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Photo by Susan Kahn

Joshua and Elisa Macedo Dekaney

Music faculty Joshua and Elisa Macedo Dekaney, directors of Samba Laranja, the Syracuse University Brazilian Ensemble, received some high praise at one of the group’s recent performances: “You guys sound like Brazilians!” The compliment is made even more meaningful by the fact that most of the ensemble’s members had no previous musical experience and didn’t understand a single word of Portuguese before joining the group, which performed at kickoff events for The Campaign for Syracuse University in Syracuse and Washington, D.C. The ensemble recently released a CD through the student-run Syracuse University Recordings label. “We started in 2001 with five students, and this past semester we had 44,” says Josh Dekaney, who teaches percussion at the Setnor School of Music and directs the drum line of SU’s marching band. “It’s a fun mix of music majors and students who have never had a music course, but are completely open to the experience. Everybody learns an instrument. Everybody sings. And we do it all with a Brazilian accent!”

Credit for the authenticity of that accent goes to music education professor Elisa Dekaney, who grew up and received her early musical training in Rio de Janeiro before coming to the United States to pursue graduate studies in 1996. Like her husband—a Houston native she met at the University of Missouri-Kansas City—she loves sharing Brazilian music and culture with the SU community through teaching and performing. In addition to the ensemble, the Dekaneys partner with several area schools, including Nottingham and Corcoran high schools, where they assist with a world drumming class that gathers all three groups for a performance on campus. Once every two years, they also teach a course on the culture and music of Brazil, bringing sons Lucas and Nicholas along on the culminating 10-day spring-break trip to the country. “It is exciting to see the transformation in students,” says Elisa Dekaney, who also directs the Syracuse University Oratorio Society. “Before we go, we read books and see pictures. But when we get there, they are like, ‘Wow! It is much more intense than we expected.’ Their observations and their take on the different culture are just priceless.”

Exploring new cultures through music has always been important to Elisa Dekaney, who has worked as a researcher and choral conductor in Brazil, Greece, Spain, and the United States. Currently the repertoire and standards chair for Ethnic and Multicultural Music for the New York State American Choral Directors Association, she teaches courses in choral music, research in music, and world music. “What I most appreciate about my position is that I get to do scholarly work and perform music,” says Dekaney, who has dual appointments in the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the School of Education. “I am passionate about the process, whether I am investigating new paths in music and music making, keeping my skills sharp by performing, or exploring how to convey a new concept to students in a way that is interesting and fun for them.”

Both Dekaneys appreciate the supportive, family-like atmosphere they have encountered at Syracuse. “We’re happy people,” Josh Dekaney says. “Everything we teach, we love. We feel incredibly blessed to do what we do.”

Photo by Scavone Photography

Nida Javaid 

Dressed in orange and blue silken garments, Nida Javaid ’09 rolls her arms, jabbing the air with her hands, as she steps wide, swirls, and shrugs her shoulders to the thudding bass of the Dhol drum. Her precision movements flow with other members of SU’s Orange Bhangra as they perform this centuries-old dance and music mix from the Punjabi region of Southeast Asia at Manhattan Bhangra 2007. A native of Newburgh, New York, Javaid learned the dance of her family’s Pakistani homeland in the heart of Central New York. She joined the team as a first-year student, performing at colleges in the Northeast. Her family often attends competitions. “They love the fact that I’m so enthusiastic about the culture,” she says. “The dance was initially done by farmers to celebrate the harvest, but it’s transformed into a celebration of the culture. It’s a great way to let people know who we are and what we’re about.”

A Coronat Scholar, Javaid has embraced such opportunities at SU to explore her interests. She enrolled as a history major and added economics and political science after taking a first-year honors class on the federal government and national politics. She followed up with courses on such topics as Jewish political thought, political conflict, and the environment. “SU offers a lot in political science, and the courses are fascinating,” says Javaid, who is considering a Maxwell School/College of Law program leading to master’s and J.D. degrees.

In summer 2006, Javaid added an international internship to her experiences while visiting family in Pakistan. Her duties included developing history lessons and teaching for Khoj, a nonprofit organization that takes over failing government schools, implements new teaching practices, and opens enrollment to more children. Although she grew up around the region’s languages of Urdu and Punjabi, “it was hard for me to convey what I was teaching because of the language barrier,” she says. “But the children were wonderful and very sweet.” During her sophomore summer, Javaid attended SU’s Florence center and traveled to Sicily to learn about the origins of the mafia. This summer, she stayed stateside and interned at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington, D.C.

Javaid’s overseas travels continued this semester at the SU Abroad center in Madrid. The program has an added dimension for Javaid as she honors the memory of the Pan Am 103 victims as a Remembrance Scholar during Remembrance Week in October. “This is such an important week during our academic year,” she says. “I want to help people understand what happened, why it was such a tragedy, and why it needs to be remembered.”

Along with her roles as a Coronat Scholar and Remembrance Scholar, Javaid has worked as a college ambassador, served as a member of the South Asian Student Association, and volunteered in the community through the Honors Student Association and Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity. “There are vast amounts of events and opportunities to take part in at SU,” Javaid says. “It’s definitely made for a more fulfilling college experience, and it also makes you more appreciative of what you have.”



Remembrance Scholarships were established by SU to honor the memory of 35 students killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Each year, 35 seniors are chosen for distinguished academic achievement, citizenship, and service to community. The endowed scholarships provide $5,000 to each of the recipients. The endowment is supported by gifts from alumni, friends, parents, and corporations.


Established jointly by the University and the College of Arts and Sciences in 2004, Coronat Scholarships are awarded to highly accomplished, incoming first-year students interested in majoring in the liberal arts and who demonstrate academic excellence, leadership abilities, and commitment to service activities. The University provides recipients with full four-year scholarships, with additional support for studying abroad, summer study, research, volunteer work, and other opportunities.




Photo by Susan Kahn

David Driesen |

In a presidential election year when ideological clashes over war, soaring gasoline and energy prices, and economic turmoil dominate campaign headlines, environmental law professor David Driesen cites one area of common ground: Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain both acknowledge the serious threat posed by global warming. That, in Driesen’s view, signifies progress. “At least on climate change, both candidates represent big improvements,” he says. “And in a way, it’s a tremendous indicator of an attitudinal shift—that neither party can nominate a candidate who has the wrong position on climate change.”

When it comes to environmental issues, Driesen has monitored the winds of public and political opinion for more than two decades. He left a career as a professional musician to study environmental law at Yale because, he says, “I wanted to do something to better society.” At the time, ideas of deregulation and free markets were gaining favor over environmental protection, “and those ideas were having a very big influence—and, I think, a negative influence—on policy,” he says.

Today, Driesen is a leading scholar and expert on environmental law and policy. His first book, The Economic Dynamics of Environmental Law, received the American Political Science Association’s Lynton Keith Caldwell Award, which recognizes the best book published on environmental science and policy during a three-year period. He co-authored Environmental Law: A Conceptual and Pragmatic Approach, and edited a third book, Economic Thought and U.S. Climate Change Policy, due out next year. At the College of Law, he holds the rank of University Professor—the University’s highest faculty rank—and teaches environmental and constitutional law. Outside the classroom, he serves on the board of editors of the Carbon and Climate Law Review and heads the Climate Change Program of the Center for Progressive Reform, a web-based think tank dedicated to protecting health, safety, and the environment.

As a field of study, environmental law “is very convoluted,” says Driesen, who came to SU in 1995 after a three-year stint with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s an inherently complicated subject, and so the law ends up being very complex, too. But what it’s dealing with is important.” Most of his research focuses on the economy’s role in shaping environmental law, critiquing the belief, dating back to the 1980s, that free market interests always trump environmental concerns. “I think the markets do have something to teach us,” he says. “I’m just not sure they’re as efficient as they’re made out to be—or that efficiency is as important a value as regulatory reformers seem to think.” Instead, he endorses a market model in which incentives spur development of new technologies to address the effects of global warming.

Driesen believes the greatest challenge environmental lawyers face in dealing with climate change is the imperative to act fast within a system renowned for moving at a glacial pace. “Nobody doubts the need for action,” he says. “The question is: How can we possibly move quickly enough to deal with climate change effectively, given the incredible slowness and incremental nature of the legal system?” With both presidential candidates on the record as supporting cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, Driesen believes the country is at least moving in the right direction. “It’s going to take leadership to address this problem,” he says. “We’re not going to do it by hiding hard choices from the people.”


Marie Sarno |

One of Marie Sarno’s colleagues once referred to her as “The Infrastructure,” but her official title in the School of Education’s teaching and leadership department is program specialist. “I basically support the faculty and look for ways to make things run more smoothly for students,” says Sarno, who has worked in the school for more than 30 years. A Syracuse native, she earned a master’s degree in student personnel in higher education from Ohio State before joining the University staff. Since then, she has contributed in countless ways to the success of generations of SU students preparing for the teaching profession—from welcoming prospective applicants and creating four-year plans for undergraduates to advising students on meeting program prerequisites, assisting with teacher certification efforts, and overseeing job placement services.

Another important way Sarno supports students—well beyond the duties outlined in her job description—is by offering them financial support. In partnership with her husband, who earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from the School of Management in 1978, she established the Marie Rose Sarno and Christopher H. DeVoe Scholarship Fund to provide assistance to graduate students in the childhood education preparation program. The couple’s most recent gift, which supports The Campaign for Syracuse University, has increased the fund’s endowment to $75,000. “I wanted to make it easier for graduate students in this wonderful program,” Sarno says. “It is a very intense full-time program that attracts people from all kinds of backgrounds, and a lot of them have to make sacrifices to be here.”

Sarno got the idea for donating to SU after helping her mother start a small scholarship at her own alma mater. “I never was what I would call a major philanthropist, but the first actions I took made me want to do more,” she says. “I guess like anybody else, I liked seeing something with my name on it. Now I hear about other places to give, and it is sort of like philanthropy is ‘catchy.’” The couple’s daughter Allison, a sophomore at Clarkson University, seems to have inherited her parents’ commitment to giving. “I’ve already heard her say, ‘When I make my first million, I’m going to donate to this and donate to that,’” Sarno says. “She sees us doing it, and it’s rubbing off on her.”

School of Education Dean Douglas Biklen G’73 describes Sarno as a special person who is appreciated by everyone she works with. “Hardly a day goes by during the registration and advising season without hearing a faculty member say, ‘Call Marie, she’ll know the answer,’” Biklen says. “Students and faculty members alike have come to rely on her knowledge of course offerings and how they mesh with program requirements. So it’s exciting to see Marie, along with her husband, Chris, giving to students in another way—this time, through personal philanthropy.”

Sarno hopes to serve as an example to others, encouraging them to give what they can. “I’m just so impressed with this program and the work the faculty does here and how committed the students are,” she says. “So I’m always eager to invite others to contribute to this scholarship, or even start one of their own. Every little bit helps!”

Photo by Susan Kahn



The Marie Rose Sarno and Christopher H. DeVoe Scholarship Fund was established in 2000 to provide financial assistance to graduate students in the School of Education’s childhood education preparation program.


Courtesy of SU Athletics

Quentin Hillsman | NET GAIN

Last season was full of turnarounds and breakthroughs for Orange women’s basketball, and players and fans agree that head coach Quentin Hillsman deserves a generous portion of the credit. Hillsman guided the team to a record-breaking 22 regular-season wins, a first-ever national ranking, and a berth in the NCAA championship tournament. Catching the attention of the basketball world, he was named Coach of the Year by both the Big East Conference and the Basketball Coaches Association of New York (Division I). Even with the graduations of rebounding leader Fantasia Goodwin ’08 and defensive star Vaida Sipaviciute ’08, the coach foresees more glory for the Orange women and their growing legion of fans. “We are returning four of our five starters, and we’ve got a bunch of strong sophomores and a very talented incoming class,” he says.

Now in his third season at the helm, Hillsman played intercollegiate ball for St. Mary’s College, an old and honored school on the Maryland shore of the Potomac, down river from his hometown, Washington, D.C. A team player par excellence, he set single-game and season records in assists for the Seahawks, helping them capture two Capital Athletic Conference championships. His pursuit of a coaching career grew out of a love for the game that made him want to be close to it. “Basketball was my life, and I had to stay involved, no matter what the capacity,” says Hillsman, who toured Ireland as part of an NCAA all-star team while in college. After graduating in 1993, he studied at the U.S. Sports Academy in Daphne, Alabama, and began his career as an assistant coach (a.c.) with men’s teams before a chance set of circumstances led him to work with women. “I was boys’ a.c. at the Newport School in Maryland when, at the last minute, the girls’ head coach resigned to take another position,” he says. “They asked me to take over.” He hasn’t looked back since, taking women’s assistant coaching jobs at Siena College, American University, and SU, before taking over the Orange program in 2006.

According to Hillsman, recruitment is the key to success in women’s college basketball, and SU’s upgraded athletic facilities and thorough commitment to academic support for student-athletes help make that tough job easier. “You have to sign quality players, and I have an awesome staff,” he says, praising associate head coach Matt Luneau and assistant coaches Mary McKissack-Grimes and Rick Moody. Hillsman also thinks his team gets a special morale boost from the enthusiastic support of certain high-placed University officials. “I believe there is not another women’s college basketball team in this country—from Tennessee to UConn—where your Chancellor and athletic director attend every home game they can,” he says.

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