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Union to host annual meeting of New England Council of Latin American Studies

Posted on Sep 23, 2009

The turning point in the classic movie, “The Godfather Part II,” takes place in Havana, Cuba, when mob boss Michael Corleone confronts his brother, Fredo, during a celebration to usher in 1959.

“I know it was you, Fredo,” Michael tells his brother, who has betrayed him. “You broke my heart.”

Moments later, a revolution led by Fidel Castro’s guerrilla army forces Michael and his gangster entourage to flee Cuba, where he was considering an expansion of the family’s gambling operations.


Teresa Meade, the Florence B. Sherwood Professor of History and Culture and director of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

A scholarly examination of the 50 years since the Cuban Revolution, and its impact on Latin America, is one of the featured topics for the annual meeting of the New England Council of Latin American Studies (NECLAS).

Union is hosting this year’s conference on Saturday, Oct. 3, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at College Park Hall. The conference is open to the public.

As many as 200 scholars from dozens of schools, including Bowdoin, Harvard, Brown, SUNY-Albany and Williams are expected for discussions on Latin American issues. Awards also will be presented for best book, article and dissertation selected from among the 55 institutional members of NECLAS (for a schedule of events, click here).

The conference comes during a critical time for relations between the United States and Latin America. President Barack Obama has adopted a more open stance toward Cuba, where Fidel’s brother, Raul, is now in charge. At the Summit of the Americas last spring, Obama met with traditional U.S. allies such as Mexico’s, Felipe Calderon, as well as with Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy. Other important figures with whom the administration has conferred are Lula da Silva, of Brazil, Chile’s Michelle Bachelet and Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchener, the latter two among the small number of elected female heads of state.

“In a world where major changes in Latin American politics, economics and social life are of critical importance to the U.S., the value of producing graduates who are fluent in the history, politics, languages and cultures of Latin American countries is immeasurable,” said Teresa Meade, the Florence B. Sherwood Professor of History and Culture and director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program.

Meade, who will assume the presidency of NECLAS during the conference, is the author of several books on Latin America, including “‘Civilizing’ Rio: Reform and Resistance in a Brazilian City” (1997), “A Brief History of Brazil” (2003) and the upcoming “A History of Modern Latin America.”

Meade will be joined by Guillermina Seri, assistant professor of political science, Robert Sharlet, the Chauncey Winters Research Professor of Political Science, and Larry Gutman ’00, who is working on his Ph.D in Latin American history at the University of Texas, Austin, for a roundtable discussion on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.

Union faculty members Andrea Foroughi (History), Donald Rodbell (Geology and Environmental Studies) and Victoria Martinez (Modern Languages) also are scheduled to participate in the conference, along with Ari Gandsmann, a former anthropology professor at Union who teaches at the University of Ottawa.

A number of Union students will serve as hosts for students from other schools who plan to attend.

Funding for the conference is provided by the Office of the President and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program.

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Keeping the faith: New people, renewed purpose, for Office of Religious and Spiritual Life

Posted on Sep 23, 2009

Viki Brooks, director of religious and spiritual life and campus Protestant minister; Tom Gutch, Roman Catholic chaplain; and Bonnie Cramer, Jewish chaplain

In her new role as director of religious and spiritual life, Viki Brooks is confident that the recently elevated program she leads can play an important role in advancing important goals of the College’s Strategic Plan.

“When we talk about diversity, it’s often in terms of things like ethnicity or culture,” she said. “But just as important to the student experience here at Union is a rich religious and spiritual diversity.”

College is a time, Brooks noted, when many students question their religious or spiritual upbringing. It may also be “when they explore practices and beliefs from traditions other than their own,” she said. “The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life can be important to students who are searching for a spiritual identity. This work is also important to the Union community in promoting awareness of the religious pluralism that marks our post-modern world.”

Spirituality may be defined, Brooks says, as the search for authenticity, purpose and meaning, which “fits very well with what we try to do as an institution of higher education.”

President Stephen C. Ainlay, speaking last fall to the Capital Region Theological Center, said, “To succeed as global citizens, students must develop a breadth and depth of knowledge about religions – their beliefs, traditions, rituals and worldviews – other than their own.”

Brooks continues in her role as campus Protestant minister, and works with students of other faiths to help them organize and find spiritual leadership. She recently earned her doctor of ministry from Hartford Seminary after completing a study on the contributions of Interfaith Ministry at Union College.

Joining her in the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life are Bonnie Cramer, Jewish chaplain, and Tom Gutch, Roman Catholic chaplain.

Cramer, advisor to Hillel for the past nine years, succeeds Margo Strosberg, who has retired. A member of Congregation Agudat Achim in Niskayuna for 23 years, she has spent most of her adult life serving the Jewish community and brings a strong background in programming for young people, the arts and Jewish mysticism to her new role. 

Under Cramer’s guidance, Union College Hillel was recently invited to participate in “Small and Mighty Campuses of Excellence II,” a pilot program aimed at enhancing Jewish life at small colleges. (For more, click here.)

Gutch, a deacon in the Ukrainian Catholic Church, succeeds Tom Boland, who stepped down in June. A native of Clifton Park, Gutch graduated from Shenendehoah High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from St. John Fisher College. He is affiliated with St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church in Waterford.

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Posted on Sep 23, 2009

Through Sept. 27
Wikoff Student Gallery
Nott Memorial
A Perfect Press, Printed by Union Students

Featured prints were created in “Printmaking: Etching,” taught by Sandra Wimer in the spring. The pieces employ a variety of techniques: etching, aquatint, soft-ground, pigmented inkjet and polymer photogravure printing. Many of the final prints combine several different techniques to create a single image.

Through Oct. 16
Schaffer Library
Thelma and Kenneth Lally Reading Room
Degas’ Contemporaries

Union's exhibition is part of the "Season of Degas," a multi-organization partnership with the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, N.Y., which is currently showcasing “Degas and Music.”  The Union show features etchings and lithographs from Union’s Permanent Collection by peers of famed French impressionist Edgar Degas. The Department of Visual Arts is sponsoring a bus trip for a guided tour of the Hyde Collection exhibit, Saturday, Oct. 3, noon-4 p.m. Free to members of the Union community. Space limited; signup in Visual Arts office required. 

Through Nov. 14
Visual Arts Building
Arts Atrium
Greg Eltringham, Paintings and Drawings

This exhibit features the work of Greg Eltringham, professor of painting at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Ga.

Through March 14
Schaffer Library Atrium
Union Notables

A celebration of the great men and women who have studied and worked at the College. Every six months, a new group of three notables is featured. Currently featured are assistant professor and janitor Charles Frederick Chandler (1836-1925);  actor, playwright,  journalist and producer John Howard Payne (1791-1852); and College Librarian Ruth Anne Evans (1924-2001).

Sept. 25  – Oct. 24
Nott Memorial
Mandeville Gallery
North by Northeast: Baskets and Beadwork from the Akwesasne Mohawk and Tuscarora"

Selected pieces from a traveling exhibition curated by Kathleen Mundell, folklorist and director of Cultural Resources, a nonprofit organization that helps communities sustain local culture. An opening reception will be held Friday, Oct. 2, 5-8 p.m. in the Nott Memorial.

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Posted on Sep 23, 2009

Friday, Sept. 25 / Mandeville Gallery / “North by Northeast: Baskets and Beadwork from and Beadwork from the Akwesasne Mohawk and Tuscarora” opens

Friday, Sept. 25, 12:50-1:50 p.m. / Hale House, Everest Lounge / “Integrating Ethics into Technical Courses: A Primer, ” Ethics Across the Curriculum luncheon workshop featuring guest speaker Michael Davis, engineering ethicist and professor of philosophy, Center for the Study of Ethnics, Illinois Institute of Technology; breakfast set for 8-10 a.m. in Reamer Campus Center, Room 203

Friday, Sept. 25, 1:50 p.m. / Emerson Auditorium in the Taylor Music Center / Union College Department of Music and IEF presents: Friday Jazz with professor Tim Olsen & Friends, “Early Jazz”; free admission

Friday, Sept. 25, 4 p.m. / College Park Field / Men’s soccer vs. Clarkson University

Friday, Sept. 25, 4 p.m. / Bailey Field / Field hockey vs. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Friday, Sept. 25–Monday, Sept. 28, 8 and 10 p.m. / Reamer Campus Center / Film: “The Hangover”

Saturday, Sept. 26, 2 p.m. / College Park Field / Men’s soccer vs. St. Lawrence College

Saturday, Sept. 26, 2 p.m. / College Park Field / Field hockey vs. Vassar College

Sunday, Sept. 27, noon / Messa Rink at Achilles Center / Women’s ice hockey vs. University of Rochester

Wednesday, Sept. 30, 7 p.m. / College Park Field / Women’s soccer vs. Utica

Thursday, Oct. 1, 4 p.m. / Reamer Campus Center Auditorium / “Becoming a Curator: Seeing Race, Class, Gender and History in Objects and Images,” lecture by  New Paltz, N.Y., independent curator and historian Rickie Solinger, who curated “Reimagining the Distaff”

Thursday, Oct. 1, 4-6 p.m. / Union Graduate College, 80 Nott Terrace (next to the old Friendly’s restaurant) / Open House; RSVP@uniongraduatecollege.edu to attend

Friday, Oct. 2, 5-8 p.m. / Nott Memorial / Opening reception for “North by Northeast: Baskets and Beadwork from the Akwesasne Mohawk and Tuscarora” and “Reimagining the Distaff Toolkit,” both at the Mandeville Gallery  

Saturday, Oct. 3, 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. / College Park Hall / New England Council of Latin American Studies Conference

Friday, Oct. 2–Monday, Oct. 5, 8 and 10 p.m. / Reamer Campus Center / Film: “The Proposal” 

Saturday, Oct.3, 1 p.m. / College Park Field / Women’s soccer vs. SUNY Fredonia

Saturday, Oct. 3, 6 p.m. / Frank Bailey Field / Football vs. Worcester Polytechnic Institute 

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People in the news

Posted on Sep 23, 2009


Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Rebecca Koopmann ’89 recently presented a paper at the “Galaxy Wars: Stellar Populations and Star Formation in Interacting Galaxies" Conference held at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn. “ALFALFA HI Content and Star Formation in Virgo Cluster Early-Type Dwarfs” describes Koopmann’s research on the hydrogen gas contents of nearby galaxies as revealed by the ALFALFA (Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA) survey using the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico. Koopmann also hosted an NSF-sponsored Undergraduate ALFALFA Team group meeting at Union for faculty and students in July. The meeting drew participants from Siena and Skidmore colleges to campus, while participants from Cornell University, Georgia Southern University, Humboldt State University and Lafayette College joined via teleconference. Students from each institution presented summaries of ALFALFA research progress during the summer. SreyNoch Chin ’12 presented Union’s progress report.


Terry Weiner, the Chauncey H. Winters Professor of Comparative Social Analysis, gave a paper at the Society for the Study of Social Problems Annual Meeting in San Francisco in August. The paper, titled “The ‘Cooling Out Function’ of Higher Education Revisited: Do Financial Aid Policies Reproduce and Legitimate Racial and Class Inequality?,” reviews federal, state and institutional college aid policies to see if they have significantly increased opportunity for lower class students.   


“Learning through Publishing the Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Journal of Politics,” an article by Zoe M. Oxley, associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, recently appeared in PS: Political Science and Politics. Co-authors are Benjamin Bauer ’08, Whitney Ogás ’08, Omar Shakir ’08 and Rosalee A. Clawson, associate professor at Purdue University. The article is based on their experiences hosting the undergraduate journal.


Ann Fleming Brown, director of Admissions, recently was named to the Board of Trustees of Schenectady County Community College by Gov. David Paterson. Her term expires in 2016.


Mary Parlett-Sweeney, director of Academic Computing, was elected to a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges (CLAC) at its 2009 annual conference at Occidental College in Los Angeles in June. An active member of the consortium, Parlett-Sweeney served as co-coordinator of the 2008 conference, held at Union. She currently is on the program committee of the Educause Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference, scheduled for January 2010 in Baltimore, Md.


“God: An Obituary,” a collection of essays, by English Professor Peter Heinegg, has been published by the University Press of America. Heinegg’s latest collection argues that the three major monotheistic religions are philosophically bankrupt, psychologically infantile and partly responsible for such contemporary evils as misogyny, homophobia and animal cruelty. The book expands on ideas developed in “Good God! (And Other Follies): Essays on Religion” (2006).

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