Sunday, June 12, 2011

Vassar College

Vassar College was founded as an all- women’s college by Matthew Vassar in 1861. It is known to be the most liberal of the Seven Sisters, the female equivalent of the all-male Ivy League. After declining a merger with Yale University, Vassar became the first coeducational Seven Sisters college in 1969.

The Vassar educational philosophy has emphasized interaction and curiosity since its founding. Vassar professor Maria Mitchell, a famous astronomer and the first woman elected to the Academy of Arts and Science, pushed her students to learn from their own observations of the sky rather relying solely on the information in the textbook. Lucy Maynard Salmon, the first Vassar history professor, stressed the importance of going to the source to get information rather than relying on second hand knowledge.

The comprehensive liberal arts curriculum Vassar offered women – which included an array of subjects including English literature, philosophy and chemistry - was revolutionary at its time. The goal of Vassar College was to provide an education that rivaled that of the premier men’s colleges. Prior to the creation of women’s colleges like Vassar, women were typically educated at female seminaries that focused on training women to be teachers.

Vassar was one of the first colleges in the nation to offer a concentration in drama, psychology and Russian studies. Today, Vassar’s curriculum remains one of its most distinctive traits. Vassar has an open curriculum thus it’s only general requirements consist of a proficiency in a foreign language, one quantitative course and a freshman seminar.

Vassar is located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. in the Hudson Valley, 75 miles away from New York City. Vassar College and Vassar Farm sit on 1,000 acres of land that is also an arboretum with over 200 kinds of trees, a native plant preserve, an ecological preserve and a Shakespeare Garden.

Matthew Vassar was a big supporter of the arts and was very adamant about integrating it into the curriculum. Therefore Vassar was the first college that was founded with a gallery and teaching collection already in place. The Vassar theatre department is very active and alumni include Lisa Kudrow, Meryl Streep, Noah Baumbach and Justin Long.

Some fun facts:

o Vassar is home to an all-whistling a cappella group AirCappella and one of the first all-female a cappella groups: the Vassar Night Owls.

o Vassar’s Quidditch team, the Butterbeer Brewers, won second place in the 2008 US College Quidditch Cup.

o Matthew Vassar was a brewer by trade, thus the mascot for Vassar College is the Brewer.

The Statue Of Liberty, A Sight For Sore Eyes From Ellis Island

While Ellis Island is known as an immigration center, it has a rich history prior to the immigration era. In the 18th century, Ellis Island was known as Kiosk or Gull Island. The natives valued Gull Island because it was covered with rich oyster beds and the site of shad runs. As the owners of the island changed, so did the purpose of the island. In 1794 Ellis Island played a role in the military. When the British navy came to North America for the Revolutionary War, they were able to sail without challenge into New York Harbor. Because of this, the United States purchased Ellis Island from New York prior to the War of 1812 in 1808. On the island the military installed guns to prevent vessels from entering New York Harbor.
For years foreigners in search of a better life have crossed the Atlantic Ocean to America. The first place they stopped at was Ellis Island, an immigration station where Ellis Island fist opened on January 1, 1892 and operated until 1954. During the 62 years of operation, Ellis Island processed thousands of ships packed with immigrants. Upon setting foot on the island, immigrants were tagged with information from the ship and were required to pass a medical examination to determine whether or not the immigrant should be allowed to enter the United States. While the majority of the immigrants were granted access to America, about 80%, those who failed the medical examination were detained. Some were detained for long periods of time ranging from days to weeks. Those who passed entered New York or traveled to other destinations such as New Jersey.

In 1921 and 1924 the passage of the Immigrant Quota Act and National Origins Act limited the number of immigrants allowed into the country and ended the era of immigration. From 1924 to 1954 23 million immigrants were allowed into the country, which still accounted for more than half of the immigrants who arrived in America during the time period.

One reason why people wished to come to America was freedom. From when it was completed on Liberty Island in 1886 until modern day, the Statue of Liberty was a symbol of freedom. The Statue was made to celebrate the friendship between the United States and France. Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor, fashioned the statue out of copper and worked with Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, who designed the steel structure. Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel was also the same man who the Eiffel Tower in Paris is named after. The project was to be completed in 1876 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. In order to complete the task on time, the French were to design and build the statue while the Americans were to build a pedestal on what was later named Liberty Island. However, due to lack of funds, the project didn't commence until 1875 and was not completed in time for the centennial anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Bartholdi completed his masterpiece in 1885 and broke the statue down and packaged it into over 200 crates.
Meanwhile, Joseph Pulitzer used his newspaper "The World" to raise money for architect Richard Morris Hunt. Hunt built the pedestal on Bedloe's Island, the home of Fort Wood, a War of 1812 fortress. In June of 1885, the 200 crates arrived aboard the vessel Isere. In all of four months, the Statue of Liberty was put together and on October 28, 1886 President Grover Cleveland officially dedicated the Statue of Liberty.

The Statue of Liberty stands 305 feet 6 inches above the water, weighs about 450,000 pounds, and is a symbol of America and the freedom we are blessed to live with.

Columbia: Roots and Shoots

Columbia University was not always known as such. In 1754, after acts passed in the New York General Assembly to allot funds, the establishment of what would become Columbia University graced Trinity Church—what is now lower Broadway in Manhattan. There, by royal charter of King George II of England, King's College was established.

Columbia began small, with one President—Samuel Johnson—who  who coincidentally served as the only instructor teaching a class of eight students. Nevertheless, the school has always been committed to higher learning, the expansion of the mind, and quality of the individual. This ideal, solid throughout Columbia's many years, remains true today, and it could be traced to its origin as well. An early manifestation of the institution's aims was the establishment of the first American medical school to grant the M.D. degree in 1767.

The American Revolution halted such institutional progression, but the figures Columbia produced managed to keep Columbia's flare lit ablaze: figures such as John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury.

Upon the college's resurrection in 1784, it was renamed: Columbia College. In 1857, the college moved from Park Place, near the present site of City Hall, to Forty-Ninth Street and Madison Avenue, where it remained for the next forty years. The college began to come into its modern shape around this time: the Columbia School of Law was founded in 1858; the country's first mining school and Ph.D. opportunity was offered in 1864 and 1875, respectively; Barnard College for women became affiliated with Columbia in 1889; the medical school came under the aegis of the university in 1891; followed immediately by Teacher's College in 1893. The introduction and development of graduate institutions and undergraduate programs established Columbia as one of the most prominent educators of young minds not only in the U.S. but throughout the world. As such, the college was renamed for the last time in 1896 to Columbia University.

From there, the university moved once more, this time to its contemporary home, to the more spacious Morningside Heights in Manhattan. Columbia emerged as a preeminent national center for innovation and scholarly achievement. The School of Journalism was established by Joseph Pulitzer in 1912. In 1919, a course on peace and war internationally originated both the acclaimed and controversial Core Curriculum that continues to define Columbia University today.
Columbia continued to grow, expand, and prosper, until its most turbulent time in the 1960's, soon after celebrating its bicentennial. Currents of civil unrest and challenge to authority swept U.S. citizens, especially the youth, who formed popular protests to some of the nations most immense issues, among them opposition to the Vietnam War. The protests converged at Columbia University during the last week of April in 1968; students occupied five Columbia buildings, effectively shutting down the University, until they were removed by the N.Y.P.D. These events led to the moral and financial decline of Columbia University, the retirement of President Grayson Kirk, the cancellation of campus projects, and the loss of national prominence. Notably, it also contributed to the creation of the University Senate, which continues today to provide a voice for staff, students, and alumni of the Columbia network regarding university affairs.
Columbia bounced back expeditiously, however, with the creation of new campus schools and programs like the School of the Arts, and the renovation of much of the university's campus. Columbia is a place of "doubled magic," said Columbia alumnus Herman Wouk, a place where "the best things of the moment were outside the rectangle of Columbia" and "the best things of all human history and thought were inside the rectangle." Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, and it is the fifth oldest in the country.
Clear in its historic commitment to the individual and education, led by it's new and current President, Lee. C. Bollinger, Columbia proudly celebrates its recent 250th anniversary as it looks ahead to the many achievements to come in its illuminated future.

Bard College

Because we are heading off to New York in (goodness the days are flying by) a week and a half, Mrs. Lilhanand, our chaperone, suggested to us that each student pick one topic and research it, so that when we reach the Big Apple and start our sight-seeing, we'll have, as she put it, a "resident expert" on each visit. I chose Bard College to blog about, because it’s on my short-list of colleges and seems like an interesting school at the very least. Enjoy!

Covering more than 500 acres of land, Bard sits at the edge of the Hudson River in New York, about ninety miles away from New York City and a two-hour drive away from Massachusetts.

Bard College was originally known as St. Stephen's College, founded in 1860 during the tumultuous year before the secession of the Southern states that kicked off the Civil War. Associated with the Episcopal church of New York City, the college offered a curriculum that prepared devoted men for entrance into the seminaries of the church.
In 1919, under the watchful eye of Dr. Bernard Iddings Bell, the school began a change to a more secular curriculum with a wider scope and breadth with the inclusion of social and natural sciences.

In 1928 St Stephen's College became an undergraduate school of Columbia, and in 1934 the college officially changed the name to Bard College to honor the founder, John Bard. The Dean at the time of the re-naming was one Donald Tewksbury, who was one of the first in this period of America higher education to place an emphasis on both fine and performing arts in a liberal arts curriculum. In the '40s Bard expanded its repertoire by engaging professors from Europe to teach varying subjects, from economy to symphony orchestra to philosophy. In 1944, Bard became a coeducational college in its own right, severing its ties with Columbia while maintaining an affiliation with the Episcopal church. After this, Bard attracted more professors who brought the school prestige in the arts of literature and writing. Also during this period came several of Bard's stated academic goals for its students, which still are applied today and rely largely in part on promoting an independent and self-thinking student with a common code of ethics and an understanding of the history of humans.
The modern Bard does have some differences from its expansion in the 20th century. The college is organized as, as it says on the Bard website, “a central body surrounded by significant institutes and programs - “satellites” - that strengthen its curriculum.” This unique structure makes Bard College very different from the larger universities as its focus is primarily on undergraduate studies, with each “satellite” of research, graduate study, or community outreach serving as an educational enhancement for the undergraduate students at Bard.
Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts
Music plays a large role at Bard as well. Started in the summer of 1990, the annual Bard Music Festival is designed to give the festival-goers an appreciation of the great composers. Each year, one composer is chosen as the theme, and the festival celebrates that composer by performances of their pieces, lectures, demonstrations, and essays. This musical bend eventually led to the creation Bard College's Conservatory of Music in 2005. Bard also has had a historical interest in the community, an interest that is continued today through many projects at the college: there is the Human Rights Project, an interdisciplinary program that encourages students to study and take part in the modern human rights movement; there is the Bard Prison Initiative, founded by a Bard alum, where students work to restore or promote higher education in New York prisons.

Bard College seems like a great place to visit, and I'm excited to see it, although I must admit I'm also very eager to enjoy the views on the train ride up from NYC to Bard, as I've heard the view along the Hudson is spectacular.