BENNINGTON REGARDS EDUCATION AS A SENSUAL AND ETHICAL, NO LESS THAN AN INTELLECTUAL, PROCESS. IT SEEKS TO LIBERATE AND NURTURE THE INDIVIDUALITY, THE CREATIVE INTELLIGENCE, AND THE ETHICAL AND AESTHETIC SENSIBILITY OF ITS STUDENTS, TO THE END THAT THEIR RICHLY VARIED NATURAL ENDOWMENTS WILL BE DIRECTED TOWARD SELF-FULFILLMENT AND winter 2015–16
TOWARD CONSTRUCTIVE SOCIAL PURPOSES. WE BELIEVE THAT THESE EDUCATIONAL GOALS ARE BEST SERVED BY DEMANDING OF OUR STUDENTS ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN THE PLANNING OF THEIR OWN PROGRAMS, AND IN THE REGULATION OF THEIR OWN LIVES ON CAMPUS. STUDENT FREEDOM IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF RESTRAINT, HOWEVER; IT IS RATHER THE FULLEST POSSIBLE S U B ST I T U T I O N O F H A B I T S O F SELF-RESTRAINT FOR RESTRAINT IMPOSED BY OTHERS. THE EXERCISE OF STUDENT FREEDOM IS THE VERY CONDITION OF A MEANINGFUL EDUCATION, AND AN ESSENTIAL A S P ECT O F T H E N U RT U R E O F FREE CITIZENS, DEDICATED TO CIVILIZED VALUES AND CAPABLE OF CREATIVE AND CONSTRUCTIVE MEMBERSHIP IN MODERN SOCIETY.
Mariko Silver President Paige Bartels Vice President for Institutional Advancement Zeke Bernstein Dean of Research, Planning, and Assessment Hung Bui Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid
BENNINGTON COLLEGE BOARD OF TRUSTEES As of December 23, 2015
Duncan Dobbelmann Associate Provost and Dean of Studies Heather Faley Director of Human Resources Xenia Markowitt Dean of Students
Priscilla Alexander ’58 New York, NY
Genelle Rankin ’15 Brookline, MA
Tracy Katsky Boomer ’91 Woodland Hills, CA
Daniel B. Rowland Lexington, KY
Holly McCormack Dean of Field Work Term
Susan Paris Borden ’69 Calgary, AB, Canada
Charlene Solow Schwartz ’54 Newtown, PA
Brian Murphy Vice President for Finance and Administration
Suzanne Brundage ’08 Brooklyn, NY
James Simon ’97 Akron, OH
Matthew Clarke New York, NY
Sara Steines Milwaukee, WI
David Rees Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Administration
Barbara Ushkow Deane ’51 New York, NY
Nick Stephens ’77 Bronxville, NY
William Derrough New York, NY
Catharine Stimpson New York, NY
Ousseynou Diome ’14 Accra, Ghana
Penelope Perkins Wilson ’45 Malvern, PA
Briee Della Rocca Editor/Creative Director
Michael Hecht New York, NY
Karen Johnson Boyd ’46 Racine, WI Lifetime trustee
Carol June Jessop Graphic Designer
John J. Kenney Bronxville, NY Bobbie Knable Brookline, MA
Mariko Silver Ex-officio
Janet Lape Marsden Vice President for Communications
Isabel Roche Provost and Dean of the College Oceana Wilson Dean of the Library
Aruna D’Souza Writer Susan P. Huggins Production Designer Marisa Crumb Proofreader/Copyeditor
Alan Kornberg ’74, Chairman New York, NY
Editorial and Production Team Heather DiLeo Marie Leahy Alex Dery Snider Mai Tran ’16 Sara White Katie Yee ’17 Lane Press, Burlington, VT Printer
ON THE COVER
An excerpt of Bennington’s traditional Commencement statement, photo by Briee Della Rocca
Bennington is published twice a year in the winter and summer. Direct correspondence to: Bennington Magazine Office of Communications One College Drive Bennington, VT 05201-6003 Phone: 802-440-4743
email@example.com Bennington magazine is the recipient of a University College Designer’s Association (UCDA) Excellence Award and a Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District I Publication Honorable Mention.
Conditions for educational innovation
FROM THE PRESIDENT
Innovation at Bennington
Imagine walking into the first day of class and being told “you and your classmates are going to put on an opera,” or “you’re going to design and bring a product to market,” or “you’re going to create public art for a United States embassy,” or “you’re going to launch a literary journal.” For Bennington students, past and present, these are exciting and challenging—but not entirely unusual—experiences. In many ways, they are fundamental to a Bennington education: go back to the College’s founding, and you’ll find countless similar stories of faculty members who have wanted their students to squeeze more—and expect more—from their educations. Bennington has always been about finding the most innovative approaches to teaching and learning, creating the most effective ways to connect thinking and doing, integrating work in the classroom and work in the world beyond, and thinking big about what is possible. This issue of the magazine is filled with demonstrations of what Bennington makes possible, and of what an education that learns from and responds to what faculty and students find most meaningful can deliver. This culture of pedagogical innovation is at the core of a Bennington education. It demands that our faculty, staff, and students repeatedly examine, test, and reflect on what works and what could profitably change, what is relevant, and what we have yet to consider. Our faculty members are guided by the same principle that we teach our students: that learning requires doing, and doing inevitably leads to learning. They are always discovering new ways to iterate and invigorate the methods, sites, and opportunities for our students to develop and grow. This is our work. It is—and has ever been—at the center of what we do here on campus every day.
With warm regards,
Mariko Silver President
2 • BENNINGTON MAGAZINE
In a state of wishing
“ALUMNI BEWARE: You may find yourself, as I do at the beginning of each term, in a state of wishing…”
have never taken a class at Bennington yet I find myself, every term, poring over a curriculum that leaves me wanting to have the time and room to take all of Bennington’s classes. It is a daydreaming exercise, favoriting far too many courses that make me wish I was a student again—but then I’d only be able to take a term’s worth of courses. Perhaps this is why I have gotten so accustomed to hearing seniors, past the point of satisfying their requirements for graduation, tell me they are taking 16, sometimes 18, credits. They all say the same thing: It is my last chance to take classes here. When we talk about a joy of learning, which can seem as clichéd and amorphous as a love of life, this is what we are talking about: students taking on more than they have to, entering spaces and classes they are not required to, always wanting to do more than seems feasible—drawn in by a curriculum that is reinvented term after term, year after year. Who could resist the gravity of a class that invites students to build a radio telescope, or that takes them into the “Science of Consciousness,” or “The Art of Auditioning” or one that teaches “How to Study a Natural Disaster”? If we devoted every magazine issue to curricular innovation at Bennington we would still miss all that happens here. For now, we took these pages to glimpse some of what makes Bennington’s curricular approach authentically innovative: from devising new systems to meaningfully measure what happens within and outside of the curriculum (page 20) to the deep thinking on everyday academic givens like homework, participation, and textbooks (pages 19, 27, 33) to collaboration (page 30) and new models (page 38)— some even business models (page 16). Alumni beware: You may find yourself, as I do at the beginning of each term, in a state of wishing to go back. The difference is that you can, but this time at a pace that will let you savor. AlumniWorks (page 41) and a new alumni online class, Literary Bennington (page 40) invite you to return to the classroom—on campus and online—and take it in once again. And, featured on page 37, you will find a more comprehensive collection of dates to save for alumni events on campus and throughout the country. Enjoy the trip back.
Briee Della Rocca Editor
W I N T E R 2015–16 • 3
PHOTO: MAI TRAN ’16
CHINA DIALOGUES: What can an artistic dialogue across oceans, countries, cultures, disciplines, and languages look like? In a project at Usdan Gallery, Zhang Yangen— a sculptor and professor from Guangxi Arts Institute, in China, and Dai Jian, a teaching fellow in the MFA in Dance— work with students and colleagues at Bennington and in China to imagine collaboration as a form of art.
28 DIGITAL STORIES 6 DIGITAL STORIES A place, a course, a medium The making of “A Celebration Service” featuring Tom Bogdan and Terry Creach
8 BOOKSHELF The National Book Awards
and many nationally reviewed, recently published works by members of the Bennington community
10 #BENNINGTON Literary Bennington: A
student-run blog engaging with literature at Bennington, past and present
12 INFORMING OPINIONS Pop-up courses at Bennington take current events into the classroom, as they unfold by Jeanne Bonner MFA ’16
15 EXPERIMENTING WITH TIME
Classes that break out of the typical credit model by Jeva Lange ’15
where word and image meet
30 IN CLASS In a company, in a class—a
look at faculty member Kitty Brazelton’s course Whose Opera? by Aruna D’Souza
33 BRIEFS What I want my students to know
34 WORLD CLASS Project-based classes that
respond to the world. A look at Space and Embassies by Aruna D’ Souza
37 ALUMNI EVENTS Mark your calendars 38 NEW INITIATIVE Museum Term has upper class students situate their work and study in New York City’s cultural meccas in the winter and spring terms by Briee Della Rocca
16 PROFILES IN INNOVATION 40 ONLINE CLASS Two faculty members and A new alumni online class lets nine students made a startup out of a class by Aruna D’ Souza
19 ASSIGNMENT Faculty member David
Anderegg on assignments and fashionable diagnoses by Briee Della Rocca
20 TRANSLATIONS Content-centered language 22
learning teaches not just how to speak but how to think by Briee Della Rocca
THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION As colleges and universities look to the future of higher education, some seek a more meaningful measure of value by Heather DiLeo
27 BRIEFS Beware of textbooks
you dive into Bennington's deep literary history
41 ALUMNIWORKS A back-to-school pilot program
42 FACULTY NOTES A review of the work and
achievements of Bennington’s faculty members
44 CLASS NOTES 2016 Reunion, honors and
awards, as well as news and updates from Bennington’s alumni
52 FISCAL YEAR 2015 DONOR REPORT
Grateful recognition of our generous supporters
79 IN MEMORIAM
PHOTO: BRIEE DELLA ROCCA
“A CEL EBRAT I ON SE RVI CE,” ME R E D I T H MO N K ( MPF4109.01) Thomas Bogdan
To mark Meredith Monk’s fifty years of performing, Tom Bogdan will reconstruct Monk’s “A Celebration Service” for the Bennington College community. Bogdan, an original cast member, in the work will cast an ensemble of singers to be joined by an ensemble of 10 dancers, supervised by Terry Creach, to perform this spiritually inspired performance piece–created by American composer and pioneer of interdisciplinary performance, Meredith Monk. “A Celebration Service” uses Monk’s musical and movement compositions, as well as texts from the world’s great religions to create a contemporary ritual celebrating the larger community of mankind and the power of the human spirit. Bogdan, longtime member of Monk’s vocal ensemble, received three Fulbright grants to teach the work to ensembles in Budapest, Sao Paulo, and this past winter in Manila. Originally performed by 12 members of Monk’s Vocal Ensemble, “A Celebration Service” will be performed in Bennington by up to thirty-five students, faculty, staff, and community members in Greenwall Music Workshop on December 5 and 6. Ten dancers will learn and perform the folk-dance and processional sections, which will be taught by Allison Easter, a member of Monk’s Ensemble, in a class taught by Terry Creach. PREREQUISITES: SINGING EXPERIENCE AND ABILITY TO MATCH PITCH • CREDITS: 4 TIME: M 6:30PM -8:30PM; W 6:30PM -8:30PM • MAXIMUM ENROLLMENT: 24
A survey of the Bennington curriculum
Visit tinyurl.com/makingcelebrationservice for a mini documentary on the making of “A Celebration Service.”
W I N T E R 2015–16 • 7
Nationally reviewed and recently published works by members of the Bennington community
FICTION David Gates, MFA faculty member A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, May 2015)
A.J. Rich / Amy Hempel, MFA faculty member The Hand That Feeds You (Scribner, July 2015)
“The entire book is rich... with not a lazy phrase on view.”
“...a twisty, unsettling thriller.” —The New York Times
—The New York Times
POETRY Amy Gerstler MFA ’01 Scattered at Sea (Penguin Random House, May 2015)
“This wry book is like a wave that knocks you over and changes how you view the world. . .”
Laurence Jackson Hyman ’64 (editor); Shirley Jackson (author) Sarah Hyman DeWitt ’70 (editor) Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings (Random House, August 2015)
“...how cheering to see justice done with [this collection of] Shirley Jackson’s heretofore unpublished works…” —Vanity Fair
Ralph Hamilton MFA ’09 Teaching A Man To Unstick His Tail (Sibling Rivalry Press, LLC, March 2015)
“Hamilton reveals the beauty and pain of everyday life.” —The Chicago Tribune
—The Washington Post
NONFICTION Sven Birkerts, Director of the Master in Fine Arts in Writing Program Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age (Graywolf Press, October 2015)
“Birkerts’s critique is compelling in large part because it is moderate. What he asks us to admit is what any honest, reasonable and reasonably sensitive observer of the digitalized ways we live now must admit.” —The New Republic
8 • BENNINGTON MAGAZINE
Summer Brennan ’01 The Oyster War: The True Story of a Small Farm, Big Politics, and the Future of Wilderness in America (Counterpoint Press, August 2015)
“a narrative celebration of the striking landscape of the Point Reyes Peninsula —The San Francisco Chronicle
Susan Cheever, MFA faculty member Drinking in America: Our Secret History (Twelve, October 2015)
“Cheever offers up sideways views that are intriguing.” —Associated Press
THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS
Sally Mann ’73 Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs (Little, Brown and Company, May 2015)
Amy Gerstler MFA ’01 Scattered at Sea, long listed, National Book Awards (Penguin Random House, May 2015)
Cathy de Moll ’73 Think South: How We Got Six Men and Forty Dogs Across Antarctica (Minnesota Historical Society Press, October 2015)
Caroline Heller MFA ’01 Reading Claudius (The Dial Press, August 2015)
“Heller plunges us ... into that lost world [of ] youthful longings.”
“...as much a nostalgic recounting of a bygone era as it is an edge-of-your-seat adventure tale.”
—The Boston Globe
Tracy K. Smith, former MFA in Writing faculty member Ordinary Light (Knopf, March 2015)
Gloria Norris ’76 KooKooLand (Regan Arts, January 2016)
“An electrifying coming of age memoir...” —O, The Oprah Magazine
The Bennington Bookshelf includes work that has been published within the calendar year and that has been reviewed by national publications. To submit a book to Bookshelf, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, class year or affiliation to the College, title of your book, and publishing information. You may also mail books directly to the attention of Briee Della Rocca. B Bennington College Office of Communications One College Drive Bennington, Vermont 05201 For additional alumni book releases go to page 48.
W I N T E R 2015–16 • 9
Snapshots from our social media channels
literary bennington The class is called Literary Bennington and so is the blog. Both take the canon of Bennington writers—from recent Pulitzer Prize winner Donna Tartt ’86 to Mann Booker Prize winner Kiran Desai ’93 to MacArthur “Genius” Jonathan Lethem ’86 and best-selling author Bret Easton Ellis ’86, as well as the scores of faculty members who laid the literary ground for those who came after: Bernard Malamud, Kenneth Burke, Stanley Edgar Hyman (and his wife, novelist Shirley Jackson), Edward Hoagland, and Lucy Grealy among others—as their subject. The blog, of course, draws more than just the Bennington crowd. Led by faculty member Benjamin Anastas, students publish in-depth interviews with Bennington authors and journalists, and share archival reviews of visiting poets from the school’s student paper and recaps of current literary Bennington controversies among other pieces. It is, at once, a look back and forward and literarybennington.tumblr.com is inviting all to the unfolding investigation of what makes a Bennington writer, and what makes Bennington such a hotbed for writing talent. Below is just one of the many interviews students have conducted, this one with author and journalist Summer Brennan ’01 whose recently released book is featured on page 8, and who was interviewed by An Ngwyen ’18.
SUMMER BRENNAN ’01, studied writing, drama, and poetry at Bennington with former faculty member Mary Oliver but was “less interested in how to write” than in taking “all those odd/ wonderful courses Bennington offered.” She cites reading Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens at fourteen as a major influence on her decision to become a writer. Tired of being a slave to New York for her job as a United Nations journalist, Brennan returned to her native California and became involved with the Drake’s Bay Oyster Company and its battle against the U.S. government to stay in business. Casual observing turned into a reporting gig for the local paper and eventually culminated in her first book-length work of nonfiction, The Oyster War: The True Story of a Small Farm, Big Politics, and the Future of Wilderness in America (Counterpoint Press, 2015). The Oyster War, an eloquent and rich reading experience, captures the “oyster conflict” up close and breathes life into the story of this unassuming invertebrate. Brennan is especially skilled at encapsulating the lives of the different people pulled into the controversy, from the scientists and activists to a local casino-owner. Her responses to our questions over email showed the same insight and generosity. LITERARY BENNINGTON: When scientists (and other experts) write about their fields of expertise, their credibility is rarely in question. Journalists, on the other hand, have to earn theirs. How did you acquire and convey your sense of authority in The Oyster War?
10 • B E N N I N G T O N M A G A Z I N E
SUMMER BRENNAN: As a journalist writing nonfiction about a given topic, you are not so much an expert as you are a connoisseur of experts. Your function is to distill knowledge. You research, you dig, you cite your sources. In a way, a literary journalist, or a journalist writing in a creative way, is almost like a cinematographer. You create the point of view for the reader, but you don’t invent the landscape. The diligent gathering of the right information and the painting of that picture is where your expertise should lie. The kind of long form journalism that interests me usually does a good job of placing the reader inside a scene the same way that fiction does. Reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, the reader doesn’t just hear about evolution and extinction, we get to “see” the corals of the Great Barrier Reef; “see” the Central American jungle after dark, or the bears roaming the mountains of Peru. Often, it is the novelty of a subject to a particular journalist that can be what helps bring a sense of freshness to the telling.
LB: How did you find on-site field reporting different from the work you do as a writer at the United Nations? SB: It’s quite different, but I’d say the biggest difference is that I do not, for the most part, conduct interviews for my regular work at the UN. I write from documents and from being an observer. I ask clarifying questions, but I’m not driving the discussion. LB: The Oyster War’s prologue sketches the story of how you came to be involved with oysters, from reporting for local paper
The Point Reyes Light to deciding “Ah, I’m going to write a book about this.” What was the process?
SB: I actually had the idea to write the book as soon as I heard about the oyster farm conflict. I hadn’t even flown out to California for the newspaper job yet. I was house-sitting at a friend’s apartment in Harlem in the early spring of 2012 and I started to research the story because I knew it would be a big part of my reporting. It just seemed like a movie, with heroes and villains, and wild animals, and an environmental debate, and a possible government conspiracy. And it all took place in this gorgeous, foggy, rural setting. So I made some notes then on how the story might be fleshed out into a book, and then just kept accumulating more notes until the summer of 2013 when I decided definitively that I would write it. LB: Do you think, in controversial issues, the writer should represent both sides’ arguments equally? How do you go about executing this in the book? SB: When it comes to controversial issues, I think it is the writer’s responsibility to be representative of the arguments, which is fair, if not necessarily entirely “equal.” For example, if 99 percent of scientists think X and only 1 percent of scientists think Y, you don’t have to devote 50 percent of the story to each “side.” You may feel the need to mention the Y argument and you may not, but if your story is on the controversy end of it, then you do need to mention this fact and to do so fairly. You can even devote the whole book or article to the Y argument if that is your focus, but you can’t ignore that X exists, and that 99 percent of scientists believe it. Storytelling is, by its very nature, selective. You have to decide what is and isn’t important to your story. Just don’t shoehorn selective information into your own preconceived idea of what the story should mean or how it should go. That’s called bias. Being opinionated is not the same thing as being biased. When I came to my conclusion at the end of The Oyster War, I did so because it seemed obvious to me. I am a great fan of nuance, but sometimes certain things can be answered with a simple yes or no. LB: How was the experience of meeting and interviewing the characters in the book, who come from different walks of life? What was the best and worst/hardest thing about the personal reporting? SB: It was sometimes great and sometimes challenging doing interviews for this book. Not everyone wanted to be interviewed, and some that did wanted to control what I wrote about. They wanted to direct the spin, and I had to
subject myself to a fair amount of lobbying. I don’t ever look for anything in particular when I interview people. I try to make sure I understand them clearly. I try to get details that will paint a vivid scene. I saw another journalist once tweet that she was always listening for some particular quote that she needed while she conducted interviews, and that when the interviewee said it, the thing, whatever the thing was, that she’d feel both glad that she’d “got it,” but also sad to be thinking in that almost predatory way. I never feel that. I try to put myself in someone else’s shoes while they are talking. At least during the interview, I decide to believe them. I want to be on their side. I try to be present and to listen, and then afterwards I look at my notes and/or listen to my recording to see what I have. The moment I start to feel in any way mercenary when interviewing people is the moment I should stop doing this kind of work.
LB: The Drake’s Bay Oyster Company closed down at the end of 2014, after, I imagine, you had finished the book. How did it feel seeing the story come to a conclusion? SB: I was actually still writing the book in early February 2015. I found I couldn’t write the end until the end had actually happened, even though I knew what was coming to a degree. I was totally exhausted by that point, having written an intensely research-heavy book in just about ten months. Having done my research, the end did not surprise me, but I wasn’t emotionally attached to either potential outcome. LB: Do you feel that Bennington helped prepare you to write this book? How did studying drama, poetry, and biology help you in covering this story? SB: It did, actually, and here’s why: The point of Bennington is kind of to teach you to think across fields and genres. To crosspollinate, integrate, and draw inspiration from seemingly disparate sources. I think that the most exciting nonfiction writing does this, weaving literature and science, culture and politics. I appreciate that Bennington gives its students the room to lay the groundwork for intellectual sprawl. B
LITERARY BENNINGTON WILL BE OFFERED ONLINE TO ALUMNI THIS SPRING. SEE PAGE 40 FOR THE FULL DETAILS.
W I N T E R 2015–16 • 11
Pop-up courses at Bennington let faculty, experts, and students to dive deep into the issues as they happen by Jeanne Bonner MFA ’16
POP-UPS TEACHING THE HERE AND NOW
ON SATURDAY, APRIL 25, 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake erupted in Nepal, killing more than 7,000 people and destroying three-quarters of the buildings in the country’s capital city of Kathmandu. Word of the disaster spread quickly, and soon faculty member Noah Coburn was inundated with comments and questions from his students—those from Nepal and those students who had traveled to the country. They wanted to know what was happening and what the repercussions would be to Nepal and the region.
PHOTO: MAX FLATOW
“The students were looking for an analytical framework to understand the
devastation,” Coburn said. “And they also wanted to look at how the community both at Bennington and worldwide was responding.”
Almost exactly two weeks later, these same students were grappling with the implications of the earthquake as part of a course called “Nepal: Before and After the Earthquake.” The class debuted in the first wave of a new curriculum initiative called pop-up courses. They are dynamic, three-week classes that respond to unfolding events or current cultural phenomena. The minicourses represent a challenging new frontier in Bennington’s curriculum because the classes often focus on events that are still unfolding. In addition to the primer on Nepal, the initial pop-up courses included “Measles and the (sometimes unnatural) History of Outbreaks” and a class on the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris called “Am I Charlie?” As one faculty member says, the courses are part of the current fascination with temporary laboratories for creativity such as pop-up shops.
that can’t be captured, even as much as we plan, so close to terms. So we asked, ‘How can we capture [responses] to what’s going in the world?’” The answer is pop-up courses, which after last spring’s debut, continued in the fall with about a halfdozen courses, including one on last summer’s exodus of refugees into Europe called “The Refugee Crisis: Where Can I Go?” The course syllabus read more like a journalist’s notes for a groundbreaking story. There is a sense of investigation, of sifting through the wreckage, and trying to reconstruct what had happened— and imagining the way forward. Student input is fundamental for the development and success of the pop-up courses, and students are encouraged to approach faculty members with their ideas. In the case of the course on Nepal, Coburn said the students had almost equal say in shaping the nascent class. They had to. “I said to the students, ‘I have
“We plan year to year, term to term—other colleges plan much farther ahead. But there are still things that can’t be captured, even as much as we plan, so close to terms. So we asked, ‘How can we capture [responses] to what’s going in the world?’” “We came to think we needed the possibility of a more responsive curriculum structure,” said Isabel Roche, provost and dean of the College. “We plan year to year, term to term—other colleges plan much farther ahead. But there are still things
some material to get started but I’m really interested in knowing what you’re looking to study,’” Coburn said in an interview from Nepal where he was on sabbatical last fall. Nepal’s religious traditions were something the students wanted to
THREEWEEK INTENSIVE A Sample of Bennington’s Pop-Up Courses
NEPAL: BEFORE AND AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE Noah Coburn MEASLES AND THE (sometimes unnatural) HISTORY OF OUTBREAKS Zeke Bernstein THE FERGUSON REPORT: A LIVING DOCUMENT Crina Archer and Erika Mijlin AM I CHARLIE? Stephen Shapiro, Noëlle Rouxel-Cubberly WHO IS GLORIA STEINEM? Karen Gover EDUCATION GOVERNANCE IN FLUX Erika Mijlin THE REFUGEE CRISIS: WHERE CAN I GO? Susan Sgorbati and David Bond CRAFTING A FOREIGN POLICY AGENDA: THE CASE OF U.S.- INDIA RELATIONS Mariko Silver
explore so Coburn included readings on Buddhist rituals and practices and how they may or may not contextualize the events surrounding the earthquake. One of the books Coburn used, Invitations to Love: Literacy, Love Letters and Social Change in Nepal, examines the practice among young Nepalese of writing love letters. As a political anthropologist, Coburn also wanted the students to learn about the insurgency that’s been W I N T E R 2015–16 • 13
taking place in Nepal over the past decade and how it has slowed the movement of aid to people in need. “We had the idea of the course being a work in progress,” he said. “It parallels how I do my academic work. It felt a little truer to the academic process than courses with more defined structures.” The pop-up course on Nepal was one response to unfolding events, and a course on Gloria Steinem was another. Faculty member Karen Gover proposed a course on Steinem, shortly after it was announced that the pioneering feminist would give the commencement address. Gover said some of her students didn’t know much about Steinem or her work as an activist. So Gover began designing a course in which the students would read some of Steinem’s writings and listen to some of her speeches. “When I first proposed it, I wasn’t sure what I would do but I thought since Bennington had come up with this new course structure— what you could call ‘immediate responses to current events’—it could work,” Gover said in an interview. Then something unexpected happened. Steinem learned about the course and agreed to sit for an interview with Gover’s class as part of her graduation weekend visit to Bennington. And just like that, the course evolved into a prep lab for a one-of-a-kind interview with the iconic feminist. “That made it really exciting,” said Gover. “It wasn’t an empty theoretical exercise—you know, ‘let’s read some articles she published.’ We had a goal and a high stakes mission, which was we had to learn enough about her to craft appropriate interview questions and then pose them to her live in public.” The work of the course became formulating intelligent questions based on the Steinem readings and the rest of the syllabus—questions that were going toward a very finite 14 • B E N N I N G T O N M A G A Z I N E
end. The students, said Gover, had “a real product to work toward.” Pop-up courses, clearly, don’t replace full-term courses, nor can they reasonably grow beyond a finite number (right now, 5–8 per term). And there’s something ephemeral and precious about their very essence. Gover said she believes the courses respond not only to actual events, but also to the evolving phenomena of how we live. “You know, the pop-up restaurant and the pop-up boutique are things we’re seeing right now—so pop-up courses are tapping into something in the culture right now,” she said. A way to respond to ‘something
“They give conversations happening around campus a home,” said Zeke Bernstein, Bennington’s dean of research, planning, and assessment. And the courses allow students to plumb the issues underlying those conversations by providing a rigorous academic framework with which to explore them. Bernstein—who holds a PhD in genetics from Harvard Medical School—taught the pop-up course on measles, and he said his students learned about key scientific concepts behind immunology, microbiology and infectious diseases but within “the context of real-world events.” Students absorbed principles about
“They give conversations happening around campus a home.” in the culture’ but also a way to mirror the very spirit of inquiry that’s at the heart of a Bennington education. “They’re teaching a way to engage the world,” said Duncan Dobblemann, associate provost and dean of studies. “How do you analyze, research, and bring into your lives something that’s just happened?” The course on the Charlie Hebdo attacks, for example, explored the role of religion in public life today and the dynamics of social exclusion. And along with the existing seven-week module courses, the new courses offer an opportunity to fill in gaps in Bennington’s curriculum of full-term courses. The courses also recognize that the students aren’t learning in a vacuum. They are learning against a backdrop of an ever-evolving world where earthquakes happen and French cartoonists are attacked. In other words, the courses respond to topics that have already snared the students’ attention.
how measles can spread and the critical role of vaccinations, and then pivoted to discussions about the ethical questions surrounding the rise of the anti-vaccination movement and the rights and responsibilities of citizens. Bennington says it wants a student’s education here to reflect everything he or she learns. And that means some issues that would not normally appear in the curriculum since courses don’t normally deal with what’s happening now or what’s happening on campus. In the end, the pop-up courses are as, Coburn, the anthropologist, puts it, a way for Bennington to answer a question that will never be exhausted: “How do we, as humans, make sense of the world?” And that’s as much Bennington’s mission as anything else. B Jeanne Bonner MFA ’16 is an Atlantabased reporter covering the state legislature and other statewide issues for Georgia Public Broadcasting, including immigration and education.
EXPERIMENTING WITH TIME
B Pop-ups are not the only way Bennington faculty experiment with traditional course formats. Below, a handful of examples paced to meet the demands of the content and the students.
CHEMISTRY 1, 2, 3, AND 4
Four terms (two years), 16 credits Janet Foley Scientists can spend their entire lives learning the ins and outs of general, organic, and biochemistry—and student scientists at Bennington can spend two years doing the same. Whether someone is just looking to learn the basics or is committed for the long run, the chemistry sequence is offered in incremental steps from beginning atomic theory to thermodynamics to conducting independent research projects by the time they are in Chemistry 4. In addition to time spent in the classroom, each section of chemistry also puts students in the lab—a common practice at many schools to augment class time with hands-on experiences. “It demonstrates the concepts and ideas presented in the course and allows hands-on experience with different analytical techniques that are common in current chemical applications,” faculty member Janet Foley said. “Students are called upon to generate their own experiments and demonstrate a basic understanding of posing a question, developing a hypothesis, and a coherent experimental design.” The difference is, students at Bennington are integrating general and organic chemistry from the very first class in year one. “As students go through the chemistry sequence they read further into the chemical literature and use this to frame their own questions.”
A quick view of some ways Bennington faculty members break out of a typical course pacing model by Jeva Lange ’15
THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT HISTORICAL GRIEVANCES & RETROSPECTIVE REDRESS
Three weeks, four hours a week, 4 credits Eileen Scully Intended to sync with the CAPA Leadership Institute, Historical Grievances & Retrospective Redress is traditionally taught as a full class and was offered in summer 2015 with visiting guests from Armenia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. Eileen Scully modified the course as a three-week intensive module. A joint session was arranged between the students and international visitors to discuss the politics of the Eurovision Song Contest, “a topic Bennington students could quickly size up,” Scully explained. While there were trade-offs to the short format, Scully said, “The module also did what modules are meant to do in leaving students wanting to know more about the subject.”
VISUAL ARTS LECTURE SERIES
Lectures throughout the term, 1 credit Visual arts faculty Tuesday evenings in Tishman are for the Visual Arts Lecture Series, taught not by one teacher but by an assortment of visiting lecturers from around the world. Students attend 90-minute lectures covering a wide range of artists and historians. “I had Eva Respini as a guest last spring,” Bennington faculty member Liz White said. “She lectured on the work of Robert Heinecken and Cindy Sherman. As a curator, she has developed monographic exhibitions of both artists’ works. As an expert who has dedicated years of research to these subjects, she can lecture on how they have utilized photography in a manner that far exceeds my capacity to lecture on their work.” B
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PROFILES IN INNOVATION
Two faculty members and nine students made a startup out of a class by Aruna D’ Souza
IDEA TO PROTOTYPE
Spring 2015 Presentation Bennington College June 3, 2015
hen faculty members Robert Ransick and Andrew Cencini launched Future Studio in the fall of 2015, they envisioned a class that would function as a startup. Students would work collaboratively to bring a product to market, taking on all the complexities that it entailed: research and development, prototype design, market and financial analysis, business planning, and potential public launch. But unlike a typical tech startup, designed to maximize investors’ profit in as short a time as possible, Future Studio wanted to operate differently. How to calculate a financial return on investment that took into account the well-being of workers, the local community, the environment, and social justice, too? Ransick, whose work as an artist uses digital technology to spur public participation outside traditional spaces like galleries and museums, was curious whether imagining business as a form of art practice was one solution to this question. He was so curious, in fact, that in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse and the Occupy Wall Street protests, while a full-time faculty member at Bennington, he pursued an MBA at Bard as part of his research. “The goal wasn’t simply to get another credential,” says Ransick. “It was to take a deep dive into the world of business in order to find out how the U.S. had gotten ourselves into the mess we had.” 16 • B E N N I N G T O N M A G A Z I N E
The idea of Future Studio emerged as Ransick’s MBA capstone project. “The business world always grabs from the artistic world in terms of creative strategies and has usurped a lot of language from art and design in the name of innovation,” he says. “What if we flipped those terms? What if we ran a business like an art studio, as a creative space where you can be creative and get things done and take it back into the world with a different set of values?” So Ransick and Cencini—a computer scientist—assembled a group of students who came from all over the College, including art and design, technology, and The Center for the Advancement for Public Action, to undertake the two-term-long experiment. In the first term, students focused on creative problem solving, design training, gaining business acumen, and researching alternative business models. The students organized themselves into four teams to develop product ideas, and by December presented their proposals to community members from the College and town. In the spring, they homed in on one product idea to focus their work, regrouping into teams oriented around engineering, design, business planning, and market analysis in order to test the viability of moving the project closer to market. During the process, they consulted with advisors: local business leaders; representatives from organiza-
tions including the Small Business Association of Vermont, the Bennington County Industrial Corporation, and the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy; and alums including David Zicarelli ’83, owner of Cycling 74, a software development company and music label specializing in interactive media.
“Just knowing how to program isn’t enough for me, though—I don’t want a cubicle job for the rest of my life.”
Rohail Altaf ’17, one of the two programmers in the class, arrived at Bennington from his home country of Pakistan with 12 years of tech experience under his belt. He has been coding since he was 9 and received his first paycheck for building a website at 12. “Just knowing how to program isn’t enough for me, though—I don’t want a cubicle job for the rest of my life,” he says about his decision to attend Bennington. “Future Studio was the perfect opportunity for me to expand my tech knowledge and apply it in a broader sense—to take a skill set I have and to collaborate with other people with completely different skill sets to craft a product and create a team.”
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“‘You’re acting like teachers right now and we need you to act like co-founders.’ But sometimes when we were completely lost, we did need them to act as teachers, give us resources, guide us further, and they did that, too.” Sarah Shames ’17 came into Future Studio with some skepticism—“I’m from Palo Alto: anything that was calling itself a startup was a bit off-putting to me”—but took the course at the urging of her advisor. She knew she would have something to contribute: in her first year she had done her Field Work Term at the Small Planet Institute, teaching herself how to use a number of design software programs on the job. That experience would end up being invaluable when it came to product development. Little did she know that she would also end up drawing upon her CAPA training in conflict resolution, or moving into completely foreign territory, by developing a business plan. If she started out worried that she was in for the typical Silicon Valley experience, that disappeared quickly: from the moment she stepped into the classroom, it became clear that this wasn’t going to be your average startup—or your average course. For one thing, Ransick and Cencini conceived the class as a true collaboration, and their roles as that of co-founders rather than traditional faculty members. “There was a lot of discussion about how they should approach conversations and what the students needed from them,” says Altaf. “We could say, ‘You’re acting like teachers right now and we need you to act like co-founders.’ 18 • B E N N I N G T O N M A G A Z I N E
But sometimes when we were completely lost, we did need them to act as teachers, give us resources, guide us further, and they did that, too.” For another, the students became literal stakeholders in the activities of the class: if and when the prototype that they worked on during the year—Chestnut, a location-specific, beacon-based technology that allows people to share messages and creative work in the form of video, music, text, GIFs, and images—is further developed and brought to market, everyone who participated in the process will receive some equity in the company. The course ended in June, and a core group of students are working with Ransick on the next stages in the process of making Chestnut a reality, which includes extensive revisions, business development, user testing, and the search for financial backers who fall outside the traditional Silicon Valley venture capitalist model and can embrace the long-term goals of the undertaking. For Ransick, Bennington has been the perfect place for such a pedagogical experiment. The students are ready for the challenge, he says, in part because they’ve been primed for it by the Plan process. “I believe the Plan experience is the biggest gift that Bennington gives students,” he says. “When they leave here, when something unexpected happens in their lives or when an unforeseen opportunity emerges, they aren’t paralyzed— they instinctively know what to do. They ask: what are my interests and what direction do I want to be heading, who do I talk to to find out how to do it, what are the resources I can draw upon? They do the research to figure it out, keep iterating on the idea in order to move forward. That’s a lot like being an artist and it’s a lot like starting a business— there is no pre-defined road map or set of instructions. And that’s what Future Studio hopes to be, too.” B
Faculty member David Anderegg on assignments and fashionable diagnoses by Briee Della Rocca
ON A DEEP LEVEL TRY THIS ASSIGNMENT GIVEN TO ANDEREGG’S NORMALITY AND ABNORMALITY CLASS, AND SHARE YOUR WORK WITH US AT MAGAZINE @ BENNINGTON.EDU.
LISTEN LISTEN TO A FULLER CONVERSATION WITH DAVID ANDEREGG BY VISITING: soundcloud.com/ benningtoncollege/ david-andereggassignment
“I GIVE ASSIGNMENTS TO MAKE SURE THAT STUDENTS are integrating on a deep
level. It’s easy to learn concepts superficially, to get familiar with the terminology and to speak in terminology. When I assign something to the class, I’m looking to see if students are able to grasp a concept, if they understand its range and limits, what it means and what it doesn’t mean, and if they are able to apply the concept. I think of class participation and assignments in tandem. It’s all part of the same thing, and I require both. Sometimes my students want to know why participation is required and that’s when I talk about Andrea Bocelli. I like to sing. My wife gave me a CD of Andrea Bocelli singing operas. I’m riding up here and I listen to it in the morning and I sing along with him. When I’m singing along with him, I say to myself, I sound pretty good. I sing as well as Andrea Bocelli. I’m good at this. Then I turn off the CD and I sing without Andrea Bocelli, and that’s when I know I do not sing as well as Andrea Bocelli. There’s a big difference. I tell them that story because it’s very much like class participation. They’re sitting in class and may be nodding along and think they know exactly what I’m talking about. Then they will ask a question or speak up—and in doing that they’re trying to clarify something for themselves and they usually begin to realize in that moment that they don’t know the material as well as they thought they did. Sometimes people think this is all for the professor, but participation and assignments are not for me; they’re for the student. It is in these exercises of interpreting and applying concepts in class or in assignment that they’re able to see and I’m able to see where there is traction and where there are gaps in understanding.”
Certain psychopathological conditions have seen greatly increased prevalence rates in recent years. We have sometimes referred to these conditions in class as “fashionable diagnoses.” For this short paper, look at some websites put up by advocacy groups for sufferers of these diagnoses, or other websites containing information about prevalence. For each diagnosis, there will be some explanation of the rapid rate of new diagnoses. Collect one or several of these explanations, and discuss the following question: Are these explanations plausible? Are there alternative explanations? (Alternative explanations may be gathered from websites of diagnosis skeptics, or generated from your own head.) Example: attention deficit disorder (in the early and middle 1990s). What explanations do/did parent groups, medication manufacturers, school personnel, etc. give for the dramatic rise of new diagnoses of ADD in the last decade of the 20th century? Better case finding? Some biological or psychological pathogens causing new cases of the illness? Do these make sense to you? Are there other explanations that might also be plausible?
DIAGNOSES TO CHOOSE FROM:
the 21th century: (a) autistic-spectrum diagnoses, including and especially Asperger’s • InSyndrome; (b) childhood bipolar disorder; (a) attention deficit disorder; (b) multiple personality disorder. • InYouthemay1990s: choose another if you can document a recent rise in prevalence rates.
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Content-centered language learning teaches not just how to speak but how to think by Briee Della Rocca
WORDS MOVING BEYOND
anguage is generally taught to students as if their primary identity was as consumers. They learn how to order food, how to buy something, how to get something,” faculty member Stephen Shapiro explains when asked why Bennington’s language curriculum looks so different to most people. “We do something else. We teach language by engaging with a student’s intellectual identity.” Ikuko Yoshida uses her World War II course to illustrate the point. Students in the course are learning Japanese by reading history textbooks and Japanese accounts of World War II. “Yes, they’re learning Japanese, but really they’re using language to deal with bigger questions about truth in history and how to figure out what is true.” It is Bennington’s approach that attracts both native and nonnative speakers. “I have fluent Chinese speakers in some of my beginner classes,” Ginger Lin says. “They are there because of the subject. Some of them have never had a chance to learn about the Revolution or certain art that has been censored. It’s important to me that there’s something in my classes for anyone, whether or not they are fluent.” It has helped a good percentage of Bennington students—some, like Kagan Marks ’16, who did not easily or joyfully learn a new language in high school or at other colleges—find a way to learn a whole new language and culture from first source materials, rather than standard issue textbooks. “I took Spanish in high school and really didn’t get much from it. You know it’s the typical thing: textbook one, textbook two, textbook three….” Marks, a senior who recently returned from a year long study abroad in China, recounts. “When I got to Bennington I felt like I should continue in language in some way but I took Chinese instead of Spanish because I really liked the art and wanted to learn more about that. It was so interesting and I kept taking classes.” “This is not easy work,” faculty member Barbara Alfano explains, “It takes a lot of time to create the innovative materials to teach this way.” Sarah Harris adds, “We work hard to meet the students’ intellectual needs and interests. Because of the intensity of this endeavor, you could not do it without the smallness of our community.” But make no mistake, they say, “It is the most rewarding way to teach and learn.” Following is a sample of language courses recently offered at Bennington. For a full view visit curriculum.bennington.edu.
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CARTOON CULTURE (SPA4112.01) Sarah Harris
What are cartoons? Why study them? What do they have to do with Spanish culture? Students in this course will consider the theoretical and artistic concerns that graphic narratives raise, especially in the interaction between text and image. We will examine the gradual evolution of the so-called historieta from its historical relegation to the realm of the juvenile and lowbrow, to the more recent boom in the academic and critical legitimacy of graphic novels. Our exploration will encompass comic strips, cartoons, and graphic novels from Spain, critical analyses, articles about the art form, as well as films and works of literature inspired by cartoons. Throughout, we will investigate what these media expose about, and how they simultaneously influence, the cultures from which they emerge. The focus of the course will be on student-generated discussion and critical thinking about these media, but continual practice in all four major areas of language (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) will be essential. Students will learn to defend their own ideas in spoken and written language. We will explore grammatical and linguistic questions as they arise naturally in the classroom. Conducted in Spanish. Intermediate–low level.
CHOCOLAT (FRE4223.01) Noëlle Rouxel-Cubberly
Introduced in France after a complex trajectory from the New World, chocolate constituted, when it arrived in Paris, a medical and cultural catalyst for the French seventeenth-century aristocracy and haute-bourgeoisie. In this course, students will explore the economic, historical, social, political, artistic, and cultural legacy of chocolate production and consumption in French-speaking contexts to understand how the “food of the gods” has shaped societies throughout the world. Students will hone their linguistic skills using films, videos, literary excerpts, ads, and articles. Written assignments, oral presentations will help students develop their listening and speaking, reading and writing, as well as their critical thinking skills. Conducted in French. Intermediate–high level.
ITALIAN GENIUS THROUGH THE CENTURIES (ITA2110.01) Barbara Alfano
The course focuses on a few accomplishments of the Italian genius that have had a strong impact on the development of world civilization. Italy as a nation did not exist either when the city of Cremona produced the first violins, or when Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel. There was no Italy as such when Dante was imagining his “Italia,” nor when da Vinci painted La gioconda. The nation had existed only for 20 years when Carlo Collodi set out to write Pinocchio in 1881 —not all Italian children could understand his language. Yet, for centuries the world had had no doubt about who and what was Italian. We will explore the lives and works of figures recognized and acclaimed worldwide, and the Italy(ies) they lived in; particular attention will be given to the Renaissance. The following is only a short list of the personalities with whom we will get acquainted: Dante and Boccaccio (literature), Monteverdi (music), Brunelleschi (architecture), Leonardo da Vinci (arts and sciences), Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Catherine of Siena (religious activism), Saint Thomas Aquinae (philosophy), the Medici family (artistic patronage and the banking system in the Renaissance), Federico Fellini (film), Dario Fo (Nobel for literature), Maria Montessori (pedagogy), Rita Levi-Montalcini (Nobel for medicine).
LIBERALISM AND RELIGION
One of the more ubiquitous problems in formulating thought on Latin America, evident in anything from a page-long critique of a painting to governmental policy, is the premise that liberalism, for all its apparent flaws, has good intentions, and is coupled to the increasing obsolescence of religion, which only serves to divide theory and practice. The development of political, economic, scientific and cultural spheres as distinct to the Catholic Church in nineteenthcentury Latin America was a cornerstone of the secularizing agenda of liberalism, which contributed and continues to contribute to the redefinition of relations between religious institutions, the state, and public life. This course will consider reformist positions towards the Church in Latin American society to draw attention to the processes of negotiation between liberals and the Church, as well as their effects on the public realm. It will incorporate U.S. perspectives to examine the emergence of Masonic and Protestant movements in Latin America in a comparative frame, and the extent to which liberal traditions in the Americas were and are affected by different theologies.
THE MODERN CHINESE FAMILY
All the children of one’s parents’ siblings are all just called cousin in English. However, in Chinese there is a different word for each particular relationship. This stems from how in traditional Chinese Confucian culture each individual’s duties and obligations toward others are dictated by their relationships, with family relationships being the most important. But then in Chinese “everyone” is da jia, literally “big family.” By studying the etymology and morphology of the most basic Chinese characters, students will simultaneously gain insights into traditional Chinese cultural values. This course introduces students to spoken and written Mandarin Chinese, paying particular attention to practical vocabulary and sentence patterns. Students learn the Pinyin (romanized) system of writing and to read and write the most basic Chinese characters. After
they master 200 characters, students are able to create skits and write short essays about their daily lives. By the end of the term they are able to recognize up to 500 Chinese characters.
PARIS ON SCREEN: TRADITION AND MODERNITY (FRE4117.01) Stephen Shapiro
In this course, we will study the representation of the city of Paris on film in order to examine modernity’s challenges to tradition. In particular, we will focus on the question of how urban communities and city dwellers react to increasing disconnectedness, anonymity, and solitude. Films will include Le Fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulain, La Haine, Chacun cherche son chat, Paris, Playtime, and Paris, je t’aime. Class discussions, activities, written assignments, and oral presentations will allow students to improve their linguistic proficiency and analytical skills. Conducted in French. Intermediate–low level.
WHAT IS THE TRUTH? LEARNING WWII WITH HISTORY TEXTBOOKS IN JAPAN
What is the truth in history? Is there one truth? In this course, students learn World War II from the Japanese point of view by reading and examining Japanese history textbooks, novels, essays, and films. Historical events such as the bombings of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima can be perceived differently depending on whether you study them in Japan or in America. In other words, history textbooks in Japan and in America don’t necessarily share the same perspective for the same event. Throughout the course, students will read and discuss the Japanese perspective on World War II to improve their Japanese skills and knowledge as well as to reinforce previous knowledge of Japanese language and culture. As a part of the course, students are required to give a presentation on their understanding of how history can be taught differently at a local high school. Students are also required to revise the Japanese history textbooks based on their understanding of how history should be taught as the final project of the course. B
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THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION
As colleges and universities look to the future of higher education, some seek a more meaningful measure of value by Heather DiLeo
the rise and fall of the credit hour
usiness leaders in the U.S. challenge the usefulness of a college degree, the media reports that high school graduates are opting to move to the city and begin work rather than attend college, entrepreneurial capitalists make significant investments in education, and reformers debate competing visions of higher education’s purpose. The year is 1889. As tempting as it is to view our era as ahistorical, the educational climate of the late 19th century was, in important ways, similar to the one in which we find ourselves. Andrew Carnegie’s recommendation that “future captain[s] of industry” choose the “school of experience,” over a college education is echoed today by the likes of billionaire Facebook investor Peter Thiel, who pays college age “fellows” to drop out of school. 22 • B E N N I N G T O N M A G A Z I N E
PHOTO: BRIEE DELLA ROCCA
Following the Civil War, American colleges and universities responded to changing attitudes regarding society, religion, and learning to pursue aims historian Laurence Veysey describes in his history of the American university as utilitarian (vocational, civic), research focused, or liberal cultural. These competing claims on the core purpose of education remain rivals in various stages of reconciliation. By the government’s reckoning, according to its new College Scorecard, there are today roughly 7,000 institutions of higher learning in the U.S.—from community colleges to liberal arts colleges, from research institutions to for-profits. Their differences in mission and approach are vast, yet the Scorecard invites students and families to use the same, necessarily blunt metrics: graduation rate, student debt load, alumni earnings, and the like. What nearly all of these institutions have in common is an unarguably superficial system of measuring a student’s progress—itself a vestige of Andrew Carnegie’s day. While a few have left it behind, nearly all schools use the credit hour as a proxy for learning. An hour of classroom or “seat” time per week plus two hours of homework, times 15 weeks, equals one credit. Originally conceived at the turn of the 20th century not as a measure of college-level learning but as a means of calculating faculty workload and qualification for pensions, the credit hour proved so convenient a standard that
“ An hour of classroom or ‘seat’ time per week plus two hours of homework, times 15 weeks, equals one credit.” it gradually achieved its present power and presumptive meaning in higher education. Credits are the standard that state and federal governments use to award student grants and school funding; faculty are often compensated per credit hour taught; and families pay tuition and students achieve degrees on this basis. We tend to assume that a third-year student is more advanced than her second-year counterpart. And wonder about the fifth-year student who hasn’t achieved her diploma. Should we? The credit hour is surely as poor a measure of educational value or meaning as the time card, by itself, is a pale W I N T E R 2015–16 • 23
PHOTO: BRIEE DELLA ROCCA
record of work performance. Some institutions are seeking a more meaningful alternative. “Competency- or capacity-based education [CBE],” a growing trend in education, “flips that on its head and says it’s not about how many hours you spend in the classroom. It’s not about how much homework you do. It’s about what you learn. There are ways to demonstrate that learning but how you get there is rather secondary to actually getting there,” says Zeke Bernstein, dean of research, planning, and assessment at Bennington.
Bernstein and educators like him are interested in the potential for colleges and universities to re-emphasize the core purpose of education by re-thinking what they measure. Moving beyond the credit hour is an invitation to recognize learning that happens outside of the classroom and to encourage areas of a student’s development that exceed course content and academics. “Students develop a lot of capacities outside the classroom in their independent work in ways that are very apparent to faculty. They could have an experience over a summer that transforms their motivation, their ability 24 • B E N N I N G T O N M A G A Z I N E
PHOTO: MAX FLATOW
Moving beyond the credit hour is an invitation to recognize learning that happens outside of the classroom.
to work with a team, and so on. You would want that to be reflected in a way that’s much more dimensional than a credit or a grade. You could think about it as a complement to the narrative evaluation—something that provides students with an even more nuanced view of their strengths and weaknesses,” says Bennington President Mariko Silver. In 2013, the Obama administration began to provisionally recognize and allow funding for CBE programs that “organize [course] content according to competencies—what a student knows and can do—rather than using a traditional scheme.” As many as 600 U.S. institutions are currently exploring capacity-based learning for a variety of reasons.
“The motives [for exploring CBE] are sometimes economic or sometimes geared toward trying to accommodate an increasingly diverse student body,” says Michael Rose, American education scholar and professor of Social Research Methodology in the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Organizations such as the New America Foundation argue the injustice of the idea that time in school is necessarily more valuable than time spent working. As Amy Laitinen writes in a policy paper for New America, “While some students earn credits for little more than sitting in class, millions of professionals who have acquired college-level learning on the job have no way to get credit for their learning.” “If we’re looking at a nontraditional student population, there can be real merit for them [in a CBE program]. If you get someone who has been a tool and die maker for 20 years and is coming back into a mid-level technical program, that could make some difference in how long he has to be in school,” says Rose.
PHOTO: MAX FLATOW
Rose is referring to a species of CBE sometimes called direct assessment, whereby students’ prior learning, perhaps through work experience, is assigned college credit, thus shortening their time in the classroom. These and other credentialing initiatives, such as those spearheaded by the Gates and Lumina Foundations, generally see “capacities” through the lens of job training, which has implications far beyond how the term is defined. “In some people’s mouths, ‘capacities’ is another way to say skills. But the idea of skills in the higher ed conversation has become fairly narrow and flat to mean vocational skills,” says President Silver. “The hope is that by talking about capacities we are reopening, in a sense, the idea of what skills are.”
THE BROAD DEFINITION
Quest students spend as much as a semester on experiential learning to understand how collaboration and compromise work in real settings. Van Brummelen believes this allows students to operate more effectively in their work but also in other areas of their lives. These experiences often determine students to change their educational focus. “Imagine the career prospects lost to students who devote their energies, say, to preparing to be a teacher, and then find out too late that it’s not for them.” Students don’t become leaders, Van Brummelen says, by sitting at desks or taking tests but by engaging in collaborative work both in and out of the classroom, by leading groups, presenting, posing questions, and implementing their solutions at some local level. “In other words, [by] learning to do exactly what they’ll need to do to change the world when they graduate.” Mark Somerville, professor of electrical engineering and physics, is a founding faculty member at Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts, a school that seeks to “radically change engineering education and fuel innovation.”
“ Many well-intentioned efforts to quantify the value of higher education run the risk of defining success by what is most easily measured, rather than by what is most meaningful.”
Several institutions address the idea of what skills or capacities are in broader and more interesting ways. It is in these examples that some of the most exciting innovations in higher education today are being tested. Historian of mathematics and former Bennington faculty member Glen Van Brummelen helped to found Quest University, Canada’s first private liberal arts and sciences university, in British Columbia in 2007. Like Bennington, Quest’s inquiry-based approach to learning asks students, a number that has grown from 74 eight years ago to 700 today, to identify a question that directs their learning in their last two years. This and other features of the education such as month-long intensive “block” courses, which students take one at a time, and experiential learning are designed to produce creative graduates who are prepared to innovate. Van Brummelen asserts that developing soft skills like collaboration and communication, acquired both in and out of the classroom, is at least as valuable as mastering course content. “At Quest as at Bennington, we don’t believe that classroom learning is sufficient to prepare students to be much more than professors. It only makes sense that students engage with possible careers as part of their selection of their life paths in college, and it’s baffling that so many universities have thought otherwise.”
His book, A Whole New Engineer, co-written with Professor Emeritus of the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign David Goldberg, chronicles how engineering, once the pioneering and visionary profession that produced the Ferris wheel and electric illumination came, over time, to be narrowly defined by technical expertise and argues for the need for engineers with imagination, intuition, and emotional intelligence as well as technological skill. The capacities required for engineers to transform from technicians and problem solvers to true innovators include a broad array of capacities. Somerville and Goldberg refer to them as “minds”—analytical mind, design mind, and people mind, among others. W I N T E R 2015–16 • 25
“ The hope is that by talking about capacities we are reopening, in a sense, the idea of what skills are.” Teaching the whole person, he explains, is superior to taking a solely cognitive approach to grow engineers’ ability to empathize, to recognize what others’ needs are, and to come up with creative solutions to these problems. Considering the student as a whole person isn’t merely an ethical obligation but a practical one. While we might be tempted to focus on technological skills as among the most valuable today, Somerville reminds us that more and more of these functions are becoming automated. “In the 21st century, the kinds of skills that people actually need to be successful are innately human characteristics, [such as] creativity and innovation. If you want someone to develop as a creative person, one of the things that’s really important is to provide them with the space where they are encouraged to develop as whole people. That is valuable in its own right. But it’s also important because those characteristics are important for students to be leaders, and ultimately to survive in a world where rote learning skills are really no longer as valuable as they once were.” A provocative theme in Somerville’s work is the idea of diminishing returns on expertise as information becomes less expensive and more open sourced. This idea has powerful implications not just for engineers’ educations but for higher education generally. “This does not mean that returns on expertise are zero. There remains the need to do research and to develop knowledge. On the other hand, historically the university has been all about expertise. I would say that the liberal arts college tradition has been the first to break out of that expertise framing a little bit and get more into a developmental framing.”
A VISION FOR THE FUTURE
In truing their curricula to a set of broad learning outcomes, institutions like Quest and Olin have succeeded in opening the aperture of student success within their respective educational categories. Like Bennington and other colleges in the progressive tradition, such explorations provide a proving ground for schools of all kinds looking for new ways forward. In a similarly pioneering spirit, last year Stanford University asked its Hasso Platner Institute of Design—known 26 • B E N N I N G T O N M A G A Z I N E
simply as the d school—to undertake a year-long exploration of what the undergraduate college of the future might look like. Freed of the armature that currently dictates how education is accessed and delivered, the coalition of designers, faculty, and students at the d school proposed a vision for Stanford that embraces four core principles.
• Education is nonlinear, distributed over the course of
an individual’s life so students can study, leave to work, and loop back to Stanford for more. “Paced” learning does away with semesters and allows students to sample areas of interest by means of day- or weeklong courses for 6 to 18 months, before choosing a program and “mov[ing] forward with intention.” Students progress at their own pace and leave when they’re ready to apply their learning in the world. Disciplinary areas are combined and reconceived as information hubs offering skills such as quantitative reasoning and communication graduates capture in a “skill print” rather than a transcript. Majors are replaced with missions, focused on what students are doing rather than what they have mastered.
While only some of this is current reality at Stanford, the ideas are suggestive of how vast the possibilities for curricular reform are. Implicit in all of them is a re-framing of student outcomes, oriented around capacities that serve a life’s work rather than an accumulation of credits. “What institutions measure says a lot about what they value,” says President Silver. “Many well-intentioned efforts to quantify the value of higher education run the risk of defining success by what is most easily measured, rather than by what is most meaningful.” Bennington College is among the institutions currently looking to capture a broader, and arguably more meaningful, set of outcomes when measuring student learning. In one such effort, it has created an employer evaluation rubric to track the capacities students develop during their annual Field Work Terms. “We are very interested in developing ways of acknowledging and tracking learning that’s happening in other contexts—in a club or organization or in the dorms or houses,” says Bernstein. “We know students learn in these contexts but right now we don’t measure it.” And if it’s not measured, there’s no way to assess the competencies they demand, or to assign them a value. “Imagine if in every one of those contexts we were asking the same questions about student learning,” Bernstein continues. “Suddenly, that’s what people would be talking about as they were embarking on their learning—not how many hours they sit in class, but whether they’re developing capacities that will serve them throughout their lifetime.” B
Faculty on textbooks
BE RE TE TBOOK —David Anderegg
W I N T E R 2015–16 • 27
PHOTO: KEEGAN EAD
WORD AND I MAGE LAB: POE MS I NTO P RI N T ( P RI4250.01)
Thorsten Dennerline and Mark Wunderlich
In this hybrid Literature / Visual Arts course, students will experience the full range of the poet’s creative process, from the conception of the poem, to writing it, shaping and editing it, designing its printed material aspects, setting it in type, printing on the letterpresses, and producing the work in a readable, distributable form. The process will be a dialogue between written and visual representation of ideas in which students work in the interstices between language and image. Students will work as writers participating in a peer critique workshop, and as printers and visual artists designing, setting, illustrating and printing their text. We will also study the history of artist’s books and poet-printers such as William Blake and Virginia Woolf, and look at work by contemporary printers, artists, and visual poets. All students will be expected to write and print, participate in workshop discussions and attend to the work of the letterpress lab.
PREREQUISITES: THREE PAGE WRITING SAMPLE OF POETRY OR CREATIVE PROSE, ONE COURSE IN PRINTMAKING, OR PERMISSION OF INSTRUCTORS • CREDITS: 4 • TIME: W 10:10AM - 12:00PM; W 2:10PM - 4:00PM • MAXIMUM ENROLLMENT: 14
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A survey of the Bennington curriculum
Visit tinyurl.com/wordsandimageslab for a look inside the making of Word and Image Lab and the classes that come from it.
W I N T E R 2015â€“16 â€˘ 29
PHOTO: ABBY MAHLER ’16
OPERA S TAG I N G T H E I M P O S S I B L E
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ichiel Considine ’13 showed up for the first session of Kitty Brazelton’s course Whose Opera? in spring 2013 thinking he was just there to be a writer. Instead, he ended up having to stand up in front of the class and sing—as did everyone else, one by one. Brazelton, who has taught the course four times now at Bennington, was asking the students in her class to write, compose, and perform an opera in a single academic term. And to do it among themselves—as an intense, large-scale collaboration driven by their own skills and artistic vision. The students would be pushed to work outside of their comfort zones given that the class was made up of literature, theater, and music students—and that most had not had experience with operas or musicals before. “Kitty needed to figure out what we had to work with to make this show happen,” Considine explains. “You played clarinet in 6th grade? Great—anyone have a clarinet? Okay! You’re now playing the clarinet. You have duct tape? Great—we’ll need duct tape when we build the sets.” Considine, whose singing and composing up to that point had revolved mainly around the “shouty indie rock band” he had been involved in, ended up being called upon as an actor, a singer, a composer, and a librettist by the time the show was staged. “It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life,” says Matthew Kirby ’17, a playwriting student who took the course in spring 2015. “It was so hard to wrap your head around: we wrote an opera and we performed it. To write,
In a company, in a class—a look at faculty member Kitty Brazelton’s course Whose Opera? by Aruna D’Souza
instrumentalize, practice, perform, light, do costumes— basically putting up a production in that amount of time is close to impossible. But Kitty has a way of inspiring you to work harder than you ever thought was possible, and to support you in doing it.” Brazelton is aware she’s asking her students to work beyond their capabilities; that’s purposeful. “There’s always a point in the term where they look at me and say: ‘If you think we can pull this off, PHOTO: ABBY MAHLER you’re crazy!’ But you know what? They always pull it off.” The unusual structure of the course was inspired by Brazelton’s experience in a composer-libretti studio run by Ben Krywosz in 1992: four singers, four composers, and four librettists were given a single day to write an opera. “In a sense, I took this idea from the professional world and pulled it into the academic world. The course is structured very much like you end up working when you leave Bennington—working with the resources, talents, and capacities you have among your ensemble, doing every job at once.” For a lot of the students who have taken the course, whether or not they intend to ever write another opera, that was a crucial lesson. “You don’t always get the performers you want,” explains Singer Morra ’16, who came to Bennington to study playwriting and now focuses on voice and philosophy. “A lot of my life as a musician I’ve been waiting for the perfect musical partner, and you don’t always get that. I’m very precise about the music I write; it’s difficult. W I N T E R 2015–16 • 31
BRAZELTON SAYS THAT THE HARDEST PART OF THE COURSE IS GETTING THE STUDENTS TO REALIZE THAT THEY’RE NOT IN A CLASS SO MUCH AS THEY’RE IN A COMPANY. Singers can’t always sing what you imagine when you’re writing it, but you have to be willing to let go of things and let them breathe. You have to know how to work with the instruments you have and with the sounds that you get.” Considine agrees, and adds that the collaborative nature of the work allowed him to grow artistically. “There’s only so many ideas and rhythms that I can get into musically, and they can get really stale. It’s refreshing to bring in a friend who has a different background. Collaborating can create more complex and richer music— you can put those ideas in the pot in really successful ways.” If that meant, as for one composer, creating a musical piece using only a piano, bass, and vibraphone—the instrumentalists on offer—that is what would happen. For many of the students who have taken the class, realizing that the process of putting together the show was as important as, or even more important than the final product was a revelation, says Considine. And as Alex Díaz ’13 points out, that process is entirely dependent on the “structured chaos” that Brazelton creates. Díaz, who took part as a non-credit student in Whose Opera? in his senior year production—lured in 32 • B E N N I N G T O N M A G A Z I N E
by Brazelton, who needed additional singers—and then returned as an alum last spring as an assistant to Brazelton, found her work with the students inspiring. “It was fascinating to watch Kitty work with students who had never produced on this scale before, and who all came in at different levels. She has an ability to home in on each student individually, and she straddles a line between being a nurturing but relatively hands-off presence and then giving students wake-up calls about the reality of putting on a production.” Brazelton says that the hardest part of the course is getting the students to realize that they’re not in a class so much as they’re in a company—that she isn’t playing the traditional role of teacher and that they’re completely dependent on and responsible to each other. As to how she sees her contribution in all of this, she laughs: “Well, most of my life I’ve been a bandleader. And the thing about being a bandleader is that you’re only ever bandleader by default, and you’d better remember that.” B PHOTO: ABBY MAHLER
Faculty on textbooks
W I N T E R 2015–16 • 33
Project-based classes that respond to the world. A look at Space and Embassies by Aruna D’ Souza
TRUE NORTH designing for oslo, norway
PHOTO: KEEGAN EAD
tarting in fall 2015, a group of Bennington students led by faculty members Jon Isherwood and Susan Sgorbati have been working on this question: How can art function as a form of diplomacy? They had signed up for a class—“Art in the Public Realm”—that was conceived as a partnership between the College and the U.S. State Department’s Art in Embassies program. Established in 1963 by John F. Kennedy, the program commissions and displays artwork at U.S. embassies worldwide as a form of cultural outreach. The goal of the class would be to develop a site-specific, commissioned work of art for American Embassy outpost in Oslo, Norway. 34 • B E N N I N G T O N M A G A Z I N E
It emerged from a conversation between Isherwood and Sarah Tanguy, the curator in charge of the Oslo project. In the wake of that encounter, Isherwood approached Susan Sgorbati, an expert in conflict resolution and director of CAPA, and Provost and Dean of the College Isabel Roche to think about how students might participate meaningfully in the process of realizing the commission. For Sgorbati, who has collaborated with Isherwood on more than one occasion in the past, there was an obvious fit between the Oslo project and her work in the realm of public action. “It seemed like a perfect way to connect artistic practice with social practice,” she says. At the same time, the two had to think hard about what a collaboration with students—especially that which
took the form of a 14-week class—might look like. “Jon knows his own process for making an artwork,” notes Sgorbati, “but involving me and the class and doing it for a U.S. embassy—that was an unknown.” One of the most important roles the students could play, they decided, was that of researchers. Isherwood— whose own ambivalence toward public art projects is rooted in the fact that the art produced often only has a superficial engagement with its site—was insistent that this research precede the design phase. He wanted the students’ analysis to inform the work, not just explain it in retrospect. Students delved into the history of site-specific art created for public spaces and the considerations that go into its form—such as landscape, geology, and ecology— and thought about the implications of creating an artwork for the unique cultural form of an embassy. There were also myriad issues to consider related to the artwork’s specific location in Oslo: the politics of the Arctic region, climate change and other environmental and conservation issues, Norway’s role in the world as a mediator of global conflict (as with the Oslo Accords), oil and gas development and its relation to the Norwegian and U.S. economies, the design of the embassy itself, the landscape design that would surround it, and its relationship to its urban neighborhood.
“While many individual artists over the years have been invited to create embassy artwork, Bennington is only the third college in the country whose students have been invited to contribute.” Adding to the complexity of the project was the fact that the sculpture would not be created to complement an already-existing building. Rather, the new embassy would be designed and completed at the same time, creating unknown and unfolding contingencies to which the class would have to respond. Above all, the group thought long and hard about the sculpture’s opportunity to form communication between the U.S. and Norway. How could the sculpture mediate a conversation not only between the embassy and the people who might see it when they visit the building to get visas or attend conferences and events, but also between countries of the Arctic? To assist the students in grappling with these issues, a series of visitors—representatives from the U.S. State Department, architects, public artists, and curators— came to campus to sit down with the them.
While many individual artists over the years have been invited to create embassy artwork, Bennington is only the third college in the country—alongside Rhode Island School of Design and San Francisco Art Institute—whose students have been invited to contribute, and is the only one of the three that is not a dedicated art college. In a presentation to the class last spring, Tanguy cited the interdisciplinary nature of the Bennington curriculum and the broad scope both of courses taught here and of student interests as features that made the College an especially exciting partner for collaboration. The fact that the members of “Art in the Public Realm” came from such varied disciplines—art and architecture, but also political science, anthropology, CAPA, environmental studies, and literature—was indeed invaluable, says Isherwood. “In the public art projects I’ve worked on indepenW I N T E R 2015–16 • 35
Future Arctic Shipping Routes (based on 2059 melt projection) Current Arctic Shipping Routes
ctic Shipping Routes
MIA BNA MSY IAH LAX MCO
MHQ HEL RVN
CVG ORD BDL
Arctic Ice Extents (current level + projected 2059 level)
PDX PWM Sami Council
Athabaskan council Inuit circumpolar council
Representational Bodies of the Arctic Peoples
Greenland - Fireweed Chamerion Latifolium
YVR YCD YLW YYC YWG
Canada - Purple Saxifrage Saxifraga Oppositifolia
YUL YHZ YHM
Iceland - Mountain Avens Dryas Octopetala
Norway - Purple Heather Calluna Vulgaris
KUS FAE BLL
Finland - Lily of the Valley Convallaria Majalis
UNITED STATES CANADA ICELAND DENMARK* NORWAY SWEDEN FINLAND RUSSIA
Flight Paths Connecting Arctic Council Countries
*GREENLAND & THE FAROE ISLANDS ARE REPRESETED BY THE KINGDOM OF DENMARK
Sweden - Twinﬂower Linnaea Borealis
USA - Rose Rosa
National Flowers of the Arctic Council
Russia - Camomile Matricaria Recutita
National Flowers of the Arctic Council
dently I’ve had to do the research and come up with the narrative, and frankly I’ve never quite felt truly equipped to do that on my own. “Here, students came from a range of interests, knowing the research methods of their disciplines and
Mitra Haque ’17, Timna Jahoda Kligler ’16, Sarah Shames ’17, and 3-D printing specialist Michael Stradley, Isherwood and Sgorbati—traveled to Washington, DC to present their design for a large-scale outdoor sculpture, surrounding plantings, and a selection of visual complexity graphics that will become part of the sculpture’s display. The design ended up focused on issues specific to the Arctic, and the final sculpture will highlight the linkages and issues not only between the U.S. and Norway but also the other six Arctic Council nations (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Russia, and Sweden). A visual complexity graphic created by Shames mapping the travel patterns over the Arctic informed the final design for the sculpture, physical models of which were generated using 3-D printing technology. A surrounding planting will include perennial flowers representative of each of the Arctic Council countries. The single term—even two—is hardly enough time to realize a public artwork: research, design, multi-stage approval process, fabrication, and eventual installation can take up to two or three years, and even making the sculpture itself can take upward of a calendar year. But Isherwood and Sgorbati see that as an important experience for students. “We have to connect our academic schedule with the time frames of people and organizations out in the world if we’re engaging in the world,” says Sgorbati. “Some students will be there for one or two terms, and others will continue with the work during summer and during their Field Work Terms, and a few will be on board from beginning to end. That’s pretty typical for every long-term collaboration I’ve been involved with—people move in and out of the project over the course of its development.”
“We have to connect our academic schedule with the time frames of people and organizations out in the world if we’re engaging in the world.” having developed an expertise. Having nine research people in the room along with me has been helpful—it’s allowed for a greater depth and level of engagement for the project.” At the end of the fall 2015 term, students presented their research to members of the Art in Embassies program. The ideas were winnowed down to a set of essential concerns, which were then further explored in the second phase of the course in spring 2015. In the interim, three of the students traveled to Norway to do onsite research during their Field Work Terms. In April 2015, the team—consisting of students Hannah Brookman ’16, Emily Coning ’16, Onur Fidangul ’17, 36 • B E N N I N G T O N M A G A Z I N E
The result, says Isherwood, is a lesson in the primacy of process over product. President Mariko Silver recognizes just what it means to throw oneself into such a process. “Knowing the often competing and always complex stakes involved in any form of international negotiation, what Jon, Susan, and the students have achieved here is extraordinary,” she says. “‘Art in the Public Realm’ is a great example of what we do so well at Bennington: finding ways to think big, to collaborate with each other and with our communities (including, in this case, on a global scale), and to use the tools we learn in a broad range of disciplines to fuel creativity and solve problems.” B
SAVE THE DATE
Check your email for your invitation; visit bennington.edu/alumni and the Bennington Alumni Facebook page for more details and additional programming.
LA | JANUARY 24 ALUMNI, STUDENTS & PARENTS EVENT at Lizland—An Alumni Cooperative event NYC | FEBRUARY 8 WINTER WARM UP: A Showcase of Bennington Art in Action • 7pm, The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street BENNINGTON | FEBRUARY 25 Anna Rogovoy ’13 and collaborators present new work—A VAPA 40th Anniversary event • 7pm, Martha Hill Dance Studio NYC | MARCH 4 1970s ALUMNI EVENT BOSTON | MARCH ARTISTS’ TALK—A VAPA 40th Anniversary + Alumni Cooperative event • DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum LA | MARCH BENNINGTON REVIEW LAUNCH @ AWP PORTLAND, OR | MARCH ALUMNI COOPERATIVE LAUNCH MEETING SEATTLE | MARCH ALUMNI COOPERATIVE LAUNCH MEETING NYC | APRIL LITERARY BENNINGTON EVENT NYC | SPRING COMMONS PROJECT UPDATE —An Alumni Cooperative event BAY AREA | SUMMER VAPA 40TH ANNIVERSARY + Alumni Cooperative event BENNINGTON | JUNE 15–19 ALUMNIWORKS LA | SUMMER VAPA 40TH ANNIVERSARY + Alumni Cooperative event BENNINGTON | SEPTEMBER 23–25 REUNION
ALUMNI COOPERATIVE CO - CHAIRS The Alumni Cooperative is expanding! Stay tuned for more details and an invitation to the launch meetings in the spring.
PORTLAND, OR CO - CHAIRS RACHEL HUNTER ’08 JESSICA PHILLIPS JOHNSON ’99 SEAT TLE, WA CO - CHAIRS KATE AICHELE - SAMARDICK ’88 SCOTT MILLIMAN ’14 WASHINGTON, DC CO - CHAIRS MARY EARLY ’97 EISSA SAEED ’12
W I N T E R 2015–16 • 37
NEW INITIATIVES Bennington’s inaugural Museum Fellows Term by Briee Della Rocca
PHOTO COURTESY OF LIZ WHITE
the museum fellows term
WHOLE NEW VIEW
atima Zaidi ’16 thinks about culture a lot. She thinks about collective memory, community education, and how art is communicated inside the creative community and outside of it. She thinks about all of this in English because it is the only language she speaks despite growing up in Pakistan. Before coming to the U.S. it was the kind of thing that she never questioned. As a product of a post-colonialist culture, she saw it in terms of one language being better than the other, a framework that prevailed beyond the languages she spoke and did not speak but also the history and culture she learned and did not learn. “I could tell you a lot about Shakespeare and Jane Austen but almost nothing about Pakistani poets and Pakistani artists. If I wanted to know more about big artists or processes in my country, I’d have to find people who knew about these things and try to talk to them.” But in the U.S., she noticed, “You don’t need to have an art history degree to know who Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol are; they are in the cultural vocabulary. That history is important, but it is a cultural and social history that is not mine.” President Silver hoped to encourage faculty members and administrators to develop a program that would enable students to understand that culture is not only received, but also actively produced. “I want our students to graduate with a very clear understanding that we actually make culture, and that institutions play a role in that. When institutions decide what art to fund and display, for example, they are making decisions about the culture we 38 • B E N N I N G T O N M A G A Z I N E
all share. I want our students to understand the processes behind those decisions.” With a driving interest in supporting the study of art and cultural production not only as a form of individual expression but as work that participates in larger social structures, faculty members Yoko Inoue, Robert Ransick, Andy Spence, Liz White and visiting faculty member Carol Stakenas designed the Museum Fellows Term. The pilot program, which launched last spring with generous support from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, invited students to explore such questions as: how does art live in the world? what belongs in institutions? how are institutions curating trends and tastes? what are the roles of the creative practitioner and the larger community? The program embeds students in cultural institutions in New York City, where they work, study, and pair up with artist mentors during their winter and spring terms. For the pilot, the Bronx Museum of the Arts served as the students’ home base, under the leadership of executive director Holly Block ’80. “The Museum Fellows Term is designed to enhance students’ ability to observe and understand the complexity of systems in which art is situated,” Provost and Dean of the College Isabel Roche explained. “To do that we put students in direct contact with the locations where art and culture are most visible—where they are developing multiple perspectives on the art world from working within it, to reading about it, to taking it in as viewers in their own right and synthesizing what they’re finding.”
For five months the fellows spend three days a week working in key roles at cultural institutions, meet individually with working artist mentors, visit museums and galleries throughout the city, and meet regularly with faculty supervisor Liz White to discuss readings and experiences. Over the 14 weeks of the spring term fellows also participate in two academic courses that use the city as a classroom and introduce students to a broad range of institutional contexts and arts professionals. “And they read a lot,” White emphasizes. “I put together a list of books exploring art and its contexts from multiple perspectives. Last year each fellow read approximately 10 books and was responsible for presenting their chosen texts to the rest of the fellows when we met.” This year the program has expanded its cultural partnerships to include the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of the Moving Image, and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. The partner institutions are selected with their missions as their first priority. The Bronx
that is what I want to do: I want to make a space like this for the youth of Karachi. I want them to know the great artists in our country. I want them to know our history— not the patriotic history that is scrubbed clean and fake, or westernized history and culture—the real history, the real culture. I have become much more interested in creating a contemporary space where there are more questions than answers.” That’s what happened to all of the fellows, each in her own way. All came to their studies with a different lenses; each left the term with a new, more complicated view of her own work and the work that creates culture. “I had one of the fellows come up to me when she got back to campus this fall to tell me that she can’t look at art the same way ever again. She told me that when she used to look at works on slides, it was just something she was studying. But now when she sees reproductions of a work she imagines its size and texture, and visualizes it in relationship to other work and to particular spaces and
“ We put students in direct contact with the locations where art and culture are most visible—where they are developing multiple perspectives on the art world from working within it, to reading about it, to taking it in as viewers in their own right and synthesizing what they’re finding.” Museum, for example, was an ideal fit for Zaidi. Given its sharp focus on connecting diverse audiences to the urban experience, she got to see firsthand and from nearly every vantage—as an administrator, artist, viewer, and art history student—how the museum manages to reflect the borough’s dynamic communities through its collections and special programs. It was in the center of these new perspectives, in this new culture, that Zaidi’s ambitions broadened. One of the exhibitions the fellows assisted with was Three Photographers from the Bronx: Jules Aarons, Morton Broffman, and Joe Conzo. “I would see all these parents coming in with their children and learning together about their own history or reconnecting with it through the art. They were seeing their past come to life. They were seeing their immigration story in the art, and their life in the art, and it was changing them,” Zaidi explains. “It wasn’t until I did the Museum Term that I realized
communities. She has a different relationship with the work after encountering it physically.” And, White adds, “That is something you can only learn by being in it—in the museums, in the work, in the deep and intense study of art in all its contexts.” While the program is still experimenting with size and partnerships—adjusting each of its core elements in response to robust student, faculty, and site feedback, they are certain that embedding students in New York City cultural institutions will remain core to the program. “At Bennington students are afforded generous space,” White says. “Here they have room and the right tools and facilities to be generating work. But the Museum Fellows Term serves to complement this by opening opportunities to study and contextualize their work in a way you cannot get by being at Bennington alone. We think this will give students a richer experience of art altogether, and we are already seeing that happen.” B W I N T E R 2015–16 • 39
ONLINE CLASS CLASS NOTES
A new alumni online class diving into Bennington's deep literary history
FEBRUARY 17–APRIL 6, 2016
LITERARY BENNINGTON TO REGISTER AND FOR MORE DETAILS ON THE CLASS, VISIT LITERARYBENNINGTON. BENNINGTON.EDU
LITERARY BENNINGTON IS A COURSE DEVOTED to exploring the lineage of literary greats since the College was first founded in 1932. We’ll read widely in the Bennington canon through the decades, rummage in the College archives for forgotten literary lore, and read through the student-run blog, “Literary Bennington,” which features author interviews, short pieces of journalism, and reviews of literary events on campus. The class will read works by Bernard Malamud, Shirley Jackson, poet Mary Ruefle ’74,The Secret History by Donna Tartt ’86 and The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai ’93. The course will culminate in an event in New York City in late April featuring a conversation with a Bennington author.
OR CALL THE OFFICE OF ALUMNI RELATIONS AT 802-440-4363.
TIME COMMITMENT This course is designed to be flexible. It will pair weekly reading assignments in the major texts with optional supplementary readings in the Bennington canon. We will also make use of online discussion threads and other resources for discussion and debate.
MATERIALS A full list of reading materials will be provided shortly before the course begins. Books will need to be purchased or borrowed. TECHNICAL NEEDS Access to the Internet COST $100, plus the cost of books. Travel to New York City and accommodations for the event in April are not included. The course is led by Benjamin Anastas, a member of the faculty since 2012 and also a member of the core faculty of Bennington’s MFA in Writing program. He is the author of the novels An Underachiever’s Diary and The Faithful Narrative of a Pastor’s Disappearance; his memoir Too Good to Be True was published in 2012. His short fiction, essays and reviews have appeared in The Paris Review, Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, Bookforum, The New Republic, and The Best American Essays 2012. B
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PHOTO: BENNINGTON COLLEGE ARCHIVES
JUNE 15–19, 2016
Come back to campus for this back-to-school pilot program
REDISCOVER REKINDLE REUNITE This long weekend isn’t a break from your life; it’s a unique immersive experience designed to revisit, or reimagine, your passions. Come back to the Bennington you dream about. Return to the campus, the classrooms, the studios, the houses, the conversations…your work. The newly imagined AlumniWorks, a pilot program offering all Bennington alumni classes and studio time, is scheduled for June 15-19, 2016. Connect with friends old and new, choose to stay four nights in the Colonial houses, and tack a napkin note in Commons after meals. The four-day intensive will culminate in performances, readings, and exhibitions of your collaborative work. Disciplines offered will depend on registrations and interest, but may include visual arts (sculpture, ceramics, photography, digital arts); drama; music; dance; and literature/writing. The College distributed invitations to all alumni in January containing pricing, housing, meals, and course information, as well as instructions for discounted early registration. Please email AlumniWorks@ bennington.edu or call 802-440-4637 to learn more or register via phone. B
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE, PLEASE EMAIL ALUMNIWORKS @ BENNINGTON.EDU OR CALL 802-440-4637. W I N T E R 2015–16 • 41
A brief review of the work and achievements of Bennington’s faculty members
Brooke Allen published a review of In Another Country by David Constantine in The New York Times. Benjamin Anastas published a review of Clarice Lispector’s The Complete Stories in New Republic. David Anderegg was quoted in The Boston Globe for an article on parenting, freedom, and why “parents are anxious about being too anxious.” David Bond co-authored an article, “Ontological anthropology and the deferral of critique,” that was recently listed as the 10th most downloaded article in anthropology, according to Anthrosource by the American Anthropological Association. Noah Coburn’s collaboration with artist Gregory Thielker to create a collage of present-day Afghanistan, (Un)governed Spaces, was exhibited at Gettysburg College this fall. It was shown at Bennington last fall. Noah also has a book, Losing Afghanistan: An Obituary for the Intervention, coming out in January. Ron Cohen was invited to participate in a multidisciplinary expert meeting on Addressing Historical Responsibility and Future-Oriented Climate Change held in The Hague in September. The meeting was jointly sponsored by The Hague Institute for Global Justice and Climate Strategies. It welcomed experts from climate change, social psychology, and transitional justice fields to exchange ideas on ways in which the tensions about historical responsibility could be productively resolved. Thorsten Dennerline had a table at the Editions / Artists’ Book Fair in New York in November.
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Liz Deschenes gave a talk at the New Museum in New York, NY, in relation to the museum’s exhibition, Sarah Charlesworth: Doubleworld. Marguerite Feitlowitz was in Buenos Aires for the October 2015 publication launch of Un lexico del terror. Co-sponsored by Argentine PEN, Ed. Prometeo/ Untref, and the Universidad Tres de Febrero, speakers at this event were leading human rights and cultural figures (ex-desaparecida Ana Maria Careaga, who founded Espacio Memoria; former political prisoner Eduardo Jozami, director of the Haroldo Conti Centro Cultural; journalist Robert Cox; and historian Daniel Feirstein). She was a distinguished visitor at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, and gave extended interviews to two major dailies (with journalists Andrew Graham-Yoohl, Anglo-Argentine co-founder of Index on Censorship, and Dolores Curia of Pagina 12). Reviews are appearing in print and digital media, as well as on radio. In late October, she chaired a panel at the American Literary Translators Conference in Tucson on the uses of history in contemporary Latin American fiction and spoke on a second panel about translating for the theatre. Her translation of a story by Luisa Valenzuela was commissioned for the fall 2015 issue of The Sonora Review; another of her Valenzuela translations was chosen for the Gobshite Anthology. Her translation of a story by Griselda Gambaro was selected for the forthcoming anthology from Paragraphiti, where it originally appeared. Michael Giannitti’s lighting design projects in 2015 have included Jumpers for Goalposts at the Studio Theatre in Washington, DC; Intimate Apparel, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily, Outside Mullingar, and I Hate Hamlet at the Dorset Theatre Festival; and Equivocation at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.
Jonathan Kline jointly curated an exhibition, People/Place: American Social Landscape Photography, 1950–1980, with current students and Bennington Museum curator Jamie Franklin. Yoko Inoue was featured in The Japan Times for her project, Rice Paper (Kome Kami), which is a mounted bilingual newspaper. With her art, Inoue aims to bring attention to the trade agreement currently on the table among 12 Pacific Rim nations, hoping it will spark a larger conversation about current events. Artwork by Jon Isherwood and Mary Lum was featured in an exhibitition at the deCordova Museum. The exhibition, entitled The Sculptor’s Eye: Prints, Drawings, and Photographs from the Collection aims to draw connections between two- and threedimensional art by showcasing drawings and photography by artists who are primarily sculptors. Kirk Jackson directed Rigoletto for Hubbard Hall Opera Theatre, in Cambridge, NY. Also, the one-woman show Alison Larkin: Live, at the Mahaiwe Theater in Great Barrington, MA, a benefit for Berkshire Montessori School. He played Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily at Dorset Theatre Festival, performing with fellow faculty Jenny Rohn as well as their respective husbands. The cast also included current students Andrew Elk ’16 and Asa Learmonth ’17. Also at Dorset, Jackson directed The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, working with recent alumni Krista Thorp ’15, Parke Haskell ’15, Nick
DiLeonardi ’15, Evangeline Neuhart ’15, Sean-Patrick O’Brien ’14, Andrew Duff ’12, and Cody Sullivan ’13. Also with Jenny Rohn, he revived The Road to Paradise, a dance/theatre piece created by Carson Efird ’05 for the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival 10 years ago. The updated version, which Carson remounted with Bahar Baharloo ’14, Rory Cullen ’15, Emma Welch ’17, Chloe Engel ’17, Asa Learmonth ’17, Charles Pisano ’18, and Sam Levit ’18, performed at the 10th anniversary festival in Provincetown in September. Sherry Kramer was interviewed by Blouin Artinfo about Donald Trump as a performance artist, touching upon what makes him popular, recognizable, and entertaining. On the subject she had this to say: “He appeals to people the way theater does, as an artificial construct.” Andrew McIntyre is participating in the workshop Moduli Spaces, Integrable Systems, and Topological Recursions at the Centre de Recherches Mathématiques in Montréal, Canada, January 9–13, 2016. This fall, Aysha Peltz had ceramic work in shows including Un-Wedged in Seattle, WA, Clay National X- Ceramic Color in Carbondale, CO and the 5th Annual Workhouse Clay National in Lorton, VA. In the summer, Sue Rees created props for Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s productions of The Arabian Nights, written by Mary Zimmerman and directed by Lilieana Blain Cruz, and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, directed by Davis McCallum. Rees’ animation The Alphabetical Adventures of Zelda Zingaro, which starred Anya Edwards and Sherry Kramer from a script by Len Jenkin, was shown at a number of festivals including the Coney Island Film Festival, NY in September.
Jean Randich co-founded a new theater company, Collider Theater, and directed its inaugural production, Love, Sex and Death in the Amazon, by Robert Murphy. Sue Rees produced videos and animations, which were projected for the production. Charles Schoonmaker did costume design, and Max Wolkowitz ’09, Emily Grayson ’15, and Yael Rose ’15 were also engaged in this collaboration. The production was lauded as “a treasure for the mind, body and spirit” in reviews. Mariko Silver published an opinion piece in The Hechinger Report about the role of educators in cultivating dissatisfaction in their students. She was also recently profiled in Vermont Business Magazine. Rotimi Suberu participated in a panel at the Brookings Institute to discuss Nigeria’s recent, historic free elections that brought to power President Muhammadu Buhari. He joined Grant Harris, special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs on the National Security Council and three former U.S. ambassadors to Nigeria.
MASTER OF FINE ARTS IN WRITING April Bernard’s new collection of poems, Brawl & Jag, will be coming out from W.W. Norton in spring 2016. Susan Cheever’s book Drinking in America, a look at American history through the lens of drinking and how it has affected us, came out in October. Begin-
ning with the Pilgrims, who landed on Cape Cod because they were running out of beer, through President Nixon who was often impaired after a few glasses of wine, drinking has had a huge effect on the trajectory of our country. Bret Anthony Johnston’s current novel, Remember Me Like This, is an international best-seller and just won the McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns Prize. Dinah Lenney’s new anthology, Brief Encounters, was published in November by W. W. Norton & Company. Askold Melnyczuk has an essay in Extraordinary Rendition: American Writers on Palestine, edited by Ru Freeman, and a column published earlier in The Boston Globe has been translated into Ukrainian for publication in the web journal Historians. In December, Arrowsmith Press will release its 18th publication: Magpiety: New and Selected Poems by Melissa Green, which will launch with a reading at the Blacksmith House. Following recent essays in The L. A. Review of Books and The Virginia Quarterly Review, Peter Trachtenberg has published an essay on Lou Reed’s voice in Guernica online. In May 2016, he’ll complete a residency at the Corporation of Yaddo. He’s currently working on a novel called On Ruin, which explores events surrounding the 1884 bankruptcy and subsequent death of Ulysses S. Grant. He read a portion of it at the summer 2015 residency. B
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Harriet Swift Holdsworth ’46 came back to campus in October for an impromptu visit. She recalled dancing in Deane Carriage Barn, class with W.H. Auden, and falling asleep behind the chair in Erich Fromm’s class.
The Huffington Post published a feature article on a film created by Sandra Hochman ’57. Made in 1974, this documentary explores the effects of the feminist movement on the 1972 Democratic National Convention. Hochman’s film is heralded as “a gift to modern-day feminists.”
Stanley Berke ’60 returned to Bennington to see son Jacob Berke ’19 for Family Weekend in September. He writes that after a long dance career he has happily decided to retire and pursue publishing poetry. Ruth Ann Fredenthal ’60 has four paintings on display in the current Panza Collection
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SEPTEM Exhibition of 120 works selected from all three Panza di Biumo Collections, on view at the National Gallery of Umbria, Civic Museum of the Palace of Penna in Perugia, Italy, until January 10, 2016.
Gallery owners and husband-and-wife team Rebecca Hardwick-Cross MacKenzie ’78 and Max MacKenzie ’76 recently exhibited the work of painter Carole Bolsey ’69, Carole Bolsey: New Painting/New Waterfields at their gallery Cross MacKenzie Gallery in Washington DC. Joan Emerson DaCosta ’72 writes, “Moved to Albuquerque, NM, this year. Love seeing the Sandia Mountains each dawn. An enchanted state, a wonderful city.” Beth Phillips ’73 was awarded a Ph.D. in English with a specialty in theatre history, from National University of Ireland, Galway, in March 2012. She is currently working on the first comprehensive biography of Jewish American playwright Clifford Odets, for Random House Doubleday Knopf. An attorney in New York and New Jersey since 1988, Christine Contreras Burgess ’75 was recently appointed the Municipal Court Judge for Union County, NJ. She holds a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Columbia University. On the subject of “engaged citizenship” at Bennington, she writes, “I am very heartened that the College identified social activism as a priority and founded the Center for the Advancement of Public Action [CAPA]. ” Susan Goody ’75 runs Thistle Hill Weavers and Thistle Hill Farm and is looking for an intern.
Haas’s Cincinnati mural Cincinnatus last summer. Melvin states, “Haas was our etching teacher at Bennington in 1972 and it has been a wonderful collaboration all these years.” Nancy Halverson Melvin ’76 started a collaborative store with 10 other artisans in Chicago called Union Handmade. She’s making organic cotton nightgowns, and plantdyed silk scarves and dresses. “I am alive and well and living at the Double Rainbow Ranch in Boulder, CO with wife Kerry,” Paul Temple ’78 reports, “The three girls have flown the nest. I am partially retired after 20 years in the music business doing artist management and booking, concert and tour production, as well as contract and royalty management for a record label. My main clients are the international musicians Deva Premal and Miten, for whom I still handle North American management. I also perform my own music. The current project, called RadianceMatrix, includes Tibetan bowls, flutes and Sanskrit mantras: www.RadianceMatrix.com.”
Thomas Melvin ’75 Roshan Houshmand restored former faculty ’82 exhibited her sitemember Richard specific painting,
SAVETHEDATE MBER 23-25, 2016 ALUMNI REUNION & VAPA’S 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
PHOTO: BRIEE DELLA ROCCA
Thus I Have Heard, at Italia Docet | Laboratorium, a Collateral Event at the 56th International Art Exhibition-La Biennale di Venezia this past October. Her painting LOTUS was included in Christies’ Annual Benefit Auction for Tibet in New York in December. In the 2014–15 season, Edie Hill’s ’85 music was performed from the Tapestry International Celebration of Women’s Choirs in Vancouver to Lincoln Center, to The Netherlands where her Cancion de el alma had its European premiere tour with Nederlands Kamerkoor under the direction of Daniel Reuss. She has just completed her 10th year as Composer-inResidence at The Schubert Club running the Composer Mentorship Program. John (“Ben”) Schenck ’86 and his band, Panorama Jazz Band, celebrated 20 years in business in New Orleans this past November.
Ned Baldwin ’94 writes, “After graduating from Yale in 2000 with an MFA in fine art, I proceeded to squander same while working in various restaurants around New York City. Turns out I like working in restaurants as much as I like eating in them so last January I signed a 10-year lease on a spot in lower Manhattan.” Ned’s restaurant, Houseman, received two stars by Pete Wells of The New York Times three months after opening. With wife Jordana Baldwin ’93, the two reside in New York raising their children Hazel and Irving.
2016 REUNION SEPTEMBER 23–25
W I N T E R 2015–16 • 45
HEADLINERS CLASS NOTES
Highlights from Bennington’s media clips
Alumna Shira Piven ’83 was one of many notable women who spoke with Maureen Dowd for her cover story for The New York Times Magazine about the pervasive sexism in Hollywood. MFAw associate director Megan Mayhew Bergman MFA ’10 published an essay in The Wall Street Journal about her experience in northern Kenya as a guest researcher with The BOMA Project. Jessica Jones, a Netflix series about a new Marvel hero and the creation of Melissa Rosenberg ’86, is getting broad national coverage including in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, Jezebel, and a feature in The Atlantic. The LA Times interviewed Melissa. USA Today highlighted the best must-read books written by college-age authors. Two of the 10 were written by Bennington alumni: Bret Easton Ellis ’86 and Donna Tartt ’86. J. Mae Barizo MFA ’13 was featured in The New York Times in an article titled, “The Changing Face of J. Mae Barizo’s Kitchen.” The Los Angeles Times recently spoke with Mike Rugnetta ’06 about the Idea Channel, his eclectic YouTube channel that operates under the aegis of PBS Digital. Justin Theroux ’93 spoke with Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air about his starring role in the HBO series, The Leftovers. Citing Field Work Term, Forbes magazine recently ranked Bennington as the fourth most most entrepreneurial college in the nation. Lucky Alan and Other Stories, the latest collection from Jonathan Lethem ’86, has been reviewed widely and warmly since its publication in February. The New York Times calls him “the king of sentences,” while the Guardian says the best stories offer a daring and affecting connection to the real. The New Yorker profiled the artist Elise Engler MFA ’86 in their June 8 issue, highlighting the completion of her year-long project of drawing every one of Broadway’s 250-odd blocks in New York City. B
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“After 16 delightful years at Malaprop’s [Bookstore/Cafe in Ashville, NC],” Alsace YoungWalentine ‘95 writes, “I’m off to St. Petersburg, FL to open a bookstore!” David Hertz ’96 recently moved to Tel Aviv where he works as a certified project manager and technical writer. Since moving to Israel in May 2014, Hertz has traveled extensively from Nahariya in the north to Jerusalem in the south and “everywhere in between.” He encourages alums to reach him at email@example.com: “I would especially like to hear from those who are planning to visit Israel in the future!”
In July, teacher and composer Phil Salathé ’98 spent two nights on Jeopardy! where he emerged a champion on the first night, racking up $22,600, and went home after a hard-fought Final Jeopardy duel on his second appearance. Carleen Zimbalatti ’98 has work included as part of a survey on Malevich’s influences in contemporary culture in the book The Black and White Project, featuring 100 international artists.
In 2011, Mary Tasillo ’02 co-founded The Soapbox: Independent Publishing Center, a West Philadelphia-based print shop, arts space, and zine and artist book library. She is pleased to report that her company recently received their 501c3 status. Nicole Donnelly ’02 also participates in running the space. Visit www.phillysoapbox.org for more on the space.
SAVETHEDATE SEPT 23-25, 2016 ALUMNI REUNION & VAPA’S 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
Alyssa Lowe ’02 co-founded The TARA Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping communities out of poverty. This organization partners with Kenyan schools to better the educational system and works with women to help them build successful craftmaking businesses. Recently, The TARA Project installed new bathrooms in their partner schools to help improve overall health and sanitation for these communities. Heather Dewey-Hagborg ’03 published an essay in New Inquiry about crime scene technology and how it reflects the biases and motivations of its creators. Dewey-Hagborg spent a year collecting DNA samples on the streets and using published research, bioinformatics, and machine learning tools created Stranger Visions, an art project that displayed portraits of the people to whom the DNA samples belonged. Allison Hague ’04 participated in Miami University’s Earth Expeditions global field course in Baja. Artwork by William Ransom ’04 was featured in a solo show at the John Davis Gallery. His work addresses decision-making. According to Ransom, “The teeth grinding and soul searching must yield something and I find that something in the studio.” Michael Beasley ’05 was appointed as the Director of Development at the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum in Mobile, AL.
This past May, Caitlin Loehr ’06 displayed an outdoor public art project in the Stepney Green Gazebo in Monroe CT. Titled a Campaign Against Endless Winter, her installation made of colorful, neon yarn wrapped in and through the gazebo was meant to lift the community spirit in the midst of what felt like an eternal winter. Hallie McNeill ’08 has been accepted into the MFA program for Sculpture and Extended Media at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond. New York mixologist Ivy Mix ’08 is now head bartender and co-owner of Leyenda, which opened in late May. Inspired by her first FWT in Antigua, Guatemala, Leyenda is a Latinthemed cocktail bar in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, NY that was designed and built with the support of fellow Bennington alumni, Simone Duff ’06 and Jacob Perkins ’07. The New York Times wrote a feature article on Mix and the complicated path that led her to this new passion. Mix proudly declares, “Bartending is my art practice now.” Andrew Barton ’09 has recently published a cookbook, Myrtlewood, that was inspired by Secret Restaurant Portland, an underground supper club he runs. Barton also runs Two Plum Press, a small operation inspired by his time in a book design tutorial with Mary Lum during his senior year at Bennington. Juliet Tondowski ’09 has started a new YouTube series, TMI Taxi. Check out new episodes every Tuesday at www.youtube.com/TMITAXI.
Reviewing Max Wolkowitz ’09 in the title role for My Name is Asher Lev at the Penguin Rep Theatre in Stony Point, NY, The New York Times writes: “Max Wolkowitz tells the story and enters memory scenes as
a player, portraying Asher at a broad array of ages. He deftly manages the dance of moving between the narration—always tricky to keep alive onstage—and the dialogue. Sometimes Asher is as pretentious as a self-involved artist. (Imagine that.) But Mr. Wolkowitz finds the truth in the role...It’s a strong performance, with an intelligent understanding of Asher’s cultural heritage.”
In August, Jessica Eldridge ’10 graduated from the Simmons College School of Library and Information Science (Boston, MA) with an MLIS. She now works as a municipal archivist for the city of Newton, MA. Jackson Darham ’12 received a Master of Architecture degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2015. He was honored with a Norman Waxman Memorial Award and the Department of Architecture Scholarship for Outstanding Students of Architecture. “After a riveting two years in Pakistan working for Reuters and The Citizens Archive, I am now in grad school at The George Washington University studying Media and Strategic Communication,” Eissa Saeed ’12 writes. “I also live only five blocks down from fellow alumna Becky Squire ’12. It’s lovely to have a Bennington alumna so close to home!” (Continued on page 50)
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B RECENT RELEASES Dr. Arlene Heyman ’63 published her first book at 73 years old titled, Scary Old Sex (Bloomsbury, 2016). Laurence Jackson Hyman ’64 had a one-man exhibition of his black-and-white photographs at Bennington Museum, Laurence Jackson Hyman: The Bennington Years, Photographs 1962-1970. His was the inaugural show in the museum’s new Works on Paper Gallery, and ran from February until May 2015. In addition to the 33 works that were on view, Bennington Museum has acquired an additional 20 of his photographs for its permanent collection. Madeleine Dubrovsky ’71 recently published her memoir, The Wisdom Story of a Born-Again Jewish Princess … Uh, Queen. It is available on both Kindle and in paperback on Amazon. Pamela Skewes-Cox ’72 had her book, Spanish Colonial Style, Santa Barbara and the Architecture of James Osborne Craig and Mary McLaughlin Craig, published in October by Rizzoli. It was co-authored with architectural historian Robert Sweeney. “Ten years in the making, the book provides comprehensive insights into the lives and careers of my maternal grandparents, who made significant contributions to the architectural legacy of California.” Caleen Sinnette Jennings ’72 premiered her play, Queens Girl in the World at Theater J in Washington, DC in September as part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. Roli Books published Himalayan Style by Claire Burkert ’80 in March. The book weaves together a collection of images and prose, engaging readers both familiar and new to the Himalayas. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers has published two new titles by Suzanne Selfors ’86—Next Top Villain, released last year and The Fairy Swarm, which was released in October. School Library Journal praised Selfors’ most recent story, calling it “Funny, touching, and sure to please.” In September 2015, Karla Van Vliet ’89 published a collection of poetry entitled From the Book of Remembrance (Shanti Arts Publishing). Don Freas MFA ’96 published a book of poetry, Swallowing the World, with Lost Arts Design in June. In July, he was also the guest author at The Best American Poetry; in his writings for this website, he focused on the “little majesties that enfold and hold us every moment.” Melinda Ring MFA ’01—a Critic in Sculpture at the Yale School of Art since 2014—recently published a chapbook on her multidisciplinary project, Forgetful Snow, in Contact Quarterly. It includes the documentation and interpretation of the work she showed at The Kitchen, NY and The Box, Los Angeles in 2014. Fellow alums, Melinda Buckwalter ’02 and Lisa Nelson ’71 co-edited the book, and Buckwalter contributed an essay as well. In the spring, Ring will be teaching as part of an exchange program between Movement Research at the dance department at UCLA, facilitated by department chair Lionel Popkin MFA ’98. Getting to Grey Owl: Journey on Four Continents (Trinity University Press, 2015) by Kurt Caswell MFA ’04 was published after more than 20 years of “wandering the globe and experiencing diverse corners of humanity….” Jordan Rosenfeld MFA ’05 published a psychological thriller, Woman in Red (Booktrope Editions, June 2015). In August Michael Chinworth ’08 released a debut solo album, Rudder Songs—interpreted songs that were written and first performed by Trevor Wilson ’09. In the fall, Ellen Campbell Pskowski ’09 published her short story collection Contents Under Pressure (Broadkill Press, 2015). Her novel The Bowl with Gold Seams (Apprentice House Press, Loyola University) will be released in 2016. Red Mountain Press recently published Hard Proof, the debut collection of poetry from Molly Kirschner ’16. Kirschner’s previous work has been published in Poetry Quarterly Magazine, Torrid Literature Journal, The River Poets Journal, Rufous City Review, and on Ms. magazine’s blog.
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SAVETHEDATE SEPT 23-25, 2016 ALUMNI REUNION & VAPA’S 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
MAJOR WINS It’s been a mighty big year for Safiya Sinclair ’10 who has received a 2015 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine, the 2015 Boston Review Poetry Contest, and has had her first full-length collection, Cannibal (University of Nebraska Press, 2016), win the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, The Cincinnati Review, The Journal, Sonora Review, and elsewhere. She has also received a writing fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Amy Clampitt Residency Award, an Emerging Writer Fellowship from Aspen Summer Words, and an Academy of American Poets Prize. She is currently pursuing a PhD in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California, where she is a Dornsife Doctoral Fellow.
HONORS & AWARDS In July, the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild honored Grace Bakst Wapner ’55 for her significant contributions to the arts. She was recently in a group show at Hebrew Union College Museum in NYC and will be having a solo exhibition at the Carter Burden Gallery, also in the City, on April 14, 2016. Professor of history at California State University East Bay, Dee Andrews ’74 was recently awarded the Barra Sabbatical Fellowship at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania for the 2015–16 academic year. Andrews will work on her book, Thomas Clarkson, Author, and the Age of Abolition, which will focus on the connections between early emancipation, religion, and print culture as the three sources of inspiration for the ultimately unstoppable force of antislavery “author-work” in the Atlantic World. A social-cultural anthropologist and associate professor at SUNY Buffalo State, Kimberly Hart ’89 was awarded a Senior Scholar Research Fellowship Fulbright for her project Istanbul Street Cats and Expressions of Human Kindness and Neglect. Her work will take place during the 2015–16 academic year when she will study the street cats of Istanbul, the spaces where they live, and the political and spiritual dimensions of human interest in their welfare. Peter Dinklage ’91 won his second Emmy for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones. Mandy Hackett ‘92, the associate artistic director of The Public, was part of the team that accepted a Tony Award this year for Best Musical for Fun Home. Willa Carroll ’97 MFA ’11, won the Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Prize for her poem, “Chorus of Omissions.” An art proposal by Emma Dorothy Conley ’10 won the international Bio Art & Design Award (25,000 euros) in Eindhoven, Netherlands in May. Her art piece appeared in a show in November in Eindhoven.
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PHOTO: KIRK JACKSON
(Continued from page 47) Jonah Lipsky ’13 and Mac Young ’06 go way back. Both grew up in the same town and studied theatre at Bennington (where they played opposite each other in the summer 2013 production of Henry the Fourth), but their most recent teamwork on editing and designing playwright Jon Lipsky’s The Plays (published August 2015) marks their “most significant collaboration to date.” Following two years working at a children’s theater in Portland, OR, Bronwyn Maloney ’13 moved to California to attend CalArts for a master’s degree in experimental animation.
Sean-Patrick O’Brien ’14 was named a core apprentice at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, MN—a highly selective program that gives student playwrights the opportunity to learn from professional playwrights and to
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BACK ON THE ROAD TO PARADISE Road to Paradise, a dance and theatre piece written and choreographed by Carson Efird ’05, was restaged at the 10th annual Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival in Provincetown, MA in September. The revival was helmed by faculty members Jenny Rohn and Kirk Jackson, and featured dancers Bahar Barharloo ’14 and Rory Cullen ’15, as well as a number of current students: Asa Learmonth ’17, Emma Welch ’17, Charles Pisano ’18, Chloe Engel ’17 and Sam Levit ’18. Efird was commissioned in 2005 by the College’s drama program to create the piece. It draws on Tennessee Williams’ published and unpublished texts—poems, letters, and journals—some of them as yet unpublished and made available through the festival. Focusing on his love poetry and diary entries, as well as the 1940s pop music Williams was drawn to, Road to Paradise explores the bliss and terror of falling in love for the first time.
engage in workshops for new plays at the Playwrights’ Center. In October, Maliha Ali ’15 interviewed Joseph Masco, an expert on the emergence of the U.S. as a national security state, about the connections between American Cold War politics, and the War on Terror in the Herald, Pakistan’s most widely read monthly magazine. Dania Clarke ’15 is transitioning her web series, SITE: Students In Their Element™ into “a brand which will be implemented into schools worldwide.” Julia Sub ’15 was a finalist in the fourth annual 15 Minutes Max Film Festival at the Madison Theater in Albany.
Molly Kirschner ’16 published her debut collection of poetry with Red Mountain Press in July.
This August, Prashana Taneja ’16 published a review of Shirley Jackson’s Let Me Tell You in the The Millions.
The Bennington College Hackathon team won the Best Student Team at the “Vermont Hackathon: Hack the Climate,” run by HackVT. Rohail Altaf ’17, Asad Malik ’19, and Sarah Shames ’17 created an app called Grow, which allows people within two miles to create a cyber community food market. People/Place: American Social Landscape Photography, 1950–1980 opened on August 15, 2015, at Bennington Museum. Current Bennington students Michael Ash ’18, Iris Bennett ’16, Amelia Bois-Rioux ’17, Rocco Farano ’16, Cassandra Langtry ’18, Abby Mahler ’16, Nathaniel Miller ’17, Nathan Paul ’15, and Hannajane Prichett ’18 worked with faculty member Jonathan Kline and Bennington Museum curator Jamie Franklin to
SAVETHEDATE MBER 23-25, 2016 ALUMNI REUNION & VAPA’S 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
put together the exhibition, which focuses on works with social and political motives. Asa Learmonth ’17, Emma Welch ’17, Charles Pisano ’18, Chloe Engel ’17, and Sam Levit ’18 participated in the dance and theater piece Road to Paradise created by Carson Efird ’05 at the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival in September. In September, an app co-created by Asad Malik ’19 became available to the public. Noema allows users to share and hear interesting thoughts from people all over the world; Malik hopes to use this app to foster global conversation. You can download the app here: noema.ai/
Elise Engler MFA ’86 was profiled in The New Yorker about her year-long project to draw all 251 blocks of Broadway in New York City. Visit benningtoncollege. tumblr.com for an expanded look at her work. Sharon Cook MFA ’96 is working on her third book in the Granite Cove Mystery series, Launch ’till You Die. The latest installment has investigative reporter Rose McNichols moonlighting as a stand-up comedienne at a nursing home, something the author has done in real life but “doesn’t encourage.” Scott Moore MFA ’96 is the director of Beautiful Midden, a New Mexico-based project that
“speaks to the habits of illegal dumping and lead-based ammunition discharge in local waterways.” Now in its fifth year, the project seeks to build “deeper ecological relationships and responsibility through collaboration, education, direct action, and clandestine sculptural encounters.” The exhibition, Beautiful Midden: Art and Artifact, was held at the Taos Center in New Mexico in August– September 2015.
fulness practice I give myself a much better chance at developing the insight necessary to understand the self and the art of acting.”
Elaine Fletcher Chapman MFA ’99 recited her poetry for The Cortlandt Review; listen in by visiting the website: www.cortlandreview. com/issue/67/chapman.php
Acclaimed short story writer and best-selling author, Megan Mayhew-Bergman MFA ’10 was appointed the new associate director of the MFA in Writing Program.
Carol Lawson ’45 MFA ’99 reports she is still editing books despite being in her 90s.
Julia Lichtblau MFA ’11 is currently the book review editor for The Common. Her writing can also be found in Superstition Review, American Fiction 13, Narrative, The Florida Review, Best Paris Stories, and the Ploughshares blog.
Michael O’Keefe MFA ’06 wrote an article for Mindful about his role on “Homeland,” and about the surprising relationship between mindfulness and acting. He says, “By cultivating a mind-
Rebecca Chace MFA ’08 reviewed Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman for The Common in July. In her review she has joined scores of critics who have panned the first draft of the author’s famed classic To Kill A Mockingbird.
Once We Were Light, the debut novel by Heather Young MFA ’11 will be published by William Morrow/Harper Collins in the summer.
keep us posted
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You can submit your Class Note in one of three ways: 1. by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com 2. online at bennington.edu (click on “For Alumni,” “Connect” then “Class Notes”) 3. by mail to the Office of Institutional Advancement, Bennington College, One College Drive, Bennington, VT 05201-6003 Please note: Due to space constraints, Bennington reserves the right to edit and condense Class Note submissions. B
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W I N T E R 2015–16 • 51
FACULTY, STAFF, AND TRUSTEES
The Bennington community extends its deepest sympathy to the families and friends of the following alumni who recently died.
We remember the following faculty, staff, and trustees who were vital members of the Bennington Community.
Mary “Polly” Childs Hill ’39 October 13, 2015
Lucille Cook, former staff, September 23, 2015
Tina Safranski Fredericks ’43 May 11, 2015
Ann Mackey, former staff, June 17, 2015
Anne Dennison de Jong ’43 September 13, 2015
Shirley Percey, former staff, October 1, 2015
Barbara Deming Linton ’45 June 1, 2015 Cynthia Lee Macdonald ’50 August 3, 2015 Elaine May Drew ’51 September 2, 2015 Priscilla Norton Kennedy ’52 September 17, 2015 Janice E. Van Horne ’55 October 14, 2015 Geralyn Winner Roden ’56 August 19, 2015 Patricia Allaben Sherman ’60 July 21, 2015 Joy Goldsmith ’60 March 1, 2015 Diane Iandoli Brandon ’67 June 26, 2015 Suzanne Courcier ’70 September 15, 2015 Linddey Cameron, ’70, MFA ’05 September 30, 2015 Esther Moses Hatch ’72 August 15, 2015 Sara Jane Eden Leigh ’86 August 30, 2015 Eugene Baker MFA ’96 July 27, 2015
PARENTS AND FRIENDS
The College acknowledges with sympathy the deaths of parents and friends of the Bennington community. C. Minor Barringer P ’72 June 18, 2015 James G. Birney P ’79; G ’06, ’10 June 13, 2015 Christopher Gage P ’18 August 15, 2015 Melva Bucksbaum P ’91 August 15, 2015 Dudley Moore Baker, friend July 2, 2015 William Franklin McCoy, friend August 23, 2015
Amory Potter Glenn ’45 February 26, 2007 Evelyn White Blankman ’45 June 21, 2009 Iris Suominen Wolff ’45 May 1, 2013 Florence Stapler Braudy ’45 April 14, 2013 Margaret White Towle ’45 July 11, 2008 Nancy Hyland Martin ’46 June 29, 2014 Lucie Seronde Clark ’46 January 22, 2013 Eleanor Carlson ’48 September 24, 2013 Barbara Bedell Dow ’51 October 2, 2013 Miriam Tanenbaum Gerstler ’52 November 9, 2011 Agnes T. Hamagami P ’79 July 3, 2014 Jack Klugman P ’81 December 24, 2012 Rev. Donald E. Richter P ’81 September 28, 2014 Stephen Frankfurt P ’83 September 28, 2012 Nancy Parsons P ’87, former faculty January 5, 2001 Mary Van Elgort G ’88, ’90 December 31, 1998
We acknowledge the deaths of the following members of the Bennington community of which we only recently received notice.
Nancy Chalfant G ’94 April 26, 2012
Georgianna Greene Else ’38 October 8, 2011
Max Kampelman, former faculty January 25, 2013
Elizabeth Reitell Smith ’41 February 13, 2001 Ann Strieby Philips ’43 June 19, 2014
Norma Green Ogden G ’95 January 9, 2013
Miriam Klein, friend August 5, 2002 Clifford R. Wright, Jr., friend August 11, 2013
Shirley Hubbard Martz ’45 June 3, 2011
We honor the memory of those who have passed on, but regret that space restrictions do not allow the publication of full obituaries. This in memoriam list contains members of the Bennington community who passed away as of October 14, 2015. If you would like more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
80 • B E N N I N G T O N M A G A Z I N E
B EMMA SWAN HALL ’37 Emma Swan Hall ’37, Bennington’s oldest living alumna, died at the age of 101 on September 23, 2015. A member of the College’s second-ever class and the daugher of two founders, Natalie and Joseph Swan, Emma exemplified the need for a place like Bennington College in 1933. She was “distinctly bookish,” “independent thinking,” and brimming with “sympathy for all the arts,” her father wrote in her admissions application—a purposeful student seeking “to make her own patterns.” Her studies at Bennington spanned literature, music, and drama courses, as well as immersive research on John Donne, Shakespeare, and Greek plays during her Non-Resident Terms. She was celebrated by faculty and peers for her “exceptional verse,” and after graduation she went to Columbia University, receiving an MFA in literature, and the State University of Iowa. In the decades that followed, Emma’s passion for art and letters found a home in three volumes of original poetry, countless essays and anthologies, and museum catalogues all over New York City. She served as a writer, editor, and researcher in the Department of Ancient Art at the Brooklyn Museum from 1963 to 1983, and then at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts until 1993. She was a member of the International Association of Egyptologists, the American Research Center of Egypt, and The Courtauld Institute in London. Emma was a member of the Silo Society and the family for which Swan house is named; her legacy will nurture many generations of Bennington students to come.
JOEL WELLS SCHRECK ’54, G ’06 former trustee In 1950, after a year at Le Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne, Joel Wells Schreck arrived at Bennington. She continued to study French poetry and art, but two Non-Resident Terms in research laboratories sparked a lifelong love for and commitment to the natural world. In 1952, when she withdrew from the College to marry Williams alumnus Albert Schreck, Joel moved to California and found new ways to work in the sciences—focused on the environment, especially. Through philanthropy and leading roles at numerous foundations and organizations, she generously supported conservation efforts for the rest of her life. She served as the director of the Abelard Foundation, as well as a member of the Portola Valley Conservation Committee, the Portola Valley Trail Association, and the San Mateo County Parks and Recre-
ation Committee. She and her husband were especially devoted to preserving land and increasing the quality of life in the Bay Area, their home. Joel’s generosity to Bennington spanned a remarkable 60 years. From 1976 to 1983 she served as a member of the College’s Board of Trustees, in addition to volunteering for a number of Bay Area alumni committees, campaigns, and phonathons. She died on April 7, 2015, at the age of 83. She is survived by her husband, their three sons, Daniel, Charles, and Thomas, her sister Frances Wells Magee ’51, and her granddaughter Cami Saloman ’06.
ALAN CHEUSE former faculty Former faculty member Alan Cheuse died on July 31, 2015, at the age of 75. Alan was a curious, discerning, and ardent reader; and then a teacher, writer, and literary commentator. After receiving his BA from Rutgers University in 1961, he traveled Europe and Mexico, collecting stories and working in the tradition of expat writers before him. Back in America he had odd jobs that ranged from toll-taking on the New Jersey Turnpike to editing Women’s Wear Daily and reviewing books for Kirkus Review. He completed his Ph.D. in comparative literature at Rutgers in 1974. Alan taught literature at Bennington from 1970–1978 and reveled in the writing community, which at the time included Bernard Malamud, John Gardner, and Nicholas Delbanco. “It was a little Golden Age,” he told Publishers Weekly. When Alan turned 38, he left Bennington with a personal challenge—by 40, he would get some of his own fiction published. Eleven months later, The New Yorker featured his short story, “Fishing for Coyotes;” he went on to write five novels, five short story and novella collections, one memoir, and many short works of fiction and nonfiction. (In 1996, he and Delbanco reunited to publish a collection of Malamud’s essays, entitled Talking Horse.) But Alan was perhaps best known for the book reviews he crafted for NPR’s All Things Considered. Every week, for more than 30 years, he was a trusted authority on what to read. Alan will be remembered as the “voice of books” not only by his students from Bennington, the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, George Mason University, and the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop, but also by millions of readers, writers, and radio listeners. He is survived by his wife, Kris O’Shee, two daughters, Sonya and Emma, and a son, Josh.
W I N T E R 2015–16 • 79
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