Displaying items by tag: Skidmore College
Skidmore Helps to Save the Amazon
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A Skidmore College faculty member and recent Skidmore graduate have collaborated with 28 scientists from across the globe to publish the first study to suggest that the Amazon rainforest is most likely having a net warming effect on global climate.
Lead author Kris Covey, visiting assistant professor of environmental studies and sciences at Skidmore, and 2020 Skidmore graduate Zoe Pagliaro have co-authored the study “Carbon and Beyond: The biogeochemistry of climate in a rapidly changing Amazon” which was published March 11 in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change.
Covey and Pagliaro attended the National Geographic Society’s special convening of 30 scientists in Manaus, Brazil in July 2019, from which this paper resulted. Pagliaro was the only undergraduate student to attend, and played a key role in compiling into a single table the majority of studies that have explored forest biophysical climate feedbacks in the Amazon over the past 10 years. The table was used to seed discussions among the scientists for this first-of-its-kind assessment of the Amazon rainforest’s cumulative climate impact.
The study is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the myriad human and natural causes that contribute to the Amazon’s complex interactions with climate.
The findings have already received national and international attention in outlets including Fast Company and National Geographic and by environmental activists such as Greta Thunberg.
Skidmore Psychology Professor Receives Prestigious Award
SARATOGA SPRINGS —Corinne Moss-Racusin, associate professor of psychology at Skidmore College, has been awarded the 2021 American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology for her innovative research on gender-based discrimination.
Moss-Racusin is the only known recipient in the history of this prestigious award to be affiliated with a liberal arts college rather than a major research institution. Awarded to just a handful of researchers each year, the prize honors early-career scientists for exceptional work conducted in the first decade following completion of their doctorate.
Her work has received coverage from The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “ABC World News,” The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times and other outlets. She discussed some of her research in the feature-length documentary “Picture a Scientist,” and she was invited to present her research at the White House in 2014.
“Professor Moss-Racusin’s pathbreaking research and her strong commitment to the education of undergraduate students in the classroom and through collaborative research experiences exemplify the teacher-scholar model that is at the heart of Skidmore’s liberal arts mission,” said Michael T. Orr, Dean of the faculty and Vice President for academic affairs at Skidmore College.
“Our College community is very proud of this well-deserved recognition for Professor Moss-Racusin and her efforts to address gender biases in STEM fields and to build a more inclusive society for all.”
Freedom of Speech vs. Freedom from Harassment
There is a basic law of economics which states, if you subsidize undesirable behavior, you will get more undesirable behavior. I believe the same is true if you ALLOW undesirable behavior.
If you had not yet heard, this past Saturday downtown Saratoga Springs was once again the epicenter of a 6-hour long standoff between protesters and everyone else.
The unscheduled event, which violated city ordinances, shut down multiple roads and left businesses and restaurants empty on what could have been their busiest day of the season.
This comes approximately 5 weeks after the emergency city council meeting which was held to address this specific type of situation. At that meeting, Mayor Meg Kelly came out strong stating
“It is time to make some changes here because we cannot have this happening time and time again in the city of Saratoga Springs – period. We are not going to block streets.”
Public Safety Commissioner Dalton shared her sentiment “The Saratoga Springs Police Department recognizes the right to peacefully protest, however, one person’s constitutional right does not supersede another’s.” Assistant Chief Cattone then laid out guidelines and actions which would be taken moving forward.
I am not sure what happened between that October 1 meeting and last Saturday, but officers from SSPD, the Sheriff’s Department and the State Police stood by as the protesters chanted “Biden won but we’re not done…These are our streets” and taunted the officers. There were also numerous reports of bystanders and families being harassed before they got out of town.
I have to say that I am disgusted, embarrassed, and sickened by this situation. We are in a global pandemic, businesses and families are struggling, yet some individuals feel they have the right to shut down roads, detour traffic at their discretion, and shout vulgarities over a megaphone. And let’s not ignore the fact that the blocked intersection is the primary road to Saratoga Hospital. What happens when a frantic mother is rushing her asthmatic child to the hospital and discovers her route is shut down and she must find a detour?
On Monday morning I had the opportunity to speak with several downtown business owners, and the financial gravity of the situation really hit home. One food/drink establishment shared, “We are struggling to make rent and pay staff. Normally on a 75-degree day, in November, we would be hopping until closing. We were empty from about 3-9 on Saturday. That crushes us.” Of important note, this was restaurant week! The other businesses I spoke with shared the same frustration and anger.
So, my question is why weren’t arrests made? Why weren’t the roads opened? Why do we tolerate this behavior?
According to SSPD Chief Crooks a tactical decision was made based on information relayed to him by supervisors on scene. “There were too many protesters vs. the number of officers.” I asked him the next logical question: why were officers on scene for hours if they weren’t going to make arrests? “Officers were there in case anything happened with the public,” he responded. “There were a number of interactions between the group and bystanders.”
I understand the police are in a no-win situation. They are damned if they do and they are damned if they don’t. But allowing these situations to continue is unacceptable and only emboldens the organizers. Forget the horrific impact on business and the potential for medical disasters due to the street detours; let’s look at the financial impact to you and me.
Every one of these occurrences, and they are increasing in regularity, costs the city thousands of dollars in overtime. An estimated guess of the infamous July 30 protest in front of Congress Park, which lasted well into the late evening, cost us $10,000. That is money not going to kids’ programs, homeless assistance, or critical infrastructure.
Who are these protesters? With the exception of the few individuals behind the megaphone, the majority this past weekend were white teenagers from our local high school and Skidmore College. The scene looked more like a dysfunctional Justin Bieber concert than anything else. Perhaps there is an opportunity here for Skidmore administration to step up and contribute to the good of our community. If Skidmore students are arrested for civil disobedience (blocking roads), I would think they should face disciplinary action under the school’s code of conduct. Skidmore students are guests in our community. I would love the hear Skidmore’s view on this.
Start arresting these kids as soon as the roads are blocked and let’s see how long their resolve lasts.
But don’t get lulled into a false sense of security. The troublemakers in the late September protest were a whole different group of agitators. In that protest they marched through our streets, harassing diners and yelling at families, while surrounded by their own security force dressed in black with baseball bats!
One thing I can predict is that sooner or later something bad is going to happen. We will either take the path of neighboring cities and slide downhill into crime and chaos, or the citizens will begin standing up to these groups and take back the streets. Neither scenario has a good ending.
In closing, the primary function of government is leadership, and to maintain law & order. Sadly, they are falling short on both right now. I know many families who have stopped coming into town because of this problem. Those families used to spend their hard-earned money shopping and eating in our city. Can we afford to turn our back on anyone right now? Do we want a city where women and children feel threatened?
They need to figure this out and put an end to it NOW. Otherwise, deputize community members and let them clear the streets.
Skidmore Cares 2020 Donation Drive Provides Community Support
SARATOGA SPRINGS — For the 15th consecutive year, the Skidmore College community has come together to assist local residents and families through the Skidmore Cares community service program.
This year, Skidmore faculty, staff and students donated nearly 3,000 food items and more than 3,400 school supplies and personal care items - including 2,130 face masks - for Saratoga County community organizations. In addition, monetary donations to Skidmore Cares and community agencies totaled nearly $800.
To help ensure the health and safety of all involved, the annual campus-wide event was modified this year, encouraging individuals to drop off donations at outdoor locations on campus in early November.
Skidmore employees organized and delivered the contributions to 10 local community service agencies: Shelters of Saratoga, Franklin Community Center, Mary’s Haven, Saratoga Economic Opportunity Council, Wellspring, Corinth Central School District, Saratoga Springs City School District PATHS, the Latino Advocacy Program, the Salvation Army and Saratoga Center for the Family.
The donations come at a critical time for local residents and agencies facing challenges created or intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Founded in 2006, Skidmore Cares has now raised more than $122,000 for community causes and distributed nearly 60,000 food, personal care and school supplies items.
SHIFT: Skidmore Storytellers’ Institute Presents Online Exhibit, Live Weekly Artists Conversations
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Force into virtual reality due to the ongoing pandemic, MDOCS Stoytellers’ Institute presents an online exhibition featuring the 2020 MDOCS Storytellers’ Institute Fellows and live conversations with artists.
The current theme, titled SHIFT, shows how a small group of documentarians adapted and created despite and because of the global challenges of 2020 in first-ever virtual MDOCS Stoytellers’ Institute.
The exhibit includes works of more than one dozen artists. Included are a Quarantine Self Portrait photo series by Gioncarlo Valentine, Kadijatou Diallo’s animated untold story of life under Guinean President Sékou Touré’s regime, and 25-minutes of footage comprised of videos taken over a one-year span by Keshawn Truesdale, that includes portions of protests and rallies in Saratoga Springs during recent months.
Founded in 2014, the annual Storytellers’ Institute sponsored by the John B. Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative (MDOCS) is a five-week residency hosted at Skidmore College. The institute brings together a handful of professional documentary practitioners, 8 to 10 Skidmore College students and some faculty/staff members to work on personal projects and engage with the year’s theme.
Instagram live conversations with artists will take place @mdocs.skidmore at 6 p.m. on the following dates: Oct. 1 - Courtney Surmanek and Steven T. Licardi; Oct. 8 - Kadijatou Diallo and Shana Kleiner; Oct. 15 - Shalon Buskirk, Haley Hnatuk, and Drew Swedberg; Oct. 22 - Cooperativa Cultural 19 de enero - Fernanda Espinosa and Raul Ayala. To view the online virtual presentation of SHIFT, go to: mdocs.skidmore.edu/storytellers/shift.
Skidmore College: COVID-19 Dashboard and Contingency Plan for Outbreak
SARATOGA SPRINGS — With the return of students for the fall semester, Skidmore College announced it has developed contingency plans should the transmission of COVID-19 spike among the college community.
As of this week, Skidmore reports 2 total positive tests to date – counting students and employees – and 6 people in quarantine. The dashboard may be viewed at: www.skidmore.edu/fall-planning/dashboard.php.
The college contingency plan is framed by five “alert levels” of increasing severity. They are:
Alert Level 1 - At this lowest level of alert, very few positive test results exist, and contact tracing shows a very limited number of employees and students on campus may have been exposed. Epidemiological analysis and contact tracing suggest that the situation can be contained, isolated and controlled. Affected students and employees are quarantined pursuant to DOH guidelines and this Plan. Affected areas are contained, isolated and decontaminated. Other campus operations or residential life activities are not affected.
Alert Level 2 - The number of positive test results and numbers of exposed individuals in quarantine are slightly higher than at the lowest level of alert, but Saratoga County Public Health is able to conduct effective and timely contact tracing and the college has been able to act swiftly to identify, isolate and contain transmission. There is no evidence of community transmission at this level. This level may require limiting operations in specific operations, areas or programs for a period of time to prevent ongoing exposure. A larger number of students, employees and/or facilities could be impacted but that impact is likely to remain time limited and is directly related to specific and already identified infections.
Alert Level 3 - A small outbreak has occurred on campus in a defined population, such as a building, department or residence hall. Confidence in the ability to accurately complete contact tracing in a timely way is moderate. It is also the case that it may be difficult to identify a specific area for containment, isolation and remediation. This level may require shutting down the areas impacted by the outbreak but does not require a campus-wide shutdown. Select programs may move back into an online-only environment with non-resident students staying off campus, resident students staying in their rooms and non-essential affected employees working from home. Individuals who test positive and who have been exposed are isolated and quarantined, potentially in bulk (e.g., entire building or more). The College may order shelter-in-place for students (stay and study in their rooms). Careful consideration will be given to whether on-campus services for employees, such those provided by the Greenberg Childcare Center, can be maintained.
Alert Level 4 - The College is experiencing a sizeable outbreak, as evidenced by numbers of current cases, increases in positive test rates or by multiple positive tests without clear sources of infection, and the College has clear evidence that contact tracing, containment, isolation and remediation efforts are not effective The College will “pause” and move to remote learning alternatives and remote work arrangements where possible. Non-resident students and employees whose presence on campus is not essential to the College’s daily operations will be restricted from coming on campus. Resident students will be required to shelter in place or return home for the pause. The “pause” is intended to be temporary (one to four weeks) and to control further transmission.
Alert Level 5 - The situation has escalated to the point where ongoing campus or community transmission is occurring at a significant rate. There is no realistic strategy to contain or control the situation. Given the timing in the academic calendar, the College has no other option than to shut down on-campus operations completely. All campus operations come to a halt, non-essential employees shift to remote work arrangements when possible, and students move to remote learning for the remainder of the semester. Campus will close for the rest of the semester and students will be moved out following the College’s protocol. Those unable to leave will appeal to remain on campus. Skidmore College will support any student who, for financial or other hardship reasons, cannot depart campus in response to a shutdown scenario.
If the College’s RO infection rate is < or = 1, meaning individuals who are infected infect no more than one other person, Skidmore says it will generally be able to continue in-person learning. Scenarios necessitating decreasing on-campus activities and operations or closing the campus will be communicated to all faculty, staff, students and parents by email and the College’s Fall Planning website.
Using Contact Tracing to Battle COVID-19
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Contact tracing, tracking where someone has been for a period of time, can become a key aspect in fighting the battle with COVID-19.
Aarathi Prasad, assistant professor of computer science at Skidmore College, started studying contact tracing six years ago, a time when no one understood why she chose to focus on that topic.
“I couldn’t convince people that was an important problem because at that time people had the flu and measles. Measles was too rare and the flu too common, so it was hard to convince people that it was an important problem to work on,” Prasad said.
She found herself immersed once again in her studies when COVID-19 hit the community. Prasad believes using contact tracing technology is key to completely stopping the spread.
“The process of contract tracing is as follows: When someone has symptoms, they go to get tested. When they get tested positive, it’s up to the public health workers who will reach out to people they may have been in contact with. That’s what contact tracing is,” Prasad said.
Prasad aims to focus on developing a method to compliment the work of public health workers. Using wireless technology, Prasad wanted to help people see the value in sharing while protecting their privacy. She focused on preserving identity and location privacy.
“Any technology can only help after there is the positive test. The goal is to make it easy for the memorabilia aspect,” Prasad said. “Suppose I ask you where have you been in the last 40 days? It’s easy now, because you’re safe at home most of the time; it’s easy to think about how many times you’ve left the house. But once the lockdown ends, it’s going to be hard if people just resume their normal activities and keeping track of where you went. That’s where wireless technologies can help.”
The tracking technology app can support public workers as they tackle the battle with the virus. The app can make it easier for those public health workers to reach out to people who may have been in contact with the disease.
However, Prasad studied not only tracing technology, but focused on how long a virus remains on the surface. She learned that tracing active viruses on a surface and alerting people of a contact they might not have seen to be a challenge.
“The technology that I see now is only looking at the following. Let’s say the infected person was in the library, we would alert everybody else that was at the library at the same time,” Prasad said. “But we’re not thinking about what happens after he leaves and before all the surfaces he touched were wiped down, what happens then? How do we alert the people that he did not see?”
Prasad hopes to have an app solution before restrictions are lifted. However, the problem lies in everyone using the same app. On April 29, the Washington Post released an article stating 3 out of 5 Americans are not willing or able to use an app tracking system. The article states that 1 in 6 Americans do not have smart phones, which would be necessary to use the app. Of the 82 percent of the population who have smart phones, 50 percent had a willingness to use an infection-tracing app.
“Most of them didn’t trust private companies,” Prasad said. “What we need is to build trust in whatever technology or app that would be helpful so people can see a value in that app. It’s a similar idea to everyone staying at home now, to protect others. By downloading the app it’s the same thing, except you can move around.”
Prasad said supporting an open source app, in which the code behind the app is on the Internet, would allow users to understand and view how the data is being collected and used. Being more transparent would build trust and allow altruistic sharing.
“Altruistic sharing, when you have some information you want to share with someone else because you see a benefit in sharing,” Prasad said. “But it can’t be just one solution. I think the technology compliments contact tracing. The technology cannot solve everything, it cannot detect the virus, that’s what public health does. So we want the technology to work side by side.”
Skidmore Business Competition Celebrates 10th Anniversary Virtually
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Amid a global health emergency, the Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan Competition at Skidmore College broke new ground in its 10-year anniversary.
Established in 2010 by Ken Freirich ’90, CEO of Health Monitor Network, with the intent of fostering entrepreneurship and creativity across all majors and disciplines at Skidmore, the “Shark Tank” competition has grown into one of the preeminent business competitions among liberal arts colleges nationally.
Adapting to the new normal, students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff were invited to watch this year’s competition online via the videoconferencing platform Zoom. The finalists — 11 students pitching nine business plans — played their pre-recorded final presentations and then answered live questions from the judges.
2020 competition winners:
First Place: Coven, Maya Ling ‘20 and Emily Egan ‘20: A bakery that infuses products for medicinal benefits. Prize: $20,000 cash plus $5,000 in business services.
Second Place: Z’s, Izaak Cohen ‘20: A lifestyle accessories brand. Prize: $10,000 cash plus $5,000 in business services.
Third Place: Natural Glow, Novilhelha Moleni ‘22 and Ha Linh Nguyen ‘22: A hair and beauty brand. Prize: $5,000 cash plus $5,000 in business services .
Fourth Place: VoyceMe, Dylan Telano ‘23: An online marketplace connecting unpublished writers with readers. Prize: $2,500.
Haja Bah ‘21 received a social entrepreneurship award of $5,000 for her business Uman 4 Uman Salone, a nonprofit that produces sustainable sanitary pads for young women in Sierra Leone. Four other businesses — Ingles para todos (Cyntia Ismael ‘22), Turf Ads (Colin Mahoney ‘21), Trot (Abigail Kaplan ‘20) and Edutrer (Naira Abdula ‘20) — received $1,000 each.
Freirich recently announced he will fund an endowment that will allow the competition to continue in perpetuity, pledging $500,000 toward the College’s goal of a $1 million fund. The experience begins each September with a call for entries and a series of workshops to help students prepare for the semi-final presentations.
Skidmore College Donates Protective Gear to Hospital
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Skidmore College has donated truckloads of protective gear, including tens of thousands of gloves, and other supplies to Saratoga Hospital to boost the local community's capacity to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Skidmore employees have been searching through science laboratories, art studios and other facilities in recent days to gather the supplies, which have included more than 85,000 protective gloves, 60 N95 masks, hundreds of pairs of goggles and protective eyewear, disinfectants and other essential items that are currently in short supply due to the coronavirus.
The donations filled two pickup trucks on Saturday, March 21, and three additional carloads on Friday, March 27. All the items are commonly used in college science laboratories and other facilities, and Skidmore had purchased them for use by faculty, staff and students.
"We worked to gather as many supplies as possible. When I reached out to colleagues, many pointed out that they had other items that could also help,” said Kara Cetto Bales, senior instructor in chemistry and associate director of environmental health and safety, who coordinated the collection efforts at Skidmore in collaboration with faculty and staff across campus. “We continue to be in touch with Saratoga Hospital about other equipment and supplies that may be beneficial.”
Saratoga Hospital President and CEO Angelo Calbone welcomed the donations, calling Skidmore “a wonderful partner and neighbor and an extraordinary asset to the Saratoga region.”
The latest donations included an additional 65,500 gloves, hundreds of pairs of goggles and glasses, eight UV lamps, 40 N95 masks, a dozen face shields, cleaning supplies, two dozen disposable filtration units and a vacuum pump.
Skidmore College Announces They Will Pause Construction on Athletics Facilities Project
SARATOGA SPRINGS — In an email sent to Skidmore College students and faculty on Feb. 18, President Philip Glotzbach announced that the start of construction on the new Athletics Facilities will be paused. The email cited comments made from community members concerning environmental and financial sustainability, as well as the future of the campus’ Greenberg Child Care Center (GCCC), as responsible for the update.
The email, however, comes as a bit of a shock as the President had recently sent a six page memo describing the decision and why the concerns, while justified, did not outweigh the need for the new facility.
The Athletics Facilities project, as it is referred to by the President and his office, comes from the 2007 Campus Plan, and, according to the memo, planning for it has been underway since 2010. The Athletics Council was notified last spring of new proposals, and approved plans were described at Community Meetings on October 29, 2019 and at an Open Forum on November 25, 2019
However, the President also acknowledges that there could have been more done last spring to “inform and involve” the IPPC.
In the initial memo, the President writes that “Over the coming years, we will encounter increasingly fierce competition for the students we need to enroll to maintain our financial sustainability.” He claims that this project will increase the college’s appeal to “a broad range of potential applicants.”
Continuing comments were discussed at an IPPC meeting on Fri., Feb. 14, after which it was decided to pause construction in order to further address and consider concerns.
In the most recent email, Glotzbach urges students and concerned community members to attend an Open Forum that will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Thurs., March 5 in Gannett Auditorium. There will also be community meetings at both 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tues., March 3 on the second floor of the Murray-Aikins Dining Hall.
Skidmore’s Student Affairs has also scheduled their own opportunities for students to either learn more about the facility or raise their complaints. These, however, will be announced at another time.