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Weapons as art: ‘Armed’ opens at Mandeville

Posted on Oct 24, 2006

Oatman piece, Armed exhibit, Oct. 2006, Mandeville Gallery

“Armed: Contemporary Art and Violence,” a group show that explores the human obsession with weapons and the complexities of aggression, is now at the Mandeville Gallery.

The exhibition “allows the viewer to take a critical look at how we view weapons, how we relate to them and what we do with them,” says Nadine Wasserman, who curated the show with Mandeville Director Rachel Seligman.

Millspaugh – ARMED exhibit, Mandeville, Oct. 2006

“Armed” features sculpture, collage, photography, painting and drawing by 11 artists: Associated Artists For Propaganda Research, Robert Beck, Susan Graham, Gregory Green, Michael Millspaugh, Michael  Oatman, Kristin Oppenheim and David Rees, Margaret Roleke, Simone Shubuck and Type A.

Several special events will be held in conjunction with the exhibit, including the reenactment known as Civil War Living History, this Saturday, Oct. 28, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., on Rugby Field. Members of the 150th New York Regiment will set up camp and run drills to show what daily life was like for soldiers.

In addition, several weapons-themed films will be shown in Reamer Campus Center Auditorium, including “Lord of War” (Nov. 7), “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” (Jan. 11) and “Dr. Strangelove” (Jan. 16). All are at 7 p.m.

“Armed” runs through Feb. 4. For more information, visit www.union.edu/gallery.

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Union wants entrepreneurs- to-be to embrace religion curriculum

Posted on Oct 23, 2006

Union College's new religious studies major will be a resource for students who ultimately want to embark on a career in business, President Stephen Ainlay says.

Far from being an insular and esoteric pursuit, the Schenectady college says the new major will be a dynamic course of study that complements Union's emphasis on entrepreneurism across all its programs.

“What we have been learning in talking to people about entrepreneurism, is a lot of people are doing global work,” Ainlay said. “They need to understand the religious factors in international communities.”

Union College has renewed a search that proved fruitless last year for an endowed chair, to be called the John and Jane Wold Professor of Religious Studies, to elevate Union's current minor in religious studies to a major. The college has had a minor in religious studies for 15 years, but only about three students a year have been declared minors in recent years.

While the college offers other religious courses, it owes it to its students to bring in a distinguished scholar who can improve the curriculum and inspire students to learn more about religious cultures, diversity and tolerance, the first-year Union president said.

“We want to make sure that students are equipped to deal with the 21st century realities of the world,” he said. “To send them out without being able to understand where people are coming from is not doing them any good at all.”

Religion factored into Union's founding and its very name. Unlike most other colleges in the era it was formed, in 1795, Union was not aligned with one religion. Instead, students from several Protestant faiths came together to form one of the first nondenominational colleges in the United States. The “Union” name reflected that religious harmony, and the patriotic fervor then ablaze in the brand-new nation.

Perfect timing

Ainlay said the timing is perfect to devote more attention and resources to religious studies at Union. He said at no time since the late 1800s has interest in religion been so intense in the United States.

Ainlay, himself a sociologist specializing in the Mennonite sect, attributed that interest to two factors: the increasing importance of religion in American life and politics and the threat the United States faces from Islamic fundamentalism.

“It couldn't possibly be more timely,” said Therese McCarty, interim vice president of academic affairs at Union. “Every time we pick up a newspaper, we see that religion pays a very critical role in the world. Understanding the role that religion plays in people's lives is really critical to a liberal education. This is a direction we are really happy to go in.”

The money for the new emphasis is coming out of a $20 million gift that John Wold, a former congressman from Wyoming, and his wife gave to Union in 2003. Wold is a 1938 Union graduate who made a fortune through mineral and oil discoveries. Wold's father, Peter Wold, was chairman of Union's physics department from 1919 to 1945.

In addition to helping fund the hiring of a scholar to enhance religious studies offerings, additional Wold money will be available to bring another prominent person in religious studies to the Union campus each year. That person might teach classes if they are from an academic background, but they will also be expected to give seminars, speeches and take part in other events on religious tolerance and diversity.

In keeping with that idea, the Wolds helped sponsor an appearance at Union on Oct. 10 by Ingrid Mattson, the first woman to ever head the Islamic Society of North America. Her message: Radical Muslims are in a small minority and that most Muslims treasure family and community.

A 'terrific complement'

Union has an open mind about who should occupy the endowed professorship, McCarty said. The particular denomination of the scholar is “irrelevant,” she said. The person could be an anthropologist or a sociologist of religion, a historian of religion or another kind of religious scholar.

“The ideal person is someone who has a vision and the ability to build this program,” McCarty said. “The person has to be an excellent teacher, a well-regarded scholar and somebody who has some administrative experience in program-building. We certainly would not want somebody who sits in their offices.”

Union did not find the right candidate last year, causing the college to resume the search this fall.

“It is taking us a while to understand how we need to frame the position,” McCarty said. “We had a little bit of a learning curve in understanding this.”

Union wants the new endowed professor to be on campus starting in the fall of 2007 and hopes to start offering the religious studies major in 2009.

Ainlay said enterprising students aiming at a career in business should recognize the potential benefits of courses that teach them about the religions of India, China, the Middle East and other parts of the world where American companies are increasingly doing business.

“We are finding that a lot of economic studies students are interested in Spanish,” Ainlay said. “In much the same way, a major or a minor in religious studies could be a terrific complement to something like economic studies.”

In discussing the program with a local business executive recently, Ainlay said the executive immediately grasped the potential value of a business-savvy student who could also be a kind of “cultural interpreter” to a company.

“The executive said, 'If I had someone who understood Indian religions, it would be a huge advantage to me and my staff,' ” Ainlay said.

Kim Perone, spokeswoman for the SI Group, said her company understands the value of cultural sensitivity in the foreign countries it operates in. The former Schenectady International operates in 14 countries.

“Understanding culture, including religion, is a key part of success in global business,” she said. “We all know the adage, 'When in Rome…', yet we don't always act that way in business. The world is getting smaller and for us, working in other countries is essential. Our customers are global.”

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No SAT or ACT score? No problem

Posted on Oct 20, 2006

In a bid to boost applications from promising students and students outside the Northeast, Union College has dropped SAT and ACT test scores from its admissions requirements.

In doing so, Union joins about one-quarter of the top 50 liberal arts colleges in the U.S. News and World Report's rankings who have already dropped their SAT/ACT requirement, according to Dean of Admissions Dan Lundquist.

   Lundquist said he hopes the decision reaches prospective students with an “exquisitely clear message.”

   “Union is a college that values academic performance, and we'll put our money where our mouth is,” Lundquist said. “Admission to Union isn't a formula.”

   Prospective students touring campus said they are pleased at the college's decision, but they will still take the SAT for Union and the other colleges they are considering. If they test poorly, they said, they may withhold the scores from their application.

   Union joins a burgeoning group that includes Mount Holyoke, Middlebury, Hamilton College and the College of the Holy Cross.

   A representative of Skidmore College said that Union's decision is understandable and Skidmore will review its own policy this year. Mary Lou Bates, Skidmore dean of admissions, said a study from Bates College, which dropped its SAT/ACT requirement 20 years ago, shows a broader applicant pool and no difference between students who did and did not submit test scores.

   “I think any of us agree that the best predictor of how a student will do in college is their high school record,” Bates said.

   Joe Zaino, a high school senior from Dobbs Ferry in Westchester County, took the SAT on Saturday. He said Union's decision offers a “good option” for applicants.

   “I think it's a good aspect because I feel like a student is more than one Saturday in October,” Zaino said. With an A average and a full load of International Baccalaureate courses, Zaino said, “I like having the option of deciding what to emphasize.”

   As her daughter interviewed with admissions officers, Karen Rusin said she appreciates the message Union is sending. Rusin, from Buffalo, said her daughter was distraught when an SAT testing session was canceled after the recent crippling snowstorm in western New York.

   “There's so much pressure on these kids,” Rusin said. “When the SATs were canceled, she was spazzing out.”

   Lundquist said accolades have been pouring in from guidance counselors around the country since the decision was announced in the most recent edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education and in a press release Tuesday.

   “There has been nothing but effusive praise,” Lundquist said.

   Union will still consider SAT scores – “within reason, more data is better,” Lundquist said. And in the hypothetical situation of two students vying for a single spot, distinguished only by an application with or without SAT scores, Lundquist acknowledged that the one with SAT scores will be admitted.

   “I know there were going to be students who torture themselves over this one – should I submit them, or shouldn't I?” Lundquist said.

   Lundquist said admissions offi – cers expect that students who do not submit SAT results scored on the lower end of Union's range. However, he said, Union will not assume that the scores were deplorable, and in most cases, a strong application will outweigh the omission.

   As dean of admissions, Lundquist said that he had long questioned the SATs and recently felt that the time was right for a decision.

   “I said I'm seeing a growing case that we need to find a way to exquisitely, clearly emphasize in-class performance,” Lundquist said. The decision was approved by President Stephen Ainlay and the senior administrative group, Lundquist said. He also spoke with faculty and trustees.

   Lundquist said momentum for the change has been building over the past few years as Union made a bigger push to enroll students from outside the Northeast, which tends to produce high scores.

   “As Union became more and more competitive, we were hearing from guidance counselors, principals and parents, ‘there are a lot of great students out there who are interested in Union … they may be deterred from applying because you require the SATs,' ” Lundquist said.

   Lundquist said Union has a long history of questioning the exam, administered by the College Board, a New York-based nonprofit association of more than 5,000 schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations, according to its Web site.

   In 1987, college faculty released a study showing no correlation between the standardized test scores of Union students and their later performance on campus.

   “It didn't matter if the student had strong testing; they didn't perform better than students with low testing. The factor with the most accurate predictor was high school grades,” Lundquist said. “It was one of the first chinks in the armor of the SATs.”

   The test has been further undermined by recent scoring mishaps and studies showing bias against certain groups.

   “It's been a number of years that the staff at Union have simply not relied a lot on the SAT,” Lundquist said. “What we've done is shifted the bulk of our evaluation on the high school transcript.”

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Tann performs this weekend in Bay Area

Posted on Oct 20, 2006

Prof. Hilary Tann, composer; fall 2006

Hilary Tann, the John Howard Payne Professor of Music, is working on new orchestral and chamber works in the San Francisco Bay area as the guest of the ensemble Chamber Mix and Stanford University.

Her residency, which began Wednesday, Oct. 18, and runs through Monday, Oct. 23, includes rehearsals with three different orchestras, the Oakland Civic, Berkeley High School and Palo Alto Chamber orchestras, as well as guest lectures at Lick Wilmerding High School and Stanford.

She also is presenting chamber music concerts Friday evening at the San Francisco Community Center and Sunday at Campbell Recital Hall, and a performance of “Water's Edge” for chamber orchestra at Stanford's Dinkenspiel Auditorium, Saturday. All performances are at 8 p.m.

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Tann performs in Bay Area this weekend

Posted on Oct 20, 2006


Prof. Hilary Tann, composer; fall 2006

Hilary Tann, the John Howard Payne Professor of Music, is working on new orchestral and chamber works in the San Francisco Bay area as the guest of the ensemble Chamber Mix and Stanford University.

Her residency, which began Wednesday, Oct. 18, and runs through Monday, Oct. 23, includes rehearsals with three different orchestras: the Oakland Civic, Berkeley High School and Palo Alto Chamber orchestras, as well as guest lectures at Lick Wilmerding High School and Stanford.

She also is presenting chamber music concerts this evening (Friday) at the San Francisco Community Center and Sunday (Oct. 22) at Campbell Recital Hall, and a performance of “Water's Edge” for chamber orchestra at Stanford's Dinkenspiel Auditorium, Saturday, (Oct. 21). All performances are at 8 p.m.


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