown, Mass.

I read with great interest the recent magazine article on William H. Seward. Having been born and raised in Auburn, N.Y., Seward's adult home, I have many recollections of things Seward growing up. From an elementary school named after him, to city streets named after members of his family, reminders of Seward were part of daily life. Visiting the Seward home on South Street was part of the planned curriculum in elementary school, but visiting it as an adult certainly added to a greater understanding of his role during the tumultuous years of the Union.

One of my fondest memories of Seward growing up was a celebration that my father took me and my brothers to in 1967 in downtown Auburn. It was the 100th anniversary of “Seward's Folly,” which is, of course, the Alaska Territory purchase. There was a party with banners, streamers, hats, and memorabilia all celebrating Seward's purchase. I didn't realize the significance of that event until much later.

I don't think it was until after I graduated that I became aware that WHS was a Union graduate. In any event, thank you for the article, as it certainly has made me realize again the significant contributions he made to state and country.

Wade M. Goldman '82

Topsfield, Mass.

We welcome letters. Send them to: Office of Communications, Union College, Schenectday, N.Y. 12308 or blankmap@union.edu.

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Fred Klemm: Father of terms abroad

Posted on Nov 26, 2001

Legend has it that Professor of German Frederick A. Klemm was traveling in Vienna in 1968 and, while visiting the Museum of Art, turned to his wife, Eleanor, and said, “Wouldn't it be wonderful to bring the students here?”

The program was approved in a matter of weeks, and the following spring Klemm returned to Vienna with students in tow. Terms Abroad, which was to become one of Union's most popular programs, was under way.

Klemm, writing in 1970 about the start of the program, said requirements were kept to a minimum – an intermediate level of achievement in German, good academic and social standing, and the approval of the departmental advisor. The total cost was not to exceed $1,200 per student, or roughly the same as the spring term on campus, and all scholarships applied.

“With great expectations, and some trepidation, at least on my part, we left Kennedy Airport late in March,” Klemm said. “For twenty-six of the twenty-eight students this was the first trip overseas.”

An overnight flight took them to Hamburg, where they caught another plane for Berlin. Klemm remembered, “Berlin, on a raw, cold day was somewhat of a shock, with its ugly wall and its beleaguered air. A trip through Check Point Charlie to the gray bleakness of East Berlin only added to the somber feeling.”

After a brief visit to Munich, the group arrived in Vienna where, among other orientation activities, they were briefed by the American ambassador on conditions in central Europe as seen by U.S. intelligence sources. After the orientation sessions ended, the work began, two hours of German per day, four hours a week of the history of art, and work on an individual study project.

Klemm said the latter seemed the most educationally rewarding part of the experience. Projects had to have educational merit; should appeal to the personal, although not necessarily the professional interests of the student; and should pertain to the Austrian scene. Whenever possible, the project should get the student out among people for interviews, opinions, and the exchange of ideas.

“I was delighted and frequently amazed at the quality of the work and ingenuity of approach that developed,” Klemm said.

He also noted that as important as the formal studies were, “a very real value lay in the fact that our students were being forced to look at many things from the other side of the fence. We were constantly being reminded that there was a different history, tradition, culture, in short, a different way of life around us.”

The new program proved popular, and the result was predictable: a demand for new or modified programs both by students, who had their own destinations in mind, and by faculty, who wanted programs that reflected their teaching and research interests. Professor Alan Roberts (French) took thirty students to France in the fall of 1969, William Bristol (history) took thirty to Colombia that winter, and Alfred Thimm (Institute of Administration and Management) took twenty-four to Vienna the following spring.

Klemm, in that article he wrote thirty years ago, said the College was making plans for further projects, and, the day may soon arrive when we can truthfully say, “The sun never sets on Union College.”

Prophetic words, indeed; today, more than 330 students a year take part in international study, and their destinations range from Vienna to Nanjing to Nairobi. In fact, the sun doesn't set on Union.

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College restructures and improves engineering

Posted on Nov 26, 2001

The Board of Trustees has approved a restructuring of the Engineering Division, including the phasing out of the civil engineering department.

As part of this restructuring, the College will focus its efforts on converging technologies.

Noting that Union was the first liberal arts college to offer engineering, President Roger Hull said, “The question before us is how engineering will fit, not whether it will fit. One of Union's defining characteristics-perhaps its most fundamental defining characteristic is the historic existence of engineering within a liberal arts framework. It is my strong belief that Union must continue to define itself in this fashion, and I pledge to do all that I can to ensure that goal.”

David B. Chapnick '59, chairman of the board, said, “During the past two years, as we developed The Plan for Union, we recognized the need to focus on a new direction in engineering while also making the most effective use of our resources.

“Our decision is a recognition that we should no longer commit resources to sustain the number of faculty necessary to offer four excellent programs in engineering and computer science,” Chapnick continued. “We now will focus our energies on converging technologies and the teaching of computer science, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering.”

The overall amount of the College's budget committed to engineering will not increase, but resources previously allocated to civil engineering will be reallocated to other engineering disciplines at the College. In addition, the College will raise $9 million for the renovation of engineering classrooms and laboratories.
Union has about 2,000 full-time undergraduates, 1,700 majoring in the liberal arts and 300 in engineering. Chapnick said that the board's decision will “rebalance the commitment of financial resources to reflect this reality of student interest in engineering.”

Christina Sorum, dean of the faculty, said converging technologies “will develop engineering and computer science curricula that are not only enhanced by their presence within a liberal arts college but that themselves enhance the education available for liberal arts students through program interaction and access.

Converging technologies will bring biology, chemistry, physics, and ethics together with computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. In addition to providing computer science, computer systems engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering degrees, converging technologies will expose Union's students to ways of thinking that encompass academic disciplines across the College.

The College already has begun to focus on four converging technology areas:

Bioengineering: the combination of analytical and experimental methods of engineering and computer science with the biological sciences to achieve a better understanding of biological phenomena and to develop new techniques and devices. A biomechanics course is being offered this fall, and a faculty committee has defined the structure of a possible bioengineering minor.

Nanotechnology: the convergence of biology, chemistry, computer science, physics, and engineering to create and use materials, devices, and systems at the level of molecular structures. The College hired a new faculty member this fall who has an interest in applying nanotechnology to energy conversion processes, and a polymer chemistry course is being revamped to include nanochemistry.

Mechatronics and Intelligent Systems: the convergence of electrical, mechanical, and computational systems to study basic mechanical design, systems analysis, control systems, and decision analysis. A new mechatronics course will be offered next spring, and students will construct and program a functional mechatronics interface for data acquisition and process control.

Pervasive Computing: the convergence of digital communication and computational systems – focuses on topics such as wireless networks, information transmission, and information processing. A new course in wireless communication is being offered this fall.

“Certainly, the basic health of the College is very sound, and there are many positive indicators, financial and otherwise, of Union's strength and vigor,” said President Hull. “At the same time, we must acknowledge that the competition we face for faculty, students, and resources is intense, and growing increasingly so. We could afford to keep things as they are, but we recognize that this is a time when we must plan imaginatively and carefully for the future.”

The president said that the College would now bring the liberal arts and engineering together in a way that enables the past of engineering to be prologue to its future. “Leading the effort to implement a con-verging technologies curriculum at an undergraduate college is consistent with Union's history, and certainly consistent with our commitment to offer the best education we can to our students,” he said.

Current civil engineering students will be able to finish their program at Union, but no new students will be accepted in the program. The four tenured faculty members in the Department of Civil Engineering are being offered the opportunity to continue to teach in the Engineering Division.

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Changing lives

Posted on Nov 26, 2001

Many alumni have stories of how their study abroad experience changed their lives in significant ways. Here are just four:

Erika Mancini '00 spent her 1997 fall term abroad in Rennes, studying French language and culture. The French major then went back for more, spending the year after graduation teaching English to French students in an exchange program at the University of Rennes.

“I started with a weeklong workshop for second-year dental students,” she says. “It was election time in the U.S., and getting to talk politics in class was something new for them. It was during my teaching experience there that I decided I wanted to teach French, and the MAT program at Union “called” to me. My fiance (Jeremy Newell '00) went to Rennes with me, and while I was teaching, he took a course at the university for foreign students to learn French. He'd wanted to go to law school before, and now, he's thinking in terms of international law.”

Steve Hartman '87 is director of business development for Strategic Power Systems in Albany, N.Y., a company with multiple European connections. For him, the journey began with a term abroad in Germany and then an internship at the Opel plant there.

“The terms abroad program, and the professors who encouraged me to go, were an unbelievable part of my education,” he says. “The experience made me fluent and really allowed me to experience the culture. Bill Thomas has impacted thousands of us for the rest of our lives with these programs.” To current students, he says, “If this is not part of your education plans at Union, it should be.”

Dirk Peterson '86, who's bilingual in German and went to France in fall of 1984, is now director of sales and marketing for Ametek Aerospace, in the Boston area. The job lets him travel a bit and use the language skills acquired at Union.

“As a mechanical engineering major, I wanted to expand my horizons beyond the technical degree,” he says. “Maneuvering my schedule so I could go to Rennes in fall of junior year meant giving up soccer, but I felt that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it didn't disappoint. I was very much a part of the French family I lived with, playing soccer on the town team with the father, practicing piano with the son. We still communicate from time to time.

“Being able to immerse yourself in something that interests you (and is relatively challenging) gets rarer as you move along in life, at least for me. The French immersion also had a professional benefit. Now that I am in an aerospace business with many European customers, I am able to draw on the cultural and language experience and provide better service to my customers.”

Frank Donnini '70, a history major who spent most of his career as in intelligence officer with the Air Force and now is a senior analyst with Science Applications International Corp., was one of thirty students in the College's first study-abroad group, which went to Vienna in the spring of 1969.

As he recalls, “We flew to Europe in late March. Part of our orientation was a trip to West Berlin with a chance to visit East Berlin. I remember Steve Serinsky and I taking a half-day trip to the eastern part of the divided city. A highlight was watching the impressive changing of the guards at the World War II memorial.

“We then went on to Vienna. It was cold and damp for the first month, and then turned out to be a great spring. The group stayed in the old part of the city. Our classes were in the Austrian-American Institute, behind the State Opera House. We walked to classes that took us past the huge St. Stephan's cathedral and other famous landmarks. We took intermediate German, art history, and independent study. The German course was practical for all of us. Art history, with an emphasis on baroque and rococo periods, was eye-opening, with examples all around us. It was interesting to look at old buildings, inside and out, and know exactly how, when, and why they were built as they were.

“I did my independent study on the role of the Austrian Communist party in the years after World War II and before the country declared neutrality in 1955. Austria, like Germany, was divided up by the four allies after the war. As part of my research, I contacted heads of various political parties on the extreme left, extreme right, and others in the middle to gain their personal perspectives. I remember inviting Professor (Fred) Klemm along for one of the interviews. He was excited about meeting the political leader and about my taking the initiative to arrange the session and then to conduct it, all in German.

“I have enjoyed traveling extensively ever since, in the U.S. and overseas,” Donnini says. “Much of this occurred during my twenty-three years as an Air Force officer, living two years in Australia and one in Thailand. I've also been able to continue traveling in my follow-on work as a defense contractor and spent three months in Germany two years ago. I was pleasantly surprised to see much of my German language come back after a hiatus of thirty-plus years.”

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Planting the Union flag around the world

Posted on Nov 26, 2001

Think of Union and you think of upstate New York, right? But no need to limit yourself-you can also think of Rennes, Seville, Sao Paulo, Vienna, Nairobi, Osaka, Nanjing, and dozens of other places around the globe where the College is sending students to learn.

Today, if you're a Union student, the odds are in your favor that you'll participate in some international program. In 2000-01, 333 students did it; that translates into around seventy percent of Union's students studying abroad at some point in their years at the College.

Impressive, when twenty percent is considered high at most colleges.

Director of International Programs William Thomas says, “We're aware of how true it is today that international borders don't represent boundaries anymore, that we're living in an interconnected world, and need to learn about and from other cultures. And more and more companies want to hire graduates who have had experience in a foreign country. Everybody who studies abroad gains advantages that eventually pay off in their careers.”

Now well into its fourth decade, the international program at Union has become known for its breadth and diversity. Terms abroad, exchange programs, and mini-terms involve twenty-six countries across Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

“We're lucky,” says Thomas, “because we began the study abroad program on a fairly large scale at the right time-early on. Colleges that have started more recently have had to rely on outside programs, including some profit-making institutions abroad, making it more expensive.”

Do students get interested in Union College because of its involvement in study abroad? Or vice versa? The answer is “both.”
Says Thomas, “At Union, study abroad is in great demand, and in fact, it's become an important retention device. It's part of what makes us what we are. It's also a major selling point. We have waiting lists galore.”

The flexibility of ten-week terms allows many students to go abroad, at costs only slightly higher than a term on campus. Most programs emphasize the study of the native language and include a broad examination of the history, literature, art, politics, and culture of each nation.

Students can examine the role of women in a developing country by spending a fall term in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Or study the classics in Athens. Or travel to Osaka, Japan, and study at Kansai Gaidai. Or to Nanjing, China, at Nanjing Normal University.

There's a multidisciplinary marine studies term, where students can study with Professors Barbara Boyer (biology) and Ilene Kaplan (sociology) at marine biology research stations in Woods Hole, Bermuda, and Newfoundland.

There's a program to compare educational systems in Germany, Hungary, and Romania, moving from a highly developed educational system, to one that's in-between, to one that's in an earlier stage of development, in three countries where there's a significant immigrant population. And each summer there's the opportunity to study the national health systems in three
European countries.

The ways to go abroad are varied. The traditional Term Abroad involves a group of students (from ten to as many as thirty) accompanied by a Union faculty member. Thomas, for instance, has led students to Rennes, the capital of Brittany, on ten occasions, most recently in 1998. “I love it,” he says. “You get to know the students, and they get to know you in a way that wouldn't happen on campus.”

Exchange programs tend to be more major-specific. Engineers are involved in exchanges with the Czech Technical University in Prague, for example; preference is given to students in the humanities and social sciences for the exchange with the American University in Bulgaria; and engineering majors and sociology/anthropology majors have first choice in the reciprocal program with the University College of Swansea in Wales. The exchanges usually involve smaller groups, and no Union faculty are involved.

Mini-terms are open to any student, and they usually are held during the December break, after graduation, or in August. A standard mini-term is about three weeks, or one-third of a traditional term abroad; sometimes they go longer.

The four-week Australia water project mini-term last summer was led by Tom Jewell, professor of civil engineering, and Jim Kenney, professor of economics. The students were engineering majors and social science majors who were paired into teams to work on a project-a kind of double cross-cultural situation. Says Jewell, “There was a time when it was difficult for engineers to go on a term abroad, but now we have made our curriculum more flexible since we know how important it is for engineers to have a global perspective. The civil engineering class of 2001 met our goal of 100 percent travel abroad.”

Kenney, who has fallen in love with foreign travel, will lead a mini-term on electricity in New Zealand this winter.

There also are mini-terms with prerequisites, such as the one in which students go to Spain after a course in pilgrimages. With Louisa Matthew, associate professor of art history, and Victoria Martinez, associate professor of Spanish, they walk the historic pilgrims' path to Santiago de Compostela.

Comments Thomas wryly, “It's for those who like to walk fifteen miles a day under a hot sun.”

The Brazil Water Project to study water treatment was the pilot mini-term four years ago, and it has been going strong ever since. Social science majors and environmental studies majors team with engineering students to examine technological, social, political, cultural, economic, historical, environmental, and ethical facets of water resource issues in Sao Paulo, the fourth-largest city in the world. In preparation, students spend the fall term learning about language and customs-a short course gives them just enough Portuguese to get by. Each student team covers a topic, such as water treatment or industrial waste-the engineering student covers the technological aspect, and the social science student covers the social and economic aspects of, for example, power shortages.

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