The Colgate Scene
Around the college
Steven Levitt (left) and Stephen Dubner delivered the first lecture of the Global Leaders Lecture Series. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]
Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, authors of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, presented the first lecture in the Global Leaders Lecture Series on Colgate Day, Friday, April 13.
"Apparently, Colgate is the one place on earth that it's good to be on Friday the thirteenth," said journalist Dubner, who, along with economist Levitt, earned wide acclaim for dislodging conventional wisdom of all kinds in their bestselling book.
Their message — that there is always another question to ask or another way to ask it, a perfect theme for a liberal arts university — seemed to resonate with the estimated 1,700 people who packed Cotterell Court for their lecture.
"Lots of big questions have already been answered," said Levitt, "So I found new questions to ask."
Their book uses data to explain the hidden side of campaign finance, falling crime rates, the real estate business, schoolteachers who cheat to improve standardized test scores, the Ku Klux Klan, and more.
Before the talk, the authors did a book signing, and many students had the opportunity to chat one on one or attend special classroom sessions with them.
Pian Shu '07, who will follow Levitt's illustrious footsteps to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she will pursue a PhD in economics, was in an economics class that he visited.
"The most inspiring message I got from his session was the same one I got from his book, and that is as a researcher, one should always keep the eyes open and retain the curiosity for social phenomena and the relations behind them," she said.
The Global Leaders Lecture Series is funded primarily by the Society of Families, with support from the Class of 2007.
The Resolutions perform in the chapel. [Photo by Luke Connolly '09]
Students, family, and alumni flocked to the chapel in March for the Colgate Resolutions' annual Akapellafest, which this year celebrated the group's 15th anniversary.
Akapellafest, better known to students as "Akfest," is the annual concert showcasing the Resolutions, the university's original coed a cappella group. Led by musical director Dane Hoyt '07, the group, clad in tuxedos and black dresses, performed 14 songs that spanned all six of the Resolutions' studio albums and six that debuted at the concert.
The concert was the culmination of a weekend of events that gave current and former Resolutions a chance to interact. Members from all 15 years gathered at the Colgate Inn for Saturday morning brunch, where they shared stories and were addressed by the group's three founders: Jason Corrigan '95, Marisa Bond Smith '94, and Marc Gironda '94. The founders expressed their pleasure at seeing so many Resolutions in one place and for continuing the tradition they began in 1992.
Corrigan said he was impressed by how dynamic the Resolutions group has been and credited its longevity to those dynamics, noting that the group does not define its members, but rather, the members define the group.
Alumni began trickling in for the weekend-long celebration on Thursday, and by the time Saturday evening's concert arrived, more than half of the Resolutions' 99 alumni were present to pack the front four rows of the chapel, from where they loudly cheered the current members and laughed at vignettes that recounted the group's history and traditions, along with some infamous exploits of past members.
The Resolutions delivered an inspired set that brought the alumni to their feet after "Country Medley."
"When the crowd erupted into a standing ovation, I knew that all of our hard work had paid off," said Dan Jedell '07, for whom the concert was his last Akapellafest performance.
Looking back on the weekend, Jill Kinton '09 described her first Akapellafest as memorable. "It was so incredible to meet the alumni. The Resolutions are all about being a family, and I realized how much a part of the family they still are. I feel close to so many of them now." — Ryan Joyce '09
Colgate's Dancefest, held in April, is one of the campus's most popular events, filling the chapel each year. [Photo by Luke Connolly '09]
The beautiful springtime weather brought more to the Colgate campus than daffodils and sun-starved students soaking up rays on the Quad.
A band of giggling 4- and 5-year-olds took over Whitnall Field for a fun-filled day, courtesy of student volunteers from the university's Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education (COVE) involved in the Head Start program.
The main focus of the day was "to get the kids out of the classroom and just have fun," explained Joaimee Nagtalon '07, a co-leader for the Head Start volunteers on campus.
Fun is the perfect word to describe Field Day — the children and their families spent it playing games, watching jugglers, and having their faces painted. Over lunch, they enjoyed a performance by a performer called Bubble Man.
Mike Wenger '09, who worked with Nagtalon to plan the day, said, "It was a big hit . . . good turnout, awesome weather. It's going to be an annual event."
The day of fun and sun is not all that the student volunteers do; every week, approximately 30 Colgate students travel to a Head Start-funded preschool, attended by children from low-income families in either Madison or Morrisville. "Students go for an hour at the same time to the same school every week; that way the children are on a set schedule," said Nagtalon.
Earlier in the year, volunteers assisted teachers with setting up classrooms, moving on to pursuits geared toward both the mental and social growth of the children. "When I go, I usually read to them," explained Nagtalon. "That way, they get intellectual stimulation. The more you are exposed to words, the more you are able to gain the reading skills you need. I see it as a very good transition for them from preschool to kindergarten."
A majority of the interaction that occurs between the student volunteers and the children is focused on providing them with the attention and encouragement necessary to prepare them for later schooling. Teachers told Nagtalon about how some children at the beginning of the school year were very shy, and how after the Colgate volunteers started to come, the youngsters opened up and became more engaged in the class. — Brittany Messenger '10
Contestants work their way through slice after slice during the annual Theta Chi charity pizza-eating contest. [Photo by Luke Connolly '09]
Colgate welcomed renowned poet and 2001 Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Dunn to campus in April. Brought to the university as part of the English department's Reading and Lecture Series, Dunn presented some of his writings, discussed his art and life, and took questions from the audience.
He opened on a somber note by sharing a poem about a malicious neighbor who wished harm upon anything and everything, and possessed a "strength that came out of hopelessness." Following that recitation, he recounted how he himself had once triumphed over evil by saving a powerless bird from the wrath of a human.
That set the tone for the rest of the evening, as Dunn interspersed inspiring and humorous anecdotes throughout his talk to offset the solemn nature of his work.
Most of his readings were poems he wrote in couples — "paired pieces," as he calls them — and published in his 1998 anthology Prose Pairs.
One that particularly resonated with the liberal arts majors in the audience explored Dunn's experiences after college as a history major searching not just for meaning in his life, but for a job in the business world as well. He described his travails, saying, "All my bosses assumed that being a history major meant I must be good at filling brochures. I certainly was, and this filled me with a desire for almost everything else in the world."
He wrestled with that deep sense of ennui in one of his poems: "I now only know what I don't want, which is everything I have."
In the end, he put an end to his boredom by making the somewhat risky decision to quit his job.
That theme — to take chances — was repeated frequently throughout Dunn's mostly serious talk. He emphasized to the crowd that life is about learning from failure. "The most important task is finding the hidden opportunity in not getting what we want," he explained.
He broke the solemn mood of the evening when he concluded with an amusing piece about his experiences as a creative writing teacher and the intense wrangling over the appropriateness of employing vulgar terminology to describe the act of making love.
Afterward, members of the audience asked questions about the writing process and his development as an author. Dunn openly discussed his journey toward maturation.
"When I first wrote the paired pieces I thought they had so much integrity as pairs," he said. "And now I really don't care."
"By developing humility, I was able to realize one piece independent of the other constituted a whole." — John Kelly '08
Colgate's geology department has joined a prestigious association of colleges whose mission is to enrich undergraduate education through the development of high-quality research experiences, according to the organization's website.
The group, the Keck Geology Consortium, welcomed the university's department last fall — and Colgate has begun to reap the benefits, said Constance Soja, chair and professor of geology. "Being part of an organization like this one offers a lot of special opportunities for our students, faculty, and the geology program," she said.
The consortium, explained Soja, recently received a three-year, $650,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates program to subsidize a variety of student research projects in locations around the world. It is now ramping up for a new field season. Through that initiative, three Colgate students have already received grants for projects this summer. One will explore tectonic-climate systems in the Swiss Alps, another will examine volcanic eruptions in Iceland, and the last will investigate reef ecosystems in St. Croix.
After completing their research at Colgate next year, the undergraduates will participate in the annual Keck Symposium in the spring of 2008. "They will be able to collaborate with new colleagues at member institutions across the country, and then hear the results from all of the Keck research projects while strengthening their network of geology peers," Soja continued.
The Keck Consortium, which is made up of 18 primarily undergraduate institutions, is based at Franklin & Marshall College. (It was previously hosted by the College of Wooster.) Other member colleges include Amherst, Colorado, Macalester, Pomona, Smith, and Williams, among others.
Jill Harsin, professor of history and Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Chair in liberal arts studies, has been appointed director of the Division of Social Sciences for a three-year term.
Harsin has served as department chair and on various committees including the Research Council, Faculty Affairs Committee, Women's Studies Advisory Council, and Student Affairs Board. She currently chairs Core 152 and serves on the Promotion and Tenure Committee.
Author Tracy Kidder signs books at the Colgate Bookstore. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]
Bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Tracy Kidder motivated and inspired audience members during his reading and lecture in March, "Tout Moun Se Moun: We're All Human Beings." His visit was sponsored by the Institute for the Creative and Performing Arts through its ArtsMix series, the English Department Reading and Lecture Series, and the Humanities Colloquium Series.
Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains was read by several groups throughout the Colgate and Hamilton community last year. The Lifelong Readers Book Club in Hamilton chose it as one of their books to discuss, and rising sophomores signed up to read the book as part of the Dinner and a Good Book Series.
It was also the Class of 2010's 2006 summer reading assignment, and first-year Hannah Robinson met with Kidder and attended his talk. She later wrote her impressions of the day:
"If you think you know everything, read Mountains Beyond Mountains. My entire first-year class did last summer and, as a result, I think we all came to Colgate knowing a little more about Haiti and a lot more about human compassion.
"In case you haven't read the book, and you should, it is a first-person account written by Pulitzer-Prize winning author Kidder, who spent many months with Paul Farmer, the doctor who helped provide treatment for thousands of people with tuberculosis in Haiti (as well as other areas around the world).
"If Paul Farmer is the embodiment of human compassion, then Tracy Kidder is the embodiment of human understanding. Their mutual experiences enforced in me an already-held belief that the voice of reason does not have to be cold and indifferent.
"In modern times, we are often so busy analyzing causality and searching for new ways to increase profit, that we overlook our ability to truly make a difference in the world. And you don't have to be part of a big lofty corporation to do it. Farmer shows us how innovative changes can be made simply by one man's profound compassion, untainted by a lust for money or power.
"This was what I felt was the most important message from the book and from [the] lecture, that one person's drive and simple desire to help others can have a huge impact.
"I do believe that my classmates and I can make a difference in the world. And, yes, a lot has to fall in place for that to happen. But getting to meet Mr. Kidder and listen to his lecture only reinforced that belief."
A student models the latest fashions at the fourth annual We Funk spring charity fashion show. [Photo by Luke Connolly '09]
Courtney Richardson '08, chairwoman of Sisters of the Round Table (SORT), is proud of the sense of sisterhood that the student-run group inspires.
In an attempt to share this spirit with campus and in honor of Women's History Month, SORT organized Africana Women's Week, a series of events, lectures, and workshops dedicated to the celebration of contributions of all women, especially women of color.
"We're able to spread our ideas and display them through these lectures and other events," said Richardson.
Cassie Quirindongo '06, past co-chairwoman of SORT and current adviser, said she hoped that students "leave our events thinking about how people's identities shape our experiences. Specifically, I hope they come to acknowledge the unique experiences of women of color, while at the same time, try to understand how the overall issues, most notably racism and sexism, affect us all."
One radically funny theatrical performance guaranteed that such recognition would occur. While dancing on stage wearing gorilla masks to Peaches & Herb's 1970s hit, "Shake Your Groove Thing," the performance group Guerilla Girls quickly caught the audience's attention. Using skits, posters, and lots of sarcasm, the trio proved that while feminists can be funny, the various forms of discrimination and racism that both women and minorities face in the theater world, the entertainment industry, and politics are surely not.
Richardson explained that the Guerilla Girls were chosen to perform because of their "innovative and eye-catching" message.
"They didn't shove the information down your throat," explained one of the audience members. "They shared some really shocking facts in a funny way. It was refreshing."
Yet another inspiring event held in conjunction with the week was the discussion with Michele Alexandre '96, Colgate's first black female valedictorian. An Office of Undergraduate Studies alumna and former SORT member, Alexandre spoke about her accomplishments and struggles at Colgate and beyond.
"She is an inspiration," Richardson said. ". . . particularly because she is a SORT alumna and being a part of the organization helped her a lot to get to where she is now."
Other events throughout the week included a dinner with faculty, a lecture by civil rights activist Diane Nash, and a production dedicated to the stereotypes associated with hair type called "Finesse of Tress." — Brittany Messenger '10
The Harlem Renaissance Center (HRC) celebrated its 25th year at Colgate this semester with events including a play, a hip-hop performance, and a keynote presentation by BET personality and activist Cousin Jeff Johnson.
Johnson delivered a talk titled "Unclaimed Legacy: Who Will Lead the Next Social Movement?" He discussed the importance of continuing the legacy of great social leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. while rising up to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
"Jeff was terrific," said Piko Ewoodzie, residential education coordinator and organizer of the events. "He's not one to stand there and speak at people. It was really a conversation."
The entire weekend's programs focused on the history of HRC and its goals for the future. "One of the things founder Kirk McDaniel ['85] said was that it's great that the HRC is here 25 years later — but where is it going, what's the message?" Ewoodzie said. "Whatever the new message is, we really need to spell it out and live it."
Established at Colgate in 1982, the HRC is a learning center and home for students interested in the culture and heritage of Africans and African Americans.
Students living in HRC, which is located in Crawshaw House within the Bryan Complex, are part of a coeducational residence hall community that is also a special interest area offering the opportunity for study abroad experiences in Africa and the Caribbean.
Antonio Delgado '99, a Rhodes scholar and Harvard Law graduate, also spoke and performed during the weekend. Delgado is now a hip hop artist and co-founder of Statik Entertainment, an independent label based in California (see Alumni news).
A dinner at the home of Charlotte Johnson, vice president and dean of the college, and a performance of The Enemy, a play written and directed by Henoch Derbew '07, rounded out the weekend.
Ewoodzie estimated that approximately 150 students attended the anniversary events.
The Class of 2007's record-setting contributions to the senior class gift will help to endow the newly created Global Leaders Lecture Series.
The executive board of the senior class gift committee, Bethany Boll, Kelly Egler, Matt Kroll, Elizabeth Noyes, Mark Perelman, and Mike Tone, worked with an anonymous donor to get the class to reach a participation rate of at least 86 percent. The class met that goal, resulting in an 88 percent participation rate and a $100,000 gift by the donor toward the lecture series.
The class broke the former participation record, 85 percent, set by the Class of 2001, according to Sarah Gonzalez Bocinski, associate director of the annual fund.
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