A Change Agent’s Charge

A Change Agent’s Charge

When Jamal Joseph addressed master’s degree recipients at the 2017 Graduate Hooding and Commencement ceremony, he didn’t read from a prepared speech. Why would he? Joseph’s life certainly hasn’t followed any sort of script.

An Oscar-nominated songwriter, theatre company founder, Sundance Film Institute fellow, memoir author, and college professor, Joseph began his speech with recollections of his days as an orphaned teenage political activist. Outraged by Martin Luther King’s assassination, Joseph joined the Black Panthers at just 15 years old.

He recounted his surprise when the Panther elder he expected to give him a gun armed him instead with a stack of books, including Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. “He handed me the secret weapon of liberation,” Joseph said.

Later sentenced to 12 years in prison for helping fugitive Panthers, Joseph earned two college degrees behind bars. He related his affection for “the most gangsta person in Leavenworth”: a 5-foot-3, 70-year-old Kansas University English professor who volunteered to teach the inmates. She cut them “no slack,” yet Joseph said she emphasized, “There’s no stronger weapon than an armed mind, and love.” He also took to heart the counsel of a fellow convict who advised him, “Young blood, you can serve this time, or you can let this time serve you.” Joseph did just that: “I learned the power of education and art to break down all boundaries.”

As he concluded his remarks, Joseph told the story of a young boy who watched helium balloons of different colors float to the same height in the sky. In the story, an old man imparts this wisdom: “It’s not the color on the outside but the stuff on the inside that will make you rise.” With that, Joseph made his charge: “Rise today, graduates. Rise.”

Associate Dean’s Debut

Associate Dean’s Debut

It’s been a high-profile year for Melissa Frazier (Russian), who stepped into the SLC spotlight with two new gigs in 2017. In January, she staged the first International Karaoke Night at the Black Squirrel. The YouTube-fueled event welcomed singers of all levels to celebrate multiculturalism. “The idea is to sing as much as possible in languages other than English,” her invitation read—and she didn’t hesitate to take up the mic herself (second from left, above).

In August, Frazier took on an even bigger starring role: associate dean of the college. A Harvard graduate with a PhD from the University of California-Berkeley, Frazier joined the Sarah Lawrence faculty in 1995. Announcing the appointment, Dean of the College Kanwal Singh said: “Melissa has formidable energy and an intense commitment to the College. She has been an integral part of so many endeavors here that it’s hard to keep track of them all.”

Biology Bake-Off

Biology Bake-Off

Undergrads studying microbiology with Michelle Hersh (biology) and cell biology with Drew Cressman (biology) served up some sweet, friendly competition during spring semester in the form of a science-themed bake-off. Judges including Philipp Nielsen (history) and Dean of the College Kanwal Singh—with her 11-year-old son Kiran—were recruited to rate the treats: Hersh’s students created bacteria-inspired confections, while Cressman’s collaborated to make a giant cell composed of different baked goods.

The Teach-In Tradition Continues

The Teach-In Tradition ContinuesJust a glance at the headlines and the truth is undeniable. The hit parade of complex issues that urgently need to be addressed grows longer by the hour. At Sarah Lawrence, faculty, staff, and students grapple with these pressing concerns in classrooms, around dining tables, in dorm rooms, and through provocative teach-ins. In January, “Resistance, Unity, and the Dangerous: A Post-Election Teach-In” featured SLC faculty members alongside guest speakers from Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, the United Auto Workers Region 9A, and the Westchester Refugee Task Force. In April, Deanna Barenboim (anthropology), Maeve Campman ’20, and Indigenous Studies students organized “Standing Rock Teach-In: A Dialogue on Environmental Justice and Indigenous Rights.”

Advanced Studies Advance

Advanced Studies AdvanceGraduate and professional studies programs at Sarah Lawrence continue to innovate and expand in response to students’ changing needs and the world’s social and economic landscape. A few of the latest advances:

The Health Advocacy Program’s new low-residency format will accommodate students and working professionals who want flexibility and convenience in pursuing their education. The program prepares students to advocate for the elimination of the inequities in our health care system and the environmental conditions that diminish the health and well-being of communities.

The Writing Institute has partnered with industry experts to offer a six-week certificate in book publishing. The course pairs networking opportunities with hands-on experience, preparing students to launch a career as an editor, literary agent, or publicist.

The Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics received full reaccreditation from the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC) after a yearlong self-study and a site visit from an ACGC team in February. The team’s final report praised the program’s depth of teaching expertise, the commitment of its administrative leaders, and the extensive network of clinical field placements it offers students.

This fall, the Graduate Program in Writing introduced courses in speculative fiction. Students in the writing program are encouraged to cross genre boundaries, and now they can venture into this exciting and popular field of writing—and the realms of the unreal.

Medical providers receive little training in helping people create advance care plans that outline the attention they want to receive at the end of their lives. To meet that need, the End-of-Life Care Program has launched a series of self-paced, fully online courses leading to certification. The Sarah Lawrence program is one of the first of its kind in the country.

$60,000 Makes for a Watershed Moment

$60,000 Makes for a Watershed MomentThe Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River at Beczak received a $60,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Urban Waters program. The grant supports the Center’s efforts to improve water quality, increase community involvement, and encourage stewardship in four urban watersheds in the lower Hudson Valley. With partners Riverkeeper, Bronx River Alliance, Hudson River Watershed Alliance, Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance, and Pocantico River Watershed Alliance, the Center monitors water quality, engages citizen stewards in hands-on science, and empowers local communities to become advocates for pollution reduction. The project began in January 2017 and runs through April 2018, with all monitoring data posted on Riverkeeper’s website.

Greet a Gryphon:
A Student-Athlete-Musician Trifecta

Greet a Gryphon: A Student-Athlete-Musician TrifectaTiffany Meier ’18 sustained an injury that prevented her from competing for much of the 2016–17 cross country season, but she didn’t let that stop her from remaining a vital member of her team. Undeterred, she still went to all the races and cheered her teammates on as she recovered, eventually making a full comeback and finishing the last race of the season as the Gryphons’ top runner. Erin Pomykala, her coach last year, took note: “Putting on that brave face is too difficult for some people, but there’s no keeping Tiffany down.”

A California native, Meier always enjoyed running, though her mother had discouraged her from participating in sports, fearing it would interfere with her academic commitments and violin practice. Her first year at SLC, Meier went to an information session and was so impressed with the coach, she joined the squad. “Our team is cool, because about half of us are more seasoned runners,” she says, “and half are like me.”

Meier finds she’s actually better at managing her full calendar during the cross country season. “Running in the morning clears my head, and I’m fully awake by the time I get to class,” she says. “I wouldn’t want to just study or just play music or just run,” Meier says. “They’re stimulating in different ways, and they all work together well.”

When she asked her violin professor, Sungrai Sohn, for advice on maintaining the stamina necessary to play physically challenging pieces, he told her being fit was a great start. “If I weren’t running,” Meier notes, “I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the violin.”