Nonprofit directors and members of municipal agencies spoke Thursday about how Colgate’s Upstate Institute has made significant, long-lasting contributions that have benefited their groups and the upstate region.
The institute is a powerful focal point for resources at a time when many groups are squeezed by funding cutbacks, said Patricia Hoffman, executive director of the nonprofit organization that runs the Oneida Community Mansion House, a multipurpose National Historic Landmark.
Hoffman, other community leaders, and students who have taken part in the institute’s Upstate Field School shared their experiences during a gathering at the Colgate Inn, where they were able to meet new Colgate president Jeffrey Herbst.
Herbst said the university’s relationship to the region is “extraordinarily important,” and the institute provides not only critical resources to the area but also community service and research opportunities for students that are key ingredients of a liberal arts education.
Michael Palmer ’10 talked about how he used information culled from his geography, computer science, geology, and chemistry courses to develop a spatial analysis for natural gas drilling in Madison County.
“I had to draw from all those areas to dive into this project with a fast learning curve,” he said.
Palmer spent his 10-week fellowship with the Madison County Planning and Development Department, and was asked to present his research at two conferences.
Greg Owens, senior forester with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said two projects led by Upstate Institute students have had a lasting impact for his regional office in Sherburne.
Tara LaLonde ’06 worked on a project examining land use and reforestation in southern areas of Madison County. She scanned historic aerial photos and used sophisticated GIS software to create a digital library that foresters use today.
John Demler ’08 crafted management guidelines for historic sites in the county that the DEC uses on a daily basis, said Owens.
Arpitha Peteru ’10 hopes the project she conducted for Utica’s Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees was as beneficial to the center as it was to her.
She conducted qualitative research in an attempt to ascertain the refugees’ satisfaction with the center’s services.
The focus groups provided important feedback to the center, but also provided important lessons for Peteru about cultural rights as she got to hear about real-life issues refugees face every day.
“This experience took what was a thesis subject for me and put it in real terms,” she said.