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Meet our New Staff – Q&A

By mniedt1 on January 30, 2019

Q&A with our new director Jeremy Wattles and our new administrative assistant Karli Caputo

Jeremy Wattles ’05


Where are you from? What did you do before this?

I’m from Clay, New York, which is north of Syracuse. After graduating from Colgate in 2005 I got my Masters in Edinburgh, Scotland. After a bit of time in the UK, I moved to Hamilton College, and then Hobart & William Smith College.

What drew you to working at Colgate/the COVE?

I thought it was a great fit personally and professionally. I loved my time at Colgate, and am a third generation Colgate alum, so the prospect of coming back was particularly exciting. I’ve had similar roles at both Hamilton and Hobart & William Smith, and now this is an opportunity to step into a director role and do everything I can to help the Colgate and Upstate New York communities.

Most excited about for this semester?

I’m excited to learn first hand what the COVE does and how it operates. 2019 will be a year of learning for me. I’ll have things to take care of, but I really want to learn from everyone here and see what we’re doing now, and figure out a way to do it even better in the future. I’m also particularly passionate about civic engagement, so I’m looking forward to working with the Colgate Vote Project.

Favorite movie?

Tough question. I love movies but here’s a top three in no particular order:

  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Any Stanley Kubrick film
  • The Revenant

TV show you’re watching now?

True Detective.

Favorite place on campus besides the COVE?

The trails above the old golf course.

Dream vacation destination?

Australia and New Zealand.

Dogs or cats?


Pick one super power?

Heal people.

Favorite meal?

Grilled Salmon.

Karli Caputo


Where are you from? What did you do before this?

I’m from Sherburne, New York and went to college at SUNY Oneonta. Before joining the COVE I worked in admissions at Colgate, and at NBT Bank before that.

What drew you to working at Colgate/the COVE?

I grew up around Colgate and benefitted from outreach programs like SAT Prep and High School Seminar. I was really excited about the idea of working at the COVE and being on the other end of the programs that helped me.

Most excited about for this semester?

I’m really looking forward to seeing how all of the different teams operate, and finding ways to help everything go smoothly. I’m also looking forward to Salvage at the end of the semester. I’ve heard some crazy stories.

Favorite movie?

I’ll do three. In no particular order:

  • Olympus has Fallen
  • Brothers Grimm
  • A Knight’s Tale

TV show you’re watching now?

The Good Doctor.

Favorite place on Campus besides the COVE?

The Linsley Geology museum in Ho. The dinosaur egg is so cool.

Dream vacation destination?

Ireland or Greece.

Dogs or cats?


Pick one super power?


Favorite meal?


Volunteer Spotlight: Adriana Rush ’22

By anjones1 on December 5, 2018

Adriana, left, at a rally for environmental issues.

Adriana Rush is a first year interested in exploring the humanities and social sciences at Colgate. Before coming to Colgate, she was involved in three main initiatives relating to nonprofit work. She canvassed for the Washington Environmental Council, pushing for green initiatives through legislation by promoting candidates that cared about environmental issues. She also has a fandom candle business called Magic Carrot Candles, part of which is nonprofit, with the proceeds going to different charities. Additionally, Adriana helped jump start “Schools Under 2°C”—a school-based organization working with elementary, middle, and high schools across the globe to lower their emissions. Adriana and 15 fellow students started received the Presidential Environmental Youth Award for this initiative. Learn more about her experience with the nonprofit sector below.

What does community service mean to you?

Simply going out there and doing something, really anything, that helps other people. And caring about making a difference as well as caring about whatever cause it is you are working for.

What has been one of your most meaningful experiences in the nonprofit sector?

There have been a few. I went canvassing for environmentally friendly candidates in various districts near my home, which was very enlightening as well as a meaningful experience. Additionally, I utilized my for-profit business, turning a large portion of into a nonprofit. Proceeds from our most popular products now go to various charities such as the Malala Fund and Greenpeace. Through that mechanism, we have raised over a thousand dollars for these causes.

Adriana, second from the right, as part of a winning team for Schools Under 2oC at the Itron Food, Energy, and Water Challenge in 2017.

How did you find this opportunity?

When the current President was elected and brought a wave of climate change denial with him to the White House, I was inspired to simply do something about it. I looked up local environmental organizations in my area and signed up to volunteer.

What was your experience like? What did you gain from this experience?

In terms of canvassing, I really enjoyed meeting other environmentalists like myself and going out into neighborhoods to talk about issues that I care about. Sometimes you meet people who are really receptive to what you’re saying and that’s great, but other times they just slam the door in your face. Even so, you know what you’re doing is helping fight for a good cause and there is definitely pride in that.

In terms of the nonprofit, it is incredibly rewarding to donate money that we made through hard work to organizations who really have the means to help people. It makes me very happy every time I see that a customer bought one of our nonprofit products because they can feel good about that purchase and we feel good about it as well.

How did this experience influence your plans for the future?

I definitely want to continue volunteering for environmental organizations in the future, but on top of that, I also want to have a job that does something good for people too. I don’t think I could be content working in a job that wasn’t working to improve people’s lives.

Student-Community partnerships experience success

By Contributing Writer on September 11, 2018

SOMAC at Hamilton Central school

The Max A. Shacknai COVE advises 39 student-led, community-based volunteer teams. These teams cover a wide range of issues and help students build an abundance of skills. Approximately 650 students — representing about 23 percent of the Colgate population participate regularly in a volunteer team. This year, volunteer teams performed more than 23,000 hours of service in the local community.

Outcomes of ongoing service projects include:

  • tutored more than 250 local school children in all grade levels
  • mentored more than 195 school-aged children
  • provided after-school enrichment activities to an additional 75 local children
  • improved academic and social confidence of children tutored and mentored
  • improved SAT scores of 60 local high school students by 100 points on average
  • assisted more than 150 elderly and low-income adults
  • served more than 800 individuals at the soup kitchen and food cupboard
  • assisted in responding to more than 800 fire and EMS emergency calls
  • contributed more than 500 hours responding to Victims of Violence hotline
  • provided care to more than 800 shelter animals
  • contributed to a cohesive, caring community

Teams reported ever-greater success in:

  • creating team reflection time
  • practicing regular and open communication with their community partner
  • articulating the root causes of social inequity related to the team’s issue areas
  • formulating action steps to impact the relevant social issue
  • reaching the team’s direct service goal
  • reaching the team’s social change goal

This year, we brought on one new volunteer team:

    Colgate Caretakers – Colgate Caretakers works with Abraham House in Utica, a unique hospice that takes in patients with terminal diagnosis and prognosis of three months or less. They provide round-the-clock care in a comfortable, home-like environment to all patients regardless of income level or ability to pay. Volunteers can become a buddy of a trained caretaker, receive free caretaker training at the house, help organize and run fundraising events, plan and attend events at the hospice or on campus, and more.

Pet Pals volunteers at Spring Farm Cares

Pet Pals volunteers at Spring Farm Cares

In addition to regular volunteer service, volunteer teams plan a number of complementary events to increase the work and impact of the team. Here’s a sampling of events volunteer teams planned this year in addition to their ongoing direct service work:

  • The Colgate Hunger Outreach Program raised funds that were used to fill holiday stockings with hygiene products. These stockings were distributed to families in need during the local Mid York Interfaith Holiday distribution.
  • Our education-related teams sponsored two brown bag presentations; one on Critical Pedagogies at the Secondary Level and one on Education in Madison County.
  • Habitat for Humanity hosted their annual gingerbread house making competition fundraiser.
  • Sidekicks partnered with other mentoring groups to host our Sidekicks Carnival for children from around the community.
  • Student volunteers from SOMAC hosted many community awareness events; including an event at Hamilton Elementary School. Children were invited into the ambulance and taught some basic skills on what to do in an emergency.
  • Pet Pals held a blanket making night; students gathered to make bedding for animals which were then donated to local animal shelters.
  • The American Heart Association team sponsored a Spin-A-Thon and a Burrito Run fundraiser.
  • Rotaract sponsored a film screening fundraiser of Get Out at the Hamilton Movie Theater.
  • A number of our volunteer and mentoring teams hosted campus visits for their students to have a fun day out eating at Frank and doing a special activity.
  • The Network sponsored a Take Back the Night March and Speak Out, offering a safe and supportive opportunity for sexual violence survivors and the people who love them to publicly affirm their transition from victim to survivor.
  • The Network partnered with the Haven, Colgate’s survivor support center, to train volunteers for the local sexual violence hotline.

Volunteers at North Broad Street Elementary School with mentees

Volunteers at North Broad Street Elementary School with mentees

Max A. Shacknai COVE recognizes outstanding contributions

By Contributing Writer on September 11, 2018

The Max A. Shacknai COVE exists through the efforts of individuals. During the course of the year, we have had a number of opportunities to recognize the work of others.

Dean’s Community Service Award
This award is given to the most worthy individual, residential unit, or group at Colgate which through the year immediately preceding the award has given significant service to the local community. This service exemplifies an understanding that we are part of a larger community and that volunteer service and civic participation are part of the responsibility of well-educated women and men.  Katie Steklac ’18 and Caroline Walsh ’18 were awarded the 2018 Dean’s Community Service Award.

Projects for Peace
Dan Miller ’19 and Siena Frost ’19 were awarded the Projects for Peace award in support of their project, Countering Violent Extremism through Intercultural Dialogue. Frost and Miller plan to study and promulgate a new approach to countering violent extremism and fostering interethnic cohesion in multicultural society. Their test case is Brussels, Belgium, where local officials are using intercultural dialogue to integrate an alienated Muslim population into mainstream culture.

The project was funded with a $10,000 grant from Projects for Peace, an initiative for undergraduate projects designed to find solutions to conflicts. Projects are conducted during the summer, and can focus on an issue anywhere in the world, including the U.S. The Projects for Peace grant is available to students in 90 colleges and universities affiliated with the Davis United World College Program, an organization that provides scholarships to its partnered institutions.

Celebration of Service
On Wednesday, April 4, the COVE held its annual Celebration of Service recognizing, the great work that student volunteers have completed in the last academic year. We recognized a number of individuals for outstanding commitment to community.

Direct Service Award
Given to the team that displays outstanding achievement in the area of direct service. Winning teams sustain a committed base of volunteers and provide consistent and reliable direct service to the community. Winners:
Hamilton Fire Fighters, Stockbridge Juniors, Liberty Kids

Collaboration Award
Given to a team that has collaborated effectively on a program or initiative. This collaboration enhances relationships and builds coalitions between different student groups, and addresses a community need through direct service. Winner:
Colgate SAT Prep

Social Change Award
Given to the team or individual that displays outstanding achievement in the area of social change. The team or individual identifies underlying social issues that create the community needs and begins to work toward sustainable change. Winners:
Chinyere Okogeri ’18 – Colgate SAT Prep, Caroline Walsh ’18 – M&M’s

Campus Impact Award
Given to the team that displays outstanding achievement in the area of campus impact. The team creates on-campus visibility of issues affecting the community and encourages formal and informal dialogues on issues and topics that affect the community. Winner:

Community Partner Award
The Community Partner Award is given to a community partner that has shown committed, sustained, and exemplary partnership with a COVE team. Winners:
Madison Central School, Melissa Latella – Stockbridge Valley Elementary School

COVE Team Leader Award
Given to a team leader who, through their leadership and service, has illustrated the philosophy and mission of the COVE in their team. The team leader is committed to direct service to the community and sustained collaboration with community partners. Winners:
Angela Barrett ’18 – Pet Pals, Maria Johnson ’18 – Pet Pals, Emma Kolinsky ’18 – Pet Pals, P.J. Murphy ’18 – Madison EMS

Emerging Leader Award
Given to a first- or second-year COVE leader who has shown their commitment to direct service and demonstrated their potential for leadership and continuing service to the Hamilton community. Winners:
Julia Blackwell ’20- Ophelia’s Girls, Elizabeth Giacobbe ’20 – Stockbridge Juniors, Megan Martis ’20 – MadCrafts and Pet Pals, Nick Quinn ’20 – M&M’s

Volunteer Award
Given to a student who exceeds the expectations of the group in which they are involved. Winners:
Peter Baker ’20 – Madison Mentors and SOMAC, Jon Delman ’18 – Hamilton Fire Fighters, Tuyen Ta Hoang – Morrisville Eaton Secondary Tutoring, Emily Seiple ’19 – Friends of Hamilton Manor, Zach Walsh ’18 – SOMAC

Max A. Shacknai Award
The Max A. Shacknai Award is given to an outstanding senior who has exemplified and embodied the mission of the COVE through their four years of direct service and collaboration with community partners. Winners:
Taylor Garry ’18 – North Broad Street Mentors, MadCrafts, and Sidekicks, Rachel Weinstein ’18 – SOMAC

The Max A. Shacknai COVE at a glance

By Contributing Writer on September 10, 2018

More than 850 student volunteers

More than 27 percent of Colgate students participate in COVE programs each year

More than 68 percent of Colgate students participate in volunteer programs by the time they graduate

More than 80 community organizations

30,000 volunteer service hours, valued at $724,200 in salary savings

More than $48,000 of in-kind resources to non-profit organizations

Community Partner feedback
“Your students are patient, kind and enthusiastic with their mentees. That means more to a middle schooler than you can imagine. It is no small thing to make another person feel accepted and appreciated. That is exactly what your students do for mine! Thank you for keeping this program going… it is really impactful for our students.” – Staff member at Sherburne-Earlville School

“This year was an exceptional year. We had fewer volunteers than in the past but the scope of help they provided was vast. They helped not only with stocking shelves and helping patrons, but also paperwork, computer assistance, writing letters, and writing a small grant (which we received)!” – Director of Hamilton Food Cupboard

“The buddy system that Liberty Kids has fulfilled, provides Hamilton students with a caring and supportive Colgate student to work with throughout the semester. Both Hamilton and Colgate students became very attached to their buddy. Working with the same person every week created a sense of comfort, which allowed the Hamilton students to take risks academically and open up emotionally.” – Staff member at Hamilton Central School

2018-2019 Events

August 22-25
Outreach Pre-Orientation Program

September 7
Afternoon of Service

September 17
Volunteer Orientation and Kickoff

November 18-20
Non-profit Immersion Trip to New York City

January 25
MLK Afternoon of Service

January Alternative Breaks

  • Washington DC Food Insecurity
  • Hurricane Harvey Recovery in Houston, TX

Spring Alternative Break Trips

  • Pathfinder Village Leadership Development
  • Habitat for Humanity Build

Alternative Break Trips deepen student learning

By Contributing Writer on September 9, 2018

The Max A. Shacknai COVE continues to offer opportunities to deepen student understanding of complex social issues by providing opportunities for immersive experiences in environments very different from those available in the local community. Students participate in a series of preparation and reflective activities to create a rich learning opportunity. Alternative break trips are not discrete one-week experiences. In addition to committing to a work-intensive week, students are responsible for attending predeparture meetings that introduce the participants to the community and organization with which they will be working and the critical issues with which they will be dealing.

Those who participate are civically engaged students interested in effecting sustainable local and global change through a continued commitment. In total, 63 participants in these programs contributed more than 2,900 hours of direct service to these communities this year.

Habitat for Humanity Spring Break Trip, Exmore, VA

  • Habitat for Humanity Spring Break Trip, Exmore, Va.
    Students traveled to Exmore, Va. to work with the Eastern Shore of Virginia Habitat for Humanity. The group installed insulation and hung sheet rock in a house being built for a local family. Habitat for Humanity houses are simple, decent, and affordable to low-income families. Whenever possible, Habitat for Humanity builds energy-efficient, sustainable housing. The goal of Habitat for Humanity is to help solve the global housing crisis and help the 48.5 million people living in poverty.


  • Hunger and Homelessness Outreach Winter Break Trip, Washington, D.C.
    America is one of the world’s wealthiest nations, especially when it comes to our agricultural production; yet enough food to feed every hungry adult and child living in the nation goes to waste each day. Each night, some five million children go to bed hungry. As many as three and a half million people each year have no bed to call their own, as they experience homelessness. Participants in this winter break trip had the opportunity to explore the root causes of the problems and efforts to improve the hunger and homelessness situation in America through a series of site visits, guest speakers, and discussions. Participants volunteered at soup kitchens and with various organizations that specialize in assisting and empowering the homeless population. One participant shared, “During my alternative break in Washington, D.C., I felt like I was introduced to a new perspective and a multitude of people with interesting stories and lives. After this trip, I feel more aware of what is going on in cities and how people are being excluded in the process of modernization, which is completely unacceptable. Since being back at Colgate, I have applied and been accepted to the SRS class, Politics and Education in Philadelphia: Gentrification, Charter Schools, and the New Urban America. Through this I hope to pursue some topics that were introduced on the trip and develop a more complete understanding.”

Camp Campbell Outdoor Science School, Boulder Creek, California

  • Camp Campbell Outdoor Science School, Boulder Creek, Calif.
    YMCA Camp Campbell Outdoor Science School is a residential camp tucked in the redwood mountains of California. They run an outdoor science school for a diverse group of local 5th and 6th graders. Colgate student volunteers worked as cabin leaders for these students – participating in field studies and activities during the day and staying overnight in cabins with campers. Participants received training from the camp staff and attended field study along with students and their naturalist. Field study time focused on hands-on ecology exploration in the redwood forest. Field study time also included a day-long picnic hike to an amazing ridge top view, a night hike, river study, survival skills, swimming pool, and more. One volunteer wrote, “The Camp Campbell alternative break trip was an incredibly rewarding experience. I expanded my understanding of science outreach and learned to deal with challenges that arose. It was an experience that brought our group together and I am so thankful for the opportunity.”

Medical Brigade, Nicaragua

  • Medical Brigade, Nicaragua
    Twenty-three Colgate students partnered with a group of students from Columbia University to participate in a Global Medical Brigade trip. Students assisted local doctors and dentists in a medical clinic in La Naranja, Nicaragua. They also lent a hand digging trenches for a water system in Las Cureñas, Nicaragua. One student shared, “This experience made me think a lot about the technologies we take for granted in our hospitals and doctor’s offices that make diagnosis and treatment so much easier and more accurate. I think that seeing this is important for students wanting to work in health care, in order to remind them that the field is not all about the glory of being a doctor but also about providing something so necessary to individuals, and to remind the students about the importance of giving back throughout their careers. I think that we have the responsibility to share the resources we have globally, as long as it is in a sustainable and culturally respectful manner.”

Leadership Program Development with Pathfinder Village in Edmeston, NY

  • Leadership Program Development with Pathfinder Village in Edmeston, N.Y.
    Pathfinder Village is a caring community offering independence to people living with Down Syndrome and developmental disabilities. Six Colgate volunteers participated in a five-day inclusive team-building program designed to build shared learning, mentoring, and coaching relationships between Pathfinder Village secondary students and college-age peers. Student volunteers are paired one on one with a resident for the duration of the week and each team works together on a variety of challenges. Activities include a ropes course, hike, cooking competitions, and planning a St. Patrick’s Day event for other residents. The goals of this trip are to build relationships with Pathfinder staff and residents while providing the organization with valuable service that will impact the lives of participants for years to come.

The deep immersion experiences described above are significant to students in terms of their ability to make meaning of what they learn in the classroom through direct application. Students have the opportunity to reflect on their personal values and ethics through the lens of often difficult experiences, leading to profound questions and conclusions.

Common Good Network enriches career options

By Contributing Writer on September 8, 2018

Joining with Alumni Affairs, Career Services and Institutional Advancement, the Common Good Professional Network continues to grow and offer many networking and development opportunities for students and alumni. Two key initiatives saw great success again this year.

Be the Change Weekend
We welcomed eight alumni back to campus for our third annual Be the Change: Careers for the Common Good Symposium. The symposium focused on building alumni-student relationships and advancing careers in the common good sector, which includes nonprofits, education, government, and other enterprises for social good. Students learned a great deal from and were inspired by the alumni in attendance, who included:

  • Chrissy Hart ’05, policy specialist at UN Women
  • Luis Matos ’78, director for the Center Against Domestic Violence
  • Hayley Smith ’08, previously advocacy and policy council attorney at ACLU
  • Nicol Turner-Lee ’00, fellow at Brookings Institution
  • Nicole Murley ’01, trial attorney, Office of Immigration Litigation, District Court Section at U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division
  • Steve Bosak ’90, sustainability consultant at Tenworth Advisors
  • Robert Dewey ’83, vice President for governmental relations at Defenders of Wildlife
  • Amanda Griffiths ’13, events and office coordinator for a nonprofit called Climate Action Business Association

The weekend kicked off with an invite only dinner on Saturday night where 25 student leaders and the alumni had a chance to have small scale conversations.On Sunday morning, more than 60 students filled Merrill House to hear Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee ’00, fellow at the Brookings Institution, speak about her work on public policy designed to enable equitable access to technology across the United States and harnessing its power to create change in communities across the world. Following the keynote, more than 60 students participated in two alumni panels, one focused on human rights careers and one focused on environmental sustainability career paths. Overall, students came away inspired to live an intentional life of impact no matter what path that takes.

New York City nonprofit student immersion trip
Last November, 15 students visited four nonprofit organizations with Colgate ties; CCS Fundraising, NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Robin Hood Foundation, and Uncommon Schools.

The opportunity to meet with alumni in varied positions across organizations doing impactful work helped to clarify what paths exist and how to navigate a common good career. Students gained insight into fundraising, grant making, program development, public housing and youth development and education programs. Each alumnus was eager to tell their story and offer contacts and mentorship to students who took their break week to think about a nonprofit career.

At the end of the day meeting with inspiring alumni, students were joined by more than 30 other alumni working in the Common Good sector across the city at a reception at the Cornell Club, where they had the opportunity to network and ask questions about their own career aspirations from those that have navigated the field. Overall, students found that real and exciting possibilities exist to put their Colgate education to work building a more just world.

CORE Caribbean travels to Puerto Rico for service and learning

By Contributing Writer on September 7, 2018

COVE students in Puerto Rico in front of a signIn May, Colgate community members traveled to Puerto Rico for a week devoted to hurricane relief. The group performed service work at Plenitud, a nonprofit educational farm and learning center located in the mountains of western Puerto Rico near a town called Las Marias. Associate Professor of English and Africana and Latin American Studies Kezia Page and Andrew Fagon, executive director for risk management and legal affairs, led the group of 10 undergraduates, composed mostly of students enrolled in CORE Caribbean or Introduction to Caribbean Studies.

The 2017 hurricane season was one of the most destructive on record, and it left much of the Caribbean devastated. In late summer of last year, a concerned group of Colgate faculty and staff with ties to the Caribbean met to coordinate hurricane relief efforts.

“We were not alone in our desire to help; there were student-led initiatives as well as a program out of the Office of International Student Services,” said Page. The group met with Krista Saleet, director of the Max A. Shacknai Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education (COVE), and developed the idea of a service trip to Puerto Rico. Provost and Dean of the Faculty Tracey Hucks provided grant funding for the project.

Throughout their stay at Plenitud, the group learned about bioconstruction, permaculture and sustainable farming. “We planted, harvested, weeded, mulched, cleaned, and assisted in building,” Page said. “We also started a garden at a preschool in Las Marias.”

COVE students working in Puerto RicoUp and out of their tents at 6 a.m. every day, the team helped build earthbag structures, which are resilient to floods and hurricanes. Bags of soil or sand are layered on top of each other, reinforced with barbed wire, and then covered in adobe or concrete.

In the afternoon they gathered to enjoy cultural experiences such as African bomba, a traditional Puerto Rican form of call and response dancing, and share a meal of local cuisine. They took classes on ecology and enjoyed the natural environment. Saleet said it was “about paying honor to the community they were in.”

“The people we met, the work we did, and the journeys we took not only bonded us closer as a group, but also granted each of us a more intimate relationship with serving and helping others,” said Molly Adelman ’21. “The trip was truly remarkable in every facet.”

Hucks has arranged funding for two more service trips devoted to hurricane relief. Danny Barreto, assistant professor of LGBTQ studies, will lead the next group in May 2019.

Grants provide resources to support and enhance the work of social change agencies

By Contributing Writer on September 6, 2018

Students at the 100m radio telescope at Green Bank Radio Astronomy Observatory

The 100m radio telescope at Green Bank Radio Astronomy Observatory

In support of Colgate’s strategic plan, the Max A. Shacknai COVE announced the availability of new course development grants that promote civic education in the curriculum in 2014. These grants aim to provide faculty with the resources to offer students immediate opportunities to apply classroom learning to support or enhance the work of social change agencies.

Mike Loranty, associate professor of geography, was awarded the course development grant this year to support his Environmental Geography (GEOG 131) course. GEOG 131 is an introductory physical geography course focused on understanding the Earth as a system. The course examines atmospheric processes, hydrology, geomorphology, and biological dynamics on a global scale. Loranty partnered with Experience Learning, a nonprofit experiential education organization located in Circleville, W. Va., with two campuses: one at Spruce Knob (the highest point in West Virginia), and a second campus recently acquired near Sweetwater Farm. The trip included eight students. Jeff Bary, associate professor of astronomy and physics, joined the trip. Bary is a native of West Virginia and has a keen interest in Appalachian social and environmental issues.

Assembling the weather station at Sweetwater Farm

Assembling the weather station at Sweetwater Farm

At Spruce Knob, the group conducted aerial surveys of the property using drones, practiced map and compass skills to orienteer to the top of Spruce Knob, performed a stream survey, and went through a mile-long cave. At Sweetwater Farm, they helped with invasive species removal, planted a small garden, installed a weather station, and performed several forest surveys to help with a maple sugaring operation that is being developed there. They also explored the logging history of West Virginia and visited the nearby National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), where they saw a talk by Colgate alumnus Michael Lam ’11.

The drone mapping and orienteering activities provided students with hands-on experience relating to general cartography principles and technologies introduced early in the course. They also observed the elevational gradients in ecosystems on the way up Spruce Knob, and saw karst topography firsthand. The stream study connected to their study of hydrology and ecosystems health. One of their in-class assignments was to examine hydrology data from a US Geological Survey stream gauge, and they were able to visit the gauge where the data had come from on the Shaver’s Fork of the Cheat River. In class, Loranty also included new readings that described the logging history of West Virginia to help students understand how humans have shaped landscapes that we often consider pristine. The visit to Cass as well as the only two remaining tracts of old-growth forest in the state allowed students to see these effects firsthand.

Moving forward, Loranty would love to continue this trip, and hopefully build on it. He sees possibilities to expand it to include additional time to visit parts of the state where active resource extraction is occurring in order to highlight ongoing issues related to environmental and social justice. He and Bary have plans to attend the Appalachian Studies Conference next spring to learn more about regional issues and explore how they can build this into a more robust long-term partnership. Their hope is to expand this to be a modular trip capable of being linked with multiple courses.

Growing our long-term service learning initiative in Ecuador

By Contributing Writer on September 5, 2018

Cove Students working in EcuadorNow in our second year of a partnership with the Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs, we have sent three groups of students to the Tandana Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Ecuador. This year’s trips occurred in January and May and were funded by a combination of COVE, Lampert, and Karelsie Foundation grant money.

In January 2018, a group of 10 Colgate students and two co-directors, Danny Barreto (LGBTQ Studies) and his partner Paul Humphrey, a professor of Spanish at Monmouth University and specialist on Afro-Latin American religions, participated in a two-week service-learning trip to Otavalo, Ecuador. They stayed in the small, agrarian community of Muenala, approximately an hour outside of the city. The theme of the trip, in keeping with wider campus programming for 2017–18, was “Spiritual Ecologies,” which allowed for learning about the ways in which sustainability, foodways, and traditional spiritual beliefs are mutually informed in this community. They also supported the community of Muenala in renovating and expanding their casa comunal (community center), of which there is increased use since the recent closing of the local school.

Barreto wrote of the experience, “In Muenala, the group worked alongside community members towards the completion of their building project. We were delegated the less-skilled tasks of shoveling, mixing cement, filling potholes, and moving supplies. The most important part of this project was working in a traditional organization known as a minga, in which communities work in shifts on a project of communal importance. This afforded us time with community members beyond the host families that students stayed with, and allowed for sustained collaboration and conversation over the two weeks.

Cove Students working in Ecuador“On most afternoons, the organizers from Tandana had prepared a series of cultural events closely related with the theme of our trip. Within the first couple of days of arrival in Muenala, we were offered a physical and spiritual cleansing to welcome us to the sacred land, which was performed by a traditional healer who explained a number of local customs. Later in the trip, we were taken to Pakarinka, a cultural collective dedicated to the preservation of local Kichwa customs, where we were informed about local farming habits, herbal medicines grown on the property and participated in spiritual and medical rituals, such as diagnosing and healing ills using plants, eggs, and guinea pigs. While there, we prepared and ate a meal cooked in the ground using hot volcanic rocks, a tradition known as pachamanka, which is usually reserved for the four major holidays in Kichwa culture that coincide with the equinoxes and solstices. Midway between these two visits, we were given a class in the Kichwa language as well as Kichwa cosmovisión or worldview. After each of these and other events, there was time for reflection led by the co-directors and Tandana staff. Importantly, the structure of the program allowed for continued learning and increasingly complex conversations about the interactions between spirituality and ecology, both in Highland Ecuador and other areas of the world with which the students were familiar.

“Colgate hired a local director and photographer, Alberto Muenala, to serve as a photographer on the work site for two days. On one of those evenings, we arranged a screening of Killa, the first Kichwa-language film, for the students and community at the casa comunal, which allowed us to share our experiences and perspectives with the community. Their excitement upon seeing their culture and language represented positively on screen, as well as their comments on the usual racist stereotypes of Kichwa people and culture that circulate in Ecuador, were useful for helping students understand the film, and confirmed for us that hiring a local photographer was the appropriate thing to do. While we inevitably learned so much from them when compared with the little labor we could give, this time with the community allowed for more equitable and meaningful mutual exchange that is key to successful service-learning experiences.

“Not only did this trip allow the students to form deep relations with the community of Muenala and staff of Tandana, it also allowed them to form a close community with each other. The 10 students were drawn from a range of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, class years, and majors. This experience allowed them to not only challenge stereotypes about service learning, indigenous communities, and rural societies, but also about each other, which led to interesting conversations about the nature of community on campus and how we might reimagine social relations at home. In addition to these new insights, leaving the classroom and engaging in this service-learning trip allowed us to think in innovative and complex ways about how knowledge is created and transmitted, the relationship between place and identity, and who gets to create and impart knowledge. Given the conversations and reflections during those two weeks, there is clear reason to believe this experience will have an ongoing impact on the students’ coursework, career paths and social relationships during their remaining time at Colgate and beyond.

“The next trip is occurring as I write this and is being led by Cory Duclos, director of the Keck Language Center and Pilar Mejía-Barrera, senior lecturer in Spanish. The current trip’s theme is Agency, Movements and Identities in Otavalo, Ecuador. Nine students are participating. We look forward to a long, positive partnership in Otavalo.”