The decision to cancel the ING New York City Marathon didn’t stop Harvard College seniors Samantha Whitmore and Meredith Baker from running their own fundraising marathon on Sunday to raise awareness and funds for victims of the devastation in the tri-state area.Baker and Whitmore, who two years ago formed a friendship through running, had decided to run the 2012 New York marathon as a symbolic “finish line” to their time at Harvard.After Hurricane Sandy struck and the marathon was officially canceled, the pair decided a marathon fundraiser would be a more appropriate and meaningful event, especially because both have ties to the area: Whitmore grew up in Manhattan and Baker’s grandparents live in Queens.Baker said news got out about their plans thanks in part to the Harvard Marathon Challenge club, which spread the word about the run over its email list. A large number of club members started the race with them.It was midway through the race that Baker and Whitmore learned their fundraising goal of $2,620 had been exceeded. “We ended up raising $4,300,” Baker said. “Given that we came up with the idea so last-minute and only made the fundraising page [Friday evening], we were worried about even reaching $2,620, and we are so grateful to everyone who contributed, both with their money and with their time in show of support and solidarity for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.”A group of approximately 25 people ran the first loop, about nine miles, which circled the Science Museum. Four people ran the entire race with Whitmore and Baker, including “barefoot runner” and Harvard Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology Daniel Lieberman.Three of the runners were experienced marathoners, so they offered “mental support and advice,” Baker said, adding that Esther Kennedy ’13 ran her very first marathon at Sunday’s event. Everyone finished together with a time of 3 hours and 51 minutes.“This was a wonderful day for several reasons,” said Whitmore, “we had so much amazing support from fellow Harvard junior Tyler Cusick and [Undergraduate Council] President Danny Bicknell ’13, as well as other friends and student groups who brought us water and refreshments.”“It is an incredible reminder of the generosity and sense of community present on campus, and I was incredibly humbled for people to take time out of their day to take part in the marathon,” Baker added.
Sarah Gehlert has been selected as the next School of Social Work dean, the University announced Tuesday. In May, the school was operating in a budget deficit that was projected to reach an estimated $40 million by 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported, although USC administrators indicated the gap was closer to $10 million. The budget news came a year after former School of Social Work Dean Marilyn Flynn stepped down from her position and took on a role as special adviser in the Office of the Provost following the publication of an L.A. Times investigation that revealed that Flynn transferred $100,000 donated to the School of Social Work by L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to the account of a nonprofit organization run by Ridley-Thomas’ son, Sebastian, a former USC professor. “It’s not well known nationally how close the school’s ties to the community are,” Gehlert said. “I think that the School of Social Work has to make impact, it has to make social change and generally we start in the area where we live.” Questions have surfaced regarding the future of the School of Social Work’s online degree offerings and lax admissions criteria. Gehlert said she plans to work with current faculty to identify areas in need of attention, taking student input into consideration. “The graduates that we prepare go out and have a lot of power over people who tend often to be powerless,” Gehlert said. “I take that very, very seriously. I think that our education has to be worthy of the people who we are serving.” Gehlert, who has served as dean of the University of South Carolina’s College of Social Work since 2017, will assume her new role in April, replacing Interim Dean Suzanne Wenzel. Executive Vice Provost Elizabeth Graddy and Davis School of Gerontology Dean Pinchas Cohen spearheaded the 16-month search for a dean. Sarah Gehlert said she plans to work with faculty and students to identify any necessary changes amid budget problems. She plans to encourage community engagement and research partnerships with other USC schools.(Photo courtesy of USC) “The problems that we face, the issues, the research that we do is big,” Gehlert said. “You can’t really do it in one discipline or one profession, so I’m looking forward to [collaborating with other schools].” Central to her mission in her new position will be reinforcing the school’s commitment to providing a quality education for students who will represent and advocate for other members of the community, Gehlert said. Gehlert’s research has focused on the intersection of social and medical issues. She serves on the steering committee of the California Breast Cancer Research Program, and she said she plans to emphasize multidisciplinary approaches and partnerships with other USC schools. Gehlert is in her fourth year as president of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare and said she plans to continue in her role there. As dean, Gehlert said she will prioritize community engagement and encourage further research about L.A.’s homelessness epidemic. “Making changes right away, unless there’s a real problem, would be a mistake,” Gehlert said. “I’m not going to certainly dawdle, but I am going to spend a lot of time talking to students, talking to alum, talking to staff, talking to faculty and trying to see what are the best solutions.” Gehlert’s appointment comes during a tumultuous period for the School of Social Work. The school has faced criticism in recent years for its budget problems and for allegedly lowering its admissions standards in an effort to compensate for a lack of funds.