Debate Union: Travel & Quilted Trophies?

By Joe Bailey ‘15
University Communications

I sat down with sophomore Miriam Kohn, linguistics major and vice president of the U of R Debate Union. She shared with me her experience in the club so far.


Debate team is my primary time commitment. Some weeks, it’s probably even more than my classes!

I wandered into the debate office by accident. My high school didn’t have a debate team, so it was something that was completely unfamiliar to me. I kind of thought, “maybe I should do this in college,” but then I thought, “maybe I’m going to get way too into it,” and, surprise… that’s what happened!

Overall, it’s a very positive experience, so I stick around. I work hard at debate. I’m a hard-working person in general. I enjoy reading things like Foucault. It’s probably hyperbolic to say I spend more time on it than my classes, but I certainly do spend a lot of time on it.

None of my trophies are shiny

Miriam Debate clubI was in the novice bracket last year. I was a real novice, unlike a lot of people on the circuit who walk in [with high school experience].

There are three formats of debate; Rochester does two. With one of them, Policy, you don’t have novice eligibility if you do it in high school. The format I do primarily is British Parliamentary, or Worlds. You get a lot of people who take the novice eligibility [for Worlds], who are really not novices. They could have done four years of high school British Parliamentary.

I’ve had a fair amount of success on the circuit with my partner; we won the novice bracket of regionals, novice finals at North American championships, and we were semi-finalists at Northwest regionals. They didn’t have trophies for the novices. I wanted hardware! There was one trophy which I took home from my first tournament freshman year, at SUNY Binghamton. That was a quilted trophy; not so shiny.

Traveling debate

We travel a lot of places, primarily up and down the Northeast. That’s where a lot of the most competitive tournaments are. Nationals for USU, that’s United States Universities, are in Alaska this year. We were just up in Toronto, on Mel weekend, because the University of Toronto debating society at Hart House always hosts a big, really well respected tournament there. They actually hosted North Americans last year.  We also we went to Europe last year!

The rule is the team won’t send you anywhere it can’t afford. If you get chosen to go, then the team pays your way, The team pays your transportation, your hotel fees, and your tournament entry fees. It includes a few meals a day. That way debate’s not just an activity for those who can afford it.

It’s free to join

We have a really, really big alumni base. There are lots of lawyers and doctors; a lot of them tend to do pretty well and they help support us. We also get very generous support from the school. It used to be the students’ association, now we’re part of the athletic department. We get more money, more support, and more infrastructures. It’s free travel; you just have to make it clear that you actually care.

To be chosen to travel to the most competitive tournaments you have to put in the time. There are some that everyone gets traveled to, like the one on Halloween weekend. And there are some of them that everyone wants to go to, like Europe, and Florida. We sent some folks to Miami for the Pan-American championships, for those, you have to work harder.

Pinky and The Brain

We joke around all the time, all the time: I think “irreverent” would have to be the first adjective I’d go with to describe us.

We give each other stupid nicknames, and there are lots of running jokes. For example, two of the assistant coaches have been trying to convince my partner and myself that we should go for Halloween to this tournament we’re having as Pinky and The Brain. Apparently I’m Pinky. I mean, I would like to take over the world, but that’s a separate issue!

It’s really a very relaxed atmosphere; debate draws in a nice crowd of people. The coaches are wonderful. They work very hard to make the program accessible to everyone. They’re willing to help anyone out that cares to get help from them. That sets the tone as very welcoming.

Whether it’s trying to take over the world, or discussing the latest hot-button issues, the Debate Union is among the U of R’s strongest student organizations, with meetings on Monday and Thursday nights at 7:00.

How One Student Group is Changing the Conversation

By Rei Ramos ‘15
University Communications

Stigma and taboo. These are just two things that keep individuals suffering from mental illness from getting help.  “Active Minds” helps promotes mental health awareness, education, and advocacy on college campuses.

The U of R’s chapter of Active Minds hosts a variety of different events ranging from guest speakers to a variety of awareness drives throughout the year in order to encourage a dialogue about mental health between members of the campus community.  Chapter members help to facilitate these conversations as self-proclaimed “stigma fighters,” combating misconceptions and advocating for greater awareness of common mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Stephanie Mejia ’15, a psychology major minoring in International Relations, and one of the club’s co-presidents, said one of her favorite events is an annual art exposition, named “HeART of Disorder.”  “We don’t just advocate for stomping out stigma; we show the community what stigma looks and feels like through various art forms,” she said.

“Prevent a Meltdown” was another program held last year that focused particularly on the student population.  Hosting an ice cream social right before finals week, one of the most stressful weeks of the semester, the student organization partnered with University Health Services in order to pair sweet treats with information about stress-reducing mechanisms.

The “Tell It to the Wall” campaign, which began at the end of October, offers the campus population an anonymous outlet to share their secrets and issues to the public.  The wall, displayed on the third floor of Wilson Commons, is composed of anonymously submitted posts, a la Post Secret.  That same week, Active Minds partnered again with UHS at the Sex and Chocolate Health Fair in order to discuss mental and sexual health.

Co-president Hayley Harnicher ’15, a psychology major with minors in mathematics and business, is thankful for the opportunities that Active Minds has provided her, from serving on the national Student Advisory Committee to the organization’s national office in Washington D.C.  Beyond this, however, she is most grateful for the clarity that the group’s mission provides.  “The best thing I have learned is that taking care of your mental health, or seeking help if needed, is not a weakness and should be commended,” she said.

The Rochester community is no stranger to the costs of overlooking mental health.  Last year, Samuel Freeling, an undergraduate student from Georgetown D.C., ended his own life.  Sam’s mother created Project S.A.M., which hosts an annual 5K Fun Run, the Spike Classic, to provide support and advocacy for those suffering from mental illnesses like depression.

Last year, the money raised by the Spike Classic was used to fund a new track at Sam’s high school, Georgetown Day High School.  This year, funds raised by the run and through their website will go to Active Minds.  The group plans to use the donation to bring the “Send Silence Packing” display to campus.

“It is important for our student group to support a cause that has directly impacted our peers and the U of R community,” said Mejia.  “It is up to us to continue the conversation and make the student body, faculty, staff, and administration aware of the cause and how we can make a difference in the future of our campus.”

If you, or someone you know, is struggling, the CARE Network exists to identify students who may be in distress. Simply fill out a CARE report or set up an appointment with University Counseling Services. Students can call 585-275-3113 to make an appointment.

Photo credit: Helga Weber/Flickr

Tragos Quest: Sound Mind and Sound Body

By Rei Ramos ‘15
University Communications

A summer expedition in Greece recently gave an undergraduate the opportunity to better understand his fraternity’s mission of “building balanced men.”  Russell Rosenkranz ’15 was selected among hundreds of national applicants for this year’s Tragos Quest, a 10-day trip through Greece sponsored by Sigma Phi Epsilon.  Reading selections from Homer and Socrates and subsequently venturing through the country’s archeological sites, he was given the opportunity to challenge himself mentally and physically in hopes of obtaining the Greek goal of having a “sound mind in a sound body.”

The trip allowed Rosenkranz, president of the U of R’s NY Xi Chapter of SigEp, to simultaneously experience Greek culture and consider the origins of his fraternity.  Along with 18 undergraduates from chapters around the nation, he traveled through Greece from June 12-22.

“Each day of the trip was both mentally and physically rewarding,” he said.  Typically, the morning routine would consist of an early, 6:30 a.m. breakfast and an hour-long discussion with a professor based around writings from the poets and philosophers of Greek antiquity.  Throughout each day, the group would go on to visit archeological sites that corresponded with the stories and history discussed. The first day of the trip brought the team to Poseidon’s Temple in Cape Sounion, a visit that helped to explain the capital’s namesake – Athena, the goddess who defeated Poseidon in battle.  The evening discussions were then led by a smaller group of two to three undergraduate Tragos Scholars, focusing on the values of virtue, diligence, and brotherly love upon which the fraternity was founded.

Rosenkranz found the search for a “sound mind” to be perhaps the most challenging part of the expedition.  The nightly group discussions often forced the group to think both outside of the box, as well as their comfort zones.  “We constantly pushed the envelope to have some of the best and deepest conversations I have ever had in my life.”  Delving into topics such as fear and the pursuits of happiness and success, the nightly discourse pushed the undergraduates to think critically and introspectively.

That’s not to say that the rest of the trip was without other obstacles.  The trip’s physical challenges included hiking up mountains for better views of temples and dig sites and climbing a 1000 step fortress overlooking Nafplio to get a panoramic view of the seaport city.  The group of Tragos Scholars also held a friendly race on the original Olympic track, which Rosenkranz went on to win. “We were also constantly challenging one another to try new experiences or tasks each day,” said Rosenkranz.  The group’s mentors asked them to prepare a lunch for the team on a set budget, which forced the Tragos Scholars to coordinate and barter with locals without a common language.

The quest’s focus on physical fitness and mental equilibrium did not detract from the trip’s showcase of Greece’s beautiful scenery.  Rosenkranz recalls gorgeous, breathtaking views from the Hosios Loukas Monastery in the town of Nafpaktos.  “I cannot do it justice describing it in words,” he admitted.  The sixth day of the trip offered views of Delphi and the natural landscape of the Corycian Cave.  The final day of the trip ended on the tallest hill of Athens, overlooking the entire city and the Acropolis.  With a dinner at sunset, the group was able to watch the sunset and see the entire city light up at night, a sight which Rosenkranz would go on to note as one of the most memorable of the entire trip.

Through all of the harrowing physical activities and journeys through memorable sights, Rosenkranz found a conversation with a stranger to be the most meaningful experience of his journey.   Asking three locals in Nafpaktos for words of wisdom, one older gentleman went on to share a story of the loss of his child.  “It was shocking how this stranger was able to open up to us – four young Americans – and tell us his emotional story in such a vulnerable state.”  This brief, but meaningful, exchange quickly moved Russell to empathy and led him to consider himself somewhat of a surrogate son to the Greek man.

Having lost his father exactly a month prior to the flight to Greece, Rosenkranz entirely understood the man’s sadness.  A discussion on fear on the following day gave him the chance to share his grief with his mentors and fellow scholars.  “That night, everyone opened up and showed that level of emotional vulnerability which led to the deepest and most meaningful conversation of the entire trip,” he said. “It was an experience I will never forget; though short, it made the biggest impact on the rest of my trip and my life.”

Rosenkranz’s time spent in Greece, beyond being an enriching cultural experience, has taught him a few lessons that he plans to carry with him into senior year and beyond.  The first lesson involves being more vulnerable and emotionally open to his peers.  He believes that this alone will allow him to develop deeper relationships with those that he trusts.  The second is to make time to grab a cup of coffee with friends – or even strangers – to “soak it all in” day-by-day.  “I am one to always be on the go, so being able to sit and hangout with people helps clear my head and open my mind,” he said.

Looking ahead, the rising senior, pursuing majors in applied mathematics and financial economics, hopes to one day seek out a career in consulting or within the banking industry.  “When it comes down to it, I will choose a career that challenges me to grow and constantly learn.”  In the meantime, he will juggle involvement with SigEp, the varsity swim team, and the Students’ Association.  With a sound mind and sound body in tow, Rosenkranz is more than ready to take on these many commitments as a balanced man.

GlobeMed: Partners for Positive Change

By Rei Ramos ‘15
University Communications

Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. Rhett Partida ’15 believes that these words of wisdom work well to encapsulate GlobeMed’s intentions and goals of inspiring sustainable positive change for the residents of Iquitos, Peru.

Earlier this summer, Partida, along with a team of five other students, traveled to the Peruvian rainforest as part of GROW, an internship opportunity that focuses on involvement in Grassroots On-Site Work.  Through GROW, the university’s GlobeMed chapter is given the opportunity to create a relationship between a student team and a grassroots health partner.  The UR chapter works closely with Kallpa, a youth development organization that hopes to educate, engage, and empower youth in the urban community of Pampachica in Iquitos.  Together, they create goals to provide better health opportunities and foster long term sustainable solutions for underprivileged youth.

“The idea of partnership is rooted in our mission,” said Humma Sheikh ’15.  The rising senior, a neuroscience major, stressed the importance of GlobeMed’s interactive approach to creating better opportunities not only for but with Iquitos.  Through the GROW internship, students were able to travel to Iquitos to work collaboratively with Kallpa and local community members to instill positive change through education, research, and programming.

Over the academic year, GlobeMed stages fundraising events to procure monetary support for their partner organization.  Working under a Partnership Action Framework, the Rochester chapter teams with Kallpa in order to evaluate programs in place in the community, assess the potential for change, and set goals in accordance with their budgetary possibilities.  This year, the group was able to raise more than $11,000 to go towards a solutions budget.  From there, they have created initiatives with community leaders, integrating the community’s voice to serve local needs.

Partida, this year’s GROW coordinator, believes that listening is a key step in working towards finding routes towards change.  “GROW is about creating sustainable solutions. What we were there to do, first and foremost, was to listen and understand,” he said.  This communicative emphasis helped the chapter to identify some of the community’s greatest issues, including but not limited to education, sanitation, and a lack of accessible health care.

In line with the mission of Kallpa, the GROW team focused on creating better opportunities for local youth; this led to a strong emphasis on assessing the state of the education system.  This summer, the team was able to provide after school programs at an elementary school in the community of Pampachica.  For Partida, offering educational opportunities for youth is integral for instilling positive change and providing the tools for success.  “I grew up with the concept that the greatest gift you can give to someone is education. Knowledge is one thing that no one can take away from you,” explained Partida.  Kallpa and GlobeMed hope that these programs will curb delinquency and promote the pursuit of higher education among local youth.

Even with these new opportunities in place, education in Iquitos remains a messy picture.  Many factors deter youth from being able to pursue higher education.  Kallpa has tried to create preparatory programs for mentorship and tutoring but has seen them fail due to budgetary shortcomings.  Because of these difficulties, GROW has been conducting research to study the factors behind these barriers to education.  This has included diagnostic interviews of students and observation of classes and lesson plans.  They found that difficulties in travel, commitments to jobs and family, and a general lack of access to educational and monetary resources leave many Peruvian students bereft of the opportunity to pursue collegiate education.  Even with scholarship opportunities provided by the Peruvian government, such as Beca-18, many community youth had to turn down grants and preparatory programs in order to focus on supporting their families.

“These kids want to do more; they have dreams. They just don’t have the means,” admitted Partida, woefully.  With over half of the community’s adolescents unable to complete secondary education, GlobeMed hopes to use findings of their research to create more fruitful programs and solutions.

In order to foster and mobilize efforts for self-sustaining local action, GROW also held leadership training workshops and community events.  These workshops, focused on creating effective local leaders, were aimed at providing youth with the skills to manage neighborhoods, lead communities, and facilitate lasting change.  These workshops, provided in nine different neighborhoods, are geared towards embedding local leaders who can cater to the individualized needs of their communities.  With this, the workshops help to provide a lasting difference, equipping the community with agents of change even after the GROW team has left.

With GlobeMed’s large focus on the promotion and provision of global health, GROW also observed the community’s health issues.  Situated on the Rio Nanay, a tributary of the Amazon, much of Pampachica is prone to flooding, especially in the summer season, which brings pollution and trash into the streets.  This leaves the community with a very serious trash problem that threatens the health of its inhabitants.  Cleanup programs and efforts to raise awareness of the issue have since been implemented. The GROW team also found a lack of access to proper health care within the community.  In hopes of changing that, they helped to install a clinic that allowed a reproductive health specialist to meet with local youth in order to provide education and fulfill basic health care needs.

“This internship has been the most enriching, most difficult, most thought provoking, and heartbreaking experience,” said Sheikh.  “It’s crazy how much these kids can inspire you with their ability to keep hope and find solutions for themselves.”

Seeing that the community has increasingly become more comfortable looking to GlobeMed for support, she believes that genuine connection is what differentiates their efforts from the low-skill labor of other “voluntourism” efforts.  “Looking for solutions should be an interactive process. We operate completely and entirely on the strength of our partnership,” she said.

In his three years of experience with GlobeMed and GROW, Partida has seen the tangible differences that his efforts have made in Iquitos and admits that the experience, in turn, has changed him as well.  “Part of the GlobeMed model is to create this greater sense of consciousness. It makes you aware of things outside your university, community, and personal bubble.”

Hoping to one day enter the medical field, he believes that these experiences have equipped him with expanded perspective and greater empathy.  He strongly believes that GlobeMed’s emphasis on interactive partnership with Kallpa in Iquitos, as well as with the community of Pampachica, fosters true connection that can lead to lasting change. “They can call me a family member and a friend.”

STEM Initiative Grows to Promote Science Education

By Rei Ramos ‘15
University Communications

A new student organization is hoping to sow the seeds of science throughout the Rochester community.  Dubbed the STEM Initiative, the group focuses on motivating and inspiring young students to pursue education in the “STEM” fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

“Our focus is giving students STEM education at an early age,” said Jenny Yoon ‘16, a microbiology major and one of the organization’s co-founders and current co-president. The group promotes and provides opportunities for science education by offering after-school workshops at area schools that are hands-on, interactive, and free. Making use of undergraduate volunteers, the STEM Initiative’s programming is based on student-created lesson plans. In this sense, co-president George Iwaoka ‘16, who is pursuing degrees in cell and developmental biology and financial economics, views the student group they have created as a grassroots organization that hopes to instill positive change at a local community level.

The duo, both graduates of Bergen County Academies in Hackensack, New Jersey, consider themselves fortunate for their heavy exposure to STEM fields before coming to college. Continuing on at the U of R, a leading school in both STEM education and research, Iwaoka and Yoon found the lack of educational outreach for the sciences problematic. The current substandard state of Rochester area public schools, coupled with the national decline in literacy in scientific fields, motivated the pair to create the group.

Since its initial inception in the fall of 2013, the group has evolved from a small volunteer effort to an organization recognized and funded by the Students’ Association.  Originally funded out of the pockets of its early members, the group has since grown to be able to offer regular biweekly workshops at a local school, complete with funded lesson plans and engaging activities covering subjects ranging from basic physics to computer programming. These structured workshops are planned by students and made possible through the weekly contributions of undergraduate volunteers.  The STEM Initiative currently has 36 student volunteers that have contributed to planning and teaching.

This past spring, STEM exclusively offered workshops at Adlai E. Stevenson School No. 29. “It’s not the best school in terms of math and science,” said Iwaoka.  Located in the 19th ward, School 29 ranks among the lowest in test scores in the state.  They were also cut from the list of schools visited by the university’s Partners in Reading program. The diminishing educational opportunities at this school prompted the STEM Initiative to focus its efforts there.”The kids are really bright,” said Yoon. “It’s great to see that they don’t see themselves as ‘too cool’ for science.”

One of the organization’s first efforts in event programming also turned out to be one of its largest successes.  On April 14th, the group sponsored its first Family Science Day, a free and public science fair.  STEM brought together science-affiliated student groups, area youth, and their families in the Munnerlyn Atrium of Goergen Hall for an interactive and educational experience.  Garnering support from science and engineering associated student groups, Iwaoka and Yoon were able to offer the local community a chance to explore and experience science firsthand.  The event included demonstrations and experiments from campus organizations such as Engineers Without Borders, MERT, and the Baja SAE Team among others.  Drawing in more than 300 attendees and partnering with 23 different organizations, the event was successful in its community outreach and showcase of the sciences.

Looking at the coming year, Iwaoka and Yoon aim to increase the STEM Initiative’s presence in the Greater Rochester Community.  “We really want the Rochester business community to be involved,” said Iwaoka who views the group as a potential liaison for science education.  With Rochester as a leading hub for optics, the group believes that involvement from area companies would open doors for event programming on a larger scale.

That’s not to say that STEM isn’t doing enough on its own to expand.  With more anticipated funding from the SA Government in the fall, as well as through an upcoming Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, the two co-presidents hope to see the group grow to offer more workshops at other area schools and bigger community programming with plans for a “STEM Olympics” that will function as an interactive field day for science.  They also hope to branch out to inspire additional chapters at other universities.  Iwaoka aspires to see the group broaden its influence at a national level in the coming years and similarly hopes to see its message spread abroad.

Through all the responsibilities of starting and developing a student organization, the pair views their work in the past year as worth all of the stress.  “It’s really fun, and the kids are eager to learn,” said Yoon in regards to their workshops.  To her, one of the best parts of this experience has been making personal connections with students.  Similarly, Iwaoka finds value in seeing the impact that the organization’s efforts have made and is excited that he may be helping to produce the next great leaders in the STEM fields. “Somewhere down the line, our work can inspire a young student to pursue a career in science, and that in itself is rewarding.”

The Sky’s the Limit with OdysseyLife

By Blake Silberberg ‘13
University Communications

Did you have trouble adjusting to life on campus as a freshman? Well now there’s an app for that! University of Rochester undergraduates Keyu (Sky) Song ‘15 and Xiayan (Eric) Huan ’15 are the founders of OdysseyLife Inc., a self-funded startup with the goal of helping International students adjust to life on American college campuses.

Song, a political science major, entered the University as a Chinese international student. He chose Rochester because of the diverse student population and was excited to meet lots of new people from different cultural backgrounds. What he found was a gap among international students when it came to making friends with American students. “When I first arrived here, I talked to people in dining hall lines,” says Song, “I met a lot of people that way, but it was definitely awkward at times. As an international student, it can be hard to get a sense of what’s right or wrong to say to someone you’ve just met.”

Song’s experiences inspired him to find a way to help other students in his position adjust well to American college life. “The crucial period of adjustment is the first two months.  After that, it becomes much harder for international students to make friends, since a lot of students have already formed groups or circles,” says Song.

With the goal of helping international students bridge this gap, Song worked with fellow student Eric Huan to create OdysseyLife, a startup corporation that works with international students at the University of Rochester, and has expanded to New York University and SUNY Buffalo. Song describes OdysseyLife as a corporation with a focus on providing a mix of both nonprofit and for profit services. OdysseyLife offers numerous free resources, including an iPhone app, guides for social and professional situations, and weekly lectures on cultural differences open to both international and American students. OdysseyLife goes beyond these services by employing “captains” to serve as student mentors for international students who sign up for OdysseyLife. Captains are university students who teach weekly classes, bring students to networking events, and are available to meet with one on one to help with any situations that might arise during a semester. “The captains help demonstrate behavior and offer a theoretical framework for adjusting to American college life,” says Song, “and they act as both a model for the international students and a wingman in social situations.”

Huan (left) and Song (right) with Yuan Yue, the CEO at Horizon Consulting Group (Lingdian). Cornell China Forum 2014.
Huan (left) and Song (right) with Yuan Yue, the CEO at Horizon Consulting Group (Lingdian). Cornell China Forum 2014.

Creating the corporation proved to be an excellent learning experience for Song and Huan, as they had to navigate a large number of legal and technical aspects to form an official corporation. Song had to first obtain work-study sponsorship in order to legally work in the U.S., and without any law experience, this proved a difficult task. Song and Huan contacted law students at both Cornell and Harvard for help with their company, and also received support from David Primo, associate professor of political science and business administration, and Michael Rizzo, professor of economics. Huan and Song also worked with an accounting student at the Simon School, who helped them file insurance and tax forms, and other necessary corporate materials. The pair also received support from the staff at Wilson Commons, Office of Admissions, College Center for Advising Services, Center for Entrepreneurship, and International Services Office. “I think our experience forming OdysseyLife is a great example of how strong the interdisciplinary network is here,” says Song. “We were very fortunate to have access to so many resources, and this wouldn’t have been possible without the tremendous support of the University’s staff.”

In the future, Song and Huan hope to expand the services to American students as well, to help them connect in a greater capacity with International students. “We want to build a bridge that will help both American and International students use college campuses as a place where they can freely exchange ideas,” he explains.

If you are interested in learning more about OdysseyLife, you can visit the website or contact Sky Song directly via email.

“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.



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.



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.



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.













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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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













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.”



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:



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.


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.

Emi Hitomi Selected as Student Employee of the Year

University Communications – University of Rochester senior Emi Hitomi has been selected as the 2013-2014 University of Rochester Student Employee of the Year. The award, which is given annually by the Financial Aid Office, recognizes an outstanding student employee who has made valuable contributions to the department in which he or she works. Hitomi, a building manager supervisor for Wilson Commons, was nominated by Michael Dedes, Wilson Commons services coordinator.

Hitomi, a neuroscience major, got her start as a Hive Game Room employee her freshman year, and quickly worked her way up the ranks to serve as a building manager for two years, learning the policies and procedures of Wilson Commons. “Because there’s always so much going on in Wilson Commons, not much our job is written in our job description,” says Hitomi. “We are the go-to people for all student employee-run stations (the Common Market, the Hive, Common Connection, and the Hartnett Art Gallery) after hours when all the professional staff has left.”

Hitomi was a natural choice for the role of building manager supervisor her senior year, due to her dedication and reliability as a building manager. “Emi is a one of those rare individuals who truly cares about everyone she comes in contact with. There are no smoke or mirrors with Emi, she is as true as they come,” says Dedes. “She supports all her staff members, even those that can be difficult to deal with, and ensures that everyone has all the resources to be successful.”

CeremonyDuring her time at Wilson Commons last semester, Hitomi helped ensure that a new initiative to keep Wilson Commons open for 24 hours during finals week, to provide additional study spaces to students, ran smoothly. “We have a new late-night programming group that works hard to come up with ideas to provide students with a place to study, relax or have fun late at night,” says Hitomi. While asking her fellow building managers to work extended hours with her was difficult, Hitomi handled it excellently by emphasizing the importance it would have to the student body. In addition to study spaces, Hitomi also worked with her staff to ensure that the exercise areas, movie screenings, and late-night food options for students offered by the event had the resources and space they needed. The event was a huge success with more than 140 students attending. “Emi is one of those student employees who understands the mission of a student union and the role it plays on the college campus. She understands the bigger picture concepts and tries her best to translate that to those she works with so everyone is adding to the common goal,” remarked Dedes.

One of the most valuable parts of her job, Hitomi says, is interacting with people. “As an employee of WCSA, I have met and worked alongside a lot of the staff and faculty that are involved in student activities across campus. Through them I have learned a lot about campus events and student organizations.”

Although, Hitomi’s job is not without its challenges. “There was one time, it was a week or two before Meliora Weekend and we had only three boxes of chocolate covered pretzels left. We were all panicking and trying to rush order more. Fortunately we got an order of them in time to be fully stocked.”

After graduation, Hitomi will be working for the next year as a lab technician in Dr. Nedergaard’s lab at the University Rochester Medical Center.

Emi and SupervisorNational Student Employment Week is an annual week sponsored by the National Student Employment Association which seeks to recognize Student Employees at College Campuses across the Nation. In addition to an award ceremony for the Student Employee of the Year, here at the University of Rochester individual departments find their own creative ways to celebrate their dedicated student employees. The Financial Aid Office, for example, hosts a number of events for their employees during the week, hosting a celebration lunch and a scavenger hunt as well as creating photo bios for each of their employees. Here at University Communications, the office celebrated its student interns with a pizza party and a giant cake!

The following 16 students were also nominated for the award this year:
Zachary Brumberger ’14 – Biochemistry
Sara Leung ’14 – Mathematics
Patrick Hennessey ’14 – English
Liv Earle T5 ’14 – Comparative Lit.
Alex Montes ’16 – History
Lily Martyn ’14 – Epidemiology
Ana Garcia ’14 KEY – International Relations
Keishla Zayas ’15 – English
Marcia des Jardin ’15 – Molecular Genetics
Alex Teghipco ’14 – Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Sarah Winstein-Hibbs ’14 – English
Claire Wyman ’14 – Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Emily Fitzgerald ’16 – Microbiology
Margaret Speer ’15 – English
Rachel Taylor ’15 – Microbiology
Ted Teumer ’14 -Computer Science



Conference A Huge ‘Grand Jeté’ Forward For Student Dancers

By Quinlan Mitchell ’14

From March 12 to 16, students from the University of Rochester Program of Dance and Movement really got things moving. Along with program director Missy Pfohl-Smith and four faculty members, 14 UR undergrads participated in the Northeast regional conference of the American College Dance Festival Association (ACDFA) held this year at The College at Brockport.

The UR dance program has taken students to the conference three years in a row, largely due to the continued support of the Office of the Dean of the College, Dean Richard Feldman. Through generous sponsorship, Dean Feldman has allowed students of dance to take a huge ‘grand jeté’ forward as dancers and as people.

“Attending ACDFA was a pivotal experience in my college career, I’m so grateful to have connected with dancers whom I could have only met through ACDFA,” saysDan Hoffman ’15.

In return for the opportunity to pursue their art, dance students are showing their appreciation in a report to be presented to Dean Feldman, commenting on their experiences at ACDFA. Lauren Laibach, a senior at the U of R, has attended three ACDFA conferences.  Laibach says, “It’s so important for students from the UR program of Dance and Movement to broaden their horizons in terms of different approaches to dance and performance, and that’s exactly what ACDFA offers us.” Laibach also likes that ACDFA allows to her to watch a number of unique dance performances, something she loves to do.

Taking place on an annual basis, ACDFA regional conferences are part of a national initiative to promote dance as a performing art and nurture choreographic expression in college students. Dancers from all over attend conferences to engage in “three days of performances, workshops, panels, and master classes taught by instructors from around the region and country,” according to the ACDFA website.

Falling this year on spring break, the conference was not a chance for students to kick back and relax. Each day they participated in four master classes, running all day from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with a lunch break in the middle. After classes students also had the option of attending the formal, adjudicated concert for undergraduate pieces, often calling it a night around 10 pm.

This year the Program of Dance and Movement presented three student pieces at the conference, two for adjudication and one at the informal student performance. Dan Hoffman ’15 choreographed, “Meetings Along the Edge,” Jessie Hogestyn ’14 choreographed “Sounds of Silence,” and students enrolled in Dance Ensemble presented their piece, “Quantum Truths.”  Hogestyn’s piece also was featured on campus, at the Louvre Performance Ensemble’s “Bravado,” on April 5.

On campus, more student works from the Program of Dance and Movement also were featured at the student choreography concert, “Architectures,” as well as the outdoor concert “National Water Dances,” both held on April 12.




Hack to the Future: Rochester’s First 24-hour Hackathon

It’s a race against the clock as the hackathon participants complete as much coding and rapid prototyping as possible in 24 hours. (Photo by Jack Valinsky ’15)

By Sofia Tokar
University Communications

Computer programming is often a solitary endeavor. But humans are inherently social creatures.

So how do you engage a group of programmers in a way that’s fun and productive?

Answer: a hackathon.

Like book clubs for readers, hackathons regularly bring together computer programmers, coders, and developers with a shared love for building better software (and occasionally hardware) tools for themselves and others. Hackathons can last anywhere from a few hours to several days, and they often have an educational, social, or philanthropic bent.

In the last couple of years, Rochester’s computer science students have led the hacking movement at the University.

A brief history of the hack pack

Although the term “hacker” has negative connotations, groups like RocHack reclaim the term to mean builders and creators.

two students with laptops helping each other out

Bring your own laptop. The hackathon was held in Rettner Hall, with the first floor reserved for the hackers. (Photo by Jack Valinsky ’15)

Founded in September 2012, RocHack bills itself as “a group of hackers, engineers, builders, and friendly people who attend the University of Rochester.” Several Rochester students formed RocHack as a subset of the Computer Science Undergraduate Council (CSUG), a campus student organization.

In December 2013, the group hosted its first hackathon, an eight-hour event with the theme “Make UR Better.” The results included projects such as UR Bus Schedules (an easy way to access the campus bus schedules), Skedge (an alternative course scheduling system for the University), and Cluster Navigator (a visual tool to explore the Rochester curriculum as a graph of courses and clusters).

With the success of December’s event, the group decided it was time to hack things up a notch.

Spring into hacking action

On April 12 and 13, Rettner Hall hosted its first-ever daylong hacking gathering: the Spring 2014 RocHack Hackathon.

Computer science majors and CSUG members Steve Gattuso ’16 and Dan Hassin ’16 organized the event featuring half a dozen corporate sponsors (including Google) and more than 60 participants.

The goal? Come to the hackathon with an idea, work on it for 24 hours, complete as much coding and rapid prototyping as possible, then present the work—and potentially win prizes. Sleep is optional.

“You can bond with other people who love to build things,” says Gattuso. “It’s also a great way to learn how to code. We have a lot of experienced people who are happy to teach others.”

group of student laughing and taking around a table filled with laptops and other computer equipment

Steve Gattuso ’16 (center, plaid shirt) checks in with some of the hackers on day one. (Photo by Jack Valinsky ’15)

Participants brought their own laptops, but Gattuso and Hassin supplied plenty of workspace and food for the coders. “We wanted to encourage electrical engineers to attend, so we provided materials for hardware hacking as well,” explains Gattuso.

At 2 p.m. on Saturday, the hacking commenced.

Show and tell

After 24 hours of brainstorming, prototyping, coding, and testing, the participants presented their work.

The projects ranged from the practical to the elaborate. These included an application that generates customizable complaint emails based on how angry you are; a Reddit notification app for Chrome; a life-size interactive musical and visual tone matrix; a homemade operating system; and a distributed IRC system.

Demonstrating impressive technical know-how, these latter two projects tied for first place.

Next steps for RocHack

Gattuso and Hassin plan to hold another RocHack Hackathon next spring, and are considering making the event a semi-annual one.

“Most of the hackers this year were Rochester students,” says Hassin. “But with some more advertising and promotion, we hope to increase participation from area colleges and universities. We also want to encourage more people who are new to computer science to attend.”

As Gattuso and Hassin say, all you need is the desire to build.

student sleeping face down on the lawn

Hard day’s night: Sleep is optional at a hackathon. (Photo by Jack Valinsky ’15)

Learn more about

RocHack at

Computer Science at Rochester at