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Lecture series showcases women scientists and engineers

Posted on Feb 26, 2010

Take an intellectual trip to galaxies far, far away or investigate the intricately complex world of musical variation. Whatever your interest, the Distinguished Science and Engineering Lecture Series won’t disappoint.

Beginning Tuesday, March 2, the series is part of a joint research initiative between Union and Skidmore College to study recruitment and retention of female professors in science (including social science), technology, engineering, and math fields. It is funded by a $500,000 National Science Foundation grant the colleges received in 2008.

Brenda Johnson

The project is led by Union Mathematics Professor Brenda Johnson and Skidmore Sociology Professor Catherine White Berheide. Skidmore Mathematics Professor Alice Dean co-led the effort with Johnson last year.

“The idea is to showcase the work of remarkable women,” Johnson said. “We want to give faculty chances to connect with peers who share common interests, and we want to give students the opportunity to see how many possibilities are out there in these fields.”

Vera Rubin of the Carnegie Institution of Washington will deliver the first lecture in the three-part series, “Rotating Galaxies and Dark Matter,” in Skidmore’s Palamountain Hall on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

On Wednesday, March 10 at 4:45 p.m. in Olin Auditorium, Diana Dabby of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering will present “Creating Musical Variation.” She’ll discuss her use of ideas from chaos theory to create variations of musical themes.

“I’m fascinated by the work all the women are doing,” Johnson said. “For instance, Diana Dabby’s work draws from music, mathematics and engineering all at once, and that’s incredibly interesting.”

The series concludes with a talk by Robin Bell of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University on April 20 at 5:15 p.m. in Olin Auditorium. Her topic will be announced shortly.

Bell’s presentation is co-sponsored by Union’s Geology Department and the NSF Advance Skidmore Union Network, as the research initiative is officially known. Dabby’s lecture is also sponsored by the Network, and has additional support from Union’s Music Department and Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

All events are open to all members of the Union community. For more information on the speakers or the NSF Advance Skidmore Union Network, click here.


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Union again named to national honor roll for community service

Posted on Feb 26, 2010

For the second straight year, Union has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction for exemplary service to the local community.

the Homework and Skills Development Program coordinated by Lativa Holder kenney center honor roll

The awards were announced in Washington, D.C. by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The awards will be presented at the American Council on Education’s annual meeting in Phoenix in March and the National Conference of Volunteering and Service Conference in New York City in June.

Launched in 2006, the Community Service Honor Roll is the highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its commitment to service learning and civic engagement. Honorees for the award were chosen based on a series of selection factors, including scope and innovation of service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service, and the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses.

 In 2008-09, nearly 1,100 Union students participated in a range of community service projects, representing more than 12,000 hours of service. Volunteers at the Kenney Community Center tutored and read to local children, acted as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and participated in the state Volunteer Income Tax Assistant Program (VITA). Since its launch in 2005, the VITA program at Union has secured nearly $2 million in cumulative tax refunds for local residents.

Angela Tatem, Kenney Center director, said being named to the honor roll inspired her group to introduce incoming first-year students to community service at Union as part of a pre-orientation program. For three days in early September, several dozen students helped Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County hang drywall in a new home, and pitched in with Boys and Girls Clubs of Schenectady to spruce up Camp Lovejoy, a retreat for inner city youth.

Other highlights included a new youth boxing and tutoring program called Champions, the first Children’s Health Carnival and the creation of a Habitat for Humanity club. Also, Anthropology of Poverty became a service learning class.

In addition, all sororities and fraternities do community service projects, as do athletic teams, many Theme Houses and clubs.

“Community service is an integral part of the Union experience, and we are honored for the recognition of the work done on a daily basis by our students, staff and faculty,” Tatem said.

kenney center community service honor roll habitat for humanity 2010

The Honor Roll is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, federal agency, in collaboration with the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation.

To learn more about the award, including a list of all schools recognized, click here.

Last fall, Union was also recognized as a “good neighbor” for its positive contributions to the city of Schenectady. “Saviors of Our Cities: 2009 Survey of College and University Civic Partnerships,” ranked colleges and universities in terms of their economic, social and cultural contributions to the communities surrounding their campuses.

Union was among 100 schools named to the survey’s honor roll. Schools were selected based on 10 criteria, including the institution’s longstanding involvement with its urban community; the real dollars invested through its foundations and annual budgets; the presence felt from payroll, research and purchasing power; and faculty and student involvement in community service.

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Union celebrates Founders Day with a focus on diversity

Posted on Feb 25, 2010

The College celebrated Founders Day Thursday by reaffirming its commitment to stimulate dialogue and embrace greater diversity on campus.

Founders Day 2010
Posse founder Deborah Bial,
Therese McCarty, Frank Messa, Stephen C. Ainlay

“Diversity of all sorts – racial, ethnic, geographic, religious, economic, sexual orientation, among many others – enriches our individual lives and our collective experience,” President Stephen C. Ainlay told an audience gathered in Memorial Chapel to commemorate the 215th anniversary of the granting of the College’s charter by the state.

“Unlike most educational institutions of that day, our founders were not bound to one religious tradition but rather came from three different religious groups, believing that they could support a common educational mission despite their religious differences.”

While Union has expanded its understanding and appreciation of diversity in welcoming many to its educational table, Ainlay said “we are not finished; let our celebration of this Founders Day strengthen our resolve to make more room at our table.”

The keynote speaker was Deborah Bial, founder and president of the Posse Foundation, which identifies and recruits high-achieving urban public high school students and sends them in multicultural teams – or posses – to top colleges and universities like Union, the University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt. Since 2006, Union has partnered with the Boston branch of the Posse Foundation. The College’s first Posse Scholars will graduate in June.

Bial told the audience that before her talk, Ainlay sent her a copy of the “Encyclopedia of Union College History,” in which she learned, among other things, that women were not admitted to the College until 1970.

“The decision to go co-ed in 1970 was a conscious move toward change, inclusion and yes – diversity,” Bial said. “But for the first women who matriculated, think about what it felt like – in the classroom, in the dining hall. How did admissions handle the goal? What changed? Did the faculty teach differently? Were perceptions of merit redefined?

“…Did stereotypes change? How did Union make the few feel comfortable?”

Founders Day 2010
Elizabeth Bossong, left, Misty Shah '12 and Therese McCarty, Vice President for Academic Affairs

She likened the seismic shift that followed after admitting women to Union to the challenges of creating a more diverse campus today.

“We have to bring the same kind of attention and sensitivity that Union brought to the table when it brought women into the picture to those who are still being left out,” she said. “We need to bring the same kind of attention and energy to fostering a more inclusive environment for blacks, for Latinos, for members of the LGBTQ community, for native Americans, for Muslims, for so many others.”

Bial, who received a $500,000 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius award” in 2007, praised Union for its commitment to build a more diverse campus. But she said the College, and indeed the country, need to do more.

“Union College knows it needs to do more than just provide a stellar education to each of you. It needs to think about its contribution to the social fabric, to the leadership, to the health of the country,” Bial said. “The world changed for Union when it admitted women, and as a result Union helped change the world.”

Ainlay presented Bial with the John Bigelow Medal, which recognizes friends of the College who have contributed to the advancement of humanity. Bigelow, of Union’s Class of 1835, was an author, publisher, lawyer and statesman who was instrumental in the formation of the New York Public Library.

Also at Founders Day, Elizabeth Bossong, a Spanish teacher at Vestal Senior High School in Vestal, N.Y., received the Gideon Hawley Teacher Recognition Award.   Bossong was nominated by Misty Shah ’12. The award is named for the 1809 graduate of Union who was New York state’s first superintendent of public education.

Founders Day 2010
Kim Plofker, Dianne Camp, Judi Gordon,Kathy Heisinger, Gretchel Hathaway, Karen Ferrer-Muniz, Annette LeClair, Matt Milless

During the hour-long ceremony, Viki Brooks, director of Religious and Spiritual Life and Campus Protestant minister, was awarded the Doctor of Ministry degree by Ainlay, who stepped in when bad weather prevented Dr. Efrain Agosto, Academic Dean and Professor at the Hartford Seminary, from making the trip.

Union's Unity Quilt was also on display for the first time. The theme of the quilt is “Celebrating 215 years of family history at Union College.” The quilt consists of 173 squares designed by a number of campus groups, as well as alumni.

The event also featured a stirring performance by Heavenly Voices, the College’s gospel choir, which garnered a standing ovation.

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Posted on Feb 25, 2010

Dancing with U: The Ballroom Dance Club hosted a fundraiser last weekend, a takeoff of “Dancing with the Stars,” for the Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa. The foundation, co-founded by Phil Di Sorbo ’71, works with the Diana Legacy Fund, na


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Founders Day reminder

Posted on Feb 25, 2010

Deborah Bial, founder and president of the Posse Foundation

Don’t forget to come to Memorial Chapel at 12:45 p.m. today for Founders Day ceremonies.

Hear keynote speaker Deborah Bial, president and founder of the Posse Foundation, and a winner of the prestigious MacArthur Genius Award. Bial will speak about the value of a diverse community and receive the John Bigelow Medal, given to friends of Union who have contributed to the advancement of humanity. Posse, founded in 1989, provides leadership development and access to colleges and universities for young people. Union has been a Posse partner since 2006. 

Also: See the completed Union Unity Quilt for the first time, a spectacular undertaking. The quilt has 173 squares designed by campus groups and alumni. 

The Gideon Hawley Award, given to a secondary school teacher who has had a continuing influence on the academic life of a Union student, goes to Elizabeth Bossong of Vestal, N.Y., nominated by sophomore Misty Shah.

Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Viki Brooks will receive the Doctor of Ministry degree from Efrain Agosto of the Hartford Seminary.

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