A Spirit of Activism at Rochester

Guest Contributor–Natalie Ziegler

One of the major factors in my decision to come to Rochester was my admissions interview. I remember hearing that “a spirit of activism permeates this campus.” Even though the phrase was broad and relatively vague, it was enough to entice me.

I’d been active in social justice campaigns during high school and wanted to attend a school where I could pursue similar efforts. Plus, since so much of your time in college is spent in the company of others, I knew I wanted to attend a school where I’d find like-minded people with similar passions. I was happy to learn that Rochester is home to many students who are genuinely concerned about the welfare of others and are ready and motivated to act upon these concerns.

But it wasn’t until I arrived at Rochester and got involved that I became aware of the concrete examples of “a spirit of activism.” Luckily for me, the Rochester campus and community have countless manifestations of this ideal.

circle protest


The best example I’ve experienced thus far of a “spirit of activism,” and the one that essentially encompasses all other examples, is Rochester’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). According to the organization’s Facebook biography, SDS “is a nonpartisan student organization and activist network that seeks to create an educated community dedicated to engaging issues of social and economic justice … [it] also provides an open democratic forum to engage in discourse about topics they may not feel comfortable discussing in other spheres. SDS is not affiliated with any political party and welcomes people with political views across the spectrum.” Through this club, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk with individuals of diverse backgrounds and beliefs about important issues. This semester alone, we’ve discussed and taken action on issues such as income inequality and fair wages for service workers at Rochester.

Through direct action and events such as panel discussions and lectures (often sponsored by SDS), students at Rochester have access to valuable conversations and have the chance to create change. These opportunities have been the highlights of many Rochester students’ college careers, including student activist and one of the leaders of SDS, Alsyha Alani, Class of 2015.

Alani participated very recently in peaceful protests planned by concerned students on campus regarding the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO. Alani described the event, stating, “Students and members of the community mobilized to express our solidarity with Mike Brown. Coming together with my peers and allies, we chose to speak back…. It is incredibly empowering to be surrounded by people that, like you, are transforming their sadness and anger into meaningful and peaceful direct action.”

Alani’s words confirm the benefits of activism at Rochester: Students are able to express their views, form meaningful bonds, and unite and mobilize about issues that matter to them. President Seligman also supports such activism, stating, “We protect the rights of all in our University community to express their views. Peaceful assembly and expression of views are consistent with the school’s core value of academic freedom.”

And in a city such as Rochester, there’s good reason to unite and mobilize. As sophomore SDS member Christian Wooddell says, “2012 census numbers show nearly 28% of the population in the City of Rochester lives in poverty, and it’s easy to forget that in the luxury bubble of campus life. It is our duty as privileged students to engage in local issues and be activists for our communities.” Many students at Rochester are cognizant of the conditions in parts of the city, and their willingness to serve the community contributes to the spirit of activism on campus. In my short time here, I’ve come to be aware of and to appreciate this spirit, and I look forward to the next four years of continuing to embrace activism at Rochester through SDS and other venues.

Natalie Ziegler ’18, is a lover of literature and plans to major in English. She is also passionate about social justice, which has led her to pursue a double major in anthropology.

Via Natalie Ziegler/UROC Admissions Blog

Life as a Campus Times Editor

Guest Contributor–Jamie Rudd

When I wandered into the Campus Times office the Wednesday of my first official week of college, I had no idea how much the place would come to mean to me. A freshman straight out of Orientation, I had no way of knowing that the office would eventually feel like more of a home than my dorm room, that the staff would become some of my closest friends, or that CT would ultimately define my life at Rochester. All I knew was that I was interested in journalism, and what better way to see if I was cut out for the job than by joining the newspaper?

Campus times

A part of the University of Rochester since 1873, the Campus Times is a weekly, student-run publication. Typically 16 pages long, the paper is divided into news, opinions, features, humor, arts and entertainment, and sports. In addition to the section editors, our current 18-person staff includes photo, copy, and managing editors along with our illustrator, publisher, and editor in chief. While we editors do our fair share of writing, we are also supported by a substantial number of other student writers that volunteer their services to keep the paper going every week.

During my first semester, I wrote for several different sections and spent as many Wednesdays as I could in the office for production night—the 12-hour period when the staff comes together to lay out pages, fill them with content, and circulate them through several levels of editing before sending them to the publisher Thursday morning. Along with a number of other new freshmen, I did preliminary copy editing for the editors and headed home around 11 pm, leaving the staff to finish up the higher-level stuff.

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I enjoyed the work that I did for the CT those first few months, but I knew that what I really wanted to do was become an editor. So when the end of the semester rolled around, I ran for the position of 2014 features editor, and got it. While I knew that the position would be quite the time commitment, I admit I wasn’t quite prepared for how much it would consume my life—the constant emailing, worrying about my writers meeting their deadlines, worrying about having enough writers, struggling to get all my Thursday homework done by Tuesday, and of course, the constant sleep deprivation that comes from only getting approximately two to four hours of sleep every single Wednesday for a semester. The spring semester last year was rough to say the least.

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Thankfully, all the stressful (and at times, nearly insufferable) aspects of being a CT editor (did I mention the heartbreak of opening a newly published issue and spotting mistakes—often ones you know you fixed—all over your pages?), all the stuff that makes you question why in the world you’re putting yourself through this torture, are matched by just as many wonderful, exhilarating, and blissful moments that remind you why it’s all very much worth it.

Yes, coming up with article ideas each week and making sure they all get written can be tough. But it has made me to be so much more aware of and involved in the campus community, not to mention an expert networker and problem solver. Yes, production nights can go pretty late and sleep deprivation can make doing anything  on Thursdays pretty much impossible. But Wednesday nights are also one of the most fun parts of my week: hour upon hour spent with my friends listening to music, talking and laughing together, goofing off occasionally, and making more wonderful memories than we can count. Yes, there have been times when I’m not sure how I’ll be able to handle all the pressure. But I always have my features coeditor (and one of my closest friends) Dani right there with me to get our section through. What’s more, we got our jobs down to a science this semester and have been finishing our pages around midnight (rather than the typical 3:30 am completions last year).

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While working on the Campus Times might be the epitome of a love-hate relationship, at the end of the day, there’s a whole lot more love than anything else. It’s challenged me and made me grow in so many ways, and while it hasn’t always been the easiest thing to admit, I’m truly grateful that I walked into the office last September and decided to keep coming back.

Jamie Rudd ’17, is a sophomore studying English and Anthropology. Originally from a small town in Oregon, she is happiest when traveling, reading, writing, and listening (or making) music.  She currently a member of the Students Helping Honduras service group, secretary of the Undergraduate Anthropology Council, and features editor of the Campus Times newspaper.  

Via Jamie Rudd/URoc Admissions Blog

Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Meghan Ochal

Ochal
Name: Meghan Ochal ’05

Occupation:  Public Health Analyst

Education : (UR and additional): BA (Anthropology), University of Rochester, 2005; Master of Public Health, University at Albany, 2007

Current city/state of residence: Washington, DC

Community activities: Volunteer with US partner of grassroots community health organization in Chile (Educacion Popular en Salud)


When and how did you choose your major? 

I started as a pre-med/biology major, but when I took a medical anthropology course my sophomore year, I realized that I was much more interested in the social and political aspects of health, versus the more scientific side.  The more anthropology courses I took, the more I realized it was what I wanted to study (I didn’t yet know I’d go on to a career in public health though!).

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was very involved in various community service groups and activities.  I was involved in Circle K my freshman through senior years, was an Urban Fellow, and did substantive work with the Community Service Network as a student as well as the summer after I graduated.  These experiences only helped to solidify my desire to pursue a career that addressed social and community concerns.  (I also played intramural Ultimate Frisbee all four years! J)

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use? 

I think the Career Center was the a very valuable resource – advisors there helped greatly in helping me find an internship as well as developing solid graduation school applications.  I also think participating in a few of the many student groups/clubs is a great opportunity to explore interests and meet new people.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

Without really any short- or long-term plan, I applied to graduate programs in public health (given my interest in medical anthropology) and was fortunate to receive a scholarship to the University at Albany’s School of Public Health.  Since I wasn’t quite sure exactly what I wanted as a career, going to grad school was a smart choice for me that helped me focus my interests and gain experience in a field that I’m incredibly happy to be a part of.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I work for a Federal program that provides grants to community health centers to provide health care to underserved populations, where I specifically support grantees in ensuring they are meeting requirements of the program.  As I was completing my MPH, I was drawn to working in the public sector and was accepted into the Emerging Leaders Program at the US Department of Health and Human Services, and was hired to work with the Health Center Program.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?  

The most valuable skills and knowledge I’ve gained from real-life experience through jobs and internships.  While having the academic coursework is critical, being able to practice using that knowledge is invaluable.

What advice do you have for current students?

I encourage everyone to seek out ‘real-life’ experiences through jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities.  Even if you are mostly filing or answering phones, being able to see how an organization/company functions can give you so much insight as to what you want to pursue as a career and provide practical skills and experiences that future employers or academic institutions will definitely value.

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.

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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.

Fellowship Prepares Rochester Student for Career in International Affairs

By Melissa Greco Lopes
Univ. Communications

University of Rochester undergraduate Jonathan Johnson ’14 has been selected as a 2013 Public Policy & International Affairs Fellow at Carnegie Mellon’s Junior Summer Institute. He is the second Rochester student to be named a PPIA Fellow in the last two years and is among the 20 recipients selected from a national pool of candidates to participate in the program at Carnegie Mellon.

As a PPIA Fellow, Johnson will spend seven weeks at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College—their graduate school focusing on public policy—in this highly selective summer program designed to prepare students from diverse social and economic backgrounds for graduate study and careers in public policy and international affairs. As a political science and anthropology major, Johnson has studied refugee populations and policy effects on war and genocide. His interest in the intersection of identity and policy, specifically how disadvantaged populations overcome obstacles, led him to apply for the PPIA Fellowship, which will help hone the skills required to conduct policy analysis.

“The fellowship looks at how policy affects individuals, states, and countries in nuanced ways—both on micro and macro levels,” Johnson said, “and understanding these complex relationships will help me gain the intellectual background needed to further my goals in affecting real-world change in the future.”

At Rochester, Johnson has been an active member of the campus community. He has served as a resident advisor for three years and as a Meridian, an ambassador for the Admissions Office. A perennial member of the Dean’s List, he participated in the Compass to Personal Success and Urban Fellows programs, two leadership and civic engagement initiatives through the University’s Rochester Center for Community Leadership. Johnson also is president of the men’s volleyball club.

While in Pennsylvania, Johnson will study economics, statistics, policy analysis and management, writing, and public speaking. The Junior Summer Institute is a blend of classroom coursework and workshops that address a variety of domestic and international issues. Carnegie Mellon’s program provides career-planning workshops that include GRE prep and one-on-one meetings with admissions and program staff members from graduate school. Fellows also will have opportunities to meet with public affairs practitioners and take a networking trip to Washington, D.C.

Johnson, a native of Crystal River, Fla., is a graduate of Lecanto High School in Lecanto, Fla. After graduation, he hopes to spend a year teaching English as a second language in Malaysia before pursuing both a juris doctorate and master’s degree in public policy.

The Carnegie Mellon Junior Summer Institute is part of the 30-year-old Public Policy & International Affairs Fellowship Program. A national consortium of top public policy and international affairs graduate schools, PPIA seeks to prepare college juniors for advanced degrees and careers serving the public good. In addition to Carnegie Mellon, there are four other schools that host a summer institute, including the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and Princeton University. For additional information, visit PPIA Program’s website.

Meet Samantha Whalen: Meliora Leader

By Caitlin Mack ’12 (T5)
Univ. Communications

Though only a sophomore, Samantha Whalen ’15 has managed to effectively find a  real-world application for her majors in anthropology and health, behavior & society and complement her interests in peer health advocacy and community outreach. As a participant in the Meliora Leaders Program, Whalen was given the opportunity to volunteer at the Sojourner House, a transitional housing program for homeless women and children located in the 19th ward community. There, she helps residents plan and cook healthy, nutritious meals.

For the 2012-2013 academic year, five Rochester students, including Whalen, were selected as inaugural participants in the Meliora Leaders program. Designed to support and incentivize community-based leadership among Rochester students, the new initiative is a part of the Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL).

In addition to serving as publicity chair of the Refugee Student Alliance on campus and volunteering as a part of community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, Whalen will spend the year running a local community service project, embodying the University motto by “seeking to ameliorate the Rochester community.”

In exchange for 300 hours of service throughout the academic year, leaders receive supplemental funding through AmeriCorps, which is matched by the University of Rochester. Participants undergo leadership training, keep in contact with a member of the host organization where the service is performed, and receive regular advisement by faculty or staff at the College.

“The program benefits organizations and individuals in need in Rochester, but also provides a substantive learning experience for our students,” says Glenn Cerosaletti, director of Rochester Center for Community Leadership. “Students stand to gain a keener understanding of the Rochester community—both its needs and assets—and make lasting connections with particular individuals in the community. At the same time, I hope they will gain an understanding of project management and how to enact social change.”

Whalen’s host organization, the Sojourner House, provides shelter for roughly 16 women at a time and any children they may have. The women living in the house must complete assigned chores, attend life skills programs that help them find jobs, and sometimes undergo counseling and therapy for issues like drug and alcohol addiction. Women and their families usually stay around six months, which is preferred to secure living arrangements, although stays vary from one month to more than a year.

At the house, Whalen noticed that women usually pooled their food stamps and resources to prepare ‘comfort’ foods, which were often unhealthy. She has been working with the life skills coordinator at the house to plan healthy meals, make shopping lists, organize the kitchen so the women have better access to adequate cooking supplies, and provide advice on healthy portion sizes. She also suggests simple recipes with varied and interesting ingredients and tries to make them as healthy and nutritious as possible while staying within budget.

“The women go back to the same things that they grew up making, which is fine every once in awhile, but it’s about teaching them and their children how to live a healthier lifestyle,” Whalen explains.

Examples of healthy meals that Whalen helped plan include chicken pasta primavera, chicken stir fry, smoked pork chops with corn and okra, chicken asparagus crepes, turkey meatloaf, and chicken quesadillas.

Whalen especially appreciates her interactions with the children who live in the Sojourner House. In addition to biweekly visits to the house to help plan meals and improve overall nutrition, Whalen hosts a “study buddy” program on Tuesday nights, where she provides homework help to the kids who live there. The kids also participate in “Dream Seeds,” an arts enrichment program that has activities, including drumming and tap dancing. She says that talking and interacting with the children has given her a new perspective on Rochester outside of the microcosm of the River Campus.

“It’s eye-opening to interact with a different socioeconomic group. It helps me to understand Rochester more as a community,” Whalen explains. “There are two little girls that told me they aren’t allowed to play outside because there’s a criminal who lives on their street. Sojourner House is a place to go to feel safe and to do fun activities.”

A native of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Whalen pursued this opportunity after hearing about it through Alpha Phi Omega and was in charge of finding her own project and contacts. Whalen posts monthly reflections on Blackboard so that RCCL staff can monitor her progress and make sure she stays on track.  She remains focused on maintaining a nutrition program and committed to helping the residents of the Sojourner House in any way that she can.

This article is part one of a series that will feature the Meliora Leaders of 2012-2013. Undergraduates interested in participating in the program should look for information on the RCCL page in Spring 2013. Information about the program can be found on the RCCL page at http://rochester.edu/college/rccl/meliora.html.

Sorcha Dundas Awarded Fulbright to Nepal

University of Rochester student Sorcha Dundas ’12 has been awarded a 2012-13 Fulbright Scholarship to Nepal, where she will serve as an English Teaching Assistant. Dundas, a native of Rutland, Vt., is the first Rochester student to be accepted into the Nepal program. In the past five years, 35 Rochester students and alumni have received a Fulbright Scholarship, which is among the most prestigious and competitive fellowship programs.

Rochester senior Edith Hanson, who will graduate with dual majors in Japanese and computer science and a minor in history, was named a Fulbright alternate to South Korea. Rising junior Adam Russak was chosen to participate in the 2012 Fulbright US-UK Summer Institute, where he will spend six weeks studying at Durham University in the United Kingdom. Russak, a native of Agoura Hills, Calif., is completing a bachelor of science degree in applied math and also doing a minor in classical civilization.

Dundas, who will graduate on May 20 with a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology from the College, will spend a month in Katmandu, undergoing extensive training in the Nepali language and honing her teaching skills. During her eight-month stay in Nepal, she hopes to volunteer in a local health clinic or assist in research and community projects, in addition to her teaching assistantship.

For Dundas, the Fulbright is an opportunity to build upon experiences she had working with and studying Nepali refugees in America during summer 2011. Dundas, who was awarded an Anthropology Undergraduate Research Grant, worked with newly settled Bhutanese refugees during an internship with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. Dundas lived with a Nepali family originally from Bhutan, serving as an in-home English tutor. During the summer, she also used her research grant to study newly formed agricultural projects that help refugees and immigrants acclimate to the United States. Both experiences will help inform her honor’s thesis, which explores the American experience of Nepali refugees.

For Dundas, traveling to Nepal as a Fulbright is not her first international education experience. She also studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, as a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholar and also received an IES Africa Scholarship. During her time in South Africa, she worked in impoverished Cape Flat communities, teaching English as a Second Language to nine through 12-year-olds.

At Rochester, Dundas was involved in the campus chapter of GlobeMed, a student organization that is committed to improving the conditions of global health and advocating for social justice. As a tutor with UReading, she spent nearly 10 hours each week helping preschool children develop their language, literacy, math, and social skills at Rochester City School District School 29. She also served as a resident assistant for four semesters.

The Fulbright program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, offers opportunities for career-launching study, teaching, and research abroad and are designed to promote education and cultural exchange between the United States and other nations. Postgraduate scholars pursuing study or research design their own programs and arrange institutional affiliations in the host countries. The grants cover expenses such as travel and health insurance, and also provide a monthly stipend. Established by Congress in 1946, Fulbright is the largest federally sponsored international educational exchange program.

Spotlight on Social Sciences and Humanities Alumni: Gemma Sole

Name: Gemma Sole
Occupation: Senior Consultant, Strategy and Operations, Booz Allen Hamilton
Education (UR and additional):
  B.A. in Anthropology and B.A. in English , University of Rochester, 2010, Babson Business Edge.
Current city/state of residence:
Washington, D.C.
Community activities: Pro-bono consulting


When and how did you choose your major?

 

Had I been allowed to take an engineering class without having to have declared it my major, I would have probably been an engineer. I’m kind of a strange candidate because I double-majored, minored, and got a certificate (Anthropology, English Communications, Economics, and International Relations). I basically majored in the Social Sciences.  I chose Anthropology because I took Professor Robert Foster’s Culture and Consumption class my freshman year and found Anthropology to be the most intellectually stimulating.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

 

I founded UR Consulting Group (URCG) and I was an active member of the Creative Arts Club (CAC). Both of these were great opportunities to meet and work with a diverse range of students. I learned a lot about myself and gained experience, good friends, and some amazing opportunities.  A great example of merging those experiences was planning and implementing the marketing for the Art Awake 2010.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

 

Definitely take full advantage of the Career Center, but, really, all of the resources at the school, including your fellow students. If you’re interested in entrepreneurship, visit the Center for Entrepreneurship and have a conversation with Bob Tobin who is an amazing resource. Have conversations with your professors outside the classroom. Try everything at least once if you can. And go to the library more. You will miss Rush Rhees- I guarantee it.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

 

Immediately after graduation, I interned at Ogilvy and Mather in LA while working with mentors to cement my plans to participate in the Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year (KEY) Program during the 2009-2010 year. I decided I wanted to get a taste of starting my own business and this was the safest way to do that and learn more about business, entrepreneurship, and myself. I met more amazing people in that year than I could have hoped and that experience was one of the best of my academic and professional careers.

Where would you like to be in five years?

 

In five years, I would like to be a) living abroad, b) in business school, or c) running my own business, or any combination of the three. Check back in 2016!

How are you still connected with the University?

 

I participate in a lot of Alumni Career Center events.  I love talking to current students about their career goals and passions. I also stay connected with UR Consulting Group. Feel free to reach out!

What advice do you have for current students?

 

Decide what you want and do it.  Tell everyone you know about what you want to achieve and you will be surprised how many people will want to help you make that happen.  And remember, where ever you go, there you are, so enjoy it.