Fiat Women’s History Month!

March is Women’s History Month. Alfred University’s Art Force 5, a pioneering group of students founded to celebrate equality, creativity, community, history, and empathy through art, is leading a project to create mosaics in honor of 32 women’s empowerment icons and involving a like-number of higher education institutions across New York.

On Sunday, thirty-two students participated in the Women’s Empowerment Draft, a football-inspired event paying tribute to iconic women. The draft ceremony, held virtually via Zoom, involved student representatives from each school reading biographical information of their respective female icons. A video of the ceremony was released on social media today, March 8, International Women’s Day (video here).

Each day in March, an honored woman will be featured on social media. Alfred University has chosen to honor alumna Kristin Beck ’89. Kristin graduated from Alfred as Chris Beck and went on to serve two decades with distinction as a U.S. Navy SEAL. Kristin has received national attention for her educational efforts as the first transgender retired Navy SEAL. Alfred University student Ivette Lewandowski ‘24, an ROTC cadet, read Kristin’s tribute during the Empowerment Draft. Kristin will be spotlighted on the program’s social media on March 28.

Kristin exemplifies our University’s commitment to inclusivity through her advocacy on behalf of the transgender community as well as promotion of continuing education opportunities for our nation’s veterans and military personnel. Last year, through a lead gift, she created the V.A.L.O.R. (Veterans and their Advancement in Leadership Opportunities and Resilience) Scholar Award, which supports veterans and military personnel pursuing educational programs such as psychology, counseling, and mentoring that lead to careers promoting cognitive growth.

In late February, students in the Common Ground sections facilitated by our Professional Advising and Opportunities Programs director Nadine Shardlow ’86, MS ’17, and yours truly  painted tiles used to create the mosaic honoring Kristin. 

From left: Nadine Shardlow; President Mark Zupan; Kristin Beck (holding the mosaic portraying Beck); and Genevieve Greene. Kristin’s dog, Sargent, is in the foreground.
From left: Shardlow; yours truly; Beck (holding the mosaic portraying Beck); and Genevieve Greene ‘24, a student in Shardlow’s Common Ground section. Kristin’s dog, Sargent, is in the foreground.

Common Ground was launched at the start of the 2018-19 academic year and has been philanthropically underwritten by Alfred University’s Board of Trustees. The one-credit facilitated dialogue course has two key objectives: fostering greater understanding of the different backgrounds and aspirations that our new undergraduate students bring to Alfred’s main campus; and developing a common set of values by which our students agree to live by as citizens of the Alfred University community.

Our Common Ground students painted and assembled the tiles for 11 different mosaics, including the one in honor of Kristin. Many of the other mosaics matched icons chosen by certain SUNY schools which were unable to have students paint together due to COVID-related restrictions, including those schools pivoting primarily to on-line instruction. Students at Alfred University, which has remained open throughout the pandemic, painted over 500 tiles in-person. 

Alfred University’s legacy of inclusivity—among other things, we are the first institution of higher education in the country to both admit women and allow them to pursue the same full course of studies offered to male students—is well known. Please join me in expressing gratitude to Art Force 5, led by Dan Napolitano ’93, MS ‘98, as well as to our current Common Ground students for their involvement in the project this Spring term building on our University’s legacy of inclusivity and in recognition of female icons.

Fiat Women’s History Month!