SUNY Oneonta’s first Charity Challenge—a student-organized event that combined elements of TV’s “The Amazing Race” and a 5K Color Run—raised $1,200 for six local nonprofits Saturday.

On a gorgeous spring afternoon, 30 teams of four raced to complete six silly challenges ranging from a relay race in high heels to building a structure out of marshmallows and toothpicks. After each challenge, teammates got their white event T-shirts sprayed with a different vibrant color of tempura paint.

Each participant paid a $10 entry fee, and the event raised $1,200 to be divided evenly between the St. Mary’s Food Pantry, Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, Oneonta Family YMCA and Rock to Cure. Six sponsors—New York Central Mutual, Oneonta Hots, Hillside Commons, Joe Ruffino’s Pizzeria, Tino’s Pizza, Peter Clark Student Rentals and the Damascene Book Cellar—provided raffle prizes and support to defray costs associated with the event.

The Charity Challenge was organized by event-planning students Carol Benedict, Samantha Smith, Regina Blanco, Shuree Gavin, Emily Holdorf and Mary O’Neill with support from several student clubs and Greek organizations.

The six students in Oscar Oberkircher’s event management class were responsible for every detail of the Charity Challenge, including securing sponsors, coordinating volunteers, planning activities, handling publicity and registration, and staffing activity stations on the day of the event. Oberkircher, who is SUNY Oneonta’s Food Service and Restaurant Management program director and coordinator of the college’s event-planning minor, said the event went so smoothly he’d like to make it an annual fundraiser, with a goal of 200 or more participants next year.

Dr. Tracy Allen, associate professor and chair of SUNY Oneonta’s Department of Geography & Environmental Sciences Program, will present “Dangerous Waters: State of the World’s Drinking Water” at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 17, in the Waterfront Room of the Hunt College Union. A dessert reception will follow the presentation.

Water-related illnesses are the leading cause of human sickness and death. Worldwide, nearly one in six people lacks access to safe drinking water. The purpose of this talk is to explore the consequences of the drinking water crisis; examine the bottled water industry and its effects; expose water as a major factor for continued underdevelopment; and propose sustainable water solutions. Accompanying the presentation will be a showing of the documentary “Tapped,” which examines the role of the bottled water industry in the United States and its effects on society and the environment.

The presentation and dessert reception are open to the public. Admission is free to students with ID and $8 for all others. Part of the proceeds from the event will be used to support a water analysis project to be performed at Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, by SUNY Oneonta students as part of a faculty-led summer field course, ENVS 394: Water & the Environment of Guatemala.

The program is sponsored by the college’s Department of Geography & Environmental Sciences Program, Hunt College Union, Office of Continuing Education and Office of Sustainability.

“Dangerous Waters” precedes the college’s annual Green Dragon Week, April 21-27. More than two dozen sustainability-themed activities have been planned, including a student fashion show featuring garments made from recycled materials, documentary screenings, a compost demo, an Earth Day club expo, a bike repair station and an environmental poetry reading.

Hundreds of prospective students will visit SUNY Oneonta for Academic Exploration Day on Saturday, April 12. Activities will include campus tours, remarks by the deans of the college’s five schools, financial aid consultations, presentations and tours by academic departments, and a student club fair.

See the schedule for the day here.

Taine Duncan

The 19th annual SUNY Oneonta Undergraduate Philosophy Conference, taking place at the college April 11 and 12, will feature two keynotes. Douglas Lackey, professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy within the Weissman School of Arts & Sciences at Baruch College in New York City, will speak about “Mitosis and Abortion” on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Waterfront Room of the Hunt Union.

On Saturday, Taine Duncan, assistant professor within the University of Central Arkansas Department of Philosophy and Religion, and director of the University’s Gender Studies Program, will present the second keynote. Her lecture, titled “Remembrances: Cultural Memory as a Form of Resistance,” is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in the Alumni Little Theatre.

During the two-day event, SUNY Oneonta undergraduates will join students from Boston College, the University of Chicago, Fordham University, Holy Cross and several other institutions to present papers on topics such as the “Ethics of Happiness,” “Feminist Existentialism” and “Objective Values.” All of the more than 20 sessions, including Lackey’s and Duncan’s talks, will be free and open to the public.

Conceived in 1996, the SUNY Oneonta Undergraduate Philosophy Conference has become one of the most prestigious and widely attended events of its kind in the United States. It is sponsored by the college’s Philosophy Club and organized by a student Conference Committee with support from faculty adviser Dr. Michael Koch.

More information on the conference, including a listing of papers and abstracts, is available at

Andrea Casper

A new fellowship will help more SUNY Oneonta students pursue internships across the country and around the globe.

Created through charitable gifts by 1975 SUNY Oneonta graduate Andrea Casper in honor and memory of her parents, the Helen & Michael Casper Fellowship for Internship Support is intended to help make internship experiences accessible for more SUNY Oneonta students. The fund will be available for four years, and a total of $15,000 has been allotted to support students participating in internships from summer2014 through May 2015. Students began applying for the funding this week.

“Internships can have a tremendous impact on a student’s educational experience and career, and we’re thrilled that more SUNY Oneonta students will now have access to both domestic and international internship opportunities across the academic disciplines,” said SUNY Oneonta Internship Coordinator Megan Ackley.

From summer 2013 through this spring, nearly 500 SUNY Oneonta students received academic credit for internship experiences. In addition to increasing access by supporting students who might not be able to afford to choose an unpaid internship over a summer job, the fellowship will encourage students to intern in locations that would otherwise be unattainable by helping with travel costs and housing expenses.

The Helen & Michael Casper Fellowship for Internship Support was established through Possibilities Full of Promise, the 125th Anniversary Campaign for SUNY Oneonta.

“This generous gift demonstrates the impact of philanthropy in giving our students valuable learning opportunities outside the classroom,” said Paul Adamo, vice president of College Advancement and executive director of the College at Oneonta Foundation. “We’re grateful to Andrea and all the alumni and friends who have shown their loyalty to and appreciation for SUNY Oneonta by supporting this campaign.”

Diane Nilan

Diane Nilan, founder and president of the national nonprofit organization HEAR US, will speak on the topic of “Children and Youth Homelessness: Why it Matters and What We Can Do” at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 10, in SUNY Oneonta’s Hunt Union Ballroom. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Nilan has more than 25 years of experience working with impoverished and homeless families, including running emergency shelters in Illinois and successfully advocating for the passage of “Charlie’s Bill,” the Illinois law guaranteeing homeless students educational rights.

She created HEAR US in July 2005 with the mission of giving voice and visibility to homeless children, youth and families. Four months later, after selling her home, her car and most of her possessions, she bought an RV and set out on a cross-country quest to put a face on the issue of youth homelessness. Over the course of a year, Nilan interviewed more than 75 homeless children and teens in 34 states. She partnered with filmmaker Laura Vazquez of Northern Illinois University to create a series of short documentaries titled “My Own Four Walls,” which won the National Association of Homeless Children and Youth’s Outstanding Media Award. The video, updated in 2012, has been distributed nationally to help school districts identify and assist homeless students.

Nilan and Vazquez went on to produce “On the Edge,” a documentary chronicling the struggles of seven women trying to escape homelessness in small towns and resort communities across America, and, most recently, “Worn Out Welcome Mat: Invisible Homelessness in Texas,” which examines the largest segment of the homeless population: those “doubled up” or staying with others because of loss of housing or other issues.

Nilan also wrote the book “Crossing the Line: Taking Steps to End Homelessness,” (Booklocker, 2005) and contributes to the homeless and poverty blogs invisible homeless kids,’s Poverty in America and Wanderings.

Nilan’s appearance at SUNY Oneonta is sponsored by the departments of Education and Sociology; the offices of Greek Life, Residence Life and New Student Services; the Center for Multicultural Experiences and the Public Events Committee.

Oneonta student Emily Rogers takes a picture with children in Cartagena.

Eleven students spent a week in Cartagena, Colombia, this semester as part of a faculty-led Spanish field course on the world of Nobel Prize-winning writer Gabriel (“Gabo”) García Márquez.

Accompanied by Drs. Gustavo Arango and Maria Montoya of SUNY Oneonta’s Department of Foreign Languages & Literatures, the students visited the actual settings where some of Márquez’s short stories and novels took place. In addition to an extended visit to Cartagena, the main commercial port in South America during colonial times, the group visited Aracataca, Márquez’s birthplace and the inspiration for his fictional town of Macondo; Santa Marta; Barranquilla and Islas del Rosario, a nature reserve.

“I am going to remember this trip for the rest of my life,” said sophomore Tate Stoyell, a dual Adolescent Education/Spanish major. “Everything was just beautiful. It really helped tie in Gabo’s magical realism theme into my imagination. I read his stories better now that I have an understanding of the incredible place he writes about.”

The course also had a service-learning component, with students donating clothing and other items and visiting and playing with children in poor communities. Veronica LoPrimo, a junior majoring in mass communications, said she has developed some new habits—and a new perspective—after seeing poverty firsthand.

“Before this trip, I never really cared about being a humanitarian, because I thought, ‘I’m just one person. What can I do?’” This experience changed that. I’ve found that if people are willing to learn, you can make a difference by telling them about your experience. You don’t have to be a philanthropist with a million dollars to make a difference.”

Spanish 394, Garcia Márquez’s World, is one of several faculty-led field courses being offered this spring and summer. Others courses will take students to Peru, Israel, Ecuador, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Guatemala to study topics ranging from biology to music.

Model UN Delegation members (l. to r.) Jean-Paul Scott, Kirsten Sauer, Pat McKeage and Ryan Hendrickson

Fifteen SUNY Oneonta students spent part of their spring break at the National Model United Nations Conference in New York City from March 30-April 3. This year’s delegation, representing Côte d’Ivoire, was one of 28 groups from around the world selected to receive the Distinguished Delegation award at the end of the five-day conference. This is a high honor, placing the Oneonta delegation in the top 10 percent of participants.

In addition, Oneonta students Ryan Hendrickson, Ian Misrok, Hope Costa, Rachel Heejeung, Ma Shane Magnetti and Egzon Sulejmani were recognized for writing the best position papers in their respective committees, and two students were chosen for conference-wide leadership positions: Kirsten Sauer (Chair and Rapporteur, UN Security Council C) and Eileen Austin (Rapporteur, UN Population Fund).

Over the course of the spring semester, students prepared for the simulation by learning about Côte d’Ivoire’s international and domestic politics, contemporary issues, and the United Nations’ committee system and operating procedures. Once at the conference, they debated proposals put forth to address these issues from the perspective of diplomats of their assigned country. U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power gave the keynote address for Sunday’s opening session.

“This experience taught me that people from all over the world with many different cultures and backgrounds can come together to achieve something great,” said Costa, a political science major from Hurleyville, N.Y. “I will never forget the relationships I developed and the life skills that I learned.”

Freshman Jean-Paul Scott said the trip allowed him not only to learn more about others and their cultures, but to grow as a person. “It’s a great experience that opens your eyes to the world and helps you become cognizant of how connected and even disconnected the world is sometimes.”

The Model UN delegation is advised by Dr. Brett Heindl of the Department of Political Science. Funding for the program was provided by the Office of Continuing Education, the Political Science Department and the students themselves. Some of the students also received travel funding from the Caroline and David D’Antonio Undergraduate Student Travel for Excellence Fund.

Four SUNY Oneonta students are among a select group of State University of New York students chosen to receive the 2014 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher presented the awards to the students at a reception in their honor today at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany.

The Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence is the highest honor that SUNY bestows upon students. It is presented annually to SUNY students who demonstrate academic excellence and integrate it with accomplishments in other areas, such as leadership, career achievement, campus involvement, athletics, community service, or creative and performing arts.

The four SUNY Oneonta students who received the 2014 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence are:

Raymond Boss of Macedon, N.Y.
An adolescent education-mathematics major who has maintained a 4.0 cumulative grade-point average, Boss is a two-time participant in the national William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition and a student member of the Association of Mathematics Teachers of New York State. He has been very involved in campus life, including serving as a resident advisor, vice president of the Association of Secondary Educators, musical director for the Voices of Serenity Gospel Choir, treasurer of the Jazz Appreciation Society, Poetry Slam Association performer, and drummer for the Funk Band and Jazz Orchestra. Community service activities include raising money for cancer research as a member of St. Jude’s Giants and a Relay for Life team captain, and serving as a volunteer tutor at the Oneonta Job Corps Center.

Kaylee Herzog of Delmar, N.Y.

Herzog is a biology major and aspiring marine biologist who has accumulated an impressive record as an undergraduate scholar. She applied for and received a grant for research on a new species of stingray tapeworm, drafted a manuscript for publication to a peer-reviewed scientific journal and presented her research at the American Society of Parasitologists meetings in Quebec City. She was also awarded a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates Summer Fellowship and a summer internship at the Biological Field Station in Cooperstown. Herzog is president of the Biology Club and has volunteered with the club every year to clean up invasive plant species at a local wetland. She has also played viola in the college’s Chamber Orchestra and was a member of the field hockey team.

Ashley Ly of Walton, N.Y.
Ly is a biochemistry major who has worked on several research projects as a member of the SUNY Oneonta’s BLONDES (Building a Legacy of Outstanding New Developments and Excellence in Science), including one that she presented at a national American Chemical Society conference in Dallas. During her SUNY Oneonta career, she has worked as a teaching assistant, high school chemistry tutor, resident advisor, resident manager for the Morris Conference Center, Call Center agent and campus tour guide. She is also first-chair violinist and concert master for the college’s Chamber Orchestra and has played violin for other campus productions, including “The Fairy Queen” opera in January and “Of Thee I Sing” last spring. Ly plans to continue her studies at Wingate School of Pharmacy in North Carolina this fall.

Mifuyu Otsuka of Tokyo, Japan
A mass communication major, Otsuka is an international student who has been very active on campus. He was the co-founder, organizer and host of the college’s annual Global Movement Festival, and he serves as public relations officer for the Multicultural Student Council, student member of the President’s Council on Diversity and president of the Japanese Society for All. He has also been an orientation leader and resident advisor. In spring 2013, he led a Japanese Society for All effort to provide tsunami relief to Japan. raising more than $2,000 for the Japan Red Cross and filming and directed a short video clip, “Smile Video Project,” that was distributed to several organizations in Japan. Otsuka will begin his career as a business/marketing professional at SoftBank Telecom Inc. in Tokyo this fall.

Since 1998 when the Chancellor’s Award program was implemented, 74 SUNY Oneonta students have received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.

Three SUNY Oneonta students presented their anthropology and sociology research at the Innovative Exploration Forum in Albany on Tuesday.

Diane Mancini, an Anthropology-Spanish double major from Rochester, presented a research poster based her anthropological study of language and culture change in a Caribbean community. Sallie Han and Dr. Maria Montoya were co-advisers on the project.

Brooke Ramage of Masonville and Hannah Wightman of Campbell co-presented a research poster based on their sociological research on low-income parents with Dr. Elizabeth Seale in Sociology.

Held at the Legislative Office Building, the event showcased research by undergraduate students from State University of New York and City University of New York campuses across the state. Students from 47 SUNY and CUNY colleges presented more than 100 poster displays highlighting their research in a range of academic disciplines.