An Interdisciplinary Approach for the Life Sciences

Forget the petri dish. To cultivate the best scientific research, try adding caffeine and chitchat. “The human side of science is so important,” biology professor John Russell says. “Experience has taught me that some of the best ideas germinate through face-to-face interactions, conversations over coffee.”

The Life Sciences Complex, planned to open in fall 2008, will increase such casual interactions among undergraduate and graduate students, staff, and faculty in biochemistry, biology, and chemistry, as well as many members of the Structural Biology, Biochemistry, and Biophysics Graduate Program. The 210,000-square-foot facility will connect to the Center for Science and Technology, allowing the programs to be under one roof for the first time in the University’s history. In addition, faculty will build on collaborations with SUNY ESF and Upstate Medical University, and strengthen interdisciplinary projects in such areas as bioengineering and environmental policy. “Life sciences, as a field, is inherently interdisciplinary, and this building should facilitate that interdisciplinary approach to both teaching and research,” Russell says. “The biology and chemistry labs will be side-by-side or sometimes shared by both disciplines. Students and faculty will see the connection between the sciences.”

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Cathryn Newton says the need for a new life sciences building is great. “By construction of this state-of-the-art complex, we remain competitive with our sister institutions and move forward into the leadership role our faculty and students are capable of playing,” she says.

The six-story building will feature research and teaching labs, seminar rooms, lecture halls, faculty offices, greenhouses, and lounges. “The quality of the laboratory space will be markedly better than what we’re working in now,” says chemistry professor John Baldwin, who notes that the number of students enrolling in chemistry classes has grown about 7.5 percent annually during the last four years. “Our biology and chemistry students will pour out into the same hallways and strike up conversations, and over four years they will gain much greater and more useful exposure to each other’s scientific engagements and styles of conceptualization.”

Even before the first brick is laid, the investment is paying off. Just discussing plans for the new building and SU’s commitment to interdisciplinary research has helped recruit top-notch faculty. “I’ve found new colleagues, new energy, and strong support from the University and the college,” says biology professor Ramesh Raina, who came to Syracuse in 2003 and is one of 10 new biology faculty members. Likewise, the chemistry department has hired eight new faculty members in the past four years and has experienced a “reinvigoration of personnel,” according to Baldwin.

In conjunction with a new space to facilitate interdisciplinary research, the life sciences group at Syracuse has identified two areas as research priorities: cell signaling (how cells receive and transmit messages) and biocomplexity (the connectedness of all life and life processes). “As our understanding of life processes has become more molecular, our need for various disciplines to interact with one another has become greater,” Russell says. “The trend in life sciences over the next 20 years will be connecting the molecular to the continental to deal with such issues as cancer and global warming. In the future, research will have more breadth, and that will happen through interdisciplinary collaborations among people with different perspectives.” 

—Margaret Costello

Successful Match

Pilar Acosta ’09 had a decision to make. Her two top college choices were SU and a small Northeastern college similar in size to her high school with a graduating class of 64. In the end, the decision was an easy one. “I wanted something different, something more diverse,” she says. SU admissions officials are certain that Acosta and the other members of the Class of 2009 find that atmosphere of diversity and inclusiveness on the Hill.

The numbers for this newest class of about 3,250 reflect an increased interest in what SU has to offer: nearly 500 more students said “yes” to Syracuse than in 2004. The incoming class is SU’s most diverse ever. Twenty-four percent are students of color, as compared to 18 percent last year. The mean SAT combined score is 1178 and the mean high school GPA is 3.54. “There is an amazing variety of people who come to us from urban and rural areas, with different political persuasions, and from different religious, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds,” says Dean of Admissions Susan Donovan ’66, G’82. “We use the term ‘diversity,’ but it’s the learning that comes out of being with people who are so different from yourself.”

To create a unique body of students, an Office of Admissions committee carefully reviews applications, considering academics and test scores first. But there is a qualitative examination as well based on essays, personal interviews, and recommendations. “What we try to elicit from students is a sense of who they are,” Donovan says. Potential students also get to better know SU through the alumni representative program and multicultural ambassadors—current students of color who share their experiences. “We also look at what the student would contribute to the University,” Donovan says. “It all comes together and forms a picture of who this person is.”

Originally from Colombia and fluent in Spanish, Acosta, of Rockville, Maryland, plans to study international relations and participate in community service. Classmate Alan Furth of Denver found a strong journalism program at the Newhouse School and connected with the campus. “I’m looking forward to being on my own, making new friends, and exploring the East Coast,” says Furth, who has been educated in Japan, Malaysia, and England.

Students such as Acosta and Furth represent the Class of 2009’s breadth of diversity. “We want people who are not only interesting, but also are eager to share themselves and participate,” Donovan says. “That’s a hallmark of Syracuse. There are students in whom—when you look beyond grades and test scores—you see this spark that says we should admit this student.”

—Kathleen Haley

Hammering for Humanity

Courtesy of Hendricks Chapel
Habitat for Humanity volunteer Ken Galcucia works with Daisey DuBois ’08 in August during a pre-build session in preparation for constructing a house in the City of Syracuse.

When the SU-SUNY ESF Chapter of Habitat for Humanity finished renovating a home on Annetta Street in Syracuse in 2003, it marked an exciting turning point for the organization. This was the first time the chapter had sponsored its own build. After a two-year period of working on projects with the organization’s City of Syracuse affiliate, the group is now one of the few campus chapters nationwide that includes house sponsorship as part of its mission. “We want to provide service opportunities within our own community,” says Jocelyn Smith ’05, the 2004-05 executive director of SU-SUNY ESF Habitat for Humanity. 

To realize the goal of regularly sponsoring a house, the organization must raise enough money to cover the $71,000 cost of building supplies, construction management, and educational programming. Smith, along with development coordinator Julia Rocchi ’05, met with Chancellor Nancy Cantor last summer and secured $10,000 a year for the chapter for the next six years. “We want to establish something that is long-term and consistent,” Smith says. “I believe our values match the Chancellor’s goals for a partnership between the University and the city, and I feel that can be a very strong relationship.” The organization also received an SU Vision Fund grant, a Thrivent Financial Grant, and a donation from Park Central Presbyterian Church, as well as $10,000 in construction management services from ESF and $20,000 from the Gifford Foundation.

As part of the House Sponsorship Program, the SU-SUNY ESF chapter has a detailed plan for work on a home at 719 Marcellus Street. During the summer, the foundation was laid, and 10 first-year students erected the house shell as part of a service project. ESF student interns will manage the construction and maintain a strict schedule to ensure the house is completed within two semesters. The chapter will also continue its work with the Syracuse affiliate, which oversees the project’s legal aspects. “We met with students at other Northeast colleges and learned we are the only campus chapter that is able to build on its own,” says Amanda Kendall ’06, the organization’s 2005-06 executive director. “That is amazing.”       

—Christine Mattheis

Lectures Explore New Worlds

The University Lectures series enters its fifth year this fall, building on its tradition of bringing well-known artists, intellectuals, and activists to campus. This year, University Lectures is embracing “engagement” as its theme, reflecting one of the University’s guiding principles. “University Lectures features speakers and topics that demonstrate the importance of reaching out and engaging the community and the world,” Vice Chancellor and Provost Deborah A. Freund says.

The series kicked off on October 11 with Tony Award-winning director, writer, and producer George C. Wolfe. Also scheduled to appear are Dr. William H. Foege, epidemiologist and former chief of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Smallpox Eradication Program (October 25); Anne Garrels, National Public Radio correspondent (November 10); William Schulz, executive director, Amnesty International (February 28); Henry Petroski, engineer and author (March 7); Wilma Mankiller, human rights activist and Cherokee Nation chief (March 21); and Luis J. Rodriguez, writer and urban activist (April 4).

More information on the University Lectures speakers can be found by visiting

—Patrick Farrell


Growing from Differences

A Journalism student enters a classroom and, at the professor’s request, introduces herself to her peers. She seems focused and attentive, but her mind is on her sick baby, who was up all night with an earache. Another student, a dance major, gives his name and tells the group about himself, at the same time worrying that he will be identified only by his learning disability. A third student, an advertising major, is concerned that because she is African American, her classmates will expect her to be “a poster child for so-called black issues.” These diverse and revealing student perspectives comprise one of five vignettes on a DVD titled “…and nobody said anything”—Uncomfortable Conversations about Diversity. It was produced as a resource for faculty by teaching and leadership professor Mara Sapon-Shevin of the School of Education and Professor Richard Breyer of the Newhouse School and funded through the office of Vice Chancellor and Provost Deborah A. Freund. The DVD demonstrates diversity issues that arise in college classrooms and invites faculty response, storytelling, and conversation. “Our students bring to class a wide range of identities, stories, and histories, all of which affect the teaching and learning process,” Sapon-Shevin says. “As teachers, we realize that our commitment to teaching for social justice is related to our ability to respond thoughtfully and effectively to our students’ differences.”

The idea for the DVD grew from Sapon-Shevin’s work related to issues of racism and anti-racism, on campus and nationally, including an SU honors dialogue she has co-facilitated for four years with social work professor Carrie Jefferson Smith. “Students came to that space and felt safe to tell stories about things that happened in classes that made them feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or unwelcome,” says Sapon-Shevin, who has presented the DVD to audiences at SU, the National Association for Multicultural Education in Kansas City, the American Education Researchers Association in Montreal, and several other locations.

She developed the DVD to encourage faculty to share experiences in their classrooms of critical moments related to diversity and explore possibilities for addressing those situations. “The goal was less about imparting information and more about creating safe spaces for people to have hard conversations about what was going on in their own classrooms,” she says. “The DVD is not an answer book, but a way to ask, ‘How can we normalize these kinds of conversations, and make them typical, consistent, and ongoing—a regular thing to do without shame or critique?’”

The vignettes, which reflect such issues as free speech and hate speech, classroom climate, and confronting oppressive behavior, were drawn from SU student focus groups. Some scenes are reenactments of classroom experiences. In the final vignette, faculty share stories with each other in an informal setting, an example of the kind of conversation Sapon-Shevin hopes the DVD will inspire. “We ended with that because it models what we’d like to see,” she says. “All the vignettes are designed to evoke a conversation and provide opportunities for honest, engaged interaction.”

—Amy Shires    



Roundtable Matters

Early in the history of the University College's Thursday Morning Roundtable (TMR), founder Levi L. Smith brought the meeting to order by banging an ashtray on a table. As the years passed and the public service program evolved, Smith was presented with a collection of gavels that allowed him to gather those assembled in a more ceremonious  manner. Last May, TMR celebrated its 40th anniversary. And although its membership has undergone corresponding transformations, its original intent—to enhance civic literacy and community dialogue—remains intact. “The character of the group has changed over 40 years, but not its essence,” says Sandra Barrett, director of community programs at University College. “Its purpose has always been to bring together a group of people with a deep interest in the community to talk about matters of importance.”   

Susan Kahn
The Media Unit, a Syracuse-based teen drama troupe, performs at the Thursday Morning Roundtable in September. The troupe creates original productions that address such issues as racism, substance abuse, and sexuality.

Founded in 1965 by University College, TMR is a weekly speaker series that convenes a mix of civic leaders in the Syracuse metropolitan area to discuss a variety of issues. “I liken TMR to a liberal arts education,” Barrett says. “We explore a wide range of topics aimed at giving us the broad perspective that good citizens need.”

Members meet each week of the academic year over coffee and bagels to network, listen to a guest speaker, and conduct a question-and-answer session. All programs are taped for later broadcast on WAER-FM radio. TMR also awards an annual community service award and sponsors the Levi L. Smith Scholarship Fund, which supports two part-time adult students at University College each year. Recent speakers included Sid Hill, a chief of the Onondaga Nation and the community’s spiritual leader; Congressman James T. Walsh; and SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor. Catherine Bertini, former United Nations undersecretary-general for management and now a professor of practice in the Maxwell School, spoke at the 40th anniversary celebration.

Anthony Callisto Jr., chief deputy with the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office, values the weekly gatherings. “Our community needs a forum for real discussion and debate about important issues, whether those issues are from our own backyard or half a world away,” he says. “I’ve found that forum in the Thursday Morning Roundtable—real issues, real people, real discussion, and real growth.”

—Amy Shires


Information Science Group Goes Online

It comes as no surprise that the need for professionals in library and information science (LIS) is growing. Yet graduate programs offering advanced degrees and training in the field remain few and far between. According to Professor Bruce Kingma, associate dean of the School of Information Studies, there are only 54 accredited LIS schools in the United States. “Many people aspire to pursue graduate studies in library and information science, but potential students often have no access to site-based programs,” he says. In 2004, Syracuse University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign joined forces to address this problem with a bold leadership initiative. The collaboration resulted in the creation of Web-based Information Science Education (WISE), a consortium dedicated to developing an online alternative that will increase access and variety in LIS graduate study by breaking down institutional walls and leaping over geographical distances.

During the spring 2004 semester, WISE’s founding group launched a pilot program, making selected online courses available to graduate students at all three institutions. The project got a boost when Kingma and Linda Smith G’79, associate dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, received a two-year grant of more than $713,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to fund a comprehensive effort toward creating a multi-institutional distance education program. By the time WISE was officially launched at the American Library Association Conference in Chicago in June, the organization had grown to 13 members in three countries.

Smith is pleased with the standards embraced by the consortium. “The shared commitment of the partner institutions to quality online education ensures students enrolling in courses offered by any of the members the same high quality educational experience they expect from their home institutions,” she says. WISE ( reached another of its basic goals in 2005 by implementing training workshops for faculty in online pedagogy.

As yet, no limits have been set on the harnessing of collaborative energies. “It is already evident that the consortium will yield benefits beyond those originally envisioned, such as fostering cross-institutional collaborative research projects,” Smith says. Kingma agrees and hopes the consortium’s work will benefit other disciplines. “WISE is developing an online alternative that I hope can serve as a model for distance education in many fields of study,” he says.                                                                                                        

—David Marc


Ideas and Insights from the Outside World

Steve Sartori
Guest lecturer David Adjaye discusses a project with architecture student George Dolidze ’09.

Professor Jonathan Massey gets a little starry-eyed eyed when he talks about the celebrated guests who speak in the School of Architecture’s lecture series—a veritable “who’s who” of highly regarded design practitioners, critics, curators, theorists, technologists, and historians. The series brings an average of six guests to campus each semester. Last year’s lineup included such well-recognized names as international architect and educator Peter Eisenman and Vietnam Veterans Memorial designer Maya Lin, as well as Ivy League faculty members and international guests. “The series allows us to bring in people who are doing interesting work,” says Massey, who coordinates the lectures. “It’s a chance to introduce students to materials and people in the field, and to give faculty opportunities to trade ideas.”

In programming the series, Massey often confers with two student groups—Women in Design (WID) and the Society of Multicultural Architects and Designers (SMAD)—to identify lecturers of particular interest to design students throughout the University. “Professor Massey is open to our input and helps organize more personable gatherings with lecturers,” says Chi Lee ’07, co-founder of WID and a SMAD member. “As a result, the lecture series has become more varied in the backgrounds of the lecturers. It’s a great start to something wonderful.”

Following the formal lecture and question-and-answer session, students can often speak informally with guests. Toshiko Mori, chair of the Department of Architecture at the Harvard Design School and principal of Toshiko Mori Architect in New York City, met with WID students over breakfast following her lecture. British architect David Adjaye’s visit included a lecture, an exhibition of his work, and student interactions in an intimate setting. “It’s exciting and inspiring to recruit people to come lecture here and tell them there’s an energized group of students who would like to meet with them,” Massey says.

The series includes three named lectures: the Seligmann Lecture, established by alumni, professional associates, friends, and family in memory of former Dean Werner Seligmann; the Dillenback Lecture, honoring the late Dean Emeritus Lemuel C. Dillenback; and the Hares Preservation Lecture, sponsored by friends of former faculty member Frances Hares, who was active in historical preservation. The School of Architecture also hosts speakers in partnership with other SU colleges, bridging disciplines and attracting guests who appeal to broader audiences. Last year’s Maya Lin lecture was part of the University Lectures, a cross-disciplinary, campus-wide series. “We want to use the series to make connections across the University,” Massey says.

Details regarding the fall 2005 series are available at

—Amy Shires


Job Hunt Pays Off for Class of 2004

Each year SU’s center for Career Services produces a placement report with information on the post-graduate activities of bachelor’s degree recipients from the previous year. The Class of 2004 report, based on responses from 50 percent of graduates, showed a placement rate of 95 percent, which includes graduates employed full time or attending graduate school. That rate represents an improvement over each of the past five years and exceeds the previous high of 94 percent, recorded in 2000. “The market really is the main reason for improvement in the placement rate for 2004,” says Michael Cahill G’87, director of the Center for Career Services. “The placement report is always a reflection of the economy, but it also is a measure of the quality of our graduates. This year, the market came back a bit, and it helped our graduates find jobs in their respective fields. This success also reflects well upon our graduates.”

The report not only shows the number of students employed full or part time, but also tracks how jobs were obtained. Forty-three percent of graduates landed their jobs either by applying directly to an employer or through networking. “Networking is the best way to obtain jobs today, since people ages 18 to 34 change jobs almost 10 times on average during their careers,” Cahill says. “That is why we focus a great many of our services on helping students develop effective job-search skills.” Internships and on-campus recruiting or referrals also proved valuable in the job hunt. Fourteen percent of responding graduates reported prior internships with their employers, and 15 percent credited on-campus assistance.

Most graduates settled in such cities as New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, and many stayed in Central New York. The Mid-Atlantic region, stretching from Washington, D.C., to New York, accounted for 66 percent of the graduates’ jobs, with New York representing the bulk of that figure. About 11 percent of graduates found work in Central New York with such companies as Lockheed Martin, Bristol Meyers, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, where many of the graduates had interned. Three percent of graduates landed overseas jobs. Some placements included production assistant on the CBS hit show CSI: Miami, sports copy editor at a Santa Fe, New Mexico, newspaper, serologist with the Baltimore Police Department, and geologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The report also showed that salaries rebounded from a two-year slide to an average of just under $35,000 a year, the highest average salary since 2001. In the previous two years, overall average salary decreased each year. “When the market is down, as in the last couple of years, jobs are not as easy to get,” Cahill says. “If the market is up, businesses will look to hire more entry-level employees. However, with these numbers, SU is obviously a place where employers can find excellent talent.”  

—Steve Kemper









College of Visual and Performing Arts professor Gary Trento painted this portrait of Chancellor Nancy Cantor that was unveiled during her inaugural-year address at Hendricks Chapel last spring. In creating the portrait, Trento says he wanted it to reflect Cantor’s commitment to education’s goal of instilling humanity in all people. “I wanted the pose to exemplify that while she fills the space she inhabits with her own humanity, she welcomes all to participate and join with her in achieving this fundamental goal of education.”


Cleaning Up Environmental Pollutants

For more than 30 years, the U.S. government has banned the production and use of the manmade oily mixture known as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) because of its damaging health effects to humans and other living things. Yet, the pollutant continues to plague the country in “hot spots,” including Massena, New York, and the Akwesasne Mohawk Indian Reservation in Northern New York. Working with contaminated soils from Massena, researchers at the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science have developed a cheaper, more effective way to neutralize PCBs through a process called supercritical fluid technology. “I am not convinced that simply capping a contaminated area is enough,” says Professor Lawrence Tavlarides, one of the principal researchers on the project that spanned eight years. “Some of the contaminated samples we took were leaking from capped areas. The idea is to clean up these areas as cheaply as possible. We believe our system does that.”

Basically, supercritical fluid technology involves a two-step process. The first step uses highly compressed carbon-dioxide gas and a co-solvent methanol to extract the PCBs. Then the PCBs and methanol liquids are pumped into a supercritical water oxidation vessel and turned into innocuous byproducts—water, carbon dioxide, and hydrochloric acid. The SU research team estimates the cost of cleaning one cubic meter of contaminated dirt to be around $142 to $174, which is less than half the cost of incineration—the preferred method of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The SU research was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences as part of the EPA’s Superfund Basic Research Program. Unfortunately, the Superfund program is now exhausted as the country’s priorities changed, so the supercritical fluid technology and prototype were never employed. However, Tavlarides has taken some concepts learned through the research and is applying them to the development of clean fuels. “All of the knowledge base from the earlier project made me jump into clean fuels,” he says. “The supercritical reactions allow us to combust diesel fuels that pollute the air less than the current fuels.”

—Margaret Costello


Students Assist Court in Providing Services

A truant teenager stands before a Syracuse Family Court judge for his first appearance. The boy attended school only twice during the year. While his situation necessitated court intervention, the problem might best be resolved with counseling professionals from outside the judicial system. Efrain Agama G’05 made that connection for the boy and his family. “I linked the mother with services where she can talk to someone and start the process,” Agama says. “Hopefully that has made a difference.”

Agama is one of three marriage and family therapy graduate students who took part in Court-Community Connection Service, a pilot program in which the students acted as liaisons between such individuals in the courts and mental health services. “We assessed the parties who needed help and referred them to the appropriate community services based on their needs,” Raquel Delevi G’05 says. “The ultimate purpose is to help them resolve the root of the problem.”

Agama, Delevi, and Erin Casey G’05 were invited to participate in the program by Anne Gosling, director of SU’s Goldberg Couple and Family Therapy Center. Gosling was contacted by a community task force, chaired by Family Court Judge Robert Rossi, whose aim is to increase access to mental health services for people in the court system. “As a community member unaware of the resources, how would you sort out where to go for the appropriate services, or which places would be affordable?” Gosling asks.

Already acquainted with services through community internships, the graduate students researched the kinds of services offered at clinics, psychiatric hospitals, and agencies that provide help for such situations as juvenile delinquency, divorce, and domestic violence. Working on the project from February into the summer, they found that most people they approached were receptive to their referrals, even after a distressing situation in the courtroom. “Most people appreciate that someone is taking the time to talk to them during an overwhelming experience,” Delevi says.

Gosling hopes the initiative will continue with grant funding. She and the students see the program as a first step in resolving conflicts and improving communication, and as a way to make people aware of available services. “It boils down to letting people know about the options out there,” Casey says. “They don’t have to be alone in whatever situation they are going through.”

—Kathleen Haley


Billboard Project Accents the Positive in Community

John Dowling

As a 25-year resident of Syracuse's South Side, Diane Turner sees more in her neighborhood than the gang-related violence reported by the media. “This place is rich with big, historic houses that can’t be found in most other neighborhoods, and with people who want to bring back the love and concern for each other,” Turner says. She shared her vision of the South Side with Chancellor Nancy Cantor during a meeting last winter of the Harry Moore Working Group, an organization of South Side residents, community leaders, and business owners. Turner also expressed concern over the messages being conveyed to the neighborhood youths through billboards depicting such images as a young man in handcuffs, liquor and cigarette ads, or stark words about what not to do. “I wanted to see some positive messages, and I asked Nancy Cantor for help,” she says.

A few days later, more than 100 Newhouse advertising students began brainstorming positive messages and images to display over the summer on 15 billboards on the South Side and in other parts of the city. Mikiel Anderson ’05, who was a student in Professor Ed Russell’s campaigns class, led focus groups with South Side adults and youths to gather their ideas about what they’d like to see—or not see. “I heard about littering, the need for community leaders to get more involved, noise pollution, the lack of activities for youth, and the desire for such positive images as children playing in parks,” Anderson says. “I gained a more profound understanding of the youth who live on the South Side as well as the residents’ living conditions. I also gained experience doing research, gathering input, and testing out ideas.”

Within a week of receiving the assignment, students came up with more than 50 different ad campaign ideas. They whittled their list down to 15 ideas that were presented to a group of residents. After the residents chose three designs, Professor Kevin Mann spruced them up for reproduction on brightly colored billboards. The Gifford Foundation helped fund the project and Lamar Outdoor Advertising provided the space. “This was a great project for our students,” Russell says. “They learned the process of selling a product, which in this case was the voice of a community.”

Now, city residents see smiling faces of all colors next to the words: “Our community. Binds south with north and west with east.”; “Our community is built generation, on generation, on generation.”; and “This is our home. Love it. Support it. Help us make it better.” In exchange for providing students with a hands-on project, the community benefited from the creative minds and talents of the students. “I am very happy with the impact the billboards have had on the neighborhood,” Turner says. “These positive messages have not only helped our youth, but the adults as well.”  

—Margaret Costello


The Education of a Generation

Political science professor Suzanne Mettler found the most important research for her latest historical book not in archives, but in the personal stories of men and women who served the nation during World War II. Mettler’s book, Soldiers to Citizens: The G.I. Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation (Oxford University Press), discusses the impact of the social policy that improved the lives of millions of Americans and created a highly civic-minded generation. She engaged 1,500 veterans nationwide through surveys and interviews. “It’s been a scholar’s adventure of a lifetime,” says Mettler, an Alumni Associate Professor.

Mettler’s interests in how public policy shapes citizenship led her to examine the effects of the G.I. Bill of Rights, a 1944 federal law that provided funding for education or training and other social benefits to military personnel. “I wanted to look at the G.I. Bill and whether veterans’ experiences of its benefits shaped their participation as citizens,” she says. Compared with veterans who did not use the bill for education, those who did were 50 percent more involved in civic organizations, and 30 percent more involved in political activities. The statistics are profound, considering that more than half of the 15 million war veterans used the bill for education or training. “Not only did these veterans serve the nation in World War II,” Mettler says, “when they came back, they participated at remarkably high levels in public life.”

One of those interviewed was U.S. Navy veteran Luke LaPorta ’48, G’50. LaPorta, whose family was unable to afford sending him to college, traveled to SU for fun with friends who were visiting the campus after their military service. “While he was here, a college official turned to him and said, ‘You’re a veteran. Why don’t you come here on the G.I. Bill?’” Mettler says. He enrolled and earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a doctorate. In the Central New York area, he organized youth sports, including dozens of chartered Little League organizations, and was a longtime teacher, coach, and athletic director at Liverpool High School. He also worked as an SU development director for two decades. “He not only had his social and economic well-being transformed, but he became a model citizen,” Mettler says.

Mettler was especially touched by the stories told by veterans, who returned the 12-page survey with personal recollections. The G.I.s were grateful for the government assistance that allowed them to pursue an education. “The G.I. Bill conveyed to them that government is relevant and inclusive, and so they participated more as citizens,” she says. The effects of the G.I. Bill are also important to understand in light of what Mettler describes as rising economic disparity in the United States today. “The lessons of the G.I. Bill are that government programs can be a way to expand social opportunity and ameliorate economic inequality, and also to encourage people to become more active citizens,” she says.

—Kathleen Haley


Monitoring the Market

Professor Fernando Diz, center, gives Trustees Steven W. Ballentine ’83, left, and John L. Kreischer III ’65 a tour of the Ballentine Investment Institute.

Wall Street intersects University Avenue at the Whitman School’s Ballentine Investment Institute. The institute provides sophisticated financial-world tools to students who are developing enterprising ideas and capitalizing on the institute’s expanded setting in the school’s new building. “Many of the tools industry professionals use are available here,” says Josh Terkel ’07, a finance and accounting major and president of the Investment Club. “Being familiar with these tools is an automatic advantage for students.”

A training lab with 30 computers and teleconferencing equipment allows students and faculty members to speak with financial pros on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), or at locations around the world. The institute, which began with a 1992 gift from Trustee Steven W. Ballentine ’83, also houses a research/resource room with three Bloomberg terminals. Used by corporations and financial professionals, Bloomberg supplies market information, including stock prices and corporate news and analysis. With these real-world technologies, “the institute is a catalyst for out-of-the-classroom training in finance,” says Martin J. Whitman Associate Professor Fernando Diz, the institute’s director.

Student-led initiatives include development of business web-logs on real estate finance and faculty research at the school. Students can also pursue independent studies in equity analysis. The program, created by Diz, allows them to research local companies and provide quarterly reports for the Syracuse Post-Standard’s “Syracuse Portfolio”—15 Central New York companies that the newspaper tracks to examine the regional economy. “It’s rewarding to see how the institute provides a breeding ground for student creativity,” Diz says.

Others across the University also benefit from the institute’s technology. In the spring, a financial technology class from the School of Information Studies used the terminals. “The Bloomberg terminals provide a tremendous learning opportunity because of the amount of knowledge you can get your hands on,” says Chris Rhinehart ’05, a supply chain management and economics major. He also sees videoconferencing as relevant in today’s professional world. “If you work for a big firm, you can expect to have constituents in places like Asia, so it’s something you have to learn how to use,” he says.

The institute also funds two annual trips for 20 students to the NYSE and the New York Mercantile Exchange, and sponsors the Stuart Frankel & Company NYSE Scholars Program in which three students get an inside view of the stock exchange from Trustee Stuart Frankel ’61, founder and CEO of Stuart Frankel & Company, and other investment professionals.

Dean Melvin T. Stith G’73, G’78 knows the importance of students getting real-world, real-time experience. “Through the Ballentine Institute, our students are on the cutting edge of understanding the markets and what it means to be a player in that industry,” Stith says.

—Kathleen Haley





Creating Religious Awareness

When Joel Miller became executive director of Hillel two years ago, he noticed the rapport among the multi-denominational groups that had offices in the Hendricks Chapel basement, and he wanted to take it a step further. “Even though we respected each other, I wanted to do more than exist side-by-side,” he says. He found just the right opportunity through a comedy duo, Rabbi Bob Alper and Ahmed Ahmed. He approached his colleague, Ahmed Kobeisy of the Muslim Student Association (MSA), about presenting the comedians as a joint program. The co-sponsored event, held in the Schine Student Center’s Goldstein Auditorium in May, garnered a lot of attendees and a lot of laughs. “The audience was mostly Muslim and Jewish, and this was an event where they could come together and laugh,” says Khadija Mehter ’07, MSA president. “Laughter is universal; it helps make people feel more at ease with one another.”

The comedy act was just one part of Search for Understanding, a multi-event program that developed from the groups’ brainstorming sessions on ways to promote a greater awareness of Islam and Judaism. Other programs included “Judaism and Islam 101,” an informal dialogue where students learned about both religions’ fundamental beliefs. Michelle Rubel ’07, the religious vice president of Hillel, found the conversation beneficial. “It was supposed to be an hour-long program, but it went on for almost two hours,” she says. “People were so open-minded and wanted to share and learn. At the end, everyone was like, ‘Let’s do this again.’” MSA and Hillel held another valuable learning experience in late April when Jewish students accompanied Muslim students to a mosque. Afterward, Muslim students attended Friday night services with their Jewish peers. These events helped the groups better understand one another and forged bonds among the students. “As a person who didn’t know many Muslims before I came to college, it’s been great to get to know them and make friends,” Rubel says.

Based on Search for Understanding’s success, MSA and Hillel plan to continue developing their relationship. Miller hopes upcoming programs will gather even more students. “If we can expose 50 or 100 Jewish students to understanding Islam and 50 or 100 Muslim students to understanding Judaism, and we do that every year, we’ve helped to make a better world,” he says.

—Jennie Kantrowitz



Ad Design Students Getting a Bigger Picture

Allison Baker

In its most recent national survey of advertising education, Creativity magazine placed Syracuse University in its top tier of choices, ranking the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ ad design program among such internationally recognized leaders in the field as Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles and Adhouse, New York. “Frankly, I just want to brag,” says Professor Toni Toland, ad design program coordinator at the School of Art and Design. “Our students are getting their work out through internships and respected ad design publications—and the industry likes what it sees.”

How does a full-scale liberal arts university compete with specialized art colleges and portfolio schools for top-shelf art students? By being a full-scale liberal arts university with interdisciplinary opportunities, according to Toland.

She points to Kevin Goff ’05 and Allison Baker ’05 as cases in point. Goff chose Syracuse because it addressed more than his career interests. A high school track star, he did not want to sacrifice his love of running to get the education he was after. As a walk-on at SU, he competed on the men’s track team for four years. More importantly, he took advantage of opportunities for personal development that only liberal arts study could offer. “I wanted a school where I could get a real college experience,” Goff says. “SU offered me more than a highly respected advertising program. I took classes in philosophy, anthropology, and political science that exposed me to different ways of thinking, which is a tremendous advantage in advertising over someone who only has trade skills.” Baker ’05, who joined the Deutsch agency in New York City after graduation, agrees. “A liberal arts background most definitely helps in advertising,” she says. “I’m finding it extremely important to know at least something about anything and everything.”

During Goff’s junior year, a visiting recruiter from DBB Worldwide invited him to take a summer internship at the agency’s Chicago office. Placed in the beer group (“People work their whole lives to get in a group like that!”), he wrote a commercial spot that was produced for Budweiser’s “real men of genius” radio campaign. For Baker, a semester abroad was an unforgettable experience that she believes helped her mature personally and professionally. “Syracuse has an excellent program in Florence,” she says. “I would recommend it to anyone.”

Last May, 19 ad design seniors participated in the program’s annual portfolio show ( at Lubin House. The event creates a valuable networking opportunity, connecting graduating students with Syracuse alumni who work in the New York City advertising industry. “Our students are doing remarkably well out there,” Toland says. “With Syracuse bachelor’s degrees, they are successfully competing for jobs against people holding graduate credentials from art schools.”

—David Marc

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