Author Archives: robinminiter

Marist’s Florence Campus, FFE Program Take Flight

by Robin Miniter

In Florence, students live with history in their own backyard. Seen here is Il Duomo, Florence's central cathedral, on a rainy Easter Sunday. (photo by Robin Miniter)

In Florence, students live with history in their own backyard. Seen here is Il Duomo, Florence's central cathedral, on a rainy Easter Sunday. (photo by Robin Miniter)

Thinking of Marist, visions of the Hudson, the Rotunda, and those perfectly manicured lawns may come to mind – but what about the Arno, il Duomo, and cobbled streets? Stressing the importance on the development of global citizenship, the Marist International Program has set up a branch campus in partnership with Scuola Lorenzo de’Medici in the heart of Florence, Italy. As one of the top rated institutions in the country for the study abroad experience, Marist sees hundreds od upperclassmen off each year to destinations around the globe. Now, in competing with other top universities in the country, the fall of 2009 will bring fourth wave of freshman students to Italy through Marist’s own Florence Freshmen Experience (FFE).

Taste of Italy: Students experience local culture and cuisine at the local market. (image by Robin Miniter)

Taste of Italy: Students experience local culture and cuisine at the local market. (photo by Robin Miniter)

Though under one umbrella, both programs are unique in their offerings. As a branch campus, Marist enrolls students from all over the world to attend LdM, hailing from as far as Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and Japan. Here, they can receive a four-year degree with a Marist seal in digital media, conservation studies, studio art, art history, fashion design, or interior design. Also at this location, the FFE program allows incoming freshmen to bypass the traditional campus experience in favor of a global one.

After receiving a letter in the mail and a phone call from the Marist International Program in the summer of 2007, current sophomore Sophie Ordway elected to give Florence a shot. “It gave me an outlook on life that I think would have been completely different had I come to Marist my freshman year,” says Ordway, “I feel much more receptive to other cultures and I would like to think I have a somewhat better understanding of people in general.”

Kate Giglio ‘07, Resident Director of the Marist-LdM program, likes the FFE program because it gives students who are already predisposed to adventure a chance to, “really take off like a rocket.”

“I mean, why not just head out into the world, ASAP?” says Giglio.

Fresh out of high school, incoming freshmen are offered to partake in the fledgling year-long program. According to Joe Associate Giacalone, Coordinator of International Recruitment at the Admission office, potential student criteria include their major, strong academic standing and demonstrated interest in a global education. The past three years have seen number participants in their teens.

Dr. Claire Keith, French professor and director of the Global Studies minor sees the program as an opportunity for students to really, “break their ‘American’ crust.”

As a full accredited university, freshmen receive full-credit transferable back to Poughkeepsie when – and if – they decide to head back to the states. The students live in apartment-style Marist housing in the city center, footsteps away from local markets and the most renowned Renaissance art and architecture in the world.

"When in Rome...": The FFE students take a day trip to Rome in the fall of 2007. (Image courtesy of Heather Staats)

"When in Rome...": The FFE students take a day trip to Rome in the fall of 2007. (photo courtesy of Heather Staats)

“I have watched students come to Florence kind of nervous, some whom have never even been outside the States, and by the time they leave in May they’ve become more confident, more adventurous, more likely to keep traveling…” says Giglio, “When we are away from our comfort zone we learn the most about ourselves and our surroundings.”

Erika Sorg, Ordway’s roommate and FFE alum, praised the program in the sense that it taught her much more than she thought she was capable of. “I gained confidence and a better understanding of myself] “she says.

Kelly Gallucci, also a sophomore back on campus, chose Marist because their International program selection was, “diverse and full of opportunity.”

“I wasn’t nervous at all when I first heard about the FFE program, it was really exciting to me,” says Gallucci, “The Marist staff took such good care of us, we had programs about culture shock and homesickness and other things that really made me felt safe while I was there.” Though she fondly remembers, “[bonding] over the silliest things – burnt french toast, lack of Italian language skills, uncertainty of how to use the washing machine,” she cites, “to see those things that I had once learned about in school, up close, was the best part of the whole experience.”

“It made me feel like I was a part of something so much bigger than me, something that transcended time – to be standing within arm’s reach of the works of Michelangelo [was incredible].”

As of press time, the decision making process for the class of 2013 continues. When asked what she for sees for Marist’s international programs down the road, Keith replied, “Well, I think the student body will vote with their feet.”


For more information, please contact Marist International Programs


Bizarre Poughkeepsie in Your Own Backyard

by Robin Miniter

Nestled along the banks of the Hudson River, Marist College’s wholesome atmosphere provides an idyllic learning and living environment: we’ve got the greenery, the scenery, and…a ghost? Now if you thought the most bizarre things about Poughkeepsie were the roaming cabs with shoddy paint jobs, it’s time to think again. Like any city, it has bizarre tales to tell that might just hit closer to home than you might expect.

Hudson River State Hospital

No one's home: The empty Hudson River State Hospital stands empty, a shell of its former self. (Image courtesy of Sebastian T./Flickr)

No one's home: The empty Hudson River State Hospital stands empty, a shell of its former self. (Image courtesy of Sebastian T./Flickr)

Looming upon a hill overlooking Route 9 is the old Hudson River State Hospital. Opening its doors in 1871, it was home to thousands of inmates at a time when insanity was thought to be a treatable ailment. However, as in many cases in the heyday of mental hospitals, undeserving victims were often committed. “Insanity” had no clear-cut definition. Abusive husbands could have their spouses admitted; orphans, women pregnant out of wedlock, and rebellious adolescents were all common faces in the wings of these hospitals. Though the state forbids trespassers, the spot is popular among urban explorers looking for a sinister thrill. Now it sits quietly in a state of squalor and decay, haunted by the shadows – and as some claim, ghosts – of its dark past.

The Haunting of Sheahan Hall

Shelley L. Sperling, purportedly Marist College's resident spirit. (Image courtesy of

Shelley L. Sperling, purportedly Marist College's resident spirit. (Image courtesy of

Speaking of spooky specters, our next stop on the list brings us to our very own Sheahan Hall. On February 18, 1975, quiet Marist College became a chaotic crime scene when student Louis Acevedo shot and killed ex-girlfriend Shelley Sperling in the cafeteria (now the Presidential Dining room). Angered by her new collegiate lifestyle, Acevedo was taken into police custody after he was found in

a rocking chair looking at pictures of the couple. Sperling was lying just feet away. Her spirit is said to roam the halls of Sheahan and the wooded Grotto memorial, dedicated to students who have died while attending the college.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes

Though the Hollywood version of this story is a bit more fluff than fact, you may never look Fulton Ave. the same way again. Directed by John Erick Dowdle, this slasher flick was inspired by local serial killer Kendall Francois. He was a local man, born and bred in Poughkeepsie with a history of violence and solicitation.

'Poughkeepsie Tapes' Movie Poster (Image courtesy of

'Poughkeepsie Tapes' Movie Poster (Image courtesy of

As missing persons reports filled the Poughkeepsie Police files from 1997-1998, a pattern and the suspicion that something more sinister was at hand began to emerge. On September 2, 1998, eight bodies of missing prostitutes were discovered all throughout house number 99, not far from the popular upperclassman housing.

The movie is based loosely on the story in a fictitious “Saw”-meets-psuedo documentary style. In the movie, police find hundreds of hours of murderous video footage after raiding a house. Through these clips, they try to piece back together the story of the crimes and the identity of the killer who remains at large.

Going to the Dogs: Presidential Pup Bo Make World Debut

by Robin Miniter

Next time you’re over at the White House, be sure to introduce yourself to the newest member of the Obama clan with a hand – or paw – shake.

The White House announced this week after months after President Barack Obama’s inaugural promise of a puppy playmate for his two daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, that a 6-month-old Portuguese Water Dog named Bo is finally making himself at home in the Oval Office.

Six-month-old Bo, a Portuguese water dog, arrives at the White House this past week as a gift from Massachusetts State Senator Ted Kennedy (Courtesy of

Six-month-old Bo, a Portuguese water dog, arrives at the White House this past week as a gift from Massachusetts State Senator Ted Kennedy (Courtesy of

The Washington Post reported that the dog, named after first lady Michelle Obama’s father whose nickname was Diddley, was a gift was Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy. The identity of the pup has been long awaited with pictures and reports leaking before his official introduction was staged this past Tuesday.

However, a rumble of disappointment has been festering among pet welfare workers and shelter advocates who feel Obama has broken his promise to adopt, “a mutt like [him].” According to an interview featured in People Magazine, Obama stated that, ” ‘two criteria that have to be reconciled.’ One was that the new dog ‘has to be hypoallergenic’ because of 10-year-old daughter Malia’s allergies. The other, he said, was that, ‘our preference would be to get a shelter dog.’ “ It appears that the first condition has been fulfilled. According to Pet Connection, “Portuguese Water Dogs…have what’s known as a “single” coat. These coats shed less than the more common canine double coat, and so less dander gets deposited in the environment.” However, whatever happened to the pound puppy promise?

Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama, told the Associated Press that the Obamas started off with a shelter search. However, as it is reported on People’s website, “after meeting Bo and feeling that he fit their lifestyle and ‘because this gift came before their pound search sort of was completed, [The Obamas] made a gift to some of the places they were looking.’ ”

“His choosing to go to a breeder is a disappointment. Choosing a shelter dog, that would have been a really powerful message to the American people,” said Steve Gruber, spokesman for the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals in New York City.

Christie Donnelly, the president of the Marist College Fox PAW (People for Animal Welfare) group finds it, “disappointing that Obama said he would adopt a shelter dog, but ended up with a pure bred. I recently read something about a newly discovered moss-like plant that was named caloplaca obamae — he’s such a large part of popular culture, science, everything that moss is being named after him.”

President Obama and the first dog take a stroll down the White House corridor (courtesy of

President Obama and the first dog take a stroll down the White House corridor (courtesy of

That being said, Donnelly thinks, “he could have set an amazing example for the country by supporting animal shelters and adopting. lots of “pure bred” dogs are actually from puppy mills, are often products of doggy incest, and aren’t entirely healthy…Not to mention the millions of dogs that could be adopted and saved from being put down. [In regards to his donation] hopefully he’s planning on donating to no kill shelters, like the North Shore Animal League.”

The Humane Society of the United States president Wayne Pacelle said that even if all didn’t go as promised, shelter dogs still got a bit of national spotlight. People reports that right now about 1.5 million healthy, adoptable dogs are euthanized a year, a situation that could be avoided if just 35 percent to 40 percent of dog-owning families would get their next dog from a shelter.

School’s Out, Skating’s in for Local Teacher

by Robin Miniter


Alter Ego: Carmel teacher Nicki Stabell trades in her school gear for skates as a member of the Hudson Valley Horror roller derby team (picture courtesy of:

Knotted up in a pre-practice stretch on the polished wooden floor of Hyde Park’s Roller Magic, Nicki Stabell of Pleasant Valley is every ounce of fierce. Of course, as a member of the fledging Hudson Valley Horrors roller derby team, it comes with the territory: from the spunky hair-do to the scuffed quad skates, her short-sleeve shirt reveals colorfully inked biceps. No full sleeve tattoos allowed though, she laments – after all, she is a 7th grade teacher. “I always have to be professional and on my game when I’m at school,” she says.

A math teacher in Carmel and Marist College Greystone graduate student by day and derby dame be nightfall, Stabell, 24 – known as “Polly Gon Crazy” in the derby world – shares a similar story with the thousands of other women converging on the track for the full-throttle roller derby revival that’s sweeping the nation. To put it simply, Stabell, like many of her teammates, defies the concept of your average career woman.

“Being able to have a derby persona is probably one of the things that helps keep me sane, despite how crazy it is having a second personality,” says Stabell, “It’s fun getting to put my life on hold and go be Polly for a few hours each week.”

A 2006 SUNY New Paltz graduate, Stabell will be receiving her Masters in Education Psychology from Marist in the spring of 2010. For now, she juggles a healthy balance of work and play: tackling tests in the classroom and tackling opponents on the track.

“I find that derby actually gives me more patience with my students since I have another outlet,” she says, “and teaching really comes in handy at derby, especially since I’m so used to explaining things, it really comes naturally.”

She notes that while she doesn’t often bring derby up in the classroom, her students are aware that she partakes in, “some sort of sport on roller skates and that there is no ball.” Her colleagues on the other hand have a clearer grasp of the idea.

“When I was picking my name, I actually brought in a list of different names and had them vote on which one they liked the best. They all know that I’m a big nerd, so Polly Gon Crazy was the winner, hands down.”

Though her multiple passions are pulling from all different directions – mentally and physically – she is able to keep in check.

“It’s really difficult sometimes to balance everything, but I have to prioritize and I seem to be doing it pretty successfully. If I have to miss practice to finish a paper, or put off grading tests until Sunday to go to a game, I will.”

Stabell joined the team in July 2009 after seeing her friend’s band play at a derby half-time show in 2007. She was instantly hooked.

“I was completely intimidated…but it looked like so much fun to go out and kick ass!”

Five women compete from each side at during the bout – the three blockers and one pivot (the last line of defense try to defend their place in the pack while their one jammer tried to lap the their competition and rack up as many points as possible.

“Knowing that I can do it still amazes and excites me, I’m always stoked when I get to put my skates on!,” she beams, “Now I think to myself, ‘I can roller skate. What else is there I can’t do?'”

Food for Thought: “Recession Gardens” May Help Budgets Bounce Back

by Robin Miniter

With the economic recession in full swing, Americans are digging deep into their wallets – and now their gardens – for an answer to the crisis.

A little soil goes a long way for your stomach and your wallet. (photo courtesy of

A little soil goes a long way for your stomach and your wallet. (photo courtesy of

“It does make a good deal of sense economically speaking to have these gardens and to be self sufficient, especially in our economy where food prices are rapidly rising,” says James Marconi, a senior Political Science minor at Marist College.

For 2009 alone, the National Gardening Association predicts a 19 percent increase in home gardening based on spring seed sales data and a telephone survey. The plots have been compared Eleanor Roosevelt’s WWII era “Victory Gardens,” which symbolized the self-reliance of the American peopl. According to Roger Doiron of Kitchen Gardeners International, at their peak these gardens supplied 40 percent of the nation’s fresh produce. With history coming in full circle, First Lady Michelle Obama recently broke ground for a garden on the South Lawn of the White House with daughters Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10, as well as Washington D.C. area school children at her side.

The Washington Times reported that a well-maintained vegetable patch can yield hundreds or thousands of dollars in returns per year. “One-fifth of survey respondents said they planned to start a food garden this year, while more than half said they already were gardening to save on groceries,” reported the Times.

Food at your finger tips: a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables can easily be cultivated in your own abckyard. (courtesy of

Food at your finger tips: a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables can easily be cultivated in your own abckyard. (courtesy of

Sophie Ordway, a sophomore English-Writing major, grew up in a gardening family. Her mother, a botany major at the University of Michigan, “treats her plants like they’re her children.” She says that recession gardening would be, “great if everyone had the space and time to do it, and went in on it together… I think it would work.”

To put your green thumb to the test, offers a guide to get your patch up and running. Locally, the Hudson River Valley will soon be blossoming with local farmers markets. With a higher quality and at a lower price, the fruits of these gardeners’ labor will not only support the local economy, but will help to put food on your table – and theirs.

Easy recipes from your garden to your table:

Fresh Milk: Oscar winner sparks resurgence of gay rights activism

By Robin Miniter

Actor Sean Penn and slain politican Harvey Milk (photo courtesty of

Actor Sean Penn and slain politican Harvey Milk (photo courtesy of

Riding on the coattails of our nation’s current pursuit of change, last week’s 81st Annual Academy Awards was the scene of renewed optimism and activism surrounding the national battle for marriage equality.

Winning top honors for his leading role in ‘Milk’ as Harvey Milk, the nation’s first openly gay elected politician and gay rights activist, actor Sean Penn took the opportunity to use his spotlight to urge supporters of California’s Proposition 8 to rethink their stance.

“…It is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grand children’s eyes if they continue that way of support,” Penn said, “We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.”

A portion of the film highlights Milk’s fight against California’s Proposition 6 of 1978 which would have made the firing of openly homosexual teachers mandatory. The timeliness could not have been more evident with California’s Proposition 8 ballot being reheard in only a few days.

Passed on November 4, 2008, Prop. 8 changed the California’s Constitution, solidifying the traditional definition of marriage and thereby repealing and eliminating same-sex couples’ rights to marry. Since then the public outcry has been enormous. The Los Angeles Times reports that on March 5th the California Supreme Court will hear arguments debating the constitutionality of the bill. Over 18,000 marriages hang in the balance.

“It amazes me how the pendulum swings – a little step forward in equality, a bigger step back – a leap forward, a skip back,” said Andrea Sciacca, professor of Literature and Gender here at Marist College. “It shouldn’t have to be in such measured and calculated blocks…”

In an interview with Bob Tourtellotte of Reuters, Phil Curtis, the director of government affairs for AIDS Project Los Angeles said, “ ‘Milk’…has reintroduced a period in the fight for gay rights to a younger crowd that may have not have been so familiar with that period.”

“Members of the gay community say Milk has been like a tonic that has renewed a sense of activism…which is expected to last long into the future,” said Tourtellotte.

Sciacca said that a question still remains in finding out if, “…it [the film] is enough to sway those who are not deeply opposed, but those who are on the fence…I guess we won’t know until the next matter of hearings on the law books.”

As a journalism and political science major here at Marist College, senior Joe Gentile thought Penn and [the script’s author] Dustin Lance Black made very eloquent speeches about, “the importance of equal rights and respect for love, regardless of gender.”

He saw the passage of Proposition 8 as a, “mixed positive.”

“The obvious downside to that was the marriages of several thousands couples were invalidated by the tyranny of the democratic majority,” Gentile said. “However, it’s passage wasn’t just a shot in the arm for a brand-new generation of gay activists. It, like ‘Milk,’ awoke their heterosexual friends to the unfairness of the situation.”

New Paltz Mayor Jason West took matters into his own hands when when he performed same-sex marriages in 2004. He later came under fire and lost re-election. (photo courtesy of

New Paltz Mayor Jason West took matters into his own hands when when he performed same-sex marriages in 2004. He later came under fire and lost re-election. (photo courtesy of

Here in New York, the battle still rages on. On February 27, 2004, New Paltz mayor Jason West (G.) defied state law and married 25 same-sex couples in front of the New Paltz Village Hall. Soon after, the Ulster County District Attorney charged West with nineteen misdemeanors in connection with these marriages. For more than a year, he was threatened with prosecution for performing them. Though both Nyack mayor John Shields and Ithaca mayor Carolyn K. Peterson declared they would support these marriages, in July 2006 the New York Court of Appeals decided that there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage and therefore, New York law would not permit them.

Elected in November of that same year, Gov. David Paterson begs to differ. In an interview with CNN, his spokeswoman Erin Duggan said that he, “…informed state agencies that failing to recognize gay marriages would violate the New York’s human rights law.” According to the New York Times, he is directing all state agencies to begin revising their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions [such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, and Canada]. He sees this as a, “strong step toward marriage equality.”

The New York Times reports that this would make New York the only state that did not itself allow gay marriage but fully recognized same-sex unions entered into elsewhere.

As an active member of the Marist College LGSA, Gentile is hopeful for the future both locally and nationally. “I personally believe that it [Prop. 8] shall be overturned by the California Supreme Court,” Gentile said. “And to not credit ‘Milk’ for the reversal would be to deny a film’s possibility of changing hearts and minds.”

Reaching the Masses: Politicized Facebook is No Longer Just For Kids

By Robin Miniter

The rallying cry of student political activism is no longer solely compromised of pickets and fliers on college campuses. Defined by our rampant use of technology, the methods of getting the word out starkly contrast that of our parent’s generation.

Where they had bulletin boards, we have wall posts. Where they had megaphones, we have status updates. Welcome to the Facebook.

Founded as a simple social-networking website at Harvard University 2004, it has spread like wildfire around the world. Now emerging as one of the leading facilitators of political communication in the world, Facebook is shaping the dissemination of communication.

Stepping up to the plate: Facebook acts as an interactive cyber vehicle for social change

Stepping up to the plate: Facebook acts as an interactive cyber vehicle for social change

With the ability to create groups, events, and fan pages for different causes, it brings politics to a personal level. Grass root organizations are able to blossom globally. Simultaneously, it was possible for anyone with computer access to become involved in the presidential campaign. It has been helping to foster political awareness and social activism. It makes it possible to bypass traditional forms of media and directly reach the viewer. It instills a sense of community online which hopefully will translate into reality.

Advocacy Associates Online a website that, “provides innovative solutions, training, and support for grassroots and government relations campaigns” reported that, “Most grassroots campaigns mostly ignore students and young professionals. That’s a mistake. A growing pool of data suggests these may be some of the most passionate advocates…”

Kristen Alldredge ’05 is now working as a Community Executive of Income Development for the American Cancer Society in Connecticut. She has noted a significant increase in fundraising through use of the internet. “We have just launched a Facebook application for the college Relay For Life events,” she said “…has already shown a remarkable benefit to not only raising funds, but raising awareness in online communities. ”

Jim Urso, a Marist College communication major with a concentration in public relations said, “For a lot of kids, if you see it on Facebook, it almost legitimizes an issue. It makes it real. For example, everyone knew the election was coming via newspaper, radio, and TV, but when they see event and group invites they feel more connected, more part of the action.”

Urso referred to Facebook as, “hip, trendy, and cutting edge.” He said that Facebook makes becoming involved, “cool and appealing.”

At the same time, it is serious business.

Over 500 U.S. politicians have Facebook pages – along with hundreds of others from around the world – as well as thousands of independently run activism groups available to join at the click of a button.

Here at Marist College, sophomore class president Andrew Clinkman said via e-mail correspondence, “Facebook is… an excellent tool that allows people to reach a larger population that may be difficult to contact.”

He noted that it is not allowed to utilize Facebook in Student Government campaigns because of, “…the idea being that the more Facebook friends the larger the potential audience.” This rings true even on a national scale.

Throughout the 2008 Presidential election thousands of groups sprung up online in the effort to mobilize offline. The Washington Post cites Facebook as a true catalyst, crediting the, “gathering of several thousand students at George Mason University in Fairfax,” to a simple Facebook group. This event, “underscored the potential power of online communities in the 2008 campaign,” the newspaper said., the self-proclaimed, “unofficial guide” to Facebook, published a for-dummies, “Top 10 Strategies for Running a Political Campaign,” list.

Real Clear Politics, and online political news source, reported the true validity of this when they reported, “the Obama camp, harnessed social-networking sites such as Facebook to bring millions of new voters into the political process…It is impossible to ascribe a victory in presidential politics to one force…but it is also impossible to ignore this fact: Among voters aged 18 to 29, Obama defeated Sen. John McCain by the astonishing margin of two-to-one.”


“Facebook is a lucrative marketing tool,” said Julianne Homola, a business major at Marist, “Promoters are able to reach a very important age

Picking Favorites: As part of its many features which aim to get the younger generation involved, Facebook was heavily used by presidential candidates in the 2008 elections.

Picking Favorites: As part of its many features which aim to get the younger generation involved, Facebook was heavily used by presidential candidates in the 2008 elections.

demographic. About 52% of Facebook users fit into the 18-25 year old category.”


More cost effective and targeted than traditional advertising – from being free-of-charge to start-up your own cause to reportedly costing $500,000 for Obama’s campaign to place ads – Facebook reaches out to people who are just coming of age to vote.

According to, “an estimated 23 million young Americans under the age of 30 voted in the 2008 presidential election, an increase of 3.4 million compared with 2004.”

The correlation is undeniable. Urso said that Facebook is, “raising the consciousness in the up and coming generation at a phenomenal rate never seen before.”

Whether tapping into local politics on a local or international level, Facebook is becoming the tool of choice among those all around the world in order to bring the issues closer to home. No longer do recipients have to wait to have information given to them, they can now take the steps to truly interact at the click of a button.