“The Rocky’s” Celebrate Campus Leadership

By Rei Ramos ’15
University Communications

Each spring, the Office of the Dean of Students and the Rochester Center for Community Leadership recognize undergraduate students and organizations that have made significant contributions to campus life. Nominated by faculty, staff, and peers, Student Life Award recipients represent diverse interests, talents, and accomplishments but are united in their strength in leadership, fervor for engagement in campus life, and their aim to be a positive influence on peers, all of which help the campus community become ever better.

This year, the awards, also referred to as the “The Rocky’s,” went to 20 undergraduates and two student organizations. “I think the winners represent a large demographic that follows their passions and gives back to others in all sorts of ways,” said Ed Feldman, associate director of leadership programs at the Rochester Center for Community Leadership and chair of the selection committee. “With over 200 organizations on campus, students have the resources and capacity to be part of something bigger than just themselves,” he added.  Feldman believes that the leadership opportunities on campus provide students with a means to create and promote positive social change in the immediate community and beyond.

2014-04-17_student_life_awards_13303Friends, family, and colleagues of the honorees were invited to an intimate awards reception, which also was attended by University administrators and campus leaders. All the winning students and organizations received engraved glass trophies and certificates.

Japanese Students’ Association was honored as this year’s Outstanding Student Organization. Founded in spring 2013, the group has rounded out its first year with events both cultural and philanthropic. In October, they hosted the Omatsuri Festival, offering the local community a glimpse (and taste) of the breadth of Japanese culture. In the spring, JSA collaborated with the Filipino American Students’ Association to host a Relief Concert to raise funds for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

Founding club president and biology major George Iwaoka ’16 said that JSA’s first year was focused and geared towards impactful programming.  The group aims not only to celebrate but also share Japan’s culture with people of all backgrounds. “Our goal is to provide an opportunity for the entire campus community to experience Japanese culture as more than just sushi, anime, or samurai,” said Iwaoka. In the coming years, Iwaoka hopes to see the group grow in size and prominence, comparable to other cultural groups like CSA or ADITI, in order to offer bigger programs and expand their reach.

Freshman Senator and Class Council President Stephen Wegman ‘17 received this year’s Award for Freshman 2014-04-17_student_life_awards_13316Leadership. “I think I learned most from my participation in SA Government,” said Wegman. “As a freshman senator, it can be very difficult to gain the respect of the more experienced senators at the table. By seeing so many diverse examples of effective management, I was able to model my leadership style after those peers who inspired me the most.” Taking after the common idiom, “lead by example,” Wegman hopes to encourage his peers to be more active in civic leadership, as offered by the Students’ Association.

Wegman plans to not only maintain but also increase his involvement with the SA Government in the coming years. “I hope to look back at my undergraduate experience and see my involvements as times of growth through which I helped others.” The 2014 Student Life Award recipients are as follows:

 

Individual Awards:   adulley

Andrew Fried Prize: Kelvin Adulley

Established by friends and family in 1961 in memory of Andrew Norman Fried, class of 1961. This prize is awarded to the man who, upon completion of his freshman year, has shown outstanding qualities of character, superior moral judgment, and interest in serving his fellow students.

 

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Delno Sisson Prize: Yuki Gonzalez

In 1957, this award was established by a gift from Delno Sisson, class of 1966. This prize is awarded annually to the freshman who has shown the most improvement not only in academic work, but also in adjusting to college life and the student body.

 

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Award for Freshman Leadership: Stephen Wegman

This award recognizes an exceptional man or woman of the freshman class who has motivated his or her fellow classmates to become actively involved in the campus community.

 

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Eli & Mildred Sokol Prize: Eudora Dickson

This award was established in 1985 by a gift from Eli and Mildred Sokol, class of 1933. This prize is awarded to a sophomore who has emerged as a leader who can be expected to contribute significantly to the welfare of his or her fellow students in the next two years.

 

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Award for Campus Contributions: Mary Baron (left) and Katherine Wegman (right)

Two awards, one each presented to a junior and senior class member who has made significant contributions to the University community, including, but not limited to, campus life, academic achievement and leadership, and community service. The award winner will have promoted and demonstrated excellence in all aspects of their college experience.

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Seth H. & Harriet Terry Prize: Matias Piva

Established in 1928 as a gift from Seth H. Terry, class of 1883, in memory of his parents. This award is given to the male member of the senior class who, by his industry, character and honorable conduct, has done the most for the life and character of the undergraduate community.

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Percy Dutton Prize: Julian Lunger

This prize was established in 1946 as a gift from Percy Dutton. This award is given to the male member of the graduating class who has excelled in “wholesome, unselfish and helpful influence” among his fellow students.

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Award for Outstanding Fraternity and Sorority Leadership: Harini Morissety

This award recognizes the positive contributions fraternities and sororities make to the campus community. It is awarded to a fraternity or sorority member who has led with integrity within their fraternal organization while also making significant contributions to the greater campus community.

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Simeon Cheatham Award: Madison Wagner

Established in the 1970s by the Office of the Dean of Students to recognize outstanding University of Rochester students. This award is given to a student who has outstanding qualities in devotion to community service and to growth and development of children.

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Rob Rouzer Award for Excellence in Student Government Leadership: Shilpa Topudurti

 

Established in honor of his 28 years of service to the University of Rochester, the Rob Rouzer Award is conferred annually to a student affiliated with either of the three branches of the Students’ Association Government who has shown immense integrity and perseverance in striving to improve student life and welfare

 

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Logan Hazen Award for Outstanding Contributions to Residential Life: Alysha Alani (left) and Barra Madden(right)

This award is given annually to the student who has “made significant contributions to the community and experience of students living in undergraduate residence halls. This student, through his or her actions, leadership, and innovation has promoted community through respect, fairness, and inclusion.”

 

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Award for Athletic Leadership: Lila Cantor

This award recognizes the positive contributions athletes make to the campus community. It is awarded to a student athlete who has demonstrated leadership within their club or varsity sport while also making significant contributions to other aspects of campus life.

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Presidential Award for Community Service: Kyra Bradley

Established by the Dean of Students in 1990 to recognize University students who are committed to community service. Given to a senior for outstanding participation and leadership in service to the community beyond the campus, this award recognizes a student who has worked selflessly and effectively in addressing social causes. Areas of focus include, but are not limited to, improving literacy, reducing hunger and hopelessness, providing legal or medical assistance to the needy, and serving as a mentor.

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Entrepreneurship Award: Harshita Venkatesh

The award for entrepreneurship is given to a student, or group of students, who has turned an idea into a venture that benefited others. The recipient will have demonstrated individual initiative and knowledge through awareness of markets and attention to the needs of others.

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Michael Lowenstein Memorial Award: Alexandra Poindexter

This award, named for Michael Lowenstein, class of 1960 is presented to the University of Rochester River Campus undergraduate who deepens student, faculty, and community awareness of existing social, racial, or political inequities. This undergraduate through his/her words and actions has endeavored to promote the ideals which Michael cherished. Michael sought to give a fresh view of things around us, to focus upon issues, to probe deeply using fact and objectivity and to open a dialogue with the community to find some answers.

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Transfer Student Award: Sophie Rusnock

This award, recognizing the unique role of transfer students to the campus community, is given to a student who transferred with sophomore standing or above, and has completed a full year of study at the University. The recipient will have demonstrated a quick, successful, and seamless transition to the institution and will have taken full advantage of his or her time spent at the University.

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Simeon Cheatham Award: Madison Wagner

Established in the 1970s by the Office of the Dean of Students to recognize outstanding University of Rochester students. This award is given to a student who has outstanding qualities in devotion to community service and to growth and development of children.

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The Communal Principles Award: Jon Macoskey

Established by the Office of the Dean of Students during the 2011-2012 academic year, this award is given annually to the student(s) or organization that best promote(s) the Communal Principals, as adopted by The College. These principles include Fairness, Freedom, Honesty, Inclusion, Respect, and Responsibility. One of these six principles will be highlighted annually and the recipient will have demonstrated qualities that exemplify the principles and/or created programming and activities related to this year’s Communal Principle:Honesty.

 

Student Organization and Programming Awards:

 

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Excellence in Programming: Class Council 2014/Winter Senior Week

This Excellence in Programming Award recognizes a student organization or group, either formal or informal, for its exceptional creativity, planning, and execution of a University program. Criteria upon which decisions are based include appeal to a broad cross-section of the University community, originality, and participation by members of the organization during all phases of the effort.

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Outstanding Student Organization Award: Japanese Students’ Association

Awarded to a student organization that has gone beyond the bounds of their membership by helping to create a positive campus environment for all students.

Organic Ideas Grow on Campus

By Joe Bailey
University Communications

In Leila Nadir’s class, Food, Media and Literature, the concept of sustainability is definitely taking root. Her lesson plans include explorations of the way our food reaches us, and how that system can be improved. She sprinkles in the lingo of the health-food movement, and fosters healthy, back-to-basics attitudes in her pupils. The class also includes overviews of the potential detriments of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Students find her approach welcoming, with plenty of hands-on activities. They strive to become savvy consumers of food, as well as stewards of the earth.

One of the do-it-yourself projects in the course is to sprout seeds, including alfalfa, broccoli, and various peas and beans, to produce an eco-friendly, healthful snack. The seeds are soaked in glass jars and drained three times a day to promote germination. Several students in the course said the reason they enrolled was that they were interested in where the food they ate came from. By sprouting seeds, they all have a chance to engage in the whole process, from start to finish.

l-r: Sarah Kirschenheiter '13, Stacy Miller '15 and Julia Evans '13 (all class TA's). // The New Media Fermentation Workshop, a collaboration between University of Rochester professors Leila Nadir (sustainability) and Cary Peppermint (art and art history) meets in Burton Hall March 31, 2014. The workshop consist of students making their own personal vegetable ferments plus new media art students who will be documenting and remixing the experience. The workshops are part of EcoArtTech's new work-in-progress, Edible Ecologies, which involves collaborating with local communities to resuscitate historic food practices and foodways.  // photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of RochesterWhen asked how she got interested in food, media and literature, teaching assistant Stacy Miller replied, “I love food, and I want to be a smart consumer of it.” The class places a strong emphasis on sustainability and eco-friendly practices. Junior Brittany Flittner plans to use what she learns in this class to educate her family and herself to eat better foods that have a lower impact on the environment.

One subject the course addresses qualitatively is genetically modified organisms. Generally, the consensus among class members is that, in spite of some short-term benefits, GMOs are a bad idea in the long run. They identified potential issues like the emergence of resistant pests, caused by exclusive use of the same kind of GMO, or inferior taste, in the case of the late-ripening tomato. In one student’s opinion, GMOs might one day be safe enough to integrate into the food supply, but until then further study is needed. Students also commented on the inefficiency of food distribution, both nationally and internationally. One astute student pointed out that no matter how much food is produced by farms, people are still hungry in the world, noting that in industrialized nations, much food often goes to waste, while the poor and people in the developing world are left trying to make ends meet.

On March 31, the class gathered in a lounge in Burton residence hall to participate in a fermentation workshop. In the Greenspace lounge, these intrepid students sliced, diced, and chopped up vegetables of all kinds, creating mixtures of cabbage, with peppers and beets for flavor. “It’s important to cut the vegetables up very thin. You want to have as much surface area as possible,” Nadir explained. The veggies were mixed in bowls, then placed into jars with salt to ferment for a couple of weeks. Junior Stacy Miller described the process as “all-natural, a back-to-basics approach to preserving food.” No vinegar, sugar, or chemicals were added to hasten the fermentation process, as one might do when making pickles or sauerkraut. The only preservatives were various kinds of salt, added to disrupt the vegetables’ cell walls using osmotic pressure.

The New Media Fermentation Workshop, a collaboration between University of Rochester professors Leila Nadir (sustainability) and Cary Peppermint (art and art history) meets in Burton Hall March 31, 2014. The workshop consist of students making their own personal vegetable ferments plus new media art students who will be documenting and remixing the experience. The workshops are part of EcoArtTech's new work-in-progress, Edible Ecologies, which involves collaborating with local communities to resuscitate historic food practices and foodways.  // photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester

Through the workshop, students got a firsthand view into how food has been preserved historically, and learned that adding just a little sea salt to cabbage could promote the growth of probiotic bacteria. One student described how the same bacteria are present in yogurt, but not in their natural amounts. Probiotics are initially removed from the yogurt, then re-added later in the process. This workshop showed students how healthy “good bacteria” are a part of a balanced diet.

From sprouts to fermented veggies, the health food movement is definitely flourishing in Food, Media, and Literature!

UR Professor sings “I Have Failed My Physics Final”

University of Rochester Physics Professor John Howell, searching for a unique way to motivate his Physics 121 students to attend workshops, recorded a music video to show his class. Set to the song “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” from Les Miserables, “I Have Failed My Physics Final” casts Professor Howell in the role of a student who chose to copy answers and play video games instead of going to his workshops. Check out the video below!


Remembering Mandela

For more than half a century, Nelson Mandela inspired people around the world to embrace principles of freedom, equality, and justice. On Tuesday, Dec. 10, members of the University of Rochester’s Pan-African Students Association invite the campus community to commemorate Mandela at 7 p.m. on the steps of Rush Rhees Library. As the community gathers to celebrate his memory, The Buzz collected thoughts from faculty, staff, students, and alumni, who share their reflections on Mandela’s teachings and the lessons they’ll continue to carry with them.

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Tata Madiba was a moral giant, whose capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness is unequaled. Despite being brutalized by the Apartheid regime, he chose to take the high road and to lead South Africa into democracy, when he could just as easily have led the country into anarchy. I loved how he stood up for human rights—all human rights. I loved his commitment to children, and how he encouraged them to live up to their potential. I loved his leadership. How could one not admire a man who led by example? I loved how he maintained his humility, even when he was President. I loved how he would spontaneously break out into song and dance whenever the opportunity presented itself—the Madiba shuffle never failed to bring a smile to my face. In the present tense, I love the legacy that he has left us with.
And now he is gone.
Hamba kahle, Tata. Rest in peace.

Jennifer Hadingham
Hadingham, assistant director, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, is a native of South Africa and a graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

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I’ve always admired Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, his anti-apartheid leadership as a freedom fighter and the lessons he instilled on the world about peace and reconciliation. I was most affected by Mandela during my studies abroad in South Africa. In this capacity, I was exposed to the resilience of the human spirit and captivated by the way in which those once suppressed maintained hope despite their circumstances and truly believed in a better tomorrow.

Charlene Cooper ’12
Cooper, who studied abroad in Cape Town, was a member of the Black Students’ Union and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at Rochester. She also was a student editor of the OMSA Chronicle, a bi-annual publication of the Office of Minority Student Affairs.

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As young student activists we trusted the man’s vision and judgment and like very few other leaders he kept the faith of the people until the very end. We will not see his likes again for a very long time.

Eldred Chimowitz
Chimowitz, professor in the Chemical Engineering Department, is the author of Between the Menorah and the Fever Tree, a story of a Jewish-African boy coming-of-age during the Apartheid era.

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During my time in South Africa, I began to understand the concept of Ubuntu through my time of community service in the township of Khayelitsha as a math tutor. Nelson Mandela’s philosophy of Ubuntu inspired me to adopt Ubuntu as a way of life, to become more compassionate and kind toward the needs of others. Ultimately, Ubuntuism encouraged and influenced me to strengthen the development of disadvantaged communities as a global and American citizen.

Maxine Humphrey ’13
Humphrey, who majored in international relations at Rochester, studied abroad in Cape Town as a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholar during the spring 2012 semester.

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I was one of those college students that believed strongly in the anti-Apartheid disinvestment campaign taking place on our campuses during the late 1970’s-mid 80’s. I was indeed moved to action by the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and the resistance and activism displayed by black South Africans towards a racist government. In fact, I was proud to play a small part in challenging universities to divest from companies who conducted business with the government of South Africa.

I’m am certain that Mandela’s visionary leadership helped to inform my life-long interest in fighting for the rights of the disadvantaged and underserved in our country

Norman Burnett
Burnett is the assistant dean and director of the Office of Minority Student Affairs and the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program at the University of Rochester.

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Nelson Madiba Mandela might have been larger than life, but he was also human. As much as I did not agree with his stand on a few things, he deserves acknowledgement for his courage to publicly stand for what he believed in, which was a source of inspiration to many, especially in Africa. The world is full of many cowards who run the show. Mandela has taught me not to be afraid to articulate my stand on crucial matters, however unpopular that stand may be. I will not say Rest In Peace, for Mandela, it is Rest in Power.

Lendsey Achudi ’14
Achudi is a former assistant to the Ambassador of the Kenyan Mission to the United Nations and a native of Maseno, Kenya.

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Gandhi’s journey of nonviolence as a form of political action was born in twenty years of activism in South Africa, as was our Institute’s founder, Arun Gandhi. We celebrate South Africa’s global leadership in nonviolence and remember the extraordinary life of Nelson Mandela.

More than anything I honor the Truth and Reconciliation processes that Mandela led and supported. What might our own community and nation be like if we stopped to mourn the devastation that genocide and slavery have created in the lives of all Americans?

Mandela’s book Long Walk to Freedom has remained on our staff pick page because of the inspiration we draw from his words and shining example. If you haven’t read it yet, consider making a New Year’s resolution to do so as a way to honor Nelson Mandela.

Kit Miller
Miller is the director of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence and an expert in nonviolent communication.

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As a 2012 summer student in Cape Town, I spent Nelson Mandela’s birthday commemorating his living legacy of service and civic engagement in solidarity with South Africans throughout the nation. It is my hope that, to honor Madiba’s legacy, we will emulate his pursuit of equality and peace, while striving for his remarkable humility.

Katherine Wegman ’15
Wegman, a biology and anthropology major, studied abroad in Cape Town in summer 2013.

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I was amazed by the fact that this beautiful country was freed of apartheid only in 1994. Such freedom and equality was achieved after years of blood and sweat, and with the work of great leadership figures like Madiba. Even though he has passed away, I truly believe his legacy and spirit will breath throughout the country forever—so many people that I’ve met in South Africa proved to be the living models of his values and teachings, endorsing freedom, justice, and equality.

Rachel Park ’14
A chemistry major at Rochester, Park studied abroad in Cape Town in fall 2013.

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Mandela epitomizes a courage and leadership which I attempt to emulate. He demonstrated that strong leadership need not be synonymous with power. His Truth and Reconciliation Commission taught the healing power of transparent communication in the face of atrocity—a lesson which guides my desire to create a “just culture” in medicine.

Martin Wegman ’10
Wegman, who studied abroad in South Africa as an undergrad at Rochester, is currently pursuing a medical degree at the University of Florida. While in South Africa, he served as a clinical research assistant for a tuberculosis vaccine initiative in Cape Town.

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Let us remember Nelson Mandela for his humility amongst successes, his forthrightness in admitting his wrongs, and his steadfast dedication while overcoming challenges. For quite some time the world has had him to lead by example, so in his passing let us never forget that he’s left a plethora of inspiring messages and examples to continue to emulate. One in particular that I read prior to going abroad excited me for my time in South Africa more than any other guide or history book could: “The anchor of all my dreams is the collective wisdom of mankind as a whole. I am influenced more than ever before by the conviction that social equality is the only basis for human happiness.” At the time this conviction felt familiar, but distant, as if it had once been part of American culture but was lost in the daily grind of economic progress. However, once in South Africa, every day I saw, heard, and experienced things that reminded me that I was surrounded by people who wanted nothing more than to see their country truly united as a safe, fair home for all who lived there. Mandela did his best to get the ball rolling; it is now his countrymen’s, and all of our turn, to not let his efforts fade, but blossom. Thank you for giving us the tools for continued pursuit of equality, Madiba. Ke nako.

Laura Lyons ’14
A chemical engineering major, Lyons studied abroad in South Africa during the fall 2012 semester.

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The Buzz will continue to collect remembrances of Mandela through Friday, Dec. 13. Email thebuzz@rochester.edu if you’d like to have your thoughts included on our page.

Optics “Focuses” Efforts to Defeat Physics in Photon Cup

Members of the Optics Department focused their efforts on the soccer field to defeat members of the Physics Department in the third annual Photon Cup.

A match between Optics and Physics, the Photon Cup features undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty from each department in a friendly rivalry to name the best department of the year.

And, while Physics might have thought their knowledge of buckminster fullerenes would lead them to the win, the control of this particular soccer “buckyball” proved too much. Perhaps it was one group of atoms they couldn’t control with much “coherence.”

Optics triumphed over the department 4-3, coming back from a 3-0 half-time deficit. After some tactical adjustments at halftime, Optics went into an “excited state” and was able to control the run of play in the second half.

By all accounts Steve Gillmer of Optics was athlete of the match, scoring twice. One goal was a brilliant 30-yard half-volley.

Physics has yet to hoist the Cup with Optics winning the past 2 years and the first contest ending in a draw.

Watch Highlights from the 2012 Photon Cup

Conference Confronts Sexual Assault on Campus

By Melissa Greco Lopes
Univ. Communications

With bright blue t-shirts reading Stop. Ask. Clarify., organizers of the conference Survivor to Thriver: Confronting Sexual Assault on Campus spread a message of support and empowerment for survivors of sexual assault and gender violence. The conference, held on Tuesday, April 2, and Wednesday, April 3, gave participants the opportunity to hold difficult but critical conversations about sexual assault. More than 80 University of Rochester students, faculty, staff, and community members came together during the conference, which included a series of lectures, workshops, and panel discussions.

Catherine Cerulli, director of the University’s Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership, one of the sponsoring organizations, said one purpose of the conference was to demystify the process survivors go through after an assault. “It’s important that they are making decisions based on knowledge and not on fear,” she said. Cerulli noted that discussing the many services in the community designed to help survivors can encourage them to reach out and break their silence.

On Tuesday evening, more than 40 participants attended a screening of the film Not My Life, which kicked off the conference. Narrated by Glenn Close, the film depicts the scourge of human trafficking on a global scale, taking viewers into a world where millions of children are exploited through practices including forced labor, sex tourism, and child soldiering.

University President Joel Seligman began Wednesday’s daylong series of events by offering remarks about the importance of combatting sexual violence, an area he said is of “fundamental importance” to the campus community. After expressing his gratitude to those who organized and supported the conference, Seligman said, “As a former law school dean who supported domestic violence clinics at two different law schools, I have been exposed first hand to the horror of sexual violence. I join those in our community who wish to take all appropriate steps to prevent sexual assault.”

Read President Seligman’s Full Remarks

During the conference’s keynote address, former Division III student-athlete Maggie Maloy shared her personal story of recovery after an assault. As Maloy recounted her attack, which occurred when she was 15 years old, she interwove stories of her healing process, turning what was “without question the most terrifying time” of her life into an inspiring story of empowerment, forgiveness, and advocacy. During her presentation, which she has delivered on college campuses around the country, she told audience members of the importance of taking control of how you respond to moments of trauma. “You have to pull strength from within,” she said. “You have to acknowledge what’s happened, but focus on what you can empower.”

A panel discussion followed the keynote address, which included representatives from University Security, University Counseling Center, Rape Crisis Service, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Services, and the District Attorney’s Office. Panelists helped demystify the process by walking audience members through the many steps survivors can take after an assault, including medical examinations, interviews with law enforcement officials, and discussions with rape crisis counselors.

2013-04-03_survivor_to_thriver_2819Activities moved to Wilson Commons in the afternoon, where attendees had the opportunity to view posters featuring ongoing efforts to prevent and respond to gender violence, while community and campus organizations shared information about their services in “Caring Circles.” Participants also had the chance to speak one-on-one with Maloy and panelists from the morning session. Two lectures delivered by English Professor David Bleich and Rev. Dr. C. Denise Yarbrough, director of Religious and Spiritual Life, rounded out the conference program.

The conference was made possible through the financial support of co-sponsors including Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership, University Intercessor, UHS Health Promotion Office, Equal Opportunity Compliance Office, The College, Office of the Dean of Students, Athletics and Recreation, University Health Service, Rochester Center for Community Leadership, Susan B. Anthony Institute, Communal Principles Project (CPP), Greater Rochester Association of Women Attorneys, Graduate Organizing Group (GOG), Women’s Caucus, University of Rochester Pride Network, UR Cinema Group, and Southside Hall Council. Supporters also include Panhellenic Association, Multicultural Greek Council, GlobeMed, Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, University Security, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Services, University Counseling Center, Rape Crisis, Monroe County Sheriff Office, Rochester Police Department, and Sexual Health Advocacy Group (SHAG).

Photos and video courtesy of Brandon Vick and Dawn Wendt, University Communications.

Undergrad Research Recognized at National Conference

By Dan Wang ’14
Univ. Communications

In the last week of January, four Rochester undergraduates traveled to Harvard University to give a presentation at the National College Research Conference. The four participants created posters of their research and presented to panels of judges. Student Anaise Williams ’13 took home an Award of Excellence, the second place prize awarded to five out of 250 student presenters and is the top prize for the social sciences.

“I examined how rural low-income pregnant women in Northeastern Thailand negotiate traditional beliefs of prenatal precaution and biomedical prenatal recommendation. I really wanted to figure out how pregnancy is culturally scripted. How do people decide between listening to their moms and doctors?” says Williams, winner of the Award of Excellence.

This is a natural topic for someone who majors in anthropology with a focus on public health and has an interest in Asian culture. Williams conducted her research as she studied abroad in Thailand last spring. By taking part in the CIEE Development and Globalization Program arranged through Rochester’s Center for Study Abroad and Interdepartmental Programs, Williams conducted interviews with Thai women to determine how they reconciled traditional and modern views of pregnancy.

“This is an interesting way to investigate how global forms of information are understood at the local level,” Williams explains. “The project adds to the anthropological discussion of how to make biomedical globalization more culturally conscious.” She concludes that the women have a Western and traditional hybrid view of pregnancy in which they have autonomy over their bodies and incorporate traditional Thai views of pregnancy. Her extensive fieldwork interviewing pregnant women through translators gave her a nuanced view of the topic.

Alisa-Johnson-'14-and-URMC-Research-Mentor-Dr.-S-VijayakumarAlong with fellow undergraduates Alisa Johnson ‘14, Siddhi Shah ‘14, and Shilpa Topudurti ‘14, Williams attended the three-day conference with 250 students from around the country. Through funding from the Office of Undergraduate Research and various academic departments, the students were able to present their research to peers and students. They also were able to listen to professors discuss their own work; lecturers this year included development economist Jeffrey Sachs and psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker.

“I learned a lot from the keynote speakers and was exposed to a variety of topics from fellow presenters from all over the country,” says Alisa Johnson. “It was a great opportunity to connect and network with other students who share a similar interest in research at the undergraduate level.”

Johnson, Shah, and Topudurti are biology majors who presented on topics ranging from kidney disease to melanoma progression.

Shilpa-Topudurti-'14These four participants condensed their findings into 15-minute presentations and a poster board. Each gave a presentation to panels of judges that included professors and their fellow peers. A second, more formal presentation determined the prizes.

The Award of Excellence prize comes as a capstone for an already accomplished academic career. Outside of her major in anthropology Williams is president of the Undergraduate Anthropology Council; a coordinator at GlobeMed; and a tutor for 5th grade students at School 29, an elementary school in the 19th Ward. And she sees her project going still further; Williams is working on fellowships that will allow her to study maternal health in Asia next year.

NCRC-2013-participants

In the Photos: First: Anaise Williams ’13 and Siddhi Shah ’14 at the National College Research Conference.  Second: Alisa Johnson ’14 and URMC Research Mentor Dr. S. Vijayakumar discuss Johnson’s research with conference participants. Third: Shilpa Topudurti ’14 presents her research during the conference. Fourth: Held at Harvard, nearly 250 students from around the country attended the National College Research Conference.  All photos courtesy of Alisa Johnson.

Research Trip to Tanzania an ‘Outrageous Opportunity’

By Blake Silberberg ’13
Univ. Communications

Eli Witkin ’13, a geology major at the University of Rochester, recently returned from a research trip to Africa where he worked with a group led by Earth and Environmental Sciences Professor Cynthia Ebinger to install seismic monitoring devices in a variety of locations across rural Tanzania.

Witkin became interested in geology after taking an introductory course on a whim his freshman year. After enrolling in more advanced courses, he began to take part in research, working in Professor Ebinger’s lab this past summer. This is where Witkin was given the opportunity to accompany Professor Ebinger on her research trip to Africa.

The seismometers Ebinger and Witkin installed record data about the variations in time, amplitude, and wavelength of sound waves generated by local and global earthquakes and volcanic gas emissions, which is extraordinarily useful in probing Earth structures. The goal of this project was to use the data gathered by these devices to better understand the mechanisms of continental breakup and the effect of magma intrusions, help monitor potential hazards caused by volcanoes and earthquakes, and advise the Tanzanian government on the potential for geothermal energy.

The group would wake up before sunrise every day to pack the car and begin the trek on rural, unpaved roads to the remote locations where they wanted to place the sensors. “When we would get to a location we would locate either the headmaster of the school or the leader of the village,” Witkin says. “Then we would discuss with them (through our driver who would translate) what we were doing and if it would be ok to install a station.  They were almost always very helpful and willing.”

The group would begin tEli1he process of installing the sensor by digging a hole, pouring cement in the bottom, and placing a tile over it so that there was a hard, level surface to place the sensor. The group then assembled the solar panel support and the GPS, hooked up the equipment and tested the battery to ensure everything was connected. The device was programmed using an iPod Touch, as the sensors were controlled through an iOS application. Once it was confirmed the sensor was working properly, the group worked to fill in the hole and cover it with a tarp to deter rain, and place the rest of the equipment (battery, power box, extra cables, and Data Acquisition System) in a covered plastic tub on the surface.

“When the site was completed, we would negotiate a price to pay the residents of the school or village to guard the site by building a thorn fence around it to ensure that kids or animals would not bother it,” Witkin explained. “We would then deliver books and posters on earthquakes and volcanoes to help support science education. Then we would get in the car, travel to another site and repeat the entire process. We averaged about two sites per day. ”

This schedule turned out to be very demanding, with the team working 16-hour days for a week and a half straight. On top of the exhausting schedule, the team also had to deal with 100 degree heat, frequent dust storms, and swarms of flies. Despite this, Witkin describes the trip as overwhelmingly positive. “Driving from site to site was basically a safari,” Witkin says. “We would frequently see antelope, zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, baboons, ostriches and all sorts of other birds and animals everywhere.”

The backdrop to the area was a basin that rose to the East so gradually it seemed flat, but on the western side had a 1000 meter sheer cliff that was almost vertical and ran farther than the eye could see in either direction. For a geologist, Witkin says, the natural environments were absolutely amazing. “There were numerous volcanoes and the normal rocks lying Eli4around are better samples than the ones we have in the teaching labs.”

Traveling to remote areas of Tanzania, the team had the opportunity to meet the villagers who lived in these extremely rural areas. “I was the first white person a lot of the children had seen.  Some were very curious and would run towards me while others were straight up scared out of their minds and when I smiled at them, they would run in the other direction,” Witkin recalls.

Usually at a station the team would cut off the bottom of the equipment buckets so the water can drain out.  At one station, Witkin picked up the bottom of the bucket and taught the kids how to play Frisbee with it.  “It was a really fun and novel experience playing Frisbee with the children of these rural villages.”

“Being able to do undergraduate research is an outrageous opportunity.  Not only did I get to go to Africa for a month, but I got to be there doing work that I love,” Witkin says. “Beyond that, it is invaluable to have real experience working in the field.  It’s one thing to know how to use a sensor, but a completely different thing to be comfortable using them in the field and to know how to go through a complete installation.”

On this trip, Witkin also learned how to improvise when something goes wrong. “How do you adjust when you encounter a problem and are already behind schedule and can’t afford to come back? That experience and knowledge is something you just can’t get in the classroom or lab and it will really put me ahead.”

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Students in Rome Experience History in the Making

By Melissa Greco Lopes
Univ. Communications

Over Spring break, five undergrads studying religion and classics under Professor Nick Gresens headed to Rome for a week full of visits to the ancient sites of Cicero and Caesar, where the group would read inscriptions and study the geography and history of locations where Rome’s leaders once convened and shaped the classical world. And, in the surprise of a lifetime, the group also experienced history in the making, as cardinals from around the world gathered in Vatican City to elect the next leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

At around 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16, Gresens, along with Peter Carlile ’13, Dan Gorman ’14, and Ryan Vogt ’13, made their way to St. Peter’s Square to see the results of the fifth rounding of voting. None of them expected to see white smoke billow from the Basilica.

“At first we weren’t sure if it was white or black smoke. The first puff was grey and then turned to white,” said Carlile, who was among more than 10,000 visitors awaiting the results. “The visceral, emotional response on the square was palpable.”

As the smoke signaled the selection of a new pope, Carlile and Gorman rushed to get as close to the steps of the Basilica as they could. “It was awe-inspiring,” says Gorman, a history and religion major, who took the opportunity to take as many photos as possible.

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Sasha Tharani ’14 Says Trip a ‘Defining Experience’

Amanda Budreau ’14, a studio arts major studying in Rome for the spring semester, also was able to witness Pope Benedict’s last papal audience. While the excitement was high, with members of the crowd chanting “Viva, Viva, Papa” to the tune of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” Budreau said comparing it to the selection of the new pope was akin to “comparing an elementary school’s talent show to a Beyonce concert.”

Like Carlile and Gorman, Budreau pushed through the crowd to get a closer glimpse of the new pope. All three were able to view members of the Swiss Guard and hear a formal announcement that Argentinean cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been selected the 266th pontiff.

Budreau also noted the reverence amid the celebration of the occasion. “When the Pope asked us to bow our heads, the entire square (which was completely full) was silent, you could hear the sound of the water splashing in the fountains,” she explained. “At the end of his speech, he said goodnight and told us that we could all relax now.”

On Thursday, Meredith Doubleday ’13, along with the other students in Gresens’ course, headed to the Vatican Museums, where they picked up copies of the souvenir newspaper. “It was nice to be in this quiet space,” she said, “reading the paper on the first day after the announcement.”

About the Photos: Pictures 1, 3, 4, 6, and 8 are courtesy of Amanda Budreau, who in addition to witnessing the election of new pope, saw CNN corespondent Anderson Cooper cover the story. Pictures 2, 5, and 7 are courtesy of Dan Gorman. Picture 9, a photo of Nick Gresens and students Meredith Doubleday ’13, Kate Hughes ’13, Ryan Vogt ’13, Peter Carlile ’13, and Dan Gorman ’14, is courtesy of Meredith Doubleday.

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Tongue Twisters Topic of Students’ Studies

By Blake Silberberg ’13
Univ. Communications

Former University of Rochester students Catie Hilliard ’10  and Katrina Furth ’10 recently saw two research papers written during their undergraduate studies published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition and Frontiers in Psychology. Working with Florian Jaeger, Wilmot Assistant Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Furth and Hilliard examined how word choice is affected by phonological overlap, or how the sounds of words affect how we choose them in everyday conversation.

Furth became interested in the field of brain and cognitive sciences because she wanted to research psychiatric disorders and how the brain creates perceptions and thoughts. “I was inspired by a family member who dealt with episodes of mental illness to understand how normal brains work and develop in the hopes that we may be able to prevent serious mental illness someday,” she explained.  

As an undergraduate student working part time at Tim Horton’s, Furth sought out undergraduate research opportunities in the hopes of doing something with her summer that was more meaningful and relevant to her studies. She was referred to Michael Tanenhaus, who hired her to create videos that would be used in psycholinguistics experiments.

For one of her projects, Furth worked with Susan Cook to study people’s gestures as they described videos to their friends. “As we were making the videos, I noticed that people were using the verbs ‘hand’ and ’give’ at different frequencies to describe videos in which one character passes a gift or a hat to another character.”

This is where the idea for their project was born. “Dr. Jaeger had just joined the University and I started discussing my idea with him. He offered to continue paying me to figure out what was going on,” she said. “I was particularly curious to know if people avoided repeating the same initial syllables if they had the choice. No one knew whether people naturally avoided tongue twisters, though.”

The initial goal of the project was to examine if people avoid phonological overlaps (“hand hammer,” for example) when planning sentences. The project quickly expanded to include word order, speech rate, and fluency to see if people “strategically” avoid sentence constructions that may make them less fluent. “One idea that always really excited me was that we could make these choices without consciously thinking them through – people speak at about 3 syllables per second and so we certainly were not stopping to choose the best words,” she explains. “I was also really excited by the idea that information about how words will be produced can affect things that we think of as getting planned early – you choose your words and the sentence structure before you retrieve all of the sounds, right? Well, the whole premise of this work was that the sounds of words are getting accessed so early that they are affecting which words even get chosen, and in which order you produce those words.”

VIDEO: See a video clip used in the research study

Furth was tasked with designing the experiment, creating the videos that would be used to test the subjects, recruiting and testing subjects, and instructing other undergraduates on how to annotate the collected utterances. Once the data was collected, Furth sought Jaeger’s help to calculate statistics on word frequency. “I learned a great deal about experiment design and data analysis by working on this project. Since I had never designed an experiment before, I made a lot of mistakes at the beginning, but the biggest piece that I learned about experiments is that one extra hour of planning before you start can save 40 hours of careful analysis at the end of the experiment.” Jaeger, Furth, and Hilliard found that speakers are less likely to choose words that result in phonological overlap, and that this tendency is based on early effects on lexical selection rather than later corrective processes.

About a year and a half into the project, Hilliard joined the team as they began to design more experiments looking at word order and fluency when the words shared similar endings instead of similar onsets. “That was the most fun/weird part of it — having an idea in your head and trying to come up with a way to test it,” Hilliard said.

BCS-Research-2Hilliard had been on track to complete a major in linguistics, but after a family member experienced a stroke which resulted in a loss of nearly all language abilities, she became increasingly interested in brain and cognitive sciences. “Suddenly, all of these cognitive processes that I had taken for granted seemed so complex and laborious. I wanted to learn more about cognition, how it develops, and the neural structure underlying these abilities.”

Hilliard combined her interests to pursue a concentration in psycholinguistics within the BCS department. After taking a psycholinguistics class with Jaeger, she worked as an assistant in his lab for the summer. This experience with the research process led her to join Furth and Jaeger’s project for the following year.

Both Furth and Hilliard refer to their research with Jaeger as one of the most valuable experiences of their undergraduate career. “I was particularly blessed to have an opportunity to pursue my own research idea as an undergraduate, present the work at international conferences, and be an author on multiple manuscripts,” Furth says. “My mentor, Florian, also sent me to the Yucatan peninsula to help collect data working with native Mayan speakers. These were once-in-a-lifetime experiences as I navigated the world in Spanish and attempted to do basic research in rare languages.”

Furth said the research experiences were pivotal in the graduate school admission process. “I believe that these experiences, and the letters of recommendations that came from them, were the major reason that I was accepted by 12 of 14 graduate schools to which I applied.”

Hilliard has similarly positive things to say about her experience. “Before I had even realized I wanted to continue doing research in graduate school, working in a lab gave me a sense of responsibility and independence that I didn’t always feel for my classwork,” she said. “I became really invested in the projects I was working on. I thought about them a lot, and learned how to communicate my research ideas to other people.”

Like Furth, Hilliard said that conducting research as an undergraduate prepared her for graduate school. “I felt confident in my abilities, and continued to feel supported by Florian, Katrina, and other members of the lab. When I applied for admission, several lab members shared their own experiences and advice, and I ended up in the best program for my research interests.”

Jaeger also emphasized the importance of having Furth and Hilliard in his lab. “Katrina was the first RA I hired six years ago. It was wonderful having Caitie and Katrina in the lab, I got lucky,” he says. “I hope that the University will continue to expand their support for undergraduate research and that we can strike a balance between providing research opportunities for undergraduates and all the other responsibilities of faculty. I think it’s one of the most appealing properties of a place like Rochester that you can actually get your feet wet and get involved in research.”

Katrina Furth (Pictured top right with Professor Florian Jaeger) is now enrolled in the Graduate Program for Neuroscience at Boston University, and is working at the National Institutes of Health with Dr. Andres Buonanno. She is examining the role of the dopamine D4 receptor in modulating cognitive ability and neural network oscillations called gamma rhythms. “Children with an allelic variant of the D4 receptor are more likely to have ADHD and many antipsychotic medications target this receptor as well as others. I am recording from individual neurons using patch-clamp electrophysiology.”

Caitie Hilliard (pictured bottom left) received the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for her work with Dr. Susan Cook, a full scholarship for three years of graduate study in the University of Iowa Psychology department under Dr. Cook, a former Post-Doc at the University of Rochester. Hilliard is studying the role of hand gesture in communication, focusing on how speakers modulate their gestures based on the shared information they have with their listeners. She has run two studies examining how speakers’ gestures change when they know that their listener lacks task-relevant information, and is currently investigating how the listeners’ perception of these gestures affects their own cognition.

Article written by Blake Silberberg, an intern with University Communications and a member of the Piggies. He is a senior majoring in political science.