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#MeToo social media movement founder Tarana Burke answers questions during a public forum at Stony Brook University. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Long Island men and women are prepared to keep the #MeToo conversation going in their communities after an appearance by the movement’s founder, Tarana Burke, at Stony Brook University Jan. 28.

More than 500 people filled the Sidney Gelber Auditorium in the Student Activities Center for #MeToo … #LIToo, a Q&A with Burke led by three young women of i-tri girls, a free program working to raise the self-esteem of middle school-aged girls on the Island’s East End by training them for a triathlon. Abby Roden, Noely Martinez and Maria Chavez posed questions to Burke that covered a range of topics, from how she felt when the #MeToo movement gained momentum, to empowering survivors of sexual abuse and harassment, to showing empathy when a someone shares his or her story.

Burke, a survivor of sexual violence, said it can be difficult to talk about sexual assaults or harassment because he or she feels isolated.

“The idea behind #MeToo being an exchange of empathy is that if you tell me this thing that is already difficult to say, one of the hardest things in your life, and my first response is, ‘Me too,’ that draws you in,” she said. “Regardless of what else is discussed, we have an automatic connection now.”

Giving advice for those who may not be able to say “me too” when a survivor shares a story, Burke said the best thing to do is ask what he or she needs. If the person says nothing, don’t keep asking.

After the #MeToo movement went viral Burke felt crippled. She said she stopped reading comments on her social media posts, even though most responses were thoughtful.

“I had people telling me I was too ugly to get raped, sexually harassed,” Burke said, adding that she is thick-skinned, and didn’t let the comments get to her. “‘You look like a man.’ Just awful, awful things.”

The movement also affects the LGBTQ community — something Burke said is personal for her, as her daughter identifies as queer and gender nonconforming. She said many young people in the LGBTQ community deal with sexual abuse, and it’s important they tell their stories, too.

“Survivors of sexual violence, we’re not victims,” Burke said. “That’s why we call ourselves survivors. We have solutions, we have answers and we have the experience.”

Attendees said the forum was uplifting and meaningful.

“It was very empowering and definitely brought the community together,” said Cassandra Gonzalez, a graduate student at LIU Post. “It just brings awareness to the #MeToo movement.”

Retired teacher Terry Kalb, of Wading River, said Burke is skilled at connecting others through experiences, calling the forum “beyond inspiring.”

“I liked the fact that there was such emphasis on the intersectionality of this issue,” Kalb said. “I think it’s very important that the vast majority of the people who are marginalized with domestic violence issues, sexual harassment issues and sexual violence issues — all people — are afforded a voice. This just can’t be about celebrity issues; it has to be about people who are often powerless to be able to respond. That they be the focus, because that’s where the most damage is done.”

Updated Feb. 1 to add additional quotes from Tarana Burke.

The temperature was high May 19 but that didn’t melt the enthusiasm of the nearly 7,000 students at Stony Brook University as they anticipated the moment they could turn their tassels and throw their graduation caps in the air.

The milestone event was chock-full of memorable moments including honorary degree recipients, Michael J. Fox — actor and advocate for a cure for Parkinson’s disease — and Jonathan Oringer — Shutterstock founder and a Stony Brook alumnus — clad in traditional caps and gowns, joining the students. Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991, received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree for his acting career as well as establishing the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The university honored Oringer with a Doctor of Science degree for creating Shutterstock, the first worldwide subscription-based service for acquiring images, as well as his other contributions to the tech industry.

The first degrees awarded were to Oringer and Fox. Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. introduced Oringer, a 1996 graduate of the university, as one who has “personified technologic innovation.”

As Fox approached the podium to deliver his speech, someone yelled, “Marty McFly.” The actor cleverly responded with a line from his 1985 movie, “Back to the Future.”

“You’re just too darn loud,” he said.

The actor said before that day he didn’t hold a degree from college or high school. He said he respects the university for its dedication to the sciences and its research.

Described by Stanley as a “fierce warrior in the fight to cure Parkinson’s disease,” Fox said he’s optimistic about the future.

“When I look out at the sea of red, I am filled with hope for you represent endless possibilities,” Fox said. “Among you may be the first human to walk on Mars, the engineer who will revolutionize the world’s energy technology, the next great investigative journalist who exposes political corruption, or the scientist who discovers a cure for Parkinson’s.”

U.S. Sen. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D), also addressed the graduates and their families. Schumer advised the graduates to always take risks in life even when feeling uncertainty. He said to always “go for it.”

“The key is not to fear the unknown,” Schumer said. “Embrace it, relish it, soak up every possibility it has to offer.”

Among the nearly 7,000 graduates, ranging in age from 19 to 65 years old, in attendance, 42 states and 71 countries were represented. The degrees awarded included 4,292 bachelor’s, 1,999 master’s and 449 doctoral degrees.

SBU program for retirees is unique on Long Island

File Photo

A substantial gift from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute will extend Stony Brook University’s ability to offer opportunities to individuals who are semi-retired or retired.

Originally founded at the university as The Round Table, the program was renamed after receiving an initial grant from the Osher Foundation in June 2007.

A program within the School of Professional Development, directed by Wayne Holo, OLLI is open to mature adults interested in expanding their intellectual horizons in a university setting. Volunteers — very often experts in the subjects they teach — teach peer-taught sessions, which carry no credits or prerequisites. Workshops are structured to offer an informal exchange of ideas among participants.

Osher Foundation President Mary Bitterman found the Stony Brook OLLI’s progress to be inspiring.

“Since making [the] initial grant, we have been impressed by [the program’s] exceptional progress,” she said. “We applaud the collective effort and achievement of its excellent staff and its dynamic community of intellectually vigorous members. We also salute the university’s leadership for its steadfast support of the Osher Institute and for embracing the concept that education is a lifelong pursuit that has the power to forge and enhance our connection to one another and to a larger world.”

Retired schoolteacher Bruce Stasiuk, of Setauket, is one of the more popular workshop leaders in the program and his philosophy may indicate why.

“The ingenious OLLI program is like going back to school without the pressures, or papers,” he said. “Here, required courses and tests went the way of Clearasil. OLLI is all about pursuing interests, keeping active, and continuing personal growth. It’s the purest form of education — it’s fun.”

Martin and Joyce Rubenstein of Port Jefferson Station would agree. Marty Rubenstein has been a participant for nearly two decades; Joyce Rubenstein almost as long. Both have taken classes, and Marty Rubenstein has taught quite a few, ranging from physics for poets to classes in his special passion, music appreciation, including history of the big band era and history of rock and roll.

“I started soon after retirement, about 1998,” Marty Rubenstein said. “It’s a well-run program and a good vehicle for people who are retired.” He added that one’s social network disappears when you no longer see the colleagues and friends you worked with daily.

It was still The Round Table, comprised of 300 members when Rubenstein joined, and he has watched the organization grow. He said he is hoping that the new funding will make it possible to improve the model, now that there are more than 1,000 members.

Joyce Rubenstein, a participant since 2000, says she likes the variety of classes offered.

“It’s nice because I don’t have to take academic courses unless I want to. You go in and you laugh. I enjoy it. I’ve made a lot of new friends,” she said, adding, “There are some extremely smart people there. You learn a lot just by listening.”

The Rubensteins shared their OLLI experiences with Bonnie and Norm Samuels of Setauket, who take classes, too.

“It’s great OLLI has received this endowment because the program has grown so much and so many people are now involved,” Bonnie Samuels said.

Norm Samuels is a newbie, taking classes for the first time this fall. He sad he is finding his DNA class stimulating.

“It opens your mind up to more in-depth examination of ideas,“ he said. “What I’ve learned about future uses of DNA — I think it’s going to shake us to our foundations! Being on campus, seeing the young people gives me vicarious pleasure. What I’d like to see is more integration between the young ones and us elders.”

Bonnie Samuels said opportunities of that sort do come up. OLLI members were recruited this semester to be audience members for a Talking Science class for undergraduate students. The goal was to listen and give feedback to young scientists to help them become clearer communicators when addressing nonscientists.

OLLI membership is open for an annual fee to all retired and semiretired individuals. The program currently offers more than 100 workshops per semester, and a variety of day trips. Avenues for participation include workshops, lectures, special events, committees and social activities. OLLI classes include topics in history, creative arts, science, literature and computer skills; fall classes included intermediate Latin, history of England, quantum weirdness, poetry out loud, senior legal matters and a virtual investing club.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes operate on the campuses of 119 institutions of higher education throughout the nation. Stony Brook’s OLLI program is the only such program on Long Island.

For more information, go to the Stony Brook University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute website or call 631-632-7063.

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Sandy Pearlman lived in Setauket, graduated from Stony Brook University

Sandy Pearlman. Photo from Ronni Hoffman

By Susan Risoli

Who wouldn’t want more cowbell? Samuel “Sandy” Pearlman — who may or may not have inspired the classic “Saturday Night Live” skit about the song “Don’t Fear the Reaper” — had a fever for living the creative life. The former Setauket resident, Stony Brook University alumnus, and celebrated record producer-lyricist-executive, died last week in California at 72. His friends remember a man whose imagination raced ahead while urging everyone else to keep up.

“He was a philosopher-king,” said Norm Prusslin, an SBU professor who first met him on campus in 1969, when Pearlman was managing a local band he called Soft White Underbelly. In this bunch of guys he met at his father’s pharmacy in Smithtown, Pearlman found musicianship that could turn his stories and poems into records. He loved to write about astrology, architecture, mythical figures and all manner of futuristic things, Prusslin recalled.

Blue Öyster Cult recorded “Don’t Fear the Reaper” in 1976. The song, written not by Pearlman, but by the band’s lead guitarist Donald Roeser a.k.a. Buck Dharma, was a track on the “Agents of Fortune” album recorded at New York City’s Record Plant. Pearlman co-produced the album. So … was he in fact the record producer parodied by Christopher Walken in the SNL skit?

Bassist Joe Bouchard said it’s possible.

“Sandy had that look, yeah,” he said, with a chuckle, of the leather jacket and dark glasses worn indoors.

“He was always very happy in the studio — excited to get the band to do their best.”
— Joe Bouchard

More important was Pearlman’s success at pushing artists to go just a bit further.

“He usually said he wanted more energy during recording,” Bouchard said. “He was always very happy in the studio — excited to get the band to do their best.”

Pearlman worked with other artists, producing the Clash’s breakthrough 1978 release “Give ‘Em Enough Rope.” He also produced the Dictators — a punk band many consider to be a sonic link between the Stooges and the MC5, and bands like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols — and he managed Black Sabbath.

Pearlman lived on and off in a house on Main Street in Setauket, a few doors down from the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library. Prusslin said he had been hired to teach philosophy at SBU, but plans were curtailed by the cerebral hemorrhage Pearlman suffered in December of last year.

Longtime friends Robert Duncan, and his wife Roni Hoffman, saw Pearlman often. Duncan said Pearlman was especially proud of “Imaginos,” a project started as a poem and turned into a song circle album.

Although Blue Öyster Cult played on it, “Sandy always referred to it as his ‘solo record,’” Duncan said. “I think he would say that was his crowning achievement, when that record came out.”

Pearlman was always “the smartest guy in the room,” Bouchard said. “He knew that if you just do a pop song, it’ll be gone in a year. If you do a song with a little more depth to it, it’ll have some staying power.”

File photo: Stony Brook University's social and behavioral sciences building
Miguel Angel Condori mugshot from SCPD
Miguel Angel Condori mugshot from SCPD

Stony Brook University Police are deploying additional officers around campus this week after a graduate student was forcibly touched over the weekend, authorities said Monday.

The suspect, who police identified as 33-year-old Miguel Angel Condori, was accused of groping a graduate student on Saturday inside the third-floor bathroom of the social and behavioral sciences building on campus, university police said. Officers have been searching campus buildings for the suspect and continue to do so while increasing police presence at strategic locations.

A surveillance image and mugshot of the suspect was posted to the Stony Brook University emergency alerts website, showing the location where the incident allegedly occurred around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. The image described the suspect as a light-skinned Hipsanic male standing at about 5 feet, 5 inches with black hair pulled back into a bun, university police said.

Any information on the suspect was to be directed to university police at 631-632-3333.

Stony Brook University students took a break from drowning in their studies to continue a storied tradition by dumping makeshift vessels made out of cardboard into a campus pond, hoping they could stay afloat.

The Roth Pond Regatta shipped off its 27th consecutive year at the university on Friday as a way for students to blow off steam before finals start next week. Each year, students cram into their homemade boats made of cardboard, duct tape and paint and race across the 200-yard body of water at the center of campus.

More than 3,000 people make their way through the regatta each year, a university spokeswoman said. This year’s special theme for the race was “under the sea and far beyond,” with some of the nearly 40 boats including the S.S. Leaky Leakey, the S.S. Free Willy, and the Titanic itself.

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Dana Husband leaps over the high-jump bar. Photo from SBU

Junior Dana Husband broke a 27-year-old outdoor program record in the women’s high jump as the Stony Brook track and field teams swept the Wolfie Invitational Saturday.

Husband cleared 5-8/1.73 meters to surpass the mark of 5-8/1.68 set by Sara Lechner in 1989. Her jump also achieved the ECAC standard in the event. Husband broke the indoor record earlier in 2016 at 5-8/1.70.

Sophomore Kaylyn Gordon also recorded an ECAC standard, as she won the women’s triple jump at 39-10.5/12.15. Gordon also finished second in the long jump with a mark of 17-11.0/5.46.

The Seawolves took the women’s team title with 226 points, 86 points ahead of second-place Quinnipiac University. The men’s squad finished first with 199 points, 62 clear of second-place Sacred Heart University.

“We asked everyone to come with a competitive attitude to this meet, and for the most part that is what we got,” Stony Brook head coach Andy Ronan said. “Overall, on a decent weather day, we got a lot done individually and team wise.”

Senior Kate Pouder won the women’s 1,500 in 4 minutes, 34.97 seconds, and sophomore Jane Clark captured the women’s 800 in 2:13.69.

“Dana’s and Kaylyn’s performances were backed up by good runs from Kate Pouder and Jane Clark,” Ronan said.

Senior Gabe Vazquez won the men’s 1,500 in 4:00.12, and sophomore Michael Watts took the men’s 3,000 in 8:38.97.

The quartet of Gordon and freshmen Sarah Militano, Chinque Thompson and Nikki Fogarty won the women’s 4×100 relay in 47.36 seconds.

Thompson (25.15) and freshman Nailah Jones  (25.19) grabbed the top two spots in the women’s 200.

Seniors Raven Dorsey  (18:01.99) and Tara Peck (18:11.87) took the top two spots in the women’s 5,000.

The Seawolves took the top five spots in the women’s 100, led by Thompson (12.04), Fogarty (12.31),  Gordon (12.33) and freshman McKyla Brooks (12.33). Brooks (18-10.0/5.74), Gordon (17-11.0/5.46) and Jones (17-10.25/5.44) took the top three spots in the women’s long jump.

Senior Mitchell Kun and sophomore Dan Galford finished first and second in the men’s 5,000, respectively. Kun won the event in 15:05.84, with Galford behind at 15:19.58. Freshman Wayne Williams won the  400 in 49.25. Sophomore Darian Sorouri took the 3,000 steeplechase in 9:52.96.

The Seawolves captured the top three spots in the men’s triple jump, with freshman Izzy Matthew at 43-3.0/13.18, freshman Bradley Pierre at 42-11.75/13.10 and freshman Brendon Alerte at 41-11.50/12.79.

Freshman Yanik Martin won the men’s long jump with a leap of 21-11.75/6.70, while Pierre took third with 21-1.50/6.44.

The Seawolves are Philadelphia through Saturday for the Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania.

Campus Dining student employees gather for spring 2016 training. Photo from Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University is putting its students to work both inside and outside the classroom.

The university announced this week that it was turning up the heat at its on-campus dining services, where student payroll wages went up 32 percent thanks to an employment increase of 22 percent over the past year. The school has made on-campus hiring a greater priority over the past year, a spokeswoman said, because of research studies stating that it not only helped them raise money, but become better students as well.

Research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed that part-time campus jobs not only raise cash, but also can help raise students’ grade-point averages. Campus dining services student employees collectively earned $663,912 – earning a competitive average wage of $9.40 per hour – and maintained an average 3.27 GPA during the fall 2015 semester, Stony Brook University said in a statement.

“We applaud campus dining for taking this approach as these student employees will develop transferrable skills that can apply in a variety of work environments and position students for career-relevant internships and full time jobs,” said Marianna Savoca, director of the career center at Stony Brook. “The career center works with hundreds of employers from every industry sector — they want candidates with workplace skills and experience — and that’s what our student employment program aspires to create.”

More than 220 students were on campus last week for on-site training for various positions they will occupy over the coming year — and they’re still hiring, the university said.

The university’s campus dining services employed more than 450 students in the fall of 2015, a spokeswoman for the university said. Over the past year, Stony Brook students worked an average of 22 hours each week across various positions that go beyond just the kitchens and dining spots, the spokeswoman said.

“They work in marketing, social media, event planning and Web, and often interact directly with managers, chefs, university personnel and the public,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

“Working for campus dining has allowed me to improve my communication skills with customers, staff, and teammates, all while giving me the freedom to use my creativity and experience to work towards a common goal,” said David Golden, a CDS marketing intern and business marketing major who plans to graduate in May 2017.

Campus dining services student employees receive thorough training in customer service, time management, food safety, communication, special food needs training and social media, the university said. A total of seven student employees have received AllerTrain food allergy training, and nearly 90 student employees have earned a Suffolk County Food Handler’s Certificate.

Kareema Charles is an example that a student position at Stony Brook can lead to a full-time job. After graduating from Stony Brook University with a degree in journalism, Charles was hired to serve as a management trainee helping to produce The Seawolves Food Show, an online video series developed by the University’s Faculty Student Association in collaboration with journalism students to help the campus community learn more about campus dining programs.

Prior to graduation, Charles worked as a student producer for The Seawolves Food Show.

“I never imagined that my student job would turn into a full time position after graduation,” said Charles. “Stony Brook’s School of Journalism gave me all the skills I needed for my current position, while the University’s Faculty Student Association gave me the opportunity to use those skills in a real world setting. Stony Brook made the transition from college life into every day work life really easy.”

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Setauket firefighters get set with a ladder to approach the second floor dormitory fire area as soon as interior firefighters put water on the fire to extinguish flames. Photo from SFD/R. O'Rourk

A ferocious fire inside a dormitory building at Stony Brook University has left multiple floors and rooms damaged, the university said Monday.

The blaze broke out Saturday night in a student’s room on the second floor of O’Neill College, one of four residential buildings in Mendelsohn Quad, officials said. It took teams from various fire departments in the community to extinguish the flames and forced about 115 student residents to relocate to temporary housing, the university said in a statement.

The cause was still under investigation and there were no reported injuries.

“The fire was contained to one bedroom on E-wing [of the dormitory] with some damage to several room doors on multiple floors of the wing as well as some water and smoke damage,” the university said in a statement. “Professional and student staff within campus residences immediately began to work diligently to provide resident students with the resources and support needed, and continue to do so.”

The fire is extinguished but a clean-up of debris from the room continues to ensure no hidden flames exist. Photo from SFD/R. O'Rourk
The fire is extinguished but a clean-up of debris from the room continues to ensure no hidden flames exist. Photo from SFD/R. O’Rourk

University police initially reported the fire before crews arrived. The Setauket Fire Department responded to the call and received mutual aid from the Stony Brook, St. James and Port Jefferson departments. There, officials found that the dorm room where the flames originated was completely destroyed, officials said.

Setauket firefighters had to carry hoses up to the second floor because there were no standpipes there to connect to, due to the building’s decades-old architecture, the Setauket Fire Department said in a statement.

“Once water was brought to bear, most flames were extinguished and the remainder of the alarm resulted in cleaning out debris to ensure there was no extension to the fire,” the department said in a statement.

The university said the displaced residents would return to the building when it is properly restored.

“Currently there are professional fire restoration personnel on-site working to repair the facility in conjunction with our campus residence operations and risk management staff,” the university said in a statement.

Stony Brook’s 100,000th baby Luca Michael Picarella cries in his mother’s arms at Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo By Giselle Barkley

It’s a boy. It’s also a major milestone.

Katie Picarella of Rocky Point was wheeled into the room with her new bundle of joy and her husband Mike and daughter Gianna, 5, to celebrate the birth of Stony Brook Hospital’s 100,000th baby, Luca Michael Picarella on Thursday, Aug. 20. And by the time she was wheeled out, she had much more than a new member to her family.

The hospital presented blue cupcakes surrounded several pink cupcakes that spelled “100K,” in the Stony Brook University Hospital’s lobby in celebration of the event.

Todd Griffin, chair of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine, said he expected Katie Picarella to give birth near the end of August, and he was right. Attending OB/GYN and former Stony Brook student Julie Welischar delivered Luca the morning of Monday, Aug. 17.

Until a week ago the Picarella family was unaware of the news that Stony Brook was expecting its 100,000th birth.

Members of the hospital arranged blue and pink cupcakes to celebrate the 100,00th birth at the Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo By Giselle Barkley
Members of the hospital arranged blue and pink cupcakes to celebrate the 100,00th birth at the Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo By Giselle Barkley

“A friend of ours told us [that they] had been following this,” Mike Picarella said. “I started looking at it and [the friend] said, ‘you guys are getting close. It’d be funny if you guys are the couple.’”

But the expecting father said he was still surprised when the doctors informed him that his newborn son was the 100,000th baby.

The family didn’t just leave with their new baby boy, they also left with a gift basket, which awarded the Picarella family with $10,000 scholarship from the Island Federal Credit Union, a $2,500 scholarship toward tuition at the North Shore Montessori School, a $500 shopping spree among other gifts for the parents and their newborn.

Luca’s older sister Gianna, who was also delivered at Stony Brook, was also awarded with a brand new American Girl doll.

“Truly from the bottom of our hearts and all of our family’s hearts, we greatly appreciate it,” Mike Picarella said.

The entire Picarella family said they were thankful for the gifts and shocked by the news that they were the couple who birthed the 100,000th baby.

“Stuff like this doesn’t happen to us,” Katie Picarella said when speaking to the media. According to Picarella, the birth was scheduled for Friday after doctors realized Picarella’s baby would come before the end of August. But Picarella rescheduled the C-section delivery date because she wanted to have enough time to recover in order to attend her daughter’s Kindergarten screening.

The family of four also had the opportunity of meeting Jeff Solomon, who was the first baby born at Stony brook University Hospital on May 28, 1980 at 8:15 a.m. Solomon’s father Bob Solomon and step-mother Hope also attended the conference and met the family.

Before the family prepared to go home, Griffin highlighted the importance of the birth.

“For years the number of births on long island have been going down,” Griffin said. “We’re actually starting to see in the last year or two that the births have been going up.”