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Zogby takes the pulse of Union

Posted on Feb 28, 2006

George W. Bush is more than a lame duck president, he's a “paraplegic duck,” the nation is “terribly polarized” and the war on Iraq is “not going to be won.

John Zogby addresses students

“The one ace in the hole [Bush] has going for him is that the Democrats have no message,” said John Zogby.

The noted pollster shared these perspectives and more at the Pizza and Politics talk sponsored by the Political Science Department Monday afternoon.

In “The Political Landscape in 2006: The U.S. and the World,” he gave an overview of the Bush presidency, answered numerous questions and covered, in nearly an hour, topics ranging from the Katrina catastrophe and the Patriot Act to the doomed political dance of Howard Dean and John Kerry.

John Zogby with Evan Reid '07

Zogby was introduced to a group of about 60 students by Richard Fox, associate professor of political science.

“It's great that Union got such an important player in the American political landscape as John Zogby,” said Daniel Amira '07.

Zogby, whose opinion and marketing research organization is based in Utica, N.Y., with offices in Washington, D.C., also spoke Monday evening at the Nott Memorial as part of the College's Perspectives at the Nott series.

“At a time when the nation is at war, this is a very strange political landscape,” Zogby told his student audience. “We find a president who is severely wounded, not capable of pushing through a domestic program. Respect for the Bush presidency is extremely low, and our image abroad is at its lowest.”

Zogby examined public opinion trends in the United States since Bush took office in 2000 with a 48 percent approval rating. Using a bouncing ball as an analogy, Zogby said the president's approval ratings initially bounced high, but soon dropped lower and lower.

Zogby – classroom crowd shot

On Sept. 11, 2001, Bush got his first “bounce” to approval ratings in the high 80s, and “a couple of weeks after 9/11, we find America is rallying behind its commander-in-chief.” Shortly after the attacks, however, a Zogby poll showed that only half of all Americans surveyed were willing to support the war on terror if it would last more two years. The bounce effect continued accordingly, affected by such events as the Enron and Catholic Church scandals in early 2002, the bombing of Baghdad year later and the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003.

Bush's current rating holds at 38-41 percent, Zogby said. These low ratings come “not only from the opposition that traditionally opposes him, but he's got under 50 percent approval from NASCAR fans, gun owners, vets; his bedrock support.” He attributes this to the war, Bush's attacks on civil liberties and record budget deficits.

In analyzing the 2004 Democratic presidential campaign, Zogby noted that as the campaign progressed, Americans changed their minds from wanting “a candidate they believed in” to one who could defeat Bush. “Every day we saw Dean go down and John Kerry and John Edwards go up. But neither man ever goes above 48 percent. It's like the EKG of a dead person.”

Despite Bush's negative approval rating among the American public, “the president won reelection because the Democrats did not offer an alternative.”

In an aside, Zogby stressed that his comments about both Republicans and Democrats reflect no bias. “I hope I'm being equally offensive to both parties,” he said. “I don't want anyone to think I'm partisan.”

Zogby said the top concerns among Americans today are the war in Iraq, the economy, pension and the war on terrorism.

And in the final analysis, Hurricane Katrina “will end up being of greater significance than 9/11 because it showed a system for handling emergencies that was broken” and it began “to raise some serious questions” about Americans' relationship with government.

On a lighter note, Zogby said the eminently likeable Sen. John McCain has the promise of a young Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan. And then there's always the possibility of Hillary for president: “If she can turn disbelievers into believers in Upstate New York, she could do it in Iowa and New Hampshire,” he said.

The president and CEO of Zogby International, Zogby appears regularly on all three nightly network news programs plus NBC's “Today Show” and ABC's “Good Morning America.” He is a frequent guest for Fox News and MSNBC special programs, along with CNBC's “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” He also is a regular political commentator for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the British Broadcasting Corporation.

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‘Tech pioneer’ Apkarian blazes new trails at Union as school’s first Entrepreneur in Residence

Posted on Feb 27, 2006

After meeting with Harry Apkarian recently, Brian Selchick ripped apart his business strategy and changed the direction of his company.

The 83-year-old entrepreneur has that effect on people.

“He pushed me to think outside the box,” said Selchick, 21, a Union College senior who heads eWired Auctions in Albany, a three-person auction agency that specializes in fund raising for charities.

Apkarian told Selchick he was thinking too small and focusing too locally.

“I've gone back and evaluated my entire business plan,” Selchick said.

That's why Apkarian was picked to be Union College's first Entrepreneur in Residence. It's the Schenectady college's latest push to play a pivotal role in the growth of the region's high-tech sector.

Apkarian is part of an overall strategy at Union College to put entrepreneurship front and center. Union is weaving entrepreneurship into much of its coursework. There are courses focused on entrepreneurship, such as “The Mind of the Entrepreneur,” and “Entrepreneurship in Medieval and Renaissance Europe.” Entrepreneurship is also being discussed in courses in the classics, political science, physics, engineering and English.

Apkarian was brought in to take those lessons beyond the classroom. The school picked a person who has played a pivotal role in creating Tech Valley long before it was labeled as such.

Apkarian: good pick
“He's the quintessential entrepreneur in the region,” said Michael Wacholder, director of the Rensselaer Technology Park, which Apkarian helped start more than two decades ago.

Apkarian is a co-founder of Mechanical Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: MKTY), formed in 1961 as a GE spinoff. The company is now developing a micro fuel cell that will power small electronic devices such as PDAs and cell phones.

That experience alone makes Apkarian a good selection for the voluntary Entrepreneur in Residence position.

“He's the region's technology pioneer,” Wacholder said. “Why? Because he fundamentally represented the earliest of spinouts. His first venture, MTI, was spun out of GE long before it was the thing to do. He set the course.”

Apkarian was the obvious choice for Union's new post, said Harold Fried, director of Union College's Center for the Analysis of Productivity and Entrepreneurship, which oversees the new Entrepreneur in Residence program.

“I think it's clearly critical to have this program grounded in some real-world experience and that's what Harry brings to the table,” Fried said.

Apkarian is credited with helping to build the region's tech sector. Besides Mechanical Technology, which he co-founded 41 years ago, he counseled the founders of two other high-profile companies long before they went public–MapInfo Corp. (Nasdaq: MAPS), the region's largest software developer, and Plug Power Inc. (Nasdaq: PLUG), a fuel-cell developer in Latham.

And he was instrumental in starting the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute incubator in Troy and the Schenectady County Community Business Center. Wacholder said Apkarian invented Rensselaer's incubator.

And he hasn't stopped starting things. It was because of his involvement in advising TransTech Systems Inc., a transportation-product manufacturer in Schenectady, that led his being asked to run the company.

Apkarian is a straight-talker
Apkarian will now be on campus several times a month to meet with students. So far, he's met with six students who are either running or plan to run four businesses, including three Internet-related businesses.

“I thought these guys were clever,” he said.

And they are, but he doesn't take it easy on the students.

“He doesn't mince words,” Selchick said.

Josh DeBartolo, 20, of Project Corvis, an online book exchange for area colleges, said Apkarian is methodical in his approach to business plans.

“He went through some key points that he looks for in a business plan,” he said. “He was tough, but it was helpful.”

One student recently came to a meeting with Apkarian with a 30-page business plan, about 27 pages too long.

“No investor is going to read all that detail,” Apkarian told him. “Get down to the key things. What's your core competency? Are you sure there's a market? Have you checked what your competition is? How much money do you need?”

Apkarian said those rapid-fire questions comes from his experience in the past. He winces when he looks at some of his earlier business plans.

“When I go back and look at what I prepared, how did we ever succeed as a business?” Apkarian said, laughing. “I was so naive.”

Apkarian likes Union's focus
Apkarian said he likes Union's focus these days.

“Innovation and entrepreneurialism are the buzzwords these days,” he said.

Apkarian said Union is working to get a piece of the business recognition that Rensselaer has long received and the state University at Albany has more recently garnered.

The school has made some inroads. Last year, SuperPower Inc., Union College and Schenectady County Community College secured $5 million to train a work force that SuperPower said it needs as it ramps up production of its superconducting cables.

A similar program is being created with CardioMag Imaging Inc., a Schenectady developer of a non-invasive system used to identify patients with coronary artery disease and other cardiovascular conditions.

“Union is doing some things the others haven't done,” Apkarian said. “They're establishing bona fide industrial relationships. They're creating jobs.”

Apkarian, in a sense, is also creating jobs by helping entrepreneurs build companies.

Selchick said after his meeting with Apkarian he was making changes to his company.

“I'm going to bring on additional staff,” Selchick said, “and attack the market share I didn't even know existed.”

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FivePoints – a summer residential academic program for rising 8th – 12th grade students

Posted on Feb 24, 2006

Union College recently announced the start of its summer enrichment program FivePoints, a residential academic program for boys and girls.  FivePoints offers its participants the opportunity to experience a pre-college curriculum while living on campus.  Students choose one of seven courses to study for a two week session.  The coursework is age and aptitude-appropriate, providing a stimulating and supportive intellectual environment.  Student-to-teacher ratios of 8:1 affords the staff to get to know each student and learn to make the best of each individual's potential.

“This unique experience will be defined by the highly-trained staff who are outgoing, intelligent and energetic,” explained Mary D'Amelia, Union's director of Special Events and Conferences – the department that oversees external and summer programming.  “From classroom to dorm room they'll serve as role models, guides and mentors.”

FivePoints is a two-week residential program. Session I runs July 2 – July 14, 2006; Session II runs July 16 – July 28, 2006.  For more information on this program or to request a brochure and application form call 800-883-2540 or email fivepoints@union.edu.

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UCALL spring program announced

Posted on Feb 24, 2006

The Union College Academy for Lifelong Learning (UCALL) announces open registration for its spring 2006 program. Classes begin April 4.

Nott Memorial

UCALL aims to offer quality learning and enrichment opportunities for adults in Union College's tradition of liberal arts and academic excellence. All courses are held in the Reamer Campus Center Auditorium on the Union College campus.

The spring course offerings include: Energy's Impact Today and Tomorrow; American Poets of the Nineteenth Century; Humor: Laughing Matters;, Religions of the World; Biological Evolution; and Venetian Art.

Established in 1988, UCALL is a membership-based program for adults in the Capital Region. Courses cover a wide range of topics and are presented by its members, Union College professors and other qualified speakers.

UCALL courses don't require exams or pre-requisites. Classes are held for five 2-hour weekly sessions in the fall and spring on the Union College campus. The open-membership program currently has more than 200 participants.

Benefits offered to members of UCALL include: participation at UCALL seminars, UCALL Newsletter, borrowing privileges to Schaffer Library, attendance at special UCALL events and excursions, tuition waiver for one credit course offered through Union College (based on availability), access to Union College events such as films, theater, exhibits, concerts, sporting events and lectures as well as free parking.

Valerie D'Amario, a graduate of Russell Sage College in Troy N.Y. was appointed Director of UCALL in January 2005. A lifelong resident of Schenectady, she currently lives in Niskayuna with her husband Michael (a 1980 graduate of Union College) and their four sons.   

For more information or to be placed on the mailing list call the UCALL office at 388-6072 or visit the web site at www.union.edu/Academics/UCALL/


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Union plays its part in ‘Phantomania’

Posted on Feb 24, 2006

The Phantom of the Opera, which is nearing the end of its highly successful month-long run at Proctor's Theatre, was a hit in part because of the earnest dedication by some members of the Union College community.

Proctor's Theatre

Students Rob Larimore '07, Carly Hirschberg '06, Nina Kalinkos '06, Evan Reid '06 and Lauren Wetherell '08, and  Lloyd Waiwaiole, costumer at the Yulman Theatre, have been making four-hour work calls to Proctor's wardrobe department each night.

Their duties entail shining shoes, brushing hats, wiping out costumes and ironing shirts. Some students are in charge of costume changes during the show, which means running up and down stairs, volleying between dressing rooms and taking different costume pieces to and from their assigned actor.

“Being the primary dresser of Jim Weitzer, the actor who plays Roule, has been massively tiring, but also wonderful,” said Reid. “Though I'd had no prior dressing experience, the people at Proctor's have been extremely helpful and have treated us like professionals every step of the way.”

Andrew Lloyd Weber's international award-winning phenomenon, produced by Harold Prince, has woven its magical spell over standing room audiences in more than 100 cities nationwide. Phantom is a timeless story of seduction and despair and the one show The London Times calls “God's gift to the musical theatre.”

The show wraps up its Schenectady run Sunday (Feb. 26) night. All performances are sold out.


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