Personal Discovery

BY VANESSA KELLY // MAY 15, 2012 // 

Professor Sanford Kaye, better known as Sandy, is a tall man with wispy white hair. On campus, he’s always dressed in a suit and is almost always sporting a smile.

Kaye is something of an institution at Curry, where he has taught English and various writing courses for the past 33 years. The 75-year-old is also a part-time professor at the Harvard University Extension School, where he teaches advanced memoir writing. He is the father of three grown children and lives close to campus, in Dedham.

According to Kaye, he has it all. But it wasn’t easy getting it.

Admired for his laid back, non-lecture style, Sandy Kaye, with student Ian Ward, is a popular English professor among undergrads. // PHOTO BY ANDREW BLOM

Even though he’s a writer and an avid reader, Kaye says he couldn’t spell very well in his younger years and was a somewhat slow reader throughout his life. He had a tendency to reverse some letters while reading, and discovered during his first semester at Curry that he had learning disabilities.

In his younger years, people often told him he was dumb or wasn’t living up to his potential. Kaye says he initially wanted to be a scientist, but discovered his strengths laid elsewhere.

“I would do the work, but couldn’t get the results,” he says, noting that he eventually found enjoyment in creative writing. “I realized I can’t be a scientist if I stink at science.”

Kaye continued to work hard in school and managed to win acceptance into Harvard University. He graduated as an English major and later earned a master’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley.

PHOTO BY VANESSA KELLY

Kaye is a wonderful writer. He has written two books that he uses in his classes and recently finished writing two novels that he hopes to get published. One is a collection of short stories, while the other is a fictional work titled “Who’s Little Girl Are You.” Kaye says it took him four years to write the book, which is about a girl who is supposed to live a certain life, but wants to be someone totally different. The moral, Kaye explains, is to be yourself and to have confidence in who you are.

That’s basically Kaye’s motto in life. He says it’s what makes teaching and working with young people so fascinating to him.

“Every human being I have met has been interesting to me,” says Kaye, who spent 12 years as an English professor at MIT in Cambridge before joining Curry. “Beyond the rules and problems, people are themselves and most faculty miss how interesting each kid is.”

Kaye says he enjoys working at Curry more than at Harvard because the students at Harvard know they are smart. In comparison, Curry students don’t think they are smart, and so their stories are more fascinating, he says.

Kaye’s classes are set up so that everyone, including the professor, learns from each other. Many students say he is not very strict, especially when it comes to homework (there is very little), tests and assignment due dates. His classes—he teaches Writing Workshop I and II, Writing for the Professions, and the Longer Prose Narrative, among other courses—are based on discussions, rather than a singular lecture. Kaye says he wants his students to get involved in class and listen to each other.

According to students, it’s clear he wants to listen too.

“Sandy Kaye has to be one of the only professors I have ever had that was beyond compassionate, whether it was in the class setting or out,” says Makayla Smith, a freshman nursing major who is currently taking his Intensive Writing Workshop II class. “I love his teaching methods and the fact he lets us rant as well as completely express ourselves in the way we write.”

To Kaye, part of teaching is enabling students to figure out who they are and who they hope to become. After 33 years at Curry, he has literally written the book on it.

Perfect Pitch

BY SEBASTIAN HUMBERT // MAY 15, 2012 // 

Lauren Holmes was a little late for an appointment. She had just finished auditioning for the chance to sing the national anthem at this year’s graduation. It’s something she did at her high school graduation and Holmes wanted one last chance to be heard at Curry.

A native of Portsmouth, R.I., Holmes, 22, will graduate this month with a degree in integrated liberal arts studies, and a minor in music (otherwise known as: “I don’t know what I want to do,” she explained). She said she’s been interested in psychology, communication and most everything in between, but settled on integrated studies because its fits her perfectly: she wants to do everything.

But with graduation looming, Holmes said she would like to work with special needs populations and perhaps continue her studies in that area. Each summer, she works in Newport, R.I., taking care of a 25-year-old woman with Rubinstein–Taybi syndrome, a genetic disorder that impairs physical stature and mental capacity.

Whether it be through singing or helping others, Lauren Holmes says all she really wants to do is make people happy. Right, with Curry Professor Doug Koch.

“It’s really hard, but really rewarding,” Holmes said of the job. Meredith, the woman she cares for, has the mental capacity of a 2-year-old and has difficulty walking since breaking her leg last year, she says. According to Holmes, the smallest achievements can often be the most meaningful.

“I like how I feel when I see a smile on her face,” she said. “I feel like, ‘Yessss!’ It’s like I’ve accomplished something…and that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Holmes, 22, said her other passion, singing, has a similar power to incite joy in others.

“I love seeing people smile,” she said, noting that her mother, Sharon, and her grandmother, Joann Mcgeown, were also singers. “The reaction I get after singing a song is my favorite part.”

A few years ago, Holmes met a Curry student who rapped and the two collaborated and recorded an album. One of their songs was even played at a wedding, she said. “It’s about a blue-eyed girl he used to like,” said Holmes. “It’s a romantic song, but better because it’s rap.”

It wasn’t even the first time her voice was part of a wedding. A few years ago, Holmes was asked to sing at a family friend’s wedding and banged out “I Hope You Dance,” by Lee Ann Womack. She said she received a standing ovation.

“It does not sound like a big deal,” Holmes said modestly, “but it’s very overwhelming.”

She recalled looking over at her mother, who was crying, which nearly made her cry, too. “It was kind of like the wind knocked me over,” Holmes said. “I was like, ‘don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry!’ ”

Here at Curry, her vocal talents certainly have gotten noticed.

“You can tell she’s highly trained, but naturally gifted,” said Samantha Valletta, a sophomore who has worked with Holmes in Curry Theater. “She is really talented.”

Although her undergraduate singing career is coming to a close—she performed in a recital on campus the last weekend of April—Holmes said she’ll continue to perform the rest of her life. Because like her work with Meredith, Holmes lives to make people smile.

 

Lending a Hand

BY ANDREW BLOM // MAY 15, 2012 // 

 

On the front door of Caressa Kislus’s office, located on the second floor of the Student Center, is a poster that carries a quote from Mohandas Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

It’s a message aimed at those who enter her office, although it also speaks to the person who taped it there.

A native of Chicopee, Mass., Kislus graduated from Curry in 2003 with a degree in management and communication. Four years later, she returned to the college as coordinator of student activities and has been involved with nearly every Curry-related community service event on and off campus, including the Habitat for Humanity Alternative Spring Break trips, the Cradles to Crayons program, and various food and clothing drives.

From organizing Alternative Spring Break to other service projects Caressa Kislus’s work and passions come together to help others. // PHOTO COURTESY

“Find that thing you like to do every day and go with it,” says Kislus, whose office contains a large bin filled with blankets waiting to be donated to a local hospital. “I am really fortunate to do a wide range of things.”

Growing up in a single-parent family, Kislus says her mom, Beth, a special education teacher, often preached the importance of giving back to society and helping those in need. The message clearly took root. Kislus is a former Girl Scout who helped bring recycling to her high school and who routinely organized community service trips to local food pantries and to clean up area parks.

As a student at Curry, Kislus focused much of her time trying to find her calling. She worked in the Admissions Office, hosted “Evenings Out on the South Shore” Sunday nights on the student radio station, and held five different internships, two at radio stations in Boston. Kislus graduated with a 3.8 GPA and earned the “Intern of the Year” award her senior year.

Following graduation, Kislus went to work for a communication firm, doing event planning and marketing for non-profit, for-profit and government agencies. But still, there was something missing.

“I wanted to work in a community and see that what I was doing was having an impact,” she says.

A job opening at her alma mater seemed like the perfect fit. Curry wanted to expand service and volunteer opportunities for students—Kislus says there weren’t many during her years as an undergraduate—and hired her to lead the way.

“With all the non-profit activities she does, she has been able to do it while maintaining such high energy,” says James Dunphy, a senior communication major who was among the students who accompanied Kislus on this year’s Alternative Spring Break trip to Delaware. “She has been able to bring such a great image to a private college and her work should be noticed more than it is.”

Kislus says overseeing Alternative Spring Break, which Curry adopted in 2001, is among the best parts of her job. Rather than simply vacationing at some beach resort, Curry students travel to either Delaware or Pennsylvania to take part in a Habitat for Humanity project during the college’s spring break week in March.

“It really changes their outlook through experiencing something they never knew,” says Kislus, who also serves as advisor to the student service group Curry Cares.

This fall, Kislus will join with Student Disabilities Officer Chip Kennedy to launch “Project Eye-to-Eye,” which pairs Curry students who have learning disabilities and ADHD with local elementary school students who deal with similar issues. The national mentoring program started in 1998 at Brown University and has since expanded to colleges and universities throughout the country.

“I wish I had something like this growing up,” says Kislus, noting that she has a mild form of dyslexia when it comes to numbers. “It can be hard when you’re a little kid.”

Although she’s not a professor, Kislus believes she’s making a meaningful impact on many students throughout campus. Clearly, she is her mother’s daughter.

“I am teaching, just not in the classroom,” she says. “I’m teaching different life skills: learning to serve and giving back to other people.”

In Pursuit of Justice

BY COURTNEY DIBIASIO // MAY 15, 2012 // 

Jeremy Kittredge’s father, Dave, works in finance and even owns his own company in Pennsylvania. Financialfootprint.com is an online financial guide that helps young adults manage their money.

But Kittredge, a sophomore at Curry, has no intention of joining the family business. There simply isn’t enough action.

Instead, Kittredge, 19, wants to pursue a career in criminal justice. He says his cousins, who are both police officers, turned him on to the field. Kittredge would sometimes go on ride-alongs with them and came to realize that he wanted to work in the public sector.

Although finance is something of a family business, Jeremy Kittredge wants to pursue a career in law. // PHOTO COURTESY

“I don’t want every day to be the same,” says Kittredge. “I want a different day, every day.”

His interest in the law has only increased after taking classes at Curry such as policing and criminal law, Kittredge says. It was through these classes that he realized police work might not be for him.

“A dream job for me would be a career working in a prosecutor’s office as a paralegal,” says Kittredge, a member of the Criminal Justice Honors Society. “I would be able to use what I am learning here at Curry, but be able to angle it toward what I am more interested in: the legal aspect of the criminal justice system.”

Kittredge is more than your average CJ major. This semester, he was chosen by Professor Jennifer Balboni to participate in the Northeastern Association of Criminal Justice Sciences (NEACJS) conference. The annual event will take place June 6-9 at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I.; the conference theme is “Intellectuals or Entrepreneurs? Criminal Justice Education and Practice in the 21st Century.”

Kittredge is working with Balboni to write a research paper on two Supreme Court cases—Miller vs. Alabama and Jackson vs. Arkansas—about whether juveniles should be sentenced to prison without the possibility of parole.

“It’s a big honor for Dr. Balboni to pick me out of everyone,” says Kittredge.

To prepare for his presentation, he has listened to the Court’s oral arguments and analyzed the questions the justices asked.

“He is clearly very bright, prepared and can do a sophisticated analysis,” said Balboni.

When he’s not plotting his future, Kittredge can often be found jogging on or around campus. He said his dad was a runner in college, so he can at least follow in his father’s footsteps in that regard.

Love at First Bite

BY BRANDAN BLOM // MAY 15, 2012 //

It was a summer night in London. The wind was howling and the leaves on the trees were fighting for their lives.

Up in her bedroom, a young Uzoamaka Melissa Anyiwo was oblivious to much of the noise. She was lost in yet another new book, this one about vampires and other creatures of the night.

“I love reading. That was it,” says Anyiwo, a professor of politics and history at Curry, on how she discovered her passion for life in academia. “I am interested in everything and there was no other career that allowed me to read as much as I do.”

While vampires try to suck the life out of you, Professor U. Melissa Anyiwo works to energize and challenge students. // BY BRENDAN BLOM

Anyiwo’s interest in vampires hasn’t waned over the years. The 39-year-old has even taught a class on the subject, a First Year Seminar course titled “Being Human. Life Through the Eyes of Outsiders, Monsters and the Undead.” It is scheduled to run again this fall, and may eventually become a mainstay at Curry.

Raised in a Catholic household, Anyiwo says she has always had a hard time blindly accepting others’ sense of reality. “As a critical thinker, I don’t believe in any one thing,” says Anyiwo, who also heads the African-American Studies minor at Curry. “I am curious about all different things.”

That curiosity took her to the United States for the first time in 1994, at the age of 21, when she spent a semester in Albany, N.Y. She returned to the U.K. to finish college and later earned a Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of Wales.

Anyiwo came back to the U.S. in 2004 for a job at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. She spent three years teaching history there (“There is not a lot of American studies departments,” Anyiwo adds) before joining the Curry faculty. Anyiwo says it’s all according to a master plan.

“I have a career trajectory where I wanted to start out at a big state school, then move down to a really small school, and finish off my career at a Catholic school,” she says. “And Curry fit into this trajectory. I like a small school and how you get to know your students, which you can’t do at a big school.”

Some of Anyiwo’s students, and even Anyiwo herself, describe her as being a tough professor. She assigns a lot of work, holds students to high standards, and expects those standards to be met. Professor Lawrence Hartenian, a history professor and departmental colleague of Anyiwo’s, says she covers a lot of material in her classes, “but if students do the work, they should get a lot out of the class.”

As for her “other-worldly” interests, Anyiwo is working on a scholarly project about the former TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The work is about violence, family connections, and the portrayal of women in popular culture. It’s about questioning perceived norms and pursuing greater truths…no matter how scary the pursuit may be.

“I am obsessed with vampires,” she says. “In my work, I look at stereotypes and things that make us afraid, which was race when I started my career. Now, I am looking at individual images, so that’s why I am looking into vampires.”