As a certificate student in the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, I get to do a lot of amazing things. Last year, I worked for a conservancy group, organized field work days, met farmers and activists in the community, and made some truly great friends in the center. This past weekend, I was reminded just how lucky I am to be part of the center when I got to participate in the Feeding the Future Conference, which took place on campus. The two-day event included speakers like Dan Barber, executive chef at Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns; Marlene Zuk, evolutionary biologist and author of "Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet and the Way We Live;" and Malik Yakini, founder and the executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. In addition to these speakers that are doing great things in the world of food, I also got to host and introduce Zuk at the conference, a daunting but exciting task. I have to admit I was pretty nervous but it went well and was a hugely rewarding experience for me.
The networking opportunities for me and my classmates were plentiful, an experience I couldn't have had at any other time or place. I had a great conversation with a journalist who was writing about the conference for CC:Magazine, and I connected with the president of Food Tank who asked some of my friends and I to write about how we are going to live in a zero-waste house next year on campus.
I had a fascinating conversation with David Barber, co-owner of Blue Hill and founding partner of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. He's also a Connecticut College alumnus and a trustee of the College. My friend and I asked him about the food that does not make it to restaurants and is wasted in the delivery process, since his New York City restaurant recently had an event focused on just that topic. He showed us a picture of a monkfish, which has very delicious meat in its head but is not usually shipped to restaurants because the small quantity doesn't justify the cost.
The attendees also got to experience a lot of local foods and sushi that help support the ideas of feeding the future. I think the highlight of that was eating cricket sushi from Miya’s Sushi in New Haven. (Yes, that's cricket sushi in the photo.)
As college students, we are encouraged to make connections and network, but it's not always easy or accessible. Events like these are different, bringing together many people who are an integral part of the college experience and help prepare us for life after graduation.
What I love about Conn is the plethora of activities that happen on this campus. Dances, seminars, guest speakers, clubs — the list goes on. A friend of mine asked me to attend her poetry performance and I happily agreed. Her group is called Reflexions, and what was especially fun was watching students perform their own poetry. We spend a lot of time hearing readings of poems by others, so it is a rarity to hear poets read their own work.
This event wasn’t a typical poetic reading about sappy romance. Instead, the anthology was based on the theme of love and every poet/performer offered different perspectives on the concepts of love. I got to listen to beautiful pieces about what it is like to be in love with an abusive person; what it means to love being a Haitian woman; what it is like to be in love with a person of the same sex; what it is like to be in love for the first time; what it is like to fall out of love; and what it is like to have love torn from you. Some poems had a melodic structure while other poems had a prose-like structure. Every performer offered insights into not only the idea of love, but, more interestingly, the experience of love.
Besides the actual work and material produced, what really amazed me was the community of people willing to come and support their friends. People here are willing to take time out of their busy schedules and be there for people whom they appreciate and respect. The audience engaged with their peers, often by snapping in agreement to something the poet said or nodding their heads. No one was texting or looking bored and, of course, the audience shared a loud applause to thank the poets for being brave.
This year, Connsider, the group that produces TEDxConnecticut College, put on a number of events during the weeks leading up to the full conference. Partnering with GreenDot, “Bystanders Love Company," a play on this year's theme of “Genius Loves Company,” invited students to think about what it means to be a bystander and how we can shift these normally “passive” roles into active ones by changing the climates of sexual assault, violence, discrimination and hate speech. Here, my friends Jasmine Massa ’17, Alissa Siepka ’17 and Natalie Boles ’17 all create a list of goals and ways they can work to improve the social climate at Conn and beyond.
It’s true what they say — "there’s a first time for everything." I had never been to a concert at Conn, but that was about to change. My friend Squadra had invited me to come see the X-Ambassadors perform. This student-organized show was unique: It took place off campus, in downtown New London.
On the night of the concert, I faced the typical problem most people have: What am I supposed to wear? While on my way to the bathroom to wash some dishes, I ran into another friend of mine, Christine. She looked all dolled up and so I asked her if she could help me coordinate an outfit. She enthusiastically agreed. After the advice she had given me, we finally came up with a fun outfit appropriate for an alternative rock band concert.
I met up with Squadra, who of course looked amazing as well. We knew a fun night ahead was waiting for us.
One of the amazing things about student-run events is that they think of everything, including affordable transportation. When I bought my ticket for the concert, I also bought a bus ticket so I wouldn’t have to pay for a taxi. As Sqaudra and I waited in front of Cro, our student center, a huge yellow school bus pulled up in front. I laughed because I don’t remember how long it had been since I rode a yellow school bus. Even though I’m a college student now, I have to remind myself it wasn’t that long ago I was just a kid. Conn students filled the bus and the atmosphere exuded positivity and carefreeness. On the way to the concert, we collectively started singing Miley Cyrus’ "Party in the USA." Giggles, laughter, smiles and, of course, a bit of embarrassment appeared for all.
The bus quickly brought us to New London, a five-minute drive away. The concert took place at the Hygenic Art Park, an outdoor garden-like setting where the trees were lit up, as well as the night sky. I'm always amazed by how nocturnal college students are. There was a stage where the band performed and the students clustered in front, listening and dancing to the live music. It was like a Conn reunion where everyone, despite already knowing each other, greeted the people they knew (or hadn’t seen in a few hours) with open arms.
You may have heard of TED talks. Technology, Entertainment, Design is a global conference series and "Ideas worth spreading" is their slogan. You may not have, however, heard of TEDxConnecticutCollege.
Every year we hold our own TED conference. The idea behind the TEDx program is for individual organizers to spark conversation on a local level. It's entirely student-organized and brings together speakers from within and beyond our community. This year, the theme was “genius loves company.” Upon entering Cummings that morning — and after enjoying the Panera bagels and homemade donuts — we each received a nametag featuring a silhouette of either Sherlock or Watson. I was a Watson and the goal was for me to find a Sherlock to converse with. To help with this, each person wrote a topic of conversation on his or her nametag. Some people wrote “talk to me about anything,” while others wrote “arts and museums” or “traveling.” Mine was “ask me how to pronounce my name.”* I was hoping it would be an interesting conversation starter. The talks of the day were great. Among many, we heard from a mushroom-foraging student about understanding where our food comes from (as featured in the above photo), the editor of Fast Company about technology and digital media, and an art history professor about the mythologies of the “Artist-Genius.”
*Kirsten is pronounced Kur-sten. It is often mistaken for Kiersten, which is pronounced Keer-stin, or Kristen, which is pronounced Krihs-ten.
It’s that time of the year again — registration, that is. No matter what institution I have attended, I can’t escape the familiar feeling of apprehension. What classes am I going to take? Will there be enough room for me? Will the class time conflict with another course being offered? Then, of course, there are the courses you should take for your major and the courses you take to fill other requirements. It’s no wonder Conn makes every student meet with their adviser. The information overload and the requirements engulf your mind. It helps to talk it out with a professor who dedicates time to provide you with undivided attention.
I had my first advising session here at Conn College with my sociology adviser, Professor Campos-Holland. She’s not only an amazing professor who inspires me, but also a hands-on adviser. I always say her class is like a religious experience because every time, I come out feeling enlightened. Her advising session was no exception.
Professor Campos-Holland sat with me in her office and typed up a spreadsheet, documenting the courses I have taken, those I'm required to complete and those that are needed for my major. She helped me pick courses for the fall semester and made sure I had back-ups just in case the class filled up. For the classes she knew about and for the professors whom she knew, Professor Campos-Holland gave me a quick summary of the courses and the professors’ teaching styles. I really appreciated that, because she got me excited about the courses I plan on taking.
When I left her office, I wasn’t as tense about the registration process. I came out of my advising session feeling more comfortable and confident about my future plans here at Conn.
I started swimming when I was about 4 years old, and since then I've continued once in a while. I was on my high school's team for a bit, but I knew that I'd never want to be on a college team. I didn't want to give up on swimming — it's the only exercise I can bear, because I'm not sure I'm actually a land creature — but the idea of being on a team was terrifying.
I went into college thinking that I'd swim on my own terms during open pool hours. A lovely thought, indeed, and one I followed through on... once. I underestimated the power of my sedentary nature. What free-thinking human being would willingly jump into a cold pool, while half naked, and then proceed to flail their limbs until fatigued? Not this gal.
There was a pervading sense of guilt that came with this passivity, but it went unattended to until I happened to notice that there were swimming classes in the course catalog. I thought that signing up could be risky because I really had no idea what proficiency level the other students in the class would be on.
It's been a relief, however, to find that the course is adjusted for each student. Everyone's on a different level, and there's really no pressure. It's taught by Matt Anderson, our water polo coach, and there are only six students in the course, so there is ample individual attention. It's been a great way to improve my stroke, force myself to work out and also score an extra course credit.
If swimming isn't your thing, there are other single-credit athletic courses, as well. If you're really ambitious, you could even go for something like scuba diving.
I did it. I found the last pile of snow on Conn’s campus. OK, so this photo is about a week old so as of today all the snow is melted. However, after months of bitter cold weather and the most snow days I think anyone at Conn can remember, it seems that there’s no snow to be seen in New London. In fact, it’s getting pretty warm around here. Now, it’s not unusual to see people lying around on the green, something nobody would have dared just a few weeks ago. Spring is here. R.I.P. the snow of winter 2015.
Cummings is my favorite building on campus. It's got a quirky design and layout of classrooms, but it has an atmosphere that's especially fitting for the art that's created within. I love Cummings because art is everywhere. As an art center, this shouldn't be surprising, but it goes beyond the expected.
The Joanne Toor Cummings Gallery on the main floor showcases student and faculty art in an official, formal manner, but it’s the first and third floors that I like the most. There, the works of art are scattered about. In the printmaking room, each student has a section of the wall where they hang up all of their drafts and brainstorms. Walking to my drawing class this semester, I pass through a corridor where art hangs along the walls and changes constantly. Right now, it’s the work of the large format painting class. Before, the same wall showcased the results of an eight-hour drawing marathon. This same corridor showcases sculptures, as well.
Art of all shapes, sizes and materials is scattered throughout the passages. One sometimes must weave through them in order to get to the other end. With so many things covering them, the halls and walls of Cummings become works of art in and of themselves. As an art lover, that makes it a pretty cool place to be.
There are lots of class projects in college: papers are due, lab reports must be handed it, dioramas carefully constructed. These assignments are usually an exciting opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in class and show a professor how you really feel about a topic. Recently, I put together an intriguing project I’m sure you’ll all be interested in: I converted Dorothy’s Kansas farmhouse into a house museum for the 21st century.
Now, of course I didn’t actually have the house that flew to Oz in L. Frank Baum’s "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," but I was tasked with stepping into the shoes of a director of a museum who has just received a gift of the actual house that went to Oz. What I came up was a house museum/ tourist trap.
These are the creative and unusual projects that Museum Studies students like myself get to be involved in. We get to be very creative and imaginative, but the lessons we learn are very applicable to the field.
As guests arrive at my museum, they are brought into a state-of-the-art visitor’s center, which set back from the actual property Dorothy’s house is located on. Here, they can get a bite to eat, rent a tablet for the day, or watch a 35-minute film introducing them to L. Frank Baum’s work. Then, they make their way via horse-drawn wagon to the property where they can check out the exhibits in Dorothy’s house and then buy artisan crafts in the barn nearby. With period activities for kids, in-depth information for parents, and something unique for every guest, my museum appeals to a broad range of visitor types.
Inside Dorothy’s house is where the real fun begins. At "Dorothy’s Museum of America and the West," we ignore the existence of any movies. Instead, we rely only on L. Frank Baum’s series on Oz. In-fact, we use "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"as a frame to look back on American life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, the squeaky Tin Man represents the big industry of the northeast. He runs on oil (as many of those companies did) and is searching for a heart (many companies were criticized for not having any heart for their workers). Another example is the Wicked Witch of the West who can be killed with a splash of water. Imagine she represents the western United States, bringing bad fortune to farmers: when water is thrown on her, all the drought she caused goes away.
The museum also looks at how women are represented in the book. The main character is Dorothy, of course, and she does not need help from anyone! She is a good learner in a world where there are few female mentors and in which she must push through a male-dominated culture. She helps three lost souls and defeats a smoke-and-mirrors wizard to bring the reign of the kingdom back under the rightful rule of Princess Ozma. Think of Dorothy as the American Alice from "Alice in Wonderland." Dorothy has no father figures to reconcile with and no prince who rescues her. Instead, she goes out and strikes her own fortune.
Doing the research for my project reminded me of what a fantastic series L. Frank Baum put together. There are so many parts of his work that connect back to the United States and the values that we have put in place. It highlights the good in our society and challenges the bad. I want "Dorothy’s Museum of America and the West" to really exist so that everyone can learn about Dorothy and her adventures and how they reflect American culture.