On October 25, 2019, the Upstate Institute hosted a gathering of community leaders and entrepreneurs to focus on rural economic development in the southern part of Madison County and the northern part of Chenango County.
The Collaboration, Cooperation and Community for Commerce was designed to create concrete plans for business development, and featured three panels focused on cooperation in workforce development, collaboration in financing, and community branding and marketing.
Sponsored by John Golden ’66, a former chair of the Colgate University Board of Trustees, participants shared stories of rural development models from other areas of the state and talked about local enterprise success stories. A graphic facilitator produced artwork highlighting key findings and ideas developed during the full-day event.
The Upstate Institute partnered with Hamilton College to bring author Kenneth E. Hartman to Colgate on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. Hartman served 38 years of a life without the possibility of parole sentence in the California State prison system before being released in 2017. Hartman discussed his time in prison to a full audience in Persson Auditorium, and described his activism in working to abolish the sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP). LWOP is effectively, in Hartman’s words, “the other death penalty” sentence, without any of the legal or administrative safeguards rightly awarded to those condemned to the traditional forms of execution. LWOP exposes our society’s concealed beliefs that redemption and personal transformation are not possible for all human beings, and that it is reasonable and just to forever define an individual by his worst act. Life without the possibility of parole is wrong and should be abolished.
Hartman also discussed the importance of including prisoner voices in the prison reform process. Hartman argued that many of the ideas surrounding prison reform inevitably fail because they come out of a fundamental misunderstanding of the realities of prison. In his experience, prisoners are barred from participating in the conception and management of almost all prison programs, even though their voices have the ability to inform the conversation about reform in unique ways.
Hartman is the author of the award-winning memoir “Mother California: A Story of Redemption Behind Bars.” He has been published in Harper’s magazine, the New York Times, and in numerous other magazines and newspapers, mostly writing about the experience of serving time in prison. Ken is also the founder of The Other Death Penalty Project, works for a nonprofit that helps reentering formerly incarcerated people find housing, and is actively involved in the broad struggle to reform the criminal justice system. Since his release from prison, Ken has spoken at colleges and universities, moderated panels at criminal justice conventions, completed an internationally accredited Life Coach program, and continued to write. He now lives in the Los Angeles area.
This event was presented in partnership with Hamilton College and the Mohawk Consortium College in Prison program, and sponsored by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, CORE 152 and Peace and Conflict Studies.
Submitted by Elaina Alzaibak, ’20, one of thirty students doing community based research this summer for the Upstate Institute Summer Field School
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County (CCE) through the Colgate Upstate Institute Summer Field School. CCE focuses on economic, environmental, and social development in Madison County using both local experience and research based knowledge to help all people succeed in the future. Founded in 1914 through the Smith Lever Act, cooperative extension offices across the country became a link between the USDA and land grant institutions such as Cornell University in order to aid agricultural communities. Today, the Madison County office, located in Morrisville, still provides agricultural education and economic development programs as well as resources for families such as rural health and 4H programing.
CCE of Madison County serves a diverse community. The
resources they provide are critical to connecting community members to
important research that may otherwise be inaccessible. Educators must be able
to provide resources to the community that are informative, yet easy to use. Educators
must also be flexible and adapt to the needs of the community to tackle the
many issues facing rural populations, specifically farmers. For the social and economic stability of the
county, organizations like CCE are critical to maintaining farmer livelihoods
and engaging families.
In my internship, I was responsible for creating a
climate adaptation workbook for dairy farmers that is user-friendly and
practical. Using a multitude of existing sources for climate smart farming, my
goal was to create a document that is short yet contains a wide array of practical
strategies for adapting to current and future climate challenges. This makes
important information on climate adaptation more accessible to farmers who may
not have time for a lengthier document or one that does not provide clear
solutions. Additionally, the strategies provided in the workbook are critical
steps in protecting farmers’ profitability, production outputs, and
livelihoods. Current and future climate conditions pose a serious threat to
farmers such as pest and disease pressure, heat stress in livestock, or
decreased soil health. CCE’s mission to connect farmers to research and
strategies can help overcome these challenges specifically through resources
like the workbook. I hope that over the course of the summer I was able to use
my own knowledge of climate change to assist farmers in understanding the
challenges they face and the threat to their livelihood, as I have learned so
much from farmers and educators at CCE about the Madison County community.
At Colgate, I am majoring in biology and am working
towards being a large animal veterinarian. I have learned about climate change,
and the importance for human systems such as agriculture to adapt to and
mitigate climate change. The Summer Field School provided an opportunity to
work in a rural community to help bring about change in a meaningful and
collaborative way. As a large animal veterinarian, I hope to focus on One
Health, or the idea that people, animals, and the environment are
interconnected, in order to best inform my practice and help communities. I
will be positioned to help farmers not only maintain the medical care of their
animals, but also suggest ways in which they can improve their practices for
better animal and environmental health. This internship taught me about working
collaboratively with community members such as famers and regional educators as
well as about effective outreach methods so research can be better utilized in
the community. I will carry the heart of the CCE mission beyond my internship
as success of our farmers and rural communities in a healthy environment are
essential for the future.
Submitted by Taylor Dumas ’20, one of 30 students doing community-based research this summer as a Fellow in the Upstate Institute Summer Field School.
This summer I have worked as a video editing intern at Mountain Lake PBS. Based in Plattsburgh, New York, Mountain Lake PBS services an audience of over 4 million in New York, Vermont, Quebec and Ontario with high-quality digital media content in pursuit of its mission to “inspire and enrich people and communities through meaningful storytelling, entertainment, education and public engagement.” They do so through the production of The Mountain Lake Journal, the station’s weekly newscast, and through well-respected documentaries such as ARTS IN EXILE: Tibetan Treasures in Small Town America and ON HOME GROUND: Life after Service. Although the station has a reach spanning across a wide area, its primary audience is composed of those living in what is referred to as the North Country region of New York.
Since 2018, the
production team at Mountain Lake PBS has been working on a documentary about
racism in the North Country. Through the Upstate Institute, I was afforded the
opportunity to work directly with Associate Producer Michael Hansen, who, in
addition to spearheading this documentary, recently won a New England Regional
Emmy for his piece A Vietnam Vet’s Love of Photography.
Thematically, this documentary covers a wide range of topics including local
and national histories of race relations and racism, personal experiences of
racism, the U.S. prison system, and the relationship between race and space.
The goal of this documentary is to dispel notions that racism is a thing of the
past and to shed light on its persistence in our own backyards. To do so, the
documentary contrasts the beauty of the Adirondacks with the ugliness of the
racism that remains present in many facets.
Since the start of
production, Mr. Hansen has conducted over a dozen multi-hour interviews with historians,
artists, activists, and students who have studied or personally experienced
racism in the Adirondacks. Given the scale of this project, a great deal of
work is needed to transform the hours of interview footage and b-roll into a
polished and compelling documentary. As such, the task that occupied the
majority of my time at Mountain Lake PBS was to edit these interviews and
combine the multitude of individual voices into captivating thematic sections.
In order to complete my editing duties, I learned Adobe Premiere Pro, a
nonlinear video editing program that is used by many professional filmmakers.
While occasionally receiving guidance and feedback on my work, I was granted a
considerable amount of freedom to make creative decisions in regards to the
content and style of my edits. This freedom allowed me a great deal of room to
improve my skills as an editor while simultaneously building my confidence as a
storyteller. In addition to editing, I was able to gain invaluable experience
in the various aspects of the production process by going on shoots, conducting
interviews, operating professional video cameras, and learning technical skills
such as how to light a subject.
Furthermore, I was able to connect with people working across numerous
departments, including production, marketing, and underwriting.
As a Peace and Conflict
Studies major and an intended Film and Media and African Studies double-minor,
working on this documentary amalgamated my interests in ways I could not have
conceived. Coming into this summer, it was my hope to gain professional work
experience in video production and to figure out if this is a path that I would
like to pursue after graduation. Since taking a TV production class in high
school, media production has always been something that I enjoy as a hobby but
never truly considered it as a viable career path. However, my time at Mountain
Lake PBS has shown me the range of possibilities within this field, but also
helped me develop some of the skills that will be integral to my success in
this field in the immediate future.
I am very fortunate for
this to have been my second time working as a Field School Fellow. Working as a
Fellow at the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (MVRCR) in Utica, NY
during the summer of 2017 exposed me to the beauty of the Upstate region and to
the important work being done by nonprofits like the MVRCR. After learning
about the opportunity to again serve as a Field School Fellow in the
Adirondacks with Mountain Lake PBS, I knew I could not pass up the chance.
Thanks to the Upstate Institute, I have been able to do meaningful work with
two not-for-profit community organizations that I had not even known existed.
Not only have these two experiences increased my connection to the Upstate
region, but it has also taught me that one does not need to look far in order
to make a difference. I will be forever grateful for the experiences and
memories that I have gained through this fellowship!
Submitted by Victoria Rykaczewski ’20, one of 30 students doing community-based research this summer as a Fellow in the Upstate Institute Summer Field School.
In an increasingly complex and data driven world, information collection and distribution is often one of the most powerful tools health workers have to address community health issues. As a fellow with the Upstate Institute at the Madison County Department of Health (MCDOH), I had the opportunity to work with the Prevent team and their community partners to collect and disseminate health information to improve community health outcomes within Madison County. While most people probably know what their local health department does, they probably don’t know how. But during my time at the Madison County Department of Health, I learned first hand how local health departments turn state and federal law into action that makes a real difference in the lives of the people they serve. Often through collaboration with a wide variety of community partners, one of the most important tasks assigned to a local Health Department is to collect health and population data and then use that information, along with the latest medical research and state and federal guidelines, to communicate a clear and concise message to the public. This summer, I am working on three different projects that each illustrate the different ways that public health workers use information to effect change within their community by gathering data from community members and key stakeholders, administering public information campaigns, and keeping providers up-to-date on recent changes to laws and medical research.
they can even begin their work, public health workers need to have a strong
sense of the issues that are facing their community. One of the most important
tools local health departments use to gather this data is the Community Health
Assessment. A Community Health Assessment (CHA) is a highly collaborative
process designed to bring together community stakeholders, health networks,
providers, public officials, non-profit organizations, and everyday citizens,
to evaluate the state of health within their community. This information is
then used to create a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), designed to
leverage the community’s strengths to better address ongoing health challenges.
This summer, MCDOH conducted a county wide phone survey and several focus
groups with community members to hear directly from Madison County residents. I
was responsible for creating all materials necessary for the focus groups
including the discussion guide, question line, and facilitator training, at the
direction of the Madison County CHA steering committee. I will also be
facilitating a focus group within my own community in Hamilton, NY, and help
compile and analyze the resulting data.
Gathering data, however, is only the first step for the Madison County Department of Health. Once they have identified a problem, they then need to leverage the information, medical research, and state policies in order to solve it. Often this means reaching out to the public directly through public information campaigns, like the lead poisoning prevention program that I helped update this summer. Children need to be tested for lead in their blood at age 1 and 2 to screen for blood lead poisoning because lead poisoning, especially in young children, can lead to permanent health and developmental problems including stunted growth and impaired cognitive abilities. However, it can sometimes be difficult for parents to take their young children to get their blood drawn. Often the experience can be traumatic for both the child and parent, and it can be even more difficult for families that don’t have access to reliable transportation or an unpredictable work schedule. This summer, I worked to identify some of the barriers that prevent parents from taking their child to get tested and then address them. This included reaching out to local blood draw locations to inquire about making their facilities “child-friendly” and helping lab technicians get trained in pediatric phlebotomy. I also created new materials that speak to parent’s fears, help them prepare for the challenges of taking a toddler to get blood drawn, and remind them to get their child tested at age 1 and 2.
As a student at Colgate University studying Political Science and Biochemistry I have devoted my time to learning more about public health and healthcare policy. This summer at the Madison County Department of Health has provided me with tremendous insight into how public health law gets translated into action. One of my favorite projects this summer involved updating the Department of Health’s internal lead policies to adhere to the recent changes to regulations surrounding childhood lead poisoning passed by the New York State legislature. After spending all of my time in school studying abstract theories of law and governance, it never occurred to me to wonder about how these laws turn into real world action. But now, after this hands-on experience at my local health department, I am more knowledgeable about the public policy process and I am better prepared for the day when I too can change our laws for the better.
Submitted by Abigail Kelly ’21, one of 30 students doing community-based research this summer as a Fellow in the Upstate Institute Summer Field School
This summer, I had the opportunity to work with
BRiDGES, the Madison County Council on Alcoholism & Substance Abuse through
the Upstate Institute Summer Field School. BRiDGES is a nonprofit organization
that focuses on providing services to people struggling with substance use and
inspiring change and hope in the community. Within BRiDGES, there are several
different programs that target different aspects and forms of substance use.
These programs include Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities (ATFC), Stop DWI, the
Employee Assistance Program, an LGBTQIA youth program, and more. The all-female
staff who work for BRiDGES are all passionate about the work they do and all
work together to move their programs forward in the best interest of the
populations they collectively serve. BRiDGES has been serving Madison County
for 32 years and continues to garner respect in the community.
One of the newer programs at BRiDGES is the
Central Region Addiction Resource Center (CRARC). The CRARC, run by Lauren
Davie, is part of a state-wide program of regional addiction resource centers
funded and monitored by the NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse
Services (OASAS). The central region includes five counties: Onondaga, Cayuga,
Madison, Oswego, and Cortland. The CRARC serves these counties by helping
people who may be struggling to find and connect with regional addiction
services. The efforts of the CRARC include community Narcan training, tabling
at local events, a comprehensive app listing local addiction resources and
more. These efforts rely heavily on connections and collaboration with other
regional leaders. BRiDGES as a whole is in constant contact and collaboration
with other organizations within and outside Madison County. The women who work
for BRiDGES serve on multiple coalitions, attend local nonprofit meetings, and
are involved with county-wide task forces. Due to the small size of the
organization, collaborating allows the scope of BRiDGES’ efforts to multiply
and extend beyond the capacity of the actual employees. Serving a rural area in
terms of public health invites challenges that are different than the
challenges faced in urban areas. Community attitudes are often resistant to
change and thus creating positive change in a rural community is difficult and
takes substantial time and effort. Efforts to unify community leaders through
coalitions and task forces are invaluable in rural public health.
For my specific project this summer, I worked on
conducting a needs assessment in an effort to prepare BRiDGES for applying for
a new grant this year. The new grant targets rural populations, providing
funding for these communities to increase their prevention, treatment, and
recovery services for opioid addiction. I worked through the grant and
determined which of their recommended “core activities” Madison County has and
which areas are lacking. I am now in the process of creating surveys for
service providers in the county to determine which activities they’re actually
doing as well as to get a pulse on provider attitudes and beliefs surrounding
opioid addiction. In addition to the needs assessment project, I am working
with Lauren and the CRARC creating marketing content for community events and
doing research for a harm reduction conference that we are planning for the
fall. Hopefully, this conference will bring together regional providers and
help facilitate the chipping away of the stigma surrounding people who suffer
from Opioid Use Disorder.
As a neuroscience major with an art minor, I love
the classes I take but I’ve struggled to put my finger on what I’m interested
in doing in the future. This spring, I applied to the Upstate Institute summer
field school program because I knew I was at least mildly interested in public
health and I thought that getting some real-world experience would help me
decide if I want to be doing something like this in the future. While I still
don’t know for sure if I want to be working at a job like this, I do know that
working with BRiDGES has been leagues more valuable for me than I ever thought
it would. Stepping outside the Colgate bubble and taking a moment to learn about
the struggles of the community in which I (temporarily) live has been
incredibly powerful. I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to
give back to the community that is hosting me for my 4 years in college. I will
be staying on as an employee of BRiDGES for the fall semester (and beyond!),
and I cannot wait to continue to learn, grow, and give back with this
Submitted by Dipesh Khati ’22, one of 30 students doing community-based research this summer as a Fellow in the Upstate Institute Summer Field School
This summer I worked with the Partnership for Community Development (PCD). the PCD is a not for profit organization that supports the economic and social development of Hamilton area. It was formally established on June 2, 1999. The mission of the organization is to create Hamilton as an economic, cultural, social and academic hub in Central New York. The PCD has been carrying out a number of activities to foster the local economy and improve the quality of life in the Hamilton area. They have received a number of grants to support local businesses. Fojo Beans, Ray Brothers, Zen Den Inc, Kriemhild Dairy Farms, and Good Nature Brewery are some of the local business that have received aid through the Hamilton PCD. Through these grants, the PCD has been revitalizing business in the Downtown Business District. Moreover, Hamilton PCD is also working on housing management to provide access to affordable and quality housing to the people of Hamilton area. My project was to help with the community incubator project, conducting surveys and researching the ways to make Hamilton Village Farmers’ Market experience better for both customers and vendors, and to research the programs PCD Community Incubator could organize to support entrepreneurs in and around Hamilton.
As I worked through the summer, I got to learn more about Partnership for Community Development (PCD). The Hamilton PCD has been working on a number of issues to help the Hamilton village and the surrounding communities. PCD has been working to start a community incubator in partnership with the Colgate Thought Into Action (TIA). The PCD has received a $625,000 grant to fund the business incubator for next five years. They have also been working to make Hamilton a carbon neutral, community driven model community by 2030. Furthermore, they have been working to provide affordable and qualitative housing to Hamiltonians. The Hamilton PCD has also been helping the Hamilton Village Farmers Market by collecting surveys to better understand the state of the Market and by forming Friends of the Market committee to help the Farmers’ Market.
As the summer intern for PCD my job was to survey the customer and vendors of the Farmers Market in order to improve Farmers’ Market experience of both customer and vendors. I collected data about the market experience through survey and analyzed them. I submitted a list of recommendations based on the surveys to improve the Farmers’ Market experience. Also, I researched the different programs that the Hamilton PCD incubator could organize in their Community Incubator space in 20 Utica Street. I worked with PCD Incubator Director Mary Galvez to closely study sister incubator communities to determine a set of programs to fit our goal as a community incubator.
As a first-year student in Colgate University, I wanted to have a real-life experience of working in a community than doing a typical academic research. I wanted to figure out what aspects of working in a real-world circumstance that I liked and that I didn’t like. I hope to become clearer what I wanted to pursue as a career through the field school. Plus, working for the communities around the Hamilton looked really interesting! I am inclined towards Economics as my primary major and wanted to use its ideas. Although the work I did for PCD wasn’t always purely economics, it had many elements of the principles I learned in economics courses. The internship helped me understand the multi-faceted nature of opinions on a single topic and how to work and address them. It was also interesting to see how deeply law and social well-being was embedded in economy. All in all the field school was an amazing experience working with a magnificent organization and fantastic group of people.
Submitted by Aliyah De Jesus ’21, one of 30 students doing community-based research this summer as a Fellow in the Upstate Institute Summer Field School
This past summer, I was lucky
to have had the opportunity to work as an intern for the Abraham House in Utica.
Abraham House is a non-profit comfort home serving the Herkimer, Oneida, and
Madison counties of NY by providing a safe, loving home for terminally ill
guests and their families for as little as a few days to as long as three
months. With the core values of compassion, dignity, and respect present in everything
Abraham House does, it strives to deliver the end-of-life care and support its
guests need 24/7. Because humanity is at the heart of its mission, Abraham
House does not charge for services or receive insurance reimbursement, relying
solely on volunteers, donations, community grants, and fundraising.
Relying heavily on the local community
in its work, Abraham House turns to individuals, families, and local businesses
to find volunteers, collect donations, and raise funds. However, Abraham House
must first overcome the formidable barrier posed by a general lack of knowledge
concerning end-of-life care. It is through partnerships with local
establishments that Abraham House is able to maximize its presence and reach community
individuals, families, and businesses. This in turn works to educate the public
on end-of-life care and increase awareness that Abraham House exists as a
viable option for the terminally ill. With a much larger audience, Abraham
House can then appeal to the hearts of individuals, families, and local businesses
to attract the volunteers, collect the donations, and raise the funds it needs.
My project focused mainly on building
partnerships with local businesses, restaurants, churches, attractions, grocery
stores, gas stations, and convenience stores within the Madison, Herkimer, and
Oneida counties. Serving as a point of contact, I reached out to local
establishments to speak with them about housing Abraham House donation boxes. In
addition, I contacted businesses and attractions throughout NY (NYC, Utica,
Lake Placid, Rome, Lake George, Saratoga Springs, etc.) for raffle and auction
items for the golf tournament and gala fundraisers. I also solicited fundraiser
sponsorships from local businesses, emphasizing those in Utica and Rome (the communities
of Abraham House’s two facilities). Additionally, I reached out to local
churches to discuss features within their bulletins. Furthermore, I worked
volunteer days where community members and businesses helped to prepare the new
facility in Rome, NY for its opening. Finally, I spent a day on-site at the
local Chantary’s Hometown Market greeting and asking customers to donate items
or money. These mutually beneficial partnerships allow the partner to give back
to an important cause while Abraham House is able to tap into their partners’ customers
to widen its own pool of potential volunteers, donors, and fundraiser attendees.
Aside from working with local partners, I also utilized digital and social
media platforms to boost community awareness. For example, I created and
maintained a Facebook page for The Bird’s Nest Vintage Boutique (Abraham
House’s thrift store), created postings on Facebook Marketplace for store items,
and helped manage the Abraham House Facebook page. Moreover, I also contributed
writing to the seasonal newsletter.
molecular biology and women’s studies double major on a pre-med track, this
project has been a valuable opportunity for me to gain exposure into the
administrative side of healthcare I had not previously been exposed to. This
perfectly complements the experiences I had shadowing physicians, helping me gain
a more holistic view of healthcare and reinforcing my decision to pursue a
career in medicine. Additionally, Abraham House’s fully female three-member
office team fed my passion for female empowerment and interest in women’s
studies as well as inspired me daily. Though I was initially drawn to this
project for its focus on helping others, its promise to help me develop my
communication and interpersonal skills, and its assurance to challenge my
ability to be both self-directed and collaborative, it has far surpassed my
expectations. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to not only develop
my intellectual and professional interests, but to also leave behind a positive
and meaningful contribution to the larger community.
Submitted by Johanna Burke ’21, one of 30 students doing community-based research this summer as a Fellow in the Upstate Institute Summer Field School
This summer, I have had the pleasure of working with the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (MVRCR), with their Office for New Americans. MVRCR is a non-profit organization that serves Utica’s refugee community, which makes up almost a quarter of Utica’s population. MVRCR is a resettlement agency, meaning that it arranges refugees’ travels to the U.S. and helps them settle in Utica, but their assistance does not stop there. MVRCR also has traffic safety, employment, translation, and interpretation departments, offers assistance with immigration issues, and offers many classes and workshops to the community, including ESOL classes. The Office for New Americans provides assistance in applying for naturalization, citizenship classes to prepare refugees for the naturalization exam, free legal consultation, and community workshops and trainings. MVRCR works to help refugees settle in Utica and build meaningful lives in their new homes.
Since 1981, MVRCR has helped resettle over 16,500 refugees from over 25 different countries. Refugees often come to America with very few resources and limited English language skills, and MVRCR works to help refugees become successful despite these barriers, and thus far, they have been incredibly successful in this mission. Refugees have revitalized the City of Utica by increasing the population, starting new businesses, stimulating the housing market, and so much more. Like most rust belt cities, Utica suffered a sharp population decline after the 1980s, but refugees are helping to bring this population back up. This population increase rejuvenates neighborhoods that had become desolate by bringing money back into the housing market and local economy. Refugees are also more likely than U.S. born citizens to start a business, which benefits the economy and creates jobs. Refugees have turned a declining city into a growing hub of diversity, but it is important to note that the heart of MVRCR’s mission is to help individuals who have been torn away from their homes to find a new home in Utica, and these economic outcomes are simply an added bonus.
Over the course of the summer, I have mainly worked with the Office for New Americans. In the Office for New Americans I have assisted with citizenship classes, community educational events, and community outreach. My main project has been to research the ways in which the citizenship class that MVRCR offers could be improved. In today’s political climate, it is especially important for refugees to apply for citizenship as soon as possible. However, the civics exam and interview requires applicants to have a basic understanding of how to read, write, and speak English, and also an understanding of the history of the United States and its government. Therefore, most of my research was centered around the best practices for teaching adults ESOL. The other interns and I also helped with preparing for World Refugee Day in the beginning of the summer, which was a large event on June 22nd that celebrated the refugees in Utica. We went all over Utica to hang up posters in different languages to advertise for the event, and it was interesting to explore the area and see the diverse businesses, restaurants, community centers and churches that are run and supported by Utica’s refugee community.
I eventually want to go into nonprofit work, and I knew that working as a Field School Fellow for the Upstate Institute this summer would be an excellent way to gain experience in that field and learn more about it. I am from Upstate New York, and I love that this program has given me the opportunity to use what I have learned from Colgate to give back to the community. As a political science major, there have been many policies that I had learned about in class that I have gotten to see the ground-level effects of from working at MVRCR, and that has been incredibly interesting. I think Colgate can sometimes be a bubble within Upstate New York, and the Upstate Institute does an excellent job of bridging the gap between Colgate and the outside community.
Submitted by Christine Le ’19, one of 30 students doing community-based research this summer as a Fellow in the Upstate Institute Summer Field School
summer, I am one of the Field School fellows at the Mohawk Valley Center for
Refugee Resources (MVRCR) in Utica. The MVRCR is a not-for-profit corporation
that provides services for refugees and immigrants in Central New York. Newly
arrived refugees are provided airport pickups, housing, culturally appropriate
meals, health screenings, cultural orientation, and comprehensive case
managements. Beyond addressing the most urgent needs, the MVRCR provides other
services, such as: interpretation and translation, citizenship counseling,
cultural competency training, English classes for non-native speakers,
employment consulting, etc. Over 38 years of existence, the MVRCR has resettled
over 16,000 refugees from 34 different countries, and provided instrumental
support for many more immigrants and Limited English Proficient individuals
throughout the integration process into the local community.
project involves developing a database on the secondary migrants seeking
services at the MVRCR. Secondary migrants are refugees who originally resettle
in one state and subsequently move to another state for various reasons. They
qualify for and seek many services at the MVRCR. Yet there has not been an
efficient way to keep track of their demographics, service outcomes, and other population-specific
information that will help the MVRCR assess its current performance and identify
enhanced cultural orientation topics for more targeted services. My project
aims to tackle this problem.
valuable guidance from the MVRCR staff, I was able to revise the existing data
intake process into one that can be applied across different departments of the
agency. I also communicated with other refugee resettlement agencies to learn
about their data management systems, in search of an optimal solution for the
MVRCR. By the end of the summer, I hope to utilize the data I gathered to assess
the agency’s strengths and weaknesses vis à vis its secondary migrant clients, thereby making future recommendations.
Ultimately, with better services provided at the MVRCR, my project will
potentially contribute to Utica’s effort at rejuvenating its Rust Belt economy,
by attracting a vibrantly multicultural population as its new workforce.
just graduated from Colgate with a double degree in Economics and International
Relations, I am thrilled about the opportunity to combine my quantitative
training with my interest in issues of human rights and refugee policies – a
perfect continuation of both my majors in my first post-grad “real world”
experience. Daily interactions with the inner workings of the MVRCR have given
me a new, micro-level perspective on the treatment of refugees and immigrants,
which complements the knowledge from my classes that tend to involve broader
discussions on general themes surrounding the refugee crisis. I am also
learning to analyze issues through the lens of a service provider, focusing on
the needs of the refugees, the agency, and the community – rather than that of
a detached (wannabe) scholar. Most importantly, I am thankful for the chance to
leave behind a contribution – no matter how small – to the community around me,
beyond the scope of the Colgate campus, before I venture onto the next chapter
of my life.