A Word From . . . College Alumni Association

Alumni of the College of Liberal Arts have a long-standing tradition of reuniting in “the Forest” each year to reconnect with their Drew roots. In 2007 this tradition moved from the spring to autumn as part of a five-year experiment to combine Ranger Reunion and Alumni Reunion into one September weekend. Earlier this year, the Reunion Task Force of the College Alumni Association conducted an exhaustive survey of over 15,000  alumni so they could share their reasons for attending (or not), how they wanted to get information about the event and their preference for timing. 59 percent of the respondents indicated a preference for a late May or early June event. Their reasons included weather, fewer work and personal conflicts and the ability to stay on campus. Based on this information, the College Alumni Association has recommended the return to a spring event beginning in 2014 and university administration supports this change. Given the timing of the study, planning was already underway for the alumni who graduated in a year ending with “3” or “8” so they will still celebrate their reunion October 3–6, 2013. Classes ending with a “4” or “9” will celebrate their anniversaries next spring, the weekend of […]

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In Memoriam: John Ollom

Dr. John F. Ollom, Robert Fisher Oxnam Professor of Science and Society, Emeritus, passed away on July 30 at the age of 90. Ollom’s career in physics began when, as part of his WWII military service, he was a research assistant on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico.  He went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University under the tutelage of Nobel Laureate John Van Vleck and served as an electromagnetic theory consultant to Bell Laboratories. Ollom arrived at Drew in 1956 as its first physics professor. He was the sole member of the department until 1968, at which time he hired his former pupil Robert Fenstermacher ’65.  The two worked side by side for the next twenty years and developed a life-long friendship.  Recalling the first time his mentor–who always addressed students by their title and last name–called him “Bob”, Fenstermacher says, “It seemed to me a very special rite of passage.” Ollom’s friends recall his keen interest in religion and the Civil War. He enjoyed weekly exchanges with colleagues Tom Oden, Henry Anson Buttz Professor of Theology and Ethics, Emeritus, and Jim O’Kane Professor of Sociology, Emeritus about current events.  This self-described tertulia (social gathering […]

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Fluent in Globalism

Earlier this summer a group of fifteen undergraduate Drew students travelled with Professor Bai Di, associate professor of Chinese Studies, to Harbin, China. Located about 800 miles northeast of Beijing, Harbin is one of only a few cities where people speak near standard Mandarin–the most spoken language on the planet. During their 29-day trip, students got a chance to test and expand their comprehension and conversational skills, as well as their horizons. Bai is very clear that this is much more than a language program. “I push students to ask questions like: Why have the Chinese built these walls? Why is meat served in small pieces?” she explains. “It’s a way to talk about social issues, to exercise critical thinking.” Students spent the first eight days of the trip in Beijing where they were given assignments based on their interests–an art student was sent off to visit a museum, a biology student to the zoo. They had to navigate and negotiate their own way around the city, restaurants and shops, forcing them to use Mandarin, to be self-reliant and to fully engage with an unfamiliar culture. As a result, many came home with a more nuanced understanding of China than […]

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A Friend of Mind

The Pan-African Studies program at Drew celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Its origins, however, are more complex than this singular milestone suggests. The program was almost two decades in the making and promoted by a somewhat unexpected standard-bearer. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s student activists on college campuses called for more African-American faculty and courses on the history, culture, and politics of black Americans. At Drew, the student group Hyera petitioned for such changes. It was Joan Steiner – a British literature professor – who stepped in to chair the Black Concerns Committee. By 1974 Steiner had introduced the first Afro-American literature course at Drew and, in the process, became enamored with the work of Toni Morrison, James Baldwin and Alice Walker. The African-American and African Studies minor ultimately launched at Drew in 1993. From the beginning it has epitomized the liberal arts in its cross-disciplinary study of Africa and the African diaspora. Over the years, it has included courses taught by a Who’s Who? of Drew’s faculty: history with Charles Wetzl , John von der Heide and Lillie Edwards; literature with Joan Steiner, Kristine Aurbakken, and Geraldine Smith-Wright; anthropology with Phil Peek and economics with Fred […]

College Alumni Exceed Goal

It wasn’t until 48 hours before the deadline that John Holden ’98 and Cara Townsend ’05, both on staff at Drew’s Alumni House, realized the goal was within reach. “I was worried it wasn’t going to happen,” recalls Holden. “Then, all of a sudden, it was like winning at a slot machine!” Holden’s analogy describes what it was like at Alumni House on Friday, June 28, just two days before the end of Drew’s fiscal year, as the online giving site lit up with donations from alumni of the College of Liberal Arts who were responding to the “99 Days Challenge.” Over the preceding weeks, alumni had rallied around this challenge in a way not seen before at Drew. Working with the staff at Alumni House, alumni volunteers took the lead in reaching out to classmates through Facebook and other digital platforms. Katya Valasek ’04 posted yearbook photos on Facebook and invited her classmates into the process by tagging them. Yasin Abbak ’09 posted the challenge countdown webpage, publicly announced his gift, and urged alumni to step up. Amy McHugh ’10 used Facebook to ask her Drew friends to redirect $5 to Drew, and then went old-school by collecting cash […]

At a Molecular Level

“You can’t get these answers from a text book,” says Stephen Silva ’14, referring to the laboratory research he is doing at the Drew Summer Science Institute (DSSI) – research that could lay the groundwork for new anti-fungal medications. Current anti-fungal treatments are often ineffective and produce adverse side effects, and that’s a problem for chemotherapy, HIV and leukemia patients with weakened immune systems. Silva is part of a molecular biology team working with Professor Stephen Dunaway this summer to understand the genetic sequences of a specific yeast protein in order to find some answers. Silva has been able to dedicate himself to this project, rather than take a summer job to help pay for school, thanks to the Carrie Hendrickson McMahon Summer Research Fellowship established by the ’94 alumna to support biology and biochemistry students. “I needed a lot of help paying for college,” says McMahon, now a regulatory scientist at the Food and Drug Administration.  “I was lucky enough to get the Elsie Fischer Scholarship (among other Drew awards) and always considered it an interest-free loan. I made it a priority to give back.” Since 1998, DSSI has brought together advanced anthropology, biology, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, physics and […]

The Making of a Meadow

Stroll along the path from Mead Hall to Brothers College on a warm summer day and are you are likely to hear little more than a breeze in the towering oaks and the cry of a red tail hawk circling above. That’s because lawn mowers have been largely banished from the newly established Mead Meadow. Last summer, native flowers–such as Butterfly Milkweed, Purple Coneflower and Wild Bergamot–were planted throughout a .5 acre area of the lawn. Now mowers only cut once a year, in late autumn, after the flowers have gone to seed. The deep root systems of wildflowers and native grasses naturally loosen the soil, enabling the roots of surrounding trees to better absorb oxygen and nutrients. According to Mike Kopas, executive director of Facilities, the trees in Mead Meadow are already showing improved health with new growth and increased leaf size. Look closely and you will find that the meadow is also home to myriad forms of animal life. “A typical lawn is really a dead zone in terms of the food web,” explains Sara Webb, professor of Biology and director of Environmental Studies and Sustainability. “A meadow, on the other hand, supports all kinds of insects–including endangered […]

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SAT Policy Reviewed

Seven years after Drew made the SAT optional for high school seniors applying for admission, the university has reinstated the standardized exam as a requirement in the application process. During this past academic year, an eight-person task force studied the impact of the SAT-optional policy. Outgoing CLA dean Jonathan Levin says task force members expressed strong beliefs on both sides of the debate. “I think where the committee came together was the sense that we felt the SAT could be a valuable component of the review process,” he says, referring to identifying strong candidates, particularly in the sciences. “But we wanted to maintain the flexibility and opportunity to identify students who are coming with different kinds of strengths.” The task force also considered that roughly 80 percent of high school seniors who applied to Drew since 2006, the year the SAT-optional policy took effect, included their SAT scores, even though they were not mandatory. The group recommended retiring the policy, which Drew President Vivian Bull signed off on this spring. The first class to enroll under the new requirement will start in fall 2014. Students who feel their test scores don’t reflect their abilities will still be able to submit […]

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The McAlumni Myth: French Fries, the Liberal Arts, and Drew

A Word From Kenneth Alexo Jr., Vice President for University Advancement  It’s a joke I often hear when I tell people I work at Drew University. The standard version goes something like this: “An engineer looks at an idea and asks, ‘How does it work?’ An accountant looks at it and asks, ‘How much does it cost?’ And a liberal arts graduate looks at the same idea and asks, ‘You want fries with that?’” My initial reaction to this hackneyed criticism of the liberal arts is to take pity on my interlocutors; they have obviously not had the advantage of the very education they feebly seek to denigrate. And then the teacher in me–or, what is essentially the same thing, the fundraiser–takes over. This is one of those perfect teaching moments, I tell myself, and I embrace the opportunity to show these tired, oh-so-astute critics of the liberal arts the error of their ways. The evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, convincingly demonstrates that a liberal arts education prepares graduates for personal and professional success much better than pre-professional or vocational programs. Indeed, the data show, among other things, that alumni of liberal arts colleges and universities possess the very skills […]

U.S. Latino Social Ministries Keep Pace

Leading scholar on Latin American social movements explains that these groups “call on the collective conscience to focus on the vulnerable and the marginalized.” The greatest strength of the country’s booming Latino community is its deeply religious faith community, which is creating a growing number of organizations to address social concerns, sociologist and author Milagros Peña told an audience at the Drew Theological School. “Many of these Latina-Latino faith-based organizations are also moral organizations. They call on the collective conscience to focus on the vulnerable and the marginalized,” said Peña, a University of Florida professor known for her research into the impact of religion on the lives of Hispanic immigrants, especially women. On May 1 she delivered the school’s annual Frederick A. Shippey lecture, established to advance scholarship in the sociology of religion. Hispanics comprise 16 percent of U.S. residents, a number expected to grow to 20 or 30 percent by 2050, Peña said. While ethnically and religiously diverse—belonging to Catholic, Protestant and Pentecostal congregations—they are disproportionately affected by poverty, low educational levels and unfair labor practices. They are also establishing footholds in new places. In New York City, for example, Mexicans are moving into East Harlem, historically a Puerto […]

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