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.

 

Student Filmmakers Recognized at 8th Annual Gollin Film Festival

By Caitlin Mack ’12(T5)
Univ. Communications

A diverse group of 12 student films were presented at the 8th annual Gollin Film Festival at the University of Rochester on Wednesday, May 1, with the top three films winning $1,000 in cash prizes. The festival, which is open to all undergraduate students at the University, is sponsored by the university’s Film and Media Studies Program with generous support from Studio Art.

“The film festival is an event of great importance because it highlights student artistic and academic work,” said Jason Middleton, assistant professor of English. “It also gives students (and their friends and family) a chance to see their films on the big screen, which makes for a thrilling experience.”

In Skyline, first place winner Sheldon Agbayani ’15 coded a program in Processing, a programming language built for creating visual art such as colorful 2-D buildings. The program produced buildings of varying heights and textures against natural horizons to construct a randomly generated geometric skyline.

“For my film, I tried to convey my own idea and perception of what city skylines look like, how they rise and how they fall,” said Agbayani, who won $500. “It’s somewhat a simulation of city growth as I see it.” Agayani, an optical engineering major from Aiea, Hawaii, explained, “What makes my film unique is the fact that I didn’t ‘choose’ exactly how the film played out; I let the program do most of the thinking.”

Brynn Wilkins ’14 received second place and $300 for her film Contemporary Ballet, a performance art piece which features a lone ballet dancer encircled by women riding horses. “Contemporary Ballet focuses on the performer’s ability to carry out actions in atypical and distracting environments,” said Wilkins, a film and media studies major from Fairport, N.Y. “In a stable, the dancer is taken out of her element when she must perform with horses trotting around her, dust flying in the air, and even while sitting on horseback.”

Hayle Cho ’13 placed third for My Flow Story, a documentary about a man who tries his hand at b-boying to find meaning and happiness in life. “Through b-boying, a dance of hip-hop culture, the young man finds purpose,” said Cho, a film and media studies major from Fort Lee, N.J, who won $200.

Students were allowed to submit a maximum of two film submissions created using a variety of media including cell phones, .gif animation, video, 16mm film, Hi-8, or Flash. The winners were determined by a panel of university professors including Jason Middleton, Cary Peppermint, and Evelyne LeBlanc-Roberge.

The festival was established in 2005 in honor of Professor Emeritus of English Richard Gollin, who founded the film studies program at the University in 1976 with the assistance of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Gollin, who retired in 1989, authored A Viewer’s Guide to Film: Art, Artifices, and Issues, and received recognition for his research and writings on Romantic poetry and the Victorian novel. For additional information about the Gollin Film Festival visit http://www.rochester.edu/College/FMS/.

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.”

fea_digitalmedia

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.

Spotlight on Engineering and Humanities Alumni: Andrew Frueh

Name: Andrew Frueh
Age: 31
Education (UR and additional): B.A. in Computer Science and B.A. in Studio Arts, University of Rochester, 2003. M.F.A. in Imaging Arts and Sciences / Computer Animation, Rochester Institute of Technology, 2010.
Current city/state of residence: Salt Lake City, Utah
Job Title: Creative Director
Employer: Infuse Medical
Family: My wife, Karen Copeland (Eastman ’03); and our Icelandic Sheepdog, Kalla
Community activities: I volunteer once a week at the Ching Farm Rescue and Sanctuary to help feeding pigs and birds (http://www.chingsanctuary.org/).  I’m also very into endurance sports (distance running, cycling, triathlon) – a hobby my freshman year roommate and I started together.


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

Initially , I was interested in UR because it was well regarded in college rankings and had a strong computer science department.  But when I came and visited the campus the first time was what really sold me.    Everything from the layout of the campus to the general vibe just felt right.  And then the Rush Rhee’s scholarship sealed the deal.

When and how did you choose your major?

I knew I wanted to be a computer science major right from the beginning.  I taught myself how to program in high school as a hobby, and CS was the hot major in ‘99.  However the summer of my sophomore year I had an internship at a software engineering company, and I realized I wanted to do more than just write code.  So I decided to pursue computer animation and digital art.  I switched from a BS in Computer Science to a BA, and added a second major in Studio Art.

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

I started singing with the Midnight Ramblers the spring semester of my sophomore year, and I directed the group in my senior year.  The group gave me the opportunity to become friends with an amazing group of guys, and take part in dozens of experiences I never would have been able to otherwise.  Directing the group was particularly helpful to me because it was my first serious leadership experience, and the lessons I took from that were invaluable.

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

I made regular use of the Multimedia Center for my digital art projects, all the gear that was available there was extremely useful.

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

Probably my two biggest mentors while on campus also happened to be my academic advisors for my two majors: Ted Pawlicki in Computer Science and Allen Topolski in Studio Art.  Both were knowledgeable and supportive and helped me find my own way with one foot in each major.   Yes, I do continue to keep in contact with them, and had the opportunity to get together with both of them last year when I was back in Rochester screening my thesis film for my MFA.

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

I started interning for an educational media company, Truth-n-Beauty, in my junior year.  Two UR professors, Adam Frank and Ted Pawlicki, started the company.  We created animation and interactive software for museums, textbooks, websites, etc.  Working there was a blast, and little did I know I was laying the foundation for the rest of my career.  When I graduated in ’03, I decided to work for TnB full-time.

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

I’m a Creative Director for Infuse Medical, a medical education agency based in Salt Lake City, UT.  We create marketing and training media primarily for medical device companies – anything from iPad applications, to 3D animation, to interactive tradeshow exhibits.  As a Creative Director I work with clients to understand their needs develop a vision for a project.  Then I lead our team of artists and developers to bring that vision to life.  The work I do now is really an extension of the work I started doing when I begin interning at Truth-n-Beauty my junior year.  I’ve continued building on that experience throughout my career and it has led me to where I am now.

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

Probably the biggest thing is the ability to think creatively across a wide variety of disciplines.  When a client comes to us with a project, I need to be able to decide not only how to make something visually appealing, but also how we can create it technically.  My work requires me to be a generalist, not a specialist.  I think the broad range of experiences I gained at U of R played a big part in making that possible.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

That’s always a challenge, especially with client-based work, because everybody wants their project yesterday.  I think a big part of maintaining that balance is finding a company that believes it is important.  There are plenty of companies out there that will work you into the ground, and then replace you when you’re burned out.  So look carefully when you’re applying to companies and talk to other employees.  In my experience, finding a company that values their people is a huge factor in overall job satisfaction.

Where would you like to be in five years?

Five years is a long way out.  I think setting long term goals like that can be counter-productive.  You never know what the universe has in store for you, and I think you have to stay open to possibilities when they show up – even if they aren’t what you were planning on.  From year to year, if I can look back at my work and see growth and improvement, that’s enough for me.

How are you still connected with the University?

Mostly through friends and former professors.

What advice do you have for current students?

Take internships!  Even though the UR doesn’t the greatest system for them (you have to pay for the credit hours – and you can’t be paid by the employer), they are some of the most valuable experiences you’ll get.  They are an opportunity to test out your chosen career and see if it suits you.  Then if you’re like me and you find out it isn’t an exact fit, you can make a change and try something different.  It’s also a great way to see how well the skills you’ve gained in the classroom apply to the real world.  That way when you come back to the classroom you have a whole different appreciation for what’s being taught.


Spotlight on Humanities Alumni: Kimberly Hampton

Name: Kimberly Hampton
Age: 29
Occupation: Media Editor
Education (UR and additional):  B.A. in English and B.A. in Studio Arts; M.A. in Visual & Media Arts
Current city/state of residence: Boston, MA


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I was impressed with the University of Rochester’s progressive approach to course requirements.  They didn’t force students to take courses in disciplines outside their interests just to fulfill the required credit hours.  I was able to devote my entire college education (and my entire tuition budget) to courses that I found interesting and conducive to my personal strengths.  After all, who really remembers first-year calculus anyway?

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

I was involved in varsity sports like swimming, as well as club sports like squash and water polo.  These served as excellent ways to be engaged in campus life and expand my social circle, as well as stay in shape.  As I got older, being a member of a team also helped me gain leadership experience and learn how to handle increasing responsibility over a group effort.

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

My coaches and my advisors were instrumental in my success.  When I took a class with an instructor I liked and admired, I made a point to request that they be appointed my advisor so that they would take a personal interest in my college career.

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

I spent the Fall semester of my senior year applying for graduate school, and the Spring semester applying for jobs.  I figured I would do whichever option played out.  I got accepted into two graduate programs, but I didn’t land any jobs.  One of the schools I could attend (Emerson College) was in the same city as the job I wanted (Editor at a publishing company) but didn’t get.  So I decided to move to Boston for school and use my proximity to the publishing company to continue hounding them for any internship they could throw my way.  Eventually I got a part-time internship, which turned into an Editorial Assistant job.  Now I am a full Editor, and I was still able to keep up my graduate education part-time so I could earn my Master’s degree (and the company even started paying for it).

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

Learn how to write well, articulate your thoughts, and develop a strong argument in writing.  Even if you’re not an Editor, these skills are vital to any job because they frame the way people perceive you.  If you can’t write a cohesive email message or speak to a particular audience, or if you have poor grammar and spelling, then you’ll find it much harder to get ahead.  Along those same lines, learn multimedia tools and software programs for communicating as well.  Interactive video presentations and dynamic PowerPoint slides are becoming increasingly important as ways to convey information.  Finding creative ways to disseminate your work will help you stand out from your colleagues.

What advice do you have for current students?

Get as much job experience as possible.  Volunteer for anything even remotely related to a field you might want to be in one day.  Find people in the community you admire and figure out a way to be involved in what they are doing.  Jobs are more often than not the result of a personal relationship.  Get out and meet people, and then keep in touch with those people.


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.

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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 (www.out-of-russia.com) and the other to photography (www.myorientalism.com).

 

Photo courtesy of Maya Dukmasova.