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Westchester humanities event

Harpur, university leaders go on the road to tout humanities

by Eric Coker

Pat Saunders '65
Host Pat Saunders '65, right, speaks with guests at her home in Rye, N.Y.

The liberal arts and the humanities are "alive and well" at Binghamton University, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Donald Nieman told a group of Harpur College alumni at a Westchester County event early in the fall 2013 semester.

"There have been a lot of discussions about the health of the humanities across the country," Nieman said. "I can't speak for the rest of the country, but they are very healthy at Binghamton. There is great student demand for them. We try to offer a first-rate humanities education that includes original research."

The event — "Mutations: The Future of Liberal Arts and Humanities" — featured Nieman, Harpur College Dean Anne McCall and Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities Director Bat-Ami Bar On discussing liberal arts and their place in education. The Sept. 26 talk drew about two dozen alumni to the Rye, N.Y., home of Pat '65 and Paul Saunders.

Anne E. McCall
Harpur College Dean Anne E. McCall

Other Harpur College representatives at the event included Leah Joggerst, assistant director of Harpur Constituent Relations; Jaclyn Boushie, major gifts officer liaison for Harpur College; John Koch, major gifts officer for Binghamton University; and students Simeon Beal and Melinda Momplaisir.

Nieman, a former Harpur College dean, noted that the humanities have always been an integral part of education at Harpur and Binghamton University.

"Humanities have been part of the fiber of Harpur College since its inception," he said. "One of the things I am proud of as provost is that humanities inform not only Harpur College students, but the education of professional school students at Binghamton, as well."

Bat-Ami Bar On
Bat-Ami Bar On, professor of philosophy and director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities

McCall, who started as dean in August, followed Nieman's point by emphasizing that the humanities have expanded to include pairings with the sciences. For example, art designers are working with mathematicians to determine different ways of rendering data.

"We care deeply about the big questions and the big ideas," she said. "There is a strong sense of who we are and what that means. At the same time, our community is growing and changing at a pace that may mirror the growth of Harpur College at the very beginning. It's a new Harpur."

McCall also told alumni about the University's faculty hiring plan in five Transdisciplinary Areas of Excellence that she said will shape student education for decades to come.

The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) has also energized the humanities since it was established in 2009, Nieman said. The institute supports research, teaching and programming in the humanities, while offering fellowships to faculty members, graduate students and undergraduate students.

IASH is about "people who want to have intellectual exchanges," Bar On said.

Melinda Momplaisir
History and comparative literature major Melinda Momplaisir

The institute also co-sponsors the Independent Undergraduate Research in the Humanities Program. The program offers Harpur students the opportunity to pursue an independent research project about a topic relevant to humanistic research and scholarship.

Two students in the program — Beal and Momplaisir — presented posters about their research and answered questions from alumni. Beal, a junior majoring in philosophy and accounting, presented "Examining Law and Citizenship: Comparing Civil Disobedience in the Crito," a project he has conducted with faculty mentor Charles Goodman, associate professor of philosophy and Asian and Asian American Studies. Momplaisir, a junior history major, presented "Irish Americans: The New Class of White," a project conducted with Nieman, her faculty mentor.

Simeon Beal
Business administration and philosophy major Simeon Beal

Beal and Momplaisir are just two examples of Harpur College students thriving in liberal arts and the humanities, McCall and Nieman said. Binghamton ranks sixth among U.S. public universities for student mean SAT scores, Nieman added.

"It's an exciting time to be on campus," McCall said. "Our students have never been more international. They are consistently reaching new heights while thriving on a global scale. Our students have tremendous drive and ambition that is absolutely energizing."

"When you teach at Binghamton University, you are always blown away by the students — not only by the their intelligence, but their curiosity, work ethic and desire to make the most out of the University," Nieman said.

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Last Updated: 12/18/13