Upstate Institute Fellows Resume In-Person Summer Research Projects

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In-person summer research opportunities at Colgate University have resumed. Out of more than 200 students involved with research this summer, 33 are conducting projects under the auspices of the Upstate Institute — eight pursuing projects based in the Adirondack Park and 25 working with central New York agencies.

“We went into the Upstate Institute Field School this summer with an open mind and approached each partnership with a lot of flexibility,” Upstate Institute Project Director Julie Dudrick says. “While some of our long-standing partners didn’t have the capacity to host students as a result of the pandemic, we had the opportunity to work with some new partners who hadn’t hosted a student in the past.”

Emily Hazen ’22 (Overland Park, Kan.) is the first Colgate student to partner with the New York State Association of Rural Health. For the past six weeks, Hazen has been researching EMS structures, reimbursement issues, and incentives for volunteerism as well as interviewing local EMS agency staff members, insurance specialists, and state government officials as part of her efforts to draft a policy paper on rural ambulance service. The document will provide actionable policy recommendations to New York State senators and assembly members. 

“As I have had the chance to speak with more EMS workers, I’ve been inspired by the passion and dedication they have to serving their communities,” Hazen says. “The pandemic has certainly increased public appreciation for frontline healthcare workers, giving us hope that necessary changes to support EMS can and will be made.”

Hazen is one of many students focused on pandemic recovery — several students are working with local museums, historical organizations, local businesses, nonprofit partners, and farmers as they all consider how to transition under changing regulations. Meanwhile, others are focusing on the resumption of efforts interrupted by the pandemic.

Grace Leightheiser ’22 (Lexington, Mass.) is working with AdkAction, a nonprofit based in Keeseville, to install pollinator gardens throughout the Adirondack Park. Besides outreach, Leightheiser is directly in charge of installing 15 new gardens, a project that entails communicating with garden recipients, using power tools to build the beds herself, sourcing the soil, and caring for the baby plants before they are transplanted. 

“Last summer, there were no new pollinator gardens installed so I feel lucky to be able to resume AdkAction’s efforts on this project,” Leightheiser says. “It has also been really cool to meet and work with all of the different garden recipients, because it makes me feel more rooted to the area — I’m not just a summer tourist, but a real member of the community.”

Leightheiser is part of a group of students living together and working in person — a change from last summer — with agencies based in the Adirondacks.

Also unlike last summer, the Upstate Institute has been able to take students on multiple field trips to provide students with context for their experiences in central New York. Students are due to visit the Shako:wi Cultural Center on Oneida Nation homeland and the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in Cazenovia in the next few weeks. 

Corey McLaughlin ’24 (Demarest, N.J.) has been helping to organize and transfer information online for the art park’s 30th anniversary year. McLaughlin has been able to work in person at the park, collaborating with staff members conserving the land while using it for creative purposes.

“I have been to the art park before,” McLaughlin says, “and I am truly blessed to have this opportunity to help out and give back to the park after it has provided me with experiences of escaping any stress I had from this pandemic.”