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Spring 2017

Tuesdays, April 4, 11, 18, 25, May 2

Mistakes, Failures, Debacles and Catastrophes

The aftermath of a disastrous failure often includes both public outrage and an investigation concluding that inattention or negligence played a major role. But could such calamities really have been prevented? Will lessons learned prevent similar failures in the future? This UCALL course explores that question and other fascinating aspects of disastrous failures. It is adapted from a Union College undergraduate course of the same title developed by Professor Cliff Brown and associates. The course takes a broad view, focusing on causes and lessons learned from historical failures in diplomacy, engineering, the military and economics. The speakers are: Cliff Brown (2 weeks), Steve Berk, Brad Lewis, and Rich Alben. All are veteran UCALL speakers.
Coordinator: Jim Burns

9:30 to 11:30 AM Reamer Auditorium

Modern Southern Literature and Identity

What does it mean to be "Southern"? In this course Billie Bennett Franchini, Interim Director of the Institute for Teaching, Learning and Academic Leadership at the University at Albany, will consider several different perspectives on this question by examining fiction by 20th and 21st century writers from the American South. We will examine and explore key themes of Southern identity that emerge in the works of Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, and others. All class sessions will provide the opportunity for discussions. We therefore encourage you to come to class prepared and work with the readings for the course that will be assigned at the first session.
Coordinator: Jenny Overeynder
12:30 to 2:30 PM Reamer Auditorium

Wednesdays, April 5, 12, 19, 26, May 3

Immigration: Is It Good or Bad for the USA?

Paul Grondahl, author and award-winning Times Union reporter, will start off the course presenting a general overview of the subject. He will discuss patterns, current and past waves of immigrants and refugees and their economic and cultural effects, with particular focus on the Capital District. Leslie Thiele, Esq., a Fulbright Scholar and attorney specializing in immigration law, will discuss the legal aspects, followed by Juris Pupcenoks, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Marist College. He will assess the integration of Muslims in the U.S., focusing on the particular problems and politics of this group in the current political climate. Anne O’Brien Carelli and Maritza Vasquez-Reyes will focus on the experiences faced by refugee and immigrant children and adults. Dr. Carelli has worked with refugee children for many years and is the author of books and programs for newly resettled refugee families. Maritza Vasquez-Reyes, social worker and adjunct faculty member at Dutchess Community College will describe her journey from growing up in the Dominican Republic to becoming a naturalized citizen of the U.S. Brian Wang, Esq., an immigration attorney, will end the series with his views on illegal immigration and the impact of immigration enforcement policies on families and children.
Coordinators: Toby Sabian and Jenny Overeynder
9:30 to 11:30 AM Memorial Chapel

Gems Along the Mohawk 

This course continues the history of notable places, persons and things along our nearby rivers i.e., the Hudson and Mohawk as suggested originally by John and Sylvia Cosgrove. Howie Eskin, steering and curriculum committee member, will begin the presentations with a series of slides that illustrates the route selected for the canal, the many obstacles encountered and the success achieved. Howie will be joined by the noted folksinger, composer and historian George Ward, who will add songs and anecdotes to the talk. George Wise, formerly at the General Electric Research Laboratory, will discuss the history of the laboratory in terms of the many accomplishments made by its outstanding scientific staff. John Gearing, lawyer and historian, will tell us the story of the Schenectady Stockade area: the original setting, the prominent people who have lived there during the formative years of our country and its importance to Schenectady today. Art lovers will appreciate the presentation by Diane E. Forsberg, Director and Chief Curator of the Arkell Museum at Canajoharie. Diane`s talk will introduce us to Bartlett Arkell who built the Beech-Nut Packing Company and later donated his vast collection of paintings to establish the Arkell Museum. Don Gavin, curriculum committee member and history buff, will present the last of our selected "Gems": Johnson Hall State Historic Site and the man who made it his home, Sir William Johnson. Sir William came to America as a young unknown farmer. When he died in1774, he was the most prominent man in the Mohawk Valley and second only to Benjamin Franklin as the most prominent American.
Coordinator: Don Gavin
12:30 to 2:30 PM Memorial Chapel

Thursdays, April 6, 13, 20, 27, May 4

You Eat What You Are: Explorations of the Religious Meanings of Food

Theologian Kirk Wegter-McNelly, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Union College, discusses why and how we eat the things we eat. Used in religious rituals, food can become a potent symbolic expression of people’s relationships to one another, to the world and to the Ultimate. Historically, food has been an integral part of religious activity through practices such as preparation, consumption, and fasting. In order to understand these practices better, the course begins with a brief exploration of how food functions in culture generally to create and sustain meaning. The bulk of the course investigates the place of food in the rituals and beliefs of four of the world’s great religious traditions: Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The course also examines the phenomena of over-eating and under-eating in light of the importance given to feasting and fasting in these religious traditions, as well as the issue of food production and consumption from the perspective of social justice.
Coordinator: Jenny Overeynder
9:30 to 11:30 AM Reamer Auditorium

Symphonies: Mighty Fifths

Not all classical composers wrote symphonies. Not all wrote as many as five. But of the composers covered in this course by long-time UCALL favorite, Josef Schmee, all wrote at least nine. And although their earlier symphonies are well known and liked, their fifth symphonies hold a special place in the minds of audiences. Ludwig van Beethoven’s C minor symphony of 1808 is known for its four note opening theme often identified as the knocking of fate. But it can be argued that Beethoven intended it to be a symphony on freedom. Anton Bruckner’s B flat major symphony (1878) is more abstract, a musical cathedral. The symphony remained unperformed for nearly two decades. In 1894 it was performed in a version mutilated by well-meaning friends. Gustav Mahler’s fifth symphony (1902) omitted the human voice he previously used in his second, third and fourth symphonies. Instead he starts with a famous trumpet solo, adds an obligato horn part to the Scherzo and writes the ethereal Adagietto of movie theatre fame. Richard Strauss did not write conventional symphonies. He was inspired by the symphonic poems of Franz Liszt. His fifth is “Also sprach Zarathustra” composed in 1896. The opening theme has been used as background to movies and commercials. Dimitri Shostakovich was pushed to near mortal disgrace by Stalin. He composed himself back into official graces with his symphony in D minor (1937). Good thing the officials did not understand all the hidden messages built into to his most popular symphony.
Coordinator: Manuel Aven (with Jim Comly)
12:30 to 2:30 PM Reamer Auditorium