Sunday, February 28, 2010


By Paul Gerkin

What does going to college mean in the grand picture of life? When you graduate from high school, you’re very happy to have made a college. Most students then figure that they are all set; that the big race is over- that the biggest point was to get in and that is the end of the race.

The biggest difference between Fordham and most other colleges is that the Jesuits don’t think that way. For them, this is just the beginning. Most freshmen have no idea about this, because the conditioning is so subtle.

What then does is mean to be a Fordham grad? I submit that the person coming out is not the person going in and if you let yourself go, you’ll come out an entirely different person. You’ll have grown in maturity, to be sure. You’ll have become more sophisticated academically and conditioned your mind to be a critical thinker. That is a very important Fordham distinction. A Jesuit education is an extraordinary one- it trains you in intuitive thinking and shapes you as an individual.

If one chooses to participate in Fordham life- and I don’t think that it matters whether one is a border or not, you start to give yourself into something larger than yourself. You see the bigger picture- of Fordham and the world around you. You also start to see where you might fit into it.

By the time that one reaches senior year, you have changed the way that you think. You have started to reach critical mass in terms of the kind of person that you are. The Jesuits are exceptional in that regard. They take the young unfocused student and start to transform their mind and persona from being ego centric to seeing oneself as part of a larger plan.

By graduation time, you have accomplished so much and have grown immensely. If you have followed the Jesuit plan and sunk roots, then you are likely to stay involved and to see Fordham as an integral part of your life.

But here the plan seems to end. It’s like Fordham and the Jesuits have expended huge energy and a large investment to get you into Fordham, educate you, graduate you and then the train goes off the tracks. What do I mean? If the school expends all of this thought, why wouldn’t they want this person connected to Fordham for life?? It seems to make no sense. Some people get it and they will move on to the next step. They will move to the next role- that of committed alumni - in every sense of the word. But many do not.

Fordham seems not to have figured this out. They are so committed to the beginning part of the process, but then stop at graduation. At commencement, you take a step out- to what?? You’re now an alumna or alumni- what does this mean? Fordham- apparently- has given no or little thought to the next part of the script. How can Fordham take what it has spent so much time, energy and expense into doing and turn that person into a committed Fordham person for life? It’s like, we educated them and turned them into Fordham men and women; of course they will stay committed to the school and participate in university life for life including donating to their alma mater.

There’s no direction, no structure, no plan, no budget. There’s not even a Fordham University Alumni Organization. Nothing. Does being an alumni just mean being fair game for donations or does it have a larger meaning? Apparently, but for some this works and others it does not. Being an alumni seems to mean different things to different people. It’s all too random. Fordham complains that not enough alumni participate in school life, that not enough donate money to the school. I submit that it's not the alumni; that somehow they don’t care. I rather think that it is the fault of the system. Fordham has not defined what it perceives the role of an alumni/alumna to be, or what it wants from and for them. As a result, it’s way too random and both are the losers.

Next time- School branding and loyalty, the true alumni/school relationship and planting a tree you’ll never see grow

Bring Back The Minor in Philosophy

By Edward H. Winkler, Colonel, US Army Retired

Until relatively recent times one the requirements for graduation from Fordham College was a minor in philosophy. In earlier times the study of philosophy was a major achievement in acquiring a liberal education. A student needed to earn the right to study philosophy. At Fordham, the philosophy minor was considered a hallmark of a Jesuit education and based on the idea that an educated person had studied philosophy. In 1966 when I became a senior, my classmates and I were proud to wear the philosophy gowns to our philosophy classes.

This is no longer the case, and I believe it is a great loss to the character of Fordham College, and more importantly, to the current Fordham College students.

There is one reason for this and that is the need for critical thinking. Philosophy is particularly suited as a vehicle for learning critical thinking. Philosophy and philosophers are diverse and often their views and thoughts are contradictory. Many of the writings concern the unknowable, such as the existence of God, and philosophers are equally adept at presenting convincing arguments in support of their positions. This is also correct on a more practical level. For example, how does Aquinas develop the idea of a Just War, while Thoreau would rather go to jail then pay the poll tax for the Mexican War? We can only compare Adam Smith with Karl Marx, never reconcile their views. Looking at these questions and attempting to arrive at an answer requires thought.

Other subjects of philosophy have more practical applications. Logic and ethics are two areas useful in everyday life. Two subjects that seem to be underutilized by politicians and business, among others.

Regardless of practicality, philosophy requires thought and critical thinking. By studying philosophy, with its vast number of topics, and its varying degrees of practicality, or impracticality, the student is required to think and learn. Through this process the true goal of a liberal education is achieved, namely, not to learn only information, but more importantly, to learn how to learn.

To this end, requiring a minor in philosophy would be a significant step in helping Fordham College graduates make a difference.


By Norma Vavolizza

Funded by the Alumni Association of Fordham College to honor the Reverend George J. McMahon, S.J., a former Dean of the College, this five thousand dollar ($5000.00) fellowship is intended to help a student defray the cost of travel during the summer of 2010.

The McMahon Travel Fellowship competition is open only to Fordham College students who are members of the Fordham Club, United Student Government, the University Band, or the University’s intercollegiate sports teams.

For the upcoming award year applications must be received in the Dean’s Office (Keating 201) by no later than March 4, 2010.

The recipient of the fellowship will be announced by April 19, 2010.

Please help spread the word about this award by letting students who you know about its availability. Specifics can be obtained from the Dean’s Office.

Past McMahon Travel Fellowship Winners Include:

Carl Shorett: Traveled to Germany and other parts of Europe to study the German economy and to attend the world’s largest sailing event, Kiel Week.

Elizabeth Friedrich: Traveled to four cities within the United States, New York, Detroit, Atlanta, and Philadelphia to study the histories of segregation and ethnic succession. She worked with community organizations in each city to understand what happened to black and white urban communities in America during the 1970’s to the 1990’s, as well as to understand the dynamic of race today. Upon her return, she plans to write a report based on her experiences under the guidance of a professor in the African and African American Studies Department.

Faye Cassell: Studied Modern Standard and Colloquial Egyptian Arabic instruction at the American University in Cairo. In addition to her linguistic experience, she also plans to take study tours to Alexandria, Luxor, and the Sinai in order to incorporate the rich history and culture of the Middle East into the learning environment.

Janet Southern: Spent the summer in a study program in Rabat, Morocco through the School of International Training. It is a seven week class in which she took an Arabic language class and cultural seminar concentrating on the role of Islam in politics and society.

Sara Boyorak: Partly through her experiences with Urban Plunge, Sara has realized how much music plays a part in the experiences of young people. Sara studied the political and social implications of Reggae in Jamaica. She has been accepted as an intern with the Jamaican Cultural Development Commission.

Eric Fergen: After studying abroad in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, Eric decided to return to Guatemala to gain further experience to enhance his Latin American and Latino Studies major. He participated in a combination of community service, study and research.

Meghan Caldwell: Spent the summer in the Kakamega forest of Kenya collecting research data on social behavioral patterns of blue monkeys, specifically their eating patterns. The research was done to assist a professor at Columbia University, as well as to provide the data necessary for the student’s environmental internship capstone course and research paper.

Aline Zylberkan: Out of interest in ancient cultures, the student traveled to various locations in Greece to visit and learn about the remnants of the classical Greek society and culture. Locations visited include Athens, Plaka, and Penelopese.

Rich Garr: Toured Europe with a bike and a camera. Countries intended to visit included Spain, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic. His goal was to visit cities with historical and contemporary importance, studying art, architecture and culture.

Heather O’Rourke: Traveled to rural Mississippi to work with children at a children’s camp where she previously worked as a part of a Fordham-sponsored Global Outreach trip. Her GO experience impacted her life to such an extent that she wanted to continue working at the same location with many of the same children as before.

Eileen O’Rourke: Went to Ecuador to participate in a Georgetown University summer program, improving her Spanish and continuing to learn the cultures of South America and Latin America, as she had previously taken the opportunity to visit Argentina and Chile.

University Housing for Graduation

By Denis Sweeney, 2002

The FCAA is pressing the University to revive a good program that was needlessly eliminated. As recently as 2003, parents were able to stay on campus, in residence halls, for one or two nights during commencement weekend. Charges were nominal, approximately $25 per night per room. The FCAA, seeking to fulfill its role of representing its soon to be alumni and any alumni parents, argues to revive this program.

The Benefits

The benefits of this program included:

Cost: At $25 (or even twice that price) the rooms were a significant discount to a hotel room in Manhattan or Westchester . Note the lack of adequate hotels near campus. Note the increasing percentage of students from out of state. Note the tradition of Fordham as a college for first generation college students, implying limited parental financial resources. All strong points supporting discounted lodging.

Convenience: parents were able to access the rooms throughout the days, wake up on campus, dress and walk to events easily, etc.

Safety: Given the numerous events on and off campus where alcohol is served, on campus housing eliminates the possibility of drunk driving.

Final positive impression on parents: even though the accommodations are not grand, being residence hall rooms, extending the offer of housing is a nice touch on an important weekend.

The Debate

When the FCAA approached Residential Life about renewing this program, they indicated the following reasons for discontinuing it and not renewing it:

Summer conferencing housing is scheduled very close to commencement, to maximize revenue from outside groups.

While recognizing the importance of revenue generation, the FCAA notes that this is the last opportunity to make a positive impression of parents and students, which will affect their donation patterns for life.

Turning over (cleaning and repairing) rooms in time for summer conferencing and summer housing is complicated by adding the two day stay of parents.

The FCAA notes that the rooms could be priced at 2-3 times the old $25 level, they would still provide the benefits above, and the extra revenue could be used to pay workers (student or facilities employees) on over-time if need be to turn over rooms in time for the next session.

Parents used to complain about the quality of rooms.

The FCCA would note that Residential Life is probably used to receiving complaints, and that as long as the advertising of the program were honest about the facilities, complaints should be minimal.

Residential Life is not staffed sufficiently to add this service.

This is not a green field project; previous records on the program should allow it to be revived without the full efforts of starting a program from scratch. Is Residential Life really so swamped that they cannot add a service with a strong list of obvious benefits?

The FCAA does not wish to micromanage aspects of the operations of the University. But when a program such as this has so many benefits, and the objections so weak, we feel we must press the point. If you agree, please mention it the next time you speak with a school representative.


FCAA blog now accepting your posts...

No need to keep your opinions to yourself.

The Fordham College Alumni Association (FCAA), the oldest alumni organization serving the Rose Hill community, has launched a blog to help us share our thoughts and memories of Fordham with alums—and future alums—all over the world.

The FCCA’s goal is to strengthen the bonds between alums and the college. So in the Jesuit tradition of thoughtful prose, you are welcome to submit a personal reflection—even more than one—for review at

As the oldest, independent alumni association of Fordham University, more than a century young, the FCAA presents events and assistance to both its core constituencies: current and future alumni.

Did you know…?
The FCAA funds the George McMahon, S.J. Travel Fellowship, two full scholarships (for legacy students), and has a record of supporting numerous other initiatives impacting the advancement of Fordham College.

As an alum of Fordham College at Rose Hill and Thomas More College, you are already a member of this historic, service-orientated association that continues to build relationships. Stay tuned for upcoming events and developments.

Want to serve…?
If you would like to support the work of the FCAA as a Board member, please contact FCAA President Rich Platoni, FCRH ’82. Your ideas and energy will be a great contribution to the future of Fordham College. Besides, it’s fun!