Union College News Archives

News story archive

Navigation Menu

Quilt to stitch together Union history

Posted on Dec 11, 2008

Karen Ferrer-Muniz had been staring at the sparsely decorated walls of the Unity Room, wracking her brain for good decor ideas that would reflect the significance of the space.

After tossing idea after idea into the proverbial wastebasket, Ferrer-Muniz, director of multicultural affairs and campus diversity, found a muse in an unexpected place.

Karen Ferrer-Muniz, Multicultural director, Sept. 2008

“Judy Gordon of the campus career center sent me an e-mail, sharing a song about a quilt,” Ferrer-Muniz said. “That somehow got me thinking about hanging something homey and something warm in the Unity Room, but I needed a purpose for this quilt I wanted to make.”

That purpose turned out to be Union’s 215th birthday in 2010, which she wants to celebrate by inviting students, faculty, staff and alumni to donate pieces of fabric. On each swath of cloth she gets, Ferrer-Muniz would like to see a little piece of the giver’s own history.

“One of the most important things is that we all come to Union and bring our family histories with us – our diversity goes beyond skin color, religion and gender,” she said. “We all have something to offer that reminds us of home, whether it’s a recipe, a song, a family crest, or a picture ironed on to the fabric.”

“A quilt with fabric from different people is the perfect analogy of what Union is going through and what we want Union to be,” Ferrer-Muniz continued. “Union is a little piece of everything, so why not make a quilt?”

Starting in January, Ferrer-Muniz will be accepting fabric pieces that measure 18 inches-by-18 inches, or already-made patches measuring 12 inches-by-12-inches. For those people who want to make a square, but don’t know how to quilt, lessons will be given on campus throughout 2009.

In 2010, Ferrer-Muniz expects to hang one large quilt in the Unity Room in the Reamer Campus Center, and hang several smaller ones in other notable places around campus.

“I hope people will give little pieces of fabric, and leave little pieces of themselves behind in the quilt,” she said. “I think this is going to be something awesome to keep for years and years and years.”

For more information, contact Ferrer-Muniz at ferrermk@union.edu.

Read More

President discusses economy’s impact on College

Posted on Dec 9, 2008

December 9, 2008

Dear Members of the Union Family,

As you well know, news of the economic crises in the United States and abroad has dominated the media. Similarly, the economic situation has dominated conversations at work and at home as people worry about the effects on their personal lives. In the face of all this, it is not surprising that I am frequently asked “How is Union doing?” The answer is: We are doing well, enjoying a period of growing institutional momentum, but preparing for the inevitable effects of the economic downturn on the College.

We have been heartened by the strong showing of support we have received from the Union community. At this fall’s Family Weekend/Homecoming, we saw a 20 percent increase in attendance over the previous year, and the enthusiasm among alumni, parents and current students was palpable. For the past two ReUnions, we set records for attendance, and the ReUnion dinners both years were “sold out.” We continue to see dramatic increases in attendance at events we have held in major cities around the country.

The Class of 2012, which joined us in September, was the most selective in over two decades. We received more than 5,000 applications for the 565 places in the class. It is also the most diverse class in our history (17percent of the class are from historically underrepresented groups and 4 percent are international).

All this is good news and we are clearly enjoying a great deal of institutional momentum at this point in our history. Nevertheless, Union College is by no means isolated from the effects of the economic downturn, and this has commanded a great deal of our time and attention in recent months. At the September meeting of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, we agreed to undertake an analysis of potential stress points. Our Finance and Administration staff has been carefully monitoring the effects of the current situation on College resources, such as the declining value of the endowment (and thus, importantly, endowment income). Our Admissions and Financial Aid staff has been considering the likely impact on future enrollment patterns and the financial aid needs of families. Our College Relations staff has been considering the potential effects on fundraising for the Capital Campaign and the Annual Fund. We will be discussing all this with the Finance Committee of the Board in December and recommending immediate steps that will protect us against the near-term effects of the economic downturn as well as ensure Union’s continued financial well-being in future years.

Our stress analysis reveals that Union’s resources have been well managed. Our endowment has performed better than most. While we too have realized losses, we have consistently outperformed the S&P and composite index in 2008 year-to-date. October and November were difficult months but early analysis indicates that we continue to outperform the indices. Furthermore, we did not have any investments in the Common Fund (which has caused problems for other institutions) and our outstanding debt is primarily in fixed interest rate instruments.

Our analysis also reveals that Union continues to hold a strong position in the educational marketplace. Our first deadline for early decision applications for the Class of 2013 was Nov. 15. We saw a marked increase over last year’s early decision requests (which itself saw increases over previous years), and our analysis indicates that the group is academically strong.

The stress analysis also reveals, however, that we face financial challenges: The State of New York has already cut Bundy (direct institutional) aid, and additional cuts have been proposed to help reduce the state’s budget deficit; the declining value of our endowment will undoubtedly reduce the stream of income that subsidizes the actual costs of educating students; changing family assets and situations will likely lead to an increased need for aid; and, we are facing increased costs just to maintain employee health and dental benefits.

Accordingly, we have and will be taking action to 1) identify opportunities for cost-savings, 2) control and cut expenditures, and 3) seek continued support from our friends and supporters. We have taken advantage of declining oil prices and realized significant savings over planned expenditures for this year and next year. We are also in conversation with other institutions about the possibilities of leveraging our combined purchasing power and seeking efficiencies through partnerships. We have already placed several current job searches on hold and will carefully analyze all future searches to determine if they can be similarly postponed. We will reach out to our supporters, reminding them of the importance of their gifts to the College, especially in these challenging times.

I want to assure you that, while we look for opportunities to cut costs, we will not jeopardize the quality of the Union experience or compromise in any way the health and safety of our community. And, we will continue to support members of the Union community as well as be mindful of and responsive to the challenges faced by families who have entrusted their sons and daughters to our care.

The bottom line is that, despite the economic downturn, Union remains strong. We have remarkably talented students, faculty, staff, administrators and Board members who are dedicated to seeing Union thrive. We have a distinctive mission (better defined and articulated than ever before, thanks to our strategic plan) that puts us in a good position in the educational marketplace. With your help and support we will continue to move ahead and make a difference.

Sincerely yours,

Stephen C. Ainlay, President

Read More

Giving through tough times

Posted on Dec 9, 2008

Times are tough all around this holiday season, and people aren’t necessarily as eager to open up their wallets as they have been in past years.

Nevertheless, Kim Puorto called on her fellow Union College employees to participate in what’s become an annual tradition of campus kindness and giving.

Kim Puorto, administrative assistant in the Dean of Students Office, sits at her desk surrounded by gifts donated to the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program.

“We have been participating in the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program for about 15 years,” said Puorto, administrative assistant in the Dean of Students Office. “I was told we used to adopt a family, but found that we could impact more of the Schenectady community with Angel Tree.”

The purpose of Angel Tree is to bring clothing or toys to area children in need. As a participant in the program, Union asks the Salvation Army for “Angel tags” bearing the names of deserving children – and toys they would like to receive – each year.

With the economic climate the way it is this year, however, Puorto’s initial order of “Angel tags,” 80, was smaller than the usual 100 tags.

“I thought there wouldn’t be as much interest,” Puorto said. “As it turned out, I actually had to order more. We ended up making our usual 100-tag mark.” 

Puorto is pleased that members of the campus community supported Angel Tree with so much enthusiasm, though she’s not surprised.

“The people who work on campus are very generous,” she said. “It’s hard to give with the economy the way it is now, but they always come through. Union always comes through.”

Puorto will continue to accept gifts that meet the program’s parameters until the end of the day Tuesday, Dec. 9. The Salvation Army will collect the toys later this week for distribution.

Donated items, which must be new, should cost no more than $10. After purchase, the gifts should be delivered to the Dean of Students Office unwrapped, with only the “Angel tags” taped to the items.

The Dean of Students Office is located in Room 306 of Reamer Campus Center. For more information, e-mail Puorto at puortok@union.edu.

Read More

The sound of art: ‘Slow Motion’ captures fast actions

Posted on Dec 5, 2008

Dan Phakos, Slow Motion exhibit, Wikoff Student Gallery, Jan. 2008
“Two Halves Leave a Hole”

Have you ever dropped a glass or broken a dish and wondered what’s physically happening in that split second when it shatters?  

That’s the question posed by Dan Phakos ’11 in “Slow Motion,” a photographic exhibit opening today, Jan. 8, in the Wikoff Student Gallery.

Each of the nine images in the show was created in a controlled environment where the sound of the impact triggered a strobe light, which illuminated the action for a fraction of second – “long enough to capture the image on film,” Phakos wrote in his artist’s statement.

“The result is perfectly frozen motion of an object being broken apart; a sight too fast to be captured by the human eye.”

Phakos is a biochemistry major with a minor in visual arts.

“With a body of work that melds science and art,” he said, “I enjoy bringing emotion to objects that are so often taken for granted.”

“Slow Motion” is co-sponsored by the departments of Physics and Visual Arts. It runs through March 2.

Read More

Professor hopeful for Mideast peace

Posted on Dec 4, 2008

Stephen Berk, the Henry and Sally Schaffer Professor of Holocaust and Jewish Studies, recently spoke at Albright College.

A column about the speech was published in the Reading Eagle. To read the column, click here (registration may be required). 

Read More