Every college student dreams of having a four-day weekend. In fact, most students try to plan out their schedules to avoid classes on Friday, just for that extra day. Speaking from experience, this can be harder than you’d think. I have never been one to care much about my schedule, as long as no classes overlap and I’m taking classes I enjoy. A few months ago, I sat down to plan this semester's classes with my adviser, Professor of Education Jillian Marshall. I selected all of my classes and then drew out my schedule on paper to help visualize my week. Professor Marshall read aloud the days and times each of my classes met while I color coated my piece of paper. That’s when we realized I had somehow managed to have no classes scheduled for Monday or Friday. Automatically, I looked back to check that I had even written in all four courses, thinking perhaps I’d missed one. Nope, that was it! I was pleased with my choices and already looking forward to these continuous long weekends!
When I first came to Conn, I thought I was going to double major in theater and psychology. I love acting, wanted to understand how people worked to better inform my characters, and most of all wanted to bring those two passions together.
I’m afforded plenty of opportunities to hear my clarinet professor, Kelli O’Connor, perform at Connecticut College. Most recently, she played in two pieces in the music department’s February faculty recital, including Mozart’s well-known “Kegelstatt” Trio, and last December she was a featured soloist with the orchestra’s string section during our fall concert.
Many of our staff and faculty members live close to school, so anytime I’m off campus, I think about the possibility of running into a professor or other employee. It isn’t a bad occurrence, but it’s somewhat cringey to think about what to say to a professor outside of the classroom or context of a class. Even if it’s someone you admire or are very familiar with, there’s always a moment of silence where neither the student nor the adult knows quite what to say. However, this isn’t always the case. I saw a professor outside of the classroom and instead of it being awkward, it was invigorating. I saw him on a stage, in a costume, transformed into one of the most well-known gods of Greek literature: Zeus. Kinda cool, right?
To register for classes at Connecticut College, we have to meet with our adviser and discuss our ideas for what we want to take for the next semester. I meet with two advisers because I am a double major in American studies and English. This fall when I met with my advisers, Professor Catherine Stock for American Studies and Professor Michelle Neely for English, it started off as a regular meeting. We discussed what was going on in my life and academics during the past semester. We looked at my Degree Works page, the webpage that shows what requirements you have completed for your major and your graduation requirements. To see the page with almost all of my requirements completed was liberating. I had been taking classes in my majors of study pretty much exclusively since my sophomore year. During my first year, I took classes to discover what I was interested in and to complete my general education requirements. To see that I was done with my general education requirements and my American Studies major was a strange feeling. This thing that I had been working on for so long was finished. I did still have a few more requirements to fulfill for my English major but aside from that, I was free to take something else that interested me, a feeling that excited me.
The end of the semester is always a busy time for me, and, as I’ve previously written, one of the highlights of this period are the various music department end-of-semester concerts and recitals that I participate in. No matter how intense it gets, the end of semester orchestra concert is still a great highlight and culmination of my hard work. This past semester’s performance was particularly special for me as it presented an impromptu opportunity to play with some of the best musicians in the country—three members of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Band’s trombone section led by Sean Nelson, who is the music department’s trombone professor, in addition to Connecticut College’s own Gary Buttery on tuba, who served as the Band’s principal tubist from 1976-1998. The group constituted our orchestra’s low brass section for our performance of Antonin Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony.
As a sophomore, I applied and was accepted to the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology at Connecticut College. The Center is one of the five academic centers on campus that provide resources to students and faculty doing interdisciplinary work on a specific subject. Learn more about my journey as an Ammerman Scholar.
A dramaturg is someone who reads plays and musicals and does an analysis of the texts to help convey messages and historical context to the cast as well as the audience. In November, I worked as the dramaturg for “Life Is a Dream,” the theater department show at Conn. I came on board in September. Most of the work I did early on was independent research, but I went to some early rehearsals when I was able to go. The show was written by Pedro Calderon de la Barca in 1635, the Spanish Golden Age. My initial research about the time period uncovered themes that were also present in the production–the basic themes of which involve religious ideals, honor and the role of women.
As a sophomore, I applied and was accepted to the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology, one of the five academic centers on campus that provides resources to students and faculty doing interdisciplinary work on a specific subject. This year I’m working on my Senior Integrative Project (SIP). SIPs are year-long independent studies for seniors in the College’s four center-certificate programs that culminates in a final performance or installation from each senior in the spring. My project is to develop a piece of classical music where audience members get to participate. Learn more about my journey as an Ammerman Scholar.
Even when you don’t have an important exam, it’s still important to reset your brain and take a break. This has been something I’ve been good at for the most part, but this year, with my schedule much heavier, it’s something I forget often. In my Psychology of Disorders and Dysfunctions class, we learned about Mindfulness Meditation— a type of meditation where you focus on nothing but the present and yourself in that moment. For a few weeks every class, we would take five minutes or so to do what was called a body scan. We all put our heads on our desks and listened to the voice of the women guiding the meditation, doing as she said, aware of our breathing and surrounding sounds. I found this to be a nice break, helping us to regain our focus for the remaining hour of class time. We were then assigned to practice this five-minute exercise, five days a week, for five weeks. After the five weeks was over I realized how helpful these types of exercises are for me, along with other breaks like running outside or going to yoga. It’s tempting to just climb in bed and take a nap after a long day of classes before starting some homework, but you end up being so much more productive if you take the time to get some fresh air or just do anything that works for you to reset your brain.
I was excited to start my sophomore year, particularly academically. I thought I had it all figured out. I had begun to discover my passion for psychology and philosophy and planned on taking one philosophy course. But at the last minute, I decided to take two. I emailed Simon Feldman, my Introduction to Philosophy professor, and he encouraged me to join his Philosophy of Law course. I was excited, believing I was checking another box and that philosophy could become my minor.
The spring semester of my first year, I took a course called Building Culture. A course cross-listed in both the art history and architectural studies departments, it focused on the history of various art movements, how they were introduced by the social climate, and how they influenced architecture. One day in class we focused on modern architecture and Phillip Johnson, a renowned architect, for his Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut. Last weekend, I got to travel to the Glass House with the Department of Architectural Studies for an in-depth tour. Here are some of best moments and features I was able to capture!
As a sophomore, I applied and was accepted to the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology at Connecticut College. The Center is one of the five academic centers on campus that provides resources to students and faculty doing interdisciplinary work on a specific subject. Learn more about my journey as an Ammerman Scholar.
This semester I’m starting to produce my senior integrative project (SIP) for the Ammerman Center. SIPs are year-long independent study projects that seniors participating in the College’s four center-certificate programs undertake culminating in a final performance or installation from each senior every spring. My project is an attempt to develop a piece of classical music where audience members get to participate. It currently uses the working title “Democracy and Classical Music,” which stems from a challenge posed to me by professors who I have worked closely with developing this project. They posited that allowing audience members to interact raises problems similar to those raised by the challenge of satisfying people with different viewpoints in the democratic process.
I chose Connecticut College for many reasons. One aspect that caught my eye when scrolling through the website my senior year of high school was the College’s Connections curriculum, specifically Pathways. Pathways help you build on your major by connecting the coursework in your major, the required coursework outside your major, your study abroad experience, your internship and your senior capstone. Pathways seemed right up my alley since they are an interesting way to connect multiple interests, and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to major in. When I was in high school, talking about college, and going on college tours and having to introduce myself always freaked me out. I tended to be the only person in the group saying that I was “undeclared.” Everyone seemed to have a plan. Even at the start of my first-year at Conn, I felt everyone knew what they were doing but me. Turns out this wasn’t true at all and I soon met many other students who were undeclared as well.
Maryum Qasim '20 is an international student from Rawalpindi, Pakistan. She is an International Relations major on a pre-law track and is also a CISLA scholar. Maryum is the Student Government Association's Chair of Equity and Inclusion and is also an executive board member of the Muslim Student Association.
Little did I know that a research paper for my first-year law class taught by professor Peter Mitchell would eventually take me to the tribal areas of Waziristan, a military controlled drone warzone cut off from the rest of developed Pakistan. My primary research paper for the class explored the legality of the employment of drones. I felt so passionately about the subject that when I became a scholar with the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA) I decided to conduct my senior project on it. My CISLA project, guided by former CISLA Director and Professor of History Marc R. Forster, aimed to explore the psychological impacts of drone strikes on young adults. This summer I was awarded the Stephen and Pamela Rearden '67 Travel Fellowship to conduct research in Pakistan on the psychological impacts of drones for my project. I arrived in Bannu, a city about 200 kilometers away from the military-controlled areas of Waziristan. These areas are highly secured with multiple military check posts monitoring any and all movements in and out. Due to security concerns, I decided to stay in Bannu to meet my point of contact Farooq Mehsud, a local journalist from North Waziristan. Mehsud coordinated interviews for me with other journalists and university/college students in Bannu.
Coming into my first semester at Conn, I had my mind set on majoring in Behavioral Neuroscience. I told all my friends, family members and high school teachers I would go on to medical school after graduating from Conn and study neuropsychology. That same semester, I took on the normal four-course load with Cell Biology, Chemistry, Toxins and The Nervous System (my First-Year Seminar) and a Chinese philosophy course. As we inched closer to winter break, however, I realized that I, in fact, did not want to major in Behavioral Neuroscience. I normally like to be certain about major things in my life, so being unsure about my major was more than unsettling.
Editor's Note: Guest blogger Ashley Myers '19 of Winchester, Massachusetts, is majoring in English with a concentration in fiction writing, and minoring in Classics and Psychology. She is the president of Cadenza, the literary magazine on campus, a member of Relay for Life, and is an intern at SWAAY, an online media platform that is empowering women in business. Writing is her passion, and she wouldn't want to pursue it anywhere other than Conn.
Last week, I left the long-awaited spring sunshine and entered Tansill Theater, the black box theater on campus. Contrary to my usual aversion to being stuck inside when the weather is fine, this was a welcome shift to darkness; soon I was raptly listening to dramatic readings of the Greek tragedies I’d been studying in class. The dim-lit setting reflected the grim nature of the tragedies. It would feel wrong to discuss infanticide, deserted soldiers and mourning sisters in the pleasant glow of May light. The event itself was titled: “Truth, Lies, and Deceit in Greek Tragedy,” a collaboration between my “Greek Tragedy” class, taught by professor Nina Papathanasopoulou, and professor David Jaffe’s class “Acting II: Play Analysis.”
On the first day of my first year at Conn I was intent on declaring a double major in Art and Chemistry. Things don’t always turn out how you planned. I am now a double major in Psychology and Africana Studies and minoring in Gender and Women’s Studies. This change was a result of finding interests I did not know I had and connecting with students and faculty in each major. Despite not being an Art major, there are still a lot of opportunities for me to produce art and share it around campus. I often draw in my room while I am (mildly) procrastinating or as a way to de-stress. If I like what I make, I sometimes post it on Instagram and Facebook. Three seniors at Conn, Gabby Schlein, Catherine Healey, and Katie Soricelli, saw some of my drawings and asked me to produce a few pieces for their senior theater capstone. Senior capstones are final projects that are the culmination of a senior’s work in their major. Capstones are great because they give people outside of the major an opportunity to be involved in and meet new people in different areas.
Recently, a dream of mine came true. Acclaimed author and journalist at The New Yorker David Grann (‘89) joined us in our "Narrative Nonfiction" class. Being able to speak to a writer for The New Yorker was a cool opportunity, but what made the day special was being able to sit with an author and inquire about their entire writing process. When reading, I often compile a long list of questions in my head asking why the author decided to make the decisions they made. The list usually stays unanswered. However, that particular day Grann answered certain questions I’d been eager to know, such as: what does the organizational process look like when writing about a subject laden with so much historical background? My classmates and I also asked him to talk about how he became a writer and how one knows what path to follow in such broad industry. Blanche Boyd, the writer in residence at Conn and the professor of my writing class, assigned The Lost City of Z by David Grann for us to read over spring break. Though not typically the kind of thing I read—a story about adventure, disease and death in the Amazon—I enjoyed this fast-paced tale. It made me want to ask questions.
Jai Gohain '19 is an international student from Kolkata, India. He is a classical studies major, with minors in dance and mathematics. He is also a member of the Connecticut College Dance Club and Connecticut College men's rugby team.