Kendall Phillips, professor of communication and rhetorical studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, was interviewed by Observer for the story “The Privileges and Pitfalls of ‘WandaVision’ and Marvel’s Disney+ Empire.” Phillips, who teaches a class on the…
Six to be honored with Chancellor’s Citations
Six Syracuse University faculty and staff members will receive Chancellor’s Citations for Outstanding Contributions to the University’s Academic Programs, for Distinguished Service, and for Exceptional Academic Achievement at a dinner in their honor at 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel & Conference Center. The honorees are Mary Jo Custer, director of student affairs and associate to the vice president for student affairs; Sandra Hurd, professor and chair of the law and public policy department in the School of Management; John Philip Jones, professor of advertising in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications; James “Jay” Mulligan, night custodian for Physical Plant’s West Zone and group leader of Physical Plant’s special projects crew; Rafael Sorkin, professor of physics in The College of Arts and Sciences; and William Wiecek, professor of law in the College of Law and professor of history in The College of Arts and Sciences and The Maxwell School. Mary Jo Custer For Mary Jo Custer, what has made working at Syracuse University enjoyable for the past 23 years is the contact she has with students. “I’ve loved every minute of it,” she says. And students return the compliment, which is one reason Custer, director of student affairs and associate to the vice president for student affairs, was a natural choice to receive a Chancellor’s Citation for Distinguished Service. “She was the one individual who was always there for us,” says Vincent DiSano ’93 of his experience as one of the student leaders for the pilot program of SU’s Summer Orientation Program, which Custer ran. “Like any program just getting off the ground, Summer Orientation definitely had its problems at the beginning, but Mary Jo was always encouraging,” says DiSano, now an assistant dean in the College for Human Development. ‘She had the unique gift of making us feel a sense of ownership for what we were doing.” “SU is the leading student-centered university, and Mary Jo is the finest example of what it truly means to be student-centered,” says Daniel Gusenoff ’95, a University Scholar and Senior Class Marshal who is now a Boston attorney. Gusenoff’s first contact with Custer took place when, as a freshman, he visited the Office of Student Affairs in search of scholarship opportunities. Though Gusenoff didn’t have an appointment, Custer took the time to speak with him about scholarships “and about the importance ofhaving a passion for education and serving the community,” he says. Throughout the rest of Gusenoff’s SU career, Custer encouraged him to excel both academically and in service to the community. “Mary Jo’s motivation and sense of caring inspired me to strive for excellence in everything I set out to accomplish,” says Gusenoff, who remains in contact with Custer. Custer began her career at SU providing a different kind of service to students–feeding them. After earning a bachelor’s degree at SU in 1978, she became a supervisor in the Office of Food Services, eventually becoming assistant manager of a residential dining hall. Then she became assistant director for sanitation and training. In 1983, she was named assistant to the vice president of institutional services, administering safety, sanitation, training and student personnel programs. Custer moved into student services in 1985, becoming assistant to the senior vice president for Student Services before moving into her current position in 1990. In 1994, she earned a master’s degree in higher education, with an emphasis in student affairs. In July 1999, Custer’s duties expanded when two offices were consolidated into the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs. She functions as both the director and ombudsman for student affairs; coordinates the summer orientation program; acts as faculty adviser for Phi Eta Sigma, the freshman honor society; serves as her division’s liaison with the Office of Human Resources; and teaches a section of the freshman honors seminar. She also supervises a graduate intern from the School of Education’s Higher Education program nearly every semester. Custer’s efforts have won the recognition of her peers, reflected in such achievements as being elected to the board of directors of Phi Eta Sigma this year, and receiving the organization’s distinguished service award. In 1997, she was selected to participate in the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Alice Manicur Symposium for Aspiring to Become Senior Student Affairs Officers. That same year, she won SU’s Division of Student Affairs Students First Award. She was made an honorary member of the Golden Key Honor Society in 1994 and was given its Meritorious Service Award in March 2000. But it is not her superior performance of her official duties that endears Custer to students. It is her obvious concern for them and her willingness to go the extra mile to help them out. Gusenoff recalls being a senior applying to law school. At the beginning of March, he was becoming anxious at not having heard from his top choice, the University of Pennsylvania. “Mary Jo, knowing how important it was for me to be accepted to Penn, took the initiative to call Penn Law’s director of admissions on a regular basis to promote my application and to ensure my application received a fair review,” he says. “Mary Jo’s caring and persistence paid off–I was accepted to Penn Law. I am convinced that at no other institution would there be somebody like Mary Jo, so willing to put her reputation on the line to promote the candidacy of a student.” Custer says she likes working with students because “you can encourage them to grow, to mature, to succeed.” But she says she also benefits from her student contact. “I really relish and cherish some of my relationships with students,” she says, adding that some students stay in contact for many years after leaving SU.
Custer is also proud of being associated with SU, a pride she has passed on to daughter Jessica, a freshman in the College for Human Development. “I’m really proud to be part of Student Affairs, because we really do care about students,” she says. “And I’m glad to have a daughter who can also experience SU.”Sandra Hurd Sandra Hurd came to SU during the early 1970s to attend the College of Law and never left. More than 25 years later, she is professor and chair of the law and public policy department in the School of Management, faculty coordinator for learning communities at SU, director of the School of Management’s freshman Gateway course, and recipient of the school’s 2000 Faculty Award for Exceptional Teaching. She will receive a Chancellor’s Citation for Outstanding Contributions to the University’s Academic Programs. After graduating from the College of Law in 1975, Hurd clerked for the Onondaga County Court while working as an adjunct teacher and visiting professor at SU. “When a faculty position opened in the School of Management, I went for it,” Hurd says, “although it was scary to leave the security of my county court job for the uncertainty of going through the academic tenure process.” An English major at Wells College before heading to law school, Hurd is an avid reader who can usually be found walking around with a book in hand, even while cooking or brushing her teeth. It’s this unquenchable thirst for knowledge that permeates every facet of Hurd’s academic life that has won the praise and admiration of her colleagues. “Sandy Hurd epitomizes a student learning-centered approach to all her research, teaching and service activities,” says Cathy McHugh Engstrom, assistant professor of higher education. “She has an insatiable openness and desire to learn and to take risks, and she considers issues from diverse, interdisciplinary perspectives. She sees individuals who represent different views as offering ripe forums for learning more about one another and as providing seeds for creativity.” Hurd has played a key leadership role in many new initiatives across the University, including the restructuring of the junior honors seminars in 1993, the restructuring of the Gateway management course Perspectives of Business and Management (SOM 122) and enhancing the freshman experience in the School of Management, and creating of the first learning community on campus. “Sandy Hurd cares about students and has made a dramatic and positive difference in many of their lives at SU,” says School of Management Dean George Burman. “She is an innovative and dedicated educator who consistently goes above and beyond what one would normally expect of a faculty member. She understands both the broad, strategic view and the importance of one-on-one interactions with students. Such a combination is rare.” Hurd piloted the School of Management’s learning community, which was launched in 1998 with support from the Office of Academic Affairs and the Vision Fund. Now as faculty coordinator for SU’s learning communities, she will help mesh residential life programs across the University–international, multicultural, health and wellness–with academics.
“Sandy Hurd is being sought out by others to share her knowledge and inspiration about learning communities,” says Frances Zollers, professor of law and public policy in the School of Management. “Her work puts SU at the forefront of the learning community movement and extends the University’s stature as a place that values students as learners.” As director of the School of Management’s freshman Gateway course, Hurd helped “beef up” the course’s content to provide support for students in their transition to the University community and to introduce them to such useful resources as the school’s undergraduate office and career center. Most importantly, the course is designed to help first-year students understand the current art and science of management, the various management areas, and themes that contribute to a business organization and the relationships among the themes. “The freshman Gateway course helps students develop computer, library, research, written and oral communication skills, and the ability to work in teams,” Hurd says. “The team project gives them insight into how an industry works and teaches them to value teamwork as an intrinsic part of business today.” Hurd has been active on numerous University-wide committees; has published some 100 journal articles, books and book chapters; and has received many research grants. Away from campus, Hurd can be found tending the vegetables, herbs and flowers in her garden. During the winter months, she grows her own plants from seed and spends hours poring over garden and seed catalogs in anticipation of the coming growing season. “Nurturing my plants and flowers isn’t that much different from nurturing my students,” Hurd says. “It’s so much fun to watch them blossom and grow.”John Philip JonesWhile the field of advertising constantly changes to match societal trends and beliefs, Syracuse University has been fortunate to host someone at the leading edge of knowledge–John Philip Jones. Jones, professor of advertising in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, will receive a Chancellor’s Citation for Exceptional Academic Achievement to honor his work on evaluating the effects of advertising. Jones’ techniques for measuring the short-term effects of advertising have been replicated throughout the world, and his books have become standard reference works for advertising practitioners and students everywhere. “He is truly one of the giants in the advertising field, both for his work in the academy and for his continuing, highly influential involvement in the industry,” says Beth Barnes, associate professor and chair of the Newhouse advertising department. “His research into the short- and long-term economic effects of advertising has been embraced by companies worldwide and is changing the way media planning is done globally.” Jones joined the SU faculty in 1981 after participating in SU’s program in London and working full time at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. He was chair of the Newhouse advertising department for seven years and has taught many different advertising classes while conducting research, publishing and speaking at numerous international conferences.
Over the past 14 years, Jones published four books that outline his theories of when advertising does and doesn’t work: “When Ads Work: New Proof that Advertising Triggers Sales” (1995), “How Much is Enough? Getting the Most from Your Advertising Dollar” (1992), “Does it Pay to Advertise? Cases Illustrating Successful Brand Advertising” (1989) and “What’s in a Name? Advertising and the Concept of Brands” (1986). The books, published by Simon & Schuster-Lexington Books, have been translated into German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Portuguese. He has also edited a series of five authoritative handbooks on advertising and has written more than 70 journal articles. In order to research the books, Jones developed two statistical measures that are widely acclaimed. The first is the Advertising Intensiveness Curve, sometimes know as the Jones Curve, which is based on a regression analysis that establishes a relationship between an advertised brand’s ad budget and the brand’s size in the marketplace. The second is a measure of short-term effects of advertising that was cited by Syracuse University in February 2000 as one of the six leading research breakthroughs accomplished by an SU professor in the past 100 years. Jones says that although his research and international work keep him on the cutting edge of the advertising field, his top priority is teaching. “My challenge is to teach students to think,” he says. “Advertising is not about rules of thumb. It is about intellectual energy.” Jan Slater, assistant professor of advertising at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, says that Jones was the reason she chose SU to do her doctoral work. During her time at SU, she was Jones’ teaching assistant. “Today, as a tenure-track advertising professor, I am still learning from Professor Jones,” Slater says. “I still use his books. I still use lectures that I prepared for him. I still use the notes that I took in his classes. I still write articles for him. I still call him with questions. Professor Jones has had a profound influence on my education and academic career. Whatever success I achieve, I believe it is because of him.”James “Jay” Mulligan Most members of the University community have not met James “Jay” Mulligan, a night custodian for the University’s West Zone. Mulligan works between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 7 a.m., long after classes have ended and well before they will begin the next day. Many people are familiar with Mulligan’s work, though. They have walked and played on floors he has meticulously cared for in academic buildings and gymnasiums on campus. For his hard work and dedication, Mulligan will receive a Chancellor’s Citation for Distinguished Service. “I find it quite a humbling experience,” Mulligan says of being named a Chancellor’s Citation recipient. “Just to be nominated is an honor.” Mulligan has worked for the University for the past 10 years in union positions–as a food service worker, custodian and acting supervisor. He is currently the group leader for the Special Projects crew. The crew comprises four people–Mulligan, John Miller, Al McGrady and Bea McIntyre. Of his co-workers, Mulligan says: “They are excellent people, hard working and dedicated. They are truly the heart and soul of Special Projects.”
Mulligan acts as supervisor when the regular night shift supervisor is unavailable. The West Zone encompasses Archbold Gymnasium, Carnegie Library and academic buildings on the western perimeter of campus, but the Special Projects crew also works in the East Zone, North Zone and the Perimeter Zone. “The West Zone has been an advantage to me,” Mulligan says. “Rich Mowers is an excellent supervisor, always willing to listen and help. Bob Britton, the zone manager, is always open to let one grow personally and professionally. I am fortunate to have management that understands and is willing to help in any capacity.” While Mulligan is humble about the honor, others speak volumes about the contributions he makes toward making Syracuse University a better place. “No one ever sees Jay running from one project to another between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.,” says Paula Anne Lichvar, staff training and development specialist for Physical Plant and the individual who nominated Mulligan for the award. “He ensures that the best possible job is done, so when the University comes alive at 8:30 a.m., we can all enjoy the results.” Lichvar says that Mulligan’s enthusiasm and positive attitude are his hallmarks. “In jobs like this, it can be easy to become complacent. Not Jay, however,” she says. “He comes in every night with the same smile on his face night after night.” Mulligan has significantly contributed to the work environment in many other ways, his co-workers say. He was an integral member of the Special Products Review Committee, a joint effort of Physical Plant and the Environmental Health Office to evaluate and reduce the number of chemicals–particularly caustic chemicals–used in the maintenance and custodial zones. The committee met during the day, and Mulligan came in on his own time to participate. He also worked on committee projects at home, developing rating sheets that are now in use in all of the custodial zones. In addition, he served as a night shift union steward for several years, serving as a bridge between the union and the union employees. Mulligan’s devotion also extends to his co-workers. For the past five years, he has coordinated a holiday meal for his night shift co-workers, involving everything from coordinating the food and space to cleaning up. When night custodians expressed an interest in computer training, Mulligan secured space in a campus computer cluster for one hour–at the beginning of the night shift–to work with his colleagues one-on-one or in small groups, teaching them basic computer skills. During the height of the SUIQ initiative, Mulligan was an active member of the Custodial Quality Improvement Team and participated in several courses offered through SUIQ. Richard Mowers, night shift supervisor for the West Zone, says Mulligan is a man whom his co-workers look up to. He is always approachable and willing to answer questions or offer advice, Mowers says. “Jay is my ‘go to’ guy that leaves other supervisors envious,” says Mowers. “He is willing to help wherever and whenever needed. Whether it is staying after the end of a shift to lead a crew, to clean up a flood, to stop and take time to help someone with a computer problem, or to help me clear a backlog of night shift calls, Jay can be counted on to jump into the ring.
“Another thing that sets Jay apart is a true sense of selflessness,” Mowers says. “In an atmosphere where people tend to think in terms of ‘What’s in it for me?’ and ‘How much do I get?’ Jay truly believes that there are certain benefits, other than monetary, that can be derived from doing something for the good of all.” “Jay has always been a person who is willing to shoulder responsibility and is often called on to resolve problems–from floods to fires, broken windows to stalled elevators, rain and snow to birds and bats,” says Dianne Rushia, a night custodian and one of Mulligan’s co-workers. “By the time most University employees get to work, the messes have been cleaned up and most will not know who they should thank–or even know that anything happened at all. But Jay is one of the people who deserves thanks.” In addition to enhancing the work environment at SU, Mulligan has found time to pursue academics. He earned a Business Communications Certificate through University College and is now working on his bachelor’s degree in the School of Management. He was inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars in April 2000. “Jay is a man who takes great pride in himself and his work,” Mowers says. “He is well respected by his peers and colleagues. He has also demonstrated the desire to improve himself. He has chosen not to do this in a self-absorbed or glorious manner, but instead has chosen a path that helps others in the process. I am both proud and very fortunate to have Jay working on my staff.”Rafael SorkinRafael Sorkin, professor of physics in The College of Arts and Sciences, has devoted his career to unraveling one of the greatest theoretical inconsistencies in our existing understanding of the universe. Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in the ongoing efforts to unify general relativity with quantum mechanics (the so-called problem of quantum gravity), Sorkin will be honored with a Chancellor’s Citation for Exceptional Academic Achievement. “Rafael Sorkin is a highly respected individual in the international scientific community of physicists for his outstanding contributions to the theory of relativity,” says Professor Emeritus Kameshwar C. Wali. “His wide-ranging interests in all of physics combined with some profound contributions to fundamental physics make him unique in our department.” Sorkin became interested in the relationships between quantum mechanics and relativity as a doctoral student at the California Institute of Technology, where he wrote a dissertation in the field of general relativity. “That background gave me insight into the serious disunity in physics that dates from the time, over a century ago, when the Newtonian synthesis began to unravel,” Sorkin says. “The two theories that replaced it are incompatible with each other. There is no unified theory of nature. Being of a philosophical mind, I thought it was the most important problem in physics, so I started working on it.” General relativity deals successfully with questions involving the very big (the cosmos) and the very fast (light), Sorkin explains, while quantum field theory deals successfully with questions involving the very small (atoms) and very fast (constituents of atoms).These three extremes are symbolized by three constants of nature: the gravitational constant, g; the speed of light, c; and Planck’s constant, h.
Quantum gravity would be a theory in which all three would play a basic role. Among the questions being asked is, “What would happen if you fell into a black hole?” Sorkin says. “General relativity predicts the absurdity that you would get stretched and squeezed to an infinitely small size. That’s where the theory breaks down–it doesn’t recognize any limits. We know, however, there will be a limit, although what we actually find there is still anybody’s guess.” That limiting size, or space, which is so tiny even the most powerful microscopes cannot view it, is called a Planck length, Sorkin says. “A Planck length is a space that is a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter and then a little bit smaller. We believe such a tiny distance exists and that it is the smallest distance that exists in nature.” The deep structure of space-time would thus be atomic and not continuous, Sorkin says. “In the theory I’m working on, space-time deep down has a very different structure from what we see on larger scales,” he says. “If you represented it by a diagram, your drawing would resemble a very irregular family tree whereas our current image of space-time is more like the rectangular lines you see on a sheet of graph paper. In fact, in this theory, space-time truly is a kind of family tree. New space-time atoms are continually being born and the pattern of their descent relationships accounts for all distances and times.” “Rafael Sorkin has developed a number of novel and stimulating ideas in the context of various discrete approximations to space-time, and he has produced some potentially very significant ideas concerning quantum theory,” says Chris Isham of Imperial College in London. “He is one of the world’s leading international authorities on this aspect of quantum gravity.” Sorkin has published more than 100 papers and is frequently invited to make presentations at prestigious conferences, colloquia and seminars all over the world. He is an elected fellow of the American Physical Society; a member of the editorial board of the International Journal of Theoretical Physics; a panelist for the National Science Foundation Mathematical Physics Division; and a reviewer of NSF grant applications, Canadian SERC Grant applications and numerous academic journals. “Rafael brings to his work a level of mathematical sophistication unusual among physicists,” says Aiyalam Balachandran, professor of physics. “His originality, creativity and vast scholarship set him apart from others in his profession. His best years are still ahead of him.” When he’s not thinking of the very big, very small and very fast, or contemplating the relationship between space and time, Sorkin escapes into the world of classical music. In addition to being a theoretical physicist, he is an accomplished violinist and often plays sonatas with friends, although he does not perform in public. “I don’t like being in the limelight,” Sorkin says. He also enjoys camping, hiking, canoe tripping and cross-country skiing and the study of languages, including that of Kiswahili, which is the mother tongue of his wife, Fatma Husein. A native of Chicago, Sorkin grew up in a family of artists and musicians. Sorkin’s father was a member of the Fine Arts String Quartet of Chicago, and his mother was a dancer and dance teacher. His sister, who lives in London, is also a professional dancer and actress and a former member of the American Ballet Theater, the Eliot Feld Dance Company and the Joffrey Ballet.
“Physicists seem to have an affinity for music,” Sorkin says. “When I attend an event sponsored by the Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music, I feel like half the organizers are from our department. Music is probably the most abstract of the arts. Maybe that’s the common ground. We appreciate the same abstract relationships that define mathematics and that are found in physics.” William Wiecek By the end of this summer, the most important work of William Wiecek’s life will be finished and the Chancellor’s Citation for Exceptional Academic Achievement recipient will have to decide what comes next. Wiecek, professor of law in the College of Law and professor of history in The College of Arts and Sciences and The Maxwell School, is putting the final touches on his volume in the “Holmes Devise History of the Supreme Court,” covering the 1941-53 period, marked by the chief justiceships of Harlan Stone and Fred Vinson. The Holmes Devise series was created through a bequest to the federal government by the estate of Oliver Wendell Holmes. Prominent American legal historians are authoring the volumes. When Wiecek finishes his volume, it will be the end of almost seven years of research and writing. “It’s a tremendous honor and definitely the magnum opus of my life,” Wiecek says. “I cannot imagine that I will write a book more important than this.” When the College of Law was looking for a legal historian to join the faculty in 1985, Wiecek says he was excited to come eastward from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Wiecek concentrated on his teaching for the most of his first decade at SU, but he also found time to author or edit four books, including “The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States” (Oxford University Press, 1992). Wiecek has taught a range of subjects in the College of Law. Besides his principal areas of legal history and constitutional law, he has taught civil procedure, corporations, civil rights, constitutional theory and a seminar in Roman law. “That degree of diversity is very unusual for law teachers. In Wiecek’s case, it reflects his interest in all aspects of the American legal system,” says Richard Schwartz, the Ernest I. White Professor of Law. “The best of our students take as many courses as they can with him. He is a mentor for many students, whether they are going into practice or, in fewer instances, planning a scholarly career.” Wiecek says that as a historian in a law school, he thinks differently than do his colleagues. He believes that lawyers are interested in the past for the light that it sheds on the present, while a historian is interested in the present for the light that it sheds on the past. Despite going in different directions of thought, Wiecek says that his colleagues at SU have been wonderfully supportive of his work. He has also had the support of his wife, Judy Hamilton, associate director of the SU Honors Program and herself a recipient of a Chancellor’s Citation (for Distinguished Service, in 1993). “I think SU is the best environment I could have wanted for the work I have been able to do,” Wiecek says. “I was incredibly lucky to come here.”
After the Holmes Devise is sent to the publisher this summer, Wiecek says he’ll have to take some time to decide where his career will go next. “It’s emotionally challenging to let this work go now,” he says. “I’m giving a lot of thought to what I’ll do after this. Whatever comes next, I will have to have the same kind of commitment to it as the Holmes Devise because I don’t want to lose the focus I have now.”