By College President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera
As predictable as students returning to their college classrooms every fall is the attack on the value of a college education—in particular a liberal arts education—in print.
What makes the latest round of punches surprising is the person throwing them. It’s hard to believe that one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy and a graduate of Dartmouth, Oxford, and Yale would pen a piece titled “College is a Ludicrous Waste of Money.”
But that is exactly what Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under President Clinton and current Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley did in a recent issue of Salon.
Professor Reich’s piece came on the heels of “For Some Graduates, College Isn’t Worth the Debt,” written by The Wall Street Journal’s Doug Belkin. In terms of name recognition, Belkin doesn’t pack the wallop Reich does, but his vehicle wields a lot more influence—not to mention readers—than Salon.
Professor Reich gets right to the point, stating that “a four-year liberal arts education is hugely expensive” and “too many young people graduate laden with debts that take years if not decades to pay off.”
As president of Keuka College, I will speak from an independent college perspective only. I disagree with the esteemed Professor Reich. In 2011-12, more than 25 percent of students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from a four-year independent college or university did not have any debt at all and the average debt load was $19,500. And here is one of the reasons: independent colleges give students nearly six times as much institutional grant aid as does the federal government.
Belkin weighs in on the debt issue, writing “…one in 10 borrowers is 90 days late on payments.” Perhaps, but the average student loan default rate for independent college graduates is only 5.2 percent.
Belkin states that “roughly a quarter of college graduates with jobs are earning barely more than those with only a high-school diploma.” This is deceiving, since our country is still recovering from a severe economic downturn. But here’s some numbers Belkin did not mention: lifetime earnings of college degree holders range from $700,000 to $1 million more than those who have only a high school diploma.
Professor Reich asserts that “too often in America we equate ‘equal opportunity’ with an opportunity to get a four-year liberal arts degree; it should equate to “an opportunity to learn what’s necessary to get a good job.” You are right on both counts, Professor Reich. A college degree provides the best opportunity to get a good job.
Professor Reich isn’t off base with his contention that “we’ve allowed vocational and technical education to be downgraded and denigrated.” However, to put the blame on “our aspirations to increasingly focus on four-year college degrees” is way off base.
Why do technical and liberal arts educations have to be mutually exclusive? The fact is many liberal arts colleges are infusing some level of vocationalism into their curricula. At Keuka College, we are combining digital with liberal arts. Our graduates will understand the basic canon of our civilization and how to explore and communicate their ideas using modern tools through interactive visual communication, data manipulation and analytics.
As the late Steve Jobs said, “… it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”
I hope that Professor Reich did not write the headline for his opinion piece. It would be ludicrous to believe that one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century, according to TIME magazine, actually believes college is a waste of money.
When Sarah Ameigh flew to Honduras in August she carried two suitcases and a carry-on bag. The carry-on held her clothes and personal items, while the suitcases were crammed with fabric. Intended for the women of Tegucigalpa, the capital city, the fabric was destined for use in sewing and crafting small items such as table runners, scarves and tote bags the women sell in order to support their families.
In Honduras, poverty is nearly as rampant as the crime caused by roving gangs – primarily fueled by the drug cartels. With many men caught up in illegal gang activity, or busy working harsh jobs, few children see their fathers; often, siblings don’t even have the same mother and father, Ameigh described. As such, education and empowerment to learn skills that can sustain a family become critical. Indeed, each of the 13 other travelers also flying with Ameigh filled their own suitcases with other supplies, medicine or craft materials needed to benefit the schoolchildren and families they came to serve with the “Border Buddies” mission organization.
The myriad of socio-economic issues facing the families and children in Honduras was a fascinating study for Ameigh, who is completing a bachelor’s degree in social work through Keuka College, studying each week at Corning Community College through the Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP).
“Social work is all about human service. One of the main goals is to be out there and help promote change and social change,” she said, explaining that the primary purpose of the service trip was to add four new classrooms and a kitchen to a school building used for 250 children ages four through 12. The trip was sponsored through Ameigh’s home church, Victory Highway Wesleyan Church in Painted Post, and was the 30th visit in nine years that members of the church have made to that city and its mission outposts, she said.
According to Ameigh, all 250 schoolchildren had been “plastered in” to just six classrooms and most had no place to eat at school, one of the few places that can help counter the poverty at home. Even so, there are few books, but because the children have no better comparison, they are simply happy to be there, she said.
Like many other locales within the city, the school grounds were gated because of the threat of gang violence. According to Ameigh, the threat was so strong that mission team members were not allowed to go near the gates as they worked on the building repairs in order to ensure their safety. The team members heard that gang initiations often require killing another gang member or a personal family member and learned that only one in three children is safe from the threat of assault.
Building school rooms for the kids provides a safe place to learn, so they can get off the streets and have a good job,” said Ameigh, who missed one week of her ASAP classes to participate in the trip, but had the full support of her professors, Susan Grover Vanpelt and Doyle Pruitt.
While Ameigh completed a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2002, after a brief stint in the banking industry, she switched jobs and started working for the Steuben County ARC. Ten years later, the passion for her work prompted her to enroll in the Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) for a bachelor’s degree in social work. Ultimately, she hopes to complete an MSW degree and become a licensed clinical social worker with a focus in counseling, she said.
On the first full day of service, the mission team set to work transforming the shell into new schoolrooms. While Ameigh helped sand walls, then prime, paint and sand some more, others including her older sister Bethany worked on the roof of the building. As the week, and work, continued, the team – which ranged from two 15-year-old boys to adults in their 50s – made visits to other local schools in the afternoons. While a few women would instruct native women in the sewing and craft techniques, others such as Ameigh would keep the children busy playing games such as soccer, or learning their own arts and crafts.
In contrast to Sarah’s two suitcases stuffed with fabric, Bethany Ameigh carried plastic “melting beads” in her two suitcases, Sarah said. Gathered with string, the beads are melted with an iron into fun shapes, Sarah Ameigh said. The two sisters learned that balloon animals were also quite a draw and that Honduran children have a funny habit of coating their bodies with the colored dust from sidewalk chalk decorating the ground.
Citing her course in human behavior, Ameigh said much of life success is impacted by the environment a child grows up in. The missionary couple hosting the team from New York’s southern tier emphasized especially to men in the group “to be sure to spend time with the kids because fathers aren’t really part of their lives,” said Ameigh.
“Unless something intervenes, they’ll end up in the same situation as their family [members],” she said.
Recalling how the missionary couple described the rescue of one young man, previously living a life of crime and violence, Ameigh said the trip helped show her the value of the career she’s pursuing.
“He’d leave after school Friday, party the whole weekend and come back on Monday. But he’s now part of the youth group, has to show up two nights a week, hold to a certain grade standard, and [sell food] around the barrio to make money,” she described. “The missionaries are saving one life of a child on the streets and now these kids are working and going into a trade there,” she said, comparing the trade system of Honduras to the colleges of America.
“The mission of social work is to help empower people to make change in their own lives – we’re not doing it for them,” Sarah said, citing the women and their training in sewing and crafts as one example.
Despite the shock of the extreme degree of poverty and crime, the children were endearing, Sarah said, recalling one little girl named Jamie who brought Sarah’s sister Bethany a sugar wafer one morning – a small treat that must have cost the little girl nearly all she had – but was so distraught she did not have another for Sarah that she ran, crying, all the way to the store, in order to buy a second treat to share.
“I hated to take it, but they said you should so that these children can learn the empowerment of giving, too,” Sarah Ameigh said. “It was weird coming back because of what we saw. It’s dirty, it’s dangerous and you come back and you’re in culture shock. You look at your house and say, I don’t need this. I don’t need that. It changes you.”
The Keuka College softball team experienced success on the softball diamond in 2014, qualifying for the annual North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) postseason tournament while winning 16 or more games for the ninth straight year.
The Wolfpack’s success extended beyond the playing field, as seven student-athletes earned All-America Scholar-Athlete honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA).
Earning the academic honors for the Green and Gold were (with their class from last year): seniors Katie Evangelista (Geneva, N.Y./Geneva), Danielle Gravel (Sidney, N.Y./Sidney) and Jill Hart (Cowlesville, NY/Iroquois), sophomores Allyson Muller (Bath, NY/Haverling) and Liz Warren (Elmira Heights, NY/Thomas A. Edison), and freshmen Brianna Long (Arkport, N.Y./Dansville) and Brittany Massi (Auburn, N.Y./Port Byron).
To earn All-America Scholar-Athlete honors from the NFCA, a student-athlete had to post a grade-point average of 3.5 or better (on a 4.0 scale) in both the fall and spring semesters.
This is the second straight year that Hart, Muller and Warren have earned All-America Scholar-Athlete honors, and the first time Evangelista, Gravel, Long and Massi have received the academic honors.
Nationally, more than 4,660 softball players earned NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete honors last year, including 1,005 student-athletes at the NCAA Division III level.
Keuka College was one of 159 Division III institutions to land student-athletes on the All-America Scholar-Athlete squads.
Keuka went 16-10 overall and 14-4 in the NEAC during the 2014 season. The Wolfpack advanced into the NEAC tournament before falling on day three of the double-elimination competition.
For the latest stories, schedules and results from Keuka athletics, visit www.KCWolfpack.com, go to the Keuka Athletics Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/KeukaAthletics, and like us on Instagram and Twitter @KeukaAthletics.
A romantic comedy in three acts, Keuka College’s fall theatrical production, The Lady’s Not for Burning is set in the Middle Ages.
Written by Christopher Fry, the play reflects the world’s “exhaustion and despair” following World War II, with a war-weary soldier who wants to die, and an accused witch who wants to live. In form, it resembles Shakespeare’s pastoral comedies.
Directed by Professor of Theatre Mark Wenderlich, The Lady’s Not for Burning opens Friday, Oct. 17. The show begins at 8 p.m. in the Red Barn Theater, with additional performances Saturday, Oct. 18 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 19 at 1 p.m. and again at 7 p.m.
“There are some neat angles in this show, as the play is co-produced by the Penn Yan Theatre Co. (PYTCo.), the Division of Humanities and Fine Art, and the Arion Players Drama Club,” said Wenderlich. “Two town people are in the cast, and we also have two alumni and a staff member [in the production].”
Thomas Mendip, a discharged soldier, weary of the world and eager to leave it, comes to small town Cool Clary, announces he has committed murder and demands to be hanged. A philosophical humorist, Thomas is annoyed when the officials oppose his request, even believing he is not guilty of the crime he suggests. Shortly afterward, a young woman, Jennet, is brought before the mayor for witchcraft, but for some strange reason she has no wish to be put to death.
A dark comedy of rare wit and exulted language, Thomas tries, in his own way, to prove to the official how absurd it would be to refuse to hang a man who wants to be hanged, and at the same time to kill a woman who is not only guiltless, but doesn’t want to die. Jennet enjoys the banter, and soon sees the merit in Thomas the man.
The mayor’s family members, clerks and officials gather for an impending wedding and seem to be stuck with the dilemma of two uninvited people—who may or may not be hanged in the morning—who must be included in the pre-nuptial activities.
First produced in England, The Lady’s Not for Burning had a successful run in New York. It has proved, because of its delightful freshness, the dramatic thrust of its poetry, and the sheer high spirits with which the author has endowed his characters, a joy to producer and actor, as well as to the audience.
The New York Herald Tribune called it “a poetic fantasy of rare splendor and delight…a work of magical humor and deep beauty.”
The cast includes Ryan Gillotti (Richard), a senior American Sign Language-English interpreting major from Auburn; Alicia Brown (Alizon Elliot), a senior occupational science major from Kirkwood; Phil Atherlay (Nichols), a junior adolescent English/special education major from Deposit; Jake Banas (Chaplain), a senior English major from Delmar; and Caleigh Alterio ’14 (Jennet Jourdamaine), who is pursuing her degree in occupational therapy.
Justin Krog, program developer for the College’s Office of Information Technology Services (ITS), portrays Tappercoom. Penn Yan resident Brian Cobb ’08, M’11 will return to his alma mater to portray Thomas Mendip in the production. Cobb teaches English at Penn Yan Academy. Logan Ackerly ’14 also returns to his alma mater and will portray Humphrey. Ackerly serves as an installation merchandiser at Hallmark Cards in the Greater New York City Area. John P. Christensen, reporter for the Penn Yan Chronicle Express portrays Hebble Tyson, mayor. Eileen Farrar, a Penn Yan resident who has worked with PYTCo., portrays Margaret.
Amelia Gonnella, a freshman clinical science major from Marcellus, serves as stage manager.
Tickets are $5 for Keuka College students, faculty, staff, and alumni; and $10 for the general public. Seating is limited. Tickets for The Lady’s not for Burning can be purchased in advance on instantseats.com, and are available at the box office.
In the digital age we live in, the Sistine Chapel isn’t farther than a quick Google search away. Photographs of the ceiling there have richer detail than ever before, information about Michelangelo is available at one’s fingertips on a multitude of websites and inside a plethora of books. But is seeing it on a screen or on a page really the same?
Not if you ask Ann Tuttle, professor of management and one of three faculty members who supervised a group Field Period™ to Florence, Venice and Rome the week after Commencement for 16 Keuka College students.
“It’s not the same to read about it as to experience it,” Tuttle said, contrasting the biweekly meetings members of the group held over months of preparation, to learn history, art, culture, and language with the 10 days the group spent in Italy itself.
“Seeing the things we’d learned about for ourselves was so much better and more meaningful than I could have imagined. Immersion in a culture is fulfilling and moving, it helps you to understand there is more out there than what we know,” Tuttle said.
Students and faculty who experienced the wonders of Italy together will share their experiences Monday, Sept. 29 from 5-9 p.m. at the North Education Conference Center, and will also serve refreshments. All members of the college community are invited to come and see the culmination of the trip, much of which was coordinated through Assistant Professor of Education Dr. Denise Love. Last year, Love coordinated a group Field Period™ to Vienna, Prague and the Slovakian cities of Nitra and Bratislava along with Dr. Klaudia Lorinczova, assistant professor of education, and Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art. Newcomb returned for this year’s trip, and the group also welcomed Dr. Jean Wannall, professor of occupational therapy, and her husband, Nathan Wannall, who helped serve as group Field Period™ leaders too.
Following the pattern set last year, students again kept online journals and blogs detailing their personal reflections in words and photographs.
“I imagined Michelangelo spending all of his time in there, working on the perfect detail,” wrote Kelsey Harmer ‘15, after visiting the Sistine Chapel. “At first I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t take pictures, but it made me appreciate the artwork so much more.”
For her part, Newcomb said she was “overtaken with emotion looking at a masterpiece I had only seen in a photograph or video. I could have stayed there all day.”
The trip was educational for her too, even as a professor, she said, especially since she has always dreamed about seeing Rome after studying so much art history.
“I can now say I have seen real masterpieces. I can share the experience and passion with my students. I can reach out to students in a different way now that I have walked through Italy. Passion will definitely be present in the classroom,” she explained.
The group was able to experience making real Italian pasta, riding on gondolas in Venice, visiting Pompeii, and enjoying the beautiful waters surrounding Capri. Of course, some experiences don’t always go according to plan. For example, authentic Italian cuisine is entirely different from the Italian-American food most of the students were expecting, as Brittany Gleason ’15 discovered at an Italian restaurant where, under pressure, she ordered pizza with sausage on it.
“A few minutes later they brought out a large pizza with sliced hot dogs on it. So, today I also learned that ‘sausage’ here means our hot dogs,” Gleason wrote.
Guided daily by an Italian native named Mario, both students and chaperones wrote about their newfound love for gelato, Italy’s slightly more intense version of ice cream. While in the city of San Gimignano, the group was able to get gelato at the famous Gelateria di Piazza, which many consider the best in the world.
According to Kayla Hall ’15, they weren’t kidding.
“I thought the other places were good,” Hall wrote. “Did you know that the best way to tell if a gelato is of good quality is to hang it upside down? If it falls off you have a lame gelato, but if it stays on, it is one of the good ones. This one stayed on!”
In addition to its rich history of food and art, Italy is also known for its considerable architectural achievements, dating back to the ruins of ancient Rome. Perhaps best-known is the four-level Coliseum, or Flavian Theater. Built of concrete and stone, the stadium was used for animal fights, staged sea battles, and the famous gladiator matches.
“When you look at the Coliseum today the floor is removed, so you are able to see where the slaves were kept before they came up for battle,” wrote Jenna Bird ’15. “This was pretty surreal to experience because we were able to see exactly where slaves were kept essentially before they were sent to their deaths.”
“Pictures don’t do any place justice, especially when it comes to the scale of architecture,” described Newcomb. “It’s overwhelming but wonderful at the same time. It makes you really appreciate the experience of how something so massive and beautiful was created, how all the tiny details were created by hand. Each part tells a story, and you could study it for days.”
“Even though we saw so much and maximized our time, there could never be enough time,” Tuttle said, “It made me want to go back, to see more someday.”
“I want to say thank you to Keuka College and all of those that have supported group Field Period™, because it is a life-changing and life- enhancing experience,” Tuttle said.
Additional students who participated in the group Field Period™ included Alyssa Ange, Shawnee Brown, Amber Callahan, Marina Kilpatrick, Brittany Kuhn, Brianna Longwell, Brooke Reynolds, Anna Tomasso, Haley Tuttle, Justin Merrill, Lakwan Alleyne-Hall and Ian Wentzel.