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 went to a small, private high school in East Providence, Rhode Island, where I had countless tools and people who helped me and guided me through the college process. I am forever grateful for their support. Despite this, I could not seem to figure out what I wanted and what I didn’t want in a college. I had toured multiple schools and thought they were all fine, but I hadn’t had that “falling in love” feeling every high school senior talks about when they find their new home.
Last spring I began my search for a summer internship. I was studying in Vienna for the semester, which meant I was unable to meet potential employers for in-person interviews. I applied to several historic preservation organizations, which is something I am interested in pursuing after I graduate, and was offered an internship with Connecticut Landmarks, an organization based in Hartford, Connecticut, that runs several historic properties around the state.
The bowl of assorted chocolates greets me as I walk into the second-floor office of Student Accessibility Services in Shain Library. It is a sweet, and sometimes bitter reminder of my struggles with a Non-Verbal Learning Difference. I always wanted to be a “normal” kid but as I advanced in my education and sought out accommodations, my perspective changed.
The Connecticut College campus generally falls into two areas: north and south. The Charles E. Shain Library is in the middle. Last spring, as I began contemplating where I wanted to live on campus my senior year, I thought about the fact that I never lived in south campus. So during the housing lottery, I picked a room in Jane Addams (JA) House, the second southernmost residence house on campus. Since moving in I’ve noticed a lot of differences between north and south campus. South campus is close to many of the academic buildings, which helps if you are like me and are running late most of the time. It is also home to Tempel Green, as well as the dining halls in Jane Addams and Freeman House. I am not a morning person so having two dining halls close by makes getting breakfast, which is usually a struggle for me, much easier.
I came from a high school with a lot of amazing students. Among them were some extremely talented artists who, in my opinion, were ahead of their time. Many of these artists were actors from our theater department, a department I called home and which encouraged my passion for acting. However, I also found myself pulling away from its competitive nature. I’ve never been a competitive person, and have never cared to only audition for principal roles or pursued a show just to say I was a part of it. I’m also a person who likes to learn from other people, grow, and at some point be in a position to teach or mentor others. I felt there wasn’t much space for me or many others to do that, and I knew it wasn’t quite the place for me. I’ll admit that one of the main reasons I didn’t think I would major in theater or be involved in the department in any way when I arrived at Conn was because of my assumption that all theater departments are competitive or unwelcoming. I was worried that I wouldn’t have a shot at being in a show and that those active in the department wouldn’t concern themselves with encouraging or recruiting others to join the department.
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.
When I graduated from high school in New York two years ago (yikes!), it never occurred to me just how far my closest friends would be traveling for their respective undergraduate educations. Some of my friends committed to schools as far as California, while others (like myself) decided to stay a bit more local to the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
In the past two weeks, I’ve started the majority of my interactions with people by saying, “Hey, I’m doing a shoot for the Communications Office, would you mind if I took some pictures of you *insert activity*?” Each time, I hoped that what started off as a semi-awkward interaction between a group of strangers would result in pictures that showcased students using some of the most charming spaces on campus.
The Lyman Allyn Art Museum, located just past the southern tip of Conn’s campus is a quiet little gem. At Conn, the kinds of external cultural experiences the students here cultivate are on a smaller, more intimate scale. This has always been special to me and The Lyman Allyn is a perfect example of this. The museum was donated to the City of New London by Harriet Allyn, the daughter of Captain Lyman Allyn. The family were long-time New London residents, and Harriet donated the museum in her father’s memory. Everything about this story is New London-esque, and it speaks well to our region of Connecticut: a richly historical area with prominent nods to the sea.
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.
In high school, I joined the cross country and track and field teams initially in an attempt to find something to do between basketball seasons. I ended up loving running so much that I quit basketball to do winter and spring track. One of my favorite parts of being on the cross country team was the summer captain’s practices that would prepare us for the season. Every Wednesday at 6 p.m. we would drive from Marblehead to Lynn, Massachusetts, to run in the Lynn Woods Races. There is nothing not to like about the Lynn Woods weekly races. They are donation-optional races organized by local runners who set up a new course each week through a large section of woods in the middle of the city. Each race gets a huge turnout of friendly runners ranging from young kids to people much older than me. After each race, people usually stick around to chat and have some of the free post-race snacks, like Gatorade, oatmeal raisin cookies and fruit. Every summer I look forward to running these races, which embody the best aspects of cross country: running through woods and community.
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.
Taste of Harris only comes once a year, but, like any holiday, its arrival is always met with anticipation and excitement. Each year, Harris, the main dining hall on campus, hosts different food vendors and restaurants in the area. They take over the dining hall and introduce new cuisine. The school brings some of the same vendors back each year. One that I am particularly fond of is locally made artisan bread. Arguably the most important part of this event is to get actual feedback from the students. During the Taste the dining hall is filled with surveys that students can fill out after they’ve tried each dish. The dishes with the most votes will likely make their way to Harris the following school year. Conn prides itself on shared governance. By asking students what they want to eat this practice is enacted in yet another corner of campus. This year at the Taste there was a falafel bar complete with tzatziki and all of the fixin’s, jalapeno tater tots, Philly cheesesteaks, an artisan bread car, plant-based dishes, delicious sesame noodles, fun salads, unique teas, watermelon cake, new ice cream flavors and so much more. The day is fun for obvious reasons (delicious food, exciting variety), but I also like it because the dining hall is abuzz. Everyone feels the same way: overwhelmed in the best way, filled with laughter about all of the weird combinations of food they have on their plates, eager to fill out the surveys in hopes that their favorite dish will make it onto Harris’ new menu, and thankful that dining services at Conn cares to enhance our eating experiences at college.
This winter I called my dad bragging that my normally weak immune system had beaten off whatever seasonal sickness was going around. I was convinced that I had miraculously improved my ability to fight off colds and the flu without changing anything about my lifestyle. Almost a week later I was in the Coffee Closet, doing homework with my friend Mark, when my head started feeling really groggy. So naturally, I bought three different teas and poured in significant amounts of honey and lemon to try to stop my impending sickness. The next day, I woke up with a fever, feeling like I had been smacked in the face. One of my friends took me to Student Health Services on campus. The nurses there told me I had the flu and prescribed me some medicine.
One of the most essential parts of visiting a college campus is the tour. Most parents and prospective students that visit a school might not remember what year the college was founded or how many clubs and organizations exist there, but may remember their tour guide and whether the tour was enjoyable or not. The latter is the exact reason I wanted to be a tour guide at Conn. I know the impact a tour guide can have on a student’s college decision (whether it be applying or choosing) and I hope to leave a positive mark on the families, especially the students, I encounter. Fortunately enough, I was hired as a tour guide in the spring semester my first year at Conn. It became an immensely enjoyable routine to walk to Horizon House (where the Office of Admission is housed) each week to greet families and walk them around our beautiful campus for about an hour.
When I discuss writing essays with my friends in other majors, one of the things we talk about is the style and conventions expected from our professors and department. This can be something as basic as what sort of citation style we use, such as Turabian (my personal favorite), MLA, APA or ASA to specific grammatical and structural issues we encounter when writing our papers. For example, in music, there is a difference between a piece that is “for oboe and clarinet” and “for clarinet and oboe”; the first instrument plays higher than the second. One of the subjects I really enjoy writing for is my major: philosophy. Part of what I enjoy about writing papers for philosophy is that I’m allowed to write in the first person, which is unusual in academic writing.
Not many students at Conn are taught by the women’s rowing coach, but I was. Midway through last semester I started a class called Sports Leadership taught by coach Eva Kovach. This class was part of Conn’s Career Informed Learning courses, which bring alumni or community members to class to discuss how the concepts we learn about play out in the world. The dean of sophomores, Carmela Patton, recommended that I take the class because of my interest in sports. In high school, I competed year-round and ended my high school career as the captain of my cross country team and track and field team. I have always enjoyed spearheading groups that I have been a part of. That added with my ability to be loud and make friends has so far served as a good formula for molding me into a leader. During my first year of high school, I always respected my captains but I also thought that the biggest part of the job was simply being nice to everyone. After leading the teams myself and dealing with issues within my teams I understand that ‘leading’ is multifaceted. Being a part of this class gave me the opportunity to look retrospectively at my past roles as a leader and learn what I did well, but also learn what I can improve upon.
Because I am not the biggest fan of spending my winter break at the beach, I have always, for the most part, opted for a ski vacation. Recently, the weather in New York City, my hometown, has been bone chilling and I wondered before my flight to Salt Lake City, Utah, took off if I wasn’t better off visiting a beach.
Never in a million years did I think I’d be taking another art class—especially not in college. I took my first one in third grade, and I remember two things about it: struggling with every assignment and learning that I never shook the inability to color (or paint, for that matter) inside any kind of line. After that experience, I pledged to my 8-year-old self that I would avoid every art class for as long as possible.
I got bit by a travel bug during my semester abroad in Haifa, Israel. It happened during the flight home to New York as I looked through the pages of my passport. These pages felt empty and I wondered when I would be able to stamp it once more – perhaps numerous times.
It was an exceptionally busy day Wednesday: I had two classes, rehearsal for improv and a film screening. On top of all of that, I had a looming 5-6 page sociology essay that was due promptly at 1:15 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Luckily, I found time in a break in my schedule around noon to craft the bare bones of my introduction. Unfortunately, I was not able to continue my paper until 9:10 p.m. when I returned to the library after my film screening. This is when the bulk of my work began and I started to understand that the only way this paper would get done was with caffeine, motivation and a little help from my friends.
I was the first to arrive at Tansill Theater. This black box performing space on Conn’s campus is also home to many of the classes available in the theater department. On Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:15 to 3:15 p.m. it is home to me and the other 10 members of my Acting II class. Our first project this semester was a monologue from Jose Rivera’s “Sonnets from an Old Century.” We have been working on them for about a month now and the final showing was approaching.
I’ve written before about my plans to study away from Conn. Next semester I will be studying at the IES Abroad Vienna Music Program in Austria, but right now, as I enter into the final days of the fall semester, I’m focused on completing my obligations at Conn and making plans for the future. One major part of my pre-study away planning process has been the Office of Career and Professional Development’s Junior Year Action Plan. The plan helps me prepare for the College’s funded internship program next summer.