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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.

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.

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.

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.

Nate Jeffries ’20 researches parent engagement in secondary school support program

By Upstate Institute on July 17, 2019

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

Nate Jeffries ’20 on an outing with the Young Scholars Liberty Partnership Program at Utica College

This summer, I have the opportunity to work with Young Scholars, an educational nonprofit based at Utica College. Young Scholars identifies 6th graders who may benefit from academic support services and works with them from 7th through 12th grade to ensure they have the resources necessary to excel in junior and senior high. These resources include tutoring throughout the school year, summer school programs for rising 7th, 8th, and 9th graders, and internship opportunities for high school students and recent high school graduates. If Young Scholars students graduate with an advanced regents diploma, they are automatically offered admission and a financial aid package to Utica College, a promise which is made starting in seventh grade. The motivating power of such a promise is immense – to tell a 7th grader whose parents may not have even graduated high school that they can go to college has a powerful impact. The past several years have seen a one hundred percent high school graduation rate for Young Scholars students, demonstrating the enormous success of the organization in fulfilling its mission.

The Utica community has a large refugee population, and many of the students Young Scholars serves are first generation citizens. Candidates for the program are identified by their 6th grade teachers, and each cohort is selected from that group of students. The selection process is highly stringent – the 2019 cohort of about 70 students was selected from a pool of almost 250. The demographic of students and parents creates an interesting set of barriers to parental participation in their children’s education – language and transportation, for example. Many of the parents of students served by YS work multiple jobs in order to support their families and have very little free time to attend school functions and educational events. A growing body of research points to the importance of engaging parents in education – success for many students is almost impossible without it.

My project this summer revolves around solving the parent engagement problem at Young Scholars. I have spent some time coming up with solutions for the issues which prevent parent engagement that could work for Young Scholars; text services with a translating feature to enable easier communication with parents, different forms of media to disperse information, and events which can bring parents together to engage with Young Scholars, to name a couple. Although it is practically impossible to solve an issue as tremendous as parent engagement in just ten weeks, I hope that the ideas I generate and the solutions I implement can be a step in the right direction and can help improve the way Young Scholars gets parents engaged in children’s education.

I was drawn to this project for several reasons. I spent the summer of my sophomore year serving as a camp counselor with Americorps at a non-profit in Pittsburgh, and I wanted to see what I could achieve working from behind-the-scenes in more of an administrative position, so I sought a fellowship with Young Scholars. I am proud of the work I have done for the organization so far, and I have learned a lot about working at nonprofits and organizations in general. Working with Young Scholars this summer has helped me clarify my career goals and learn valuable skills related to the logistics of running a large organization, all while giving me the opportunity to give back to a greater cause.

Catherine Cardelús named Burke Chair for 2019-2020 academic year

By Upstate Institute on May 20, 2019

Catherine Cardelús, Associate Professor, Biology and Environmental Studies, has been named the Gretchen Hoadley Burke ’81 Endowed Chair in Regional Studies for one year, beginning July 1, 2019.

Catherine earned her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Connecticut. At Colgate, she teaches courses on Biodiversity, Evolution and Ecology, Tropical Ecology with Extended Study to Costa Rica, Ecosystem Ecology, and Conservation Biology and Practice. Catherine has a longstanding commitment to teaching about the Upstate region, regularly providing opportunities for her students to explore areas of Madison County to learn about where they live, how local ecosystems work, and, making use of regional resources, study their own impact on local ecology.

Catherine’s research has focused primarily on tropical forest canopies, asking essential questions:  What are the patterns of biodiversity, and how will biodiversity respond to a changing environment? She has conducted research in the rainforest of Costa Rica, where she studies the factors that control species richness and distribution. Most recently, she has researched and published widely on the vulnerabilities and conservation of the sacred church forests of Ethiopia.  She has received numerous grants and awards, including an NSF grant to study Mechanisms of Religious Management for Forest Persistence. Catherine has also focused significant research on the Upstate region, examining the effects of acid rain in the Adirondacks, climate change in our region, and, through quantifying the local deer population annually and working with local officials, she has evaluated ways to address deer overpopulation. Catherine’s commitment to having students study the complexities of our local ecosystem, understand the biological impacts and governmental policy in place, and work with them to provide data and ideas for the benefit of the local community support the mutually beneficial goals of the Upstate Institute.

Panel on “Environmental Justice in Upstate NY” Brings Together Community Members to Discuss Endangered Data

By Chris Henke on March 13, 2018

On Tuesday, February 27, members of the Colgate and regional community gathered at the Palace Theater in downtown Hamilton for a panel titled, “Environmental Justice in Upstate NY,” to discuss the importance of researching and sharing data on issues related to environmental justice.  Activists and scholars concerned with environmental justice point to the disproportionate impacts of environmental problems on communities who are disadvantaged on the basis of their income, race, ethnicity, or other factors.  This topic is the subject of several courses at Colgate, including “Environmental Studies 232: Environmental Justice,” taught this term by Professor Andy Pattison of Colgate’s Environmental Studies Program.

Dr. Pattison teamed up with Josh Finnell, Head of Research and Instruction for Colgate’s University Libraries to organize a panel discussion on environmental justice to help mark Endangered Data Week, a nationwide effort to raise awareness of the importance of data that might be vulnerable to loss or manipulation due to changing political regimes.  The seed for Endangered Data Week was planted back in February of 2017 by Brandon Locke, director of the Lab for the Education and Advancement of Digital Research at Michigan State University, when he tweeted a call for a banned data week, similar to the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week. With the help from the Digital Library Federation, Endangered Data Week grew into an annual event, coordinated across campuses, libraries, and nonprofits to publicize the availability of datasets, increase critical engagement with data, shed light on open data policies and practices, and host workshops on data curation and preservation.  

Panelists speak on “Environmental Justice in Upstate NY” to mark and support national Endangered Data Week.

The panel on Environmental Justice in Upstate NY was one of 45 events taking place across the country during week of February 26th and featured four speakers who shared their insights on the importance of collecting and sharing data related to environmental justice: Professor Monica Mercado of Colgate’s Department of History, Geoffrey Snyder, Director of Environmental Health at the Madison County Health Department, Alex Coyle, Public Health Statistician for the Madison County Health Department, and Rosa Mendez, Director of Environmental Justice at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

The event was sponsored by Colgate’s University Libraries, Environmental Studies Program, Lampert Institute, and Upstate Institute.

Alexandra Albrecht ‘18 compiles and analyzes satisfaction data for Community Action Partnership

By Upstate Institute on November 15, 2017

Alex sits at a desk in the office of CAP's Madison County location

Alex Albrecht ’18 working at CAP’s Madison County office

In a showing of her passion for work in the not-for-profit field, senior Alexandra “Alex” Albrecht is working with Community Action Partnership of Madison County (CAP) this semester to “compile and analyze data from client satisfaction surveys at the various CAP locations and across the organization.” In doing so, she is helping CAP with their mission of serving the lower income residents of Madison County.

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Maggie McDonnell ’19 works to streamline Hamilton Central School District’s website

By Upstate Institute on November 9, 2017

Maggie sitting at a desk while using her laptop to do work

Maggie McDonnell ’19 completes most of her work for Hamilton Central School remotely, but occasionally works in the office.

Having immersed herself within the Hamilton community since her first days at Colgate, Maggie McDonnell ‘19 is now taking on the task of updating and streamlining Hamilton Central School’s process of information sharing, as a part of the Upstate Institute and COVE Community-Based Work Study program. Hamilton Central School (HCS) serves students and families in the Hamilton-area from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. So far, Maggie has found HCS to be “an interesting place to work” because “teachers and administration work closely together and have their hands in a lot of different parts of the school system.”

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Mykel Macedon ’19, Fiver Children’s Foundation alum, returns to manage organization’s marketing outlets

By Upstate Institute on October 31, 2017

Mykel and a fellow counselor pose with children from the summer camp in a field

Following his time as Social Media and Marketing Coordinator, Mykel Macedon ’19 (right) spent his summer serving as a Cabin Counselor for Fiver’s annual summer camp. Here, he and a fellow counselor (left) pose with children from the camp.

During the Spring 2017 semester, I worked at Fiver Children’s Foundation as their Social Media and Marketing Coordinator, an opportunity afforded to me by Colgate’s Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education (COVE). Fiver is an educational and developmental not-for-profit organization whose mission is to empower children from underserved communities to make positive life choices.  This is done through year-round events, support from the New York City office, and a sleep-away summer camp experience in Poolville, NY. The name Fiver, inspired by Richard Adams’ 1972 novel, Watership Down, is also an acronym that stands for “friend, individual, valuable team player, environmentalist, and risk taker.”

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