This Tuesday marks the 6th Allegheny Gator Day and the second of the 2014-2015 academic year. Gator Days are held once a semester, when classes are cancelled so students may attend school-sponsored programming meant to encourage academic and career advancement.
The programing will begin the night before at 7 p.m. in Ford Chapel, when Robert Moses will deliver the keynote speech for Allegheny’s Year of Voting Rights. Moses is a well known leader in the civil rights movement and a MacArthur Award winning educator. He is also the founder of The Algebra Project Inc., which works to improve mathematics among historically underrepresented groups.
Most recently, along with Danny Glover, an Algebra Project board member, Moses launched a national discussion calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would make a quality education a civil right.
Rebecca Dickinson, director of the learning commons, along with the Gator Days Planning Committee were responsible for the day’s programming. She said that the committee took suggestions from both students and faculty.
Dickinson said that this Gator Day will feature an event entitled “Working in Professional Theater,” which was proposed by and is hosted by Student Experimental Theater students.
“There has also been some student suggested programming,” said Dickinson “That’s really run the range and we have always said…this is for everyone.”
Dickinson explained that this type of student involvement is a large part of maintaining the integrity of Gator Days, which were student suggested.
“This was actually a student initiative. The students went to the…curriculum committee,” said Dickinson. “They went before the faculty and had the faculty pass an approval of Gator Days, so, we are just trying to go with the initiative that was created by students.”
Dickinson explained that suggesting topics for Gator Day events is fairly straightforward and is a matter of filing an online Wufoo form.
In addition to student suggested programming, Dickinson explained that she has been satisfied with the efforts of the faculty to come up with programming.
“Departments have really come forward and have started promoting a lot of really good programming,” said Dickinson. “We love to see the departments take ownership of it.”
Despite the number of proposals for Gator Day activities, Dickinson said that they have not had to turn down proposed topics, as usual the numbers tend to fit.
This year’s Gator Day programing includes a variety of topics, including a student proposed and run even called “Chomp your Comp,” in which comping seniors will share advice with fellow students.
The day will also feature topics such as “You Don’t Have to be a Teacher,” which promotes careers other than teaching for English majors and “The Path to an Environmental Job after Allegheny,” which explores careers in environmental science.
The environmental science department is also offering an event that will give students information on how to declare their major in environmental science. The event will take place at 11:00 a.m. in Carr Hall, room 239. The event will consist of a panel that will include Environmental Science Department Chair Eric Pallant, alumna Sara Salisbury, ’12, and several student panelists.
Pallant explained that the purpose of the event is to help students who are thinking of becoming environmental science majors.
“There will be three major things going,” said Pallant. “First, is we have a panel of approximately five upper class students, juniors and seniors who will talk about their experiences with research, study abroad working in the community [experiential learnings] terms, solving environmental problems.”
The event will also include introductions to the environmental science professors and a discussion on the differences between the environmental studies and environmental science majors.
Pallant said this will also give students a chance to consult with professors on what classes they should take to prepare for the major and show prospective majors what they might be able to do.
“These people have been all over the country and all over the world doing really great things and say this could be you if you’re interested and start thinking about it,” said Pallant.
While this year’s Gator Day features several annual programs, it will also showcase new events. One of these will be held at 11:00 in the Tippie Alumni Center. The program is entitled “Unusual Combinations: First Generation Students and Liberal Arts Education” and is meant to encourage a conversation among students and faculty who are first generation college students.
The panel will include Tom Nonnenmacher of the economics department, James Niblock of the music department with English professor Aline Lo moderating the discussion.
“We thought that it would be, maybe a productive thing to just open up some conversations on campus about what it’s like to be first generation student, to…come from a background that is a little bit different than sort of what you might think of as a typical college student,” said Nonnenmacher.
Both Nonnenmacher and Niblock are Allegheny alumni and first generation students. Nonnenmacher explained that being the first in his family to attend an American university was a challenge.
He also expressed his hope that the event might also spark a discussion of things that could be done to help first generation students moving forward.