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.