Mist billowed up from within the steep gorges and blanketed the Andean peaks. Below them was the great Rio Urubamba. Behind them was jungle. Before them was Machu Picchu, one of the new Seven Wonders of the world.
“The clouds opened up and we could see everything,” says senior anthropology student Patrick Geraghty. “It was amazing.”
Incan Emperor Pachacúti built the mysterious city in the clouds in the 1400s. A self-contained community that was also used as an astronomical center, people still wonder how the tribe moved 50-ton rocks into place so perfectly that not even a piece a paper can be slipped between them.
Seeing Machu Picchu was a dream come true for Geraghty and Rose McEwen, associate professor and chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and coordinator of the Latin American Studies Program. She grew up in Guatemala and always aspired to experience Andean past.
They traveled in Peru last March with three members of the Geneseo community — anthropology professor emeritus Ellen Kintz and students Katherine Freeman ‘08 and Kathryn Young. They spent a week exploring Incan history, culture and exchanging ideas at an international Hispanic literature conference in Cuzco.
They also launched a new study-abroad program in Cuzco for spring 2009 (see related story).
They are sharing their experiences in “Andean Textures: A Natural, Social and Cosmic Tapestry,” a photo exhibit punctuated with artifacts, Incan writings, cultural and historical insight and samples of hand-dyed textiles.
"Andean Textures" is on display in the Milne Library through Sept. 29. An opening reception welcomes viewers today, from 1:30 to 4 p.m. in Milne, Room 208.
“It’s about the cosmic and natural world is woven together in what Peru is today,” says McEwen.
Cuzco is especially known for blending Inca, colonial and modern traditions. Women still wear traditional black hats and brightly dyed clothing. Residents brew chicha, a corn drink handed down from the Incas. Large clay pots lay outside homes, like those used to bury Inca mummies and for children sacrificed in the “capocha” ritual. Quechua is still spoken.
One section of Andean Textures features Andean women and their place in the culture, which is unique, says Kintz, because while most societies emphasize the male role, prehispanic and traditional Peru showcase complementary gender relations.
“I think people were excited to see this sort of experience come back to campus,” says Kintz.
There no photo credits displayed. “It was a shared experience,” says McEwen.
McEwen and Kintz wanted to visit to Peru for years. When McEwen was invited to be a presenter at the VII Congreso Internacional de Literatura Hispánica in Cuzco, they jumped at the opportunity to go and to invite students.
“We wanted to share it with them, so they can share it with other students,” says McEwen.
At the conference, the group presented “Legends, Myths and Mitologies: The Natural, Social and Idiological world of the Maya in the legends and stories of Yucatan, Mexico,” gleaned from Kintz’s decades of work with students and the residents of rural Coba.
“It was an experience that lays at the heart of what Geneseo is trying to do for students,” says Kintz.
Geneseo’s great strength, she says, is involvement of faculty with students. “Faculty and students have shared learning experiences that are out of the ordinary. I don’t think there’s any question that Cuzco is extraordinary and Machu Picchu is like a dream.”
EXPLORE BEYOND THE STORY:
• The homepage for VII Congreso Internacional de Literactura Hispanica conference.
Patrick Geraghty could open his book to read about how the Incas moved giant monoliths to build their greatest fortress that was so well-hidden on a mountain that the Spanish never found it.
Yet, it was not until he stood on top of ancient Machu Picchu as mist was rising up and he touched the U-Haul-sized rocks that he felt he was a part of the ancient creation — one of the few untouched artifacts of Incan life.
“You can kind of learn it in a classroom, but that’s not the whole picture,” says Geraghty, a senior anthropology student. “You really need to go abroad and experience it for yourself.”
This spring, Geraghty will have months to absorb Peruvian culture. He will spend the semester in Cuzco, a city known for keeping its close ties with Incan times in its architecture, clothing, food and culture. Geraghty is participating in a new study abroad opportunity through Geneseo, organized by anthropology professor emeritus Ellen Kintz and Rose McEwen, associate professor and chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and coordinator of the Latin American Studies Program.
The new program fulfills McEwen’s long interest in offering such an opportunity in the region. “We didn’t have anything — not a single thing in South America,” for studying abroad, she says.
The program is open for up to 20 students, who will live with local families and study at Academia Latinoamericana, which is part Universitas Equatorialis. Equatorialis has programs in Bolivia and Ecuador. The hope is that Peru is so successful that Geneseo can offer programs there as well.
Students will also journey to Machu Picchu and the former Incan fortress and temple of Coricancha. The program is open to students of Spanish at all levels who can fulfill general language requirements and more advanced requisites. Most importantly, they will be immersed in Peruvian life.
“You can teach here, but the language needs to be experienced … You live the language,” says McEwen.
She says this sort of experience hones another crucial skill — cultural competence. “You need to understand where they are coming from,” says McEwen, who grew up in Guatemala.
Four students have already applied despite the newness of the program and initial limited publicity.
Geraghty and two other students — Kathryn Young and Katherine Freeman ‘08 — spent a week last March with McEwen and Kintz visiting Peru, presenting a Mayan folklore presentation at an international Hispanic literature conference in Cuzco and scouting a suitable school.
Academia Latinoamerican is small and “absolutely perfect,” says Kintz, who expects to go with the spring session students as the in-country resident director.
It will be Geraghty’s fourth learning experience abroad through Geneseo and his first long-term immersion. He previously helped examine howler monkey behaviors in Costa Rica and lived among Mayan people with Kintz in the service-learning program in Coba, Mexico.
“They changed me entirely,” says Geraghty of the trips. “You see things differently. It’s another vantage point. There’s another way of doing things.”
It’s a crucial perspective — the idea that your perspective and way of life is not the best but another way of being a human being — best taught by living in another culture, according to McEwen.
Geraghty is ready to sit down to dinner with his new family knowing there will be language bumps in the road. He’s looking forward to them and the laughs that will surely come when he mixes up “el baño” with “el cuarto” — a bathroom and a room. He believes humor is one of the best ways to break barriers.
“It’s making a connection,” he says. “That’s when you start to learn.”
EXPLORE BEYOND THE STORY:
We are proud to present more features that highlight the greater SUNY Geneseo community and what makes us unique. Look for more stories about faculty, staff, students and innovative initiatives in upcoming ENCompass Weekly editions. We'll even include some fun features in the mix. Stay tuned for more improvements as ENCompass evolves.
Emory University professor Frances Smith Foster earned national acclaim for rediscovering three unpublished novels by a freeborn African-American writer from the 1800s, which were published in 1994.
She has also authored or edited numerous books and articles in her specialty of African-American family life, women's studies and American and African-American literature.
She will bring her expertise and insight to the Geneseo campus on Wednesday, Sept. 24, as the featured fifth annual Harding lecture presenter. The campus community and public is invited to the 5 p.m. lecture in Newton Hall, Room 214, with a reception to follow in Welles Hall, Room 111.
"Frances Smith Foster is one of the most distinguished scholars of 19th-century American literature, and particularly African-American literature in the nation today," says Richard Finkelstein, English department chair and professor. "Her books have changed the way we think about history of African-American literature, especially by women."
Geneseo created the Harding lecture series in 2004 to honor the late Walter Harding, a distinguished Geneseo professor emeritus and the world's leading scholar on 19th-century transcendentalist and author Henry David Thoreau.
The series brings distinguished scholars to campus whose work connects with that of Harding, whose internationally-known work on Thoreau represented his interest in 19th-century American literature, environmentalism, in work by people who speak from the margins, and people who question authority, says Finkelstein.
"Especially given the English department's commitment to teaching students about the many kinds of voices that comprise American literature, we're thrilled that Frances Smith Foster will be able to envigorate our dialogue about American culture," says Finkelstein.
Foster is the Charles Howard Chandler professor of English and Women's Studies and associated faculty in African-American Studies and American Studies. She earned her doctorate from the University of California at San Diego.
Her current research focuses on feminist sexual ethics, antebellum African-American families and religion, and best-sellers and literary societies.
Harding wrote more than 25 books and many articles on the life and work of Thoreau. Harding's biography of Thoreau is considered the definitive account of Thoreau's life. Harding was also the founding secretary and former president of the Thoreau Society, the oldest and largest organization devoted to the study of an American author. Harding, a distinguished professor emeritus of English at Geneseo, died in 1996. His wife, Marjorie Brook Harding, created an endowment to make the Harding lecture series possible.
Geneseo has added another accolade to its repertoire of rankings as a premier public liberal arts college.
The college is one of only 70 schools to make U.S. News and World Report's 2009 list of "Up-and- Coming Schools," singled out for their “promising and innovative changes in academics, faculty, students, campus or facilities.”
In the general rankings, the college is again ranked second among the “Top Public Universities—Master’s” list for the Northern Region and 11th among the “Best Universities—Master’s” list for the same region. The college’s position in the general rankings is identical to the 2008 rankings.
“The consistency of Geneseo’s position in the rankings over the years is a strong testament to the college’s academic strength,” says Bill Caren, associate vice president for enrollment services. “Even though we advise caution in placing too much emphasis on college rankings, we know students and parents consult them and we are delighted to make such a strong showing every year.”
The “Up-and-Coming” ranking is a new category and is based on data gathered from a peer assessment survey in spring 2008. All of this year’s rankings are available online at www.usnews.com.
U.S. News & World Report gathers a wide range of data to develop its annual rankings. The magazine relies on generally accepted indicators of academic excellence in such categories as peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, student selectivity, faculty resources and alumni giving rate.
Geneseo will undoubtedly see itself in future rankings.
"Everything is ranked," said Caren in an Aug. 11 article in The Buffalo News about how consumer-guide rankings for higher-learning institutions influence colleges and prospective students.
"Cars are ranked on levels of reliability. Movies are ranked. It has become part of who we are as a society, and I don't see it disappearing ... There was a time when we were less well-known, and I think we emerged in the rankings and that helped us become better-known and respected. At this point, however, I think our reputation takes precedence over the rankings."
Each week we will be featuring a recently redesigned Web site to highlight the improvements that are being made to SUNY Geneseo’s online presence through the collaboration of College Communications and CIT. All of the featured sites have been created with the College’s Content Management System (CMS), a user-friendly tool that allows people with little or no Web experience to create a Web site. We hope that by presenting these new sites it will inspire others to make similar changes to their own department or office sites. For questions, comments or for help with your own College-related Web site, please contact the College’s web content editor, Susie Hume.
This week’s featured Web site: College Advancement
The Division of College Advancement includes the offices of Alumni Relations, Parent Relations, the Geneseo Foundation, the Fund for Geneseo, and College Communications. The new Web site incorporates all of these areas into one site to brand the Division and to allow for easier navigation. To see the new College Advancement Web site, go to:
For a snapshot of what the site looked liked prior to the redesign (image only; the links no longer work), go to:
In this week's issue: September 17, 2008
September 17, 2008
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