Thursday, August 27, 2015

Death of Empires: A Multidisciplinary Humanities Conference on World War I at Daemen College: September 18-19, 2015


World War I and the Death of Empires Conference

The historical and literary legacy of World War I is the focus of the Death of Empires Conference scheduled for September 18-19, 2015, at Daemen College (4380 Main Street, Amherst, NY).

The Death of Empires Conference is presented by the Departments of English; History & Political Science; and Visual & Performing Arts at Daemen College. The conference will bring together humanities scholars, humanities educators, and the general public to share research findings and explore the impact of the Great War on the home front and the battlefront, as well as the war's place in public memory. Members of the general public and students are invited to attend the academic sessions along with the related performances and exhibits, which examine the meaning and legacy of World War I through a variety of academic disciplines and media. All events are free and open to the public.

Dog made of foil from cigarette packets in France during World War I
by Private William Farrar. Farrar served in the West Yorkshire Regiment of 
the British army and was killed in fighting in 1916.
(Collection of Dr. Robert Waterhouse)

Planned to coincide with the centennial anniversary of the war, the conference features humanities-based academic and artistic presentations that consider the pivotal role of World I in bringing about the death of empires and the creation of a new world order. Sometimes described as the first "modern war," World War I erased distinctions between "war front" and "home front," amplified ethnic tensions, and signaled the limits of imperial power in ways that continue to resonate today.  

The conference includes:  I. Research Presentations by American and international scholars organized into panel sessions; II. "The Collapse of Empires: The View from Warsaw (Poland) During World War I," conference keynote address by Dr. Robert Blobaum; III. "The Rose that Grows in No Man's Land," a theatrical reading of women's wartime writing by Buffalo's Red Thread Theatre; IV. "Little Empires: Toy Soldiers during the Great War, 1914-1918," an exhibit of military-themed toys; and V. Nikifor Exhibit: artworks by "primitive" artist Nikifor Krynicki (1895-1968) from the Lemko region of Poland. (Keep reading for more details about each part of the conference.)

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"Changes to Europe After World War I," from "40 Maps that Explain World War I"

I. RESEARCH PRESENTATIONS BY AMERICAN AND INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARS Saturday, September 19. Papers are organized into four panel sessions (8:15-10:00am, 10:15-12:00, 2:30-4:00pm, and 4:15-5:45pm) in RIC 120 (Research and Information Commons.)

Session 1: The Great War and Historical Memory (8:15-10:00, RIC 120)
  • ‘The First Victim of the First World War’: Franz Ferdinand in Austrian Memory (Paul Miller, McDaniel College)
  • Keeping the Lost Empire Alive in Nazi Germany (Willeke Sandler, Loyola University)
  • Gun Smoke in Lettow’s Jungle: German East Africa Between the Wars (Thomas Pennington, New York University)
  • Remembering an Ottoman War: The Great War and the ‘Other’ in Modern Turkey (Pheroze Unwalla, York University) 
    • Chair & Comment by Penny Messinger (Daemen College)
Session 2: The War at Home: British and American Women’s World War I Fiction (10:15-12:00, RIC 120) 
  • Larsen’s Brian Redfield: The African American War Veteran in Passing (Jennifer Haytock, College at Brockport, SUNY) 
  • ‘Food is a Weapon’: From Farming to Fighting in Willa Cather’s One of Ours (Stacy Hubbard, University at Buffalo, SUNY) 
  • ‘Not intimate enough a contact’: Sensory Experience in The Return of the Soldier (Hannah Fogerty, University at Buffalo, SUNY) 
  • ‘This Is Not Fanciful’: Gertrude Stein’s Ambulance Work in the Great War (Christopher Leslie, New York University)  
    •  Chair & Comment by Nancy Marck (Daemen College)
Session 3: Untold Stories of an Empire in Peril: Belgium and Its Colony during World War I (2:30-4:00, RIC 120)
  • Untold Stories: Invading Homes. Billeting in Belgium’s Etappengebiet (1914-1918). A Story of Living in Harmony? (Sebastiaan Vanderbogaerde, Ghent University)
  • ‘We did not go to war for Congo, but for Belgium’. Congolese Soldiers and Carriers facing the First World War (Enika Ngongo, Université Saint-Louis-Bruxelles)
  • Untold stories: Cohabitating with the Allies. Canadian troops on the Ypres Salient (1915-1918) (Nathalie Tousignant, Université Saint-Louis-Bruxelles) 
    • Chair & Comment by Andrew Kier Wise (Daemen College)
Session 4: The Birth of a New World Order (4:15-5:45, RIC 120)
  • Gender and Nation or Nation and Gender? Wincenta Tarnawska as a Case Study from the Periphery of World War I (Tomasz Pudłocki, Jagiellonian University)
  • From Buffalo to Moscow: Anna and Boris Reinstein and the Socialist Response to the First World War (Penny Messinger and Andrew Kier Wise, Daemen College)
  • A Document to End all Freedom of Movement: World War I and the Birth of the Modern Passport System (Yaron Jean, University of Haifa) 
    • Chair & Comment by Hamish Dalley (Daemen College)

"European Powers Carve Up Africa," from "40 Maps that Explain World War I"

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II.  DR. ROBERT BLOBAUM, "THE COLLAPSE OF EMPIRES:  THE VIEW FROM WARSAW (POLAND) DURING WORLD WAR I," conference keynote address. Saturday, September 19, 1:00-2:15pm (Social Room, Wick Center)
  • Dr Robert Blobaum, a noted historian with expertise in the history of Poland and Eastern Europe, will deliver the keynote address for the conference, "The Collapse of Empires: The View from Warsaw (Poland) during World War I," based on research for his forthcoming book manuscript. Dr. Blobaum is Eberly Family Distinguished Professor of History at West Virginia University.

Keynote speaker Dr. Robert Blobaum

In his lecture, Dr. Blobaum will discuss the collapse of first Russian and then German imperial power in 1915 and 1918 respectively from the perspective of the Warsaw street. He will also address the existential catastrophe that confronted Warsaw's resident population as a consequence of the war between the empires that had dominated Poland since the partitions. In the process Professor Blobaum will highlight other important themes, including the continuity of local Polish and Jewish elites in the war's political transitions, the role of women on the Warsaw home front, and how the Great War has figured in memory and memorialization of the war in the Polish capital.

Robert Blobaum is the Eberly Family Distinguished Professor of Modern European History at West Virginia University. He has published several books and dozens of articles on the history of Poland in the twentieth century, including Rewolucja: Russian Poland, 1904-1907 (Cornell University Press, 1995), winner of the Oskar Halecki Prize for the best book on Polish history published in that year. His current book project explores everyday life in Warsaw during the First World War.

*   *   *

III. "THE ROSE THAT GROWS IN NO MAN'S LAND," a theatrical reading of women's wartime writing by Buffalo's Red Thread Theatre. Saturday, September 19, 7:30-8:30pm (Alumni Lounge, Wick Center)

JOSEPHINE HOGAN, LAURA MIKOLAJCZYK and JESSICA WEGRZYN present a staged reading of letters and diary entries by women during World War One.

Nurses, workers, mothers, wives and sweethearts documented The Great War on the home front, in the hospitals of France, and in ships at sea. These letters and diaries provide a commentary both on "the war to end all wars" and on the ways in which the roles and rights of women became transformed between 1914 and 1918.

Excerpt from undated letter from (Nettie) Eurice Trax to her mother. Trax served with the Army Nurse Corps, part of the the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) presence in France; her wartime correspondence is included in the WWI Veteran's History Project of the U.S. Library of Congress.
Nettie Eurice Trax (whose letter is quoted above) was a nurse with the Army Nurse Corps and worked at the US Army Base Hospital 18. (Group photo of hospital staff from the Nettie Eurith Trax Collection, Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center of the U.S. Library of Congress)

*   *   *
IV. "Little Empires: Toy Soldiers during the Great War, 1914-1918," an exhibit of military-themed toys, on display in the Research and Information Commons (RIC), from September 8-30. 
This collection of toy soldiers made in Germany, Britain, France and the USA during World War One explores ways in which toy manufacturers represented the war to children on the home front.  The exhibit features toys from the private collection of Dr. Robert Waterhouse.

Prussian officer (manufactured by Heyde of Dresden), collection of Dr. Robert Waterhouse

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V. The Nikifor Exhibit: Paintings by "primitive" artist Nikifor Krynicki (1895-1968)

Conference attendees are invited to visit the exhibit of 50 artworks by Nikifor (also known as Epifaniy Drovnyak, Epifaniusz Drowniak, or Nikifor Krynicki), from the spa town of Krynica in the Lemko region of southeastern Poland. This exhibit has been arranged in conjunction with the conference. The exhibition of 50 watercolors will open on September 10 and continue until October 2 (Monday-Friday, 9:00-5:00) at the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Gallery, Haberman Gacioch Arts Center at Daemen College. Conference attendees are invited to visit the exhibit on September 18, from 3:00-5:00pm. The exhibit will also open for viewing on Saturday, September 19. 

Nikifor Krynicki was a self-taught artist whose works are regarded as some of the finest examples of naïve (primitive) art of the twentieth century. Nikifor was greatly affected by World War I, which reshaped the political map in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire where he was born. Professor Jacek Frączak (Missouri State University) organized the exhibition, which includes artworks from his family's private collection and the Alfons Karny Museum of Sculpture in Białystok, Poland. This exhibit at Daemen is the first time this collection has been exhibited in the United States; after leaving Daemen, the collection will travel to the Polish Museum of America in Chicago.

Nikifor Krynicki's Nikifor on a Walk 
(undated) watercolor. Image courtesy of Jacek Frączak

Nikifor Krynicki, Two-part Painting: Scenes in a Church (undated watercolor)
Image courtesy of Jacek Frączak

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** The conference and exhibition organizers gratefully acknowledge the financial support that has made our events possible. Financial sponsorship for the conference and the Nikifor exhibit has been provided by Collegiate Village, with additional support by the Polish Arts Club of Buffalo. We also deeply appreciate the support and assistance provided by Ms. Pat Smith of the Office of Institutional Advancement.

The research presentations and Dr. Blobaum's keynote address are presented by the Department of English and the Department of History & Political Science. The Nikifor exhibition is presented by Daemen's Polish Studies Program and the Department of Visual and Performing Arts. The Red Thread Theatre reading and the "Little Empires" toy exhibit are presented by the Department of Visual and Performing Arts.

The conference organizing committee includes Dr. Andrew Wise and Dr. Penny Messinger from Daemen's History & Political Science Department; Dr. Hamish Dalley and Dr. Nancy Marck from the English Department; Dr. Robert Waterhouse of the Visual and Performing Arts Department; and Dr. Tomasz Pudlocki of of Jagiellonian University (Kracow, Poland), who is joining the History & Political Science Department for the Fall 2015 semester as a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence.

** For more information about the conference or any of the events, please write to **

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Alumna Profile: Kaleigh Ratliff Pursues Graduate Work in Museum Studies at The George Washington University

Kaleigh Ratliff (B.A., History & Government, 2013) traveled to Przemyśl, Poland, in March 2013 and again in July 2013 with a student exchange group from Daemen. Kaleigh's work in Poland illustrated her interest in extending her Daemen education beyond the classroom.  She helped put in place the digital humanities project that will preserve images and data from the Jewish cemetery in Przemyśl. This work continues today, with seven Daemen students travelling to Poland in June/July 2015.

In addition to her major in History & Government, Kaleigh completed a minor in Public History and had internships at the Smithsonian Institution (through the Washington Internship Institute, for which she was a Daemen Student Ambassador) and at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site.

To learn more about the Polish Studies Program and Daemen's study abroad program in Poland, contact Dr. Andrew Kier Wise ( .  If you are interested in learning more about Daemen's Public History minor, contact Dr. Penny Messinger ( 

Kaleigh now attends graduate school at G.W.
Kaleigh recently provided us with this update about her career, in which she reflects back on her time at Daemen:
My life after Daemen has been exciting and productive. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel that I call school, and I am almost ready to begin my career as a Collections Manager. 
After I traveled to Poland with Dr. Wise and the rest of the Daemen crew in the summer of 2013, my intention was to go straight on to graduate school. Unfortunately, that did not happen. With an unexpected gap year ahead of me, I decided to join AmeriCorps, volunteering at the Essex County Historical Society / Adirondack History Museum. I served for a year, gaining both volunteer and museum experience. I worked on the development of exhibits and programs, I made efforts to organize and inventory the archives, and I worked as a receptionist. I was also able to serve the greater community, working at surrounding AmeriCorps events. My time with AmeriCorps was a great resume builder! 
While volunteering, I applied to graduate schools for a second time. Thankfully I was accepted into the MA Museum Studies program at the George Washington University. In the fall of 2014 I moved to Maryland and began the next stage of my education. I am currently beginning my second and final year in the program. I have completed my two required internships, one with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the other with the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Along with my concentration in Collections Management, I have been studying the Holocaust and WWII. My classes are amazing and the professors are even better. This program has been a perfect fit for me. I love D.C. and the greater area, and I plan to stay here permanently. 
I honestly believe that without my experience in Poland and my AmeriCorps service I would not have been accepted into graduate school. Programs are competitive and many applicants are almost identical. It is important to situate yourself apart from the rest. Be conscious about your resume and diversify your experience. My resume to-do-list includes becoming a notary and getting my CDL license. It sounds strange, but they could be useful to an employer. 
I am looking forward to graduating and starting my career. I feel prepared and encouraged for what the future holds, largely due to my Daemen education.
Kaleigh Ratliff

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Why Are Debates Important in the Presidential Nominating Process?

Republican candidates debate on August 6

By Dr. Jay Wendland, Assistant Professor of Political Science 

Most elections scholars are in agreement that presidential debates do little to get people to come out and vote if they were not already planning on voting. They also agree that debates do little to change people’s minds about who they were already planning on voting for. Rather, debates appear to reinforce the choices voters have already made. However, at the presidential nominating stage, debates become much more important. At the nomination stage we see an intraparty debate rather than an interparty debate. Republicans are taking on other Republicans and Democrats are taking on fellow Democrats. This means that they cannot simply rely on their partisan preferences to decide how they should vote. Many Americans will vote based on their own personal party identification. Nominating contests make this impossible, so American voters need to find another way to determine how to cast their ballot. This is why debates are a great venue for voter learning. Debates allow voters to view all of the candidates running for nomination on one stage, answering questions about their beliefs, policy stances, and experience. 

On August 6, roughly 16 percent of American households tuned in to watch the first Republican debate on Fox News Channel. While this may not seem like a large percentage, nomination debates generally draw a crowd of roughly 5 percent of American households and Fox News usually attracts between 1 and 2 percent of American households on an average night. So, overall, this debate drew in a large audience. While some of these viewers were certainly tuning in to see what Donald Trump would say and how he would behave in a debate setting, they still tuned in and heard what the other candidates had to say. Tuning in and listening to what candidates have to say is a great way for voters to learn about the current candidates running for office. Right now, 17 Republicans are running for their party’s nomination. If you are trying to decide which of these 17 candidates to vote for, finding time to do your own research into all of them can seem overwhelming. Tuning in to a debate allows you to view all of the candidates and hear where they stand on the issues you care about. 

Now, for this first debate, if you wanted to learn about all 17 candidates you would have needed to watch two debates.  Because of the large number of candidates running, Fox News decided to hold two debates: one during primetime and one a few hours earlier (dubbed by media pundits as the ‘happy hour debate’). The primetime debate featured the top 10 candidates according to national poll averages and included: Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and John Kasich. The Happy Hour debate featured the remaining candidates and included: Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, James Gilmore, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and George Pataki. In this instance, learning about all 17 candidates required a bigger time commitment than usual, but it was still an excellent opportunity for voters to get a glimpse of all candidates running for the Republican nomination. 

I would encourage everyone to tune in to the remaining debates—both Republican and Democratic—in an effort to continue learning about the potential nominees. It is important to tune in to both parties’ debates, as it is important to be informed on all candidates running for president. One of the two nominees will become the next president and lead the United States for the next four years. For those interested in tuning in to the remaining debates, here is when they will be airing (note: all start times are still to be determined):

Republican Debates:                       Democratic Debates:
September 16                                     October 13
October 28                                          November 14
November*                                          December 19
December 15                                      January 17
December 19                                      February*
January*                                              March*
February 6
February 13
February 26
March 10                        *Debate sponsor has not yet named a specific date

Saturday, May 2, 2015

AAUW Student Organization News

L-R: Jessica Mark, Natalie Ennis, Dior Manning, Dr. Penny Messinger, Ehlimana Imamovic, and Sonam Sherpa at the AAUW-NYS Convention on April 18, 2015

Daemen's new American Association of University Women (AAUW) Student Organization has had a busy and productive year. In fall 2014, AAUW student leaders worked on bylaws and plans for programs, setting the stage for a busy spring semester. In February, the college's Student Association (SA) granted official recognition to the AAUW Student Organization (an application for recognition by the national AAUW is pending). Members of our AAUW affiliate have held a number of successful on-campus events this semester, and were also active in some of the many events sponsored by the AAUW Buffalo chapter over the past year. Here are some of the highlights:

AAUW's International Women's Day: "Declaring Equality: Renewing a Legacy" (March 8)

Dior Manning (President of Daemen's AAUW Student Organization, at left )
and AAUW member Keyla Marte (4th from left) pose with Nadia Shahram,
Dr. Melinda Grube, and Coline Jenkins.

Dior Manning (President of Daemen's AAUW Student Organization), Keyla Marte (AAUW member and president of Daemen's Sister-2-Sister organization), and Dr. Penny Messinger attended the AAUW Buffalo Chapter's program to commemorate International Women's Day on March 8.

The program featured a conversation about women's rights--past and present--between Nadia Shahram and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (represented by historical reenactor Dr. Melinda Grube). Shahram is a Buffalo attorney and activist who advocates for Moslim women's rights; she is also president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Moslem Women. Shahram discussed women's rights as human rights and talked about the status and treatment of women in Iran and several other countries in the Middle East today. Melinda Grube, who is an adjunct professor of history at Cayuga Community College, appeared in costume as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, organizer of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention and a major figure in the American woman's rights movement of the 19th century.

Women's History Month @ Daemen

The AAUW held and co-sponsored several events for Women's History Month, supporting the Women's Studies Program's active Women's History Month program. March is Women's History Month, but this year's program began in February and extended into late April.

On February 25, the AAUW sponsored a screening of Miss Representation, a documentary film that connects the distorted portrayal of women in the media with women's under-representation in political institutions.

The theme of women's empowerment continued during March with an event centering on the documentary, Girl Rising on March 4 (co-sponored by the AAUW and Sister-2-Sister). Girl Rising emphasizes the transformative impact of educating girls to end poverty. The two groups (AAUW & Sister-2-Sister) also collaborated on a Women on the Move! TGIF event held on campus on March 6.

Continuing with analysis of women's image in the media, the club held a well-attended forum on "Women's Sexuality in the Media" on March 18.

On April 2, the AAUW co-sponsored the Gender & Careers Panel Discussion/Mixer event (held in conjunction with the Daemen College/Rosary Hill Alumni Association, the Eaglette faculty women's group, and the Women's Studies Program). You can read more about this event at the story on the H&P Departmental blog linked here. The event was also marked by the conferral of the SOS Award, given to recognize female students who have demonstrated leadership on behalf of women. This is a new award (initiated 2015). At the event, Dr. Shirley Peterson, Dean of Arts & Sciences, conferred the SOS Award on behalf of the Eaglettes to two students who have distinguished themselves through campus leadership: Dior Manning and Annie Marie Rose. 

L-R: Dr. Penny Messinger, Dior Manning, Annie Marie Rose, 
and Dr. Shirley Peterson. 
Manning and Rose received the SOS Award
Students from the club staffed an informational table before the panel discussion and networked with members of the alumnae panel during the mixer.

L-R: Jessica Mark (AAUW VP for Programs), Stephanie Foreman 
(Daemen '06, alumni panel member), Emily Kraft (AAUW member), 
and Dr. Penny Messinger at the mixer.

The AAUW also collaborated on two successful events held in mid-April: the AAUW-NYS Convention and a bus trip to Seneca Falls (April 19).

@ the AAUW-NYS Convention

This year's AAUW-NYS Convention was held on Grand Island on April 18. Five students from Daemen attended the convention at sessions that comprised the Student Leadership Track.

Daemen students met Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul at the AAUW-NYS convention. 
(L-R): Ehlimana Imamovic, Dior Manning, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, 
Natalie Ennis, Sonam Sherpa, and Jessica Mark

Along with the keynote address by Dr. Donna Hernandez, President/CEO of the Buffalo Zoo, students met New York Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul after listening to her talk about the Women's Equality Agenda being considered by the NY State Legislature.

Students participated in workshop sessions on "Managing One's Digital Image," "Internships 101," and "Promoting Equality and Social Justice--Building your Career through Advocacy, Education, Philanthropy, and Research." They met student leaders from SUNY-Brockport and St. Bonventure University, and were able to meet and talk to state AAUW leaders in a networking session at the end of the day. 

"All in!" Jessica Mark (L) joins AAUW leaders, students from SUNY-Brockort, and AAUW college/university regional liaison Kimberly Pollard (3rd from left) in this group photo featured on the AAUW-NY facebook page as "the face of AAUW"

The final major event of the semester was an April 19 Field Trip to Seneca Falls, which was co-sponsored by the AAUW, the History & Government Club, and the Pre-Law Student Association. On April 19, the National Park Service held a "Find Your Park" Instameet event that we took part in. The group also visited several historic sites in Seneca Falls, with several students also entering photos in the "Selfies with Stanton" social media competition afterwards.

Daemen group members at the Women's Rights National Historical Park at Seneca Falls, NY

Daemen group in front, left, and center at the "Find Your Park" InstaMeet event. The bronze figures represent founders of the Woman's Rights Movement who participated in the 1848 convention

Are you interested in becoming part of the AAUW Student Organization? 

Membership in the AAUW Student Organization is open to all students at Daemen College (female and male). Daemen students are also eligible to become e-members of the national AAUW at no cost because Daemen has an institutional membership in the AAUW.
  • Learn more about the Daemen College AAAUW Student Organization at our website
  • Join the AAUW as a student member by filling out the form at this link    E-membership is free for Daemen students and includes one-year free membership after graduation
  • Or -- contact Dr. Penny Messinger, faculty advisor for the club and AAUW liaison for Daemen College at pmessing @

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dr. Joseph Sahr Sankoh travels to India as Fulbright scholar

Dr. Joseph Sahr Sankoh, Associate Professor of Political Science, served as U.S. Senior Fulbright Guest Professor at O.P. Jindal Global University in India during a three-week trip in March, 2015. In 2014, Dr. Sankoh was approved for the the Senior Specialist Fulbright Award Roster for overseas exchange from the U.S. Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES). This designation confers five years of eligibility for short-term Fulbright faculty exchanges with institutions throughout the world. (More information about Dr. Sankoh's Fulbright award is available in this story from February 2014.)


During his service as a Fulbright scholar at the O.P. Jindal Global University, Dr. Sankoh taught a graduate class in Global Migration & Refugees; evaluated dissertation proposals; participated in workshops, seminars, and speaking engagements; met international students; and visited a Tibetan refugee camp in New Dehli, India. The O.P. Jindal Global University is a private university with a strong focus on foreign relations, diplomacy, political leadership, and public service. The university has a strong presence of international students, many of them from the developing world. 

Upon his return from India, Dr. Sankoh emphasized his interest in building a relationship between Daemen and O.P Jindal Global University in such areas as International Studies, Migration & Refugee Studies, and Service Learning. He expressed appreciation to the Fulbright program and the U.S. Institute for International Education for the opportunity to travel to India. "I like India, its people, and its culture, and look forward to continuous positive relations between US and India," Sankoh wrote. 

During his time as a Fulbright scholar, Dr. Sankoh also plans to travel to Botswana, Poland, Ukraine, and Sierra Leone, and will draw upon these experiences for his current research on comparative global genocide since World War II. Among other case studies, he is focusing on Jewish, African, Burmese, and Syrian people.

Dr. Joseph Sahr Sankoh displays a medal 
awarded by O.P. Jindal Global University
after returning to Daemen

Saturday, April 18, 2015

2015 Mock Trial Simulation

The 13th Annual Moot Court Experience (Mock Trial Simulation) was held as part of the Daemen College Academic Festival on April 15th, 2015.  

Students from the Pre-Law Student Association (PLSA) presented a fictitious criminal case in which a police officer was charged in the non-fatal shooting an unarmed teenager. Facing charges of attempted second degree murder and first degree assault, the Defendant countered that he had behaved reasonably in using authorized non-deadly force. Students from PSC 117, Introduction to Criminal Justice, served as the jurors.
Members of the Jury await the start of the case.
As with previous mock trial competitions at Academic Festival, the teams prepared the presentation of their cases solely from witness depositions and case law provided in a case packet. Working with these raw materials, they wrote their own opening and closing statements, devised a trial strategy, and prepared direct and cross-examinations of the witnesses. The two teams prepared independently of one another, without knowing for certain their opposing counsel's strategy. The teams did not face off against one-another until the actual event, adding yet an additional element of drama.

Annabel Pietrocarlo giving the opening statement for the Prosecution.
Audience members jumped when prosecutor, Annabel Pietrocarlo, slammed the podium in an unexpected imitation of the sound of the gunshot. Later, witness Jessica Marks would provide tearful testimony, as she recounted her distress at witnessing her friend being shot.  The exchanges turned tense and fiery when Defense lawyers, Carla Hernandez and Jessica Maulucci, grilled the Prosecution's key witnesses. These fireworks were matched when prosecutors, Imani Evans and Shamella Jeffers, cross-examined the witnesses for the Defense, including veteran witness, Emily Kraft, acting as the principal of the high school where the fictional shooting took place.  

Of course, no mock trial would be complete without the duel of the experts: Jessica Todd and Rashida Salaam squared off as senior law enforcement officers testifying as to the reasonableness of the Defendant's actions in discharging his weapon.  Both teams opted to reserve their star witnesses for last. Playing the part of the teenage shooting victim, Durian Wallace, tried to convince the jury that he had been unfairly profiled by school officials as a member of a gang. The Defendant, portrayed by Nicholas Paveljack, waived his right to remain silent and took the stand to explain that he saw a gun. "You bet I was!" Nick supplied when asked on direct whether he was afraid for his own safety the night of the incident. 

The respective team leaders, Jordan Sieracki and Zahra Nayyeri bought it home, providing closing arguments that echoed themes spelled out in the opening remarks. The Prosecution argued that the Defendant, encouraged by over-zealous school officials, had unfairly stereotyped and harassed an innocent young man, then had recklessly fired at a group of innocent teenagers. The Defense, in return, implored the jury not to be swayed by anything other than the facts of the case: the teens' story, that they were not members of a local gang, was not credible; the officer had seen a gun before drawing his own weapon; no gun was found because a third teen fled the scene, taking that evidence with him.  

Emily Kraft, testifying for the Defense

Jessica Todd testifying for the Prosecution 
The result of the jury's deliberation was a mixed verdict. In deliberation, the jurors agreed that the Prosecution had not met the burden of proof on the attempted homicide charge, but found they had proven the officer's actions were not reasonable under the circumstances. Thus, they voted to acquit the Defendant of attempted murder but to convict him on the charge of first degree assault. An informal poll of the general audience reflected wide-spread agreement with the verdict. 

The presentation of the case was followed by an informal discussion. The participants answered questions about their trial strategy and what role, if any, the race of the characters, as portrayed by our actors, impacted their legal strategy (the Defendant was white, the shooting victim was African-American). The teams were challenged as to why they did not make race an even more critical factor in trying the case than they did.

Both teams indicated that they had tried to base their legal arguments on the actions of the respective characters. Still, the teams acknowledged that recent news coverage of police shootings of minority males definitely had impacted their perception of the case materials and had made them think about how explicit and implicit biases, as well as focused media attention on this issue, would potentially influence the jurors' receptivity to their arguments.

Prosecutors: Jordan Sieracki, Shamella Jeffers, Imani Evans and Annabel Pietrocarlo
"Race was hard not to think about," one of the Prosecution members responded. "When I read the case, so much of it sounded familiar and all of the stories in the news were what I thought of first.”  

Another participant shared that she had originally approached the case with a pro-police bias, reflecting her own aspiration for a career in law enforcement. "I realized that," she said, "but then I could also start to see the case from the Prosecution's side." At least one prosecutor agreed, finding all sorts of ambiguity in the case material. "We were randomly assigned sides, but there were times I thought I'd really like to argue this for the Defense."

Both teams agreed that race was definitely a factor in trying the case, and that not being able to conduct a voir dire of the jurors with respect to their attitudes about racial biases in policing was a significant disadvantage in the mock trial scenario.  

For their part, the jurors indicated that they weren't much affected by outside events or the news coverage of these events when they deliberated. "I was mostly focused on the facts and what each of the witnesses had to say happened that night," one explained. "But who knows, maybe if we had a longer time to deliberate the conversation might have went there to talk more about race." 

Defense Attorneys: Carla Hernandez, Troy Hamlin, Zahra Nayyeri, and Jessica Maulucci. 
Students from PHI 322, Philosophy of Law, were in attendance and questioned whether a single a case could ever serve as a vehicle for resolving larger, social issues such as potential race bias in policing.  "I wanted to hear more about the law beyond the instructions that the jury was given," Dr. James Moran observed. "Is the law provided by the case packet accurate and current? And how does it compare to the laws governing the use of deadly and non-deadly police force in other states?" 

Guest-Judge, Stephanie Foreman (2006, Political Science) 
Presiding over the case and the charging of the jury was guest-judge, Stephanie Foreman a 2006 graduate majoring in Political Science.  While a student at Daemen, Stephanie participated in one of the PLSA's first mock trial events. "It's really amazing to come back and see the growth of the program," she stated, "and to see how much the students still enjoy the event." Stephanie congratulated all of the students on their advocacy skills, but singled out the Prosecution as having been especially effective in her opinion.  

As the president of the Buffalo Urban League's Young Professionals (BULYP), Ms. Foreman is all about empowering a the next generation of community leaders and professionals.  "It's so great to see the students engaging with critical, timely issues. I was very impressed. Both of the teams did very well."

The Prosecution Team poses with Guest Judge, Stephanie Foreman.
Left to Right: Annabel Pietrocarlo, Jordan Sieracki, Imani Evans, Stephanie Foreman, Shamella Jeffers, Jessica Marks, Durian Wallace and Jessica Todd.
The mock trial simulation was not without the occasional hitch in procedural etiquette. Time constraints also limited the opportunity for re-direct and re-cross examinations and compressed the presentation by the Defense.  But learning to deal with the unexpected is part of the learning experience too, and both teams rolled with the punches. 

Most of the participants agreed that, even though preparing for the event was a lot of work, the mock trial simulation was a worthwhile, fun learning experience. When asked how he felt playing the part of the shooting victim for the case, Durian Wallace responded, "I loved it! I hope I can do it again next year." A few of the jurors shared the same thought, "I think I'd like to be a witness next time," one offered. "Or a lawyer. Yeah, definitely a lawyer." 

Members of the Defense Team pose with Guest-Judge Stephanie Foreman
Left to Right: Nicholas Paveljack, Jessica Maulucci, Stephanie Foreman, Zahra Nayyeri, Carla Hernandez, Emily Kraft. Not pictured: Troy Hamlin, Rashida Salaam

The PLSA will be presenting its 14th mock trial simulation at the 2016 Academic Festival and will be seeking participants. A call for participation will be distributed via campus posting and on the PLSA website in January, 2016. Students from all majors are welcome to participate and should contact the PLSA advisor, Dr. Lisa Parshall, for more information ( In continuation of PLSA tradition, next year's case will be a civil matter, and we are open to suggestions as to an issue of timely relevance for consideration. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Alumnae Panelists Discuss Careers; SOS Award Conferred

The 2015 Women's History Month program concluded on April 2 with a Gender & Careers Alumni Panel Discussion & Mixer. An alumnae panel featuring eight women representing a wide variety of majors and career fields answered questions about the ways that gender has shaped their careers. The questions were submitted by members of the AAUW student affiliate, which was recognized as an official student organization earlier this semester. The event was co-sponsored by the Daemen College-Rosary Hill College Alumni Association, the Women's Studies Program, the AAUW affiliate, and the Daemen College Eaglettes.

Alumnae panel:  Back (L-R): Paula Y. Kregg & Stephanie Foreman.
Middle (L-R): Amy Wesolowski, Jessica Gorski, & Rosh-Neke D. Thomas. 
Front (L-R): Dr. Jennifer Gurske-dePerio, Cynthia Koscielny Karcher, & Annie Brady.

SOS Award

At the start of the event, Dr. Shirley Peterson, Dean of the Arts & Sciences Division, conferred the inaugural SOS Award on behalf of the Eaglettes, an organization of faculty women created in the 1970s with the mission of increasing women's presence in leadership roles at Daemen College. Named after Eaglettes founders Dr. Ruth Stratton (Political Science), Dr. Katherine Sullivan (English), and Dr. Betty O'Neill (English), the SOS Award supports female students at the college who demonstrate exceptional academic aptitude and leadership qualities. This is the first year the award has been conferred; the recipients were senior Dior Manning, who was instrumental in helping to establish the AAUW affiliate at Daemen and who serves as the club's President, and junior Annie Marie Rose, who holds a number of leadership roles on campus. Rose serves as President of the English Club and as editor of two student publications, the student newspaper The Insight, and the literary magazine, The Writer's Block.

Annie Marie Rose receives her SOS Award from Dr. Shirley Peterson
Dior Manning receives her SOS Award from Dr. Peterson

Gender & Careers Panel Discussion

Members of the alumnae panel addressed a range of questions that were clustered into five categories (big picture issues about gender and careers; in/equality, the gender pay gap, work/family balance, and campus life & after). The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Penny Messinger, Associate Professor of History and the Director of Daemen's Women's Studies Program.

Paula Y. Kregg: "When you feel you're in the right, 
you have to stand up for your rights."

Responding to the question, "What are some things about gender in the workplace that you wish you knew prior to starting your job?" Paula Y. Kregg ('70) described her family background growing up as one of 15 children in a family whose members questioned her decision to major in Theater Arts. Her career took an unexpected direction when she became an officer with Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, which was a pioneering role for women during the 1970s: "I felt as if I knew my job, I should be able to progress," she said, "but I was looked at as being inferior because I was a female and always had to be more capable than the officers I worked with." She emphasized the difficulty that she had encountered as a black woman in a field that was "majority minority," and urged students to stand for their principles. "When you feel you're in the right, you have to stand up for your rights." 

Alumnae panel: Amy Wesolowski, Cynthia Koscielny Karcher, Jessica Gorski, Stephanie Foreman, Paula Y. Kregg, 
Rosh-Neke D. Thomas, & Annie Brady.

Amy Wesolowski ('89), whose degree was in Social Work, fielded a question about balancing work and family obligations and advised students to take charge of their lives and make decisions accordingly: "If you want to have a family, you have to be prepared. Be at work when you're at work, but let it [work] go" when you're at home. "It's easy for women to lose ourselves," she said, so "you need to make time for yourself."

After graduating from Daemen with a degree in Physical Therapy, Dr. Jennifer Gurske-dePerio ('99) continued her education and became an orthopedic surgeon. She talked about her experience as one of the few women in a field dominated by men, telling students to be tough and insist on equality with colleagues. "If you're treated badly, don't pass it on to the next generation," she advised. In her household, she noted that her husband is a "Mr. Mom" who has primary responsibility for caring for their children and home. Addressing a question about the amount of time provided for maternity and paternity leave, she explained that having children at points of peak career stress (as when starting a medical residency) had presented challenges for her.

Wesolowski, Koscielny Karcher, Gorski, Foreman, Kregg, Gurske-dePerio, and Thomas

Jessica M. Gorski ('08), who earned a degree in Adolescence Education-English, currently works as the Associate Athletic Director/Senior Woman Administrator at Daemen. She addressed questions about the gender pay gap by offering suggestions for negotiating salaries and benefits. Research salary figures in your field and use data in discussions with your employer, she advised. "Most women don't negotiate," she noted, which increases the gap between men's and women's pay.

Gurske-dePerio, Thomas, Brady, and Messinger

Both Annie Brady ('12), who graduated with a degree in English, and Rosh-Neke D. Thomas ('12, '14), who earned degrees in Psychology and Nursing, discussed gender dynamics in the workplace. Annie Brady works for the IRS and described the gender stratification she had observed in the workplace, recounting some "jokes" that co-workers had made about women's appearance. Rosh-Neke Thomas talked about working in a profession (Nursing) where women are a majority, drawing attention to the experiences of male nurses, who are a minority in the field. 

Rosh-Neke D. Thomas discussed student experiences

Stephanie Foreman advised students to "Read, Read, Read!"

Stephanie Foreman ('06), graduated with a Political Science degree. She currently works as a financial professional and has been President of the Buffalo Urban League Young Professionals since 2013. She described her epiphany as a sophomore when she realized how important it was to make the most of her college education. Take your education seriously, she advised students. Foreman drew upon on her experiences to offer students a four-point plan for career success:
1. Create a support system for yourself. Find a mentor in your field, but also lean on your family if they're supportive;
2. Understand that knowledge really is power, so take it seriously. "Knowledge can change your life, so know your field, do the research, and know what you need to succeed";
3. "Read, read, read!"; and
4. "Know your why. Why are you doing what you're doing?"
Foreman also talked about the difficulty she had witnessed for mothers who pursued careers in the corporate world, pointing out the discrimination they still faced in the workforce.

Wesolowski, Koscielny Karcher, Gorski, Foreman, and Kregg

Cynthia Koscielny Karcher ('98), who earned a Business degree at Daemen, offered practical advice for pay negotiation. "We have to learn to negotiate," she said. "If you can't get the money, negotiate for benefits, and don't sell yourself short." "It's always taken for granted that men are the breadwinners," she continued, noting that circumstances had changed as a result of more women entering the work force. Koscielny Karcher emphasized that taking charge of one's career included discussing salary, promotions, and perceived workplace discrimination with supervisors. "Ask the question--Why?" if you're passed over for promotion. She also advised students to consider job mobility in their careers, noting that "Career changes are the new norm."

Jessica Mark (H&P, '16), Stephanie Foreman (PSC, '06), Emily Kraft (HST, '16), & Dr. Penny Messinger at mixer. Jessica and Emily are both members of the AAUW Club, and Jessica came up with the idea for this event.

SOS Award winners Annie Marie Rose and Dior Manning
Read more about this event in the story featured in the April 13, 2015 edition of The Daemen Voice. 

** much thanks to the co-sponsors of this event, with special thanks to Kathryn Graf (Alumni Affairs Office) for recruiting and coordinating the communications with our alumnae panel, and helping to plan the event. Photos courtesy of Kathryn Graf, Jessica Mark, Stephanie Foreman, and Dr. Patricia Brown.