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Elaina Alzaibak ’20 develops workbook for dairy farmers dealing with climate change

By Upstate Institute on September 10, 2019

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.

Taylor Dumas ‘20 edits interviews to create documentary on racism

By Upstate Institute on September 9, 2019

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.

Taylor Dumas at the offices of Mountain Lake PBS this summer.

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!

Victoria Rykaczewski ‘20 collects and disseminates health information to make Madison County healthier

By Upstate Institute on September 5, 2019

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.

Victoria spent the summer working with the Madison County Department of Health in Wampsville, New York

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.

Before 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.

Abigail Kelly ’21 assesses opioid use in Madison County

By Upstate Institute on August 3, 2019

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

Abigail Kelly ’21 at the office of BRiDGES, the Madison County Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse

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 incredible agency.

Dipesh Khati ’22 conducts surveys on the Hamilton Farmers Market

By Upstate Institute on August 2, 2019

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

Dipesh Khati ’22 in front of the Hamilton office of the Partnership for Community Development.

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.

Aliyah De Jesus ’21 builds community partnerships for Abraham House in Utica

By Upstate Institute on August 1, 2019

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

Aliyah De Jesus stands in front of a table at the Abraham House in Utica
Aliyah De Jesus at the Abraham House facility in Utica, New York

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.

As a 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.

Johanna Burke ’21 researches citizenship for the Office of New Americans

By Upstate Institute on August 1, 2019
Johanna Burke stands in front of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees
Johanna Burke ’21 at the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees office in Utica, NY

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.

Christine Le ’19 collects data on secondary migration in Utica

By Upstate Institute on July 25, 2019

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

Christine Le ’19 at the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees in Utica

This 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.

My summer 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.

With 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.

Having 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.

Emmy Ritchey ’20 spends second summer working with Utica refugee community

By Upstate Institute on July 25, 2019

Submitted by Emmy Ritchey ’20, one of 30 students doing community-based research this summer as a Fellow in the Upstate Institute Summer Field School

Emmy Ritchey ’20 at the Utica office of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees

This summer, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (MVRCR). MVRCR serves refugees, immigrants, and limited English speakers living in the Mohawk Valley region. Based in Utica, New York, MVRCR strives to help refugees integrate and eventually become self-sufficient and provide a welcoming, supportive community for them. MVRCR provides many services to the community: resettlement, traffic safety, job placement, entrepreneurship, translation, interpretation, ESL classes, and citizenship classes. My project focuses on the Welcome Center, a new program that will provide refugees with entrepreneurship development tools.

    Last summer, I was a Field School Fellow at the Midtown Utica Community Center (MUCC), which serves as a gathering space for the refugee community. I enjoyed my time learning about the refugee community of Utica in that capacity that I chose to work at MVRCR this summer to learn more about the services provided to the refugee community. Coming into this position, I had background knowledge of the refugee community, but I have learned so much about what MVRCR provides that helps the refugee community with what they need. This summer, I have had the opportunity to go out into the community and explore Utica. I feel like I have a much better understanding of the community that MVRCR serves after visiting refugee-run businesses and local faith-based organizations while postering for different MVRCR events.

    My main project is focused on the Welcome Center. The Welcome Center is a new initiative that aims to provide refugees with the necessary resources to start their businesses. There are significant barriers for refugees trying to gain traditional American employment. Many have skills and qualifications from their native countries, but those certifications do not necessarily transfer once they arrive in the United States. Entrepreneurship gives refugees an empowering chance to be their own boss and have control over their work. Statistics show that refugees and immigrants are more likely to start businesses than U.S.-born citizens. Entrepreneurship seems to be a valuable option to help refugees move forward. My research consisted of finding refugee-based entrepreneurship programs within the United States and worldwide and examining what made them work. I am currently in the process of planning a business round table. Invitations will be extended to local refugee-and-immigrant-owned businesses. The round table’s goal is to find out how these entrepreneurs started their businesses and what sort of resources they wish had been available at the start or should be available now.

    Other than working on the entrepreneurship program, I’ve also created social media campaigns for MVRCR’s World Refugee Day and Match Grant Program. My campaigns have received great responses from the community, and I am very pleased to see that my first attempts at creating social media content were successful. I have also spent time developing new success stories for MVRCR’s website. I have developed questions and conducted interviews, which I have written up for featuring on their website.

    I am an English major with an emphasis in creative writing, and my work at MVRCR has been writing heavy. Instead of writing fiction and essays, I focused my writing to advertise events and to inform readers in profiles of successful refugees; I feel like this has broadened my ability as a writer. I also enjoyed seeing another side of the Utica refugee community and have learned so much about the many moving pieces that go into helping the refugee community thrive. Last summer, I enjoyed being a Field School Fellow, and I could not be happier with my decision to come back and learn more about and help the communities that are in the surrounding area of Colgate.

Jared Collins ’21 researches loon populations in the Adirondacks

By Upstate Institute on July 24, 2019

Submitted by Jared Collins ’21, one of 30 students doing community-based research this summer as a Fellow in the Upstate Institute Summer Field School

Jared Collins in a yellow kayak on an Adirondack lake
Jared Collins ’21 is spending a lot of time on the water in the Adirondacks this summer as he collects data on loon rafts with the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation

This summer, I am conducting research for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation in Saranac Lake as part of the Upstate Institute’s Adirondack Fellows Program. As its name implies, this nonprofit organization strives to maintain and improve local loon populations by running research, capturing and tagging loons, and answering calls to aid injured loons.

My research focuses on designing a survey to generate a database of information on loon nest rafts. Loon nest rafts are human-made platforms used to provide a stable nesting area in lakes or ponds that are otherwise unsuitable. I am also determining which style of raft yields the best results for loon nesting and survival. As a biology major and environmental studies minor, I am gaining important insight on field work — insight that only comes from being in an organization like this.

While here, I am participating in many of the other activities the organization offers. Once a week, I kayak in a nearby lake and monitor the loons that live there, allowing me to learn more about their behavior and conduct field work. Later in the summer, I will help capture unbanded loons and work at community outreach events.

Perhaps the most valuable part of my experience is seeing how selfless people are in their conservation efforts. Staff members go out of their way to protect loons, while visitors and residents of Saranac Lake enjoy learning about these birds and support the organization. It is refreshing to see a local community champion a cause not because they seek any personal benefit but because they genuinely care.

Conservation is an area of study that I am considering for a career, so I am very grateful for the chance to explore the field before graduating. After I complete my research, I hope to achieve a better idea of what I want to do after Colgate and to create new opportunities for the future.