Spotlight on Humanities Alumni: Sarah Altone

altoneName: Sarah Altone ’09
Education (UR and additional): BA (Studio Arts and Art History), University of Rochester, 2009; Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T. – Art Education), Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Current city/state of residence: Boston, MA
Job Title: Elementary Art Teacher
Employer: Dedham Public Schools
Job Title: Teacher and Studio Assistant
Employer: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

When and how did you choose your major?

I procrastinated a bit on declaring both my majors, but I knew what I wanted to major in by spring semester, freshman year. I had been extremely focused on studio arts in high school, but I didn’t want to go to an “Art School.” I thought I might be done with making art academically… so I played with the idea that I would double major in art history and Classics/anthropology/philosophy/English, etc. However, it turns out that most art history courses are cross-listed with those departments, and I started craving some studio art classes again. Listen to yourself, and pursue your passions.

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

I applied to art education graduate programs during my senior year, and had to make a tough choice between Columbia University’s Teachers College and Tufts/SMFA. Eventually Boston won, and I made the move about five days after graduation. My graduate program began that summer, and I feel like going from undergrad to grad school without a break was helpful for me. I stayed focused on what I wanted to accomplish. I graduated the following May, and landed a mostly full-time art teaching position. The next year it turned into full-time.

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

I teach 1st to 5th grade art at a public elementary school just outside of Boston. It’s an easy twenty five-minute commute and my students are amazing! I discovered during college that I loved teaching and working with children… I already knew I loved art. When I did ArtNY my junior year, I was an intern and then the teacher for after-school art classes with 6th and 7th graders. That experience really solidified my goals for the future.  This summer will also be my fifth year working at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. I work with the studio art classes for children and teens during the summer program. And recently, I’ve been teaching children’s classes there on Saturdays and during school vacation weeks.

This summer will also be my fifth year working at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. I work with the studio art classes for children and teens during the summer program.  And recently, I’ve been teaching children’s classes there on Saturdays and during school vacation weeks.

I’m excited for work every day – and my students are always excited to see me. I hope everyone can experience a job like mine. It’s incredibly fulfilling… and challenging.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

It’s hard. Keep your college friends around and make friends with your coworkers. College is such a unique time to be with these amazing people in one place – after college everyone spreads out and you don’t have the same opportunities to be with such a large network of your peers.  

Where would you like to be in five years?

Where? Maybe Boston, maybe somewhere else. I’d like to write/illustrate children’s books. I also can’t decide between another masters in early childhood education or special education – or both.

What advice do you have for current students?

Hang out in Starbucks and socialize. Write your papers in a secret spot in the library. Go to parties and wear ridiculous things. Make all your friends wake up before noon on Sunday and have a two-hour long brunch.  Go to Aja Noodle, a lot. Go to the gym.


Summer Plans Series: Saroyah Mevorach Experiences the London Fashion World

By Blake Silberberg ‘13
University Communications

University of Rochester senior Saroyah Mevorach recently returned from an internship in London, England, with the Fashion and Textile Museum. The art history major participated in the Educational Programmes Abroad (EPA) Internships in Europe. The program is offered through the College Center for Study Abroad.

Mevorach grew up surrounded by a family of art collectors, in homes filled with Chinese and European art collections. After taking every art course available to her in high school, she was certain she wanted to pursue a degree in art at Rochester. During the spring of her sophomore year, she participated in the University’s Art New York program, where she worked as an editorial intern for Town & Country magazine in Manhattan. As an intern, she helped prepare information and photos for upcoming spreads, fact checked for fashion, lifestyle, or social articles, and helped out in the fashion closet, prepping for shoots and unpacking as well as organizing inventory.

“Since it is a very elite and fashionable magazine, I was able to see designers, models, socialites, and other relevant figures coming in and out of the office and was also able to work with and observe extraordinary people,” explained sm1Mevorach, “I was able to see how the runway is translated to the page and then distributed to the public. It was a very comprehensive learning experience and I really loved it.”

Building on that positive opportunity, Mevorach embarked this summer on the EPA program in London. The program sponsors semester-long study programs in London, Berlin, Bonn, Cologne, Brussels, Edinburgh, and Madrid and combine eight-credit internships with coursework throughout the semester. It also provides solid work experience for the students involved.

Mevorach describes London as “A great city for fashion, contemporary art, and multicultural experiences, and an excellent place for someone involved in art to intern.” She interned at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, which is owned by Newham College, and was founded by Zandra Rhodes, a famous British designer. Because the organization’s staff is only 8 people, she was able to experience what she describes as “nearly all aspects and roles within the museum.”.

“I helped plan curatorial approaches and layouts, organize exhibition lists, and even worked in the shop and gallery once or twice.” Mevorach also helped create and maintain a social media campaign for the museum, as well as helping to draft press releases. Being part of such a small staff also allowed her the opportunity to work with high profile designers.

“The best day was probably when I worked with David Sassoon, designer for the notable fashion label Bellville Sassoon, who created dresses, gowns and outfits for the Royals, including Princess Diana,” recounts Mevorach. “I smhelped him organize his upcoming exhibition at the show and was able to see all of his original sketches. He is so sweet and amazingly talented.”

Mevorach describes living and working abroad as eye opening. “Our world and all of its industries have gone global, and I think it’s extremely important to experience any field outside the borders of the United States.”

“After working and living in London, I have a greater appreciation for and understanding of what it takes to make it in the creative industry. I have learned to be more independent and met people who have inspired me. This program offers a growing experience for anyone willing to go and accept a new challenge.”

This story is part of the Summer Plans Series, a collection of stories about how undergrads at the University of Rochester are spending their summer. Know of someone doing something cool over break? Email The Buzz ( and tell us all about it!

Spotlight on Humanities Alumni: Emily Wroczynski

emwrocName: Emily Wroczynski

Education: B.A. Art History and Spanish minor in Arabic

Current city/state of residence: Williamsburg, VA (moving to Wilmington, DE in July)

Job Title: Intern in Archaeological Materials Conservation Lab

Employer: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (unpaid internship)

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I chose to attend the U of R mainly for the vibrant campus life and activities. I was also very excited about the open curriculum and opportunities to study abroad, learn Arabic, play the cello, etc.

When and how did you choose your major?

I chose my major of art history at the end of freshman year. I had always loved art and took AP art history in high school, but I did not see it as a practical career path. Still not completely sure about my career options, I declared after having so much fun in Grace Seiberling’s Art and American Culture course. I always knew I would continue with my Spanish studies but I did not declare until sophomore year before going abroad.

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

I was a member of Phi Sigma Sigma sorority and I played club ice hockey. Both of these activities taught me discipline and how to work in a team and balance responsibilities. I also participated in partners in reading which really helped me understand ESL needs and that understanding is not the same thing as being able to teach.

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

The art and music library librarians are awesome and really know their sources and databases. I have continued to contact them every now and then after I graduated. The Periodical Reading Room is my favorite place to study and makes me feel really smart. Interlibrary loan is the most impressive resource and I highly recommend it! I even got a thesis held at the Smithsonian archives for a source once.

Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?

Some of my mentors were Janet Berlo and Rachel Haidu and I have tried to remain in touch although not frequently. They have continued to provide me with great advice and have written recommendations that have led to my acceptance in a master’s program in art conservation.

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

I began an internship at West Lake Conservators, a private art conservation practice in Skaneateles, NY. I took this position on a path to complete all of the pre-requisites necessary to apply to a master’s in art conservation.

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

I am currently interning at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (over 400 hours of practical experience are necessary for the master’s) and I was just accepted into the Winterthur Program in Art Conservation. I chose this career after various internships in museums and galleries and still longing for a more hands-on experience with art.

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

The writing skills that I perfected while at U of R (particularly the Writing on Art course and my senior seminar in art history) have been extremely helpful in all of my internships and for communicating in my field. I have one publication and another one pending and I credit those successes to my great education.


How do you balance your work and personal life?

This balance is always tricky and I have found the only successful method is to be very organized. I make lots of schedules and to do lists and I always schedule in personal activities and fun asides as rewards for completing tasks for work and school.

Where would you like to be in five years?

I would like to be employed by an art institution as a full-time conservator.

How are you still connected with the University?

I maintain contact with some of my former professors and definitely with my good friends from U of R. I read the alumni magazine and have written in once. I attended Meliora Weekend last year while I was living closer to Rochester. I would like to become more involved with alumni relations now that I have a more solidified career path.

What advice do you have for current students?

Enjoy the time that you have at Rochester. Take advantage of the campus activities but leave time to explore the city. If possible spend a summer in Rochester and definitely study abroad.

Spotlight on Humanities Alumni: Kim Stromgren

Name: Kim Stromgren
Age: 30
Education (UR and additional): B.A. in Studio Art & Art History, University of Rochester, 2003; M.A. in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology, Naropa University
Current city/state of residence: Denver, CO
Job Title: Psychotherapist
Employer: Self
Community activities: Pro-bono counseling at Maria Droste Counseling Center, Volunteer work for Hospice of Boulder & Broomfield Counties; Snowboarding, soccer, meditation, and yoga all for fun.

When and how did you choose your major?

I chose to double major in studio art and art history and minor in religion during my sophomore year at Rochester. Throughout my life I have been drawn to art (no pun intended), but because I was always so focused on over achieving some of my true desires were compromised, such as making art. During college I finally realized it would be more advantageous to concentrate on a subject and discipline that I was truly passionate about than graduate with skills in a field I didn’t have interest in pursuing. Art continues to fascinate me because within it are infinite ways of viewing the world, since each individual perceives the world differently and therefore expresses art with uniqueness. I also believe that art of all kinds manifests the essence of what it means to be human.

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

I moved to Los Angeles because I felt chilled to the bone after four years in Rochester and also because LA has a thriving contemporary art scene. For a year and a half I was the assistant director of Sandroni Rey Contemporary Art Gallery, which I directly applied skills and knowledge I gained from my studies at Rochester. I decided to pursue fine art administration because I wanted to work within the field while building my own artistic portfolio and gain some life experience before pursuing an MFA.

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

Seven years ago my own personal path hijacked my professional path, which forced me to take a new route all together. Although I loved making art and still am passionate about viewing art, the work of the fine art industry did not stimulate me as I had anticipated it would. I began missing the original reasons I was attracted to art, which was the connection I felt to each artist’s unique perspective on the world. Probably I felt detached from myself and consequently couldn’t feel attached to art.

I moved back to Denver, CO (where I grew up) to reflect and decide what was next. This led me back to very young interests of mine relating to counseling and psychology. I realized I needed to work with people on a deep and vulnerable level, but I needed to do so in a way that was not “analytical;” subsequently, I pursued an MA in transpersonal counseling psychology at Naropa University in Boulder, CO. Naropa was founded on the Buddhist belief, that it is not possible to learn if one’s mind is all ready full. Therefore their education is rooted in contemplation and all majors are required to maintain a meditation practice and receive training in mindfulness. This program is uniquely suited for therapists because as a psychotherapist/counselor/psychologist we use ourselves as vehicles for healing and insight, so it is essential that we build personal awareness and cultivate a practice for grounding and reflection so we’re better able to present and serve our clients.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

I stopped watching television seven years ago, which gave me lots of extra time even though I am very busy. It’s essential to have tools for self-care in place (exercise, socializing) built into my schedule so I have the energy to keep working hard professionally and giving to my family. When I notice I feel overwhelmed or over-extended I know it’s time to take a look at what’s happening in my world and make some changes.

What advice do you have for current students?

Find a path of study you are passionate about and realize that the way in which you manifest it in your future may change and that’s okay. This is one step in hopefully a long journey and the more you realize that, the less stressful the need to choose a path will be. If you’re the kind of person who has always known what you want to do with your life then congratulations it will be easier for you, but it will still benefit you to stay open to how your path unfolds and accept the subtle changes that will arise.

It’s okay to change, but whatever you choose commit to it and work hard because truly the personal reward you receive will be equal to the effort you invest

Tinkerer, Scholar, Hacker, Innovator

Rochester Review – For more than a week in May, Andrew Tomich ’14, Jared Suresky ’12, and other members of the Midnight Ramblers will hole up in makeshift recording booths in the basement of Spurrier Gym. There, over the course of back-to-back, 12- to 15-hour days, they will haul into the building their own microphones, their own portable recording system, computers loaded with professional software, and other equipment to record up to a dozen new songs.

At the end of the marathon sessions, the members of the a cappella group will emerge, bleary-eyed—maybe a little hoarse—but with a laptop containing the gist of their 10th “studio” album. The do-it-yourself method is how the Ramblers have recorded all nine of their albums over the last decade: on their own, late into the night, with their own equipment.

They have no faculty members to guide them, no tech support crew to troubleshoot problems, and no formal training in how to record digital music. They have just their own desire to create a collection of music they can share with their fans.

“We keep teaching ourselves how to do it,” says Tomich, a biomedical engineering major from Cleveland. “A lot of what we’ve learned is through experimentation, and through one generation of Ramblers handing off the knowledge to another generation.

“We kind of make do,” he says.

And make do very well. With albums regularly selected as among the best in the collegiate a cappella world, the Ramblers are something of an ongoing digital media enterprise. In addition to recording their own tracks (they rely on a professional engineering company to mix the albums), they conceive, record, and produce their own videos, and they oversee their own advertising and communications effort. All done digitally on their own equipment.

As the tools—the cameras, computers, software—that used to be available to only the most sophisticated professional have become practically standard on introductory laptops, if not on smartphones, students at Rochester and across the country are teaching themselves how to create their own artistic, personal, and professional digital portfolios.

And they take on the projects because they want to, regardless of their majors or whether they’ve taken classes or been formally trained in digital media. It’s not just for film geeks or photo mavens or computer jocks any more.

Couple that ubiquity with the 24/7, can-do, let’s-make-something-cool spirit that’s contagious among college students, and academic leaders say the University is poised not just to make advances in the world of digital media and art, but also to help rekindle a spirit of innovation.

Tom DiPiero, dean for humanities and interdisciplinary studies, says one of the hallmarks of students who have grown up in the Internet era is that they’re immune to the notion that creativity is bound within individual disciplines. Riffing on the British scientist C. P. Snow’s famous critique of academia and the danger of compartmentalization, DiPiero says students don’t think in terms of “two cultures” any longer, if they ever did.

“Any of us who are older still think in terms of the divides—the arts and humanities side and the science and engineering side,” says DiPiero. “That’s not how kids think today. They might have a predilection toward one or the other side of things, but they don’t think in those kinds of boxes.”

In an effort to further strengthen the connections among intellectual interests, Arts, Sciences & Engineering is launching a multipronged initiative this spring with the goal of providing students with an academic and cocurricular home for their multidisciplinary interests.

The clearest manifestation is a new building, which campus planners hope to break ground on later this year, that will house state-of-the-art space for students to explore, create, and study digital media, including video and audio production, website technology, and mobile applications.

Built to connect with Morey Hall, the new building will provide much of the technologically equipped studio space for two new majors designed to give students an academic structure to channel their interests in the arts, humanities, and digital technology. One major, in digital media studies, has begun enrolling students for the fall; the second, in audio and music engineering, is expected to be approved soon.

DiPiero says the new major in digital media is designed to give students a liberal arts grounding in perspectives about narrative, analysis, video production, film history, media, technology, and other humanistic approaches, complemented with production-oriented classes in video, audio, Web, and other technologies.

Such a program will not only improve the digital skills of students, but will also provide them with a broad perspective to think critically about the technology around them, he says.

“If you know the history, if you know the aesthetics, you are much more likely to be able to produce something that people will want to watch,” says DiPiero. “But we also want to address the fact that every educated adult needs to be both a critical reader of media—that is, they need to know how to look at media, how to understand them historically, socially, and even aesthetically—and at the same time, they need to know something about how to produce these forms of media.”

Tomich of the Ramblers says having a broader sense of the history and aesthetics of media production would only improve the quality of the group’s productions.

“As a non-major, I’m interested in those things; as a user I’m interested in those things,” he says. “If it was a major, I’d still be interested in those things. Knowing where things have come from enables you to create better work.

“I would have no qualms about taking a history class to understand why we have what we have, and how it has progressed to this point. I think that’s really cool.”

The idea of channeling student inquisitiveness and innovation guides a second main component of the new building—a state-of-the-art “studio for engineers”—known as the fabrication center, or “fab lab,” where students can fabricate prototypes and work with materials for shaping ideas into products.

Rob Clark, dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, says the design of the fab lab and its placement within the new building acknowledges that innovative ideas come from across the spectrum of students.

He, too, has seen a trend among students to bridge what traditionally have been seen as distinct disciplines. For example, last year, when a computer-aided design course required for mechanical engineering students was mistakenly listed in the course schedule as having no prerequisites, the first 25 to 30 seats were filled with arts and sciences students. The Hajim School had to offer a second section to accommodate the additional demand.

Clark attributes the enrollment to students’ interest in the gaming industry and the growth of virtual online worlds, but he says it’s a fitting example of how students approach new technologies.

“Students here and at other institutions are less driven by the requirements and constraints put on any particular discipline,” Clark says. “They are interested in learning what they’re curious about at the time. They’re less interested in the boundaries between disciplines. I think this space creates an opportunity to say, ‘We encourage that.’”

Bradley Halpern ’12, president of the Students’ Association, says students have long been tinkering with media production, particularly campus performing groups who produce video and audio projects. Regardless of major, students think nothing of drawing on other disciplines to figure out how to solve a problem.

“People are starting to realize that you need crossdisciplinary study to solve the world’s problems,” says Halpern. “It’s a way of thinking that makes us, as students, more capable and more likely to take that approach when we’re in the workforce.”

An engineer, Halpern is focusing his major on human-computer interaction, a field that explores the social, cultural, and psychological ways that people interact with technology and how to improve that experience. He draws on his interests in computers, political science, music, and other fields as he explores ways to make technology more user-friendly.

Halpern works with Jeff Bigham, an assistant professor of computer science who helped draft the new major in digital media studies. Bigham says technological fields like computer engineering are just beginning to recognize how much artists, psychologists, and humanists can bring to the design of technology.

The new initiatives can only spark more collaboration among students, who, he agrees, no longer think in terms of “us” and “them” when it comes to digital culture.

“We older people might think that there are two groups,” he says. “Younger people are just thinking, I’m a digital media person and I might sample from computer science or I might sample from art and art history. They’re already doing it; why not just formalize it?”

Bigham notes that the willingness of students to explore the potential of technological tools is not new. Such creativity lies at the heart of what most people think of as “hacking,” or the nonmalicious approach of taking a gadget apart, figuring out how it works, and using its concepts and parts to create something new. In that sense, the arts and humanities are particular hotspots right now, he says.

“It used to be the computer scientists who were going off and gluing together hardware, and they were writing their own software to do stuff that they thought was cool, to get stuff done,” Bigham says. “Now, we’ve matured as a discipline; we have all this stuff. Now it’s the artists, who don’t have formal training in computer science or in electrical engineering, who are taking whatever they can find, gluing it together in whatever way they want to be able to achieve whatever art they want to create. They are the ones who are doing the hacking that really started with computer programming.”

For his part, Clark wouldn’t mind rekindling the idea that being a good engineer means being a good tinkerer.

As do other engineering administrators around the country, Clark notes that the profession’s success in making sure that students are mathematically prepared and comfortable working with computer technology has lessened the likelihood that incoming engineering students have experience in developing, producing, or improving physical products.

“Our students come in with great math and science skills,” he says. “That’s true across the field of engineering. It’s generational. But part of education is always to find the components of the things that someone needs to learn to succeed in a particular career. In engineering part of what you need to succeed is to understand how things work. To do that, you need to be able to take things apart or put them together and to conceive design.

“I want to encourage engineering students to use the space as an art student would use an art studio. If you’re a sophomore and you have an idea of some widget you want to build, then you should be able to figure out what tools you need to use to build the device and be able to go into the lab and build it.”

Cary Peppermint, assistant professor of art and art history, says artists have traditionally been willing to do exactly that—go into a studio and use the tools at hand to pursue an artistic vision. What’s new is that the technology is different and the approaches to art tend to be more collaborative and interactive than they’ve been in the past.

He’s the founder of an artistic collective that uses technology such as GPS programs, Web interfaces, and social media to analyze and question modern society’s connections with nature.

In his classes, he and his students explore ways to repurpose technologies to create new artistic works and to develop interactions between artists, viewers, and art.

“The collaborative and interdisciplinary component is different from an artist’s perspective,” he says. In contrast to the stereotypical image of the lone artist, most digital art requires a group of programmers, graphic designers, artists, digital video, and sound producers.

“No one can be an expert in all those things,” Peppermint says. “It’s a new way of working. That’s very exciting.”


One of the students in Peppermint’s introduction to digital art class, Nicolette Howell ’13, says she’s used to tinkering as a studio arts major interested in photography. The brooding images in a recent portfolio of her work hide a menagerie of menacing shapes and shadows within swirls of computer-enhanced smoke. All created with imagination, vision—and software.

Like generations of photographers and artists before her, the junior from Dacula, Ga., is learning to experiment with her medium and her equipment to get the results she sees in her mind’s eye.

She’s already acquainted herself with Photoshop, After Effects, Illustrator, and other commercial-level image and design programs. In the course on digital art last winter, she used software to animate her images so that they moved as viewers clicked them on a computer screen.

The project was her first effort at interactive art, and it piqued her interest in improving her skills with increasingly advanced technology. She doesn’t want to be a computer programmer, but she does want to know enough about software to help express her artistic ideas.

Says Howell: “I always think that learning about more things will make my work better.”

Article written for the May-June issue of Rochester Review by Scott Hauser, editor of Review.

In the Photos:

ROLL ‘TAPE’: Setting up their own equipment in practice rooms in Spurrier Gym, Jared Suresky ’12 (singing), Kevin Layden ’13 (left), Noah Berg ’12, Andrew Tomich ’14, and the rest of the Midnight Ramblers have recorded nine CDs, teaching themselves how to use new technology.

DESIGNING TIMES: Computer science professor Jeff Bigham says technologists have begun to recognize the contributions of humanists and social scientists in making technology more user-friendly.

STUDIO ARTIST: Nicolette Howell ’13, a studio arts major from Dacula, Ga., says an introductory class on digital art piqued her interest in learning more about how she can use technology to broaden the range of artistic expression she can bring to her photographic work.

Photos courtesy of J. Adam Fenster, University Communications.

Students Delve Deeper into the Divine Comedy

Univ. Communications – On a Tuesday afternoon, a small group of students huddled around several rare print editions of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy in the Rare Books and Special Collections Library at the University. The books dated as far back as the sixteenth century and featured delicate engravings and woodcuts produced through a variety of technologies.

For the first time in the history of the University, a course has been developed purely for the purpose of exploring the visual culture surrounding Dante’s magnum opus. Offered by the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, the Dante Multimedia Lab, led by Associate Professor of Italian Donatella Stocchi-Perucchio, is designed for students to engage with the text of the Comedy, study the history of the book as an object, and also to evaluate the cultural impact of the work through art.

“The reoccurring point of inspiration for me is the realization of how deep of an impact a single medieval story had on Western art, theology, and literature,” said Beau Reynolds ’12, a political science major. “Dante is so influential in Western thought that the majority of time his influence is so subtle that it goes unnoticed. We are really focusing on discovering how deep that impact goes. It is as much a study of humanity and society as it is of art and literature.”

Illustrations of the Divine Comedy date back almost to the time of its writing in the early fourteenth century. Early manuscripts featured illuminations of the text and by the 1480s the first illustration cycle done by Sandro Botticelli was printed. The tradition of illustrating the comedy continued through the centuries with such prominent artists as Alessandro Vellutello, Gustave Doré, and most recently California-based Sandow Birk. Birk actually rewrote the text of the Comedy to reflect modern jargon and to accompany his reinterpretation of Doré’s illustrations, set in a dystopian Los Angeles. Later in the semester, the class will have a video conference with Birk about his work.

The first section of the course was devoted to a classificatory exercise; the students explored the illustrators and learned about the social, geographical, and historical context in which their work was produced.  This task helps students create a “geographic and historical landscape around the Comedy,” said Stocchi-Perucchio.

All of the students in the class have taken at least one course on Dante previously and are familiar with the text of the Comedy. Only one student is an art history major. At its core, explained Stocchi-Perucchio, “this is a course that interrogates the reader of literature who watches art. And he will watch art from a different perspective than the art historian.”

As the students compare how different artists in different historical contexts represent the same scenes, they are attempting to detect the dialogue between image and text. Dante’s verse is by nature emphatically visual and this is precisely the reason it has inspired so many generations of artists. Images of and inspired by the Comedy can be narrative or symbolic; some artists aim to depict a close reading of Dante, others use the poet’s text to talk about themselves and their time.

“The format of the class is unlike any other I’ve ever participated in. It is both research and discussion intensive … Every class consists of individual presentation and discussion,” says Reynolds.  “It’s very satisfying to see individual input turn into new class objectives and material.”

Indeed the student-driven nature of the course has satisfied Stocchi-Perucchio as well. “I’ve seen the questions rising, I’ve seen the engagement, I’ve seen them excited about doing the course themselves, because I’ve not really taken stage that much so far, and I’ve seen them liking that.”

The course is part of the larger push for research in the humanities within the University.  Through their work the students are expanding the body of knowledge about a sphere of human creative production and also cataloging information for the promotion of further inquiry by others. “Research in the humanities is much less subjective than is supposed,” insisted Reynolds.  “Critical questions regarding intent and motive regarding artwork are becoming more of a natural way of thinking, as opposed to simply enjoying the aesthetics of the work.”

Article written by Maya Dukmasova, a Take 5 Scholar at the University of Rochester and an intern at University Communications. She majored in philosophy and religion and focused her Take 5 year on researching the way American media covers current events in the Muslim world. An aspiring journalist, Dukmasova has freelanced for Rochester Magazine, the Phoenix New Times, and the Daily News Egypt in Cairo. She also maintains two blogs, one devoted to culture and society in Russia ( and the other to photography (


Photos courtesy of Maya Dukmasova.

Spend Summer on Campus with Sustainability Research Internships

Philosophy Department – Have an interest in learning about wildlife habitats in the Northeastern U.S.? Looking to put your background in biological sciences to use on a biofuel research project? Think the opportunity to explore the University’s South Campus forest might be cool?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, than you’re in luck! You could be one of the half-dozen students selected participate in one of the sustainability-related internships opportunities during summer 2012.

Sponsored by the College, the internships provide a $1,000 stipend and free campus housing for the months of June and July to selected students. (Please note that the offer of free campus housing cannot be converted into funds for off campus housing.) Interested students may apply by sending a resume and letter of interest indicating the specific internship(s) sought to Prof. Randall Curren via email at

Applications are due March 7, 2012 and assignments will be announced by March 28. The following opportunities are available:

Biofuel Research

Professor David Wu (Chemical Engineering) will sponsor 1 to 2 interns to participate in his biofuel research. He uses a molecular biology approach to study the microbial enzyme system that breaks down recalcitrant cellulosic materials into fermentable sugars, which are in turn converted to ethanol or other biofuels through a fermentation process.  The molecular biology approach will be used for engineering the microorganism for a more efficient cellulose-ethanol conversion process. The intern would need background and interest in biological science.

Creative Research Project: Animals & the Relationship between Rural & Urban Environments

Professors Leila Nadir (Sustainability) and Cary Peppermint (Art and Art History) are seeking a summer 2012 student intern to assist with a creative research project on animals and the relationship between rural and urban environments. They will be designing an installation that gathers real-time dynamic data of animals in a wilderness feed plot and projects these images into urban galleries. They are looking for assistance in the following areas: (1) knowledge and research skills in wildlife habitat in the Northeastern United States toward the creation of a feed plot on forested land in central Maine and/or (2) computer programming skills in Java, Processing, and free/open-source software for experimenting in visualization techniques. Competitive applicants will have experience in working in a studio art environment.

Sustainability & Study Abroad

Jackie Levine (Study Abroad Office) and Karen Berger (Earth and Environmental Sciences) will jointly supervise an intern who will work to enhance sustainability and study abroad opportunities for UR students. The intern will organize information on overseas sustainability-related courses and programs according to topical areas.  This will then be used to identify those locations that best supplement existing courses offered in Rochester.  The result will be the creation of a resource for students interested both in studying abroad and enhancing their sustainability coursework. Key qualifications are strong organizational skills and the ability to work independently.  An academic interest in sustainability and international study is a plus.

Sustainability Tracking and Assessment and Rating System: Academic & Research

Professor Karen Berger (Earth and Environmental Science; Coordinator, College Sustainability Studies) will sponsor an intern to work primarily on the collection and evaluation of data pertaining to UR sustainability-related teaching and research, to complete the “Academic and Research” component of STARS, the Sustainability Tracking and Assessment and Rating System.  More information about this program can be found at  Other tasks may include researching case studies for incorporation into EES courses, and developing a campus-based database for environmental volunteer opportunities and events. Qualifications for this position include (1) an ability to work independently, and (2) an ability to think creatively when encountering obstacles in data collection.

Sustainability Tracking and Assessment and Rating System: Operations and Planning, Administration, and Engagement

Pat Beaumont (Director Support Operations) will sponsor a sustainability research intern to assist in gathering and organizing data for the Operations and Planning, Administration, and Engagement components of STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ program. STARS® is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. STARS® was developed by AASHE with broad participation from the higher education community.  The intern will be part of the STARS working group of the University Council on Sustainability.  The intern will need strong verbal and written communication skills, knowledge of sustainability initiatives and programs, ability to research sustainability measurements, strong organizational skills, and an ability to work independently and in teams.

Forest Preservation

Justin and Tara Ramsey (Biology) will sponsor an intern in forest preservation. With help from summer interns in 2010 and 2011, the Ramsey field crew has worked to improve access of the South Campus forest to U of R undergraduate courses, the university community, and the public. As part of the Ramsey field crew, the 2012 intern will: (1) Work with U of R facilities to place platform structures on seasonally-wet areas throughout the south campus trail system; (2) Repair trail linings damaged over the past year; (3)  Develop a new section of trail (~100 m) in the “north woods”  parcel behind the Alumni & Development Center; (4)  Eradicate garlic mustard and other invasive species in the forest and forest edge; (5)  Organize photographs, species lists, and trail maps into an online “interpretive package.” The intern should be comfortable and experienced in working outdoors, be able to work independently and in small groups, and have a basic knowledge of the flora/fauna. Further information about South Campus preservation efforts can be found at the Ramsey lab website, at the following links:

Article compliments of Randall Curren, professor and chair of philosophy and professor of education. Photo courtesy of University Communications.

University of Rochester Launches Online Exhibit of Largest Collection of AIDS Education Posters

Univ. Communications – When Edward Atwater, M.D.,’50 boarded a subway car on Boston’s Red Line in the early 90s he found himself staring at a poster unlike any he had seen before. It showed two hands, a condom wrapper, and text reading Prevent AIDS. Use One. Intrigued by what he saw, Atwater began to track how different societies viewed and responded to the worldwide epidemic through posters and other public messages, eventually gathering together the largest collection of AIDS posters in the world.

The Atwater collection of AIDS posters is now online, providing a visual history of the first three decades of the HIV/AIDS crisis from 1981 to the present. Launched in October during the 30th anniversary year of the identification of the disease, the online exhibit consists of more than 6,200 posters from 100 plus countries in 60 languages. While selections of the posters have been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and other locations, the online collection provides the first opportunity to view the collection in its entirety.

“I started collecting the posters to chronicle the history of medicine but soon realized that they represent more of a social history than a medical history,” said Atwater, emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center and a self-professed collector who lives in Rochester. That realization led the now 85-year-old retired physician to donate his collection to the Rare Books and Special Collections Library at the University, with the stipulation that it be digitized and put online. By giving people around the world access to the collection online, Atwater’s hope is to show people the responses from various societies to a deadly disease.

Looked at chronologically, the AIDS posters show how social, religious, civic, and public health agencies tailored their message to different groups. Depending on their audience, they used stereotypes, scare tactics, provocative language, imagery, and even humor. “The posters also show how regions, cultures, and religions influenced the message,” said Atwater.

“The Atwater collection of AIDS education posters tells a great deal about different societies’ understanding of sexuality and raises questions about the politics of visibility over the past 30 years,” said Joan Saab, professor of art history and director of Rochester’s graduate program for visual cultural studies. “When thinking about the history of AIDS, the story needs to be told from every angle. This includes graphic and controversial topics like sex and drugs and the different responses of filmmakers who choose to communicate awareness through public service announcements and artists who lend their voice and work towards the cause,” said Saab.

Using the posters as a starting point, Saab and her colleagues have organized a series of events and discussions to draw attention to the relationship between AIDS and global culture in art, academia, and medicine. Looking at AIDS 30 Years On kicks off on Thursday, Oct. 27 with a talk by AIDS Pioneer Michael Gottlieb, M.D., ’73M who wrote the first report to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in 1981 identifying AIDS as a new disease.

Sponsored by the University’s Humanities Project, an interdepartmental endeavor that supports humanistic inquiry by Rochester faculty, the project’s events are free and open to the public. For more information and a list of upcoming events, visit

To access the Atwater AIDS education posters collection online visit In addition to searching the posters, the site contains research conducted by Rochester students who have used the collections, an introduction to the collection by Alexander Breier Marr, a doctoral student in visual and cultural studies, and links to additional AIDS educational resources.

Article written by Valerie Alhart, University Communications. Photos courtesy of Rare Books and Special Collections Library at the University.

Rochester Launches American Studies Major

Univ. Communications – Starting this fall, University of Rochester students have had the opportunity to blend together a variety of disciplines that focus on the history and culture of the United States through the newly developed American Studies major, now offered through Arts, Sciences and Engineering’s undergraduate College. Through the major, which was approved by the New York State Department of Education in July, students will master skills including critical reading, thinking, and writing, which will prepare them for careers in law, social service, teaching, art, and business, among other fields.

“The American Studies major will contribute greatly to the intellectual life of the campus,” said Richard Feldman, dean of the College at Rochester. “From the enriching activities associated with the program to the expert faculty members coming from across disciplines to teach the courses, we believe this will be an appealing major to many students.”

Joan Rubin, professor of history and program director of the new major, noted that for years students have created similar courses of study through the Individualized Interdepartmental Majors program.

“Now, with a formal major, we are able to provide students with a wide range of courses, giving them the opportunity to look at the experiences and values of Americans through many different disciplines,” Rubin explained. “It is our hope that this major will create a conversation throughout the College about what it has meant to be an American, both in the past and today.”

The program, which will be managed by the Multidisciplinary Studies Center in the College, requires students to take ten courses throughout the Humanities and Social Sciences. Introductory courses focus on American literature and American culture or thought, while a new course to be offered in the 2012-2013 academic year, The Idea of America, will be a required seminar. Students also will choose among three tracks: The Arts in American Culture, Identity and the American Nation, and American Thought and Institutions. There also is an international component to the major, which gives students the opportunity to select one course that examines the interaction of Americans with other cultures. Students who complete this major will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies from the College.

The major will be supervised by a steering committee of faculty, who will monitor the program’s enrollment numbers and course offerings, and oversee internships, special lectures, and other opportunities that can enhance the student experience.

While the major is only several months old, the committee already has sponsored a three-part series titled Popular Music in America. In the first two installments, Daniel Beaumont, associate professor of Arabic Language and Literature, lectured on blues music in America, while John Covach discussed The Beatles and the British Invasion in America. In the last installment, Paul Burgett, University vice president and professor of music, will give his lecture, Black Nightingales: Lady Day, Ella & Sassy, at 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10, in Dewey 1101.

Additionally, the committee plans to host a lecture delivered by David Reynolds, distinguished professor of English at the City University of New York, in April. Reynolds, a prominent author, recently wrote Mightier than the Sword: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and the Battle for America, which was included in the Christian Science Monitor’s “The 20 Smartest Nonfiction Reads for the Summer” list.

Members of the major’s steering committee include Rubin, John Covach, chair of the College Music Department and professor of Music; Margarita Guillory, assistant professor of Religion and Classics; John Michael, chair of the English Department and professor of English and of Visual and Cultural Studies; Claudia Schaefer, professor of Spanish; Ezra Tawil, associate professor of English; Allen Topolski, chair of the Department of Art and Art History and associate professor of Art ; and Sharon Willis, director of Film and Media Studies and professor of Art History and Visual and Cultural Studies.

For more information about the American Studies major, visit

Photo courtesy of Billy Alexander, via –

U of R’s Jessica Horton Wins Visual Arts Fellowship

Univ. Communications – University of Rochester doctoral student Jessica Horton has been named a 2011 Wyeth Fellow by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA). Horton, a doctoral student in Visual and Cultural Studies (VCS) in the Department of Art and Art History, has earned one of nine predoctoral fellowships awarded each year.

“Jessica’s dissertation project is well-researched, beautifully written, and promises to be a paradigm changer not only in Native American art history but in the broader study of contemporary art and visual culture,” according to Joan Saab, associate professor of art history and visual and cultural studies, and chair of VCS.

Horton studies 20th-century Native American art, particularly the work of artists influenced by the American Indian Movement in the 1970s. She is interested in how their work now circulates internationally. “Showing how native artists work internationally can give us a broader picture of how globalization has occurred historically,” says Horton. “Native people have been traveling overseas for centuries because of colonial exhibitions and missionary projects, and contemporary artists are interested in investigating the links between then and now.” Horton’s dissertation advisor and mentor in the VCS program is Professor Janet Berlo, who said, “Jessica is multi-talented, vibrant, an exceptional writer and scholar,” and added that her “commitment to scholarship is informed by ethics and intellectual inquiry of the highest order.”

Wyeth fellowships are awarded annually, for 24-month terms, to outstanding students in the dissertation phase of their graduate work. As a Wyeth fellow, Horton will spend a year of the fellowship in the United States and abroad doing research, and a year in residence with CASVA, the research branch of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Horton plans to conduct research in Santa Fe, N.M., and to spend time in Venice, Italy, and Sydney, Australia. She will spend the second year of the program in Washington, where she will have access to the professors and curators at the National Gallery of Art and other affiliated institutions, including the National Museum of the American Indian. Horton has done research in the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum archives in the past, and received a 2008 Fellowship for Historians of American Art to Travel Abroad from CASVA, which she used to visit indigenous women’s weaving cooperatives in southern Mexico and Guatemala.

Horton will be one of 10 spending the summer with the Terra summer residency program in Giverny, France, home of painter Claude Monet, during the summer of 2011. The Terra Foundation for American Art supports artists and scholars from the United States and Europe with lodging, study, and studio spaces for eight-week terms, and also offers a series of seminars and independent studies with senior artists and scholars in residence.

She also has written an article titled, “Alone on the Snow/Alone on the Beach: ‘A Global Sense of Place’ in Atanarjuat and Fountain” which will be published in Journal of Transnational American Studies, in a special forum on “charting transnational Native American studies.” She also has forthcoming publications in The Visual Culture Reader, and CAA Reviews.

Originally from northern California, Horton earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California at San Diego in art history and political science. Local communities, including the reservations and independent nations in both areas of California, feature “incredibly rich artistic traditions that have a lot more to offer to expand art history,” according to Horton.

The visual and cultural studies program is an interdisciplinary doctoral program, housed in the Department of Art and Art History. The program draws from coursework and faculty expertise in several University of Rochester humanities departments. Because the primary faculty work in art and art history, film studies, modern languages and cultures, and anthropology, students are able to relate literary and cultural theory to visual culture, and to investigate the connections among cultural productions, critical theory, and society.

(Story courtesy of Valerie Alhart, University Communications)