Recently, I accompanied classics professor Nina Papathanasopoulou and her "Classical Mythology" class on a field trip to the Metropolitan Opera in New York to see Richard Strauss’ opera "Elektra." As a music nerd and active student in the Music Department, I really enjoyed getting to see the work of some of the greatest performers in the world; I find that watching other people play is the greatest teaching tool in music, and I’m fortunate to see a lot of performances on and off campus.
So the school year is about to be over, you’re a college student and are at a loss for what to do this summer. I’ve been there—big time—and so have a lot of my friends. It can be overwhelming to be feeling this new kind of stress that a lot of college students find themselves feeling. Post freshman year, a lot of students feel pressure to do something wildly meaningful with their summers to gain valuable work experience. Both of these reasons to find worthwhile work are valid and certainly important. However, the panic that has been circling around my head for almost four months has been over the top at points. Everyone in college feels the looming presence of a world made for adults, and we are students learning how to be those very adults who thrive in the professional world. It can be daunting.
We've recently taken on a new challenge in my Color Theory course: turning the visible into the invisible.
Using what we've learned about matching colors and textures, the class is now plagued with the task of finding a way to blend ourselves into the New London cityscape. Along with the camouflage, our groups must make a video capturing our transformation and its symbolic meaning.
My group hasn't started mixing any paints yet, so the task currently seems kind of impossible. Yet, my teacher has shown us examples from previous classes in which students' camouflage is barely recognizable—reassuring knowledge.
Each group is responsible for its own understanding of the history and significance of the area they choose to blend into. In previous years some groups went about this by interviewing the owners of local businesses. Although this approach may be outside my comfort zone, it’s a nice idea. This project really pushes us to connect with New London—a connection that colleges often struggle to have with their surrounding towns or cities. On a personal level, I've found it difficult to connect to New London as much as I'd like to. There have been times where I've forgotten that leaving campus is even a real option. And so, I appreciate both the individual and schoolwide connection that this project facilitates. Though, on a small scale, it really embodies Conn's mission to create an environment conducive to creating global students.
On April 19, the Connecticut College Hillel and Yalla Bina, the Arabic Language and Culture Club at the College, hosted the most delicious event on campus: The Jerusalem Food Tour. Because I recognize my own bias (I salivate if something is covered in tahini), I did not expect to see many people at the event. However, when I arrived at Cro, I was surprised. The room was like a falafel in pita—stuffed.
The kinds of schools that encourage, above all else, spreading thought-provoking ideas are the kinds of schools that produce thought-provoking adults. Fortunately, Connecticut College falls into this category because of the kinds of discussions and real-world problems that are discussed across campus every single day. It was appropriate, then, that last weekend Conn hosted a TEDx event, which carried the theme of “What’s Past is Prologue.” Each speaker examined a certain moment or decision from his or her past and talked about how it has shaped their present.
Our own TEDx event introduced numerous wonderful speakers (including some Conn students) that all had some pretty important ideas to share. My favorite speaker, however, was a woman named Ella Dawson. Ella is a 23-year-old social media manager and sex writer who happens to have genital herpes. She has made it her mission to educate, well, pretty much everyone on why the stigma that surrounds herpes has to cease. Her talk was one I felt lucky to witness. Not only did Ella explain how she has made it an important part of her life to define what herpes really is and how common it can be to contract, but Ella also made it clear that contracting herpes should not be the be-all and end-all. A woman like Ella was a fantastic addition to this year’s TEDx. Her confidence and her motivation to break down the stigma that the world has placed on herpes was an inspiring kind of bravery to listen to.
I came to college having taken one dance class at 4 years old. Since then, I have avoided dance classes—but when I came to Conn, a lightbulb went off! My first year seminar, Embodied Resistance, was rooted in dance and I have been officially hooked on dance classes since. My experience with that course motivated me to take four dance classes at Conn. Unlike previous semesters that were filled with modern and West African dance, this semester I am taking a hip-hop class. Hip-hop is not just a form of dance—it’s a culture.
Nina Flagg is loud, excited, passionate, expressive and has great taste in music. She is also a faculty member at Connecticut College, and I am excited to say that I had the opportunity to sit down with her for a one-on-one interview. Nina Flagg has inspired me, and I am excited to share our podcast with you!
“It’s really not as far as you’d think.” I heard this numerous times before my first year at Conn, because I had explained to people my skepticism and doubts that the city of New London would be just out of reach for exploration and escape from the campus environment. I feared that I’d be trapped on campus with a small seaside city close enough to see from the top of Tempel Green, yet too far to get to without a car. Everyone told me that though New London is no New York City, it is an absolutely fine college town. In fact, odds are that if you’re at a small school like Conn you would probably rather not be located in a city like New York. New London is quaint and charming, an old fishing port which now services a few year-round ferries to local destinations. Coming to Conn I felt inspired to explore this little New England city which, with its interesting murals, whale sculptures and pretty buildings, begged for exploration.
Last week, on a typically “warm” late March afternoon, my friend and I got on our bikes and headed into town—an easy adventure that not enough people on campus take advantage of. We decided that lunch off campus at our favorite little cafe was a must on that particular afternoon. Because neither of us have cars, bikes were our only option besides walking would be too time consuming.
Being a liberal arts college, Conn has hosted numerous exhibitions over the years. Even so, none of them are quite like the sight that greeted students when they returned from spring break.
Created by multimedia artist Steve Lambert and funded through Kickstarter, “Capitalism Works For Me!” is a massive 20-foot-long interactive piece, which encourages passersby to seriously question the effectiveness of a capitalist society. After debuting in Cleveland in the summer of 2011, the piece has toured all around the country, challenging everyone who comes across it to engage in meaningful discussion about a topic that can be considered taboo.
“As a culture, we need the vision and boldness it takes to discuss the problem [capitalism] itself,” Lambert explains on his website. “The idea that 'there is no alternative' to the way our world works takes away our ability to dream. As citizens we need the courage to begin these discussions in order to move on to new and better visions for the future… [and art] creates a space where new ideas and perspectives can be explored.”
The aesthetic of the work is firmly rooted in early-mid 20th century American propaganda and advertising. By drawing comparisons to the large, gaudy signs of yesteryear, Lambert alludes to how capitalism has become ubiquitous with our national identity, while simultaneously questioning the paradox of societal progress. If things like rights for minorities can evolve so drastically over the course of a century or two, why can’t our economic system see similar reforms? More importantly, why aren’t we willing to consider a non-capitalist approach to our economy when recessions and mass layoffs affect millions of people in a negative way?
“For 50 years it has been unacceptable, politically, in the United States to ask what is basically a straightforward question,” Lambert claims. “We have every right as a society to ask of that system [capitalism], is it working for us? Do the benefits and the costs balance themselves out…? We’ve been afraid to ask that question—and we’ve been afraid to have public debates—that’s the legacy of the Cold War. We can’t afford anymore to not do that. We have to raise the question.”
Everyone in the Jewish faith has his or her way of ringing in the Sabbath. At Connecticut College Hillel, we try our best to accommodate everyone and their respective traditions. That said, on April 1, our Hillel group was invited to celebrate the Sabbath with President Bergeron. We dined, wined (using Kosher wine), sang, and ate so much that some of my friends and I joked about moving into the president’s house. Why is there no alternative housing option for such?
After completing a crazy busy week at Hillel, we craved the Sabbath dinner and its luxurious flavors. The salmon, sesame noodles, green beans and sweet potatoes were delicious, but did not compare to the cake that followed the meal.
Simon Luxemburg, president of Connecticut College Hillel said, “The purpose of the dinner was to celebrate Shabbat with community and delicious food.”
It’s funny how graduation—"the G word," as many college seniors prefer to call it, as not to draw too blatant attention to their looming and terrifying futures—necessitates a completely different kind of uncertainty, unlike any other prior graduation ceremony. High school graduation brings its own vast amounts of anxieties and worries, but there is some certainty in that the expectation of what college will be is somewhat a reliable picture. However, once graduation day comes for college students, heading out into “the real world” brings a brand new kind of uncertainty. With the second semester halfway over, I thought it would be an appropriate time to talk with a senior here a Conn to see firsthand how his experiences have prepared him for the seemingly terrifying world that looms just beyond May 22.
Parker Veroff, a senior here at Connecticut College, exemplifies a fulfilling four-year College experience. Parker is an American studies and elementary education double major. This past summer, Parker put his studies into action with an Education Policy Research Internship at the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teacher's College, Columbia University (NYC). Throughout his time at Connecticut College, Parker has been a representative for the Sustainability House, a communications intern in the Office of Sustainability, as well as a tour guide and tour guide coordinator for the Office of Admissions. Currently, Parker is a Senior Admissions Fellow for the Office of Admissions and one of the captains for the school’s ski team.
Taking advantage of the many opportunities outside the classroom is an important part of the College experience. In the following interview, Parker elaborates on this very point.