Jacob P. Hursky
In fall 2001 the first two Ukrainian Graduate Fellowships will be awarded in the names of the late Jacob P. Hursky and his wife, Valentina. These Hursky Fellows, who will be of Ukrainian backgrounds and include Ukraine in their studies, will help memorialize Hursky, a longtime SU professor, as a renowned researcher of Slavic languages. “Jacob wished to establish this fellowship to give students from his native Ukraine the opportunity to enrich their education while promoting western and American values and expertise,” says Valentina Hursky.
      Jacob Hursky’s motivation for creating the fellowships began in 1952, when he was completing a doctoral degree at the University of Pennsylvania. A fellowship there enabled the Zoldaky, Ukraine, native to finish his coursework and write his dissertation. His appreciation for this support planted a seed, nurtured in 1991 when he returned to Ukraine. Teaching eager students in his home country, Hursky decided he would provide support for them to study in the United States, much the same way the George Leib Harrison Fellowship had helped him.
      Hursky joined the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures in the College of Arts and Sciences in 1956, rising through the ranks to chair the department from 1976 to 1989. He was named professor emeritus in 1990. Hursky researched and published numerous works that continue to serve the field today, including his seminal dissertation, The Patronymic Surnames in Ukrainian. He published articles in the journal Names and in The Ukrainian Quarterly. In 1993, already in retirement, Hursky served as editor of linguistic entries for the Encyclopedia of Ukraine. In addition to serving as editor, he wrote four entries: three biographical portraits of famous Ukrainians, and a section on his favorite topic, linguistics. Hursky was working on a Macedonian-Ukrainian dictionary when he died in 1995.
      Hurksy’s love of the study of languages and linguistics was reflected in his teaching as well. His courses, always in great demand, included Ukrainian, Russian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Old Church Slavic, comparative Slavic linguistics, 18th-century Russian literature, and Slavic civilization and people.
      Valentina Hursky says she and her daughters, Alexandra Hursky G’84 and Tatiana Hursky G’94, hope the legacy of Jacob Hursky “will remain forever a bright light by which interested students and scholars can make their way through academia.”
                                                                                                                                                  —PATRICIA A. BURAK



College for Human Development Assistant Dean Vincent DiSano has helped reduce the college’s attrition rate by creating the Personal Development Seminar for first-year students enrolled in the Selected Studies program for undeclared majors. The one-credit, required seminar is designed to teach students how to integrate their academic lives with their expectations for the future by focusing on career exploration, academic choices, and leadership development. The course also allows DiSano to establish connections with students that he maintains throughout their stay at Syracuse. “It is important for school administrators to get to know individual students,” DiSano says. “There is no better way to address their needs and keep them on track for success.”
      DiSano, who team-teaches the seminar with career development director Meg Osborne, starts the students off by having them list their capabilities and achievements. This exercise helps DiSano and Osborne get to know each student and tailor an individual approach to develop an awareness of options on campus. As a result, a greater number of students graduate, instead of dropping out. “Without this course I wouldn’t have known where to go, who to talk to, or how to learn about academic opportunities on campus,” says Christopher Sise ’01, a child and family studies major. “I learned to keep my options open. Everyone should take this course.”
      DiSano and Osborne introduced the course in 1996, when steady increases in drop-out rates among Selected Studies students peaked at 35 percent, prompting them to consider new ways to respond to students’ needs. “Economics is always a strong factor in a decision to remain in academia,” DiSano says, “but we found that students sometimes just weren’t aware of the range of career options and campus opportunities available to them.”
      By 2000, the drop-out rate of Selected Studies students had declined to 2.1 percent, and the college’s overall drop-out rate, to 6.8 percent, DiSano says. “Students stay on campus to complete their degrees as a result of clear guidance during the development of their individual academic and career plans,” he says. “Our efforts exceeded the University’s mandate to reduce first-year attrition rates to 11 percent.”
      Nutrition major Margaret Swift ’01 says the course was a positive experience. “The instructors helped us realize that everyone has the ability and opportunity to succeed here and find an area of interest for a major and career investment,” she says.
      DiSano and Osborne are conducting a five-year study to assess the course’s impact on the retention of Selected Studies students over the duration of their college careers. The study’s results will also help them fine-tune the seminar. “We need to tap into the personal lives of each of our students,” he says, “and match them up with campus resources that will ultimately help them accomplish their goals.”
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