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Arielle Sperling ’14
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Kevin Lynch, chief information officer
(photo by Andrew Daddio)
A bright yellow seaplane glides to an elegant splash landing on Taylor Lake, and Colgate’s chief information officer smiles. Kevin Lynch, a former communications and information officer in the Air Force, said he’s always had an aviation fascination. The model plane is a kit-built radio-controlled design powered by electric motors attached to propellers.
“Those motors were originally designed to spin CDs,” he explained. Lynch builds many of his planes with simple Dollar Store foam board and hot glue. “This way, it’s only a couple of bucks if (when) I crash it,” he said.
Lynch took on the position of CIO in January of 2013, following 12 years at Clarkson University. He sees his role as facilitating communication on campus (he is responsible for visitors no longer having to register their devices to use campus WiFi) and helping to focus the creative tendencies of faculty, staff, and students.
Back in his office, as Lynch described the evolving role of technology on campus, Ahmad Khazaee, instructional technologist, stopped by with the latest delivery — A MakerBot 3D printer. “That’s the first step in the creation of a maker’s space,” Lynch said of a room in the works that will provide students with the tools to make things ranging from small crafts to advanced models. “People can come together to make robots, interactive art, and prototypes for new ideas. Eventually, we’ll get a laser cutter and a soldering station.”
Lynch said he also applies an open, creative mind-set to project management within the department.
“IT is a service organization,” he said. “We’re here to help people use technology to become more productive and efficient, but our overriding goal is to increase the personal relationships between people. Technology should not be used as a barrier or a substitute [for personal interaction].”
And while Lynch is exceptionally easy to reach, he is rarely found in his office. Lynch prefers to be out and about on campus, helping people to brainstorm and solve problems. A recent project involved overseeing the setup of 27 wireless boosters to accommodate the crowd of more than 5,000 who came to see Hillary Clinton speak.
A father of four children ranging in age from 1 to 9, Lynch said his love of technology doesn’t mean his home is extra-wired for gadgetry. In fact, he is a “cord cutter,” eschewing cable television in favor of Netflix, and he’s building a timber-frame woodshed using traditional mortise-and-tenon building methods. “The whole thing will go together with wood pegs,” he explained.
Lynch’s home, a brick federal built by Erastus Cleveland in 1802, has a creative and military connection of its own. According to historical documents, Cleveland built the Town of Madison’s first saw mill, grist mill, distillery, brewery, and cloth factory, all before fighting in the War of 1812 as a lieutenant colonel. The house makes for a good springboard for historical lessons, said Lynch, whose children are all homeschooled by his wife, Alycia. The couple attended high school together in the nearby Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School District. Lynch’s mother, an artist who lives in Canastota, gives art lessons to the children on Thursdays. Lynch also coaches his son’s Lego robotics team of 9- to 14-year-olds who are also homeschooled, and members of the New-Life Christian School.
Much like deciding the kind of education his children receive, Lynch said, technology on a liberal arts campus can’t be thought of as simply doing what is trending on a national scale. Adding that any technological component should be closely considered and examined in relation to how it can help augment existing personalized learning experiences, he said, “We need to apply technologies that let Colgate be Colgate, and to be true to our model.”
Assistant professor of physics and astronomy
(photo by Andrew Daddio)
An astronomer is born.
When I was nine, a friend gave me a book about astronomy titled
What’s Up There?
by Dinah Moche, which I read countless times. My dad, a middle-school science teacher, encouraged me to pursue the subject. He organized a series of events celebrating Halley’s Comet’s last visit in 1986. I was hooked.
On young stars.
My dissertation was on the time scale for planet formation, which I’ve been researching ever since. I study young stars that are only a million years old and the geometrically flat disks of gas and dust that swirl around them. Within these disks, the dust coagulates to form planets. If you were to rewind the clock in our solar system and break up all the material currently bound in the planets, you would expect it to have a disk-like structure similar to the ones I observe orbiting these young stars.
Favorite course to teach.
Saving the Appearances: Galileo, the Church, and the Scientific Endeavor [a Scientific Perspectives course] is my current favorite. It takes me out of my comfort zone. The course follows the evolution of the theological underpinnings of the Catholic Church and the evolution of the epistemology of modern science. I was trained as an astronomer, not a philosopher, but I believe I am a good thinker. This course forces me to engage with several disciplines, while exploring the science versus religion debate.
I grew up in the coal fields of Appalachia, in the poorest county in West Virginia — even though it has produced the most coal. In creating the Moving Mountains series [see story on pg. 14], I wanted to raise awareness about the social injustices occurring in Appalachian mining communities and the environmental devastation being wreaked on some of the most beautiful mountains in the world.
Raising the roof.
When I was in graduate school at Vanderbilt, I experienced Nashville’s eclectic live music scene and fell in love with folk, Americana, and bluegrass. After hosting a house concert for a couple of close friends, my wife [Mary Simonson, a musicologist and an assistant professor of film and media studies and women’s studies] and I began hosting concerts regularly, featuring Americana artists passing through the area. It’s a great way to support the many talented artists. We’ve hosted nationally known musicians including Jonathan Byrd, Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin, and Doug and Telisha Williams.
My favorite singer-songwriter is Darrell Scott. In addition, I love Tim O’Brien, Gillian Welch, Johnny Cash, John Prine, Guy Clark… It’s a long list!
Most loved constellation.
Growing up, I used to get mailers from Science News with an image of the Orion Nebula. I used to spend hours staring at the nebula from my grandparents’ backyard with my grandfather’s hunting binoculars. Today, my students and I use giant telescopes to study the young planetary systems forming in the Orion Nebula.
His burning question.
Why have we not been contacted by other intelligent civilizations? In the last four years, we have learned that Earth-like planets are abundant. Therefore, the likelihood is great that other intelligent civilizations exist. Assuming they are willing to communicate with us, our lack of contact may be explained by the fact that intelligent civilizations do not exist for long on astronomical time scales. Given our propensity for destroying one another and our ecosystem, I’m afraid this might be the answer.
— Laura D’Angelo ’14
Arielle Sperling ’14
Before last summer, Arielle Sperling ’14 hadn’t so much as gone fishing, never mind touched a fish. But during her internship in Ashton, Idaho, Sperling found herself hip-deep in trout. The environmental studies major from White Plains, N.Y., was the only Colgate student in a group of researchers who were looking at the habitat selection of adult rainbow trout.
Every year, Colgate sends a student to intern with the Henry’s Fork Foundation through a fellowship program funded by the late Jeffry Timmons ’64 and his wife, Sara. This year’s group was trying to gain a better understanding of where the fish feed and to determine the water variables (depth, temperature, flow rate, and substrates) of those spots. “This can better inform river management in the future and foster a healthier environment for the trout,” Sperling explained. “People travel from all over the world to fish the Henry’s Fork River, which is known for its fly-fishing,” Sperling explained.
After catching approximately 40 fish, they tagged them: “We did a little fishy surgery on them,” she joked. “We implanted radio gear in them and sewed them back up.” They then released the fish and tracked them to see which environments the fish were choosing for feeding grounds.
Sperling, who also majors in English, first got her feet wet with environmental work when she was a communications intern with Arava Power, developer of Israel’s first solar power field. Through the Phillip Milhomme ’60 International Fellowship, she lived and worked in Tel Aviv during the summer before her sophomore year.
Then, as a rising junior, Sperling’s other main interest — exploring her Jewish identity — took her to Berlin when she received a grant to participate in Germany Close Up, a program for learning and discussing post-Holocaust issues.
On campus, she is very involved in Jewish life and was co-president of the Jewish Student Union. She’s most proud of coordinating an Israel night in Frank Dining Hall and helping organize joint Shabbat-Maghrib (evening prayer) services with the Muslim Student Association. “These are a great way to show the rest of the Colgate community that we believe in working together,” she said.
Exploring others’ viewpoints was something Sperling embraced last summer in Ashton, where the majority of the population is Mormon. “It’s interesting that despite all of the international travel I have been lucky enough to do, living in Idaho felt like the most different culture I have ever been in, even though I was still in America,” she said. Sperling learned more about that culture by asking a lot of questions of the local researchers with whom she worked. In return, they would ask her questions about Judaism. “I think it’s important as an American to have a holistic view of our country,” she said. “People on the other side of our country or in another community think differently about things than I do. So being able to put a face to the views that I disagree with and to have those people as my friends and co-workers, I understood that they have a legitimate reason for their points of view.”
Back on campus, the Delta Delta Delta member shares her Colgate perspective in her work with the admission office. Reflecting on her college years, Sperling said: “I’ve had all these opportunities that I’d never even dreamed of. I’ve been able to see the world, meet new people, and push outside of my comfort zone. I’m really proud of myself.”
— Aleta Mayne