Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Pat Gallagher

gallagherName: Pat Gallagher ’07

Occupation:  Assistant District Attorney with the Monroe County DA’s office.

Education (UR and additional):  BA (History and Philosophy), University of Rochester, 2007; JD, Wake Forest University School of Law

Current city/state of residence: Rochester, NY!

Family: Wife Katie Gallagher (also a Yellowjacket!)

Community activities: I participate in the Big Brother’s Big Sister’s program as a Big Brother. I also try and stay involved with the UR, especially athletics.

When and how did you choose your major?  

Well, I came into college sure I was going to do something in the humanities or social sciences.  I took a bunch of classes my first two semesters ranging from anthropology to history to philosophy to political science.  I always loved history, and still do, so it wasn’t a surprise when I chose that as my first major.  But then as my college career went on, I found out I really enjoyed philosophy too, and it got to the point where I kept signing up for philosophy classes, so I decided to add that as a second major as well.

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

My main extracurricular activity as a student was being a member of the UR Football team.  I played all four years of college, and was captain of the team my senior year.  I truly believe I would not be where I am today without that experience.  Having two majors and being a member of the football team taught me the value of work hard and also the importance of working efficiently.  Playing football also taught me the importance of working as a team, and being a leader.  All skills that helped me succeed in law school, and also now as a District Attorney.

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

The professors.  I didn’t truly learn the benefit of having a close relationship with a professor until my junior and senior years, when I took a couple smaller classes and was forced to get more involved, but I was glad when I did.  Professors at the UR are very willing to form a relationship with students, and I believe all students should take advantage of those opportunities.  They not only help you succeed in that professor’s class, but they are an invaluable tool for any questions you may have about your education, career, or life in general.

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

I am currently an Assistant District Attorney for Monroe County.  I have always been interested in criminal justice, and always wanted to do something in that field. My time at the UR and law school only solidified that desire, and also made me realize I really enjoyed the complexities of the law, making this the perfect career for me.  I get to perform a job in which I feel like I give back to the community on a daily basis, while at the same time dealing with complex legal issues that can change with every case.

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

I think my history and philosophy majors have helped me a lot in succeeding in law school.  Both of those subject areas really gave me the necessary tools to succeed not only in taking the LSAT’s, but also throughout law school.  Law school deals with a lot of writing, memorizing, and learning to think with a logical thought process, all skills that I honed in my two majors.  Those skills have continued their usefulness in my career as an Assistant District Attorney as well.

What advice do you have for current students?

Enjoy your time at the UR because you will miss it when it is done.  Don’t worry too much about what comes after; things will take care of themselves if you work hard at what you are doing now.  Make as many relationships as you can, whether it is with peers, professors, or people in the community.  Not only will you get to meet new and interesting people, but you never know if one of those people will end up getting you a job, or even becoming your spouse (like me!).

Spotlight on Humanities Alumni: Patrick Brennan

Name: Patrick Brennan
Age: 28
Occupation: Fiscal Analyst
Education (URand additional):  B.A. in Philosophy, University of Rochester, 2005, Rutgers MCRP – Urban Planning
Current city/state of residence: Delanco, NJ
Family: Wife
Community activities: Volunteer with town planning committees, working with community development  groups on foreclosure prevention

When and how did you choose your major?

I came to Rochester with an interest in Philosophy and Medicine.  By the end of freshman year, I realized that I kept sleeping through the Biology and Chemistry classes, but was excited to attend philosophy classes and engage with new ideas that challenged my very approach to knowledge and argument.  I ended up taking 20 philosophy classes.

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

Philosophy Council, Outside Speakers, Concerts, CAB, Hall Council, Community Service Network, and Student Government.  Participating in student activities was a way for me to test my limits and to see what I could accomplish planning events and working on projects.  It was where I learned about success and failure and how to get things done.

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

Corporate Site Selection Consulting – I was interested in consulting at graduation, and during my first job search I was fortunate to find a small firm that valued my skill set and was willing to mentor me.

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

I am a fiscal analyst in transportation and authorities with the New Jersey legislature.  I chose this career because it allows me to work closely with the state’s transportation capital program.  I am passionate about transportation issues and this is a way for me to place myself in the middle of many transportation  issues.

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

The analytic reasoning skills that I developed in my philosophy program have served me very well.  I credit it for my ability to deconstruct political policy arguments, understand relational databases, and sift through State budgets.

What advice do you have for current students?

College is one of the few places where the toughest part of going out and throwing an event or changing your environment is having the interest and talking to the right administrator, rather than having experience or money.  Take advantage of that, because even after 5 years of transportation planning experience, nobody will let me schedule their bus routes, and I still haven’t found a sponsor that will let me set video games to free play and bring in 20 ft of subs just because it’s a Wednesday.

Spotlight on Humanities Alumni: Melanie Stuart

Name: Melanie Stuart
Age: 26
Occupation: Attorney
Education (UR and additional):  B.A. in Philosophy, University of Rochester, 2008. University of Virginia School of Law
Current city/state of residence: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Family:  Engaged to Rick Siders; Rocky (Schnoodle puppy)

When and how did you choose your major?

I took an introductory geology class my first year at UR.  After my first lab for the class, I knew it wasn’t for me.  Instead, I switched into the introductory Philosophy class, Moral Problems.  I was fascinated by the readings and the class discussion regarding controversial, difficult problems that we all wrestle with, such as capital punishment, abortion, and physician-assisted suicide.  From there, I was hooked and eventually graduated with a Philosophy major, emphasis in Law and Ethics.

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

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but what got me through UR were the smoothies at the coffee shop and the candy shop outside the Pit.  I don’t even know if these food stops are there anymore, but getting bulk candy bridge mix to take to the library stacks is by far the best resource I can recommend!

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

After graduation I enrolled in law school at the University of Virginia.  I had a good idea I wanted to go to law school beginning in my senior year of high school when I took a law course.  Majoring in philosophy only reaffirmed that law school would be the right path for me.  I learned to love writing and developing well-formed arguments and thinking about issues from multiple different perspectives.

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

I am now an attorney with the federal government working in immigration law.  I am fascinated by the complexity of the field as well as the wide range of legal topics it covers.  From criminal law and family law, to international and humanitarian law, immigration has it all.  Most importantly, there is a very human aspect that brings it all into perspective, which I find is helpful to remember amidst all the political controversy surrounding the field.

What advice do you have for current students?

The best advice I have for current students is to get involved.  Certainly you can get involved in on-campus activities and I definitely recommend that.  But even if that isn’t for you, I think more importantly, students should start thinking about what they want to do and find an internship or other way to get involved in the greater community.  Not only do you meet amazing people and gain a broader understanding of how you can turn your interests into a career, but it is also a wonderful way to impress your future employers.  Even volunteering for a week or two will get you some great exposure and gives you something to add to your resume – a great way to demonstrate your interest in whatever field you choose to pursue.

Seeds of Change Planted during A Season for Nonviolence

Univ. Communications – A group of students at the University of Rochester recently wrapped up a six-week Nonviolent Communication training course offered free of charge by the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence. The course is part of a series of programs and lectures offered by the Institute during A Season for Nonviolence, which lasts between January 30 and April 4.

A Season for Nonviolence was initiated by Arun and Sunanda Gandhi at the United Nations in 1998. The two dates commemorate the assassinations of M.K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., respectively. The 64-day education, media, and grassroots campaign aims to “bring to life the principles and practice of nonviolence as a powerful way to heal, transform and empower individuals and communities,” according to a statement by the Institute.

VIDEO: Carillion Bells Ring Weekly During A Season for Nonviolence

Nonviolent Communication, as a formal conflict resolution strategy, was started by American psychologist Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960s and is based on the principles of self-empathy, empathy, and honest self-expression. The class, led by Gandhi Institute director and former apprentice to Rosenberg, Kit Miller, convened for two and a half hours each Thursday over the course of six weeks. It brought together students and community members to discover the psychological principles underlying nonviolent communication and to practice the daily application of Rosenberg’s strategies.

“What I’ve valued most is being able to actually apply it,” said studio art major Joey Hartmann-Dow ’12, “the concept of making observations to guess what other people’s needs are instead of making snap judgements is a challenge and a gift.  Kit Miller is a wonderful teacher, and it was inspiring to meet other students and community members who want to gain these valuable skills.”

The course is usually organized in the fall semesters, but when Keegan Olton ’13, a philosophy and studio art double major, heard about the opportunity this past winter, he approached Miller about teaching the course in the spring. “I heard about NVC from a friend of mine who just completed the training for his work.  Having studied the history of noviolence with [philosophy department Professor Emeritus] Bob Holmes, I was very intrigued by it,” said Olton.

“I’m highly motivated by receiving requests from students,” said Miller. “I’m more and more happy to be someone who responds to requests from students, rather than sort of sitting here in splendid isolation, trying to guess what people want.”

“I was excited to have realized that if there’s something good going on and you want to take part in it you can make it happen and not just wait until it’s scheduled to happen again,” said Olton. Miller asked him to find ten students to sign up for the class and the remaining eight spots were opened up to interested community members.

The result was a mix of people of different ages and backgrounds, which created a rich learning environment. “I definitely think that 18- to 23-year-olds practicing anything, really, with a group of people much older than them is something that doesn’t happen often enough,” Olton said. “The people who came brought different levels of understanding but everyone was willing to move the class forward at a pace needed by those with the least understanding.”

For the students participating in the class, the interest came from a desire to improve interpersonal communications, develop more effective leadership skills, and, some looked to explore interesting psychological work. Matias Piva ’14, a philosophy and psychology major, decided to take the class because of aspirations of becoming a relationship coach and therapist. “I thought that the skills I stood to learn from the class would be invaluable tools for the career I wanted to achieve,” Piva said.

One of the main goals of NVC is to teach people to recognize the humanity in others and to, in Gandhi’s words, separate the doer from the deed.  This is possible when people’s actions and words are considered in light of the needs they are aimed at fulfilling. Once the needs of others are identified and the emotions, words, and actions used to express those needs are discussed, common ground in conflict can be reached.

“We see someone doing something or saying something we don’t like and we collapse their act or their speech with them. Nonviolent communication, for me, helps to pull that apart, to be able to look with compassion on a person even when I’m really, really not on board with what they’re saying or what they’re doing,” Miller explained.

As the last class wrapped up, the students and community members reflected happily on the new skills they acquired and their experiences in applying them to daily interactions.  “I do highly recommend this class to students and anyone else interested in changing the way they approach the world and one another,” said Piva.

Olton agreed. “My communication is slower and more deliberate and I find myself saying less, but what I do say means more to those I say it to.”

Both Piva and Olton, along with other members of the course, expressed the intention to continue practicing and sharing their skills to affect positive changes in their environments and within themselves.

As the Season for Nonviolence continues, the Gandhi Institute will host speakers and organize events to promote their cause. For information about upcoming events or opportunities to learn about nonviolence, check out the Institute’s website or email Kit Miller.

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 (


Photo courtesy of Maya Dukmasova.

Philosophy Council Gets Visit from Eminent Speaker

Univ. Communications – The Undergraduate Philosophy Council enjoyed a week of intellectual stimulation from hosting and discussing the works of a noted public intellectual. Kwame Anthony Appiah, the Laurence S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University and one of the world’s seven most powerful thinkers according to Forbes magazine, delivered two consecutive lectures, “African Identities” on February 22nd and “Islam and the West” on the 23rd. In addition to the lectures, he interacted with faculty and students as well as members of the Undergraduate Philosophy Council.

Appiah (pronounced APP-ee-ah) is the director of the University Center for Human Values at Princeton, which, according to its mission statement, aims to “foster inquiry into important ethical values in private and public life.” He grew up in Ghana and attended Cambridge University to study the philosophy of language, and his interests have diversified into moral theory and the history of philosophy. Appiah’s books include Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers and The Honor Code, both of which investigate human behavior in a changing world.

The Philosophy Council, referred to simply as ‘council’ by members, prepared for the visit by reading and discussing Appiah’s ideas. In the Friday meeting prior to Appiah’s visit, 15 undergraduates participated in a discussion led by Randall Curren and Richard Dees, both of the Philosophy department. Professors Curren and Dees introduced Cosmopolitanism and Color Conscious, both by Appiah, and outlined the implications of his ethics and what he means by interconnectedness. Council members enjoyed the opportunity to discuss Appiah’s works before his visit. “I love coming to Philosophy Council. It’s my favorite time of the week,” said member Levan Bokeria ‘13.

Maya Dukmasova, president of the council, has written recently in a Campus Times op-ed: “The Undergraduate Philosophy Council represents a vital collegiate tradition: the regular gathering of people from all academic backgrounds to discuss ideas and to develop critical thinking capacities.” The composition of the council reflects that tradition. For most members, philosophy is one of two majors, but some do not intend to major at all. Meetings feature a student who presents something of interest followed by a discussion. Recent topics have included existential ethics, Locke’s natural rights, and Samurai philosophy. To some, it’s a major source of intellectual fulfillment.

With the visit of such a noted scholar, the council’s intellectual discussions have become a little more exciting. “Professor Appiah’s visit was a unique opportunity for the students of the Philosophy Council to spend time with a truly world class thinker,” said Randall Curren, who also serves as chair of the philosophy department. “I was impressed throughout his visit by his warmth and generosity in engaging students at length, wherever he happened to be.”

The Undergraduate Philosophy Council meets every Friday at 2 p.m. in the fifth floor lounge of Lattimore. Visit the Undergraduate Philosophy Council on the CCC to learn more.

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

In the Photo: Kwame Anthony Appiah poses with members of the Undergraduate Philosophy Council. Photo courtesy of University Communications.

With UR Handball, a Three-Player Culture Spawns a National Winner

Univ. Communications – Despite its Division III status in most mainstream sports, the University of Rochester is host to a fair share of very successful off-beat athletes. You may have heard of our mighty squash players, fierce men’s rugby, highly-ranked quidditch team, and champion downhill skiers. To that list you can also add a couple of the world’s best handball players. On the weekend of February 24, Brandon Manrique ’12 won the third-highest bracket of the national collegiate handball championship.

While handball has never been recognized as a varsity sport on campus, several years ago two graduate students, Samantha England and Dan McNabney, channeled their love of the game and their organizational skills to create a club team. Both had played handball for years and wanted to introduce the Rochester community to the sport as well as find new opportunities to train. England has been ranked the third best female player in the world.

They vigorously recruited students and at one point the club had as many as fifteen members. Manrique, a philosophy and economics major, began playing handball when he arrived here as a freshman. However, new rules for club sports required that the student organizations be sustained solely through the recruitment and organizational efforts of undergraduate students. The new rules, combined with the annual graduation of several team members, made it difficult for the club to grow and today Rochester’s handball culture is down to three people: Manrique, England, and McNabney.

To add to these organizational challenges, there is the sheer difficulty of the game. “It’s such a hard learning curve,” said Manrique. “When you step on the court you have to not only be proficient at hand-eye coordination, you have to be proficient at hand-eye coordination with both of your hands, which is extremely tough.”

The game is played with a small, dense rubber ball and special gloves on a racket ball court.  After their first try players can expect to walk away with very sore hands and full-body fatigue. “Once you get past that, it’s just fun,” Manrique insisted. “It’s probably one of the best workouts you can get.”

But it’s not just about bouncing a ball off the walls of an enclosed court. Handball also is a strategic mental game.  “It’s like a game of chess once you really get into it,” said England.

“No matter how good you get at the game physically there’s always going to be some other challenge.”

Since his freshman year Manrique has risen to high ranks in local and national handball tournaments. “He’s in the top bracket right now for local tournaments and he’s only been playing for three and a half years which is unheard of because handball is so difficult,” said England.  She attributes his success to a keen ability to absorb new information and stay calm on the court.  “He’s really improved exponentially because of his ability to adapt to the game. He learns so quickly and implements the new information … He’s the ideal handball player.”

“I felt very calm and prepared. I have the best coaches that have prepared me for any obstacles that I could possibly come across, both mentally and physically,” Manrique said of his recent Division 1B bracket win. “This was easily the biggest athletic achievement of my entire life.”

“I think that he would be able to enter the pro circuit if he wanted to,” said England. “I look forward to reading his name on the Internet and in the handball publications about how well he’s doing.”  Expressing hope that Manrique will continue to play and teach handball to others after leaving Rochester, she added, “I feel happy that the handball community has gained another player like Brandon.”

Above all, it is the community aspect of the game that both Manrique and England find so attractive. While working in Sacramento, Calif., last summer, Manrique was able to quickly find new friends by joining handball clubs. As the only representative of the University it can be tough to travel to competitions without a team to support him, but while at the national tournament Manrique was cheered on by members of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities team, who knew him from the previous year. The game is also accessible to people of all ages which makes for an inclusive environment despite the competition.

“I am always going to be playing handball, there’s no doubt about that,” Manrique said. “It’s all about finding the right community of players. I still have a lot to learn so I’ll take advantage of my coaches here in Rochester while I can. After that, wherever I end up after graduation, I’ll just take it from there.”

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 (


Top Photo: Brandon Manrique competes in National Handball Collegiate Championship.

Second Photo: Brandon Manrique poses with Dan Sterrett of Lake Forest College, after the final match of the National Handball Collegiate Championship. Manrique defeated Sterett for the Division 1B title. All photos courtesy of the US Handball Association.

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.