Meet Stephanie Govan: Weissman Couldn’t Function Without Her

Students and faculty are the most visible members of the Baruch Weissman community. But behind the scenes, it’s people like Stephanie Govan who keep things running. Ms. Govan works in the Dean’s Office as director of scheduling, registration, and enrollment data management. She was kind enough to share a little bit about her background, her work, and the changes she’s seen at Baruch.

portrait of Stephanie Govan
Stephanie Govan

Ms. Govan is a two-time CUNY alumna, with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Lehman College in the Bronx and a master’s degree in public administration from Baruch. She started at Baruch as an office assistant. Today she’s an administrator in charge of creating the block programs for entering freshmen, and she also serves as the liaison between Weissman departments and the registrar’s office.

It’s a huge and critical task. First-year students don’t get to choose their classes; Ms. Govan creates programs for them, coordinating with Weissman departments to make sure the schedules work. She also collects data on enrollment in majors and works with departments to process new adjunct appointments. 

“Stephanie was the first person I met in the dean’s office as a new faculty member,” said Weissman Interim Dean Jessica Lang. “I was being trained to take over the First-Year Writing Program and my colleague training me told me there was one person who would be able to answer all of my questions about section numbers and scheduling–Stephanie. He was right! Stephanie has a depth of knowledge about enrollment numbers, student placement, and section availability that is extraordinary. It touches on the professional lives of all faculty and students. Many might not know that Stephanie has worked on their behalf–she has a light touch–but we couldn’t function without her.” 

The job has grown tremendously since Ms. Govan started at Baruch, going from 1,500 to 1,800 first-year students each fall, to 2,600 students or more, with another 100 or so in the spring. She’s also noticed more students taking college classes in high school, which makes setting up their class schedules a little more complicated. Working from home during the pandemic was challenging as well: “In the office, I have two beautiful big screens,” she said. “At home, I’m on my laptop.” 

One thing she loves about working at Baruch is seeing how involved students are in both on-campus activities and the outside world. At a recent recruitment event for high school students, she heard “students and graduates talking about their experience. It was great to hear how students take advantage of internships and opportunities to mentor other students, and just good to hear about our students getting out and about.”

New PBS Film ‘Becoming Helen Keller’ Includes Work by Two Baruch Professors

A new PBS American Masters documentary Becoming Helen Keller about Keller’s humanitarian work features contributions from two Baruch faculty members. The program premieres nationally on October 19.

Helen Keller in a white blouse smelling a flower
Helen Keller

Vincent DiGirolamo, an associate professor in Baruch Weissman’s Department of History, served as an academic advisor on the film. The late Peter Dobkin Hall, a professor of History and Theory in Baruch’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs until his death in 2015, appears as a talking head in the 90-minute film exploring Keller’s extraordinary life.

Headshot of Professor Vincent DiGirolamo and photo of the late Peter Dobkin Hall in a white suit standing on a balcony
Professor Vincent DiGirolamo and the late Professor Peter Dobkin Hall

Keller was deaf and blind but learned to communicate as a child under the tutelage of Anne Sullivan. The story of her language breakthrough has been widely told on stage, in print, and in film, including the famed 1962 movie The Miracle Worker for which a young Patty Duke won an Oscar.

The documentary focuses on lesser-known aspects of Keller’s life, including her advocacy for poor people, people with disabilities, and women, and her commitment to women’s suffrage, the NAACP, workers’ rights, and other social justice issues. The film also looks at her controversial positions in medical ethics debates and her personal life with Sullivan.

DiGirolamo worked closely with producers Laurie Block and John Crowley, who launched the project under their Massachusetts-based Straight Ahead Pictures production company and Disability History Museum.

“I met Laurie at a now legendary disability history conference at San Francisco State University in 2008,” DiGirolamo said. “I was impressed by her knowledge and nerve in getting this project funded and backed by WGBH in Boston. I read scripts and critiqued rough cuts over the years, and offered Baruch facilities for production meetings and screenings when needed. It was a long haul for these independent producers and I’m happy to see the movie finished. Peter Hall would be equally pleased.”

To prepare for the documentary premiere, a number of PBS stations upgraded their websites’ accessibility, created regional programming, and included people with disabilities and community groups in planning. An online curriculum for grades 6 to 12 using film clips is being developed.

Becoming Helen Keller is narrated by Rebecca Alexander, who is blind and deaf. Actor Cherry Jones performs Keller’s written words, while actor and dancer Alexandria Wailes and writer-rapper Warren ‘WAWA’ Snipe provide sign-language interpretation.  The program will be audio-described and closed-captioned.

Read more about the program here.

New Media Artspace’s Visiting Artist: Introducing kate-hers RHEE

Baruch Weissman’s New Media Artspace is hosting a new online exhibition called “Inventing Genealogies” featuring work by kate-hers RHEE, a transnational feminist and interdisciplinary visual, performance and social practice artist. RHEE is NMA’s visiting artist for Fall Semester 2021.

black and white photo of kate-hers RHEE in turban and collared jacket
kate-hers RHEE

RHEE, a transracial adopted Korean person, says her family tree was fabricated by the South Korean government to falsely construe her as an orphan and expedite her expatriation to the U.S. To claim her own identity and rights without benefit of a conventional or factual family tree, RHEE embarks on inventing genealogies. The exhibition offers a choose-your-own adventure-style narrative inspired by family trees and DNA. Viewers tunnel through bureaucratic paperwork as they choose a path linking different artworks.

promotion for kate-hers RHEE Inventing Genealogies online exhibition at New Media Artspace
kate-hers RHEE, Transkoreaning, bureaucratic documents, 2016–2017

Read about RHEE’s work here and click through to the exhibition.  RHEE will also be giving a lecture October 26 which will be livestreamed on YouTube, 6-7:30 pm.

How a History Class Changed One Student’s Path … and Other Alumni Testimonials

We’re launching a new video series called #WhyWeissman on Weissman’s YouTube channel. The videos are short testimonials from alumni explaining how Weissman made a difference in their lives and career paths.

Zoey Zhou cites a history course taught by Professor Charlotte Brooks as inspiring her to change direction and follow her heart. Zhou is now getting a PhD in East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. Watch her one-minute video here or below.

Katherine Chemas, a student at Cornell’s veterinary school, credits her success in science to Weissman’s small classes and caring professors (including Professor Pablo Peixoto). Watch her video below or here.

Yelena Dzhanova was editor-in-chief of The Ticker at Baruch and had numerous internships with major media organizations while she was a student. Today she’s making an impact as a journalist at Insider.com. Follow her on Twitter and watch her video below or here.

Aygul Islamova is both a healthcare practitioner and an entrepreneur. She offers advice to students and describes her work as both a nurse and a fashion entrepreneur. Watch it below or here.

We’re always looking for more alumni to feature! If you or someone you know would be a good candidate for a #WhyWeissman testimonial, email baruchwsas@baruch.cuny.edu with contact info.

 

We Are Climate Action is back starting September 30 with events on health, NYC, and art

There is no issue of greater overriding importance to humanity right now than the existential threat posed by climate change.  During the Fall 2021 Semester, Baruch Weissman’s interdisciplinary lecture series, We Are Climate Action, brings together experts to offer their perspectives on three topics: climate change and health, climate change and NYC’s resiliency, and how climate change is being addressed by public art initiatives.

This impressive series of events is organized by WSAS Professor Mindy Engle-Friedman (Psychology).

Thursday, September 30, Climate Change: Health Impacts and Health Policy. Moderator: CUNY School of Public Health Professor Elizabeth Geltman, director of the Atlantic Emerging Technologies and Industrial Hygiene Training Center. Panelists: Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Shamandirector of CU Mailman School of Public Health’s Climate and Health Program; University of Washington Professor Jeremy J. Hessdirector of UW’s Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHanGE); and Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Scientist Kim KnowltonWATCH A RECORDING OF THIS EVENT ON YOUTUBE. 

Thursday, October 7, 4-5:30 pm: Climate Change and ​Preparation for NYC Resilience.  Moderator: Brooklyn College and Graduate Center Professor Brett Brancodirector of the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay. Panelists: Jainey K. Bavishi, director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency; and Alice C. Hillsenior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations. WATCH A RECORDING OF THIS EVENT ON YOUTUBE.

Thursday, November 18, 4-5:30 pm: Climate Change: Artists Respond. This panel brings together contemporary artists whose artwork contributes to a broader public understanding of the consequences of climate change for human and non-human existence, and the urgent need for action and mitigation. The seemingly overwhelming scale of the climate crisis is a recognized barrier to public participation in tackling the climate crisis. Art can overcome this resistance through a myriad of methods, from educating and raising awareness to modeling problem solving or giving voice and form to intangible forces. Xavier Cortada, Anina Gerchick, Mary Mattingly and Katherine Behar have created art that is both geographically specific and universally relevant, providing entry points around which people can coalesce.

Organizer and moderator: Art historian Julie Reiss, editor of  Art, Theory and Practice in the Anthropocene 

Co-moderator and panelist: Baruch and CUNY Graduate Center Professor Katherine Behar, interdisciplinary artist and director of the New Media Artspace.

Panelists: Visual artist Mary Mattingly, founder of Swale; University of Miami Professor Xavier Cortada, NSF Antarctic Artist and Writer’s Program Fellow; and Anina Gerchick, painter, landscape architect, public installation artist and founder of BirdLink. 

Register here: https://baruch.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUvcOyrrDkpEtL5ZSYfMhr15FsZJbI8-zL6

Sandra K. Wasserman Jewish Studies Center Hosts Talks and Films This Fall

The Sandra Kahn Wasserman Jewish Studies Center at Baruch is hosting a robust series of readings, films, and talks this semester. Here’s the schedule for the center’s Fall 2021 programming. For Zoom registration links, email Carina.Pasquesi@baruch.cuny.edu.

READINGS, LECTURES, DISCUSSIONS:

October 12, 2021, 5:30 pm on Zoom: A reading and conversation with Corie Adjmi, author of Life and Other Short Comings. Adjmi’s award-winning fiction and personal essays have appeared in dozens of publications, including North American Review, Indiana Review, South Dakota ReviewEvansville ReviewHuffPost, Man Repeller, Motherwell, Kveller and others. In 2020 her collection of stories, Life and Other Shortcomings, won an American Fiction Award and was a Best Book Awards finalist.

November 1, 2021, 5:30 pm on Zoom: Public lecture with attorney and activist Ady Barkan. Barkan is an American lawyer and liberal activist, a co-founder of the Be a Hero PAC and director of the Fed Up campaign and Local Progress at the Center for Popular Democracy. Barkan was diagnosed with the terminal neurodegenerative disease ALS in 2016 and has been called “the most powerful activist in America.”

December 7, 2021, 5:30 pm: Discussion with novelist and journalist Sayed Kashua, in conversation with Professor Brian Horowitz, Tulane University. Kashua is the author of the novels Dancing ArabsLet It Be Morning, which was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; Second Person Singular, winner of the prestigious Bemstein Prize; and Track Changes. Kashua wrote a weekly column for Haaretz and is the creator of the prize-winning sitcom, Arab Labor.  Kashua was born in Israel to Palestinian parents. He moved to the U.S. to teach in 2014, writing a Haaretz column titled “Why Sayed Kashua is Leaving Jerusalem and Never Coming Back: Everything people had told him since he was a teenager is coming true. Jewish-Arab co-existence has failed.”

JEWISH/LATINX FILM SERIES co-sponsored by Baruch Weissman’s Department of Black and Latino Studies, ISLA – the Initiative for the Study of Latin America, and Baruch Performing Arts Center (BPAC). Free 48-hour streaming access.

October 7-8, 2021: Nora’s Will, Mexico, directed by Mariana Chenillo, 2010.  Nora’s Will is a comedy like nothing you’ve seen before, a truly unique tale of lost faith and eternal love from one of Mexico’s most talented new filmmakers, Chenillo, who was the first female director to win Mexico’s Best Picture of the Year award. When his ex-wife Nora dies right before Passover, José (Fernando Luján) is forced to stay with her body until she can be properly put to rest. He soon realizes he is part of Nora’s plan to bring her family back together for one last Passover feast, leading José to reexamine their relationship and rediscover their undying love for each other.

November 3-4, 2021: Leona, Mexico, directed by Isaac Cherem, 2021. Leona is an intimate, insightful, and moving film that tells the story of a young Jewish woman from Mexico City who finds herself torn between her family and her forbidden love. Ripe with all the drama and interpersonal conflicts of a Jane Austen novel, watching her negotiate the labyrinth of familial pressure, religious precedent, and her own burgeoning sentiment is both painful and beautiful – there are no easy choices to be made and the viewer travels back and forth with her as she struggles with her heart to take the best path.

December 5-6, 2021: Mr. Kaplan, Uruguay, directed by Alvaro Brechner, 2014. Jacob Kaplan lives an ordinary life in Uruguay. Like many of his other Jewish friends, Jacob fled Europe for South America because of World War II. But now turning 76, he’s become rather grumpy, fed up with his community and his family’s lack of interest in its own heritage. One beach bar may, however, provide him with an unexpected opportunity to achieve greatness and recover his family’s respect in the community : its owner, a quiet, elderly German, raises Mr. Kaplan’s suspicion of his being a runaway Nazi. Ignoring his family’s concerns about his health, Jacob secretly recruits Contreras, a more loyal than honest former police officer, to help him investigate. Together, they will try to repeat the historic capture of Adolf Eichmann, by unmasking and kidnapping the German and secretly taking him to Israel.

 

 

Film by CUNY Professors Documents Town’s Efforts to Reconcile with Descendants of Nazi Victims

A film produced by three CUNY professors tells the true story of a German town’s efforts to reconcile with descendants of local Jews who were persecuted by the Nazis.

The three professors are Elisabeth Gareis, who teaches communication studies at Baruch College’s Weissman School of Arts and Sciences; Ryoya Terao, who teaches video production at City Tech, and Vinit Parmar, who teaches film at Brooklyn College.

The film, 13 Jewish Driver’s Licenses – 13 Jewish Fates, recounts the discovery in 2017 of 13 driver’s licenses that had been confiscated from Jews in the Nazi era. The licenses were found in the basement of a county office in Lichtenfels, a small town in Bavaria. In 2018, a local high school history teacher had his students research the license-holders’ fates, and they determined that five of the Jews and their families were murdered in the Holocaust. But eight had survived, fleeing to Israel, Argentina, and the U.S. Later that year, some of the survivors’ descendants returned to Lichtenfels to receive their forebears’ licenses.

Professor Gareis, a native of Lichtenfels, happened to see a newspaper article about the project while visiting her hometown. She befriended one of the descendants, Lisa Salko, after seeing Ms. Salko’s presentation on the endeavor back in the U.S. When the German Consulate in New York approached Ms. Salko about making a film, she enlisted Professor Gareis, who readily agreed to help.

“The return to Germany and the descendants’ reception in Lichtenfels is a story of remembrance and reconciliation,” Professor Gareis said. “The descendants remain in contact with the teacher and students, and have formed friendships.”

Professor Elisabeth Gareis with Nancy Stanton Tuckman and Lisa Salko
Professor Elisabeth Gareis with license-holder descendants Nancy Stanton Tuckman and Lisa Salko

Professor Gareis served as associate producer, getting permission from Lichtenfels officials for onsite filming, scouting locations, researching local Jewish history, identifying historians and “Zeitzeugen” — contemporary witnesses — to interview, collaborating on what to ask, and conducting the interviews in English and German. “In short,” she said, “my role is based on my knowledge of German, my familiarity with the town, and my academic expertise in intercultural communication and intercultural friendship.”

Professor Gareis also helped put together the rest of the filmmaking team. She’s married to Professor Terao, who knows Lichtenfels from their many visits there and who directed the movie. His frequent production partner, Professor Parmar, had coincidentally been living in Germany and served as producer and sound manager. Emmy Award-winning cinematographer Mark Raker did the camera work.

The film was shot over the summer of 2021 and is now in post-production. It will be submitted to film festivals in 2022 and will be shown on the German Consulate’s website in addition to other screening venues. The consulate funded the project along with the County of Lichtenfels and the Koinor Foundation.

The short film will focus on the students’ and teacher’s work, but Professor Gareis says that “will not be enough to do justice to the topic. A longer film on the Jewish experience in my hometown is also in the planning once the short film has been released. We have already started filming some timely footage for the longer film, including footage with children of Holocaust survivors from Lichtenfels, who are now in their late 80s and 90s.”

Record Number of Baruch Students Present at International Conference of Undergraduate Research (ICUR)

Witch hunts, fruit flies, and the New York Aquarium are among the intriguing topics Baruch students will discuss when they participate in the 8th Annual International Conference of Undergraduate Research (ICUR), Sept. 27-29. This conference is free and open to the public to attend through the ICUR App, which features the full schedule of panels taking place at 15 universities in 12 countries, all coordinated by Monash University in Australia and the University of Warwick in the UK.

The schedule of Baruch presenters is here.

Baruch’s 28 participants come from all three Baruch schools and many different fields, but more than half are Weissman students, including history, political science, psychology, and biology majors. They’ll be on panels linked in real time with undergraduates at universities in England, Australia, South Africa, Belgium, and France, all presenting their own research. WSAS History Professor Katherine Pence is coordinating Baruch’s participation in the conference, which is supported by Baruch’s Office of the Provost. You can attend on Zoom and participate in questions and answers with the panelists by registering on the ICUR App through the website www.icurportal.com  and available free from the Apple store. Follow the conference on social media at @icurstudents and #icur2021.

poster advertising Baruch student participation in a research conference
International Conference of Undergraduate Research poster

Here’s a sample of WSAS presentation titles, along with student presenters’ names and majors.

  • “Kodak Advertisement and Formation of the Modern Woman” (Aleksandr Sigalus, History)
  • “A ‘Practical’ Curriculum: Embroidery and the Education of Chinese Girls in Protestant Missionary Schools in China, 1860 – 1920” (Ingrid Gendler, Political Science/Communication Studies)
  • “A Gendered Revolution: The American Revolution and Its Effects on Women’s Gender Roles” (Edward Stehr, History)
  • “How the New York Aquarium redefined marine attractions and tourism and contributed to New York City’s appeal as a city of science” (Sadat Tashin, History)
  • “The Social Contract Theory in the Face of Empirical Morality: Integration and Its Consequences” (Margaux Ramee, Political Science)
  • “Neo-Extracting Gilded Welfare States: A Comparative Study of Extractivism and Latin American Welfare State Formation” (Pabvitraa Ramcharan, Political Science)
  • “The Witch Hunt in Scotland during the 16th-17th Century” (Fatou Diop, Political Science)
  • “Annotation of D. Ananassae Muller D Element Contig 23: Analyzing Fruit Fly Chromosomes” (Angela Ng, Biological Sciences)
  • “Secondary Control and Depression In Adulthood: The Role of Age and Gender” (Daniel Mesa, Psychology)
  • “Healthy Hands: The Ultimate Eczema Glove” (Andrew Elvir, Biological Sciences)

For more information on ICUR, see this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zXDAKDEQqo.  For a schedule featuring Baruch participants see: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1vES7psPtEPCGA8KCW4ROW0upidBFXJxhOMBCpC1MlnQ/edit?usp=sharing

 

Glowing Green Eels: Fluorescence in Morays

These eels glow green. But why?

New research by a team of Baruch scientists reports the discovery  of the first fluorescent protein from a moray eel. The breakthrough was described in a paper published in Frontiers in Marine Science co-authored by WSAS Professors David Gruber and Jean Gaffney (Natural Sciences), along with two CUNY Graduate Center students from Professor Gaffney’s lab at Baruch, Andrew Guarnaccia and Sara Krivoshik.

“This study raises intrigue as to what role the glowing molecule plays in these mysterious marine eels,” Professor Gruber said. “It may be related to attracting each other for full moon mating events.”

fluorescent moral eel glowing green
Fluorescent moray eel

The discovery also has implications for pediatric healthcare. “This eel protein has the potential to be used as a diagnostic tool to quickly test for bilirubin levels for childhood jaundice,” Gruber said. “Being able to measure bilirubin from a single drop of blood would be very beneficial, as drawing enough blood from newborns presents challenges.”  This potential application follows up on a patent previously awarded to CUNY. That patent, which was related to this research and childhood jaundice, was awarded to Professors Gruber, Gaffney and Vincent Pieribone in 2018.

Professors Gruber and Gaffney both hold appointments at The Graduate Center as well as at Baruch. Professor Gruber is a marine biologist and Presidential Professor of Biology and Environmental Sciences at Baruch. Professor Gaffney’s field is chemistry. She was awarded a National Science Foundation CAREER award that partially funded the research.  The two scientists have been collaborating on this topic for several years.

A recent story published by The Graduate Center, CUNY, focuses on the contributions of the PhD students to the research.

Their recent study includes work by John Sparks, curator of ichthyology at The American Museum of Natural History and professor of Biology at The Graduate Center. Gruber and Sparks created the American Museum of Natural History exhibition “Creatures of Light” in 2011, which broke AMNH attendance records for temporary exhibits. The show returned to AMNH last summer. The eel narrative was also featured prominently in the 1 hour NOVA documentary Creatures of Light.

The team also discovered the mechanisms of biofluorescence in sharks in 2019, which was covered by The New York Times,  PBS, and other outlets. Gruber’s discovery in 2014 of widespread biofluorescence in over 180 species of fish also received widespread media attention.

 

 

 

NYC Latin American History Workshop Comes to Baruch!

The New York City Latin American History Workshop (NYCLAHW) is coming to Baruch!  The workshop is a community of emerging and distinguished Latin American scholars across NYC-area universities who share and discuss their works-in-progress.  Most recently, the workshop was hosted at NYU; in previous years it has had residencies at Columbia, SUNY-Stony Brook, and at The Graduate Center, CUNY.

Baruch Weissman is honored to have been chosen to host this prestigious annual series of scholarly presentations. Securing the event for Baruch was a collaborative effort of the WSAS Dean’s Office, the Black and Latino Studies Department, the History Department, and ISLA – the Initiative for the Study of Latin America.

“BLS and ISLA are thrilled to support this opportunity to help position Baruch within this important community,” said Professor Shelly Eversley, Interim Chairperson of the Black and Latino Studies Department. “We agree that this opportunity not only provides critical space for professional development and intellectual community, but it will also support our goals to retain faculty who are so eager to know that they can build scholarly careers here at Baruch.  It is the perfect fit for Baruch–especially as the College is poised to become an HSI (Hispanic-Serving Institution), as we recruit new faculty, build community across departments, and as we celebrate the arts and sciences.  The presenters and schedule for the academic year 2021-22 are already set; Baruch faculty will serve as moderators for each meeting. ”

To pre-register for any of the events, email History Professor Mark Rice, mark.rice@baruch.cuny.edu.

Here’s the schedule for the New York City Latin American History Workshops at Baruch:

FALL

October 1, 11 am-1 pm: Jesse Zarley (St. Joseph’s College), “Redefining Puelmapu: The Borogano Mapuche and Juan Manuel de Rosas, 1825-1835”

November 5, 11 am-1 pm: Isadora Mouro Motta (Princeton), “Looking South for Freedom: Brazil and African-American Abolitionists”

December 3, 11 am-1 pm: Renzo Aroni Sulca (Columbia Society of Fellows), “Shorn Women: Gender and Punishment in Peru’s Shining Path”

SPRING

Feb 4: Daniel Mendiola (Vassar), “Sovereignty, Asylum, and the Irony of ‘Strong’ Borders: How Protecting Free Migration Strengthened Central American Borders in the 19th Century, and How 21st-Century Securitization Efforts Are Now Weakening Them”

March 4: Isabella Cosse (CONICET; Columbia), “Revolutionary Love and Political Struggles in the Cold War in Argentina”

April 29: Daniela Traldi (Lehman College), “‘Real’ Feminisms: Gender, Race, and the Far Right in Twentieth-Century Brazil (1920-1985)”​