SU People

 

Schmitt Shoots!!

 

Pete Sala |

The Dome-inator

Pete Sala, assistant director of facilities operations at the Carrier Dome, emerges from the tunnel opening up to the Dome floor and directs student employees to different sections of a giant jigsaw puzzle, better known as the SU men’s basketball court. He and his crew piece together the 217 interlocking wooden panels to create the seamless playing floor. In a similar fashion, Sala brings together the various parts of his job to lay the foundation for efficient operation of Dome events. Now in his 21st year of service at the Dome, he works diligently, sometimes even through the night, so that events run smoothly. “I don’t have the typical 9-to-5 workday,” Sala says. “No two days are alike, and it’s great to have that variety.”

Sala, who grew up in the Syracuse area, remembers when Archbold Stadium was torn down in 1979 to make room for the Dome. He began working at the Carrier Dome in 1982 as a production assistant while on vacation breaks from the University of Massachusetts. “I started at the bottom and worked my way up to my current position,” he says. “That’s how you learn all the aspects of such a huge facility.”

The students who act as production assistants for Sala consider him their boss, but more importantly, a friend. “Pete is really understanding of students’ responsibilities, and he’s willing to accommodate the needs of his student employees,” says Jayson Weinstein ’03, who worked with Sala for three years. “He makes the job fun and understands that people are people first and then employees.”

The stadium, which seats 50,000 and is the largest on-campus sports venue in the country, requires a great amount of caretaking. Sala oversees all of the Dome’s maintenance requirements, as well as the setup and tear-down of events. “Anything that goes on at the Dome comes to me,” he says. “I’m responsible for making sure it gets done right.” That responsibility leaves Sala with a full schedule. Along with SU football, basketball, and lacrosse games, the Dome also hosts such events as concerts, NCAA tournaments, convocation ceremonies, and the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

Sala says his most rewarding event is the NCAA basketball tournament’s East Regional. “We know we’ll send a team to the Final Four,” he says. “We work hard to make this place look like a million bucks for the tournament.” Concerts are also a highlight, even though they require a tremendous effort, he says. Since his start at the Dome, Sala has been around for a number of shows and loves the behind-the-scenes work that comes with hosting a concert. Setting up dressing rooms and helping roadies construct monstrous stages for such musicians as Billy Joel and Garth Brooks add to the excitement. “I like the people I meet through Dome events,” he says. “The job allows me to interact with people from all over the world.”

Along with his work at the Dome, Sala spends many weekends during the football season traveling with the team to assist on the field. He remains on the sidelines at away games to ensure coaches can communicate on their headsets without any technical difficulties. After each road trip, he looks forward to coming home to his wife, Laurie, and their 4-year-old son, Jake, who occasionally gets treated to an insider’s view of the massive arena.

With so many pieces to put into place each day, Sala has learned to appreciate the job and its opportunities. “I like my position because I perform so many different functions,” he says. “I could be setting up for the Empire State Games one day and then getting ready for football practice or an alumni dinner the following day.”

—Kristen Swing

 

 

Schmitt Shoots!!


Yvonne Buchanan
| Eclectic by Design

Yvonne Buchanan, professor of art and design at SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, is passionate, eclectic, productive, and ambitious. Known mainly for her drawing, she has illustrated six children’s books, including Fly Bessie, Fly (Simon & Schuster, 1998)—a biography of Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman aviator. “You have to be aware of how much information children need,” she says. “You have to be careful with vocabulary and explain things and give examples. But doing children’s books is great. I especially love the opportunities I get to talk to children about my work and hear their fantasies.” Buchanan’s efforts in children’s literature have been honored with the Parent’s Choice Silver Award in 1992 and a nomination for an NAACP Image Award in 1997.

She does pretty well with adults, too. Her political cartoons and illustrations have appeared in many of the nation’s top-rack dailies, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. The appeal of her work is so wide that it can be found in such an unlikely pair of periodicals as The Nation and The Wall Street Journal. A member of INX, a politically oriented illustrator’s cooperative, Buchanan curated the Lowe Gallery exhibition, INX: A Retrospective of Visual Commentary, in 2001. The exhibition featured works representing 20 years of major news, including the September 11 terrorist attacks, which occurred just weeks before the opening.

And next? “I’ve begun doing my own writing for children, and I’d like to produce audiotapes because I enjoy storytelling so much,” she says. “I also feel the need to do more with the moving image because television and film, along with comic books, were my main influences while growing up.”

Her productive creativity extends into the classroom as well. Last fall, Buchanan and Anne Beffel, a colleague on the art and design faculty, introduced a team-taught studio art course, Collaboration Across Differences, which they developed with the help of a University Vision Fund grant. The class was composed of 20 juniors, seniors, and graduate students, representing the college’s various disciplines. They worked on collaborative projects and critiques that emphasized self-exploration in such areas as class, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. “Anne and I created this course to give students an opportunity to deal with some of the personal obstacles that might be standing in the way of their development as people and as artists,” Buchanan says. “Such attitudes as racism, sexism, and homophobia don’t just exist as active expressions of hatred toward others. They can be about harboring feelings of fear, or being uncomfortable, or just not being open around someone who isn’t familiar or doesn’t fit certain expectations. What we try to stress is that while we are all members of groups, we are all individuals who must be given a chance to speak for ourselves.”

A graduate of the Parsons School of Design in New York City, Buchanan credits Syracuse with broadening her horizons. “I really enjoyed my time at Parsons, but it wasn’t until I came to the University that I realized how deep an interest I have in learning about other things,” she says. “I think the opportunity to ‘worry’ about so many different subjects is wonderful. I’m trying to form relationships with collaborators from other programs. I’ve talked with professors and even sat in on some of their classes.”

While she understands the importance of learning artistic technique, Buchanan is convinced that an artist needs something more to do satisfying work. “It’s great to draw beautiful flowers, but what does that really mean?” she says. “I ask my students, ‘Is that the kind of artist you want to be?’ Maybe—and that’s OK. But you should come to that decision only after learning about the rest of the world. I want my students to know that you can create great things with a wider knowledge of science, history, literature, and mass and global culture.”

—David Marc

 

Schmitt Shoots!!


Ngakaemang “Ben” Mosiane |
A World Away

When Ngakaemang “Ben” Mosiane describes his hometown of Mafikeng, the capital city of the North West Province of South Africa, there is passion in his voice. “I am highly optimistic—even against the odds—because I think I can contribute to making changes there,” he says of the country that until a decade ago suffered under the oppression of apartheid. A second-year doctoral student in Maxwell’s geography department and a Fulbright Scholar, Mosiane is studying the political, economic, and social impact of urban transformation in South Africa. “I’m working to pass courses here, but I am already thinking about how my work can contribute to a discipline in which black South Africans have traditionally been underrepresented,” he says.

It was by chance that Mosiane came to study geography in the late 1980s, while apartheid was still in full force. Unable to afford college, he depended on a scholarship from the bantustan (homeland) government to the University of Bophuthatswana. But because the scholarship did not arrive until the day of registration, the history and agriculture classes Mosiane intended to take were already full. “Only the geography program accepted me,” he says.

By the time a fieldwork assignment during his first semester brought him to an area where a geologic fault was revealed in the landscape—an experience Mosiane remembers as “remarkable”—he was hooked. He graduated and returned to Mafikeng to teach high school geography before traveling to Johannesburg to earn a master’s degree from the University of the Witwatersrand. Mosiane then joined the faculty at the University of North West in Bophuthatswana, where he began publishing his work on economic development in Mafikeng. But something was missing. “Courses in South Africa lack certain elements critical to the study of geography—like methodology, epistemology, and research methods,” he says. “Professors just pitch the information without allowing room for original thought.”

After 10 years of teaching, Mosiane decided to continue his academic studies overseas. By that time, apartheid had ended and local territories were being reorganized. “When I came to Syracuse, I was fascinated with the advances people here have made in race relations,” Mosiane says. He chose SU because he was impressed with the work of Maxwell faculty who specialize in the study of Africa. “No matter who you are, people reach out and welcome you,” he says.

Katy Easterly ’03 worked with Mosiane while planning a three-week visit to South Africa to conduct research last year. “Ben was a great help in choosing a city to visit because he knows the country so well,” says Easterly, whose thesis on housing in post-apartheid South Africa won an honorable mention in SU’s Honors Program Social Science Thesis Awards. “He even taught me some short greetings in Setswana so that I’d be more comfortable speaking to people there.” Professor John Western, academic advisor to Easterly and Mosiane, lived in South Africa a quarter century ago while studying apartheid. “Ben is a mature, dedicated, pleasant person,” he says. “I’m confident he will use the superior education he receives here at Syracuse to spread knowledge among his own people back in South Africa and improve the quality of education there.”

According to Mosiane, the most difficult part of his first year at Maxwell had nothing to do with adjusting to heavy coursework or the harsh Syracuse winter. “I had never lived alone before,” he says. “I missed my family terribly.” When Easterly traveled to South Africa, she spent time with Mosiane’s wife and two small children—who were unable to obtain visas last year, but have since—and came back to SU bearing stories and photographs. After nine months apart, Mosiane and his family were reunited over the summer when he returned to Mafikeng to conduct a pilot study on the reorganization of local government. Now back at SU, he eagerly anticipates the arrival later this semester of his wife and children, who will stay with him throughout the remainder of his studies. “I’m looking forward to having my family here to share my experiences,” Mosiane says. “I know that they, like I, will be forever grateful to the culture and superior education here at Syracuse.”

—Kate Gaetano

 

Schmitt Shoots!!

 

Nola Miyasaki |

Warming
up to Syracuse

A native of paradise, Nola Miyasaki left her home state of Hawaii 20 years ago to study human biology and play on the golf team at Stanford University in California. She recalls riding a bicycle to the university’s golf course—often while juggling her golf clubs—and going up against such formidable opponents as future U.S. Women’s Open champions Julie Inkster and Patty Sheehan. But for Miyasaki, the hardest part about being away from the island state she still refers to as “my homeland” wasn’t related to the athletic or academic challenges of college life; it was adjusting to the change in climate between Hawaii and California. “I was always cold,” she remembers, laughing. “Back then, I would never have dreamed of living in the snow. So I can hardly believe I am here in Syracuse now.”

A former lawyer and sports agent, Miyasaki came to Syracuse University in January to become executive director of the Michael J. Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. In this role, she leads outreach initiatives for the school’s Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises (EEE) program, including identifying ways to contribute to the commercialization opportunities of technologies developed at SU. Before coming to Syracuse, she worked for the State of Hawaii as CEO of the High Technology Development Corporation, where she managed programs supporting the growth of Hawaii’s commercial high-tech industry and interacted with the entrepreneurship program at the University of Hawaii. “I really had to hit the ground running when I arrived in Syracuse, but it has gone great so far,” Miyasaki says. “I’m impressed with the University and the people I’ve met here and in the local business community. Aside from the weather, it has been an easy transition.”

Working with Michael Morris, academic chair of the EEE program, Miyasaki has initiated several projects since her arrival. These include applying for a National Science Foundation Partnerships for Innovation grant and coordinating the first Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (WISE) Conference. Geared toward Syracuse-area women who either own or want to start businesses, the April conference—a sellout event that will be held annually—achieved an overwhelmingly positive response from its speakers, sponsors, and nearly 400 attendees. “It resonated with so many women,” Miyasaki says. “It was quite inspirational to hear them say how great the conference was, how much they learned, and how pleased they were to meet so many other women who are entrepreneurs.”

The Falcone Center does not yet have a physical space beyond Miyasaki’s School of Management office. But the school’s new building, slated for completion in January 2005, will provide a designated space for the center, equipped with resource and conference rooms and an office for visiting entrepreneurs. In addition, the center will house a “student incubator”—a dedicated space where students can access a variety of office resources to support them in turning their entrepreneurial dreams into reality. “The purpose of the incubator is basically to help ‘hatch’ little businesses,” Miyasaki says. “It’s designed to provide support, services, information, and resources to entrepreneurs to help them get their businesses off the ground. The idea is for people to come in and use it for awhile, and then move on to create space for someone else to do the same.”

Miyasaki considers Syracuse a city with great potential for economic growth. She believes the Falcone Center can contribute to its development. “Syracuse is a great place that is working on diversifying its economy, and that’s a great idea,” she says. “In the EEE program, we have a lot of knowledge to share and resources to offer that can help grow businesses. That’s what our students are learning. So if we can bring in our resources and our students and help contribute to the growth of technology in Syracuse, that would be a win-win situation for the program, the students, and the companies we partner with.”

—Amy Speach Shires

 
Steve Sartori

Zane Williams |

Aged Toward Perfection

Some people are just born older than others. Take, for example, Zane Williams ’04, whose large frame and intense gaze have always led people to add a few years to his actual age. “I was always treated older, so I ended up acting a little more mature and taking on more responsibility than someone my age,” says Williams, an information management and technology major in the School of Information Studies. In fact, at age 12, he started working part time at a neighborhood grocery store in Bronx, New York, where his mother had initially settled after emigrating from Jamaica when he was 3. He continued to work 12 to 20 hours a week at various retail and landscaping jobs throughout high school, while maintaining strong grades, playing varsity football, and developing close relationships with his friends and family. “I learned early on how to manage my money and time, and how much I could take on,” he says. “Every time I fell down, I got back up and tried again.”

To recover from those falls, Williams depends on his parents’ advice and support to remain a few steps ahead of his peers. “My parents always said, ‘Zane, you’re destined for greatness,’” Williams says. “So I thought, ‘Well, OK, how do I get there from here?’” His forward-looking attitude has led him to continually seek out opportunities to advance, which is how he discovered and attended SU’s Summer College after his junior year in high school. “I had to distinguish myself somehow, and Summer College was a whole new experience for me, leaving my home and family for six weeks,” he says. “I learned a lot about the freedom aspects of college, and I formed some great friendships.”

The summer after graduating from high school, Williams participated in an internship at IBM through INROADS, a pre-professional organization that places minority students in Fortune 500 companies and cultivates them for eventual leadership positions in those companies. “Some of my friends poked fun at me for doing the internship instead of socializing all summer, but it helped me focus on what I wanted to do at college and get to where I am now,” he says. A few classmates also snickered when he sported a suit and tie to a career fair as a freshman at SU. “They were like, ‘What are you doing? You’re not a senior,’” he says. “But I started early and introduced myself so the recruiters could track my progress.” Now as a senior, Williams represents students on the University’s Career Services Advisory Board, which provides guidance on issues related to career development and job and internship recruitment services.

Since arriving on campus, Williams has thrown his energy into building SU’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Last year, he served as the group’s secretary and earned the respect of his peers at SU and nine other schools as chair of the 2002 Upstate Regional Conference. He is now president of the SU chapter, chairman of NSBE’s Upstate New York Zone, and regional charter membership chairman. Also an active member of the African American Male Congress, Williams helped organize the group’s Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium and participated in an effort to educate and register more than 1,000 black voters in the area. “I am eager to take on new things,” says Williams, who holds three work-study jobs on campus. “I don’t like to be complacent. A lot of people look to me to do well, and I want to do well, with no regrets about missed opportunities.”

—Margaret Costello

 

Schmitt Shoots!!

Laurinda Dixon |

The Art Detective

Bizarre as it sounds in the 21st century, medical professionals once believed the uterus was an independent entity with its own mind and appetites, and that it defined women’s intellect and capabilities. Furthermore, the uterus was considered “happiest” when housing children. Until the late 1700s, this concept led doctors to encourage women to marry young and have a baby every year to prevent the uterus from dislodging and wandering through the body in a state of frustration, causing illness along the way.

For fine arts professor Laurinda Dixon, William P. Tolley Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Humanities and an internationally recognized art historian, such stories from medical history hold keys to interpreting and appreciating art. “What I do is make connections between disciplines and methodologies that aren’t usually thought of as being related, like mathematics and painting, or anatomy and sculpture. It’s important not to lose sight of the knowledge that everything is connected. And art is a good way to get into history, psychology, science—into understanding, really, who we are.”

In explaining the relationship between medical history and art, Dixon points to the images in her book Perilous Chastity: Women and Illness in Pre-Enlightenment Art and Medicine (Cornell University Press, 1995). Most of the images feature a young woman—someone pretty and well-dressed—who is evidently quite ill, surrounded by caretakers with concerned countenances, paintings of naked shepherds, and representations of Cupid—all alluding to the distressing absence of sex and love in her life. “But what’s wrong with these women?” Dixon asks. She says there are hundreds of these so-called “lovesick maiden” paintings from the 17th century, full of apparently healthy young women who are constantly swooning and fainting for no reason. “Researching this book was just amazing to me,” she says. “It points to the ways medical theory regarding women is so often geared toward control and limiting the roles and options that are healthy for women to pursue.”

While Dixon acknowledges that art history has a reputation for being boring—as indicated by such course nicknames as “Art in the Dark,” “Art Mystery,” and “Art Misery”—it holds a fascination for her that she extends to her students, whether or not they are fine arts majors. “If all you do is memorize the names of paintings, painters, and elements of style—well, so what? That is boring,” Dixon says. But if you gain an appreciation for why something is the way it is, she believes, then you can put a personality to the creator of a work of art, and to the people who cherished it. Once you have that understanding, identification becomes easier, more relevant, and more interesting.

“Some of the oldest objects in the world are works of art,” she says. “These are the things people liked, felt connected to, and decided they would keep, hide, and protect.” Works of art speak for the people who made them and cared for them, Dixon believes, as well as for the period in which they were created. “So, for me, studying art history is like detective work,” she says. “I really enjoy pulling out of these things a time—understanding people from the objects they treasured. As an art historian, you have to think: ‘OK, who was this artist or musician? Why was she doing this? Who was he doing it for? What was she trying to communicate, and why? Why does it look the way it does?’ I find that intriguing, and I hope my students do, too.”

—Amy Speach Shires

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