Fordham Notes: July 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

GSE and Yonkers Public Schools Host Another Successful Round of STEM Labs

The survivors on Kochamonga Island
relied on the Mangouingi tribe for
knowledge of the island's plant life.
Photo by Joanna Klimaski
You’re on an airplane, flying over a turquoise sea dotted with tropical islands. Suddenly, confusion erupts in the cockpit and the next thing you know is that you are in the water with the other passengers and the crew members. The group makes it to the island safely, but the plane is gone and, with it, all modes of communication.

Now what?

That was the task charged to the seventh and eighth graders of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Summer Learning Lab, an enrichment program co-sponsored by the Yonkers Board of Education and the Center for Educational Partnerships (CEP) at Fordham’s Graduate School of Education (GSE).

Revolving around the theme of survival, the 17-day program, hosted by Paideia School 15 in Yonkers, offered 250 Yonkers students instruction in the STEM subjects.

“You can learn a lot with the theme of survival,” said Sylvia Branchcomb, principal of the STEM Learning Lab. “They learned about economics, about building, science, extinction, as well as history and math. All the different elements of a society come together—especially STEM subjects.”

The program concluded with a showcase held July 30 on the Rose Hill campus. The vibrant posters, maps, and dioramas displayed in the Duane Library’s Butler Commons featured fictional locales ranging from desert islands to the arctic.

Lost in the tropics, one class found themselves stranded on Kochamonga Island.

“We were on a plane and we ended up crashing and finding this island, so we all came together and made tribes,” Kaitlyn Matos, 13, said about her group’s project.

“The tribes represent different things,” Matos said. “Each tribe hunts different animals. Force of Nature collected butterflies. My tribe (the Mangouingi tribe) collected flowers and birds. IRAA collected animals of the sea.”

Another class found themselves stranded on Monkanas, a Galápagos island known for its preponderance of monkeys and bananas.

“We have spears, bananas to eat, cages, guns, and we made a fort,” said Cristian Ortiz, 13.

“It’s project-based learning, which looks at an issue, like survival… and then involves interdisciplinary activities,” said Ann Marie Ciaramella, assistant to the dean of GSE. “For math they learned things such as bartering and setting up a money system, longitude and latitude, distances, and the metric system. They learned how to research on the internet. For English Language Arts, they learned communication skills. And of course for science, which was at the heart of it, they looked at topics such as prey and predators, weather, and the flora and fauna on their islands and what they needed to survive.

“It got the kids to really think, got them to do research, to really listen to one another and have very good discussions,” she said.

The classes were taught by Yonkers public school teachers, who received 12 hours of training from CEP representatives and additional professional development each afternoon for the duration of the program.

“The teachers were really involved, and loved it,” Branchcomb said. “Everyone was engaged and the kids truly had fun.”

Students from the STEM Summer Learning Lab presented
their research at a showcase held July 30 in the Duane Library.
Photo by Joanna Klimaski

— Joanna Klimaski

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fordham Student Vets Ring the NYSE Closing Bell

Participants of the Veterans Associate Program rang the
closing bell July 5 at the New York Stock Exchange.
Photo by Michael Dames
Two Fordham students were among a group of veterans who rang the closing bell on July 5 at the New York Stock Exchange, commemorating the launch of the NYSE Euronext’s Veterans Associate Program (VAP).

Jayson Browder, a rising senior at Lincoln Center, and Manuel Aguilar, a rising senior in the Gabelli School of Business, are among 15 student veterans who comprise the first cohort of the VAP, an internship program specifically for veterans.

The eight-week program provides the interns with specialized training and experience in the financial services industry in order to equip them for future employment.

“The program places us in private round table discussions with senior executives from the NYSE’s different departments for executive educational series,” said Browder, an Air Force veteran now double-majoring in sociology and Latin American and Latino studies. “This gives us the opportunity to network and learn form the best and brightest.”

Browder, who is working in the NYSE’s Corporate Communications and Media Relations Department, said that he has already gained invaluable professional experience during his internship.

“We’ve been given the opportunity to showcase our professional skills learned from the military and gain new specialized competences at the highest levels in the financial industry,” said Browder, who is working toward a public affairs career in the financial industry.

Aguilar, a veteran of the Marines studying public accounting, said that program teaches both technical and interpersonal skills critical to the industry.

“The NYSE VAP has reinforced my decision to go into accounting and financial services,” Aguilar said. “I’ve realized there are many opportunities available within the industry—it all depends on how you decide to apply your skills.”

The program was launched in July in response to startling unemployment statistics—the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate for veterans ages 18 to 24 averaged 30.2 percent in 2011, compared to the 12.7 percent among all veterans, and 7.7 percent for civilians.

The VAP is designed to draw on the skills that veterans developed in the military in order to prepare them for their careers.

“Our heroes returning home from military service can also be stars in business, as their training, skills, and discipline translates extremely well to the private sector,” said Duncan L. Niederauer, CEO of NYSE Euronext. “Through our Veteran Associate Program we are trying to help aid this transition by providing a truly unique learning experience about our company, financial markets, and the business community.”

Jayson Browder and Manuel Aguilar are two of the 15 student
veterans comprising the first cohort of the VAP.
Photo by Michael Dames

— Joanna Klimaski

Monday, July 23, 2012

Former Fordham Theology Student to Become Bishop

Msgr. Robert Brennan will be ordained
auxiliary bishop on July 25.
Photo courtesy of the Diocese
of Rockville Centre
A former student of the late Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., has been appointed auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Long Island.

Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Brennan will be ordained along with bishop-elect Rev. Msgr. Nelson J. Perez by the Most Rev. Bishop William Murphy on July 25 at Saint Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre.

“I am honored and humbled that the Holy Father extended this call to serve the Lord in a new way,” Bishop-elect Brennan said. “I have learned so much from Bishop Murphy and I can never thank him enough for his kindness to me.”

Born in the Bronx and raised in Lindenhurst, Msgr. Brennan graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science from Saint John’s University and was a doctoral student in Fordham’s Theology Department in the early 1990s, before he was named secretary to the late Bishop John R. McGann in 1994.

Msgr. Brennan has served as vicar general of the Rockville Centre diocese for the last decade, and since 2010 has been pastor of Saint Mary of the Isle parish in Long Beach. In addition, he regularly celebrates the Spanish-language Mass at the Nassau County Correctional Facility.

He was named Honorary Prelate and given the title monsignor by Pope John Paul II in 1996.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre, which Msgr. Brennan will serve as bishop, covers 1,198 square miles in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and serves approximately 1.7 million Catholics.

Cardinal Dulles was Fordham’s Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society from 1988 until his death in 2008. In addition to holding this post, Cardinal Dulles was an internationally known author and lecturer, past president of both the Catholic Theological Society of America and the American Theological Society, and a professor emeritus at The Catholic University of America.

— Joanna Klimaski

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fordham Theology Professor to Teach New Testament Course at Synagogue

This fall, in a new effort to foster interfaith understanding, a Fordham theology professor will go downtown to teach a course in the New Testament—at a synagogue.

Michael Peppard, Ph.D., will begin teaching the nine-week class in October at Town and Village Synagogue, near Stuyvesant Town and the East Village, to help its members to understand Christianity, and to better understand their own faith as well.

The course is a rarity, he said: a multiweek course in the New Testament, featuring in-depth readings in the style of a college seminar, that is taught at a synagogue by a Christian.

“It’s not something you hear about very often,” said Peppard, an assistant professor whose scholarly focus is the New Testament and the story of early Christianity.

The course is the latest in a series of interfaith connections that have been growing downtown since the Sept. 11 attacks, said Rabbi Larry Sebert of Town and Village Synagogue. He took part in many of these efforts—such as Our Better Angels, a commemoration of the attacks that brought Jews, Christians and Muslims together—and said he was thrilled at the idea of Peppard’s course.

The synagogue’s co-chair of adult education, Nina Lehman, proposed the course as part of a series of classes examining the classic texts of major faiths. The course, beginning after the High Holidays, will run for 90 minutes, one night per week for nine weeks. The congregation has been told about the class, and word will be spread to members of the synagogue’s local interfaith consortium as well.

“People are very excited,” Lehman said.

Amy-Jill Levine, co-editor of the Jewish Annotated New Testament, spoke at the synagogue and mentioned Peppard’s name when asked who might teach the course, Peppard said.

“I feel a great responsibility to do it well,” Peppard said. For many of the congregants, he will be the first one to present the New Testament and shape their views of it, he said.

He said he expects the publication of the Jewish Annotated New Testament, with its annotations by Jewish scholars, to make Christian texts more inviting to Jews.

“It’s going to enable other synagogues to approach Christian texts not out of fear … but out of interest, and as a way to understand Judaism better,” he said.

While it may seem paradoxical, he said, “many Jewish scholars now say that one of the best sources for understanding Judaism in the first century is the New Testament.”

“It’s not like we have dozens of texts from first-century Judaism besides the New Testament,” he said. “We just don’t. It’s a pretty sparse era. And so Jews are now able to come to the New Testament and use it as a resource—not just to learn about the Christian tradition, but maybe to learn about their own tradition without being afraid.”

                                                                                                    -- Chris Gosier

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fordham Student on the Front Lines of the Higgs Discovery

Marian Rogers is using a scholarship
from the National Science Foundation
to study the Higgs boson.
On July 4, at 3 a.m. Eastern Time, the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) reported that the elusive Higgs boson had been discovered.

By the time most who awoke to the news had tenuously grasped just what is the Higgs boson, Fordham student Marian Rogers was already running equations and reading reactions from scientists around the world.

“It’s truly amazing to think about all the physicists, both experimentalists and theorists, who have worked on Higgs searches for so many years,” said the Farmers Branch, Texas, native. “It’s such a blessing to get to play a tiny part in studying this new particle.”

Rogers, a rising senior at Rose Hill, has been studying the reputed “God particle” at the College of William and Mary as part of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates summer program. Along with Marc Sher, Ph.D.— professor of physics at William and Mary and a head honcho on the Higgs—Rogers has been working at the heart of the most important scientific discovery of the 21st century.

Described by New York Times writer Dennis Overbye as a kind of “cosmic molasses,” the Higgs boson is the reason why all other particles have mass.

“When you work through the math in the theory without a Higgs boson, the other particles start out massless, but experimentally we know they do in fact have mass,” Rogers explained.

Add a Higgs field to the equation, though, and the math comes out right. Particles pass through this field, and the more they interact with it, the heavier they become—that is, the more mass they gain.

“It’s famously been compared to wading through water and moving slower, or becoming heavier,” Rogers said. “Outside of a Higgs field, the other particles would be free to move [through space] at the speed of light.

“That’s why this discovery is so significant. It’s not just another particle to add to the list. It’s a special kind of particle with a very important role to play in our understanding of physical reality,” she said.

Sher and Rogers are investigating the two-Higgs-doublet model (2HDM), a theory that predicts the presence of five Higgs-like particles, rather than the one Higgs predicted by the standard model.

“The majority of my work is playing with the math—what happens if we change this or that variable, or introduce a new one?” she said. “Sometimes that means making and interpreting a series of graphs on the computer, or just working through a lot of algebra and calculus on paper. We also look at recent papers from other researchers working on 2HDMs and we try to replicate their results or come up with different ways of looking at the problem.”

For Rogers and Sher, the July 4 announcement was akin to a fireworks display. The fact that experimental results at CERN had reached 5 sigma—the benchmark for declaring "discovery" on a scale that ranks the quality of the results—meant that physicists now have evidence to support what they had predicted mathematically.

“This has certainly been an exciting summer,” Rogers said. “After the news was official, Professor Sher was fielding calls and emails from reporters the rest of the week. Every morning when I would come into work, Professor Sher would have a new paper for me to read.”

When she is not working on the groundbreaking discovery, Rogers—who is pursuing minors in philosophy and theology, in addition to her physics major—is thinking ahead to the future, researching doctoral programs in the philosophy of physics.

“It’s exciting to work on problems for which no one actually knows the answers yet—there are no solution manuals,” she said. “I just find it fascinating to get to study theories about the most fundamental constituents of matter. What happens when you can’t break it up any further? How does that work? These are age-old questions, and this discovery is a huge step toward answering them.”

— Joanna Klimaski

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fordham Text Wins Catholic Press Association Award

A collection of essays inspired by Fordham’s Curran Center for American Catholic Studies recently received the Catholic Press Association’s award for one of the past year’s best new books.

The Catholic Studies Reader (Fordham University Press, 2011), edited by James T. Fisher, Ph.D., professor of theology, and Margaret McGuinness, Ph.D., professor of theology at LaSalle University, won first place in the history category of the 2012 Catholic Press Awards.

A comprehensive book on Catholic Studies, The Catholic Studies Reader provides colleges and universities with a basis for the prevalent yet sundry discipline.

“Catholic Studies programs exist at dozens, perhaps over a hundred campuses nationwide, and they vary so widely and there is so little interaction between programs,” Fisher said. “We thought it would be a good idea to provide some models of what Catholic Studies is and what it does.”

The collection of 17 essays covers five central themes— “Sources and Contexts,” “Traditions and Methods,” “Pedagogy and Practice,” “Ethnicity, Race, and Catholic Studies,” and “The Catholic Imagination”—that relate to Catholic Studies in particular and the life of the Catholic Church overall.

“It was envisioned as a part of the Curran Center’s initiative ‘Passing on the Faith,’ a project designed to address some of the challenges facing the Church,” Fisher said. “We thought it would be good to devote a volume to the field of Catholic Studies itself.”

The book also received praise in the latest issue of Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education magazine.

“What has been significantly lacking in this welcome if haphazard growth [of Catholic Studies programs] are resources that bring an informed historical perspective and critical evaluation of the sheer variety of resources available to scholars engaged in this relatively new discipline,” wrote Mark Massa, S.J., dean of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and founder of the Curran Center.

“Professors James Fisher and Margaret McGuinness have done all of us engaged in the Catholic Studies initiative significant service in their new reader,” he continued. “The Catholic Studies Reader promises to be of singular benefit to academics and programs that span the broad spectrum of ideology and mission, and will lend cohesion to a congeries of programs that are now united more in name than in purpose or structure.”

Other Fordham contributors to the reader include Jeannine Hill-Fletcher, Th.D., associate professor of theology; Maureen H. O’Connell, Ph.D., associate professor of theology; Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, associate director of the Curran Center; and Catherine Osborne, a doctoral candidate in the theology program.

“The recognition by the Catholic Press Association might find the book a wider audience, and—we hope—adoption as text in Catholic Studies courses nationwide,” Fisher said.

— Joanna Klimaski

Thursday, July 12, 2012

New Game can Add Years to Your Life, says Fordham Grad who is Gaming Expert

When a concussion left her debilitated, depressed and yearning for her own death, Jane McGonigal fought her way back using a technique for which she is renowned. She invented a game.

Specifically, it was a “role-playing recovery game,” and it changed her life within a matter of days, said McGonigal,  FCLC ’99, one of today’s foremost creators of alternate reality games, in a talk posted online this week.

Her talk was posted on the website of TED, a self-described “nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading,” which hosts conferences featuring talks by notable people in varied fields. TED stands for technology, entertainment, and design, the group’s original focus.

For years, McGonigal has been spreading the word about the power of games to bring players’ creativity, optimism and determination to bear on solving tough problems. She made her name in the gaming field after graduating from Fordham with a degree in English and earning a doctorate in performance studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of the bestselling book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (Penguin Press, 2010).

Her TED talk, delivered last month at the group’s conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, was titled “The game that can give you 10 extra years of life,” in reference to life-extending activities that she studied following her injury.

Two years ago, a concussion left her in a fog of headaches, nausea, vertigo, and memory loss. To cope, she had to avoid all sorts of mental activity—reading, writing, playing games, writing e-mails, working.

As often happens in cases of traumatic brain injury, she said, she grew suicidal.

“My brain started telling me, ‘Jane, you want to die,’” she said. “These voices became so persistent and so persuasive that I started to legitimately fear for my life.”

She responded by enlisting her sister and husband in a role-playing game, “Jane the Concussion Slayer,” organized around the things that triggered her symptoms and activities that alleviated them. While her symptoms persisted for more than a year, she said, “that fog of depression and anxiety went away” within a few days.

“It just vanished,” she said. “It felt like a miracle.”

The experience led her to design on online game, SuperBetter, that she said has helped people face a variety of conditions—such as cancer, depression and chronic pain—with more bravery and strength.

She walked the audience members through some of the game’s exercises that build physical, mental, emotional and social resilience, citing research showing that those who regularly build these strengths can add 10 years to their lives.

After building these four capacities, “you will have built up the strength and resilience to live a life truer to your dreams” and reach the end of life with fewer regrets, she said. 

                                                                                      -- Chris Gosier

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

University Church Lighting Feted with Award

Contributed photo

The relighting of the University Church was honored on June 27 with a 2012 Illuminating Engineering Society Award of Merit.

The project, which was overseen by Brooklyn-based Studio T+L Theatre Consultants + Lighting Designers, aimed to increase light levels throughout the church, install additional lighting to give the architecture greater presence, replace the aging control system, reduce energy consumption and increase the lighting flexibility in the sanctuary.

Phase one of the project, which was completed in the summer of 2010, involved replacing the old dimming system, replacing the lamp arrays in the pendant lights, and adding the LED uplights grazing the walls of the church, which was built in 1845.  

Contributed photo
The second phase, which was completed in the summer of 2011, saw the replacement and supplementing of the lighting in the sanctuary and new fixtures illuminating the statuary at the ends of the east and west transepts. 

The final phase, which is currently underway, will provide new light for the organ that is currently being installed.

The project was evaluated based on the complexity of problem, the lighting concept; architectural integration, originality, performance criteria, visual comfort, energy and environmental design implementation, budget restrictions and ease of maintenance.

In addition, the design was also one of 58 that received a score high enough to qualify for a second, higher level award that will be presented in November.

—Patrick Verel

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fordham Alum Shows Pre-Law Students Inner Workings of Court

Mark Hyland

The courtroom is much less mysterious place for eight Fordham pre-law students, thanks to Mark J. Hyland, FCRH' 77, LAW' 80.

Hyland, a partner at the law firm Seward & Kissel, LLP and co-head of the firm’s Litigation Group, invited three groups of students to shadow him as he tackled cases in court in April and June.

In each session, Hyland briefed the students on the particulars of the case they’d be attending by sending them briefs to read, and chatting with them in person before entering the court.

Hyland said the idea of inviting students to shadow him was first broached when he visited the Rose Hill campus last year to speak to the Prelaw Society at the Walsh Library. 

He chose three cases that he felt were substantial and presented thorny, interesting legal issues. They concerned a securities fraud claim, a suit by lenders who were suing a guarantor of failed real estate development, and an insider trading accusation.

“The life of a litigator means you don’t do rote things every day. Every case is its own problem. You have to master that case and that business, and it can be very exciting to master all of that and apply the law to the facts and commit to a strategy that will lead your client to the best result,” he said. 

In the insider trading case, which Hyland argued on June 19th, one of the defendants in the case had already pleaded guilty. His client worked at the same company but pleaded not guilty, making for what he called an "interesting factual matrix." The appearance before United States District Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the Southern District of New York was spirited and lively, lasting from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

“I wanted the students to see the intellectual stimulus first hand, the excitement about it, and the ups and downs. This is a profession where you don’t go through your life on a straight level emotional path,” he said. 

“When you win a big case, it gives you that thrill of being 12 years old and hitting a home run. In this area that I do, you can still have that experience, and most people don’t get to do that. Now of course, the lows are tough too, but that’s life.”

Daniel Carter, a rising junior majoring in American Studies and history at Fordham College at Rose Hill, was one of two students to shadow Hyland on the 19th. 

It was the first time in a court room for Carter, a pre-law student currently volunteering at the Fordham Law clinic, and although some of the jargon in the briefs made for a challenging read, he was able to follow the proceedings.

“The judged asked him to elaborate on points that weren’t straightforward in the documents, so that was great for us,” he said. 

“I thought Mr. Hyland did the best job explaining it and afterward he explained some of the things that happened, what was good for him and what he didn’t like so much.”

He’s hoping to practice constitutional law when he graduates, but found the experience enlightening nonetheless. 

“We sat in on the case prior to this, and one of the lawyers wasn’t even there. The judge called him on the phone and said where are you?” he said. 

“So I joked with Mark that we got a taste of the pros and the not so pros.”

Justin Henry, also a rising junior at Fordham College at Rose Hill majoring in American Studies, echoed Carter. He’s currently interning at Macaluso & Fafinski in the Bronx and considering a career in public interest law.

“Knowing who everyone was on the panel was really exciting for me, because it wasn’t like I was just walking in and hearing what they had to say and then leaving. It was more of an educational experience, because I did already know what was going on, I could pay attention, and I felt engaged in the matter,” he said. 

“I thought it was really cool to see different lawyers defending different viewpoints and arguing the case very logically.”
—Patrick Verel