Spotlight on Humanities Alumni: Raisa Dukas

defaultName:  Raisa Dukas

Education (UR and additional): BA (Spanish & Interdepartmental Studies), University of Rochester, 2007; degree from Georgetown University 2012

Current city/state of residence:  Washington, DC—Metro Area

Job Title: Principal Research Analyst

When and how did you choose your major?

I chose my majors as a freshman.  From the beginning, I knew I wanted to study international affairs and Spanish.  Energy and the environment were also topics of interest.  As a freshman, I declared my Spanish major in the fall and then went on to create an interdepartmental major in “International Environmental Politics,” combining classes in political science, chemical engineering, anthropology, and philosophy.

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

The activities I was involved in really enriched my undergraduate experience and/or were related to my academic interests:  Gamma Phi Beta, Interpres Yearbook, Modern Languages and Cultures (MLC) Undergraduate Council, Political Science Undergraduate Council, Women in Leadership, Sustainability Task Force, and MLC International Film Series founder.

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

I found that the skills gained in writing term papers and my honors thesis were invaluable to me in beginning my career.  Being able to integrate material from various courses shaped my thinking.  Seeing interconnections between seemingly disparate material and sources of knowledge has enhanced my ability to be a good research analyst.  Studying Spanish has given me the discipline to now learn a new language.

Where would you like to be in five years?

I see myself in a career that allows me to live overseas within the next five years.  During my time at UR, I studied abroad in three countries, and enjoyed fantastic experiences in all of them. I just got back from six months overseas in the Middle East thanks to a national fellowship and cannot wait to return!

How are you still connected with the University?

I stay connected to UR by trying to be involved in alumni events.  I was part of my class’s Fifth Year Reunion Planning Committee and I help with admissions acceptance congratulatory calls every year.  Additionally, I attend UR Alumni events in the DC metro area whenever I am able.

What advice do you have for current students?

Follow your passion.  UR resources really enable you to do anything you set your mind to do.

Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Caitlin Meives

meivesName: Caitlin Meives

UR Major:  History

Other UR Majors/Minors: Spanish Major

Additional Education: M.S. Historic Preservation (University of Vermont)
Current City, State of Residence:
Rochester, NY

Job Title: Preservation Planner

Employer: The Landmark Society of Western New York

Community Activities: I’m involved with a number of organizations and loose affiliations of folks who are interested in making Rochester the best possible place it can be. 

How did you choose your major(s)?

I knew going into college that I wanted to be a history major. I had always been a bit of a history geek so that was a no-brainer. I took a lot of Spanish in high school and enjoyed that so decided to keep taking classes and major. After being miserable taking calc and bio my first semester and loving my history and Spanish classes, that decision was solidified pretty quickly.

What are some specific skills students should develop during an internship?

If you think you know everything, learn how to be humble. Develop the ability to absorb information at all times and make everything a learning experience. Even if you might not have the coolest internship project, you can still learn a lot just by listening to people around you do their jobs.

What did you wish you had known before graduating? What would you have done differently?

The one (or two) regrets I have are: I wish I’d made a greater effort to put myself out there–join different groups, do social activities, just generally meet different kinds of people. I have a great group of friends from undergrad but I know I didn’t take full advantage of the excellent opportunity that college offers you to easily venture outside your bubble and try new things.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career? Where would you like to be in five years?

I work for a nonprofit organization in the historic preservation field. I spend most of my time advocating for historic resources (all types of older buildings, structures, landscapes) and educating folks about the economic and environmental benefits of reusing and revitalizing older buildings and neighborhoods. I chose this career because it allows me to do something that I’m passionate about, make a difference in communities, and connect to history in a tangible way. In five years, I hope to feel like a seasoned professional and be a bit more confident in my knowledge and abilities. I also hope by then that I’ve actually made a difference in a few western New York communities.

What is your opinion regarding graduate school vs. working right after graduation?

Right after graduating, I took a year to live at my parent’s house and work part-time tutoring and subbing at my high school. I was planning on going to grad school but couldn’t get my act together during senior year to apply and was burned out and sick of schoolwork anyway. Taking that year was a great decision—it gave me a break from reading and writing papers so that I was ready to buckle down again when I went back to school. I’d say you have to do whatever works for you in your particular situation, whatever feels right.

What early career advice can you give to current UR students studying history?

Figure out what you love and do it. The best way to do that? Try as many different avenues as possible. An undergrad internship taught me that maybe I wasn’t so into archeology. A graduate level history class made me realize I didn’t want to spend six years getting a PhD. Talk to people—especially young professionals—in the fields that you’re considering. People are usually happy to talk about themselves and the paths they’ve taken. Finally, seek out career opportunities that you may not already know about it. For me, I’d never even heard of historic preservation. I just happened upon it looking at a history major career flowchart. It turned out to be the best random discovery of my life.

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.

U.S. Patent Office Publishes Patent Proposal of UR Junior

By Dan Wang
Univ. Communications

John B. Hinkel III wants to improve the mobility of quadriplegics. So he designed a device that he considers a significant improvement over anything else in the marketplace. And now, the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office has moved Hinkel one step closer to his goal by publishing his patent proposal.

The process started when he was a student at Hopkinton High School in Massachusetts. In his junior year, Hinkel developed a mouse that could be controlled by head movements and presented it at the Massachusetts State Science Fair. A panel of judges awarded him the 1st place prize. He developed the idea further and won 1st place again in his senior year. This time, his prize came with the pro bono patent services of a prominent legal office. By the end of senior year, Hinkel developed the idea and submitted an application to the U.S. Patent Office.

So what is the invention? Hinkel has developed a device that allows paraplegics to control their wheelchairs with gentle head movements. He gives a new way for people with severe spinal injuries to be mobile. Consisting of a headset connected wirelessly to a joystick, Hinkel’s device can be integrated to guide any motorized wheelchair.

“My evaluation of all the other devices was that they are cumbersome and not very user-friendly,” says Hinkel ’14, now a double-major in computer science and Spanish. “So, I decided to design a better device.”

Indeed, his invention is a considerable improvement over other products currently in the marketplace. One available product is the “Sip-and-Puff” which allows users to control their wheelchairs by blowing through a “wand” placed in front of their faces. Another device coordinates the wheelchair through a magnet implanted in the tongue.

Professor Henry Kautz, chair of the department of computer science, is a fan of the project. “John is extraordinary among our ordinarily extraordinary students. Quite a few of our undergraduates are doing original research — but not so many started in high school,” he says. “I’ll look forward to seeing him do even bigger things over the next couple of years!”

Having his proposal published does not mean that his patent has been approved, although it’s very close. Hinkel will need to go through one final approval process before he can be awarded with a patent. Asked what he’d like to do with the rights to his invention, Hinkel admits that he hasn’t thought that far. “I could start a business, or sell the idea to another company. There are a lot of possibilities.”

Hinkel will learn by April 2013 whether the U.S. Patent Office will award him with a full patent.

Article written by Dan Wang, a junior at Rochester, who studies philosophy and economics. Photo courtesy of John Hinkel.

Modern Languages & Cultures Department Honors Book Award Recipients

Dept. of Modern Languages and Cultures – On May 3, 2012, the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures hosted the 2012 Book Awards where they lauded students studying a variety of languages. The students that were presented with the book awards are as follows:

French: Kriti Thapa ’14, Emma Alperin ’15, Rebecca Herlich ’14, Christopher Nishimura ’15

Japanese: Jonathan Budnik ’14, Cameron La Point ’13, Valerie Mueller ’14

German: Kathryn Conheady ’15, Leslie Gordon ’13, Veronica Price ’13

Comparative Literature: Hannah Chute ’14, Laura Dolan ’13, Olivia Earle ’13

Russian Studies: Kathleen Dickson ’14, Eric Hand ’14

Italian: Philip Sutera ’14, Ke Xiang ’14, Simone Zehren ’14

Chinese: Carolyn Magri ’13, Quinlan Mitchell ’13, Cihangir Okuyan ’12, Emily Slack ’12

Russian: Zhao Li ’14 May Zhee Lim ’14, Yiyang Zhu ’14

Spanish: Samuel Beckwith ’14, Amelia Engel ’14, Marjorie Grace Van der Ven ’14, Victoria Zhou ’14

Article and photo courtesy of Yick Chong Lam ’13. In the Photo: Kriti Thapa ’14 is given a 2012 Book Award

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 –