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THE NE XT F RONTIER Leading the way in creating life-changing technologies that don’t yet exist.


Laganeh Aisha Fade ’19

(page 36) Describe Emma in two words: Incredibly welcoming. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a school where everyone can be themselves so freely and happily. What’s your favorite spot on Emma’s campus? The track on a sunny morning. I love being the only person down there at six in the morning to watch the sun make its first shine of the day. What’s one thing you’d change about the world? It would definitely be self-hate. I believe that everyone should love themselves and appreciate every flaw they may have because we are the ones who have to deal with our bodies and thoughts every day. What TV show are you binging on lately? I really want to catch up on my Grey’s Anatomy!

Signe Redfield ’88

(page 16) Describe Emma in two words: Northanger Abbey—it has the Gothic exterior, the significantly more modern and comfortable interior, and the atmosphere of adolescents losing their illusions and learning about themselves. What’s your favorite spot on Emma’s campus? The tunnels. I learned about simple harmonic motion using a giant slinky in the tunnel from the science building. I avoided the winter weather and stayed warm in the tunnel from my dorm. And, I particularly loved the tunnel that was only an inch or so taller than I was. What’s one thing you’d change about the world? Find a source of cheap energy that’s easily available to the entire world. Eliminate energy as a source of conflict and let people start wars over hairstyles instead. What TV show are you binging on lately? I’m waiting for the first season of Doctor Who with Jodie Whittaker.

SP R IN G 2018

MISSIO N Honoring our founder’s vision, Emma Willard School proudly fosters in each young woman a love of learning, the habits of an intellectual life, and the character, moral strength, and qualities of leadership to serve and shape her world.

Erin Pihlaja

Head of Communications


Amoreena O’Bryon

Assistant Director of Communications for Creative Services Katie Coakley

Assistant Director of Communications for News and Social Media


Kelly F. Cartwright

Director of Alumnae Relations Robin Prout

Director of Donor Relations Megan Tady

Managing Editor Lilly Pereira


16 The Next Frontier

Two alumnae make history with new technologies

24 The Keepers of the Castle A dedicated team preserves Emma’s campus

32 Traveling Ink

An Emma-YWCA partnership helps women succeed

Jenny Rao

Head of School Please forward address changes to: Emma Willard School 285 Pawling Avenue Troy, NY 12180 518.833.1787 or

Ivy Huang ’18 learns what it means to be an artist in the Emma arts program.


Signature, the magazine of Emma Willard School is published by the Communications Office two times each year for alumnae, parents, grandparents, and friends of Emma Willard School. The mission of this magazine is to capture the school’s values and culture through accurate and objective stories about members of the Emma community, past and present, as they put Emma Willard’s mark on the world.

O N T H E COV E R This “signature” is brought to you by Aisha Fade ’19. In the photo, Petek Saracoglu ’05. Photo by Cindy Apple.


02 From the Triangle

36 Special Section

17th Head of School Jenny Rao is installed, the Class of 2018 perform Revels and more.

An Emma alumna’s organization helps the school build a culture of respect.

12 Faculty Voices

40 Admissions

Q&A with French Instructor Françoise Chadabe.

42 Click

14 The Classroom

17th Head of School Jenny Rao reflects on year one and is inpired by Emma’s love of learning.

Arts Instructor Lindsay Slaughter allows girls to explore different mediums.

44 Signing Off

From the Triangle




Welcoming A New Head


Emma Willard School students, current and former faculty, parents, alumnae, trustees, friends, and distinguished members of the greater Capital Region officially welcomed Jennifer C. Rao as our 203-year-old institution’s 17th Head of School in October. The ceremony, held at Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, focused on leadership, global citizenship, and the importance of education for women. It featured words from Emma Willard constituents, video greetings, and musical and dance performances. During the ceremony, Ms. Rao received several Emmaspecific gifts. Faculty presented her with a hand-carved baton so that she could “conduct the orchestra that is the Emma Willard adult community.” To welcome her to the Emma sisterhood, alumnae shared their favorite Emma traditions and gave her a class ring from a graduate of the Class of 1946. Students decorated a gift box filled with personal notes from the entire student body, and they presented her with a fun music video. Additionally, the Board of Trustees presented Ms. Rao with two significant gifts. The first was the medallion of the head of school, bearing the likeness of school founder Emma Hart Willard. The medallion design included the school’s founding year of 1814, an illuminating lamp signifying the lifelong love of learning, and the school motto, “semper fidelis”—always faithful. The second gift was the mace, the formal symbol of the authority and independence of the school community when called together in times of unity and celebration. Board of Trustees Chair Susan Hunter ’68 announced, “With these symbols of office, we entrust you with our hearts and minds, that you may lead this community on an upward trajectory to new heights in the education and empowerment of young women and girls-first thinking.”


From the Triangle

Emma’s Got Spirit In early October, Emma girls entered Kiggins to discover they would be attending a different, much more spirited kind of Morning Reports. Girls walked through an archway of red, black, and white balloons and took their seats for the first pep rally of the year. Spearheaded by Head of School Jenny Rao and Emma’s Dean of Students and Wellbeing Shelley Maher, the pep rally showcased each athlete on Emma’s fall athletic teams, including badminton, crew, cross country, JV and varsity field hockey, JV and varsity soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, JV and varsity volleyball, and cheerleading. The room buzzed as each athlete energetically made her way to the stage. At the conclusion of the event, the girls in our new cheerleading PE class led the school in the Emma cheer.


Bridging the Divide

From left to right: The Emma communications team, Heidi Knoblauch ’04, Jenny Rao, Amy Jiang ’19, Heather Loepere ’18, Ami Melville ’21, and Juliana Cimral ’21




Four members of Emma’s feminist club, The F-Word, joined Head of School Jenny Rao, alumna Heidi Knoblauch ’04, and our communications team at the Albany Business Review’s annual Women Who Mean Business luncheon. The members were Heather Loepere ’18, Amy Jiang ’19, Juliana Cimral ’21, and Ami Melville ’21. After hearing from the region’s award-winning women, Amy and club co-head Heather stole the show with their confidence and hard-hitting questions for the honorees regarding how they help other women rise in their industries and navigate business negotiations.

Emma Willard School’s annual Speaker Series aims to expand each girl’s understanding of the complexities of engaging in the world. This year, the series was developed around the theme of “bridging the divide,” and welcomed speakers who discussed their work or experience bridging the racial and gender divide. The community heard a historical perspective of activism; experienced civil discourse around social issues through the play, The Defamation Experience; built tools for conversation around equity and justice with diversity expert Amber White; explored issues of race in prep schools; and heard from an author who worked to uncover the experience of female factory workers in the early 20th century.

Fundraising for Disaster Relief Learning to Live a Wellness-focused Life Our Wellness Advocates, “The Wellies,” student leaders who promote and support the wellbeing of the Emma community, visited The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in the Berkshires. They attended several workshops, including restorative yoga and yoga dance (focused on self acceptance), and our own Nancy “Megha” Buttenhiem ’70 led girls through a workshop to learn to use the present moment to manage stress. They also went on a mindful nature walk, watched the sunrise, and planned for the year ahead.



When multiple natural disasters struck Texas, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and several Caribbean communities this fall, Emma adults and students sprang into action. Administrators and Head of School Jenny Rao contacted schools, educational consultants, and organizations such as the National Association of Independent Schools to offer displaced students a place at Emma until their schools reopened. Fortunately, schools in these areas reported that they would reopen in a timely manner. Still inspired, the community held a bake sale during this year’s Emma Bowl, a night of friendly competition between residence halls. The Bridges, winners of the night, generously donated the cost of what their pizza party prize would have been to the cause. Additional funds were raised through generous contributions from Emma’s Fair Trade club, an anonymous donor, and matching gifts from Mr. and Ms. Rao, the math department and our resident faculty. In total, the Emma community raised $1,381.75 for the American Red Cross. During a special lunch, Emma Dining served cuisine from the Caribbean and Mexico, students from Mexico sold Mexican candy, and classes teamed up according to their class color to compete to raise the most cash donations during the lunch. The Green Team—seniors and sophomores—won, and the combined efforts of all raised over $500 during that lunch alone. Other efforts over the next two weeks, which included a Fair Trade club bake sale, pushed the total amount raised to over $2,000.

LIV E PA I N TI NG TOP PR I ZE Sophia Chow ’20 entered and won a live painting competition for students ages 13–18 in Hong Kong. Out of the 3,500 competitors who entered the preliminary round, 100 were selected to move on to the final round— including Sophia. She had just three-and-a-half hours to complete her piece, which was selected as one of the top 10 winners. Her prize was an art trip to Moscow, Russia. “I am lucky to be given this opportunity, thanks to my parents’ support and my teacher’s encouragement,” she said.



Come Let Us Sing Together Emma’s choir program inspires grateful praise Sixteen years ago, Debra Spiro-Allen stepped into the well-worn, deeply-loved shoes of Russell Locke, the school’s 50-year veteran choral director and instructor. She recalls observing the respect Locke’s presence commanded when he walked into Maguire Auditorium. Every girl stood quietly, prepared to sing.

A L M A M AT ER Reared on the heights of Ida, Against the wide-arched sky The sunbeams fall athwart thee, The moonbeams gently lie. Across thy open hilltop, The winds blow bold and free; O ye grey walls, protecting, We raise our song to thee! Come let us sing together, A song of grateful praise; In honor of our founder The joyous strains upraise. ’Twas she beheld the vision And wrought with steadfast will; ’Tis the joyous labor That vision must fulfill! “Semper fidelis” singing To Emma Willard dear, Above the grey walls ringing Our song floats sweet and clear. O touch each fleeting momment With friendship’s alchemy. The days that lie before us, Our memories soon shall be! —Verse by Caroline Carter Davis, Class of 1904; Music by Mendelssohn



“I recognized something in Russell when I met him. He would have been my role model if he were my teacher,” Debra says. “It was clear that he had developed a very strong choral and music program, and I felt—and continue to feel—a sense of duty to the school and our alumnae to keep that going.” Debra and Russell worked side-byside during her first year at Emma Willard as she prepared to take the helm. She laughs recalling her first Eventide when an organ malfunctioned just before the performance. She scrambled to move the choir from the loft to the front of the Chapel—something completely new for the tradition and the girls. After the performance, Russell greeted Debra with a hug and laugh. She had done it. And she’s still doing it. In the years since, Debra has built upon Russell’s legacy while making the program her own. As an instructor and the chair of Emma’s arts department, she leads the choir and Inner Choir. She reinstated the Semiquavers after a 50-year hiatus when she saw the advanced

singing group mentioned in old concert programs. The choirs perform both sacred and secular music in a variety of compositional styles and languages. Inner Choir and Semiquavers are open to members of choir by invitation. Choir is open to any girl ready to sing. At Eventide this year, the girls sang “Lunar Lullaby” by Jacob Narverud, “A New Day” by Audrey Snyder, “Jubilate Deo” by Michael Praetorius, and “Bashana Haba’ah” by Ehud Manor and Nurit Hirsh as arranged by John Leavitt. As part of the Eventide tradition, the girls sing “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” on the steps of the Chapel. Emma girls view choir as a transformative experience, and they often join in spite of heavy and rigorous course loads and other extracurricular commitments. For this reason, Debra says she makes her time with the choirs as meaningful, useful, and as full of beauty as possible. Her efforts are felt and appreciated by her students, who affectionately call her “Spiro.”

“Spiro picks us up,” says Lily Pickett ’18. “Even though it’s the end of the day, she is always really present and happy, and everyone loves going even though it’s such a time commitment. I think that speaks to why so many students continue to be so involved.” Lily, who sings in the choir, the Inner Choir and Semiquavers, appreciates setting time aside from school work and studying to enjoy music with her peers. Because girls bring the highs and lows of athletic practices, gym classes, and other commitments to choir, Debra often begins with a mindfulness moment. “I tell them: ‘Do whatever you need to do to be here now. Whatever problem you have is outside; it doesn’t have to be here with you now,’” she says. The art of mindfulness is only one of many important lessons girls

take away from choir. Katherine Chen ’18 had never sung in a choir before, but she was drawn to the group after she saw them perform her freshman year. She now sings with the choir, the Inner Choir and Semiquavers, and she has a deeper appreciation of how music comes together as a whole that is greater than its individual parts. Katherine’s journey is an example of why Debra keeps the main choir open to any girl who wants to sing, regardless of her experience. Often, girls come to Emma from cultures without choral traditions or from schools where music programs have been eliminated. Debra believes all students should have the chance to explore vocal expression. The inclusivity and exploratory nature of Emma’s choir program allow girls to discover themselves in a new way. “The voice is you,” Debra says. “It’s more than just

“I love that our alma mater says, ‘Come let us sing together’—it’s just perfect. Choir is an open space for girls to express themselves. ” music: it’s who you are and what you have to say. Your voice is your soul.” For this reason, she encourages anyone to take part in choir at any time, even if it’s once a week or in a sole spontaneous moment. “I love that our alma mater says, ‘Come let us sing together’— it’s just perfect. Choir is an open space for girls to express themselves,” Debra notes.



SOC I AL M ED I A emmawillardschool emmawillardschool

Cluett House students recently visited Soul Fire Farm in Petersburgh, New York, to participate in one of their Community Farm Days.

#FallPlay #Metamorphoses

Anna Schupack ’18 is creating a mosaic that will be featured in the stairway outside of Kellas Commons leading to the school store and READY Center. emmawillard

Happy International Day of the Girl! We are so proud and lucky to celebrate girls each and every day here at #EmmaWillard School. #IDG2017 emmawillardschool #CrazyHairDay

Welcome from Head of School Jenny Rao watch?v=s94qLpoKBnQ

Emma ninth graders woke up early on Saturday to participate in the Sludge Lab, a science department offering in its third year. #Sunset like s



l i ke s


Explore. Play. Learn. GirlSummer, Emma’s signature summer program, offers girls ages 6-14 enriching, personalized, and fun two- and four-week summer experiences. Each July, girls from a diverse range of states and countries come to Emma to choose from an expansive array of electives, allowing each girl to discover new pursuits or deepen personal interests. We welcome girls as day campers and, for rising 6th-9th graders, we offer the option of twoand four-week boarding programs: July 8-August 4, 2018.

Explore GirlSummer at



The revelry and magic returned to the Kiggins stage turned Manor House in mid-December! It was a performance of many firsts: the first time Head of School Jenny Rao experienced the beloved tradition; the first time Esther Dettmar took on the role of costuming, ably assisted by Chinese Instructor Preston Sundin; and the first time it snowed in Kiggins (thanks to modern technology). There were also a number of new visitors joining in the celebration: a baby jester and devil—who brought a sense of childlike wonder, the jesters from the houses of the attending lords and ladies, and Lady Brenna who joined Lady Jane at the head table in lieu of Lord Richard. As the Class of 2018 embodied their characters—new and old—they brought unique flair and charisma to the revelry. Kudos to all!




See complete gallery of Revels photos at emmawillardschool


Faculty Voices


Françoise Chadabe

Expanding Their Worlds It was a Fulbright grant and a desire to experience life in the United States that brought Madame Françoise Chadabe stateside from France to study English literature at the State University of New York at Albany. She earned a master’s degree in the subject while lecturing, giving her a taste for what she would ultimately pursue—teaching. In 1969, she began teaching French at Emma Willard School, and after a hiatus, she returned to the school in 1980. Almost 40 years later, she is the school’s most long-standing faculty member, and the wearer of the coveted red hat. What struck you about Emma when you first arrived? I had thought I would be teaching at the university level, so I was a little reluctant to come to Emma Willard to interview, but when I saw a class in action, I was blown away— I loved it. I loved the students’ responses and their reactions—that was it! The girls sold me.

that are happening in France. I like to introduce the students to cultural elements through what we are studying. Sometimes I tell a story, other times they tell me a story through what they know and we connect on that level. Every class I teach provides students with the opportunity to read, write, listen, and speak each day. It is intense and they learn a lot.

What do you like about teaching Emma Girls? Of course there are many different types of Emma Girls, but they are generally really open to ideas, to stories, to whatever they are learning. They are very responsive.

How has your style changed during your time at Emma? When I started in the early ’70s, there were more lecture-oriented classes. Now it’s more focused on questions, responses, and interaction. Interaction was always part of it, but now I’m more conscious of having students interact.

How would you describe your teaching style? Teaching a language requires being able to juggle many tasks at once. We do vocabulary, we do grammar, and I always make sure to connect the vocabulary to things



Have you noticed that education has changed? Yes, I think it is different. Twenty to 30 years ago,

it was more focused on reading and writing, and now we do more oral work. Students have to master the four skills—listening, speaking, reading, and writing. We practice each more equally now. We still use blackboards and handouts, and require work to be handwritten. We have seen that it works well. Why do you think it’s important for students to learn other languages? You need to be open to the rest of the world and to have an understanding of what and how people outside of the United States think. When I get to the level where my students can read a foreign newspaper, it’s great because they see that people don’t necessarily think the same way they do. Learning a language exposes you to all of that. Also, I’m a literature person—I really love literature—and I think if



you get to the level where you can read texts in their original language, it’s such a pleasure. It’s not just for everyday life; it’s for your own enjoyment. What did you gain from being department chair? I was chair for over 25 years. My priorities were to promote collegiality and collaboration between my colleagues. Also, I have felt very strongly that we need funds devoted solely to help students travel to the country of the language they are studying. I envision the immersion experience lasting three to four weeks, just the way we currently have with High Mountain Institute (HMI) or exchanges to South Africa, Argentina, and Australia. As the wearer of the red hat, do you have any advice for your

younger colleagues? I would advise them to visit classes and attend conferences where they can see other teachers’ methods. They should be exposed to many options so they can learn how different methods work and see whether or not they could use some of a style in their own classrooms. In my opinion, language teachers need to use more than one method of teaching. Have there been any standout moments or classes that you’ve had during your tenure at Emma? [Laughs] Oh yes, many. Every day in my classes there are heroic moments where students accept challenges and take risks. Sometimes you have a student who is really struggling and suddenly you start to see her speak, and start to see her get better. It’s such a good feeling when you see that. I’ve been teaching for so many

years, but it is never the same. Every year brings new personalities and makes things different, and that’s what’s nice as a teacher. What would you say about your overall experience at Emma? I don’t think I would be teaching still if I didn’t enjoy the atmosphere of the school, if I didn’t enjoy the students, and if it was not a rewarding experience. It’s a new experience every time, although it’s the same subject. I must say that Emma is really a lovely place to work. Every morning when I come in and look at the campus, it’s a pleasure. It’s been a very good experience to be teaching here for so many years. I have never imagined I would stay so long. I thought I was going to go on and do other things, but it has turned out to be a very good experience.


The Classroom


What It Means to Be an Artist In classroom B1, in the basement of Maguire, Visual Arts Instructor Lindsay Slaughter walks from desk to desk, arranged in a circle around the room, and spends a few minutes surveying each girl’s artwork. She comments on composition, color, and space. With one student, who is sketching a portrait of her younger self facing off with a surreal monster, Lindsay debates the impact of adding tentacles to the piece. With another, she asks about proportions and the use of a grid.

Lindsay Slaughter


Beautiful natural light seeps into the room via a wall of windows. From a stereo, “Monster Mash” starts playing, and the intermediate and advanced students in this Advanced Studio Arts class bop their heads and sing along—it is Halloween and the girls are excited. Creativity and expression are encouraged here, and though there is fun in the air, all of the students work carefully on the pieces in front of them. The current assignment has the girls creating realistic images of memories while relaying a specific mood or feeling. Some students use pencils, some use chalk and pastels. Some chat as they work, while others sketch in silence. In this setting, play and structure intentionally co-exist. Lindsay, who is in her eighth year teaching at Emma Willard School, guides her students while providing space to explore what art means to them personally. The girls appreciate this freedom. “My parents sent me to art camps and classes in China when I was younger,” says Ivy Huang ’18. “The classes were very focused on technique, and I feel like there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to explore myself as an artist. After I came to Emma, I learned a lot more, both in technique and conceptually. I learned what it means to be an artist.”


Ivy’s work incorporates many different disciplines. She has experimented with architecture and weaving, which are both based on structure. In the Advanced Studio Arts class, she’s explored the integration of painting and digital photography. “Ivy is not trying to create imitations of what she’s seen,” says Lindsay. “She is truly creating unique works of art.” For her final project, Ivy painted plastic sheets with watercolor. She then placed the sheets on a lightbox and with one hand bent the plastic so that the wet paint moved in different patterns and directions. With the other hand, she photographed the process. Not an experienced photographer, she turned to photography as a means to preserve the work, because the paint cracked as it dried on the bent plastic. “I was interested in the idea, but didn’t know what to expect,” says Ivy. “I have always been drawn to color and form. I’m a dancer, so the emphasis on movement and how you could capture light was really interesting to me.” She titled the resulting series of 15 pieces, I Follow Rivers. “A lot of people will tell me what is interesting about it is that you can’t tell if it is a painting or a photograph,” Ivy says. Lindsay says Emma’s art program allows girls to personalize their focus. “It’s a huge plus because they get so



much exposure to many different types of art,” she says. “They learn how mediums can build into one another.” And, because all of Emma Willard’s visual art instructors are also practicing artists, girls gain realworld insight into what it means to be an artist. “We are able to teach students how to handle the ups and downs, how to get through the creative blocks, and how to experience the exhilaration that comes with an artistic breakthrough,” Lindsay says. Pawa Osathanugrah ’18 studied art before coming to Emma from Thailand, but says there was little focus on technique or skill work. For her final project in Advanced Studio Arts, Pawa created a series of 12 paintings she called, Underwater. “They are all named after different feelings because my intention was to create all of the different feelings you could have while underwater,” she says. Students come to the Emma Willard arts program from very different backgrounds. Those differences both enhance the curriculum and pose a challenge for the instructors. “Different countries value different things

in art. Technique versus ideas and concepts—it’s important to be flexible with our students,” says Lindsay. “But they all have drive. They want to challenge themselves, and at Emma we view art as academic.” Completing the project was very satisfying for Pawa. “I never thought I would get to that point,” she recalls. “Painting 12 pieces with the same theme is really hard.” She says Lindsay’s positive encouragement and her feedback were essential to her success. “I always take criticism into consideration,” Pawa says. “[Ms. Slaughter] might tell me that a piece is not as strong, or that there are other things that I could do to improve it.” Pawa appreciates that Lindsay balances feedback with allowing her to find her own solutions. This approach is also rewarding to Lindsay as she watches her students reach new awareness. “There’s always that magical moment when they’ve started to see the world in a different way,” she says. “The most beautiful thing is to be able to see differently.”

Top: Lindsay surveys her students’ work. Inset: Life-size drawing of Olive Snider ’18 by Kayleen McGinnis ’18


From the Triangle





Two Emma Willard alumnae lead the way in creating life-changing technologies that don’t yet exist.









There’s just no framework for us. We’re figuring it all out. We’re excited to work on something that hasen’t been done before. P ET EK SA RACOG LU ’ 0 5

The world is full of complex problems, and two Emma Willard alumnae are using their minds and their moxie to fix them with cutting-edge solutions. Petek Saracoglu’s hybrid-electric plane will improve the way we travel, making it cheaper, faster, and greener. Signe Redfield’s space robot will service our geostationary satellites, protecting our weather and communications systems. Both women are pioneers in traditionally male-dominated fields, charting new courses for our future.



Petek Saracoglu ’05 has been singularly focused on one thing her entire life: airplanes. Not just flying in them, or flying them herself (which she does), but how they fly. “I’ve been very aerospace-directed since I was a kid,” she says. “Nothing ever interested me the same way airplanes do.” Petek is now a flight sciences engineer at Zunum Aero, a startup company in Kirkland, WA, where she’s helping to design the world’s first hybridelectric airplane. If her passion had a flight map, she could trace its beginnings to somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean as she flew with her parents from the U.S. to Istanbul, Turkey, every summer. “I thought pilots were the coolest,” she says. Seated next to her on the plane, Petek’s father, who she says, “is also an engineer and a total nerd,” would draw diagrams of the engine and explain how the airplane flew. “I learned about the compression cycle of an engine when I was 11 from my dad,” she says. She earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from MIT, and a master’s degree from the University of Washington in aerospace, aeronautical, and astronautical engineering.



As an engineer for Zunum Aero, a startup company near Seattle, Petek is helping to design the world’s first hybridelectric plane that relies on batteries and fuel. With renewable energy, the plane could become emission free in the future.




The fact that a smaller airplane can land at these smaller airfields is an incredible prospect for regional travel. P ET EK SA RACOG LU ’ 0 5

framework for us. We’re figuring it all out. I think that’s what, honestly, has drawn a lot of the people to our team. We’re excited to work on something that hasn’t been done before.” Matt Knapp, the founder of Zunum, says, “Petek brings a great blend of big picture problem solving combined with a dogged attention to detail—which is vital in the startup environment.” If Petek can trace her early love of aviation to her flights to Istanbul, she can trace her tenacity to her time at Emma Willard School—specifically to science classes with Chris Kimberly and Rob Buckley. “I was fascinated by how the world works and how these invisible things that are happening all have laws to them—which I learned at Emma,” she says. “It’s just fascinating to me that the entire world is governed by these invisible laws. You drop a ball and you know how many seconds it’s going to take to hit the ground because it’s been defined by math and science. My teachers were excited about what they were teaching, and it was infectious.” Once, Mr. Kimberly asked his class to measure the height of Sage tower, but he didn’t give any specifics on how to measure it. Petek and a classmate tied a string to a helium balloon and launched it into the sky—an unconventional approach. “He gave us the award for creativity,” she says, and she’s been drawing from that well of creativity, courage, and conviction ever since.

^ ^

“I was really interested in aircraft design: What does the tail look like? Where is the wing placed? What does the wing look like to make this airplane fly as fast and as efficiently as it can?” she says. “The whole idea of air moving around the outer shape of an airplane, just that sleekness, I’ve always been really interested in that.” At Zunum Aero, Petek and her team believe that the future of flying looks radically different than it does today. It is faster, cheaper, more energy efficient, and free from the hassles associated with large airport hubs—often passengers’ only choice. Petek says Zunum planes will enable people to live where they want to live and travel on their own schedule. “The beauty of our airplane is that it actually costs less and it is a good proposition financially,” Petek says. “On top of that, it’s amazing that we can reduce emissions just because our fuel burn is 40 to 80 percent less than an airplane that flies today.” The hybrid-electric plane uses a combination of batteries and fuel, and as electricity is increasingly sourced from renewable energy, Petek says, the planes “become a completely emission-free prospect in the future.” Petek and her colleagues are working furiously to meet a launch goal of 2022, and several heavy hitters in aviation have already partnered with the company including Boeing, jetBlue, Technology Ventures, and the Washington State Department of Commerce. Some skeptics say that what Petek is helping to build can’t be done—at least not yet. “Zunum Aero recognized that we need to be doing this now,” she says. “A lot of other people are still saying, ‘Oh, there’s no way. The technology is not there yet.’ I like the way my company has responded: ‘Well, it’s going to be there, and we’re going to be there to catch it.’” Fly from Boston to New York City and it’s a half-day affair when all is said and done. Door-to-door, Zunum Aero estimates the average traveler spends just over four hours at a cost of $180 one way. But what if the trip took just under two hours at a cost of $70? The Zunum Aero model relies on the thousands of community airports that are underused around the country. Most people, Petek says, live within 10 to 15 minutes of a small airport. “What we’re offering is completely disrupting that cost structure,” Petek says excitedly. “The fact that a smaller airplane can land at these smaller airfields is an incredible prospect for regional travel.” Recently, Petek and her colleagues cracked a tough nut: the weight of the hybrid-electric airplane. After that, the dominoes began to fall: the plane’s drag, and then the thrust from taxiing into place. Traditionally, an engineer would evaluate the benchmarks of other products to create a feasible design. But in this case, Petek says, “There’s just no

SIGNE REDFIELD Working at the Naval Research Laboratory, Signe is helping to program and build a space robot that will service the geostationary satellites that impact communications on Earth.


Hovering 22,236 miles above Earth’s equator, 402 geostationary satellites allow us to monitor the next big storm, to use GPS so we don’t get lost, and to watch our favorite TV shows. These satellites, which cost millions of dollars and are owned by governments and companies worldwide, are central to how we live today. There’s just one problem: satellites are incredibly fragile and difficult to fix. They’re built to be light because every pound we send to space is astronomically expensive. And there’s no equivalent to a handywoman, because we can’t easily zip up to space to tinker with a malfunctioning satellite. Enter Signe Redfield ’88 and her space robot. For the last four years, Signe has been working at the Naval Research Laboratory as an autonomous behavior robotics specialist and engineer, helping to program and build the first robot that can service these satellites. “My job is to work on the robot’s brains and decision making to enable operators to tell it what they want it to do,” Signe says, from her office in Washington, D.C. Since Signe earned her PhD from the University of Florida in electrical engineering in 2001, her work has been on the cutting edge of science and technology. “I’ve only been working on things that have never really been done before,” she says, which includes underwater robots that can detect mines and explosives for the Navy, and a robot that can retrieve a can of Coke from a fridge (distinguishing between other cans of soft drinks). “I was enthralled by the idea of being able to develop systems that humans look at and go, ‘Oh look, it has emotions. Oh look, it’s planning.’ These complicated things are really driven by very simple rules. I thought that was incredibly clever,” Signe says. Long before Signe was working in robotics, she was at Emma Willard dreaming of joining a rock band. Then, a Newtonian physics experiment with a Slinky



changed everything. As Signe and her classmates measured three-dimensional periodic motion, her mind exploded with new possibilities. “It was about exploring the world, taking your hypothesis and pushing it, and saying, ‘What are the limits of this thing, and how does it work in the real world?’” Now, she’s developing new hypotheses every day to get her robot into space. She rattles off a long list of the glitches that can happen after a satellite is out of human reach: “Either there was a mistake when the satellites detached from their launch rocket, or they don’t have quite enough fuel to get up to the right orbit, or one of their solar panels or their communications array didn’t pop out properly.” If a satellite stops working, it could be years—and a lot of money—before a replacement is sent back into space. “Basically at this point, there are a whole bunch of really expensive assets in space, and we don’t really have the ability to service them, to go up and just take a look,” she says. The robot, tentatively scheduled to launch in the early 2020s, is also being equipped to take pictures, replacing the blurry images scientists have to use now from even the most powerful telescopes. “Our robot can fly around things to take pictures and send them back to the satellite owners, so they can look at it and go, ‘Oh, there’s a meteorite hole, that’s what happened.’” At the outset, what Signe is doing sounds straightforward: tell a robot how to poke, prod, shake, or grab a satellite in order to deploy a stuck solar panel or unhook a snagged wire—to stand in for human arms and hands. But, programming a robot is dizzying in its difficulty, and Signe has to program a robot based on every situation that she can anticipate. Robot needs to walk straight, but runs into an obstacle. Robot needs to deploy one button, but not the other button. Every action she programs often reveals new problems, which she equates to the fable of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. “In that story, each princess is more beautiful than the last. Well in robotics, each problem is more complicated than the last. It doesn’t matter what order you do them in,” she says. But it’s precisely in these moments of tension and challenge where Signe thrives. “The best thing is when you think about the problem, and you shift your thinking about the problem just a tiny bit, and all of the sudden you understand how to solve it,” she says.


Suddenly I have an epiphany, and I know how to think about it so I can actually get [the robot] to do the thing I want it to do. S I GNE RE D FI E LD ’88

Signe at home in Maryland with a Raspberry Pi, which she says is a “good, cheap computer that can be used as the brain of a robot.”

“Suddenly I have an epiphany, and I know how to think about it so I can actually get it to do the thing I want it to do.” Just as in her Emma days, Signe’s pushing the limits of what’s possible, designing new technology that will impact the real world. “I love my work,” she says. “It’s exciting to be working on a project that might actually go to space and be useful and helpful.”


From the Triangle







CASTLE Behind the scenes with the teams that beautify and preserve our beloved school


From the Triangle


ew forget pulling through the gates of Emma Willard School for the first time. The stately, Gothic architecture is unexpected in the city of Troy and awe-inspiring for first-time visitors and returning alumnae alike. Since 1910, Emma’s castle has stood proudly on Mount Ida, home to generations of talented, driven young women in pursuit of a transformative education. These grey walls do more than protect: They play a pivotal role in inspiring students throughout their academic journeys.

Given its history, I do everything to the best of my ability to not take away from the natural beauty of campus. M A R T Y H I LT Z



As students and faculty do important work in the classrooms, two small and dedicated teams—10 people total—work diligently behind the scenes to maintain Emma’s 23 buildings and 137 acres so that operations run smoothly. Commonly linked together under the umbrella of “facilities,” the school’s interior maintenance and grounds teams know and work on every inch of the property—from the top of Sage Tower and the tips of each and every parapet, to the drains and sewers below, and from the Pawling Avenue entrance to the very edge of the back 40 acres. “Facilities’ goal each day is to make sure we’re maintaining a fun, safe campus that feels like home to our students,” says Pete McCorkle, head of operations at Emma Willard. “We share the same goal with our resident faculty and teachers—to provide the best we can at the funding level we have.”

Pete oversees the facilities team, along with many other operational departments on campus, and checks in daily with Ken McGivern, who manages the maintenance team, and Dan Miller, who heads the grounds team. “Dan and Ken are both working managers—they are out there doing jobs just like the guys under them,” Pete says. “The work that our small team does is really unbelievable.” While daily tasks differ, the teams are strategically aligned with the Board of Trustees’ vision for the school. As the school charts a new strategic plan under 17th Head of School Jenny Rao, and continues raising funds for the 2020 Vision initiatives set under 16th Head of School Trudy Hall, previously deferred maintenance is now being prioritized. Both teams are making critical updates to the infrastructure and grounds even as they remain invested in launching new projects.




alking through campus, it’s easy to get lost staring up at the intricate details of Sage, Kellas, and Slocum, with their unique collective carvings of gargoyles, roses, dragons, and faces. Inside the buildings, the ornate woodwork and large, carefully soldered windows transport visitors to another era. These spaces are proudly preserved and repaired by Ken McGivern, director of facilities, and the interior maintenance team: Martin “Marty” Hiltz, Christine “Chris” Hill, Paul Ferritto, and Todd Squires. “We manage the basement up to the roof, and everything in between,” says Marty, a 13-year veteran of the team who came to Emma Willard from the Berlin Central School system. Marty is a well-known fixture on campus, often spotted high on a ladder tending to the castle’s many needs, including winding the Alumnae Chapel clock every Wednesday morning. “I find heights exhilarating,” he says, as he describes his most recent project: converting the school’s 98

lampposts to use new LED lighting. The old sockets fill a box in the maintenance shop, waiting to take on a new life elsewhere. “There’s a lot of stuff that we do, and are able to do, because we’re resourceful,” Marty says. “Given its history, I do everything to the best of my ability to not take away from the natural beauty of campus.” Modernizing the lampposts was one task on a long to-do list. Team members identify future projects as they go about their days, but sometimes emergencies like broken windows or clogged plumbing require immediate attention. The school uses SchoolDude software to manage “fix it requests”— which can be anything from moving boxes to fixing a building’s heating system. Chris Hill, director of mail service, assigns tasks based on each team member’s specialties and preferences. She says she tries to assign them tasks accordingly while rotat-

ing more general tasks. “They can all do everything and they are all incredibly capable,” she says. Like her teammates, Chris has worn many hats throughout her 36 years at Emma, as she continues to do today. Her day begins with administrative work in the business office, and she opens the mailroom window for early morning pick-ups before heading into downtown Troy to gather the school’s mail—including packages for girls excited to receive them. She enjoys the diversity of her work and how it allows her to interface with the Emma community, particularly the girls who she gets to know as they send and receive mail. Unlike Marty and Chris, who are visible on campus each day, Paul and Todd can go for long periods of time without seeing anyone but each other. “We will be asked to, and can do, just about anything. Other people probably don’t see us a

Emma’s campus requires year-round maintenance.


From the Triangle

MEET THE MAINTENANCE TEAM Left to right: Todd Squires, Marty Hiltz, Ken McGivern, Pete McCorkle, Chris Hill, and Paul Ferritto


lot, and that’s why—we’re in the inner workings of everything,” Paul says. Paul and Todd were hired one month apart 11 years ago when there was emphasis on working in pairs. They still prefer to work together, each citing their shared strong work ethic. “I’ve worked a lot of places and you don’t find that often—someone with the same mindset, working on the same page,” Todd says. Early in their careers at Emma, the two spent eight months overhauling a campus property, part of the school’s faculty housing. They removed half of the foundation, worked with Marty to take


out an old chimney, added a new roof including all new sister joists, installed a new heating system, replaced all the pipes, and later put an addition on the back. Every day, Todd and Paul inspect each building to make sure the boilers and heating system are keeping the community comfortable. Working together is also a matter of safety. “If something were ever to happen to you in one of these remote places, there’s very little or no cell service,” Paul says. “[Todd] wouldn’t know until the end of the day when he saw that my car was still in the lot, or he might think I’m working late when I’m really stuck somewhere.” The maintenance team credits the respectful working relationship between themselves and their manager, Ken McGivern, to keep the flow of requests, repairs, and projects moving. Since arriving at Emma 13 years ago, Ken has moved up the ranks from general maintenance to his current role as director of facilities. He works closely with Pete McCorkle on strategic projects, while checking in with his team throughout each day. “I lead my team by letting them be themselves,” Ken says. “When you have a great team, you don’t

worry about telling them what to do or needing to redirect them.” Since he can rely on his team to tend to daily life at Emma, Ken plays a big role in coordinating with inspectors and interfacing with contractors for large-scale projects, including the recent renovations to the school’s historic dormitories and bathrooms, a project of which he’s particularly proud. The restorations were initially slated to take place over the course of three summers, but were finished in two under Ken’s close attention and care. Ken oversaw teams of local vendors as they tore bathrooms down to the studs—and beyond in some cases—and gradually layered in new water pipes, toilets, sinks, and flooring on each hall. As with any renovation project, there were known obstacles, like asbestos abatement, and surprises along the way. Nonetheless, when Emma girls returned both years, they were met with bright, modern bathrooms and freshly painted, colorful alcoves with new carpeting and updated furniture. “I love helping 355 girls live and grow,” Ken says. “There is sincere appreciation from everyone on campus. I never dread getting up and coming to work. It’s always just another good day.”


an Miller, leader of Emma’s grounds crew, says his favorite aspect of his job as assistant director of operations, which he says doesn’t feel like a job at all, is feeling the community’s pride and gratitude for the buildings and grounds. “Anyone who takes a job in facilities knows it’s about supporting the students and staff,” he says. “It’s what we do. When you see the girls and the people here going about the day and appreciating their surroundings, you know you’re making people happy.” Dan came to Emma 22 years ago with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, an associate’s degree from SUNY Cobleskill, and experience working for a wholesale nursery. When he followed up on an advertisement seeking someone to care for a 100-year-old estatetype campus, he never imagined it would be for Emma until hearing: “Security, Emma Willard,” on the other end of the phone. Dan and his team—Charles “Charlie” Hayner, Adam Grimm, and Josh Meemken—work closely together to maintain a sense of beauty that seems almost otherworldly. The expansive grounds require regular tending including mowing, weed whacking, mulching, edging sidewalks, hedge trimming, planting, floral rotating, and snow removal. Many days this work is routine, but Mother Nature throws some curve balls, and strategic planning is key for this small team. Each team member is responsible for a zone on campus. This is why Adam is often seen in the center of campus, Charlie on the playing fields, and Josh in and around the Alumnae House and outskirts of campus.

“The guys are dedicated to this place and care deeply about how it looks and how they do their job,” Dan says. For Josh, the newest member of the team, working at Emma Willard has been an enjoyable learning experience. Josh became a full-time employee this past September after assisting both the grounds and maintenance teams during the summers. Now he often helps Charlie line the playing fields for practice and play each season, which varies depending on the sport. They also insert and remove goal netting and cut sod in preparation for softball season. “I’ve learned everything here from the guys,” Josh says. “I didn’t know how to drive stick when I started, and I had never used anything bigger than a push mower.” Having versatile skills helps the entire team. “There is always stuff that can be done,” Adam says. “I like doing things that come out of nowhere, like removing and breaking down branches or trees after a storm, or thinking about what to plant in a particular location in the spring.” Adam joined the team when he was still in high school, working part-time during the summers. Sixteen years later, he is a prominent fixture at the front and center of campus. When they are not beautifying campus directly, the team works behind the scenes maintaining the school’s fleet of vehicles and heavy equipment. The school’s six vans and one car log many miles transporting students to off-campus opportunities, and keeping them in the best-possible shape is a priority to ensure the girls’ and faculty’s utmost safety. The grounds shop also houses lawn mowers, snow plows, weed whackers, blowers, and other equipment, all of which need

When you see the girls and the people here going about the day and appreciating their surroundings, you know you’re making people happy.




regular attention. Between planting, snow shoveling, and equipment maintenance, there is never a lull in campus care. “You’re a jack-of-all-trades here,” says Charlie, who has been with Emma Willard for 15 years. “I mainly focus on the sports fields, but I can also be in the shop underneath a mower changing out a fuel filter.” Dan appreciates having such an invested team that understands the importance of every detail, which is also important when collaborating with alumnae and families on memorial planning. When a class or family plans an on-campus memorial in honor of a particular alumna or group, they confer with Dan and Robin Prout, director of donor


From the Triangle


Left to right: Pete McCorkle, Dan Miller, Adam Grimm, Charlie Hayner, and Josh Meemken

relations, to find the perfect solution—and the grounds team makes it happen. A recent collaboration involved two separate gifts: one in memory of an alumna from the Class of 2006 and another remembering an alumna from the Class of 1967. The result is a beautiful garden and seating area near the Kellas porte cochere with a view of inner campus and the playing fields.



wenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year, Emma Willard School’s facilities team works industriously to preserve and protect the castle on Mount Ida. Generations of girls have lain on the grass of the Senior Triangle, written their names on the walls of the tunnels, and grown up within Emma’s Tudor Gothic walls. Head of School Jenny Rao says, “I’m astounded by how hard our team members in facilities work to beautify our campus and keep our



buildings and fields in order. They are often behind the scenes, but they don’t go unnoticed. Emma Willard School flourishes because of their efforts.” Whether working in the buildings or on the grounds, the school—a home to many—has a multitude of needs that keep the facilities team constantly busy. Their efforts and work ensure the future of Emma Willard School, and instill the community with pride and gratitude. Love for the buildings and grounds is a common bond shared by sisters, friends, parents, alumnae, and mentors across the globe. The community’s sincerity and loyalty stood out to Marty early in his career. He recalls major flooding in the basement of Slocum during his second year at Emma. A window had been left open and a pipe had frozen and burst, flooding the space. Cold water swirled around his legs, soaking his pants. Debris floated all around and, piece by piece, Marty collected and removed trash from the dark murkiness.

I mainly focus on the sports fields, but I can also be in the shop underneath a mower changing out a fuel filter. C H A R L I E H AY N E R

He looked up to see that his efforts were joined by then Head of School Trudy Hall, Associate Head Emerita Trudy Hanmer, and Executive Assistant to the Head Pat Jones—all wading in the muck to clean up their beloved school. “That really made an impression on me and showed me that I’m where I want to be.”



From the Triangle Opal Ingram at a book signing in Troy, New York



ink E Traveling

Kiyo Saso ’17 helped bring Opal Ingram’s book to shelves as part of a new collaboration between Emma Willard School and the local YWCA.



Opal Ingram had a goal: write a book

and see it on the shelves in a Barnes & Noble bookstore. But life had a different plan for her, and for 14 years Opal struggled in an abusive relationship with an addict. In 2009, she left her husband and started over with her two daughters, relying on support from the YWCA of the Greater Capital Region (YWCAGCR) to help rebuild their lives. Part of that process has included writing, and now the Troy-based writer has self-published four books of poetry, essays, and short stories. Kiyo Saso ’17 edited Opal’s Finding Your Purpose: Black Stockings 361 (2017) as part of the YWCA-GCR Signature Program, a new collaboration between the YWCA-GCR and Emma Willard School. Echoing Emma’s Signature Program, women in the YWCA’s Jamison-Rounds Ready for Work (JR-RFW) program choose a topic of their interest to pursue. Emma girls act as partners and work with the women as they complete their projects. Last year, the YWCAGCR’s Signature Program’s inaugural, Kiyo became the first Emma student to participate in the partnership. The program is funded through a grant from the Louis & Hortense Rubin Community Fellows Program. Jon Calos, science department chair and director of Emma’s Signature Program, was awarded the



Rubin Fellowship, and he is thrilled about the mentorship opportunities the partnership will provide Emma girls. “These connections will create meaningful relationships for our students, giving them an opportunity to employ their skills while opening their eyes to the women and their stories at the YWCA,” Jon says. “Emma girls will be truly useful to the women at the YWCA, and they will learn a lot from the experience.” With additional fellowship support for 2017–2018, Jon is expanding the program, and eight to 12 Emma girls will be able to participate in the coming year. Daquetta Jones, executive director of YWCA-GCR, says, “Emma Willard empowers, educates, and prepares young women to be leaders and serve and shape the world. The partnership is especially fitting given our mission.” YWCA-GCR helps house 104 women and 50 children on any given day, and the JR-RFW program has prepared more than 170 women for employment. Last spring, Kiyo and Opal worked on her book, readying it for publication. When it hit bookstores, it also landed on Amazon—and at Barnes & Noble, a fulfillment of Opal’s early dream. “My ink is traveling,” she says. Opal heard about JR-RFW from a graduate of the program and applied. JR-RFW collaborates with 30 organizations that teach everything from budget management

to using presentation software like PowerPoint. Opal created a five-year plan and attended weeknight workshops for 12 weeks. The program has an 86 percent success rate, which means that the majority of graduates secure a livable wage, attend trade school or college, or attain their GED within six months of graduation. Opal also wanted to focus on her writing, and the Emma-inspired Signature Program seemed like a good place to start. As Opal neared the completion of her book, she needed someone with a keen editing eye. Enter Kiyo, who had previously edited a few articles for The Clock, Emma’s student newspaper, as well as a handful of peers’ papers and essays. She also wanted to improve her editing skills. Opal’s book was her first opportunity to edit creative work. “I was interested in the idea of helping someone develop the best version of their thoughts and work, and the opportunity to engage in the editing process appealed to me,” says Kiyo, who now attends Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Opal says Kiyo’s edits helped take her manuscript to the next level. “The Signature Program was a great experience,” she says. “I learned a lot about myself and was really helped by Kiyo.” Finding Your Purpose is a clarion call for the empowerment of women, and Opal didn’t shy away from sharing her personal story about breaking the cycle of domestic abuse. “I hope my experiences and lessons can help someone who might be experiencing something similar to what I have been through, and they learn that there are a lot of resources out there to help them,” Opal says. Kiyo said she was impressed with Opal’s candor and emotion


in her writing. “I’m happy with how it turned out, but I give all credit to Opal and all the work she put into it,” she says. “I was excited and pleased to have played a small role.” Last fall, Opal attended YWCAGCR’s 2017 Resourceful Women’s Awards Luncheon as the 2017 Woman of Inspiration. In front of a crowd of nearly 500 people, she talked candidly about leaving her husband with her two children with only the clothes on their backs, and how she feared for her life. They were formally divorced in early 2011. “The advice I would give to someone else is that an abuser’s behavior never changes,” she says. “It’s better to leave because the pattern never gets better until you break it.” Daquetta praises Opal’s courage in sharing her personal story both as a speaker and as an author. “It takes nerve to share your story in front of that many people, especially when it’s not all flowers and butterflies,” Daquetta says. “She overcame a lot—domestic violence, being a single mom—and she had to start her life over again. She took her life back. She inspires me.” Opal’s other published works include two collections of short stories and poetry: Black Stockings (2016), Like A Rag Doll (2017), and the poetry collection Love Poems 40 (2017). The title Black Stockings was inspired by the hosiery shop her father owned in New York City. Opal’s work has also appeared in three poetry anthologies: Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze: Contemporary Poetry by New and Experienced Poets (2016); Dandelion in a Vase of Roses: A Poetry Anthology of Diverse Poets and Countries (2017); and Women Poets: Within and Beyond Shore, Volume II (2017).

The YWCA-Emma partnership continues to inspire more mentorship opportunities. After her experience with Kiyo, Opal is now paying it forward as a mentor for current JR-RFW participants embarking on their own Signature projects. She also recently gave a writing workshop at YWCA-GCR, participated in a Take Back the Night event, and held a book signing at Market Block Books in downtown Troy. “Opal is on fire,” Jon says. “She is engaged and eager to support the new projects and give back to the YWCA by providing advice. The Y has given her lots of opportunities and she continues to make excellent use of them.” Opal says she’s excited to share what she’s learned. “Mentoring other women who have graduated from the program is great. I like giving back,” she says. A long-term goal of hers is to go back to school to become a caseworker. And perhaps another Emma girl will help Opal with her next book: a romance novel. Recently, Opal and Jon met at a local restaurant for lunch, and Opal said she was finishing her book, but it still needed to be edited. Without

I’m happy with how it turned out, but I give all credit to Opal and all the work she put into it. I was excited and pleased to have played a small role.

G — K I YO SA SO ’ 17

missing a beat, Jon responded: “Just let us know when.” Danielle Sanzone works in the Interactive Media department at a local PBS affiliate in Troy, New York. A journalist and writer for more than 10 years, her work has been featured by publications including Bloomberg and the Daily News.

Daquetta Jones (far right) and her team at the YWCA-GCR work every day to empower women and girls.


Special Section BY ERIN PIHLAJA

Change Has Come After allegations of past sexual misconduct, the Emma community leans into the storm, charting a course for real cultural exchange. Just outside of the Eliza Kellas dining room, adjacent to Kellas Foyer, nineteen people and one Skype user gathered in Wadsworth conference room. There was an excited buzz in the air. It was December 1, 2016—an important day in Emma Willard School’s history as the group prepared to take the first official step in establishing new cultural norms around the prevention of sexual misconduct and violence, under the guidance of experts from Culture of Respect (CofR). “It felt very good to be at that point,” recalls Lisa McGrath, Emma Willard’s head of talent management and human resources. “We were all very excited to start this work with Culture of Respect.” The school had been looking for outside guidance after historical sexual misconduct at the school was discovered and an external investigation was launched in 2016. CofR was a natural match—and it was co-founded by Emma alumna Sandi Haber Fifield ’74. CofR is an advocacy organization and partner to the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Association (NASPA). Their mission is to eliminate sexual violence in schools, and prior to 2016, the scope of CofR’s work was primarily in colleges and universities. At this particular moment in Wadsworth, Emma Willard became



the first secondary school ever to partner with the organization. Understandably, those who attended the first meeting were charged. “I felt like we were making a difference,” says Aisha Fade ’19. “Just the fact that we are the first high school to make a change says a lot. It raised awareness for me. These things could happen on any campus and I felt we were taking a step forward. It was a good feeling.” Aisha, who is also a Wellness Advocate at the school, volunteered to serve on the Core Leadership Team (CLT)—a CofR initiative—as one of four student representatives. The group comprises 20 members of the Emma Willard community, including parents, faculty, and alumnae, and Aisha said it was important to her to play a role. “In many other schools, you see things like [sexual violence], but you

don’t see them taking action,” says Aisha. “I thought it was really good to see that Emma Willard School was doing something about it.” CofR Senior Director Allison “Alli” Tombros Korman says changing a school’s culture takes buy-in from many constituent groups, not just one person or office, which is why they recommend creating a diverse CLT. “We always come at this from the perspective that students, who we are here to serve, need to be involved in the process, and so do all of the other stakeholders,” she says. “That means administrators, board of trustees, faculty, parents, alumnae—everyone in the community needs to be part of this process for it to really take hold.” Former Board of Trustees Chair Elisabeth “Lisa” Allen LeFort ’72 recognized that the Emma Willard community would



need to collectively take action. She had heard that an Emma alumna— Sandi Haber Fifield—had been tackling the issue of sexual violence on college campuses and reached out to see if the program could be adapted for Emma Willard School. “I saw this as an opportunity for the school to be a leader in this area, and to do better than what was done in the 1990s and in other times,” Lisa says. “Safety on campus depends on establishing a culture of transparency and respect.” In 2013, Sandi co-founded CofR with John Fifield after they were alarmed by high rates of sexual assault on college campuses and by the lack of resources available to survivors, students, administrators, and parents.

They formed a team of public health and violence prevention researchers from New York University and Columbia University, along with experts in fields like violence prevention, health care, and law. Collectively, they developed the Culture of Respect Engagement (CORE) Blueprint and a host of supporting resources to help guide schools. Sarice Greenstein, program manager with NASPA, helped CofR translate their program for secondary schools. “We kept what was still relevant in the K-12 space, and looked at the things we know are important in the K-12 space, such as evidencebased practices in high schools that contribute to students growing into

healthy adults, and institutional factors that keep the organization healthy and that allow people to come forward when they see a problem,” she says. “We’ve been really lucky to have a close relationship with the school to address the challenges that Emma has faced.” The first assignment using the CORE Blueprint was to complete a 26-page, detailed self-assessment of policies, procedures, programming, communications, and culture. The assessment was time consuming, but CLT members found it empowering and illuminating, as it uncovered the school’s strengths and challenges. “It was a very analytical approach,” says Tom Crossen P’16. “It was a very lengthy survey, and after we finished we discussed the findings.”

Left to right: Allison Tombros Korman and Sarice Greenstein work with Culture of Respect to eradicate sexual violence on campuses.



• “When an incident of sexual violence is being investigated, are survivors given the option of speaking to their parents/guardians before administrators do?”

“I felt like we were making a difference. Just the fact that we are the first high school to make a change says a lot. It raised awareness for me. These things could happen on any campus and I felt like we were taking a step forward. It was a good feeling.” A I SH A FADE ’ 19

The questions were designed around the six pillars of the CORE Blueprint: Survivor Support; Clear Policies on Misconduct, Investigation, Adjudication and Sanctions; Multi-tiered Prevention Education; Public Disclosure of Campus Violence Statistics; Schoolwide Mobilization; and Ongoing Self-Assessment. Questions on the survey included: • “ Is a training provided for new health and mental health professionals at the time of hire that covers topics related to the prevention of and response to sexual violence?” • “ Which classes of employees receive a training about mandated reporter requirements at the time of hire?” • “ With what frequency is a sexual violence training required for existing faculty and administrators?”



While the school met the mark in certain categories, the CLT discovered that there was work to be done. The group developed ideas and action steps to enhance safety and awareness in the community. “Culture of Respect was very important to our process,” Tom says. “They set up guidelines for a path to making meaningful changes relating to recognitions, reactions to allegations, and very proactive activities relating to sexual conduct. We didn’t know how to start that off, but they came to us with their experience, which really helped us a lot.” The CLT’s first action was to revise the community handbook Fine Print, and the school’s employee handbook. The group worked diligently to ensure consistency across the handbooks and to have the documents ready for the 2017–2018 school year. “We felt these were the documents that everyone had access to, that could deliver a lot of information, and that could be used immediately,” Tom says. Revisions included terms and definitions that exist under the broad umbrella of sexual violence, including rape, assault, grooming, and consent. The newer version also contained a clearly defined reporting policy and information on how to report on or off campus, discussed power differentials in relationships, and made clear that the school had a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual misconduct. “I thought [the handbooks] were better than they had been,” notes Tom. The CLT is working on additional projects, including oncampus awareness poster campaigns and better communications to incorporate sexual violence awareness into every facet of campus and community life.

“An integral part of this whole process is reviewing and reassessing what we complete, looking at effects on the school environment, and determining what additional changes need to be made as we go along,” he says. “This should never be stagnant. There is no finish line.” Shelley Maher, dean of students and wellbeing at Emma and a member of the CLT, has seen firsthand the impact of CofR at the school. “I think girls and adults have a better understanding now that sexual violence needs to be believed, addressed, and never, ever, undervalued, devalued, or minimized.” She adds that CofR “has been a great partner and sounding board. They are an important part of our

“They give you an outline of all of the things you need to be thinking about, and it’s eye opening to see how so much relates to keeping students safe. I liked their process; it’s not a ‘fix it and we’re done’ approach—it’s a constant.” LI SA MCG RAT H


Read more about Emma Willard School’s Safety and Healthy Boundaries initiatives at healthyboundaries.

C U LTU RE O F RESP EC T “Campus sexual assault has been pervasive and silenced for decades. Thanks to recent activists, the press, and organizations like Culture of Respect, the issue has come to the forefront and we now have available tools to help create safe campuses. However, change does not hinge on the veracity of one story. The ubiquitous public health challenge of campus sexual assault must be met in ways that are comprehensive and that call on all campus constituents to participate; parents, students, faculty, staff, health professionals, coaches and alumni must be held responsible. At its core, a cultural shift requires commitment, time, and accountability. As former President Barack Obama said, “Sexual violence is more than just a crime against individuals…it threatens our families and it tears apart the fabric of our communities.” As a pioneer in women’s secondary school education, I am confident that Emma Willard School will continue to account for past mistakes and provide prevention education and transparent adjudication policies for all members of the community. With Culture of Respect’s CORE Blueprint, the school can rely on research that is proven to work and lead the way so all students can flourish.”


comprehensive strategy to prevent sexual violence in our community.” Lisa McGrath agrees. “I thought [the process] was great,” she says. “They give you an outline of all of the things you need to be thinking about, and it’s eye opening to see how so much relates to keeping students safe. I liked their process; it’s not a ‘fix it and we’re done’ approach—it’s a constant.” After the CLT began its work, several initiatives began to take shape throughout the school. Emma expanded both student and adult education and training, and leaders implementing the new programming felt they had found a natural momentum. Talking about sexual violence became a normal occurrence, and dialogue amongst students and adults about the issue started to come naturally. The task of implementing real culture change began to feel achievable. Sarice says the program does more than increase safety in schools or in the workplace—it addresses sexual violence as a societal problem. “We can use organizations like schools or workplaces to teach people good behavior that keeps everyone safe, and information that keeps organizations accountable,” she says. “There’s still such a long way to go, but it feels to me that the next frontier is to expand this in high schools like Emma Willard.” CofR’s Senior Director Alli Tombros Korman echoes Sarice, saying Emma is heading in the right direction. “I think if schools, any schools, are willing to look at themselves critically and to be open and receptive to embracing change—that is what is most important in this,” she says. “We feel so lucky that the folks at Emma really embrace this process. I give a lot of credit to Emma Willard School and to all of its stakeholders—they are the ones really driving this.”

—From Sandi Fifield ’74, co-founder, Culture of Respect

“An integral part of this whole process is reviewing and reassessing what we complete, looking at effects on the school environment, and determining what additional changes need to be made as we go along. This should never be stagnant. There is no finish line.” TOM C ROSS E N P ’1 6





How to Apply

Applying to a new school can be overwhelming. The admissions team at Emma is here to help make the application process as easy as possible. The Emma application process includes the following: APPLICATION This can be completed online at The application includes: ❑ Application Form ❑ Essay ❑ Parent Statement ❑ Application Fee TRANSCRIPTS Should be completed by a school official and contain a minimum of two years of credits as well as the first semester or trimester of the current academic year. RECOMMENDATIONS ❑ English Teacher ❑ Math Teacher ❑ Teacher of Choice

TESTING While we look at much more than test scores when selecting our future Emma Girls, standardized tests help us learn more about each girl’s academic background. More information on the tests we use in our admissions process can be found at admissions. INTERVIEW Please contact the admissions office at 518.833.1320 or admissions@emma to schedule your interview. IMPORTANT DATES Application deadline: February 1 Financial aid application deadline: February 1 Admissions decision: March 10 Enrollment contract and deposit due: April 10


Click Ring Sisters Grace Gilday ’18 and Isla Lyons ’19 hug at this year’s Ring Dinner to celebrate their Emma bond.



Love of an Intellectual Life My first year at Emma Willard School is ending all too soon, and what a year it has been! Since being named the 17th head of school, I knew I would be joining a community with over two hundred years of leadership in girls-first thinking that would have me standing on the shoulders of giants in the education of young women. In this year, I have seen a true commitment to girls’ education demonstrated firsthand not only by our faculty, who challenge our girls to lift themselves over greater educational and developmental thresholds every day, but also by our girls themselves. Emma girls are the embodiment of the “love of an intellectual life.” I have seen this love of learning demonstrated so profoundly and in so many ways, both in and out of the classroom, that I am moved to share some of what our faculty and students have taught me this first year. This fall, we welcomed Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times columnist Gretchen Morgenson to campus to speak with our AP U.S. History and AP Economics classes about her work covering the world of high finance, with a focus on the 2008 financial crisis. Our students came prepared and asked technical, college-level questions about the market fall and its consequences. They also probed our speaker about the experience of being a woman reporter in the male-dominated investment and finance world. They were intelligent, empathetic, and savvy. I also saw some of our girls steal the show at the Albany Business Review’s annual Women Who Mean Business luncheon. They introduced themselves, adeptly weaving in the school’s mission, and confidently asked the honorees tough questions about



wage parity, business negotiations, and mentorship opportunities amongst women in the workplace. Afterwards, many remarked that our students had asked more in-depth questions than had the panel emcee. Where does this exceptional performance come from? I believe it comes from authenticity. I see our girls bringing their truest, best selves to the different roles they play as leaders, athletes, and artists. They have shown me that when we pursue our goals authentically, even if we make a mistake, we learn valuable lessons. When we succeed, we value our success more because it is merited. Watching our girls grow, learn, take chances, and try again if need be rewards all of us fortunate enough to be a part of their experience. Because learning is everywhere at Emma Willard, we in the adult community—myself included—are learning right along with our girls. My mind has been activated in new ways because I am in such a learningprimed environment. I am inspired both intellectually and emotionally. Indeed, the more I immerse myself in this job, the more I find that the girls set the highest bar for me. I find it insufficient merely to work hard in performing the role of head of school. Success requires of me the very same thing it asks of our girls and our teachers: that we bring our most authentic selves to the job of learning. Just as the girls must bring their most incisive minds and truest hearts to class each day, so must I bring the best of myself to lead. Never has a job required so much of me. Never have I been so grateful to be so challenged. It is invigorating and joyful. Thank you for the gift of this first year and thank you for the opportunity to work with you to build and strengthen the Emma Willard School community. Together, we prepare our young women for all that their bright futures hold, and nurture in them a conviction to build a brighter future for others. I look forward to sharing reports of our progress in future issues.


Signature magazine: Spring 2018  
Signature magazine: Spring 2018