Rush Rhees Library Displays Feature Topics of Student Interest

Univ. Communications – If you walked by the Rush Rhees display shelf near the circulation desk recently, you may have seen a feature on vegan and vegetarian culture. The display is part of an effort by Rush Rhees Library to highlight books on topics of interest to students.

The Student Association of Vegan and Vegetarian Youth, or SAVVY, worked with Rush Rhees Library staff to give students the opportunity to learn more about vegan and vegetarian life. The display, located by the circulation desk, features books on topics ranging from the botany of different herbs and spices, a history of the animal rights movement, to modern recipes for a kemetic diet.

SAVVY is made up of dedicated students who want to increase awareness of veganism and provide support for vegans and vegetarians. The core issues of advocacy include animal welfare and sustainable agriculture. “As the only vegan/vegetarian club on campus, SAVVY has a unique and vital role in raising awareness about the positive environmental, physical, and psychological benefits of abstaining from meat and animal products,” says Melody Jaros ’14, president of SAVVY. Creating a display of relevant reading material is one way that SAVVY can achieve that goal.

While SAVVY’s books are no longer on display, they are available for check out at the library. Currently, the display shelves feature books related to Asian Heritage Month, which runs through April. If you or your group would like to feature books on a particular topic of interest in Rush Rhees, email Mari Lenoe at If your topic is science related, please email Sue Cardinal in the Carlson library at

Article written by Dan Wang, a sophomore at Rochester, who studies philosophy and economics.

Photo courtesy of Dan Wang.

Joe Vogel: Student, teacher, published author

Univ. Communications – If you’re a student, writing a book may seem like an impossible task, a summit of a mountain that takes many years to even approach. Remember, it’s all in your head. Doctoral student Joe Vogel is living proof that all it takes to write a book is persistence, dedication, talent, and a good idea. Vogel, a fourth year graduate student in the English department, has just published a book dedicated to the life and work of Michael Jackson.

Video: Student’s Book Explores Musical Legacy of Michael Jackson

Man in the Music:The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson is actually Vogel’s third, yes, third book. He began writing as an undergraduate at Utah Valley University in 2004.  Vogel was serving as the Student Vice President of Academics when a monumental event shook the conservative college community: Michael Moore was invited to speak on campus.

“There was a lot of polarization and hostility,” Vogel explained. “There was a huge uproar on campus. There were death threats, bribes, $25,000 checks being offered to cancel, and it became this really fascinating case study for free speech on campus and the influence of donors on the university.”

After writing Free Speech 101: The Utah Valley Uproar over Michael Moore, Vogel turned to Windriver, an independent publisher, to get it out into the world. Though he did not have a contract with a high profile commercial publisher, the book garnered attention for the idea, the case study treatment of the endangerment of first amendment rights on a conservative college campus. The book received positive reviews from Michael Moore himself as well as Noam Chomsky and other academics and writers interested in First Amendment rights.

E-books and independent publishers have leveled the playing field for young, inexperienced writers attempting to put their ideas and words into circulation. “It’s easier now than ever because there are so many options,” Vogel said in reference to his first publishing experiences. His second book, The Obama Movement, was a collection of essays from students across the country on how and why Barack Obama had inspired them to become politically involved. It was also published independently.

“For me, I continued to research what the process was…I learned more and more with each book that I wrote.” As the book on Michael Jackson began to take form, Vogel delved deeper into researching the industry, to find an agent and subsequently a commercial publisher that would cater to a wider audience.

Press Release: Read More about Joe Vogel

At this point you may be wondering why a graduate student in English with a history of books on political subjects decided to write about Michael Jackson.  It’s simple: he grew up in the 80s. “I’ve always been fascinated with music,” he explained, “I was fascinated with him as a person and I was also fascinated with the depth of his music.”

Rather than perpetuate the sensationalized focus on Jackson as a scandalous oddity, Vogel waned to “put the focus back on the artist.”  He added, “I think when you look at the books that are available on Michael, this is the first one to asses his entire artistic legacy, all of it, album by album.”

The project began in 2005 when Vogel got the idea of exploring Jackson’s lyrics from a critical, literary perspective.  “What we’re trying to do in my field is interpret culture, interpret art, and that’s what the book was.”  As he worked on researching the material, Vogel approached writing each chapter like writing a paper, making the endeavor more manageable.  He was soon captivated by the stories behind the creation of the songs and albums and began reaching out to Jackson’s collaborators and, eventually, the artist’s estate.

While at first it was a challenge to get interviews with the high-profile musicians and producers who worked with Jackson, people quickly opened up once they understood that the purpose of his inquiries was not to talk about plastic surgery or pedophilia. “A billion people watched [Jackson’s] memorial for a reason,” the author mused. “He had a huge global impact, and it wasn’t because he was a freak, it was because he was an incredible artist.”

As the project came to fruition, Vogel said the book was passed over primarily because publishers didn’t feel a serious book on Jackson would sell. There also was the issue of credibility. “You have to convince people that you’re the person [to write the book], and you know, I hadn’t written for Rolling Stone for twenty years, I didn’t work at MoTown,” he said. But ultimately, the backing of Jackson’s estate, the quality of his writing, and a great deal of persistence won Vogel a contract with Sterling Publishing. The book was released on November 1 and has received rave reviews.  Vogel was recently invited to speak and do a book signing at the Michael Jackson Fan Fest in Las Vegas as well as deliver a guest lecture in Spike Lee’s film class at New York University.

Vogel hopes to continue writing and teaching and after earning his doctoral degree, will look for a university position. Vogel believes that anyone can write a book.  “If you have something that you want to say, if you have an idea and the will to carry it through,” then the most important ingredients are in place, Vogel said.

His advice to fellow students is to not to be intimidated by the idea of publishing a book. “It’s a lot of fun and it’s something that takes time to figure out,” he explained. “But if it’s something that you love to do, if you love to write, then you might as well jump in, experience it, and see what you can do.”

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 Joe Vogel.

17 Sophomores Honored As 2011 Iota Book Award Recipients

Univ. Communications – The University of Rochester’s Iota Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, along with deans of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, recognized the 2011 Iota Book Award winners during a formal ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 29.

Seventeen sophomores, among a class of more than 1,100 students, were recognized for their scholarly achievement, demonstration of humanistic values, and involvement in co-curricular activities during their first year at Rochester. In addition to evaluating academic records, the award committee collected nominations from professors, administrators, and College staff members. The recipients of this year’s award are:

  • Oranich Aimcharoen (Bangkok, Thailand)
  • Amanda Chang (Portland, Ore.)
  • Amelia Engel, Spanish (Philadelphia, Pa.)
  • Chris Frederickson (Mansfield, Mass.)
  • Paul Gabrys (Eagle River, Alaska)
  • Daniel Gorman (Pearl River, N.Y.)
  • Kelly Guerrieri (Monroesville, Pa.)
  • Zachariah Hale (Dansville, N.Y.)
  • Jamie Hospers, International Relations (Rochester, N.Y.)
  • Peihong Jiang (Beijing, China)
  • Rory Keating (Waterville, N.Y.)
  • Deborah Korzun (Clifton Park, N.Y.)
  • Laura Ann Lyons (Owatonna, Minn.)
  • Karen Meess, Biomedical Engineering (Hamburg, N.Y.)
  • Nathaniel Mulberg English (Cherry Hills, N.J.)
  • Xiao Yang, Mathematics (Hong Kong, China)
  • Rebecca Young (New Rochelle, N.Y.)

“This is an amazing group of students,” said Edward Brown, president of the Iota Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering. “Their ability to make major contributions to the campus and the community while achieving the highest level of scholarship is truly inspiring.”

Organized in 1997, the Iota Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa is the University’s oldest honor society. In addition to the Iota Book Award, the organization has an endowed scholarship, established a speakers fund, and supports a visiting scholar program. For more about Phi Beta Kappa visit

Article written by Dan Wang, a sophomore at Rochester, who studies philosophy and economics. Photos courtesy of University Communications Photo Department.

Junior Gabe Kagan Writes Sci-Fi Novel

Univ. Communications – A guy and a cybernetically-enhanced bear walk into a wormhole orbiting Earth. The bear says to the guy, “Hey look, there’s a new planet in here!” No, this isn’t the start of an obscure bar joke, it’s roughly the plot of Gabe Kagan’s new book: First Contact is Bad for You.

Kagan, a junior majoring in computer science, began writing this science fiction novel in high school. After many pauses in the process and months of revisions, his work, in e-book format, is finally available at electronic retailers such as

The plot revolves around two main characters, one of whom is a walking, talking bear.  After NASA discovers a wormhole in Earth’s orbit, the characters decide to see what’s on the other side.  They buy an old space ship and travel through the wormhole to a new planet, populated by a civilization using Victorian technology.  The arrival of Earthlings causes major catastrophes on the planet as wars and turmoil ensue. “I’ve always read a lot of science fiction books, I like the genre, so that’s probably why it turned out to be in that format,” said Kagan, “It’s not exactly a realistic novel, especially with the more humorous aspects.”

When Kagan decided to publish the book, he found out about BookBaby, an e-publishing company.  “I decided I wanted to get it out specifically as an e-book since it would save me a lot of hassle with trying to get submitted to various publishers and have to worry about them asking for content changes,” he explained.

In total, publishing and distributing through BookBaby and having them design his cover cost Kagan about $300.  The author receives most of the royalties from every e-book sold without any further deductions by BookBaby. “I’m hoping to make some money [from writing] but I wouldn’t say it’s the highest priority,” he said.

Kagan wrote and edited First Contact is Bad for You only with the help of his friends and family. However, he is considering submitting the book for reviews by noted sci-fi authors and critics in the future. A sequel may also be in the works. He recognizes that many people identify sci-fi writing either as cheap pulp or as too technical and esoteric. Yet, he is not out to prove anyone wrong. “I write basically because I enjoy writing,” he said, “I’d say your average writer is capable of writing good stuff that discusses various [technical and scientific] issues while still being entertaining.”

When it comes to role models, Kagan insists on his unique style but still looks up to such popular writers as Terry Pratchett and sci-fi novelist Stephen Baxter.  He hopes to continue developing his writing after graduating. “If this turns out to be lucrative for me I’ll probably try to make a career out of this sort of writing but even if it doesn’t, I can probably do it on the side.”

For now, Kagan is focusing on his academics and keeping a blog ( dedicated to short stories, commentary, music reviews, discussions of social issues and video games.

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 (

Open Letter Press Opens Doors for Sophomore Taylor McCabe

Open Letter Press – Think that just because you’re an underclassman the world of challenging, productive internships is out of reach? Think again. This summer, sophomore Taylor McCabe worked in the offices of the University’s Open Letter Press and led the effort to compile a new e-book to be published this week.

McCabe made plans to stay in Rochester for the summer after her freshman year and applied for the Open Letter internship when she saw that the work involved would compliment her knowledge and skill level. A French major, McCabe has been interested in the world of literary translation and publication.

Open Letter maintains a blog called Three Percent, regularly updated by Director Chad Post and other staff members. From the start of the internship in mid-May, McCabe was assigned the task of sifting through nearly 3,700 blog posts and choosing the ones that adequately and interestingly related to current issues in the publishing industry and the world of translation. The book is essentially a 394-page anthology of 69 articles, some created from single original posts and others being longer essays synthesized from several posts.

“It’s a rare opportunity for an undergrad to help put together a book for publication,” said Post, “Taylor really rose to the challenge though, and deserves a lot of praise for making this book what it is.”

McCabe says that the book will be a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the publishing industry and the complexities involved in publishing foreign literature in English.  While it is a comprehensive resource it is also full of jokes and anecdotes from within the industry.  “I would say it’s a good book to read if you’re going to have an interview at a publisher in a couple of weeks,” said McCabe.

“Now I have such a wealth of knowledge about publishing and international literature,”  she continued, explaining that her task this summer was both daunting and rewarding. McCabe is now intimately acquainted with all of the current issues in the translation and publication of foreign literature in America.  As a result she is considering a future career path into the world of publishing.

McCabe also found the Open Letter work environment stimulating but not intimidating or overly competitive. She and the other four interns had ample time to do research independently to familiarize themselves with the field. In addition to the Three Percent e-book, McCabe also read and reviewed two published books, read and wrote readers’ reports on two unpublished manuscripts, and copy edited one manuscript throughout the summer.

Having had this experience at such an early time in her undergraduate career, McCabe has decided to apply for the Translation Certificate and now views translators as super heroes.  “I’m definitely more impressed by translators that I was before,” she said, “After this internship I wound up reading more and more [international literature]. It gives you a good idea of the viewpoint and aesthetics of other cultures.”

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 (

Need Beach Reading for Spring Break? Head to the Book Sale!

Univ. Communications – Spring Break is just a week away, and if you’re in need of some beach reading or  something to keep you busy as you travel to your destination, visit the annual Spring All-Campus Book Sale. Sponsored by Friends of the UR Libraries and the River Campus Libraries, the sale offers a selection of fiction and non-fiction books, priced at $1 for hard cover and .50 for paperbacks.  All media will be .50.

The Book Sale runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 3, in the Hawkins-Carlson Room of Rush Rhees Library. For more information, click here.

(Photo courtesy of Stock.Xchng)