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Big Night, Big Wins for Keuka College Alumni

Election Day 2015 was a stellar success for two Keuka College graduates. Aileen McNabb-Coleman ’00 and Tom Drumm ’15 both won seats in the Cayuga and Oswego county legislatures, respectively.

Aileen Coleman-McNabb, center, celebrates her victory Election Night. (Image courtesy the Auburn Citizen.)

Running on the Democrat, Independent and Working Family lines, Mc-Nabb-Coleman defeated opponent Joseph Runkle, to win a four-year term in Cayuga’s 6th District seat. Meanwhile, Drumm, who ran on the Democratic and Women’s Equality lines for Oswego’s 16thDistrict seat, defeated Republican opponent James Scanlon and will serve a two-year term. At Keuka College, McNabb-Coleman earned a degree in unified childhood/special education while Drumm earned degrees in political science and history and organizational communication.

“I believe strongly in engagement and participation in local government,” said McNabb-Coleman “Due to the climate of the national stage of politics, I find that citizens are disengaged; couple that with having busy careers and family life, and it is difficult to increase awareness.”

So she did something about it.

McNabb-Coleman and her family. (Image courtesy Aileen McNabb-Coleman).

“When I finally decided to run for county legislator, what drove me was the idea of setting our county on a new fiscally responsible path so that my children could enjoy the fruits of our labor—and representing women on a 15-member, all male, county legislature,” said McNabb-Coleman, who used the phrase “Run Like a Girl” in her campaign signs to reinforce her position.

Drumm said he ran on a message of “new energy and new blood” at the county level. He started getting that message out about six months ago when he launched his campaign and sticking to it proved effective, he said.

“I think those in the county are craving new leadership,” Drumm said. “I discussed that we seem to have become stagnant, whether in social issues or some economic areas as well.”

Drumm’s campaign got a boost the Sunday before Election Day from six political science and history majors at Keuka College who traveled to Oswego with Dr. Angela Narasimhan, assistant professor of political science and history. After convening briefly at the union hall for Oswego’s UA Local 73 to hear from Drumm about his platform, the group picked up campaign literature and set out to help Drumm make door-to-door visits.

The Keuka College team with Dr. Narasimhan, center, gave Drumm, left of her, in blue, a final boost.

“It was huge how that team helped me cover my entire district in a day,” Drumm said. “My opponent was a lifelong resident in the city, raised a family and he’s lived here probably 45 years, and sometimes that works to people’s advantage. I’m fresh out of college and it can take a lot to establish a coalition. The big thing is the final push – you have to turn out the vote. To get a push like that from students who traveled two hours to Oswego to help knock on doors for a campaign like mine – I’m in debt to them. I’m so grateful.”

According to Dr. Narasimhan, three of the students had never met Tom and several were interested in getting involved politically back home so they were eager to hear his story and his advice.

Drumm and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, during Drumm's freshman-year Field Period™ at one of Schumer's regional offices.

“He used each Field Period™ experience and his major to explore different avenues, and was able to tell my students about the connections he made and how he found an office to run for,” Dr. Narasimhan said, describing how Drumm learned from local party leaders the strategy they envisioned for him to win an open seat. The canvassing experience “absolutely” aligned with the College’s focus on experiential learning, she added.

During his time as a student, Drumm conducted separate Field Period™ experiences with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.) and the NYS Democratic Committee. He also completed his senior practicum with Doug Lippincott, Keuka College’s executive director of grants, government relations and compliance. Some of the individuals he met became mentors, Drumm said.

“It’s very rewarding to see it all pay off  – it’s exciting, and honestly, it’s a little overwhelming,” Drumm said, attributing his win to “not only how much I’ve learned but the amazing people I met during college —professors like Drs. Narasimhan, Chris Leahy, David Leon—who gave me the confidence and knowledge to be able to make a political run at 22.”

Both Drumm and McNabb-Coleman will be sworn into their new offices in early January.

Meet New Faculty: OT, management and sociology

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of Q&As with full-time faculty members who recently joined us at Keuka College. Today, meet three of the College’s new additions.

Dr. Kristen Bacon, assistant professor of occupational therapy, teaches OCC 430, guiding students in theories for field practice

Last book read: Pedretti’s Occupational Therapy Practice skills for physical dysfunction.

Favorite quote: Two personal quotes of mine: ”I don’t do math in public,” & “I’m an OT. I can adapt and overcome…almost anything.”

If you could be a fictional character, who would you be, and why: Tinker Bell… because she can fly anywhere she wants.

What makes teaching fun: The variety of students on campus, their personalities, & the satisfaction knowing you’ve taught the students part of something they’ll be using for the career.

What do you do for fun? I enjoy spending time with my husband & two daughters and together we enjoy family time and camping.

Dr. Mikhail Sher, assistant professor of operations management, currently teaches BUS 330 on operations and production management, and will teach a variety of management, finance and business analytics courses in the future.

Last book read: “The Power of Intuition” by Gary Klein. This book is about how we can use our intuition to make better decisions at work as well as in our personal lives.

Favorite quote: “It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.” — W. Edwards Deming

If you could be a fictional character, who would you be, and why: Neo from “The Matrix.” Do I really need to say why?

What makes teaching fun: I love seeing the growth and progress of my students!

What do you do for fun? I enjoy playing chess, watching football (Go Steelers!!!) and spending time outdoors.

Dr. Jessica MacNamara, assistant professor of sociology, joined the campus in 2014, and teaches classes including: Introduction to Sociology, Sociology of the Family, Environmental Sociology, Social Problems, Methods of Social Research, Applied Research Methods, First Year Workshop in Criminology, Criminal Justice, and Sociology, FYE Popular Culture & Society, and Independent Study in Sociology of Gender and Transgender Studies.

Last book read: “In the Shadow of the Banyan” by Vaddey Ratner

Favorite quote: “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity, or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” —Paulo Freire, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”

If you could be a fictional character, who would you be, and why: I can’t think of a single fictional character I’d like to be. I prefer my real life to anything fictional. But in terms of historical figures, I would enjoy spending a day in the life of W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963), American Sociologist and social reformer.

What makes teaching fun: Both the students and teaching subjects I’m passionate about make it fun!

What do you do for fun? I like to hike, swim, and travel.

Keuka College Celebrates Constitution Day

It was September 17, 1787. Presided over by George Washington, 39 of 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention gathered for the last time in Philadelphia to sign the document they had created.

Now, 228 years later, the United States Constitution (with its seven articles and 27 amendments) is still the supreme law governing our country. A federal observance commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution, and is celebrated each year on September 17.

Keuka College will mark Constitution Day, Thursday, Sept. 17 with a panel discussion. Free and open to the public, it runs from 4:30-6 p.m. in Hegeman Hall room 109.

Dr. Chris Leahy, professor of history, and Linda Park, director of Lightner Library, along with students taking Constitutional Law with Dr. Angela Narasimhan, assistant professor of political science, will make up the panel.

“The purpose of our panel is to educate the audience on how the Constitution has changed, and the tension between having an enduring original document vs. one that reflects the political issues of the present day,” said Dr. Narasimhan.

According to Dr. Narasimhan, the panel will also discuss the Constitution and amendments that address current political issues.

“Some possible amendments include term limits for Congress and Supreme Court justices, so that they can’t stay in office forever and there is greater representation; limits on campaign spending; allowing foreign-born naturalized presidents; and eliminating the Electoral College,” added Dr. Narasimhan.

Created in 2004, Constitution Day, later named Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, is typically observed each September 17, the day in 1787 that delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document in Philadelphia.

America’s first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, was ratified in 1781, a time when the nation was a loose confederation of states, each operating like independent countries. The national government was comprised of a single legislature, the Congress of the Confederation; there was no president or judicial branch.

At the 1787 convention, delegates devised a plan for a stronger federal government with three branches—executive, legislative and judicial—along with a system of checks and balances to ensure no single branch would have too much power. The Bill of Rights—10 amendments guaranteeing basic individual protections such as freedom of speech and religion—became part of the Constitution in 1791.

To read the entire United States Constitution, or learn more about Constitution Day, click here.

Rethinking First Impressions

American history is full of examples of people whose appearance, background, religion, sex, or race caused other people to discount them at the beginning, but who overcame that underestimation to make important contributions.

So said Dr. Christopher Leahy, professor of history and the 2014-15 Professor of the Year at Keuka College, in his keynote address Tuesday at academic convocation, which marks the official opening of the 2015-16 academic year. The ceremony 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. This year, a record-setting number of new students experienced this symbolic rite of passage.

In Dr. Leahy’s address, the eight-year faculty veteran challenged students to resist the temptation to discount what someone else might teach them because of “superficial attributes.” He gave two examples from American history of individuals initially underestimated who defied expectations to make an undeniable mark: Al Smith, a NY State Assemblyman and four-term governor, and Fannie Lou Hamer, a civil rights activist and one-time Congressional candidate from Mississippi.

New members of the Keuka College Class of 2019.

“People underestimated both Al Smith and Fannie Lou Hamer,” Dr. Leahy contended. “In Smith’s case, his colleagues in the NY State Assembly believed they had nothing to learn from a Bowery Irishman whose accent and (Catholic) religion were suspect. In Hamer’s case, her impoverished background, her race—and her sex—led white Mississippians to doubt her resolve and ability to effect change… Enough people doubted them, or told them they could not succeed, that they might have started to believe it themselves. Yet they did not.”

According to Dr. Leahy, Smith’s lack of formal education and Catholic background garnered condescension from Ivy League-educated legislators from elsewhere in the state, when he first won his Assembly seat in 1903. Yet Smith fought to prove himself, committing legislative bills to memory, sponsoring bills of his own, and leading the commission investigating the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911. Ultimately, Smith was elected governor of New York in 1917, served four terms and became the first Catholic to earn the Democratic nomination for U.S. President in 1928.

The granddaughter of slaves and child to sharecropper parents, Hamer became a vocal activist in the civil rights movement, literally singing hymns to scores of African-Americans riding buses to voter registration stations throughout the state. Famous for the line “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Hamer endured an arrest, jail beating and other persecutions to rally African-Americans and white students in the North to support civil rights. Her work helped bring national attention to the Civil Rights Bill championed by Pres. Lyndon Johnson in 1964. In addition to a run for Congress, Hamer also fought to win seats for African-American delegates of the Mississippi Freedom Party at the Democratic National Convention; stymied in 1964, she succeeded by 1968.

Dr. Leahy even shared a personal instance of underestimation: as a high school sophomore in Baltimore, Leahy complained to a friend after just one class that his new European history teacher, Dr. Dan Allen, was a boring government bureaucrat with a funny accent. But Leahy learned quite a lesson as Dr. Allen—who’d overheard the complaints —dismantled every presumption Leahy made, in the next class and over the course of the year.

Professor of the Year Dr. Christopher Leahy, right, with President Díaz-Herrera.

An embarrassed Leahy was surprised to learn that Dr. Allen had a background in military intelligence with the U.S. Air Force, and spent four years working as the American embassy’s military expert in Czechoslovakia. Further, Dr. Allen was a friend of Dr. Jeane Kirkpatrick, the Georgetown University professor who helped shape American policy during the Cold War as Pres. Ronald Reagan’s Ambassador to the United Nations. Dr. Allen eventually became one of Leahy’s favorite teachers and inspired him to pursue a doctorate of his own.

Dr. Leahy closed with a 1910 quote from President Theodore Roosevelt that advocates credit be given to the individual who “strives valiantly,” in spite of coming short, “spends himself in a worthy cause;” and who ultimately experiences either the enthusiasms and devotions of high achievement or who “at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.’”

Brief remarks to welcome new students were also shared Tuesday by College President Dr. Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera and Alan Ziegler, vice-chair of the Board of Trustees. The president encouraged students that the College will prepare them for the journey of their professional life, particularly through developing individuals who know how to apply digital technology within the context of their respective professions. The College’s Digital Learning@Keuka College (DL@KC) initiative includes a digital studies minor and incorporates digital literacy throughout the curriculum.

“My advice to you, Class of 2019, is to learn as much about this as you can. Learn to read and write code, the new literacy,” Dr. Díaz-Herrera challenged, posing questions aspects of DL@KC could answer within a number of academic majors. “You will learn that you have the power to do amazing things. When you graduate from Keuka College you will have that thread of digital literacy woven through all aspects of your education.”

Click here for more photos from Academic Convocation

Freshman Presents Research at Yale University

George Kotlik at the Yale University campus.

KEUKA PARK, N.Y.—When George Kotlik came to Keuka College, he never imagined he’d end up at Yale University. But thanks to a paper he co-wrote with Dr. Angela Narasimhan, assistant professor of history and political science, that’s exactly where he was this April.

It’s rare for even seniors to present their findings at a scholarly conference attended by experts in the field. But Kotlik did so —as a freshman.

Kotlik brought a research proposal to Dr. Naraminhan last fall. Here’s where the interests of student and professor intersect. The question? When students in the U.S. study the American Revolution, is the story told through a purely American point of view? What’s the British take on the American War for Independence? To search for an answer, they decided to examine how American government textbooks address that era and why.

Dr. Angela Narasimhan

The resulting paper, titled “Colonial Controversy: Examining Critical Perspectives on the American Revolution in Undergraduate American Government Textbooks,” was presented at the New England Political Science Association conference, held this year at Yale.

Fascinated with early American history since childhood, Kotlik said discussion on early forms of government in Narasimhan’s American Government class piqued his interest further.

“The paper examines the American Revolution and outlines, in depth, the British perspective on the Revolution. We took a look at five different American government textbooks and examined the Founding Era in each. What we found was really interesting,” Kotlik said. “The books that leaned more towards a pro-British standpoint offered more factual information than those that leaned more towards the American standpoint.”

George and fellow political science major Abdul Qumsani at the conference. Poli sci major Emily Black also attended.

According to Narasimhan, it’s extraordinary for an upperclassman to co-author a paper with a professor, let alone a freshman, “and it was a terrific experience for us both,” she said. “George quickly distinguished himself from his peers this year, with outstanding academic achievement across the board.”

Beyond the process of research and writing the paper, Kotlik said he gleaned experience in understanding the process of peer review that paper proposals receive before they can be accepted for publication in a scholarly journal.

“Attending the conference was a very exciting time,” Kotlik added. “Overall, it was a unique experience that I am so thankful for and wouldn’t trade for the world. It’s all thanks to the wonderful professors at Keuka College.”