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Kerry Koen ’74
Andrada Danila ’15
Jim A. Smith ’70
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Katie Roberts ’01
(photo by Andrew Daddio)
Conventional wisdom says that, when immigrants move into a community, they will displace native workers and decrease wages. It’s a basic supply-and-demand story taught in almost every introductory economics course. But economics professor Chad Sparber has found his niche challenging such assumptions.
Sparber began studying the impact of immigrant labor on native employment and wages even before he arrived at Colgate from the University of California, Davis, back in 2006. Shunning the conventional wisdom and thinking that the effects of immigration might be more nuanced, he looked anew at the U.S. experience. The findings, gathered in conjunction with UC Davis’s Giovanni Peri, defied the standard supply-and-demand model: immigration in the United States often produces higher wages and stimulates growth.
When it comes to heavy labor, immigrants don’t force native workers out; statistically, they lift them up. “There’s a question about how the economy absorbs immigrants. It can do it in a number of ways,” said Sparber. “We don’t believe that it happens through decreased wages, and we don’t think it happens from natives moving to new states. People just start working in better occupations.”
Construction workers become foremen. Entry-level employees become managers. Why? It comes down to communication, Sparber and Peri found. Native workers have the edge, whether on the building site or in the boardroom — an advantage reflected in their compensation and duties. This information has practical implications in an election year, when immigration reform is on the national agenda. It was Sparber’s quest for useful answers to such crucial policy questions that led him into economics in the first place.
These days, he’s creating courses like The Economics of Race and Ethnicity, traveling abroad with Colgate’s London Economics Study Group, teaching a 2012 Summer on the Hill class (July 27–29), and maintaining an external research fellowship at the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, University College London. (He’s also earned a place with Colgate’s Fac-Pac, a team of university professors who travel the country, challenging alumni and parents to games of Colgate-style trivia.)
Last year, Sparber and fellow economics professor Takao Kato scoured SAT data from the College Board to see if a 2003 reduction in H-1B visa quotas had caused a ripple effect in American higher education. The H-1B visa is reserved for educated, skilled workers — Sparber and Kato theorized that college and career could be a package deal for the world’s best and brightest, who might naturally wish to stay and work in the country where they receive their degrees.
The pair found a 1.5 percent decline in SAT scores among foreign applicants nationwide, demonstrating that the most highly qualified candidates were indeed deciding to study elsewhere around the globe. It’s a significant result. Had the same drop occurred within a single first-year class at Colgate, the university’s
U.S. News & World Report
rankings would have slipped by approximately four to six positions.
Sparber came to Colgate specifically to pursue this kind of research and to teach others to do the same. “In encouraging students to do research, I find that they’re a little intimidated at first,” he said. “But once they start asking their own questions and applying the lessons they’ve learned, it becomes more enjoyable for them.”
That work also exposes his students to the real consequences of the choices we make as a society. Limit immigration, and you could inadvertently suppress wages and promotions. Curtail labor visas, and you could change university demographics. Cause and effect is a story that can be as compelling as supply and demand. Through his teaching, research, skepticism, and natural curiosity, Sparber’s writing the book.
— Mark Walden
Kerry Koen ’74
(photo by Andrew Daddio)
– Teacher of piano, staff accompanist at Colgate
– MA, piano performance, Syracuse University
– Teaches yoga to faculty and staff every Thursday at lunchtime
How did you get into yoga?
In 1982, I was living here and commuting — white-knuckle driving — to Syracuse University for graduate-school work. I saw an ad in the Mid-York Weekly for yoga classes that said: “Do you want to lessen your stress?” It turned out to be Mary Louise Skelton [longtime co-director of Colgate’s India Study Group with her husband, Professor Bill Skelton]. I had just gotten married, so my husband and I started taking yoga with her. I had a student-mentor relationship with her for the rest of her life. [She died in 1995.]
When did you start teaching at Colgate?
As a student, I accompanied a lot of fellow students, so I got into that role of being a collaborative artist, and kept doing it. When I graduated in ’74, my teacher, Vivian Slater, said, “There’s a real market for a piano teacher in the area.” So I started teaching piano, went around to people’s houses, and gradually got my own studio downtown. I’ve always given lessons at Colgate, but in the ’90s I got my official title as teacher.
Is there a connection between music and yoga for you?
I have performance anxiety, and in graduate school, being judged by two or three professors in juries, it was at its peak. I decided I needed to do something about it. Mary Lou set up a program that would help me before a performance. It incorporated an Asana practice — slow-movement postures, which worked on flexibility and focus — with pranayama exercises — monitoring your breathing and controlling your breath. I’ve also studied the philosophy of yoga, which puts stage fright and performance in its place. It’s not the fruit of the action, it’s the process — and if you’ve done all of your work, you can’t rely on the outcome because it’s never going to be concrete. With the philosophy and the idea of pulling the breath in deeply, I’ve been able to keep it in perspective and not worry so much about performance.
Tell us about your teaching.
Usually the people I teach piano to at Colgate are three kinds: pure beginners; the people who, as teenagers, quit piano and wish their mother had never let them quit; and music majors who are not piano players so they need keyboard skills and help with their theory and composition. I also have a studio above the Barge downtown, where I teach about 20 local students. It doubles as a yoga studio.
There are a lot of similarities between yoga and playing piano. Piano playing requires using many of the senses and has the effect of pulling all the senses in one direction. This is also one of the goals of yoga, as a prelude to mindful meditation. When I teach, I try to key into students’ learning styles, and then try to get them to access these other channels.
Do you have a favorite composer?
It depends where I’m at. After 9/11, when we were going into Iraq, I felt like playing a lot of Schubert. There was something about it being very deeply emotional and slow moving that connected with me at that time. There are times I’m really into Bach, when I can feel his religiosity, his spiritualism. And there are other times when it’s Mozart — simple but beautifully executed phrases that have a deep meaning to them.
— Aleta Mayne
Andrada Danila ’15
(photo by Andrew Daddio)
– Hometown: Arad, Romania
– Intended major: art and art history
– Selected to create the set design for the Palace Players community theater production of
The Odd Couple
How did you get the opportunity to design the set for
The Odd Couple
I love going to the theater, so during my first semester, I took the Scenic Design class taught by Marjorie Kellogg, and I loved it. We did a project to design a set for the female version of
The Odd Couple
. The concept was basically just a New York apartment. The people from the Palace Theater came to see and then they got in touch with me to ask if I wanted to work with them!
Coming from Romania, had you ever heard of or seen
The Odd Couple
No, I hadn’t heard of it before this, but it’s a really funny play. Seeing it at the Palace Theater will be my first time.
Had you ever seen a New York apartment?
I had never been to New York until last fall but, for the project, we had to do research first. In the play, the apartment is on Riverside Drive, so I looked on the Internet at pictures of Riverside apartments for rent.
How did you adapt your original set design for the Palace?
There are differences in the budget and space. My original design was for Brehmer Theater. The Palace stage is smaller. For our play, I don’t think that’s much of a problem because it is a New York apartment; it’s not a huge space anyway. It’s not just reducing the size and making it smaller, but also moving things around so that they fit the building and how it’s built. There’s also the director’s vision — in class we made the set for the female version, but the Palace is producing the male version, where there’s a difference in the decorations.
What are some of the other challenges in set design?
You have to think about the set from other perspectives. It’s a struggle to put something that’s three-dimensional onto paper practically. The most difficult part is to make it all understandable for the people who actually build it. Also, you have to think about what the audience sees, so you have to measure and draw lines from the audience to your set and see that there are no empty spaces.
Why did you choose to make that big transition from Romania to Colgate?
I wanted to get out of my comfort zone — get out of the house and travel. I knew I had to take a large step to begin with. I really want to go on off-campus study groups, too. Again, I’m thinking of going outside my comfort zone, because I’ve seen Europe — I’d like to visit South America or Asia.
What’s the most unique thing you brought to Colgate from Romania?
A small framed drawing of an owl that I got as a gift from my aunt.
— Jason Kammerdiener ’10
Jim A. Smith ’70, Colgate trustee
(photo by Andrew Daddio)
– VP, director of research and education, Rockefeller Archive Center
– Chairman, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation; former chairman, Aspen Institute Program on the Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy; founding board member and former board president, Center for Arts and Culture
– PhD in medieval history, Brown University
– Colgate Alumni Council 2005–2012; Maroon Citation, 2010
Tell us about your work.
The Rockefeller Archive Center is the premier center for research on philanthropy and civil society. In 2008, I came here to set up a research and education center. We support scholars, organize conferences and workshops, and work with faculty and students interested in the role of philanthropy in the United States and around the globe.
Do you have a favorite item in the archive?
John D. Rockefeller Sr.’s Ledger A. He began it in 1855 at age 16 when he started work as a bookkeeper, itemizing his personal expenses down to the penny. It reveals a meticulous boy, soon to be the titan of the Standard Oil monopoly. The ledger also shows his earliest donations to Baptist causes, evidence of the beginnings of organized American philanthropy.
Your career has spanned academia and philanthropy with an emphasis on the arts. How did your interest in the arts come about?
My mother was a music teacher and conservatory graduate. My father studied architecture but remained in the Army after World War II, spending 25 years as an officer. There was always music in the house. As we moved about, including stints in Japan and Germany, there were always museums to visit and concerts to attend.
Have you ever been a performer yourself?
In 1998, I fell in with an ensemble of Juilliard students — musicians, actors, dancers, composers. They asked me to help get their nonprofit organized. I then toured with them, writing and narrating their shows. My musical talents are limited, but on stage I have banged a marimba, squeezed a concertina, and played a toy piano.
Tell us about the spring immersion programs you created for Colgate sophomores.
The career services staff told me that students often have difficulty gaining traction in the nonprofit sector. I was teaching at Georgetown about philanthropy and civil society. I thought a few students might want to come to Washington during spring break and attend my classes. I set up site visits with people, including alumni who work at advocacy organizations, think tanks, local development groups, and international NGOs, among other nonprofits. When I returned to New York, Sally Sachar ’81 continued the D.C. program. Bobby Dorf ’80 and I then created a similar program for students in the arts. We focus on cultural policy issues and the economics of the arts, taking students to meet with alumni and others working at the Metropolitan Opera, American Ballet Theater, Christie’s, and other cultural organizations.
How is serving on Colgate’s Board of Trustees different from other nonprofit boards?
What has surprised me the most is how data driven the decision making is. The data available to a university is far more abundant and useful than that we see in foundations, think tanks, and most other nonprofits. We are benchmarking against a set of institutions — some research universities, some liberal arts colleges — as we chart a course for the university.
Which would you choose: an afternoon in a national park, or reading a long-awaited book?
Ten days from now, my wife, Valerie, and I will spend a week at Yosemite with my Colgate classmate Rick Clogher and his wife, Susan. We’ll hike and be outdoors, but we’re already talking about the books we’ll be reading around the fireplace — I’m begging the question!
— Rebecca Costello
Katie Roberts ’01, Alumni Council member
– Project manager, regulatory manager, Los Alamos National Laboratory
– MS in environmental management, Duke University
– Alumni Council since 2010; regional VP, southwest and international
– Founder and president of Colgate’s Albuquerque, N.M., alumni club; co-chair, class gift committee; chair, alumni admission program in New Mexico
What it’s like to work where the Manhattan Project came about?
The knowledge base of the people, and the history there, are amazing. But, the lab does so much more than people realize: biomedical research, materials research, and philanthropy for the town. We also handle legacy contamination, and maintain the United States’s nuclear stockpile.
Tell us about your role.
I am both an environmental scientist and a manager. A big part of my job is to make sure the lab complies with federal and state regulations. The main one is the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, which regulates storage, disposal, and treatment of hazardous waste. The other piece of that is corrective action. Back when there was no environmental regulation, they buried contaminated waste in the ground at more than 2,000 sites. I help the lab figure out the most protective ways to clean up those sites. I’m also managing the construction of a permacon — a containment building designed to pull drums or boxes of transuranic waste (meaning, it exceeds a threshold for uranium content) out of the ground and repackage it safely so that it can be shipped to a disposal facility.
What’s your favorite aspect of the work?
I like the regulatory compliance piece. It’s not like math, where there’s a definitive answer. Sure, there are rules and regulations, but they’re subject to interpretation. I like being able to figure out what that is.
What’s the most unique thing in your office?
Almost all transuranic waste goes to a facility in New Mexico called the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. It’s basically a giant mine, built into salt formations about three-quarters of a mile below ground. I’m a geo geek, so among various other rocks and lavas, I have salt from the mine in a little plastic baggie.
Tell us about your family’s Colgate connections.
My parents are both Colgate grads. My father, Robert Chamberlain, is Class of ’74, and my mom, Rita (Everts), is Class of ’75. My husband, Tal-ee, is also a 2001 grad.
As founder of the alumni club in New Mexico, what’s been your favorite activity?
As a student, Tal-ee went on the Santa Fe Study Group with Professor Sarah Wider. Now, we host a gathering for the study group students and professors and invite the local alumni.
What drew you to serve on the Alumni Council?
The best way to describe it is, I just love talking about Colgate. Tal-ee and I volunteer on our class gift committee, and for the alumni admission program. Being on the council, I get to be involved in making recommendations to make the school better, and then I come home and relay that to other alumni and prospective students at college fairs. I’m excited about getting the word out in the southwest about Colgate.
What else do you do in your spare time?
I started playing soccer competitively when I was 6, and played at Colgate under Kathy Brawn. When you’ve played a sport almost your entire life, it’s hard to give it up after college. So, I’m in a league in Bernalillo, which is between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. We have quite a team — people from all types of Division I schools. We’ve got the first all-American (who went to Notre Dame), and players from Florida State, Stanford, and UNM. It is just so much fun.
— Rebecca Costello