Breakthrough: Who Are These People?
By Amy Forster Rothbard, PhD
Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science; Co-chair of Sociology
There are many moments at Hartwick when students encounter people they initially find foreign.
Professor Amy Forster Rothbart talks with triple major Nicole Alonzo ’20 about her senior thesis which is about the effects of gender quotas on women’s political representation and women’s rights in the Americas.
A few years ago in Washington, DC, there was a knock on my hotel door room at 11 p.m. The 12 Hartwick students attending the National Model United Nations conference had just completed their first committee sessions. I opened the door and a first year student entered, dropped her bag on my bed, and exclaimed, “Professor Amy, who are these people?” These people were dressed in business attire and carried large binders of research that they had prepared. They thrilled in the long first night session while making plans to work together afterwards to draft resolutions for the following 16-hour day. Once recovered from her initial shock, that wide-eyed first-year student ended up an officer in the Model UN club and back at the conference the next year.
I teach a first-year seminar called Politics through Games. In this seminar, students might speak as James Madison debating the provisions for the US Constitution or as Stalin, negotiating with Roosevelt and Churchill to divide post-War Europe. As class began last year, I showed my students a video of a group at another institution participating in the Constitutional Convention game. The students were passionate, knowledgeable, and articulate. My first-year students, a week into their Hartwick experience, stared at the video — and then at me — in horror. “Who are these people”? I could almost hear them say. “Do you really expect me to become one of them?” By the end of the course, they, too, spoke about complicated issues with confidence and enthusiasm. Three of them are back with me in the classroom, serving as peer mentors to this year’s students.
In Nepal last spring break, our service group listened to the hopes a Nepali woman has for her granddaughter, watched community members negotiate caste and other differences to unite on their water
project, and worked alongside villagers to move more rocks than we ever thought possible. We tried our few phrases of Nepali and communicated through gestures and facial expressions. In the evening, tired and sore, we talked about the day and tried to reconcile our everyday lives with those of the people we worked alongside. There was at least as much “Who are we and why do we live how we do?” as “Who are these people?” in our discussions.
“Who are these people?” is a vitally important question as we move from seeing others as foreign to seeing our interconnection. Whether in the classroom, our Oneonta community, or the world at large, I feel privileged to learn alongside students as they discover themselves through the people they encounter.
Hartwick faculty emeriti continue to challenge themselves and their audiences, produce important work, and advance their fields. These professionals challenge the stereotype of the “idle retirement” and follow the passions they developed and shared at Hartwick.
Four retired members of Hartwick’s faculty were together again to show their work at The Smithy Gallery’s in the “Picture This” exhibition in Cooperstown. Professors Emeriti Robert Benson, PhD, Fiona Dejardin, and Phil Young and Artist-in-Residence Emeritus Terry Slade participated in the show that challenged artists to “visualize the written word and explore the narrative with artwork in a variety of mediums and methods,” according to The Smithy. Bensen and Young’s installation, “A Tale of Three Books,” showed poetry, art, and other items related to works they’ve produced since they began collaborating at Hartwick in 1978. Artist couple Slade and Dejardin shared examples of their work — an erected wall piece by Slade and jewelry by Dejardin. Slade also has an installation of glass sculpture and drawings in the Albany International Airport and he is part of a “Placemaking” exhibition, turning Albany’s downtown alleyways and side streets into a vibrant canvas. (Young and Bensen are pictured at The Smithy.)
Professor Emerita Roberta Griffith has been seen on campus a lot lately. The retired professor of ceramics, drawing, and painting enjoyed the Stephen Joseph photo exhibit, “Broadway Revealed: Behind the Theater Curtain,” at Foreman Gallery this summer and joined her former students during events of True Blue Weekend 2019. In September, the community gathered to appreciate an exhibit of her life and career. College Archivist Shelley Wallace P’07 curated Griffith’s donated collection and papers to present a fitting tribute to the prolific artist and inspiring educator. Her work is in collections in China, Denmark, Japan, Spain, and across the United States. (Griffith is pictured with her former student, Keith Granet’79.)
Viking just published a new book by Professor Emeritus Tom Travisano, PhD. The definitive expert on 20th century American poet Elizabeth Bishop, Travisano won a Guggenheim Grant to support his research to write Love Unknown: The Life and Worlds of Elizabeth Bishop. Travisano says, “I’ve tried to use the techniques of creative non-fiction in order to present Bishop’s life in the form of a story, creating characters, scenes, and dialogue. The scenes I know from first-hand experience. I’ve drawn the dialogue directly from Bishop’s letters and notebooks, from published and unpublished interviews, and sometimes even from the poems and stories themselves. If readers have a sense of being there when an event happened, a letter was written, or a poem was in the process of composition, then my effort will have succeeded.”