The Colgate Scene
May 2006

People on the go

Silvia Alvarez '96

Silvia Alvarez '96 hopes to someday work on a presidential campaign. Her perfect candidate?

"She should be a woman," Alvarez said. "She should be smart. She should be strong. She should be able to appeal to all types of communities."

Alvarez could be describing herself, but don't look for her name on a presidential ballot just yet. She has enough to do in the New York City mayor's office. As deputy press secretary for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Alvarez is responsible for the media operations of several city agencies, and serves as a general advisor on communication to the city's large, diverse Spanish-speaking communities. She is also the principal spokesperson for the deputy mayor for legal affairs and serves as the primary spokesperson for Mayor Bloomberg to Latino media.

"I have very long days," she said. "But it's probably the happiest place I've ever worked. Every day is different."

From hosting hip-hop legends Ice-T and Russell Simmons at City Hall to defending policy changes in the city's extensive public housing system, Alvarez's workdays are as varied as the news. Her most recent projects have included announcing two major award shows, unveiling a newly refurbished façade for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a visit from the mayor of Taipei, Taiwan, and a breakfast reception in honor of Women's History Month.

"But even on days when I'm not working on the exciting projects, there are still important things, and you feel like part of history," she said.

Alvarez has, indeed, been instrumental in the history of the nation's largest city. She attributes the success of New York's recovery after 9/11 to Mayor Bloomberg, whom she helped in his campaign for reelection.

"That's another great accomplishment -- working on his election and being able to get the mayor reelected. We believe in him so much," she said.

Prior to working in the mayor's office, Alvarez was a media relations specialist for the American Cancer Society, where she led efforts advocating the New York City Smoke-Free Workplace Act that secured the passage of a bill banning smoking in all offices, restaurants, and bars citywide. She's pleased to have helped the city in these ways.

"New York is my city. I'm in love with New York," she said. "It's the ability to go to any street corner and find different types of people from different parts of the world. It doesn't matter where you go in New York, the diversity is always there."

Alvarez has lived in the city since she was 7, when she moved there with her family.

"I lost my mom my freshman year at Colgate," Alvarez said. "If my mom was alive, she would be so proud at how this young girl she brought from El Salvador went to an amazing university and has ended up in the mayor's office." — Vicki L. Wilson


Jeff Standish '92

Jeff Standish earned his Colgate degree in geology in 1992. Fourteen years, several jobs, and one barbecue at the North Pole later, he came back to teach it.

The self-described "volcanologist/geochemist" has spent the spring semester back on the Hill as the Boyce Postdoctoral Fellow, a position developed in 2005 by the geology department and funded by Malcolm '54 and Sylvia Boyce to attract recent PhD scholars looking to simultaneously teach and do research. While on hiatus from his current post-doc at Harvard, Standish is co-teaching Introduction to Oceanography and helping to develop a lab section for an upper-level course in volcanology.

With plans to continue on the professorial path, Standish said that revisiting the main lecture room of 209 Lathrop Hall -- on the other side of the podium -- has been as much about learning as teaching. The first class was "definitely nerve-racking," he said, but "before I knew it, all the students were looking at the clock and I said, `Oh, I guess class is over.'"

Standish's initial interest in geology was sparked during his childhood by his uncle, also a geologist, who regularly shared stories about camping in the wilderness that involved bears and other exotic wildlife. "I just always associated being in the wilderness with geology," he said.

Given that studying underwater volcanoes requires spending time on site to sample them, Standish has since collected many of his own stories.

"In 2001, I was part of a research expedition up in the Arctic Ocean. Nobody had extensively sampled the part of the mid-ocean ridge that runs under the arctic ice cap called Gakkel Ridge. We were out there for 65 days working pretty much around the clock," said Standish -- although they did leave time for that North Pole barbecue.

On site, the ship's crew uses computer-guided GPS and scientists use high-resolution ocean floor bathymetry to pinpoint the ship's location above the mid-ocean ridge, where they dredge the seafloor with the hope of collecting chunks of cooled lava. Once back on shore, lab analysis of the chemical components within a series of dredges (lavas) -- for example, to see whether the potassium concentration in the lavas changes over a geographic expanse -- enables testing of existing theories. Because the chemical compositions of these geologically young lavas provide a snapshot in time of the Earth's mantle (the subsurface layer where these lavas are generated), Standish said, scientists are able to compare individual parts of a ridge or different ocean basins to see how the interior of the planet is evolving over time.

Standish has also explored beyond the academic realm. A student-athlete at Colgate, he stayed on for a year as the assistant men's soccer coach, and then worked for three years in Washington, D.C., as an environmental consultant/risk assessor after attaining his master's degree in geology from the University of Idaho.

He then returned to academia, earning his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Oceanography.

"I just decided I really wanted to teach," he said, "and certainly Colgate had a big part in that mindset." — Elisa Benson '06

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