Studying on site in Central America, Florence, Italy, and Brookhaven Lab

Sep 1, 2003 — The Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein and S. Daniel Abraham Honors Programs at Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women this summer had a global feel. In three innovative courses, undergraduate students left the Manhattan campuses for the piazzas and cobbled streets of Florence, the ancient Mayan dwellings, and one of the most advanced scientific laboratories in the world.

A dozen women returned from Italy where they participated in “Art and the Jewish Experience in Medici Florence,” coordinated and led by Evelyn Cohen, assistant professor of art. Stern students learned about Jewish life under the Medici, and were treated to a private tour of Florence’s great post-emancipation synagogue and its magnificent Jewish ceremonial art by Prof. Dora Liscia Bemporad, director of Florence’s Jewish Museum. Highlights of artistic importance included the Uffizi Gallery, National Sculpture Museum of the Bargello, Pitti Palace, and the Academia, where Michelangelo’s statue of David stands.

A first for the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program at Yeshiva College, two linked courses ended with a 12-day field trip to Central America. “Introduction to Tropical Ecology and Ethnobotany” taught by Prof. Vincent Chiappetta, and “Honors Introduction to Anthropology: Maya Civilization,” taught by Dr. Jill Katz, adjunct instructor in archeology and anthropology, began at the Wilf Campus.

Eleven undergraduate men with accompanying faculty then visited sites in Guatemala and Honduras, including the ancient city of Copan, with its famous ball court, inscribed stones, and hieroglyphic stairway; Tikal, the largest Mayan city known for its palaces, plaza, and pyramids rising above the tropical jungle canopy; Antigua, the former Spanish colonial capital, now designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO; and Lake Atitlan, a natural lake created 70,000 years ago by exploding volcanoes. Students also visited towns inhabited by modern Mayan people, many of whom retain traditional woven styles of brightly colored clothing, and bargained for items from marimbas to mangoes at the crowded market places.

“Great Ideas and Experiments in Modern Physics,” which featured a groundbreaking residential component, was a joint effort by the S. Daniel Abraham and Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Programs. Three women and nine men spent six days performing, analyzing, and designing experiments while living on the campus of Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, home base of multiple Nobel Prize winners. Dr. Anatoly Frenkel, associate professor of physics and computer science; Dr. Gabriel Cwilich, associate professor of physics; and Dr. Fredy Zypman, professor of physics, teamtaught the course. Experiments ranged from using xray beams and infrared light, to applying the fundamental laws of physics to problems in chemistry, nuclear physics, and the life sciences, to studying nuclear reactions of interest to the radiopharmaceutical industry.

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