The Graduate and Adult Enrollment office moves on despite a slow season

Late in the semester at Marist College, students are getting ready to move out and go home for the summer. At 2:05p.m., with roughly a month left until graduation, many graduate offices at Marist seem abandoned or dead.

“We get a few calls in the morning, but it has slowed down since,” said Helen Chang, a student assistant working at Marist’s Graduate and Adult Enrollment office. The GAE office is in charge of helping prospective students with their applications and paperwork over the phone; but now that it’s late April and all prospective students have enrolled, there’s not much of that going on, and the GAE office helps with other issues for incoming students.

Countdown until graduation
Marist College counts down graduation time

“If students want a tour of the campus, we’re in charge of setting that up,” said Chang, sitting alone at the mostly empty office’s front counter. “We also set up appointments with one of our four advisers.”

Stepping into the GAE office, time feels like it’s slowing down with the loud ticking clock behind the counter. However, once summer comes along, the office will be bursting with life and noise from the ringing phones and frantic clicking of keyboards.

Dance Your Story: Marist students team up for a great dance show

The Marist College Dance Ensemble is celebrating its 15th anniversary with their largest event in their history. The show will take place on Saturday, April 21, 2012 and Sunday, April 22, 2012.

“Our 15 Years of Dance: Dance Your Story” will feature the largest collaboration of students and dances yet. The students of Marist College themselves are the dancers and choreographers of the Dance Ensemble.

“There will be 27 different dances, each choreographed by different students from Marist,” said Luis Castillo, a junior at Marist College and a dancer for Dance Ensemble, “I’m only in one dance, but many of the girls in the club are in five, six or seven dances.”

“Dance Your Story” will take place in the newly remodeled Marist gymnasium, the McCann Recreational Center. The section of the McCann Recreational Center being used can sit up to 600 attendees, and the Marist College Dance Ensemble is hoping to get about 1,000 seats between both nights, which they were just short of during the fall semester of 2011, according to Arianna Cesa, president of the Marist College Dance Ensemble, which she attributes to having the event off-campus.

“To promote this event, we have several different fliers posted all around campus, created by our PR/Advertising Manager Taylor Crichton,” Cesa said, “We also have a Facebook event and have reached out to a lot of our alumni dancers hoping they’ll come to celebrate our anniversary. We rely a lot on our dancers to get the word out. They invite friends and family to the show and we really hope to sell over 1,000 tickets this semester.”

“Dance Your Story” will feature various different styles of dance, including ballet, tap dance, jazz, hip hop, African, contemporary/lyrical, pointe and hula, all of which are performed and choreographed by students.

“We are starting off the show with an “opening number” dance which is meant to showcase a few different styles in one dance,” said Dana Karas, the current vice president of Dance Ensemble, “The dancers really put a whole lot of time and energy into our club in order to make our shows a success. It is very ironic, but although rehearsal week is dreaded and referred to as ‘hell week’, for a lot of the dancers it is their favorite part of the semester.”

The incoming vice president of Dance Ensemble, Dana Murano, praised the dancers and choreographers for their stamina and time. “A lot of our dancers have a love/hate relationship with what we call ‘hell week’,” Murano said, “It’s obviously a huge time commitment and can get really stressful, but it’s also really rewarding to see all of the dances come together and all of our club members getting to do what they love to do every single night, not to mention it’s a lot of fun and you get to spend a lot of time with your friends in the dance ensemble.”

With over 250 members, Dance Ensemble is one of the largest groups on campus. Given the large number of members and dancers, the whole purpose of “Dance Your Story” was born, says Marist student and dancer Trina Cardamone. “The theme ‘Dance Your Story’ came from the idea that dance is very special and personalized, and each dancer brings their own emotions and experiences to what they do. In this respect, each dancer is bringing their own story to life when they dance.”

Besides promotional handouts and posters hung around the Marist campus, some students have found more creative ways to promote “Dance Your Story.” When approached at Accepted Students Day, the Dance Ensemble representatives made sure to promote the event to incoming students and their parents, said Rachel Sweeney, a dancer and fashion student at Marist. “It not only made for a more exciting experience for the accepted students and parents, but also promoted the club to those soon-to-be incoming freshmen. It also served as a reminder of the upcoming show to students working that day, which was great.”

Students dressed as marionette and puppeteer
Students dressed as marionette and puppeteer

Some students in Dance Ensemble are both choreographers and dancers, but no matter what their roles are in Dance Ensemble, one important factor seems to be getting along with your fellow students in the club. “Over half of my friends are from dance ensemble, and I am always so excited to go to dance class,” said Patricia Tow, the website manager for Dance Ensemble. “At first, I thought of it as just something to do, but you quickly realize that people truly have a love for our club.” Tow has been website manager of Dance Ensemble for two years, and a choreographer for three semesters.

As most of the current executive board is transitioning out of Dance Ensemble at the end of the spring 2012 semester, their purpose is to make this 15th anniversary event a unique and memorable one. Jaclyn Navarro, the incoming show committee manager succeeding Erin Graetzer, is already shadowing her predecessor to make sure there’s no bumpy transition between board members. Navarro has been dancing with Dance Ensemble all four of her semesters and has been dancing since she was three years old. She will have a hip hop routine she also choreographed, which will be performed by about 30 other girls.

The event currently has over 400 people marked as going on their Facebook event page, with another 60 marked as maybe. However, with the large number of newly accepted students and parents who do not have access to the event as well as faculty members who may not utilize Facebook, attendance is expected to be much higher than the current Facebook numbers.

“As my last semester as President for the club I couldn’t be happier with the dances in our show,” said Cesa, the current president of Dance Ensemble, “Being a graduating senior and on the board since my freshmen year, I really feel like the club is being left in great hands. The new board is going to be amazing next year.”

Size matters: Small businesses thrive to survive in Poughkeepsie

Businesses in America tend to be divided in to the big businesses, owned in franchises, and small businesses, owned and run individually. The City of Poughkeepsie in New York has seen its share of both a small-business-ruled city as well a big-business-ruled city.

America loves capitalism as much as it likes underdogs, showing that a good business dynamic tends to tickle the country’s fancy. The City of Poughkeepsie used to be a hub where small business owners could establish their trades and prosper from the people of the city. However, in the late 1950s the city saw some changes regarding big and small businesses with the opening of the Poughkeepsie Plaza shopping center.

The Poughkeepsie Plaza was the first shopping center built in Dutchess County. The Poughkeepsie Plaza was first opened in 1958 and is located on US Route 9, which runs through Delaware, New Jersey and New York. It was first a super market strip center, but was later developed into an enclosed mall.

Interior of Soul Dog
Interior of Soul Dog

“I have fond memories of Main Street before the mall existed,” Jenny Teague, co-founder of Soul Dog, a hot dog joint in Poughkeepsie, said. “Poughkeepsie used to be known as the queen of the Hudson.”

Teague opened Soul Dog in 2004. Located in downtown Poughkeepsie, the hot dog joint is surrounded by other privately-owned businesses ranging from pizza places to hair salons. However, Teague says things have been better for small businesses in the past.

“The 1980s were not really a good time around here.” Teague said. “Crime was up, the creation of the mall which blocked off Main Street in two chunks killed businesses and the shopping malls that cropped up around that time, the first being the Poughkeepsie Plaza mall drew businesses out of downtown and so it changed everything.”

The effects of the Poughkeepsie Plaza opening in the late 1950s were not felt as strongly as in the 1980s when most downtown stores started moving or going out of business because of the rising number of stores along Route 9 and other more convenient and heavily trafficked places.

In 2012, Forbes named Poughkeepsie the third best city for jobs, stating “home to Vassar College and the Culinary Institute of America, [it] is also attracting a growing number of healthcare jobs including at the expanding Vassar Brothers Medical Center. Unemployment topped at 8.1% in 2010, still below the national average, and Moody’s expects the area to add 16,750 jobs by 2016.” Poughkeepsie seems to be showing some sort of recovery from the 1980s.

“I think Poughkeepsie is barely recovering at this point from that, but that had a really negative impact and took a really, really big toll on the city and its residents,” Teague said. “Poughkeepsie has lots of potential and it always has.”

Today, most of Poughkeepsie is run by big businesses, with more and more malls opening around the city including the Poughkeepsie Galleria in 1987, the biggest mall in New York’s Hudson Valley region. The construction of the Galleria mall and its 250 stores caused not only some smaller businesses to close but also some other big businesses. South Hills Mall, which was located across from the Galleria and was known to be the dominant retail center of Dutchess County until the opening of Galleria, closed in 2007.

Small businesses have a hard time staying open in Poughkeepsie. Across the Hudson River in New Paltz, many small businesses rule the streets with very little franchises in sight. This is commonly thought to be due to New Paltz being considered a “college city” or a city mostly run and inhabited by young college students.

In Poughkeepsie, one of the largest collections of small businesses can be found around Vassar College, where it almost seems as though one is in a miniature New Paltz by the larger number of small businesses and small number of franchises.

An employee for the City of Poughkeepsie’s Economic Development Division who preferred to stay anonymous said that the reason for the small number of small businesses in Poughkeepsie is rent. “It’s hard making a profit as a small business when you’re located a few minutes from a large shopping center,” the anonymous employee said. “And if you don’t make more than what you pay in rent, you don’t have much choice but to shut down.”

In 2011, Forbes gave Poughkeepsie the 15th place in its Cities Where Economies Are Getting Worse for having “a substantial population exodus compared with city size, a housing market that has yet to hit bottom and a significant number of mortgage loans delinquent by 90 days or more.”

While big businesses currently run most of Poughkeepsie, there is always an attempt by small business owners to thrive in the city. While some stores and restaurants may not last long in Poughkeepsie, such as Wraps Around the World which closed in 2011 after a very short run, some places like Soul Dog are hard to replace with big business franchises and will run for a longer time.