Around College

A mural of beauty and healing

Meticulous fingers had snipped the green glass tiles into pieces and fitted them snugly together within an outline of a Kirkland apple. The purple pieces filling in a cow appeared to have been set by a more free-wheeling hand. Such variation is fine, maybe even beautiful, in the eyes of Irina Rojas ’18, who came up with the idea of the Hamilton community mosaic mural. “The ultimate goal is for everyone on campus to put one tile on,” she says. 

Rojas, a peer counselor trained by the Counseling Center to work with students on a range of issues, approached Student Assembly in October to propose the creation of a collaborative mural. She saw the project as a way to promote healing and bring students together as they processed several deaths in the campus community that had occurred in the preceding months. The assembly backed the idea, as did Dean of Students Terry Martinez. The ensuing mural is one element of overall College efforts to support student mental wellness.

The mosaic, which is a little more than 9'x6', will be installed this spring on an exterior wall outside McEwen Dining Hall. Students submitted ideas for the design; six had their work incorporated. “Irina thought it would be a really good idea if it was students contributing in very personalized ways,” says Assembly President Nadav Konforty ’20. “The final image is a really cool conglomeration of a whole bunch of different styles of artwork from students — and also very much identifies Hamilton culture as it is now.” 

It’s a conglomeration for sure. There’s a Cider Mill doughnut, plus iconic Hamilton images such as Steuben Field, the Chapel, and Alexander Hamilton himself. All hands are invited to help build the mural. Boston mosaic artist Josh Winer offered guidance, holding Skype workshops on how to cut tiles that are pressed onto a sticky backing anchored temporarily on plywood. Rojas traced the design onto the backing, and when students have time to cut and place tiles, they pop up to the third floor of Sadove Student Center where the project is spread out in sections on tables.

Winer plans to visit campus this spring to oversee the installation, and Rojas wants to hold a ceremony to celebrate the occasion. For her and Konforty, the mural is both about process and a permanent statement.

“We really thought the goal of it was that it could be an outlet for people, an artistic outlet. One that would also, after it was done, be able to be mounted and seen by a large part of campus as a constant reminder of the strength of our community,” Konforty says.

World historic status for Alex’s hometown?

Tiny Nevis, the island where Alexander Hamilton was born, is a mere 36-square-mile dot in the West Indies. But in the 17th and 18th centuries, says Christian Goodwillie, Hamilton’s director and curator of Special Collections and Archives, it was the nexus of many important world events and an early foothold for the British in the Western Hemisphere. 

In recent months, Goodwillie has been steeped in the history of Nevis and Charlestown, the capital of what was once the Leeward Island Colony. Goodwillie is part of a committee working to have Charlestown named as a UNESCO World Heritage City. His involvement traces back to Hamilton’s connection with Everson Hull, ambassador and permanent representative to the Organization of American States for St. Kitts and Nevis. (The sister islands form a single nation.)

When Hull visited the campus in 2016, Goodwillie showed him materials about Nevis from the College’s Beinecke Lesser Antilles Collection. Goodwillie had been using the materials with a group of students about to embark on a service learning trip to the island. The ambassador was impressed with what he saw and arranged for Goodwillie to assist in pursuing the World Heritage designation.

Christian Goodwillie
Christian Goodwillie

Goodwillie traveled to Nevis in January as experts from the International Council on Monuments and Sites toured Charlestown to determine whether it has “outstanding universal value.” If the answer is yes, the laborious effort to obtain World Heritage status may proceed. It’s a process that could take several years.

 The British colonized Nevis and St. Kitts in the 1620s, and in the 1640s, Nevis began producing sugar, using enslaved people from Africa to work the plantations. A few decades later, the value of sugar exported from Nevis surpassed the entire economic value of all exports from the British colonies in North America. To protect their wealth, the British dotted the small island with some 18 forts. The French and Spanish attacked the islands multiple times, but the British held their grip.

In Goodwillie’s estimation, the most significant Nevis material in the Beinecke Collection is a map from about 1680 of the fortifications at Pelican Point, including Fort Charles, which protected Charlestown and was one of the earliest British forts in the hemisphere. All that remains of the fort today is an archaeological site, cannons, and an impressive central cistern. 

Nevis was the landing site for the slave ships of the Royal African Co., the British monarchy’s business enterprise for trading slaves. “Which is terrible, but that’s what it was,” Goodwillie adds. “All those ships that were supplying slaves to the Leeward Island Colony came in to Nevis. And from there they were distributed, sold, and sent off to the other British island.”

The island was also home to Sephardic Jews and has one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the hemisphere. Goodwillie says they were mainly merchants and traders, but they also introduced the technology and methods of refining cane juice into Muscovado sugar, which they had learned from the Portuguese.

“This tiny little volcanic island was an epicenter of a massive social change, movements of peoples, mashing up of cultures, and the birth of an entirely new system, which was the fortified slave plantation system and sugarcane capitalism,” Goodwillie says.

Good news for great faculty

We all know how remarkable our faculty is, but it still feels good when that’s acknowledged in the world at large. In short order this winter, four faculty members earned recognition that we want to share.

 Daniel ChamblissDan Chambliss, the Eugene M. Tobin Distinguished Professor of Sociology

The American Sociological Association presented its 2018 Distinguished Contributions Award to Chambliss on Feb. 2. The national honor goes to academics for outstanding contributions to the teaching and learning of sociology. Chambliss has been a faculty member since 1981.

Shelley HaleyShelley Haley, professor of classics and Africana studies

The Society for Classical Studies presented Haley on Jan. 5 with its 2017 Award for Excellence in Teaching. She “challenges all her students and colleagues to see the effects of racism and gender discrimination in the ancient world, in modern scholarship, and in the world around us,” the society noted. Haley joined the Hamilton faculty in 1989.

Marianne JanackMarianne Janack, the John Stewart Kennedy Professor of Philosophy

The Phi Beta Kappa Society announced Jan. 16 that its 2017-18 Romanell-Phi Beta Kappa Professorship was awarded to Janack for her proposed lecture series “on the alleged uselessness of philosophy, its literary possibilities, and its shifting history.” Janack will present three public lectures this year in her series Metaphilosophical Investigations. She was appointed to the faculty in 2001.

Monk RoweMonk Rowe, the Joe Williams Director of the Fillius Jazz Archive and lecturer in music performance (saxophone)

Rowe was honored March 2 as Music Educator of the Year by the Syracuse Area Music Awards. He is a jazz and classical composer, as well as an active performer on saxophone and piano. He has been archive director since 1995.


A sampling of recent guests on campus
  • Kenneth Bradbury, director and state geologist, Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey; lecture, “Groundwater Sustainability in Wisconsin: The Role of Science Amid Political Controversy”
  • Clark Callahan P’18, managing director of executive education custom programs at Harvard Business School; classroom talks on his experiences working for a program to support Russia’s transition to a market economy by training entrepreneurs
  • Vasant Dhar, professor at the Stern School of Business and the Center for Data Science at New York University; Laura Engelhardt ’95, founder of Neutrality Now, a provider of mediation and arbitration services in the New York metropolitan area; and Juvencio Maeztu P’20, CFO and deputy CEO of IKEA Group; TEDx talks on the theme “Rethinking Today, Reinventing Tomorrow”
  • Marc Gopin, the James H. Laue Professor at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University; lecture, “Citizen Diplomacy in the Age of Religious Conflict”
  • Former NHL goalie Guy Hebert ’89, who received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree during the celebration marking the 100th anniversary of hockey on College Hill
  • Vladimir Kara-Murza, vice chairman of Open Russia, an NGO advocating for democracy and human rights in Russia; screening of his documentary Nemtsov
  • Glenn Kessler, “Fact Checker” columnist with The Washington Post; talk on the power of words
  • Jazz vocalist Alicia Olatuja; performance
  • Thomas Pickering, former U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs and ambassador to the UN, Russian Federation, India, Israel, and Jordan, and Seyed Hossein Mousavian, former Iranian ambassador and research scholar at Princeton University; discussion
  • Meghan Pollak ’08, a master’s degree candidate at UNC’s Gillings School of Public Health; talk, “From the Hill to Africa: How Living in Africa Fueled my Curiosity and Propelled my Career”
  • Tricia Rose, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University; lecture, “Understanding How Systemic Racism Works”
  • Leila Simona Talani, professor of international political economy at King’s College London and Levitt Center scholar-in-residence; lecture, “Europe’s Migration Crisis”
  • Colson Whitehead, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad; lecture and Q&A with students
  • Sports nutrition author Timothy Wierman; lecture at a student-athlete Peak Performance Symposium

Reviving a historic relationship

Lilly Pieper ’19, a history-loving neuroscience major, knew something of Hamilton’s origins but heard a part of its history that was news to her as she was leading a student orientation trip. It included a tour of the College cemetery, and buried there, along with Hamilton’s founder Samuel Kirkland, was a chief of the Oneida Indian Nation.

Pieper hadn’t known that Kirkland and Chief Skenandoa were friends. In 1793, Kirkland founded the Hamilton-Academy, which evolved into Hamilton College. Nor did Pieper know that Kirkland, who was a missionary to the Oneidas, founded the school with a goal to educate native children and those of the settlers.

To bring attention to the Skenandoa-Kirkland history, she and Christina Florakis ’19, who had learned about Hamilton’s beginnings in a course called Native American Spiritualities, co-founded The Shenandoah-Kirkland Initiative. (Note that Skenandoa’s name has several different spellings.)

During the spring of 2016, they brainstormed about goals. A big one, Pieper says, is “having Hamilton students be a part of that history and be proud of that history — and at the very least know the history.” The intention, too, is to build a relationship with the Oneida Nation, located 20 minutes from Hamilton’s campus. Pieper says the Oneida Nation has been receptive, and Hamilton students have visited the Oneida’s cultural center, attended social dances, and in other ways have learned about the Oneidas.

This year the initiative’s work included sponsoring two big events. In November, it brought to campus Grammy Award-winning singer Joanne Shenandoah, a descendant of Chief Skenandoa. And in January, people from the Oneida Nation performed traditional social dance on the Hill. Pieper believes that may be the first time that’s ever happened in the College’s history. Longer term, the initiative is working on a project that would bring Oneida young people to campus for a co-learning program with Hamilton students.

On a course(s) for disaster

Hamilton students can choose from among hundreds of courses, some offered each year and others periodically. The topics are as diverse as they are intriguing, but we couldn’t help notice the number focused on one theme — disaster. Although none offers tips on surviving an impending zombie apocalypse, here’s a sampling from the current Course Catalogue:

Environmental Catastrophes and U.S. History
(History 373)

Examines how environmental catastrophes — both natural and human made — have changed the course of U.S. history. Through its exploration of inundations, conflagrations, famines, epidemics, and other disasters, considers how Americans made sense of these events and in turn remade their landscapes, institutions, and social relations or, in some cases, chose not to in order to demonstrate their power over the natural world.

Global Warming: Is the Day After Tomorrow Sooner Than We Think?
(Geosciences 212)

Investigates the historical/political/geographic context for our hydrocarbon economy, the scientific and economic debate behind global warming, the social and ecological consequences of action or inaction regarding greenhouse gas emissions, and the role of public policy and international relations in global environmental change. 

Narrating “Natural” Disaster in the U.S.
(College Course 108)

Explores the stories that get told (and those that don’t) about natural disasters, who tells those stories, and for what purposes. Focusing on 21st-century catastrophes such as Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Maria, the Haiti earthquake, the Great Mississippi Flood, and the ongoing drought in the West, analyzes how disaster narratives shape and are shaped by issues of race, class, mass media, and attempts to define America as a nation, a society, and a culture. 

(Classics 205)

An interdisciplinary introduction to the field of classical studies, focused through the Roman site of Pompeii and the eruption of Vesuvius in 70 CE. Through Pompeii, its destruction, and its remarkable level of preservation, we will study the art, architecture, archaeology, literature, philosophy, religion, history, daily life, sexuality, food, and social structures of Rome, as well as the place of Rome in modern imagination.

Witnessing Disaster
(Communication 208)

Explores the cultural, technological, and ethical dimensions of bearing witness to the suffering of others, especially when such suffering occurs at a great distance and is brought to us via mass media.

A World of Impending Disaster
(College Course 105)

Explores natural hazards, both modern and historical, and their effect on humanity. Provides an accurate data-driven framework for understanding catastrophes of a non-human origin while contrasting scientific with media accounts of these disasters. Investigates geologic, hydrologic, celestial, and biological hazards and their impact on society; will contrast quantitative and qualitative reports, including government data, accounts in popular media, and scientific reports.

Contact Information

Stacey Himmelberger

Editor, Hamilton Magazine
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323
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