The Colgate Scene
July 2006

The Upstate Institute's New Director

Ellen Kraly, left, students in her spring immigration class, and families and staff members at Utica's Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees gathered for a celebration -- featuring Kraly's famous homemade pies -- after students presented their service learning projects. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

Incoming director Ellen Percy Kraly has an impressive track record of working with and within the upstate community. The geography professor's studies of urban development and the role of immigrants in Utica, for example, have spawned a lasting relationship with the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees. She has also taught numerous courses with service learning components in Utica and the Adirondacks, as well as abroad in Uganda and Sudan. And as a 25-year resident of Hubbardsville who sent her children to Hamilton Central School, Kraly brings personal knowledge of the issues affecting the region, and a deep commitment to it. Kraly sat down with the Scene recently to discuss the institute and her vision for it.

What are your plans for the institute?

Kraly: I want to continue the momentum of Jill Tiefenthaler's tenure -- she has established so many partnerships between Colgate students, faculty, and staff, and local and regional organizations. My first job, then, is to learn more about all of the institute's programs, and maintain and deepen their strengths, so we can have a continuing long-term impact on the region.

Second, I would like to further support faculty and student scholarship on issues concerning central New York. A number of faculty members and many students are already doing research related to upstate, and I would like to encourage even more projects that address the environmental, social, geographic, economic, artistic, and cultural dimensions of the region.

I also think it is important for the institute to communicate the results of research, so that we can call attention to the fact that upstate New York is an area with great environmental, historical, and cultural richness. If we don't share our findings with both the academy and communities here, we're not doing our job.

What other connections do you see the Upstate Institute making?

Kraly: I'd like the institute to promote regular conversations within the upstate region and among communities. We can all learn so much from each other. Through my service learning courses in the region, I am continually reminded how much that is true. That's why it's important to create some kind of forum for faculty and students, community leaders, and upstate residents to share their experiences.

How do you feel about taking the helm?

Kraly: I am so excited. President Chopp and Dean Roelofs are very interested in the institute, so we have a lot of support from the top. We also have the energy of the faculty and staff involved. And the students have been nothing but thrilled with their experiences. On a personal level, these kinds of initiatives -- encouraging connections -- really get my creative juices flowing.

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