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Abbott’s Address: Finding Beauty in Any Subject

Contrary to popular opinion, the field of mathematics is creative, even beautiful particularly to mathematicians. In a similar way, beauty can be found in the general education courses new undergraduate students might be tempted to rush through, as if merely items to check off on a list.

So says Dr. Catherine Abbott, professor of mathematics at Keuka College and the 2013-14 Professor of the Year. Delivering the keynote address Tuesday at academic convocation, Abbott, a 13-year veteran among the faculty, welcomed new freshmen and transfer students to campus and challenged them to seek new learning experiences within the diverse array of possibilities available to them.

Often Abbott says she is asked why she enjoys mathematics, but the question is frequently delivered in much the same tone as when Abbott asked her young daughter why she would want to dye her hair with Kool-Aid. As laughter peppered the rows of those seated in Norton Chapel, Abbott then explained what it is about math that she finds so satisfying.

“Many times students tell me they like mathematics because, ‘there is only one answer,’” she said, adding such a response often tempts her to reply that while there may only be one answer, there are frequently “multiple ways to get there.”

Photo by Stephanie Lockhart '15

Citing the Pythagorean Theorem as one such example, Abbott pointed to some of her favorite distinctive mathematical proofs including one attributed to Euclid, one by former U.S. President James Garfield, and a 1939 proof, devised by American Maurice Laisnez, then a high school student. What all three shared in common, Abbott said, was the desire to create.

So too, Abbott discovered her own creativity – and an appreciation for the creativity of other mathematicians – as she worked to solve complex equations. It sometimes took days, and then weeks to solve questions as an undergraduate and later, grad student, she described. While completing her doctorate, it could take months. While it felt “tremendous” when finally solving a challenging theorem, she said, there were also many other questions she was never able to answer. Still, mathematicians the world over use words like “elegant” to describe the beauty, even poetry within their equations and proofs.

“What makes a proof or theorem ‘elegant?’ I don’t think I could hope to quantify it any more than I could hope to explain my tastes in art, music, or literature—or our current math majors’ obsession with Dr. Who, for that matter,” she said.

According to Abbott, she chose the discipline of mathematics “for much the same reasons my colleagues on the faculty have made their choices. My field is creative, beautiful, challenging, and exciting.”

Photo by Stephanie Lockhart '15

“What about you?” she asked, turning the question to students. “What is going to excite you? Will it be the English course where you learn to appreciate a piece of poetry for the first time? Will it be the history course where you really understand the relationship between World War I and World War II?”

Citing her own experience entering college with an undecided major, Abbott advised students not to hurry through general education courses, lest they miss the hidden beauty of diverse subjects.

“You wouldn’t drive from New York to California without taking time to appreciate the scenery,” she said.

“How do I know this? From my office directly across from Jephson 101, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy some fantastic classes during the last thirteen years,” Abbott said, referring to a central lecture hall in the Jephson Science Center. “So take your time to enjoy these courses.  You may not find your passion, but then again, you may. I wish you success in your journey here at Keuka College.”

Also welcoming news students with brief remarks at academic convocation were College President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera and Robert Schick, chair of the Board of Trustees. The ceremony marks the official opening of the 2014-15 academic year and includes a colorful processional with upperclassman bearing flags from around the world and faculty in regalia lining the sidewalk to Norton Chapel and applauding new students as they enter. The symbolic rite of passage is an annual tradition for the College.

More photos from Academic Convocation.

Mary Martini-Hauser Nominated for Geneva ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award

Keuka College’s Director of Counseling Services Mary Martini-Hauser is among the five nominees for this year’s Geneva ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award.

Established in 2007, the award is for an emerging woman leader, 40 years of age or younger, who demonstrates excellence, creativity and initiative in her business or profession; provides valuable service to improve the quality of life for others in her community; and clearly serves as a role model for young women, both professionally and personally.

“I am honored to be among this incredible group of women,” said Martini-Hauser, who was nominated by her husband, Justin Hauser. “Hearing what they have done for our community is inspiring, and it makes me want to do even more.”

Martini-Hauser’s husband works with the Geneva Chamber of Commerce and Seneca County Chamber of Commerce, and “knows some past recipients,” she said. “He thought about what I do for the community and decided to nominate me. He believed my hard work needed to be highlighted, and his nomination of me was a complete surprise.”

In her role at Keuka College, the Geneva resident provides Keuka College students with professional counseling services and works alongside the College to enrich student lives, both physically and mentally.

“My office offers confidential individual counseling, couples and roommate counseling, and group counseling,” said Martini-Hauser. “We offer stress relief tips, provide alcohol screening, and participate in One Walk, which raises awareness to help prevent suicide.”

She also is involved in resident assistant (RA) training, and speaks with all new students in their wellness classes.

“I hope after I talk with them, they see me as a trusted person they can talk with,” said Martini-Hauser, who strives to be a positive role model to the students.

Martini-Hauser serves as an ambassador for the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce, where she volunteers at such events as the annual golf tournament, membership barbeques, and Cork & Fork, a popular two-day event that offers participants an opportunity to sample and buy locally-made products from area farms, wineries, chefs, restaurants and other food producers.

In addition, she is a founding member of Finger Lakes Young Professionals, a group that offers networking forums, professional development, and volunteer opportunities to young professionals of the Greater Finger Lakes Region. She also is an active volunteer at St. Mary’s Church in Waterloo.

Added Martini-Hauser: “If I receive the award, it will push me to be sure I am doing the best I can.”

The winner will be announced Sept. 18 at the 10th annual ATHENA Awards dinner at Ventosa Vineyards in Fayette.

Keuka College Employees Honored at Community Day

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President Díaz-Herrera presents the Presidential Award for Sustained Outstanding Achievement to Sandra Devaux

Twenty-two faculty and staff members were recognized for their service and dedication to Keuka College at Community Day Aug. 19.

Five-year service awards were presented to: Dianne Trickey-Rokenbrod, assistant professor of occupational therapy; Lynne Heath, academic records specialist; Troy Cusson, instructional design manager, Wertman Office of Distance Education; Michele “Mikki” Sheldon, administrative assistant for the Office of Academic Affairs; Jessica Dunkelberger, director of program administration and student services; Christen Accardi, assistant director of marketing; Teresa Ripley, administrative assistant for the Division of Humanities and Fine Art; Eric Detar, College chaplain; Timothy White; resident director and assistant director of  housing and residence life; Alex Perryman, assistant professor of finance; Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art; and Jennie Joiner, chair, Division of Humanities and Fine Art and assistant professor of English.

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President Díaz-Herrera presents the Presidential Award for Sustained Outstanding Achievement to Ann Tuttle

Ten-year service awards were presented to: Kristen Harter, assistant director of admissions, traditional; Janet Lanphear, data entry coordinator; and Carmela Battaglia, professor of occupational therapy.

Fifteen-year service awards were presented to: Mike McKenzie, assistant professor of philosophy and religion; Jason Paige, head men’s lacrosse coach; and Deb Jensen, accounting assistant, payroll.

A 20-year service award was presented to Gary Smith, professor of management.

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President Díaz-Herrera presents the Presidential Award for Sustained Outstanding Achievement to Eric Detar

Merit awards were presented to Rebecca Capek, resident director and success advocate; and Dunkelberger.

Presidential Awards for Sustained Outstanding Achievement were presented to: Ann Tuttle, professor of management; Detar; and Sandra Devaux, graphic designer.

More photos from Community Day.

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed Visits Campus, Educates Students on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

Reed and President Díaz-Herrera pose with students who attended the congressman's talk, including the women's volleyball team, new student mentors, and the men's and women's soccer teams.

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) met with Keuka College students, faculty, staff, and administrators at the Jephson Community Athletic Complex Thursday afternoon to talk about a pressing and serious issue: domestic violence and sexual assault.

According to the National Institute of Justice, one in five women experiences sexual assault during her college years, a figure that Reed hopes to reduce not only through proposed legislation, but by personally educating college students in his district through visits similar to Thursday’s.

Reed told the story of how his 18-year-old niece was sexually assaulted during a high school prom. “This topic is personal to me …. she was the victim of a horrific crime, and it tore our family apart,” he said.

Reed shared his first-hand experience with the impact sexual assault and domestic violence has on women and their families to a captive audience, many of whom were student-athletes and mentors to new students.

Reed said seeing his niece’s pain devastated him, but that he was proud of her for “standing up [in court], facing her attackers, looking them in the eye, and saying what they did was not okay.

“I decided to use my office as a means to bring awareness to these issues, and together, we’re going to say ‘no more’ to sexual assault and domestic violence,” Reed told the crowd, referencing the national campaign he and his staff are involved with. NO MORE seeks to raise awareness of, and bring an end to, domestic violence and sexual assault.

Reed also talked about the recently introduced Campus Accountability and Safety Act, a piece of bipartisan legislation he and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are together championing along with more than a dozen other lawmakers.

“I’m a republican and she’s a democrat, but that doesn’t matter,” he said. “We need to come together as a nation and say enough is enough.”

The proposed legislation requires, among other things, training for college personnel and gives students access to confidential advisors on campus, two things Keuka College’s policies already require. The bill would also increase accountability and cooperation with law enforcement at all of the nation’s colleges and universities.

Sophomore Kelly Bailey, an adolescent mathematics education major from Avon and member of the women’s volleyball team, said she is encouraged that elected leaders such as Reed and Gillibrand are doing everything they can to raise awareness of these issues.

“I thought it was a great message and brings a lot to our campus,” she said. “I’m training to be a high school math teacher, and this is a big issue in high schools, too.”

When asked how students can help, Reed replied by saying they should share his message.

“Talk about it. Talk about what it’s like to be in a healthy relationship. And when you see something wrong, step up and say something. Do something. I know each and every one of you will know it when you see it,” Reed said.

Reed’s message aligns perfectly with Keuka College’s commitment to threading social responsibility throughout its curriculum.

“To have the congressman talk so openly and honestly about this was surprising to many, but I don’t think it’s something our students will forget, and that’s a good thing,” said Keuka College President Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera. “Keuka College is one of the safest campuses in the country, but we can never lower our guard. We must talk about these topics openly and honestly to prevent anything from happening.”

“We want our students to be citizens and leaders who serve their communities, the nation, and the world. Sharing stories such as Congressman Reed’s is one powerful way they can do that.”

Movin’ In

Among the newcomers to Keuka College is Kelsie Gill, who plans to major in occupational science.

Keuka College welcomes its new students to campus Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Returning students, faculty, and staff were on hand to welcome the newest members of the Keuka College family, answer questions, and assist moving the students into their rooms.

All new students will participate in the Transition Week program, which includes sessions addressing new student issues, academics, team-building, social activities, and preparation for the first day of classes. The week’s activities mark the transition to college life and give newcomers the opportunity to prepare for their new role as Keuka College students.

Classes begin Monday, Aug. 25.

Click here for more photos.