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The Changing World of American Higher Ed

by Meghan Woolley '13

One of the frequent topics of conversation during this year’s reunions was how new developments in education, particularly the rising cost of college and the growing presence of online courses, will affect Hamilton. In a talk titled “The Changing World of American Higher Ed” on Friday afternoon, David Paris ’71, professor of government emeritus and former dean of faculty at Hamilton, addressed these and similar questions. Paris described the “developing architectural change in conceptions of what college is all about” and invited his audience of faculty and alumni to speculate about what the future of education might look like.

Paris began by identifying the major factors that are influencing the way we think about education, beginning with cost. He described the “cost spiral;” colleges are driven by competition, and they seek revenue to provide the best facilities, amenities, research and status. Paris observed that as the cost of an education increases, “people are driven to think, ‘couldn’t we do this in a less costly way?’”

As a result, the market of alternative forms of education is growing. The for-profit market, for instance, provides a lower cost, greater convenience and often more direct applicability. Technology is facilitating these new possibilities, particularly by allowing for online courses. Paris cited the rise of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, as especially important. MOOCs have been around since 2008, but recently elite institutions such as Harvard and Stanford have begun offering free online courses, although they are not accepting official credits from them. Paris questioned, “Why would you pay for Harvard when you can take a free Harvard course online?” Massive numbers of people have begun participating in MOOCs, raising the question of how they might change the structure of education. Paris observed, “We’ve hit a point with technology and market influences where people are looking at alternative models more comprehensively.”

With the growth of these alternative models, both students and educational institutions are beginning to wonder if a new system of qualifications might emerge. Within a traditional educational structure, degrees are granted on a basis of time spent in class. However, Paris sees a possible shift toward determining “credit” by proven competency. With changing standards of qualifications, online courses such as MOOCs might gradually be granted credited status by elite institutions.

Paris asserted that the underlying question of these developments is, “What is college?” He and the other faculty present at the talk emphasized the importance of collaborative learning to education. Many studies have shown that students learn best when discussions with each other supplement teaching within a classroom. Paris described students as benefiting from a “marinade” of the ideas of faculty and peers. This type of lateral learning may also be possible through online courses but might not be as prevalent. We also tend to see personal growth as an important aspect of the college experience, which may change as online learning expands.

Paris concluded that the future of education remains unclear. He pointed out, “Once you apply the technology, it could go in any number of directions.” What is clear, however, is that changes are coming, and they will require serious consideration of what we value about education.

Class of 1968 Retirement Panel

By Charlotte Hough ’14

Members of the Class of 1968 Chris Wilkinson, Phil Hoffman and John Oates joined together for an Alumni College on Friday, June 7, to discuss identity issues they have faced as recent retirees. All had different perspectives to share; Wilkinson has recently retired from academia, Oates from being a superintendent of schools and Hoffman as a small business owner.

Wilkinson led by asking the other panelists if they felt that after retiring, they had lost sources of identity. Oates described the loss of deference he usually received during his career as superintendent; as a retiree, he was not asked his opinion as often. In some ways he was unable to escape traces of his identity as he remained home and a public figure in the town where he had served. Hoffman experienced not a loss of identity, but a loss of the “footprint” of his identity, taking more control of his own agenda.

For the alumni who spoke, another concern was figuring how they fit in the domestic sphere if their professions had kept them out of it during their working lives. Hoffman found it important to keep his old office even as he started working less, referring back to a tiff he got in with his wife early in his career.

“When my wife and I first got married, I had already started developing real estate. We bought a house four miles from where I was working in development and the day after we moved in, I showed up for lunch. And she turned to me and she said, ‘What are you doing here? Go away! This is my space — leave me alone during the day!’”

The panelists also discussed the issue of relocation following retirement. All agreed that the “old model” of moving out to Florida or Arizona may be on the wane. Oates will soon be moving to Vermont with his wife, but admitted it is partially an effort on their part to downsize their assets. Wilkinson and Hoffman have remained at home near family and friends.

“I think it’s important that you do one transition at a time,” Hoffman said. “The idea of retiring and moving — that’s just way too much overhead to deal with.”

Oates, Wilkinson and Hoffman then moved into a discussion of the differences between how they perceived retirement would be earlier in life and how it had actually been going for them. They attributed discrepancies between the two to generational changes in the perception of retirement. 

The Cost of Education

By Charlotte Hough ’14

Carl Hayden ’63, former chairman of the State University of New York; Tom Schwarz ’66, president of Purchase College SUNY; Paul Hamlin ’63, retired regional vice president of the University of Phoenix; and Hamilton’s Vice President for Administration and Finance Karen Leach debated causes and fixes for the rising cost of higher education in an Alumni College held on Friday, June 7. Hayden acted as moderator and posed questions to the other three members of the panel.

“I think the subject is really compellingly important,” Hayden began. “The march of tuition does feel to be inexorable. Over time, it is doubtful that we [as a society] can withstand all the implications of that inexorable march.” He also recognized that it is important to understand where costs come from and differentiate between the offerings of private institutions, public institutions and “hybrids” — some of the alternatives to the traditional college such as the online university. The panelists’ varied backgrounds helped each speak to the different layers of the question.

Hayden began the discussion by asking Leach to comment on the “arms race of spending” that top institutions like Hamilton have been accused of engaging in, increasing quality by spending more but not by being more efficient. Leach responded by showing how Hamilton leads other less expensive schools in its student-faculty ratio, 4-year graduation rate and career outcomes. She argued that she does not believe Hamilton spends money irresponsibly, and that the education it provides is qualitatively better than it has been in its history, preparing students for a more complex world. Challenges with high costs come from the fact that Hamilton fees are rising faster than median incomes, though not faster than that of top quintile-earners.

As the panel continued, Hamlin addressed the competition that for-profit online universities like the University of Phoenix are facing from the growing popularity of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) model. Some MOOCs have begun to form relationships with for-profit institutions are now creating even more affordable online paths to higher education.

After Hamlin’s segment, Schwarz spoke about his experiences in public higher education and highlighted the defunding of higher education by the government as its biggest issue moving forward.

Follow-up questions posed by Hayden focused on the struggle between administrators and faculty in controlling costs, how to objectively define a “quality education,” what reduced faculty teaching loads mean for students and other possible sources for rising costs.

Cronkite's War: His World War II Letters Home

By Chelsea Haight ’13

Publius Virgilius Rogers Professor of American History Maurice Isserman presented an Alumni College on Friday, June 7, on Cronkite’s War: His WWII Letters, a book he recently co-wrote with Walter Cronkite IV ’11. 

Isserman explained to the audience how he grew up feeling a "personal relationship" with Walter Cronkite, Jr., the famed CBS news anchor whose appearances on television earned him the title "America’s Uncle." When Cronkite Jr.’s grandson came to Hamilton, Isserman had the opportunity to gain a rare insight into the man he had grown up with through Cronkite's wartime letters to his wife.

Isserman addressed the status of reporters during the war, who considered themselves to be part of the team.  They reported the truth, but they also worked to put a positive light on the news and to advance the Allied cause; “they were censored, but in a sense they were self-censored.”

“‘Cronkite’s war’ has a double meaning. It refers to World War II, and it also refers to the internal conflict Cronkite felt about being away from his wife.”

The Entertainment Industry

By Charlotte Hough ’14

Tom Forrest ’88’s career in the entertainment industry, which began with producing gangster rap videos, eventually led him to found Nashville-based Taillight TV. He returned to the Hill on Friday, June 7, to lead an Alumni College as a part of the Reunions 2013 programming.

Taillight TV is a full service production company that creates music videos, TV commercials, TV programming and viral advertising and programming for a variety of clients. During the presentation, Forrest went through the mechanics of the production of each. He regularly competes with some of the top production companies in Los Angeles and New York City.

Upon graduating, Forrest got into the industry by walking around to the headquarters of various TV production companies in New York. “I handed out my resume to companies and told them I was big, strong and smart,” Forrest said. In 1995, the company he and his wife were working with moved to Nashville as it worked with Garth Brooks. In 2000, the two of them started their own company.

Forrest’s company produces 25-30 music videos a year, for companies like Universal Records and Big Machine Records, the latter of which produces music for Taylor Swift. It has produced live TV programming of concerts and awards shows, the CMT awards being a career highlight for Forrest. “It’s very intense when it’s live,” said Forrest. “You’re dealing with commercial breaks and the timing has to be perfect.”

Working with rock stars and celebrities can be unpredictable, and Forrest dabbled his presentation with anecdotes. When he first started out, he was shooting a gangster rap music video in the Bronx and found himself at gunpoint, an experience that almost turned him away from the entertainment industry. He has also had to deal with artists showing up to shows intoxicated and unable to perform, though some artists chose different poisons. At a show he taped for Meat Loaf, the artist requested that milk and cookies be available to the crowd in lieu of alcohol.

James BradfieldGreat Professor Lecture

By Chelsea Haight ’13

Emeritus Professor of Economics James Bradfield presented an Alumni College titled the “ADP Great Professor Lecture” on Friday, June 7.

Bradfield explored the possibility of creating economic inefficiency using eminent domain. As private property and markets are part of the pursuit of happiness, eminent domain violates this. He discussed how free markets and the allowance of private property have been proven to increase the standard of living. An economically efficient market exhausts all other outcomes to arrive at mutually beneficial results. Private markets cannot create the public good, since it is inexhaustible and cannot exclude the non-payers.

Bradfield argued, “You will learn a lot about economics if you eliminate the word ‘need’ from your vocabulary – you don’t need things, you want them.”

In conclusion, Bradfield addressed how taking private property for public use is not acceptable as it damages productivity.  Without the right to sell property at a just price, incentive to maintain it diminishes. 

Hamilton and the Civil War

By Chelsea Haight ’13

Hamilton's archivist, Katherine Collett, presented an Alumni College on Friday, June 7, addressing “Hamilton College and the Civil War.”

Collett provided a glimpse of the College during the Civil War, focusing on admission requirements, the cost of tuition and available courses of study.  In addition, she discussed the men who served in the Civil War: William Kirkland Bacon, Class of 1863, killed in Fredericksburg; and Morris Brown, Class of 1864, killed the same year in Petersburg. Collett shared an excerpt of a letter by Myron Adams, Class of 1863, in which he wrote, “Down with slavery is the pill and swallow it they must!” In addition, Collett provided an overview of collection and documents with information on Hamilton College’s involvement in the Civil War that exist online digitally.

Collett ended the session with time to answer questions. Audience members inquired about the funding available for Hamilton College archives and the presence of any Civil War veterans buried in the campus cemetery. 

Hamilton Entrepreneurs

By Chelsea Haight ’13

Blake Darcy ’78 presented an Alumni College on “Hamilton Entrepreneurs” on Friday, June 7. 

Darcy expressed disappointment with the death of entrepreneurs coming from Hamilton, as large numbers of graduates enter law or business school after leaving the Hill and rarely choose to begin their own companies.  He explored the cause of this, surmising that Hamilton has extensive connections for financial careers with a less prominent venture network for those looking to found a start-up.

Darcy finds Wall Street detrimental to the issue, as it “sucks out” many with any entrepreneurial spirit. Further, he finds the typical Hamilton student likely to take an easier path, opting for security over excitement, when he or she chooses a financial career over entrepreneurship. 

“Successful entrepreneurs are passionate about their idea; the money is secondary,” Darcy said. “Solve the problem first, then comes the money.”

Darcy recommends that all Hamilton students be proficient in Excel upon graduation. A very interactive conversation between Darcy and the audience occurred at the conclusion of the session.

Hamilton's First-Year Experience

By Chelsea Haight ’13

On Friday, June 7, a panel presented an Alumni College on the Hamilton First Year Experience. Senior Associate Dean of Students for Strategic Initiatives Meredith Bonham, College Chaplain Jeff McArn, Visiting Associate Professor of Religious Studies Brent Plate and Professor of Economics Steve Wu addressed how to introduce first-year students to college life that delivers an integrated residential and academic experience.  

The panelists discussed first-year housing clusters and first-year courses that would group incoming students together, creating a more cohesive unit. The REAL Program, which already exists at Hamilton, similarly offers classes for first-year students that are designed to improve their experience. The panel believes these adjustments to the current system will increase class unity.  In addition, first-year housing and courses that connect the academic, co-curricular, writing and social aspects of college life maximize the value of a student’s first year on the Hill.

As first-year programs increase at institutions across the nation, Hamilton looks to address the shift in demand for a first-year experience. 

Healthcare Coverage and Affordability

By Chelsea Haight ’13

In the Alumni College “Healthcare Coverage and Affordability,” Russel Bantham ’63, Kevin Conroy ’83, Drew S. Days III ’63 and R. Christopher Regan ’77, P’08 addressed issues regarding healthcare in the United States. 

The alumni panel of experts represented the payer, provider, legal and pharmaceutical perspectives: Bantham, former executive vice president and COO of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; Conroy, region president of Wellcare of New York; Days, the Alfred M. Rankin Professor Emeritus of Law and Professorial Lecturer in Law at the Yale Law School; and Regan, managing director of The Chartis Group, LLC, a firm that provides management consulting and applied research to health care organizations.   

Introducing the issue at hand, the group offered various statistics to describe the American public. Forty-five percent of Americans feel they do not have enough information to make an accurate judgment on the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, while 49 percent have a negative opinion on ObamaCare.  The speakers asked, “Where are the 55 percent of Americans who know what they are talking about?”

Days covered the ACA and discussed the Supreme Court’s involvement in the policy.  Under the individual mandate, the monetary gain for Medicaid expanded, and states were penalized for not participating in the ACA.  Regan discussed the implementation of the ACA and the complexity of the issue, caused by the magnitude of individuals needing coverage and the tension between expanding coverage and managing costs.   Conroy addressed the future of healthcare, which will require more coverage and greater emphasis on quality and preventable measures.  Bantham contended, “The U.S. healthcare system is larger than France’s entire economy.  Yet, we are the only nation in the world that considers death an option.”

The panelists all stressed the complexity of the legislation and the high degree of uncertainty about nearly every element of the 906-page law as the Jan. 1, 2014, implementation date approaches. In addition, each speaker touched on the tension between access, affordability and quality that exists within the healthcare system.

Heartland Passage: History of the Erie Canal

By Charlotte Hough ’14

Using excerpts from his oral-history documentary, Heartland Passage, the curator of the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse discussed the history and significance of the canal in an Alumni College on Saturday, June 8.

The Erie Canal facilitated extensive economic growth for the state of New York when it opened in 1825 until the larger New York State Barge Canal replaced it in 1918. Some 363 miles from start to finish, the canal connected the Hudson River at Albany to Lake Erie in Buffalo, allowing New York City port businesses to ship goods and import resources more efficiently. Horses and mules had to tow the barges at around 4 mph until the advent of steam engines, as the canal lacked a current. This meant that the journey from Buffalo to New York City could take as long as six days.

The canal eventually stopped accommodating passengers, facing competition from the faster railroads, though it continued to provide an impressive stream of freight shipping. New York City would not be what it is today if not for the Erie Canal and its 19th-century legacy.

As the lecture continued, it turned into an informal discussion of the history, topography and repercussions of the canal amongst the speaker and alumni.

Intercollegiate Athletics

by Colin Jacob '14

Professor of Philosophy Bob Simon P '91,'94 and Director of Athletics Jon Hind ’80 are a dynamic team when discussing Hamilton athletics and their role on campus. Student athletes face the challenges of balancing their schoolwork with their athletic commitments on a weekly basis. Many programs assist in maintaining this balance and push students to challenge themselves both on and off the playing field.

While Simon may be a professor, he has a passion for sports and coached the men’s golf team at Hamilton from 1986-2000. He is the recipient of multiple teaching awards and authored the book Fair Play.  Hind was named athletic director in 2007. As a Hamilton alumnus he was excited about the opportunity to return and aid in the development of student athletes.

During the short talk, Simon proposed different models to intercollegiate sport. The largest one that he focused on is known as the "entertainment model." In this model, he examined highly visible, Division I sports programs at larger universities. He warns of the vicious cycle that these programs can foster. Schools need the best players to win in order to get money. However, they need more money to attract more accomplished coaches and better equipment for their players so that they are capable of winning. Coaches end up being the highest paid personnel on staff, earning salaries that dwarf professors or even presidents. These top athletes that the programs attract may not be top students, which is another issue.

Hind agreed with Simon when he proposed a different "model of mutual reinforcement." Many students can benefit from college athletics as long as their academics and sport share a mutual quest for excellence. Players can obtain academic values by respecting the truth and learning about strengths and weaknesses. Values of citizenship are also emphasized with teamwork and pursuing a common goal with people.

Hind is proud that roughly one-third of Hamilton’s student body participates in a varsity sport. Once club and intramural teams are factored in, at least half of the students on campus are a member of some organized team. Hind likes to view sports teams as an extended classroom and hopes students fully benefit from spending four years with the same coach.

Introduction to Sleep Medicine

By Chelsea Haight ’13

Dan Rifkin ’88 presented the Alumni College “Introduction to Sleep Medicine” on Friday, June 7.  Rifkin is medical director of the Sleep Medicine Centers of WNY.  He told the audience, “Sleep medicine is my passion.”

Rifkin addressed why sleep medicine is so underrepresented in modern medicine and explained how he was initially overwhelmed by the number of people with sleep problems, a new and growing issue in today’s society.  He described the 24-hour circadian rhythm that systematically guides our bodies at the cellular level.  We engage in 4-5 cycles of NREM vs. REM sleep each night. Adults may experience awakening at night, which increases with age, something Rifkin referred to as “normal sleep fragmentation of aging.” 

Sleep deprivation affects our immune function, diabetes and obesity, among many things. “Despite the fact that we need 7-9 hours of sleep, as Americans, we don’t get it,” Rifkin said.  In the past 25 years, average sleep obtained has decreased by 25 percent.  Rifkin covered various sleep disorders, such as insomnia and apnea, which attribute to sleep deprivation in the United States.

Rifkin offered tips to the audience members on how to improve the amount of sleep they obtain each night: regularize sleep times, relaxation rituals, turn your alarm clock around, create quiet and dark bedrooms (a bit like a cave), and if you are not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do some light reading. 

My Fly-Fishing Adventures

By Charlotte Hough ’14

Lew Sandler ’58 shared stories from his 40 years of avocational high-mountain fly-fishing across the Americas and New Zealand in an Alumni College on Saturday, June 8.

“I’d rather be fishing but I guess second best would be talking about it,” Sandler admitted at the beginning of his talk, held in the Science Center. He compared fly-fishing to religion and spoke of the serenity, relaxation and excitement it never fails to bring him.

“I’ve never been on a trip where I haven’t learned something,” he said. He also sang praises for the sport as a way to bring family together: “It’s a wonderful way to bond with your grandchildren…but not with your wife,” joking that his wife had never been interested in coming along.

The anecdotes he told ranged from the scary to the humorous. Once while fishing on the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia, he encountered a bear that later followed him upstream to show off her cubs, or so speculated their guide. Sandler wasn’t fazed, but followed by reflecting on a much more frightening experience in Alaska. He had been fishing off of a boat when he suddenly entered an unexpected squall. When the pilot called his wife to alert her of the situation, Sandler became concerned; luckily, they made it out safely. 

Sandler often stayed at lodges and flew out to the actual fishing sites, as they were so remote. He enjoyed most of the places he stayed but shared a few horror stories, one being a 4-day stay that ran him an $800-dollar bill for flights out and back, when he had thought the price would be half of that. Sandler would later go on to recount his negative experience for a fly-fishing magazine, much to the chagrin of the lodge’s owner, who phoned Sandler with a death threat.

“He said, ‘If they publish that article, I’m coming to Dallas and I’m going to kill you.’ I said, ‘Okay, Bill. If you let me know what flight you’re coming in on, I’ll meet you there.” The room erupted in laughter.

Retirement Panel

By Charlotte Hough ’14

“What is retirement? Perpetual spring break for our demographic?” asked John Brennan ’78 at the Friday morning Alumni College on retirement, adding, “Perhaps.” At the panel, Tommy Thompson ’73, David Edwards ’83 and Brennan spoke on retirement, discussing investing in retirement, social security and the social aspects of the retirement transition.

Edwards, president of Heron Financial group, referred to the potential disastrous consequences to an “aeropath landing.” He speaks with his clients in years prior to “landing,” providing them with a five-item checklist to help them prepare for retirement. Edwards advises his clients to check their asset allocations and to prepare a retirement income statement. “It is good to know 10 years out what your situation is going to be.”

Thompson discussed social security for today, encouraging individuals to inquire about their personal data. He provided the countless benefits of holding off until one’s full retirement age, 65, to file for social security. “Sixty-two is not your magic number,” Thompson said. “Benefit reduction is permanent and spousal benefit is also reduced if you file early.” Thompson highlighted the spousal benefits and strategies when filing for social security.

Brennan focused on the social aspects of retirement and how it may affect one’s life, happiness and relationships. “Planning for the emotional aspect of retirement is as critical as planning for the financial and legal aspects.” He offered advice on discussing one’s goals, purpose, and thoughts on what to do and where to live.

“So what is retirement? A new life or spring break for our generation?” Brennan asked again at the end of the talk, answering, “A mixture of both.”

The panel encouraged questions, comments and discussion from the audience. One individual asked the panelists’ opinions on going into retirement with 60 to 70 percent of assets allocated in stocks. Edwards responded that asset allocation depends on the draw risk; all assets classes come with risks.

Social Media's Impact

by Colin Jacob '14

In a world where effectively communicating your company’s mission and appeal is essential, social media is becoming increasingly important. Websites like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram help link individuals through pictures, blog posts and updates about anything one can imagine. Five 2008 Hamilton graduates discussed how these sites impacted their careers in a Friday panel. Melissa Kong ’08, editor at Technori, moderated the talk.

Like most Hamilton students and alumni, the panel members found something that they are passionate about in this world. Whether it was electronic music, digital media, extreme sports apparel or even hilarious comics, social media helped them both find these interests and make them  part of their careers.

Sarah Henochowicz manages the business intelligence team at Tumblr. This popular site allows people or companies to blog about their lives and products in an attractive and simple manner. The company uses different metrics to examine user engagement, ad performance and other measures that affect the user or customer experience. She maintains this internal recording of the data they collect every day and will ultimately help shape Tumblr in the future.

Meslissa Joy '08, left, Sarah Henochowicz '08, center, and John Pew '08, right, discuss the impact of social media on their lives.
Meslissa Joy '08, left, Sarah Henochowicz '08, center, and John Pew '08, right, discuss the impact of social media on their lives.
Jarobin Gilbert '08 talks about his role as a Social Media Analyst at Path Interactive.
Jarobin Gilbert '08 talks about his role as a Social Media Analyst at Path Interactive.

John Pew co-founded a ski and snowboard brand in Hood River, Ore. He and his business partner are relying on social media sites to publicize their product name and attract more potential customers. Their company, Trew, utilizes tools like crowdsourcing to involve their fans in the creative process. Different design contests or raffles will be hosted on their Facebook page in order to generate interest in the new brand.

With his grasp on Spanish and German, Jarobin Gilbert is attempting to network people through “linguistic means.” He recently focused his professional attention to search engine marketing and is trying to connect companies with their markets more efficiently.  He is an avid social media user and regards it as a living anthology, pointing to applications like Instagram that can track and map users’ coordinates wherever they take  photographs.

Together, Jason Oberholtzer and Cody Westphal founded the popular comedy site “I Love Charts.” They created a large community around their blog through social media networking and published a book of their original content. Prior to the success of their site, they were merely users of social media sites and had never thought they would pursue this kind of career. After using several social media  sites to blog and maintain friendships, they realized the power of these applications.

While the panel recognized the significance of social media in business and communications, they do not see it as the answer to every business challenge. Recent projects have been discontinued due to privacy issues, one of the biggest concerns with the websites today. Many of the alumni also warned companies of becoming dependent on the sites or expecting them to yield an immediate boost in sales.

Surprising Biblical Family Values

By Chelsea Haight ’13 and Charlotte Hough ’14

Dr. Reverend Julie Parker ’83 presented an Alumni College titled “Surprising Biblical Family Values” on Friday afternoon.  Parker addressed the question, “What families are you talking about?” arguing, “These families are pretty messed up.” 

Parker began by discussing how common misconceptions about family values and the Bible often come out in political rhetoric around election time. In truth, the Bible teaches a lot of contradicting lessons about the family. It portrays family members that fight, betray each other, get jealous and argue over inheritances. These issues make Bible characters both relatable and compelling to the modern reader.

Parker focused on the book of Genesis, whose origins lie in Greek history. The book of Genesis 1-11 traces primeval history, while 12-50 tells the story of the ancestors.  Parker addressed the actions of Biblical characters, specifically Abraham, and their relations with members of their family. Before Abraham and his family are introduced, the Bible narrates the story of creation in its problems, and it is here that examples of family conflict begin to emerge. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve, supposedly the mother and father of all humanity, both eat the forbidden fruit. In the story of the brothers Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, one kills the other. Later in Genesis 9, Noah (of Noah and the Ark) gets drunk and curses one of his sons.

Parker gave context about Abraham and his family, showing that if he had been real, Abraham would have come from modern-day Iraq. After a brief summary of Abraham’s family tree, she shared a passage from Genesis 12:10-20 and asked audience members to consider the messages conveyed about family. In the text, Abraham is faced with famine at home and so goes to Egypt to live there as a foreigner. He asks his wife, Sarah, to pretend to be his sister so that the Pharaoh will not kill him. They arrive and the Pharaoh takes Sarah into his house, with little protest narrated on the part of Abraham. In the Genesis Apocryphon, the story was rewritten to give Abraham more remorse about what is done to his wife. This retelling of the story lends more concern not to Sarah’s violation, but to her tainting with foreign seed as a threat to Abraham’s possible heirs.

Near the end of her presentation, Parker asked audience members to act out a scene from Genesis 16 to further dissect the Biblical characters of Sarah, Abraham and the slave, Hagar.

Parker concluded with some thought-provoking questions, one of which asked to place Abraham in contemporary perspective, “If Abraham was here today he’d be an Iraqi immigrant, how would he be treated today?” She also asked the audience to consider Sarah and Hagar’s similar experiences as sexual property.

Theatre & Studio Arts Facilities Update

By Chelsea Haight ’13

Sam Pellman, professor of music, Craig Lattrell, professor of theatre, and Rebecca Murtaugh, professor of art, gave an Alumni College on Friday, June 7, to give an update on the new theatre and studio arts facilities scheduled for completion in August 2014.

Providing the audience with an overview of the construction, the group confirmed the pond will be filled within the week (which will be skate-able in the wintertime) and the amphitheater for outdoor performances has been landscaped.  An interdisciplinary digital arts suite will be featured within the new building as well as the collaborative use of exhibition space for student and faculty displays and potentially a capella concerts.

There is an emphasis on flexibility, versatility, collaboration and synergy inherent in the building’s design. Pellman explained, “There are a lot of good things going on in Minor Theater and List, but those spaces are tired, they’re exhausted and they’re ready to be repurposed.” Senior project spaces will finally be brought together to “create a community of senior art majors,” Pellman said, while also “creating subtle connections between one set of buildings to another (North and South campuses).”

The group said there is palpable excitement from faculty and alumni alike about the capacity and potential of the new spaces.  Lattrell added, “I think of it as the front porch of the College.”

Time Management for Business Leaders

By Chelsea Haight ’13

Nicole Katz’ Rhind’ 83 and Natasha Ikonnikow Householder ’83 presented an Alumni College addressing “Time Management for Business Leaders” on Friday, June 7.  Rhind and Householder are certified business coaches and work to support businesses and teams to maximize profitability.  Both women seek to improve performance through education. 

Rhind and Householder spoke to the importance of effective time management, which they argue can increase business efficiency and allows one to better achieve his or her goals.  Through prioritization of tasks, self-awareness, and avoiding “multi-tasking,” one can better manage his or her time.  Rhind and Householder find that workers are actually much better off focusing on one task and completing it before moving on to another project. 

Likewise, setting aside two times a day to answer emails can increase focus on other tasks throughout the day; “emails are the most important distraction and frequently prevent you from accomplishing your most important tasks.” 

Rhind and Householder find that improving one’s time management can greatly accelerate business growth and productivity; “you can always get more money, but you can’t get more time.” 

The World of Publishing

By Charlotte Hough ’14

Recently published author Helen Burns Olsson ’88 led an Alumni College on Fri., June 7 on her writing career. She spoke about her freelancing for skiing magazines and later for the travel section of the New York Times that eventually led to a book deal. The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids: How to Plan Memorable Family Adventures and Connect Kids to Nature came out in April 2012 and is filled with camping tips for parents based off of Olsson’s experiences.

An English major at Hamilton, Olsson decided to briefly extend her stay on the Hill upon graduation, spending two years working at C&D and bartending at The Rok. She then spent time in Colorado as a ski bum, traveled the world and had a short-lived career as a PR account executive before beginning to freelance for skiing magazines in the U.S. She has written for Women’s Sports and Fitness, Conde Nast, Skiing for Women, and this year will be writing for Women’s Adventure.

Olsson camps regularly with her a husband and kids, a love that she says began when her parents left her behind to take a month-long camping trip to the West. She was left with a friend of an uncle as her two other siblings got to tag along on the 26-day, 8,000-mile cross-country road trip camping in the Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park. Now, she takes her own kids camping to bring them great experiences and memories that she missed out on that first trip.

“These are the things our kids are going to remember for the rest of their lives,” she added after sharing an anecdote about a close encounter with a windstorm on a camping trip in Colorado. She told many of these stories in her book, which she likes to think of as a journal of sorts. “One of the fulfilling things for me as a writer is that my kids will always have those stories.”

Olsson shared advice for prospective professional writers, though she still doesn’t know exactly how she landed her book deal.

“People ask ‘How did you (ever) get a book deal?’ I still have no idea!” Olsson said. When pressed, she’ll add, “just wait for someone to call you!”

This second piece of advice is quite literally how Olsson got her book deal. She had recently published a piece in the New York Times on taking her kids camping with llamas when she received a call from an interested publisher that had seen the piece. She admitted that getting a book deal often does not work that way.

A short Q&A period followed and audience members asked Olsson for camping as well as writing advice. For writers, she stressed the importance of being open to the editorial process. With the campers in the audience, she shared favorite recipes for twists on the classic s’more (try roasting the marshmallows with chocolate and dried cherries inside, or rolling them in chocolate sauce and then shredded coconut).