This summer, through a $100,000 grant from the Fred L. Emerson Foundation, a new endowed program funded the first of many Hobart and William Smith students to undertake research and internship opportunities in the Auburn, N.Y. area.
A private, family organization located in Auburn, the Emerson Foundation was created in 1932 and has since provided support to core community institutions of Auburn and the surrounding central New York area where its founder, Fred L. Emerson, lived and worked.
The foundation’s grant was matched by the Colleges’ Scandling Trust, an initiative that leveraged a major gift from the estate of William F. Scandling, ’49, LL.D. ’67 to create endowed funding for two student opportunities: a summer research opportunity with preference on or near Owasco Lake, and a summer internship with preference for an organization located in or near the city of Auburn.
Working with Professor of Geoscience John Halfman, in collaboration with Assistant Professor of Physics Ileana Dumitriu, Briana “Breezy” Swete ’17 used drone technology to track blue green algae on Owasco Lake, which has long offered a rich array of research opportunities for students interested in the conservation of freshwater ecosystems.
“It is an exploratory study with lots of trial and error, but we are seeing positive results,” says Swete, a double major in geoscience and environmental studies whose summer work also included water quality assessment of other Finger Lakes. “The images taken by the drone require analysis and because this is a new field of research there are no step-by-step instructions on how to do it. You figure it out as you go.”
Applying her background in architecture and studio art, Erin Lichter ’17 interned at Auburn’s Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center, where she built on her interest in arts administration. At the non-profit gallery and multi-arts facility, working with the small “caring, creative and helpful” staff and being immersed the art itself, Lichter “learned new techniques and small tricks that will help me improve my own work.”
The Schweinfurth Art Center offers five exhibitions each year featuring regional, national and international artists as well as a wide array of art classes and workshops for children, teens and adults. There, Lichter worked with Deirdre Aureden, director of programs and special projects, assisting with fund development through researching and contributing to grant applications. Through the internship, Lichter developed the Center’s marketing efforts in preparation for projects like “Quilting by the Lake” and “Summer Art Camp 2016: World Art,” and assisted instructors during camp sessions, as well as led her own ceramics class, which “really tested my ability as a teacher.”
“Overall, it was an amazing experience and I will be going back to volunteer when I can,” she says.
In future summers, the Emerson funds will continue to enable two students to augment their academic studies with substantive and mentored experiential learning opportunities within the Auburn and surrounding community.
The Emerson Foundation has long had a strong relationship with HWS, supporting academic and financial aid endowments, water quality monitoring projects on Owasco Lake, capital construction projects on campus and more. Several members of the Emerson family graduated from HWS, and William H. Emerson, for whom the Emerson Society is named, was a longtime Trustee of the Colleges.
The first photo above features Professor of Geoscience John Halfman and Briana “Breezy” Swete ’17, who is operating a drone. They are working in collaboration with Assistant Professor of Physics Ileana Dumitriu.
The second photo is of Erin Lichter ’17.