The Miscellany News Since 1866 | miscellanynews.com
May 22, 2011
Vassar College Poughkeepsie, NY
Volume CXLIV | Special Issue
All-School Gift raises record-high amount Angela Aiuto Senior Editor
Carlos Hernandez/The Miscellany News
he 2011 All-School Gift Committee met its overall goal of 1,861 student donors last Monday, May 16, earning a matching gift of $223,000 from the President’s Advisory Council (PAC). Along with the $15,000 matching gift toward sustainability, which was donated by an anonymous alumna when the Class of 2011 met its own 80 percent participation goal last week, and the approximately $12,000 already raised by the student body, the 2011 All-School Gift currently totals approximately $250,000, the largest student-driven gift in Vassar’s history. The money will support Vassar’s Annual Fund, an unrestricted fund that serves every aspect of the College. Students first learned of PAC’s $223,000 matching gift on Tuesday morning, when PAC Co-Chairs Beth Burnam ’77 and James Kloppenburg ’77 delivered the news in an allcampus email. PAC had originally
promised a matching gift of $150,000 when the 2011 All-School Gift was first announced in February, but later exceeded their goal. “The larger gift was not a conscious decision to increase the goal,” wrote Associate Vice President for Principal Gifts and Associate Campaign Director Jennifer Sachs Dahnert in an emailed statement. “We simply decided to let their cumulative additions over the last year keep growing.” According to Burnam and Kloppenburg, members of PAC will continue to donate to the 2011 All-School Gift until the end of the fiscal year on June 30, whereupon PAC’s total contribution will be announced. PAC’s matching gift is intended to celebrate the achievements of the Classes of 2011-2014, whose AllSchool Gift—the first of its kind—was designed to turn the tides of student giving. In a speech at the President’s Reception on Tuesday evening, Kloppenburg noted that Vassar lagged far behind peer institutions in giving by See GIFT on page 4
Spring Convocation, pictured above, took place on Wednesday, April 27 in the Vassar Chapel during which Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Music Jonathan Chenette delivered his Convocation Address entitled “Becoming Prairie.”
Four years of progress at Vassar Molly Turpin
Editor in Chief Juliana Halpert/The Miscellany News
Ethan Fisher ’11 created the above model for his thesis in the Urban Studies Department. Other topics this year included war, education and immigration.
Theses cover a wide range Dave Rosenkranz
Assistant News Editor
n each of Vassar’s graduating classes, a few exceptional students win national fellowships that provide financial supptort for study or service of some kind. Next year, approximately 23 talented seniors will embark on journeys far from Vassar’s gates, funded by highlycompetitive grants. Three Vassar seniors received Fulbright grants from the U.S. State Department in order to teach English abroad. The Fulbright program offers competitive scholarships to students who wish to study or perform some service in any foreign country. The financial support afforded by the Fulbright program will allow See AWARDS on page 6
s Finals Week marches on, some students are starting their celebrations early. Over the last few weeks, seniors have been turning in their theses. These academic capstones range from historical analyses to urban case studies, and provided members of the Class of 2011 with an opportunity to learn more about their favorite subjects. History Department Chair and Professor of History Leslie Offutt and Professor of Political Science Sidney Plotkin explained how their departments structure the thesis process. Typically, seniors meet their professors in the spring of their junior year and begin to refine a topic. See THESES on page 5
Inside this issue
Assistant News Editor
Daises, Violets a Commencement tradition
rom construction projects to financial challenges to the Vassar community, any class is bound to witness highs and lows during its time at the College. In four years punctuated by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, seniors witnessed a singular period
living in the house both before and after the reconstruction. Vassar Athletics saw a major improvement in its facilities with the establishment of Prentiss Fields across Raymond Ave, which opened in the fall of 2008. The fields have become the new home of baseball, track and field, field hockey, lacrosse and soccer home games and See FOUR YEARS on page 5
Exhibit highlights Vassar fashion Charlacia Dent
Assistant Arts Editor
n honor of all things sesquicentennial this semester, Vassar has dug deep into what 150 years of education looks like with the opening of “Fashioning an Education,” an exhibit that displays student clothing from the 1860s through the 1950s. The exhibit will be on view in the James W. Palmer III gallery from Monday, May 16 to Sunday, June 12. 30 years ago, Senior Lecturer and Costume Designer Holly Hummel rescued many of the old garments from the Drama Department’s basement which are now a part of the Vassar College Costume Collection (VCCC). The collection consists of 500 examples of original historic clothing, dating from the mid-19th century to the present, that have been donated by alumnae/i and other friends of the College. Many of the pieces, including the clothing on display in the exhibit, underwent extensive museum cataloging procedures for conservation, and were researched by faculty and students alike. Their findings provide insight into the College’s history, and provide a deeper understanding of student life at Vassar.
A history of the iconic Main Building
Christie Chea/The Miscellany News
Seniors receive awards
of evolution in Vassar’s history, culminating in the celebration of College’s sesquicentennial. There were changes to the College’s physical plant, especially prior to the financial meltdown. The renovation of Davison House caused the dorm to be taken offline in 2008-2009, meaning that some members of the class of 2011 had the unusual experience of
The Vassar College Costume Collection is currently hosting “Fashioning an Education,” which chronicles Vassar fashion from the 1860s to the 1950s. “We just wanted to let the objects tell us their own stories. Each piece let on a different thread of that,” explained co-Curator of the VCCC Arden Kirkland. Several students involved in the project have worked on independent research, comparing and contrasting different pieces of clothing in order to relate them
to the College’s history as a whole. Faren Tang ’13 worked with turn-ofthe-century women’s fashion at Vassar, investigating the implications of masculinity. Many examples of clothes from the era indeed take on “masculine” qualities; dark colors were common, specifically dark See VCCC on page 4
Seniors reminisce in retrospectives
The Miscellany News
May 22, 2011
Editor in Chief Molly Turpin Senior Editors
Katharine Austin Erik Lorenzsonn Aashim Usgaonkar
Contributing Editors Katie Cornish Carrie Hojnicki Mitchell Gilburne Jillian Scharr
News Caitlin Clevenger Humor & Satire Alanna Okun Arts Rachael Borné Adam Buchsbaum Sports Corey Cohn Andy Marmer Photography Juliana Halpert Madeline Zappala Online Nathan Tauger Managing Qian Xu
In 1940 Vassar celebrated the 75th anniversary of the first students matriculating at the College. As part of the festitivities, Commencement and Class Day-related events spanned several days in June and included speeches from President MacCracken and Harriet Warner Bishop ’67, a member of the first graduating class.
This Month in Vassar History
By Dean Emeritus Colton Johnson
1807, May 8 Matthew Vassar, with his mother’s aid, ran away from home to avoid being apprenticed to a tanner. “Set off to seek my fortune with 6/ in my pockett, two corse East India Muslin Shirts, a pair of woolen Socks, Scow Skin Shoes, all tied up in a cotton bandana Handkerchief.” —Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, ed., Autobiography and Letters of Matthew Vassar
1867, June 19 The first graduation exercises were held in the Chapel. Four members of the Class of 1867 received the first Vassar baccalaureate degrees. Certificates of completion were awarded in place of formal diplomas, pending the resolution— which happened the next year—of the question of awarding “bachelor’s” degrees to women.
1835, May Matthew Vassar was elected president of the village of Poughkeepsie.
1868, June 23 Matthew Vassar died as he addressed the Board of Trustees. “At 11 A.M. the Board convened, and, immediately after the organization of the meeting, Mr. Vassar proceeded to read his customary address. As his tone was somewhat feeble, and he read sitting, the members of the Board gathered closer around him and listened in profound silence. Suddenly, when he had almost finished, his voice faltered and ceased, the paper dropped from his hand upon the table by which he sat, his head fell back upon the chair and so he was gone! Without a struggle or sign of pain, his spirit had passed away; and after the lapse of a few moments, during which the machinery of life seemed gently running down, his body rested in its last repose. —John Howard Raymond, Life and Letters of John Howard Raymond, Edited by his Eldest Daughter
1844, May 24 First telegraph message, “What hath God wrought”, was transmitted over a line between Baltimore and Washington. The station was under the direction of Samuel F. B. Morse, later a charter trustee of Vassar. 1866, May 13 A student’s letter home noted President Raymond’s announcement that Sunrise Hill was in bounds for “all seniors, juniors, and all over twenty,” adding “[the] last was an important addition as no mortal persons know whether they are in the Freshman or Senior year.” Her reference was to the impossibility of determining the first group of students’ class years. “For the first year, no attempt was made to grade the students by any common standard. It would hardly have been possible to do so, so dissimilar had their previous plans of study been.” —John Howard Raymond, Vassar College: a college for women, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
1884, June 1 TheNewYorkTimesreprintedanaccountinginThe Poughkeepsie Eagle of the “quality and quantity of food consumed” at Vassar. Marveling at asparagus beds that yielded “70 to 100 bunches daily,” and the yearly output, “1,800 bushels,” of the potato fields,
1890, June The first endowment fund campaign, started in 1887 by President Taylor, was completed, bringing the general endowment fund up to $100,000. 1904, June 12 A feature story, “How Vassar Did It,” in The New York Times credited an energetic, well-organized alumnae body and the college’s current students— along with “Mr. John D. Rockefeller, one of the trustees”—for averting a “crisis” at Vassar by securing the endowment fund in the recent campaign. 1905, June 12 The Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library was dedicated, Allen & Collens, architects. 1906, May 26 The New York Times reported faculty censorship of this year’s Vassarion. Pictures of students in hall plays portraying male roles were altered to obscure their knickerbockers. The faculty censors relented after two years, and the 1909 Vassarion showed the masculine costumes of the thespians. 1908, June 8 When President Taylor forbade a meeting on campus, Inez Milholland ‘09 held a suffrage meeting in a small cemetery adjacent to the college. 1972, May 28 Forty-one men, all transfer students to Vassar, were among the 427 graduates in the Class of 1972 at the 107th Commencement.
MISCELLANY NEWS | VASSAR COLLEGE
Assistant News Joey Rearick Dave Rosenkranz Assistant Features Ruth Bolster Danielle Bukowski Mary Huber Jessica Tarantine Assistant Arts Charlacia Dent Shruti Manian Assistant Sports Kristine Olson Assistant Copy Alexandra King Stephen Loder Gretchen Maslin Assistant Photo Carlos Hernandez Crossword Editor Jonathan Garfinkel Reporters Vee Benard Ruth Bolster Adam Buchsbaum Emma Daniels Laci Dent Shruti Manian Kristine Olson Connor O’Neill Jack Owen Chelsea Peterson- Salahuddin Jessica Tarantine Nathan Tauger Columnists Brittany Hunt Michael Mestitz Tom Renjilian Andy Sussman Nik Trkulja Photographers Christie Chea Katie de Heras Jared Saunders Eric Schuman
The Editorial Board holds weekly meetings every Sunday at 9 p.m. in the Rose Parlor. All members of the Vassar community interested in joining the newspaper’s staff or in a critique of the current issue are welcome. The Miscellany News is not responsible for the views presented in the Opinions pages. The weekly staff editorial is the only article which reflects the opinion of the Editorial Board. The Miscellany News is published weekly by the students of Vassar College. The Miscellany News office is located in College Center Room 303, Vassar College.
May 22, 2011
Continuity a theme of 2011 Convocation Powerhouse to host world T premieres Caitlin Clevenger News Editor
Emma Daniels Carlos Hernandez/The Miscellany News
he bell atop Main Building rang loudly throughout the afternoon of Wednesday, April 27, following the Spring Convocation that ceremonially transformed the Class of 2012 from juniors into seniors and the class of 2011 from students into alumnae/i. Students and faculty gathered in the Chapel, and President of the College Catherine Bond Hill made her welcoming remarks. Hill reminded her audience that although the Spring Convocation marks the close of the academic year, the Vassar community continues well beyond the ceremony’s end: “Only for the seniors is this Convocation in some sense a period (a full stop of some sort) rather than the comma (the brief pause at best) it represents for the great majority of the students, faculty, and staff.” Indeed, the College itself continues, even as it completes the first half of its Sesquicentennial year. “The Sesquicentennial too is just a comma in the story of the college,” said Hill. Hill’s theme of continuity remained throughout Convocation. Outgoing President of the Vassar Student Association (VSA) Mathew Leonard ’11 passed the presidential gavel to President-elect Tanay Tatum ’12, formally ensuring the continuity of student leadership. In addition, the Class of 2011 was presented with its class banner, the fabric which will be present at each of the class’s reunions. The banner, according to Hill, meant that Convocation was not a period for the seniors, but a semicolon which would “require new subjects and verbs in [their] lives as Vassar alumnae and alumni, but still subjects and verbs that are closely related to your identities and actions as Vassar students on the earlier side of that semicolon.” She spoke of the world that the Class of 2011 will enter following graduation as very different from the world of Matthew Vassar 150 years ago. Nonetheless, “the kind of education we offer at Vassar is the best preparation for addressing the long list of significant challenges we
The Class of 2011—represented by President Moe Byrne—received its class banner at Spring Convocation. The banner will represnet the class every five years at Vassar College reunions. currently face, even those challenges seemingly too big and too important for us to contemplate failure,” said Hill. Professor of Music and Dean of the Faculty Jonathan Chenette gave the Convocation address, titled, “Becoming Prairie.” Chenette was once in the same position as many of the seniors to whom he spoke, graduating from college with an undergraduate degree in mathematics that would offer little obvious help towards his new dream of becoming a composer. Chennette later earned a doctoral degree in composition and a professorship at Grinnell College in rural Iowa, all the while emulating famous composers, creating music that was “the same but different.” After some time in Iowa, said Chennette, “I began to think more seriously about my role as a composer among the corn and soybean fields. I began to ground my work in my place.” Chenette wrote an opera based on “Eric Hermannson’s Soul” by Willa Cather, a story about a farmhand on the Nebraskan prairie.
Later, he met Iowan writers Ed Hirsch, Mary Swander, Ray Young Bear, with whom he collaborated to create a multi-movement choral-orchestral composition, “Broken Ground” in celebration of Iowa’s sesquicentennial in 1996. The Convocation Choir, led by Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities Christine Howlett, performed a portion of the piece, with text from Ray Young Bear’s poem, “The Ice-Glazed Landscape of Our Grandfathers.” Though the prairie is still with Chenette, he has also connected with the Hudson Valley. “I am becoming something new, and time will tell what that is,” said Chenette. His advice to the Class of 2011 was to find a sense of place, saying “The process of finding one’s place in a new setting can be challenging. Putting down deep roots, like the grasses on the prairie, is even harder, given the pace of change in lives today.” He added, “The same, but different” can take you far, but not all the way. Head for the different. Seek the prairie.”
Senior art show displays yearlong effort Adam Buchsbaum
Rhys Bambrick/The Miscellany News
welcome mat greets those visiting the room of Kimmy Lawes ’11. The interior of her room is domestic, but on each carefully laid-out table is something peculiar: a grotesque white sculpture. “They’re the inner demons of my friends,” Lawes explained. Lawes recorded her friends describing their inner demons; their answers emanate from each table and fill the room with sound. These answers inspired the bizarre creatures Lawes created. Her room is but one of many being used for the annual Senior Art Show that took place last Saturday, May 14 in an old, offcampus and unused corporate building on 37, Academy Street. The show and the artwork it highlights act as a thesis for all the studio art majors; “It’s basically the summary of their artistic career at Vassar,” Webner said. On the same floor as Lawes’s room are canvases and a variety of other media: metal sculptures, encaustic (wax-based) paintings, a chair with a chain. Take a flight of industrial, neglected metal stairs up to the third floor, and wires and extension cords connect to light systems dangle above you. If you enter the room of Michael Mulat ’11, you might first notice a comic-like drawing on canvas of John Travolta, with a line from Pulp Fiction written to
his left on the wall. Turn right, and you’ll notice a drawing of the Titanic sinking, inspired by the film Titanic. “I really do not like that film for some reason,” Mulat noted. Meanwhile, on the other side of the third floor is the room of Nathan Torrance ’11. His artwork is wildly different. Multi-media and tactile, Torrance’s work mixes together objects such as plywood, fabric, and plexiglass into unique abstractions. “I was playing with a lot of found objects,” he said. He too has worked on his art for the whole semester. His room took, on his account, roughly 10-15 hours to set up. The walls needed painting, the floor needed sweeping, and the room needed lighting. He came to the building nearly every day leading up to this presentation of his art. His kind of devotion seems standard among the studio art majors. “I’ve always liked working with my hands, my eyes, and my senses,” Torrance said. Even more art awaits the eye in the other rooms of the building: ballpoint pen on paper, geometric string patterns, black lighting, concrete blocks. The studio art critique is a meeting of all the studio art majors and studio art faculty once every two to three weeks. During these casual affairs—complete with free pizza—students and faculty give their sometimesclashing opinions on student work. Students get the chance to hear a variety of opinions and
Pictured above, this year’s annual Senior Art Show displaying the yearlong work of Studio Art majors was held on Saturday, May 14. reactions and further flesh out their ideas. “All the professors are your advisors, informally,” Torrance said. For example, Lawes’ work did not initially incorporate domesticity; by chance, however, she placed one of her demons onto a domestic table, rather than its usual pedestal. Students and faculty noticed the difference and reacted positively. Lawes took note, and enriched her work by adding its domestic quality. In addition, students have individual critiques with their major advisor. Russell Webner ’11 found his advisor Laura Newman, Assistant Professor of Art helpful on multiple occasions. Russell explained. “She’s very familiar with the trajectory of my work and she gives me a nice, un-
biased eye when she looks at my paintings,” he said. “More often than not she gives me a whole new perspective on them.” For example, Webner once showed his painting to Newman. Webner thought he depicted binoculars. However, Newman looked and instead saw two adjacent coins, causing Webner to reevaluate his painting. “My primary aim is to understand what students want to do in their independent work and to help them do it better,” Newman wrote in an emailed statement. “Often that involves trying to be as neutral a set of eyes as possible. I pretend that I’m seeing the work in an art gallery and I don’t know anything about the artist, and I respond as openly as I can to the work.”
MISCELLANY NEWS | VASSAR COLLEGE
t is normally quiet on the Vassar campus during the summer months, but from June 24 to July 31, Vassar will be bustling once again; students, professionals and theater-goers will converge for Powerhouse Theater’s 27th season. Each summer, more than 7,000 Hudson Valley residents and visitors attend Powerhouse performances of plays and musicals in development. The Powerhouse Theater is an eight-week summer residency program on Vassar’s campus attended by over 200 artists and 40 apprentices. Its purpose is both to help established artists develop new works, and to help emerging artists learn about the inner workings of theater. This year’s season is chock full of different varieties of theater. Two fully-staged world premiere plays will be going up on the Mainstage— Patricia Wettig’s “F2M” and Rob Handel’s “A Maze.” The program is also putting on other plays and many musical workshops and readings, including a bio-musical about composer Bert Berns entitled “Piece of My Heart,” and singer/ songwriter Dar Williams’ “The Island Musical.” Wettig is a three-time Emmy Award-winning actress and playwright, known to most people for her roles on the popular television shows Brothers and Sisters and Thirtysomething. She’s returning to the Powerhouse with her fourth play, “F2M.” The play, directed by Maria Milead, will be seen in a developmental reading. Its premise is one person’s journey towards self-discovery. The cast includes some well known names, including Keira Keeley, currently starring in “Angels in America”; Deidre O’Connell, known for her role in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; and Ken Olin, actor and producer of Brothers and Sisters, Thirtysomething, and Lost. “A Maze” is playwright Rob Handel’s first Powerhouse Theater production. Handel, who hails from Poughkeepsie, heads the dramatic writing program at the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. The play twines together three interlocking stories of a graphic novelist struggling to complete his 15,000 page comic book, a musician in search of his next hit, and a young girl recreating her identity after years in captivity. Despite this being his first production, Handel is no stranger to the Powerhouse program; he was an apprentice in 1987. The Powerhouse Apprentice Company is a group of aspiring actors, designers, directors and playwrights—including a smattering of Vassar students—who spend the summer at the College, and take classes in drama and work with the theater professionals to produce a variety of theater events. Two of the plays that the apprentice company will put on are Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but the apprentices will also assist in the production of the professional shows and events, such as the musicals being put on in the Martel Theater. Two of the noteworthy musical events being put on this summer are “The Island Musical and Piece of My Heart.” “The Island Musical” is the first musical written by singer/songwriter Dar Williams. Williams, a resident of the Hudson Valley, has beenn known for her musical talent since being recognized by the iconic Joan Baez. Since then, she has recorded six studio albums. Others, however, know her for her writing ability. She has penned numerous children’s chapter books as part of a series entitled “Amalee.” “Piece of My Heart” by Daniel Goldfarb, Brett Berns, and Cassandra Berns, is directed by Leigh Silverman. It is about Bert Berns, a famous composer, who despite a premature death at age 37, wrote hundreds of songs that would come to define an era, including “Twist and Shout,” “Piece Of My Heart,” “Hang On Sloopy,” “I Want Candy,” and “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.” All of the shows put on at the Powerhouse this summer have the opportunity to travel to bigger stages. As Producing Director of the Powerhouse Theatre Ed Cheetham noted in an emailed statement, “At Powerhouse, you never know where things will go when they leave here.” All shows are open to the public, and some are free, including Williams’ show. Subscriptions go on sale on June 8 ar the box office located in the Powerhouse theater.
May 22, 2011
Daisies, Violets an integral part of Commencement culture Mitchell Gilburne and Jillian Scharr
Coutresy of Special Collections
here would Vassar commencement be without flowers? And where would those flowers be without their eponymous bearers, the Daisies and the African Violets, to carry them into the ceremony? The Daisies, a Vassar tradition since the 19th century, was first mentioned in The Miscellany News in 1896; six sophomore students carried a daisy chain at Commencement whose length in feet corresponded to the number of graduating seniors. Though the number of Daisies has increased from 6 to 24, the length was fixed at 150 feet so that the chain remains at an operable length. At the beginning of the 20th century Daisy selection was criticized as little more than a beauty contest; today, however, the Senior Class Council selects via applation the sophomores who will, among other duties, carry the Daisy Chain which precedes the seniors into Commencement. The African Violets, though newer than the daisies, have in their nearly twenty years of life become just as integral to Vassar culture and to the Commencement ceremony. Officially formed in 1994 as an arm of the Council of Black Seniors (CBS), the Violets are comprised of Vassar students of color from both the freshman and sophomore classes. “It was started because students of color at that time felt that there needed to be a service that recognized the uniqueness of their experience as seniors of color at Vassar,” said current Violet Christie Chea ’13. Since students of color also participate in the Daisies, Violet Christie Chea ’13 explains, “the main difference is that the Daisies are just sophomores and they are under the Senior Class Council, while the Violets are both freshmen and sophomores and they are under the Council of Black Seniors.” “I think there’s something really nice and circular about how we as daisies get to bond with the seniors and then have the opportunity to bond with the next daisies as seniors,” said former Daisy and current Daisy Coordinator
Starting in the late nineteenth century, the Daisy Chain is now an essential part of the Commencement ceremony at Vassar. The 150-foot long chain of daises is carried mostly by rising juniors. Kelly Long ’11. Current Daisy Louise Dufresne ’13 cites tradition and legacy as the motivating factors behind her choice to become a daisy, noting, “Being part of a Vassar tradition as old as the daisies was a cool thing to have in common with past and future generations of Vassar students.” In fact, this shared past is particularly relevant for Dufresne because her mother, Cary Dufresne ’81, served as a Daisy during her own sophomore year. Cary Dufresne recalls her initial desire to join and ultimate satisfaction with her decision, “When I was a sophomore there was sort of a buzz about it. It was almost—not a sorority—but it seemed like a community within a community…I ended up rooming for the rest of my time at Vassar with my daisy chain friends.” Members of the Violets and their parent organization the CBS also describe the experience as a community. Junior Representative of
the Council of Black Seniors Cordelia Elaiho ’12 says that creating the Violets was one way the newly-formed CBS reached out to students of different color and class year; today, CBS is a Vassar Student Association organization and although its executive board is almost exclusively seniors, save the junior interns who oversee the Violets, its general body is open to all students. The name, explains Elaiho, was retained “as a nod to tradition and a nod to the people who came before us.” Chea, a two-year violet, says, “even though other org[anizations] have a cross-section of all different classes, I like how that’s really present in the Violets: freshmen, sophomores, junior interns and seniors on the [CBS] exec board. I like that it’s a way for all classes to participate in a celebration of this tradition.” Long is similarly pleased with her participation in one of Vassar’s longest standing tradi-
tions. “Being a daisy made me feel like there was another part of Vassar that belonged to me.” She elaborates, “Vassar can easily overwhelm you and you can feel lost but when you’re a daisy you have access to all of these places on campus and parts of campus life that you wouldn’t otherwise get close to.” Though both the Daisies and the Violets share a role in Vassar Commencement tradition, that balance is still under discussion. Dufresne opines, “My first reaction to hearing about the Violets was, ‘oh that’s too bad it broke up and divided’ because in our era we were a very integrated group. Just look at the photo from 1979.” Others, however, see in the presence of both Daisies and Violets on campus addition instead of division. “Not everyone, when they come in to this campus, is happy or feels as though their opinions are being heard,” said Elaiho, “so I think CBS [and the Violets are] an important thing to have on campus.” Of the relationship between the groups, she adds, “In recent years there hasn’t been as much tension, but it is about tradition and we would like to keep going, because CBS is an integral part of this campus.” Long agrees: “That’s something we’ve been trying to work on this year and its been getting better. We have been working closely with the women who are running the Violets this year. We try to get our Daisies and Violets to bond together and the nature of the groups makes that hard sometimes but we’ve really made an effort and I think that’s been great!” Ultimately, both Violets and Daisies hold a place in the moving and powerful traditions that help to give Vassar College its unique flavor. Dufresne sums her experience into one potent moment: “At the end of graduation, You take this very heavy chain and take it to the circle in front of Main building. I remember thinking somehow I was linked to this incredible tradition. I remember laying the chain in the circle and thinking that this part directly links me to the past.”
Gift aims to leave legacy of sustainability, giving
Costume collection reveals trends in Vassar student life
GIFT continued from page 1 young alumnae/i; whereas peers average 60 percent annually in young alumnae/i participation, he said, Vassar averages only 40 percent annually. Planners of the gift hope that it will foster a spirit of giving amongst current students that will continue even after they have graduated. “[I]t doesn’t matter how much people start giving, but the largest and best donors over time, the most committed donors that really any college or university needs…are people who give consistently,” said Kloppenburg in an April interview with The Miscellany News. (See “President’s Advisory Council encourages giving,” 04.21.11) “So the concept of PAC’s challenge grant to the students was to broaden participation and to broaden participation now.” PAC’s contribution of $223,000 makes for a momentous gift in a momentous year for the College: its sesquicentennial. Indeed, the 2011 All-School Gift was designed with Vassar’s 150-year history in mind. The overall participation goal of 1861 student donors references the year of the College’s founding, while PAC’s originally proposed matching gift of $150,000 gave $1000 for each year of Vassar’s history. The Gift Committee sought to celebrate Vassar’s history in a somewhat more significant sense with a gift to the Annual Fund, a critical source of funding to the College. “We felt that the most meaningful and most appreciated gift that we could give to the College would be one that could go the furthest and support students today,” wrote the Gift Committee in a statement on its website. “The Annual Fund truly makes Vassar the place it is today. Without its support, our Vassar experience would literally not exist.” At the President’s Reception on Tuesday, Kloppenburg highlighted just one significant and far-reaching function of the Annual
VCCC continued from page 1 brown and greens, and often dresses resembled men’s suits with neck ties and broad shoulder padding. “We wanted to know why there was such radically different clothing being worn. We learned that there were many different approaches to education. Some women dressed more stereotypical of the masculine women. There was an urge to assert oneself because femininity was associated with inferiority,” Tang explained. The dichotomy of dressing academically versus dressing intellectually was a topic approached by Chloe Boxer ’12, whose main area of focus has been the different implications embedded within the traditional Vassar Daisy chain dress, a lacy white dress that was worn by the Vassar class before commencement. Boxer described the dresses as “half-academic” in the sense that it was worn during Commencement, but the girls were also able to choose the specific styles of the dress; it represented a compromise between femininity and what was seen as acceptable in the realm of academia. “These dresses did not subscribe to masculinity, because they were white and pink with frills. Many questions can be raised from this. Were women taken seriously in academia or did the college find something inherently important in women’s dress?” said Boxer. In light of these questions, Hummel discovered a letter written by a Vassar student in May 1870 that included the observation: “In true sense it is not what you wear but what you are that makes honor here.” The statement is somewhat ironic, given that the VCCC research indicates that women’s dress was a means by which women proved their intellectualism. Through her research, Kirkland raises the question of to what extent feminine dress was influenced by the historically-inherent masculinity of education. An example of women’s sportswear from 1926 is also on display in the
Fund: partially financing the cost of a Vassar education, which tuition supports for only 53 percent of the academic year. The unrestricted nature of the Annual Fund is particularly appropriate for a gift designed to encourage giving from young alumnae/i, according to Associate Director of the Annual Fund Priscilla Weaver. Although a gift to the fund may be small, she explained, it nevertheless contributes to a larger effort. “Most students and young alums think they can’t afford to give back until they get ‘that big job,’” she wrote. “With this project, we hope students have learned that gifts at every level make a difference and by coming together to support a cause they can make a huge impact.” The 2011 All-School Gift not only seeks to leave a legacy of giving, but also a legacy of the Class of 2011’s commitment to sustainability, a cause they have prioritized over the course of this last year. As part of the gift, a new sustainability designation, or “bucket” was added to the Annual Fund in February of this year. This is the first new bucket added to the Annual Fund since 1995. Designations allow donors to put aside their contributions for specific causes; the Sustainability Bucket is the first to be created since designations were originally added to the Annual Fund in 1995, a significant achievement. In creating this new designation for the Annual Fund, seniors have ranked sustainability among other key concerns of the college, including campus preservation, residential life, and faculty salaries and research. Wrote co-Chair of the 2011 All-School Gift Committee Aaron Grober in an emailed statement, “This is not only an opportunity to leave an important legacy as a class that is passionate about campus sustainability, but an opportunity for the college to recognize sustainability as a priority.”
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Palmer Gallery. Unlike the rest of the clothing in the exhibit, the t-shirt and shorts combination revealed a girl’s legs and arms; according to Kirkland, something can be learned about why this style of dress was eventually adopted. “It comes from a cultural issue of what’s acceptable in public. At the time, there was a unique situation of being at an all girl’s school,” Kirkland explained. During this time, it was unacceptable for a young women to be in the presence of a man without being properly clothed. They experienced this in both the public sphere and private sphere; once the girls arrived at the all-female school, however, this social dynamic changed, and it became more acceptable for students to dress in casual clothing. Both Tang and Arden believe that modern fashion represents a continuation of the social constructions of bygone days. For example, fashion still adheres to what is considered to be intellectually and academically acceptable. Today’s clothing also raises issues of femininity. “There is something to be learned about what we deem to be radical and subversive dress,” said Tang. “There are some feminists who say that we should do away with dressing feminine.” Ultimately, the costume exhibit shows how women navigated the world of academia by representing themselves as both intellectualss and women. “I have always known that many Vassar women have been independent thinkers, and frequently activists, said Hummel. “There are so many examples in student letters and other Vassar papers over the past 150 years to illustrate this. The fact that the students dressed in the silhouette of mainstream fashion, while… at the same time making some concessions in order to focus on their studies, particularly in terms of color and pattern, was particularly interesting,” said Hummel.
May 22, 2011
Main: From fires to Uncle Fred’s Nose Thesis topics include war, A immigration Danielle Bukowski and Ruth Bolster Assistant Features Editors
Madeline Zappala/The Miscellany News
National Historic Landmark, the building that used to be synonymous with Vassar College and the one dormitory that almost every student walks through once a day: Main Building is in many respects a stand-out when it comes to Vassar’s dormitories. It is the largest building on campus, and in 1865 was the largest building by square feet in the United States, surpassed by none until the completion of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Today the building houses office buildings, the Post Office, the Retreat, the Mug, the Villard Room, the Rose, Jade, and Gold Parlors, the Kiosk, the College Center and the bell tower. 300 students, 30 percent of whom are freshmen, live in Main. As Main residents proudly proclaim, “size does matter.” Built between 1861 and 1865 by James Renwick, Jr, the architect of the Smithsonian, Main Building was designed to be both academic and residential. Matthew Vassar wanted to unify all of the functions of the College into one structure. When it was first built, the President and the Lady Principle were housed in the front pavilion, and the students lived in four-room suites. The wide corridors were designed so that the women could exercise indoors in the winter. The third floor housed the Chapel and the library, and the second floor included the Main dining hall. The library was moved to the second floor in 1890, and the Vassar Chapel was constructed in 1904. The fourth floor was for a time the art library and housed Matthew Vassar’s “cabinet,” or collection of scientific specimen. Soon after the library moved, it grew to be too much for that space as well, so in 1893 an addition called the Frederick Ferris Thompson Annex was constructed onto the façade in order to house the collection. The addition was referred to “Uncle Fred’s Nose” after eponymous trustee. It was also at times called “The Soap Annex”, because the ivory front looked to viewers like a popular brand of soap. Uncle Fred’s nose remained a part of Main Building for 67 years, but was considered aesthetically unpleasant. Following the 1905 construction of the Thompson Memorial Library, the annex housed offices of the President, the Dean, and the Registrar—who was then known as the Recorder. In 1959 with funding from Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller III, the annex was demolished. Popular myth has it that Matthew Vassar’s ghost haunts the fifth floor of Main Building;
Main Building, pictured above, was built between 1861 and 1865 by James Renwick, Jr. The building now serves multiple purposes, housing students, adminstrative offices, and several college stores. while it may be just a legend, Vassar did pass away while in the building, in 1868 as he gave his final speech to the Board of Trutees. In 1918, a fire that started in a maid’s room on the fourth floor threatened to consume the building. Ten fire companies were called in to extinguish the blaze, which ultimately caused $300,000 worth of damage to the building and Matthew Vassar’s personal collection of artifacts. The College also has a history of two takeovers of Main Building, the first in 1969 and the second in 1990, and both stemming from issues of racial inequality. On October 31, 1969, 34 female students from the Afro-American society overtook Main building, baricading themselves inside. Among their demands was the creation of an all-black dorm, the hiring of more black faculty, and a major available in Black Studies. A majority of the white students on campus supported the demands, and the college did set up a department in Black Studies, now the Africana Studies Program. In 1990, there was yet another takeover of the building, prompted by racist remarks made by U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moyniham, who was employed at the time as a lecturer. The students demanded a public apology by President Francis Ferguson for his remarks. Main Building still upholds its role as the
de facto center of campus. “Main is Vassar,” said 2011-2012 House President Jeremy Garza ’14. “This used to be the singular building, where everything happened. Next year, hopefully we will have lots of successful parties. We want to make sure we can build a better community, because we are so spread apartsuccessful study breaks and better house parties should bring Main together. We are also going to make sure the damages to the house stay on the down-low next year.” House Advisor for Main Tom Park said, “Obviously Main is set apart by its size. Because of its size, and the fact that it is a National Historic Landmark, any large renovations aren’t normal like in the other dorms. There are certain criteria that the building must maintain, as a National Historic landmark- we must maintain some percentage of the original structure,” said Park. “The only thing scheduled for Main is a kitchen facelift over the summer.” With its rich history and its status as the first dormitory and second building ever completed on Vassar’s campus, Main offers its residents an extremely unique living space. The glorious brick-and-mortar structure is all-encompassing, and the true Vassar College experience could not be obtained without it.
Vassar, seniors adapt to new challenges FOUR YEARS continued from page 1 meets. A set of new Town Houses near the fields gave students a new living space outside of the traditional house system. Several beloved spaces on campus also received major renovations, such as the Art Library and Mariah Mitchell Observatory, which is now home to the Education Department. The Class of 2011 also saw major changes in areas of student life. It is the last class to experience both an a la carte and a block meal plan, aspects of campus dining that will be under review along with Aramark Dining Service’s contract next year. In 2009 the College also approved gender neutral housing, making it possible for male and female students to room together for the first time at Vassar. The Class of 2011 had the opportunity to experience the works of distinguished performers and lecturers; Gail Collins, Ben Lee, Augusten Burroughs, Ira Glass, Richard Aldous, David McCullough, and Nobel Prize winner John Mather were just a few of the writers, scholars and public figures to visit the campus. Vassar College Entertainment (ViCE) has always sought to create one-of-a-kind experiences for its concerts, and with artists from MIA to Beirut to The Flaming Lips to this semester’s Of Montreal, the organization has continued to reach its goal. Students, of course, made their own opportunities for involvement in the Vassar community. Several organizations that were conceived in the last four years include Contrast, Vassar’s own fashion magazine, the Vassar Filmmakers and the Butterbeer Broooers, the resident muggle quidditch squad. Students also extended the
Vassar community into online forums, which sometimes pushed the boundaries of acceptable exchange. The blog Bored at Vassar was closed in the spring of 2008 after it continued to host hurtful comments directed at individuals. This year, several new forums, such as SayAnything Vassar, have arisen to fill the conversational void and have treaded carefully in the moderation of comments. On campus, the class has also seen new initiatives in sustainability from the creation of a composting program to a campaign by the Vassar Greens to remove bottled water from Vassar Student Association (VSA) funded events. These green causes have also found their way to the 2011 All-School Gift, in which the senior class created a new Annual Fund bucket for sustainability at Vassar. But the shifts that the Class of 2011 witnessed did not end on the edges of campus. In the last four years, the College has made strides in its connections to Poughkeepsie even as it has faced some challenges. The organization of a shuttle service in 2007-2008 connected Vassar students to the Poughkeepsie area and made reaching fieldwork opportunities off campus easier than ever. In the 2008-2009 year, the VSA extended this service to include the weekends. The shuttle service has been proven to have significant and consistent ridership, a factor that contributed to the extension of a City Poughkeepsie bus line to campus beginning June 1 of this year. Events like the Arlington Street Fair and the more recent Meet Me in Poughkeepsie continue to draw students to opportunities outside of Vassar. Even though Vassar students have worked to
bolster the community and improve the College, the financial crisis of 2008 influenced many of Vassar’s decisions in the last three years, sometimes eliciting strong responses from the Vassar community. The crisis limited the College’s ability to move forward with further improvements to the physical plant, and after a 23 percent reduction in the endowment after the fall of 2008, anxiety about possible cuts to the curriculum and staff ran high. A group called the Campus Solidarity Working Group mobilized to protest cuts in the fall of 2009, rallying around the decision to eliminate 13 positions. At the end of the semester, the College followed up on the employment of these staff members and administrators. Three of the employees took other positions at the College, “three have decided not to bid on other available positions at this time for which they would have been eligible; two have accepted retirement incentive packages; one was recently informed that the layoff was withdrawn due to a voluntary transfer of another employee in the same department to another opening at the College, and at least one has accepted a job elsewhere,” wrote Dean of the College Chris Roellke in a Dec.12, 2009 email. The year of 2011 has seen repercussions from the crisis, but it has also been met by the College’s sesquicentennial. The occasion has been celebrated with a wide array of festivities, ranging from a birthday cake bake-off to the Sexycentennial party in the College Center. The Class of 2011 has the unique privilege of graduating during this momentous juncture, a time for reflection on both College’s past and what its future might hold.
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THESES continued from page 1 Over the summer, they are encouraged to begin some research. According to Plotkin, not everybody does, but “some students do, and it’s terrific that they can get that leg up.” In the fall, work begins to intensify with deadlines looming on the horizon. The Political Science department, for example, asks for a chapter outline in late October so that students, in Plotkin’s words, “can begin to think about the thesis as a combination of different elements that have to be tethered together by a specific argument.” During the Fall, both professors encourage their students to visit them regularly. “I have my students write regularly and share their work with me, so I can comment on their argument as it develops, direct them to resources they might not have encountered on their own, and make sure their writing is clear,” explained Offutt. Drafts for the theses are due in the winter or early spring; then editing begins, and finally, in April or May, the work is over. What sorts of things did seniors write about this year? Lila Teeters ’11 [Disclosure: Teeters is an outgoing contributing editor for The Miscellany News] wrote about Emma Sickels for the History Department. Sickels was a progressive era reformer who worked on “issues of Native American federal policy reform in the 1890s.” Teeters emphasized her research’s dependence on digital media. “Without those, my research would have easily taken me five times longer and probably would have left lots of holes...I had typed ‘Emma Sickels’ into Google so often that I’m pretty sure I honed and then perfected their search results for her,” joked Teeters in an emailed statement. In the Urban Studies department, Mallory Easton’11 wrote about the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), which is a “non-profit in New York City...that offers a whole slew of free social services” such as pre-school to residents of a specifically designated “zone” in Harlem. She conducted her research by interviewing a Director of Education at the HCZ, and a deputy director at the U.S. Department of Education, among others. “Talking to people who are actually involved in what you’re writing about is an elucidating experience,” wrote Mallory in an emailed statement, commenting on the value interview research. In the Political Science Department, Christopher Montero ’11 explored the official and unofficial responses to illegal immigration following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He was inspired by his work with a civil rights organization which sought to end racial profiling, in part, by addressing last summer’s anti-immigrant legislation. He explained that his research has led him to consider this sector of public policy as a future career. This year’s graduates had a lot of advice to offer rising seniors regarding their theses. Annie Black ‘11, who wrote about the American media response to the Holocaust, encouraged juniors to “love the process.” Joe Erickson ‘11, who wrote about “U.S. modernization efforts in southern Vietnam’s Mekong Delta,” advised juniors to get an early start and to get a thesis locker to put food in because “nothing ends a night of unmotivated work quicker than an empty stomach.” Offutt recommended that students create work groups with their thesis peers. “Some senior members of our majors committee shared with me that they had “Thesis Thursdays” in the library basement where several of them would meet and work each Thursday night. They’d write independently; they’d share their work and get criticisms and feedback.” Plotkin encouraged that students choose researchable topics they are passionate about. “The key word is motivation,” asserted Plotkin. Although these seniors saw the process as long and difficult, they also agreed that the process of researching and writing the thesis was immensely satisfying. “A thesis is like birthing a 90-page baby. It incubates for 9 months, and you think about it all the time, and then all of a sudden it’s there. And hopefully, you’re happy about it,” concluded Easton.
May 22, 2011
Seniors to Athletics banquet honors five seniors receive grants, O fellowships
Sophie Courser: Courser, a co-captain and epeeist for the Vassar College women’s fencing team, received the AFAVC (Alumnae Fitness and Athletics of Vassar College) Award.
Upon arriving at Vassar, Courser quickly claimed the top starter position on the epee squad and ended the season with an individual gold medal at the New England Championships. As a sophomore, Courser became the program’s first ever two-time New England champion, also managing to lead the epee side to a first-place squad finish at the Championships. As a junior, she led the team to victory again and took silver in the individual rankings. By the end of the season, Courser qualified for the NCAA Regionals, where she performed well but just missed qualifying for the national championships. In her final year at Vassar, Courser won gold at the season-opening tournament (known as “The Big One”) and the Brewers finished the season with a 31-7 record and completed the best season in program history. The historic season included the Brewers’ first conference championship and their first wins over Brandeis, Brown, and New York Universities. Courser was also named the Northeastern Conference Women’s Fencer of the Year, a program first, behind her stunning 33-1 in-conference bouting record. During her career, Courser’s fencing record has seen steady improvements: 2007-2008: 63-17, 20082009: 60-19, 2009-2010: 63-11, 2010-2011: 84-15. Asked what the highlight of her career has been, Courser recollected this season’s opener, “The Big One.” “It was exciting,” says Courser, “because I finished in the top three my freshman, sophomore and junior year. But this year I won; and it was against a freshman at Brown who I’d fenced in high school.” That day was particularly exciting for Courser and teammates who “beat schools we never beat before.” Reflecting on her years at Vassar, Courser
Courtesy of Stockton Photo
AWARDS continued from page 1 winner to live in areas of the world that correspond with their particular interests. Jessica Peng ’11, one Vassar Fulbright scholar, wrote in an emailed statement about her plan to work in Indonesia, “With my International Studies foci in Education and Economics, I am interested in comparative education in various developing economies, particularly those in Asia.” She has taught English in Vietnam before, but was attracted to the prospect of working in Indonesia because of its particular importance to her fields of study. “Indonesia appeals to me in particular for its large and influential economy, both on the regional scale and global scale, and its diverse demographics,” she said. Jane Manchon ’11 will travel to Thailand next year, where she will bring her studies in Vassar’s English Department to bear on the task of language instruction. She was overjoyed to have the opportunity to work in another part of the world, rather than simply tour the country. “I’ve traveled often,” she wrote in an emailed statement. “There really is a difference when you can say ‘I live here,’ ‘I’m a student,’ ‘I’m a teacher’ rather than ‘Oh, I’m on vacation.’ People treat you in a much different way and you can actually make friends.” She was taken by surprise by her acceptance into the program, but celebrated enthusiastically. “I was actually screaming in the College Center,” she said. “I ran to Ferry Haus where I knew I’d find hugs, ran back to the College Center, found more friends, was exceptionally loud, called my parents, called my friends. It was a great day!” Olivia Arguinzoni ’11 was similarly startled by her acceptance. “I thought I was not qualified, because I don’t really have a background in education and have never taught English before,” she said. “I am still surprised, but excited, too.” She will teach English in Brazil, where she studied before, but feels the grant will allow her to further her relationship with the country. “I always feel like my place in the country is still very precarious. I hope that the Fulbright gives me the opportunity to help people in a place where I feel that a lot of people have helped me,” she explained. Another winner from the Senior Class was Emma Coates-Fink, who received the Compton Mentor Fellowship. Created by the Compton Foundation, the award provides financial support to students who wish to use their scholarly studies to effect world change. She will work in San Clemente, Ecuador, where she spent a semester abroad last year and helped run a summer arts program for local children in 2010. She hopes that with her knowledge of photography, she will teach impoverished children about the power of self-representation as a means to better understand one’s identity. Eleanor Albert ’11 and Erin Elsbernd ’11 were nominated by Vassar faculty to study in China next year, as part of the Chinese Government Scholarship program. The program, offered by the China Scholarship Council and the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York, provides a free course of study at any of 115 Chinese colleges and universities. While applying for the Fulbright grant, Arguinzoni utilized on-campus services that help students apply for grants and fellowships: “The application process was demanding because it had multiple steps to it, but I had multiple people from the College willing to look over my essays, so that made it easier.” She worked with the Office for Fellowships and Pre-Health Advising to put together a convincing proposal, as did all other national award winners in the Class of 2011. That Office’s Committee on Fellowships vets applications to prestigious national programs like the Fulbright before they are sent out, so that each candidate can improve his or her application materials. “Our services extend to younger students and alums,” said Director of Fellowships and Pre-Health Advising Lisa Kooperman. “We give them feed-back on proposals, and help them improve their applications,” she said, adding that her office was dedicated to working with all members of the Vassar community, not only seniors.
n May 4, student athletes gathered in the Athletics and Fitness Center for the annual Vassar College Athletics Banquet. By the end of the evening, five seniors were honored. Zöe Carpenter: Carpenter went through high school as more of a competitive horseback rider than a runner, but she was converted upon coming to Vassar. She walked onto the track team her freshman year and has been hooked ever since. Carpenter admits she had a bit of a slow start; she remembers her coach saying that she had “more determination than talent and training.” But “things worked out,” said Carpenter. The Frances D. Fergusson Coaches’ Award she was awarded at the Athletics Banquet serves as recognition of her drive and hard work. Carpenter has run all four years at Vassar, with three seasons on track and field and four running cross country. For the only season she wasn’t on track, she was studying abroad. Carpenter went to Switzerland, India, China and South Africa during her junior year. It was a “challenge to run in those places, but you really get to know a place differently when you’re running through it,” she says. Though that was certainly an interesting running journey, her most memorable race came last fall. It was a “big transition point for the team. It was the first time we were nationally ranked.” The team completely dominated the competition and afterwards, they went back to the starting line and sprinted a mile. This was not punishment; the team had earned the extra workout for their performance and took the sprint without complaining. They were just “excited to be at that point.” Though it seems to be focused on individuals, cross country is a team sport. Carpenter had a 12th-place finish at the 2010 Liberty League Championships in October, but remarks that “I’m prouder of the Seven Sisters Championship more than my individual win[s]. We beat Wellesley by one point.” She remembers, “[Wellesley] started celebrating because they thought they won.” She added, with a laugh, “Now we have a shiny trophy that we’ve never gotten to keep before.” Carpenter feels humbled by the award. “It’s funny being considered an athlete,” she says. “I don’t consider myself a jock, [but] it’s great to be honored for athletics at the end of my fourth year,” she says with a smile. —Nicolette Harley
Sarah Warner ’11 (left) and Zoe Carpenter ’11 (right) were both part of a group of graduation athletes that were honored at the annual Vassar College Athletics Bangquet held on May 4. adds, “I really wanted to fence in college, but I didn’t find anything I wanted academically in a lot of the schools. Vassar had everything I wanted; and I don’t know if I would have found Vassar if I hadn’t been looking into fencing programs. [Fencing] was instrumental in leading me to Vassar.” —Kristine Olson Andrew Fischl: Fischl, the No. 1 starting sabre on the men’s fencing team since his freshman year, won the Matthew Vassar Outstanding Career Award. Fischl described his emotions when receiving the award: “Really happy. I feel like I’ve worked really hard.”
And any follower of Fischl’s lauded career knows that, if anything, Fischl has indeed worked hard. “When I first got here we had one ‘A’ rated fencer and one ‘B’ rated fencer. I was a ‘B’ and I got my ‘A’ at Summer Nationals that year,” said Fischl. Another waterwark moment for Fischl came at the end of his sophomore year: “I’ve been pretty serious since I got to school, but I realized I could do something special when I reached my first World Cup.” Fischl has received numerous accolades in the fencing world, including an All-American Honorable Mention in men’s sabre and twelfth place overall at the NCAA Championships, all for which he is very thankful “I’d like to thank my parents for believing in me. Also Mihail Etropolski—even though he’s been ranked as high as fourth in the country, he has had time to give me lessons and I really appreciate that,” Fischl remarked. “He’s been coaching me for five years now.” Fischl is speculating on his own future. “I’m going to take a year off of school and train for the Olympics,” he shared. Fischl expressed hope for Etropolski’s involvement in the training process; Etropolski was second alternate to the world championships while Fischl was third. Regardless, Fischl’s future plans are unique: “I don’t really know any other Vassar alums who plan on competing in the Olympics.” —Nathan Tauger Evan Fredericksen: A team-leading 490 kills propelled Fredericksen to the Betty Richey Performer of the Year award.
On the season, Fredericksen recorded 4.76 kills per set, second in the nation, while leading the men’s volleyball team to a 17-13 record. Not only was Fredericksen a star hitter, he also led the team in service aces—42, 15th in the nation—and was second on the team in digs with 176. Fredericksen’s prowess earned him recognition as a First-Team All-United Volleyball Conference selection. Although only recognized for his senior season, Fredericksen had an accomplished career. He will graduate having been a part of the most matches and most wins of any Vassar men’s volleyball player. Fredericksen was also a key contributor on the 2008 team, which finished the year as the National Runner-up. This year was different for Fredericksen, though, as after three years waiting in the wings he became the centerpiece of the team’s attack. As Head Coach Jonathan Penn
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noted when presenting the award to Fredericksen, “Every team we played came into our match trying to stop Evan, and in every one of those matches we relied on him to not let them—he had to be the man.” Penn continued, “so while [throughout] the season Evan had would be great by any measure—and there have been very few like it—the season he had in the context he had it make it nothing short of spectacular.” —Andy Marmer Sarah Warner: Warner, a midfielder on the women’s lacrosse team, won the Matthew Vassar Outstanding Career Award. Warner, who finished her Brewer career second alltime in goals scored (177) and third in assists (50), was excited to hear about the honor. “It is a physical product of four years of sports here,” she remarked. “It’s a nice way for me to end the season.”
Though she remained composed in countless key moments of the 62 games in which she participated, Warner was nervous when Head Coach Judy Finerghty, gave a speech celebrating her career. Still, Warner said, Finerghty’s words of wisdom made her look at herself under a new light. “She made me think about things I haven’t thought about myself, in terms of being a leader and my actual accomplishments,” Warner remarked. Those “actual accomplishments” form an impressive list. In her senior year alone, Warner scored 53 goals, second-best in the Liberty League, and ranked first in the Liberty League in points per game with 5.33 (also a program record). She made sure every score counted in 2010-2011, tallying four gamewinning goals and setting a program record with nine goals in one game, a back-and-forth shootout against State University of New York at Farmingdale on March 28 that ended with a score of 20-18. Warner set a Vassar record with 1.80 assists per game. Additionally, in her junior year, Warner set a school record with 57 goals for the season. Despite the individual triumphs, Warner said she “can’t really be satisfied without the team winning.” (The Brewers finished 7-8 and seventh in the Liberty League.) Still, she believes there were “a lot of really good moments” from the season and is proud of the effort everyone put forward. Following graduation, Warner plans to pursue a career in athletics, possibly in sports management. She remarked that this award should look good on her resume, but Warner will take much more than that from her time at Vassar. When asked about what she learned from being a Brewer, she responded, “I learned the importance of coming together as a team. You can have talented individuals, but at the end of the day, if you don’t work together you won’t be successful.” Warner added that this did not only apply to the players, but to coaches, too, as well as to non-athletics groups like businesses. As team-oriented as she is, Warner still takes pride in this individual achievement. “This felt like a win [to me],” she said. —Corey Cohn
May 22, 2011
Allie St. Jules
Mathew Leonard W
ho am I?1 A stereotypical question, by all means, but one that I feel has a particular centrality to my time here at Vassar. I could easily write about my experiences with the Vassar Student Association2, or compose a love-letter-of-sorts to the countless wonderful people I met here and will miss dearly. I have so many memories, many of which I have felt would make a great film or book3. However, one of the most rewarding events of my Vassar experience was the struggle to define myself followed by the self-satisfaction of finally giving up and just running with it. As a scrawny 18-year old kid from Kentucky, I had no clue what to expect from Vassar. “Do you think I’ll need a suit?” I remember asking my parents, completely convinced that academic life in the Hudson Valley would require that I regularly dress like a penguin; donning a full tuxedo for the multiple formal dinners and cocktail parties spent discussing the subtle use of metaphor in Ibsen’s plays4. In my mind the North was a land of bagels, high-speed, and equally cold weather and people, while the South was the land of sweet-tea, slow summer days and hospitality. I was completely unprepared for the reality of Vassar. I quickly learned two things: First, until I came to Vassar, I never thought that the last name Leonard would be so difficult to spell5. Second, I learned that Vassar students, while very intelligent in all other respects, are completely useless at United States geography. Most people seemed to get Kentucky confused with Kansas—shudder.6 I was asked, “Kentucky—isn’t that near Texas?” a few more times than I probably should have been. I remember talking to one of my friends in New York City: “David, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kentucky anymore.” Yet, beyond an increase in misspelling
my name and trashing Kansas, I have to admit, the ultimate effect of leaving my home of Southern Comfort7 for the great frigid north was a bit underwhelming. Once the initial shock wore off, I discovered that Vassar students were much like the people I liked back home: funny, intelligent, shoeless8, artistic and chill. I made the conscious decision to become one of them, to forget my backwards Kentucky ways and become a chic New Yorker. I spent my first years absorbing everything that I could—it was all so new and exciting. In short, I became a Vassar student: I spoke comfortably about heteronormativity, danced to electronic beats in the Mug, drank at the Dutch and deconstructed history9. Yet, when I returned home to Kentucky, I realized that something was missing. My friends from home, overwhelmed by my overflowing Vassar pride, began to refer to me as “Vassar-boy.” I had, in a way, lost touch with myself. As many people have done when surrounded by a culture both similar and different, I began to wonder, well, what exactly makes Kentucky so different from Vassar? Filled with a sense of nostalgia for my past, I sought to embody that difference. I purchased a pair of boots, a banjo, bluegrass albums, and bourbon10. I told everyone who would listen about my Kentucky upbringing: while living in the North, I had become a “Kentuckian.” This past summer, as I purchased a suit in preparation for the formal dinners and cocktail parties of my senior year, I reflected on who I had become in my time here. I realized that both my personas, “Vassar-Boy” and “Kentuckian” were just ways to understand myself in relation to my surroundings. I am a Vassar-Boy. I am a Kentuckian. Next year, I will add a new identity to my list. My time at Vassar has, among other things11, taught me to both appreciate the place I come from, but to also acknowledge and ac-
cept how I have changed through my life. This is perhaps the lesson I will hold closest to me as I head out into the world. Embrace change, absorb it, love it and revel in it, but never lose track of your roots; bring your own style into an age-old traditions, but create new traditions to pass onto the future. Shakespeare wrote, “To thine own self, be true,” but I would argue that you shouldn’t get too hung up on the specifics. Perhaps most importantly, as Lincoln once said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” 1. Mathew Leonard, Class of 2011, History Major, French Minor, from Lexington Kentucky, (Out-going) VSA President, 2. They were silly. 3. An exposé tell-all tabloid I imagined something like this: Me: “It’s really fascinating how he uses a doll’s house within A Doll’s House as a metaphor to reinforce Nora’s plight.” Other Student: “Oh yes, of course. Be a dear and hand me the caviar would you?” 4. My Kentucky roots would cause people to assume my name was spelled “Lynard,” like the Southern rock musician. 5. No offense to anyone from Kansas, but you know how it goes--it’s not Kentucky. We’ve got bourbon, horses, beer-cheese, ale-8, biscuits, I could go on…* 6. *Johnny Depp, ‘nuff, said. 7. Horrible beverage, don’t actually believe them, it’s not comforting in the slightest. 8. This one is an exaggeration; we actually wear shoes in Kentucky—not so much at Vassar. 9. Which in and of itself is a construct— meta! 10. Kentucky—brought to you by the letter “B!” 11. Like, never, ever buy a $20 deep-fryer from Big Lots. It may burn your TA down. —Mathew Leonard is the outgoing president of the Vassar Student Association.
Aaron Grober V
assar is a place where I learned far less about biochemistry, and far more about myself than I could have ever anticipated. I entered Vassar as a far-left-leaning, somewhat flamboyant, and very inflexibly focused boy, and I’m graduating as a left-moderate, very-not flamboyant, and much more openminded adult. How did this transformation occur? When I arrived on that unbearably, disgustingly hot/ humid day in mid-August 2007, I was outrageously excited to be in a place that embraced my (what I thought to be) hyper-liberal social ideals, passion for the arts, and homosexuality. I knew I was supposed to be a drama and biochemistry double-major with a focus on pre-med, while keeping my options open for a performing career, should I decide to give it a try before medical school. Everything was on-track until I decided to run for Main House Freshmen Representative, more or less on a whim. I would never dream of running for student government positions in high school, particularly as a somewhat unpopular drama/ nerdy type. Winning that election, and serving in that position catapulted me into a totally new world, one that enabled my metamorphosis into the person I’ve become. The remainder of freshman year was more or less a balancing act between embracing the life I wanted to live, and the one I was supposed to. Grades flailed as wildly as my interests and aspirations, priorities changed on almost a weekly basis. Relationships came and (mostly) went, and I ended the year much more confused than when I started. Sophomore year, I got in touch with my party-planning side as Main’s Vice President, while honing in on medicine as a likely career choice. Drama had fallen by the wayside; while I enjoyed performing, I could never seem to fully grasp the concept of drama as an “art” in the way my studies were attempting to
convey it. I have the utmost respect for the work that my formerly fellow Drama majors can do, but I realized that it just wasn’t for me. Student government, on the other hand, was becoming a more prominent and meaningful aspect of my life. I decided to run for VP for Activities going into junior year, ironically because of the incredible series of hoops I had to jump through to make a Main House-sponsored pool-party get off the ground. Serving as the 2009-2010 VSA VP for Activities was an unbelievably challenging experience. Last year marked a very tumultuous period for the college as we all struggled to weather the global financial crisis. As a member of the executive board, I often felt that students were holding us responsible, myself at least partially, for some of the college’s decisions, though none of those conversations were within the purview of my position. I spent upwards of 30 hours per week, between committee meetings, event approvals, exec meetings, council meetings, office hours, and organizational work, on behalf of Vassar students, to ensure that the VSA’s resources were best being used to meet an unbelievably diverse group of students’ needs. I don’t believe a student ever thanked me for the work I was doing; it seemed though that few hesitated to complain when I had to make an unpopular decision. I learned a great deal from my experience in this role about management, working with others, and standing by tough choices. They weren’t easy lessons to learn, but I don’t question for an instant that they have made me a stronger person. There were a lot of reasons why I decided to take-off the fall semester of this year. Working full-time as a Starbucks barista while all my friends struggled through the typical stress of papers and exams was admittedly glorious. As time would tell, the joke was ultimately on me; second semester was painful. I’m grateful that despite
my partial “absence,” I was still afforded the opportunity to continue to work on behalf of Vassar students. This year, working on and with the senior class council was a somewhat defining capstone experience. Being a part of creating the “senior experience” for our class was both an unbelievable amount of fun, and essential in grounding me in the finality of my Vassar experience. Then of course was the 2011 All School Gift. As one of the original co-chairs (I’ll spare the drama), I proudly played a role in our decision to take advantage of the sesquicentennial, our class’s passion for promoting campus sustainability, and a generous group of alums, thus establishing the largest student-driven gift ever given to Vassar. I am honored and humbled to have played a part in rewriting Vassar history with this project. My Vassar career has come full-circle in some ways, but I feel that I’m approaching the world with a new perspective. Vassar gave me that opportunity to make my own decisions and judgments, and allowed me to become the person I am. Because I’m so much more comfortable in my own skin, I came to realize that being myself does not mean being flamboyant. My experience working in student government at Vassar during the economic crisis allowed me to see many perspectives on how the college “should” operate, and has made me much more of an economic moderate. While med school is still the next step for me (hopefully), the when and where are uncertain. My game plan for next year is uncertain. My experience here has taught me that you can make as many plans as you want, but the universe is rarely inclined to let things go your way. And that’s okay. —Aaron Grober was the Vassar Student Association (VSA) vice president for activities, co-Chair of the VSA Board of Elections and of the 2011 All-School Gift.
MISCELLANY NEWS | VASSAR COLLEGE
ast April, I received an email that I’d been waiting for since I joined Vassar College Enterainment (ViCE) the first week of my freshman year. Standing outside the library with Sarah Morrison ’11, a girl I barely knew but (thanks to ViCE) from whom I would soon become inseparable, I read the email that said I’d been elected Director for my final year at Vassar. Sarah had been elected Assistant Director. Since that moment, I’ve come to realize two things about ViCE: it’s a favorite topic of debate on this campus, and it will consume your entire life if given the chance. I’d be lying if I said that during especially difficult times I never questioned my decision to join ViCE, and I can remember several moments this year when I’ve asked myself: why did I get involved with such a frequently criticized organization? And why do I willingly give up my weekends to run events rather than attend them with everyone else? While it’s true that I love a good argument and hate waiting on lines, the real answer to these questions is this: ViCE has the unique ability to provide its members with the most insane, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and these moments make everything else worthwhile. As a committee member in my freshman year, I was told that ViCE can do anything. As the outgoing Director four years later, I only now realize how true that statement is. I’ve had some incredibly-absurd experiences thanks to ViCE: I’ve danced on stage with M.I.A., played the tambourine for Broken Social Scene, and nearly been crushed to death by the campus’s collective love for Girl Talk. I’ve met many of my favorite artists, read some ridiculous riders, and listened to countless soundchecks. I’ve seen parties fill to capacity in record time, and seen others crumble in seconds (but that riot was averted). I’ve watched students dance like crazy to seemingly nothing more than the sound of torrential rain, and I’ve watched as friends developed into amazing DJ’s. I’ve repeatedly spent 20 consecutive hours in the same place with the same people to set up and break down events. I’ve coiled more wires than I can count, and I still can’t do it in a way that won’t annoy the guys on the production crew. I’ve witnessed hundreds of my peers having some of the most unforgettable nights of their lives, and I’ve felt the satisfaction of knowing that I contributed to their memories of Vassar. ViCE has also given me the opportunity to interact with some of the most intelligent, creative, and passionate students at this school. It’s rare for a student organization to offer three to four events every week for the entire academic year, and it’s definitely a tribute to the devotion ViCE members have towards entertaining their peers. It’s never ceased to amaze me that even at four in the morning, after hours of working an event, they could still smile as they rolled those last speakers onto the production truck. It’s a dedication that’s impressed many artists and crews as well, and I’ll never forget the pride I felt every time one of them commented on ViCE’s remarkable professionalism and unyielding enthusiasm. These individuals have been a constant source of inspiration and laughter, and I’m so grateful to have had the chance to work with every single one of them. To my fellow outgoing members Sarah, Alejandro Calcaño, and Nora Lovotti- I couldn’t have asked for a better trio to spend an obscene amount of my life with, and I want to thank you guys for making my last year with ViCE full of horrible puns and even worse food choices. I love you all. I couldn’t fully sum up with my experience with ViCE without mentioning a little group of people with whom I’ve become unhealthily obsessed. Terry Quinn, Mike Bodnarik, Michelle Ransom, Maureen King, and every member of Campus Activities, Security, Buildings and Grounds, and Fire Watch- I cannot express how appreciative I am of each and every one of you. We may say that ViCE is a student-run organization, but the truth is none of it would happen without your expertise and tireless dedication. Thank you for humoring us these past four yearsit’s been fun to see what we can get away with. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a member of ViCE who would disagree that the organization is one of the most rewarding and worthwhile experiences to be had at Vassar. Even after four years, I find the creative freedom and encouragement we are given to be remarkable, and it will remain one of the things for which I am most thankful to Vassar. My experiences with ViCE may have come at the price of substantial hearing loss, but I’d never say it wasn’t worth it. —Allie St. Jules is the outgoing director of Vassar College Entertainment (ViCE).
May 22, 2011
Marie Dugo T
he senior thesis. For some students it is a requirement of their major, for others it is an optional but necessary step toward earning honors within their departments. It is a buzz phrase that permeates campus-wide conversations and moods throughout the entire academic year thanks to different departmental due dates. At any given time, sentiments surrounding the topic fluctuate between excitement, dread, accomplishment, misery, and relief. As a Media Studies major, I was required to complete a “senior project,” an alternative term referring to the option of creating a media product accompanied by a written analysis shorter than a traditional thesis. No matter what form it takes, it needs to happen. The beauty of a liberal-arts education lies in the flexibility it provides in selecting courses and charting academic paths. This is what I have loved so much about my four years here, and speaks to why I chose two multidisciplinary programs, Media Studies as a major and Urban Studies as a correlate, as my frameworks. I knew from the moment I sent in my early-decision application that a liberal-arts preparation was what I wanted, even though that is unusual for the television broadcast field I aspire to enter. While that was certainly my focus, I was amazed at how much I enjoyed the array of other topics covered in the Media Studies cur-
riculum. Above all, Vassar made me realize that things I was already noticing, pondering, and questioning were valid academic exercises. It also revealed how everyday practices could provide a layered text with which to engage. The fundamental courses in both programs, Approaches to Media Studies and Introduction to Urban Studies, showcase the multidisciplinary frameworks. As professors from departments like Economics, Sociology, History, and English guest starred for a few class meetings each, I realized my media and urban passions encompass the best of all Vassar worlds. And that I did. Looking back at my transcript feels like walking down a fond memory lane, one that reassures me of how valuable the past four years will be out in the real world. For someone interested in the television broadcast field, I must admit questions lurking in the back of my mind were: “But what if I went to a school like Syracuse University? What if I had a bachelor’s in ‘Broadcast Journalism’ instead of the seemingly aloof ‘Media Studies?’” Aided by the encouragement of my advisor, an expert in news media, Bill Hoynes, I quickly got over those qualms and completely converted to the liberal arts approach, grateful for its emphasis on fundamental skills, like critical reading and writing, to transcend and future job.
Another moment of uncertainty came when I had to solidify my senior project concept. I knew I wanted to equally involve my major and correlate, as has been the case in my life—academic and otherwise. Since I can remember, I have always gravitated toward the Today Show on NBC as my favorite television product. While some television snobs could quickly write it off as a case-in-point of the infotainment quandary or propagandistic tool in culture industry consumerism, I see the program as a crucial component of our media landscape that deserves the same level of analysis I have studied for others. After conducting research, I learned that such a work indeed did not exist. As a native New Yorker, I have always recognized a certain synergy between the city and the NBC network. Engaging in an analysis of Today highlights this relationship between the media and the urban more so than any of its NBC siblings or competition. These were conclusions I drew on my own, but were still unsure of in terms of presenting the concept to the Media Studies Program. The doubt honestly stemmed from how shocked I was that my pleasures in life could also be my work, and vice-versa. As I talked through the idea, there was so much to it that I decided to take the traditional route and strictly do a written thesis that would analyze Today alongside the
Max Kutner I
t’s been almost four years since I became Mads Vassar. What began as an attempt to document my freshman year has since become something way bigger than me, something I hope has left a lasting impact on our school. As my blog approaches one million site visits and I approach my final days at Vassar, I appreciate this opportunity to take a look back at the four years I have spent at this institution. It was September 2007 and the “two-week rule” was just about up. My hallmates and I from the ninth floor of Jewett had gotten into some shenanigans the previous night and I wanted to write them down somewhere. I didn’t know much about blogging — the only one I read was Perez Hilton — and I Googled “how to start a blog.” Within minutes, I made my first post. “Learned from 9/15,” I wrote. “1. Vampire Weekend is our new favorite band. 2. Vassar Teknowledgy can throw a PARTAY. 3. Noyes throws the best pregame.” I’ll save myself the embarrassment and stop there. I called the blog “From The Top of Jewett” and it was official; I was a blogger. As it turned out, freshmen all over campus took interest in the antics of my friends and me. Views increased and within a few days, I knew it was time to get serious. I needed a name change and wanted something like Perez Hilton, an ethnic take on an existing celebrity. My hallmate went to a baby-naming website and we decided on Mads, the Danish form of Matthew. Meanwhile, I kept posting and people kept reading. I wrote about hallcest, Naps pizza, and labeled a few people as “hot messes.”
history of its hometown. When I flip through the 69 pages now, far removed from the Thompson Memorial Library 24-Hour Room chairs whose hospitality I abused, I can’t help but be filled with contentment. Yes, I cursed the entire process somewhere between first draft edits and image citations. Yes, I’ve never been more stressed and sleep deprived than this semester. But you know what? I loved sitting in that 24-Hour Room with my fellow Media Studies majors, commiserating via glance and Facebook posts. I loved watching all of us present our work at the Symposium on Wednesday, May 11. I loved seeing all of us accomplish the biggest academic feat of our lives thus far, live to tell the tale, and graduate with a project that embodies how the past four years that have shaped us. As I move on from Vassar College and into 30 Rockefeller Plaza (the same building I wrote a thesis chapter on) as a member of the NBC Universal East Coast Page Program, I couldn’t be happier about or more prepared for what lies ahead. And I wouldn’t want my diploma to say anything other than Vassar College Media Studies. —Marie Dugo is the outgoing social-media editor of The Miscellany News and president of the Vassar Catholic Community.
There, on the small screens of Mac notebooks everywhere, all of my awkward freshman experiences became preserved forever in the depths of the interweb. In November, the site hit 30,000 visits. I started to feel a need to post real news, and soon, I was able to get it. I kept my ears open, joined orgs, and made connections. By springtime, I was posting exclusives on M.I.A. and interviewed Rye Rye. The following semester, I got in over my head. Publicly, I was giving Admissions tours, serving on the the Vassar College Entertainment’s (ViCE) Executive Board, and playing big brother to my ten fellowees. In private though, I was moderating hundreds of comments as the “Kick Coke” scandal erupted. All of the sudden, I was no longer the only one posting on my blog. Posts were hitting fifty, one hundred, two hundred comments each, and they got so malicious that the Miscellany News published a staff editorial on the dangers of anonymous commenting. I felt like my blog was being taken away from me. I had trouble sleeping, overwhelmed with all of my responsibilities, both online and IRL. I disabled anonymous commenting and breathed a sigh of relief. Over the next two and a half years — and two thousand posts — the blog evolved into a more responsible source for campus news. I dropped the sarcastic tone, changed the layout, and posted more exclusives. Meanwhile, off-line, I declared a film major, led another ViCE committee, and went abroad to Paris and Prague. I took a semester away from Mads while an anonymous helper
updated the Twitter account. I was worried about losing my readership, but enjoyed being able to drink wine by the Seine and eat baguettes and cheese and not have to worry about campus life. The following fall, I came back to campus as a TH-inhabiting, Dutch-attending senior. The readers came back and once again, I was Mads. I’m glad I got to live as both Max and Mads. I spent senior year directing a thesis documentary and helping organize Founder’s Day. Ironically, last week I made it on to another blog under a new pseudonym: Taco Bro. Maybe that Hipster Runoff photo of me in a Taco costume with Toro y Moi is indicative of what my freshman self would have wanted from Vassar: fifteen seconds of internet fame. So what is the fate of Mads after I leave Vassar for good? As I’ve explained here, the blog has been closely tied with my Vassar experience, and I don’t know if it can mean the same thing for someone else. At the same time, the blog is an important alternative to other campus publications and has established itself in Vassar culture. (Just check Vassar’s Wikipedia page.) For now, I’m logging off, but maybe someday another wide-eyed freshman will ask me for the password. Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way: my friends, who have been there since Mads’ beginning, the tipsters who kept it going, and the readers who kept coming back for more. It’s been a pleasure writing for you. —Max Kutner is the creator of madsvassarblog.com.
MISCELLANY NEWS | VASSAR COLLEGE
enior year at Vassar is a whirlwind of experiences. Although I have always loved Vassar, I have never appreciated it more than during my senior year. Hell, I even enjoyed clearing the snow off my car after winter break (the 2nd through 10th times not so much). But what I have come to really appreciate about Vassar is the freedom and openness with which it, the College, the faculty, the staff, and the students have accepted me for exactly who I am – once I figured that out. Senior year is a time of introspection for many, and although I knew this, I never could have predicted all the twists and turns that have shaped me, I hope for the better. I struggled for many years with my self-esteem, my body, my emotions, my academics, my friends, etc; but now I can truly say that I love myself, something I thought I might not ever achieve. I’m not the smartest, the prettiest or with the most friends on Facebook; but I’m happy, and that’s really what matters in the end. In the past year my world felt like it was turned upside down over and over again, but a few months ago, I landed perfectly on my feet. Then I realised, that’s what life is all about: change. If we don’t take those moments for ourselves, we may never adapt, as the world is not constant and life is not stagnant, but fluid. Learning is certainly fluid; we discover new things everyday, and our understanding of how it all works changes. Every professor
has their own views on their subject, and that’s really what makes a Vassar education so great. Being at Vassar let me take a harsh look at my beliefs, I used to be closed-minded and stubborn, but through countless political, religious, and scientific arguments, I have seen such broad views and learnt that often, it’s okay to disagree or to change your mind about something – that’s what learning is, isn’t it? My favourite part of senior year has probably been the time I’ve spent wandering around this beautiful campus. There is a tree outside Noyes by the bench, it is one that I had never really looked at until a few weeks ago. The tree was dedicated to the memory of Christopher Howland Webber, Class of 2005. It had inspirational quotes on it from Gandhi and Jack London’s “Credo,” but what struck me the most was in ten simple words, “Transcend categories. Mix it up. Do what makes you happy.” Although I never knew Webber, I will live by his words. They encompass everything Vassar has meant to me, and at the same time have taken away the fear I once felt about leaving this place. Vassar has shaped us all, but it is now time to show the world what we’re made of. Good luck to you all, Class of 2011. I wish you all the best, and can’t wait to hear of all your great endeavors. —Samantha Allen is the outgoing president of the Terrace Appartments.
May 22, 2011
Angela Aiuto I
applied to Vassar under the Early Decision plan, demonstrating a commitment to the College as my first choice that only a fraction of applicants are willing to make. But while Vassar was indeed my first choice, I designated it as such more out of a sense of desperation than any real connection to the school. Each friend returned from her college visits bright-eyed and brimming over with excitement about her college of choice, extolling its exceptional academic programs, or its studious but academically laidback student body, or its proximity to the nearest liquor store. Meanwhile, I was the girl who found her Columbia tour guide too pretentious, the atmosphere at Tufts too hippy-dippy, and my fellow prospies at Brown too weirdly into sailing. When I first visited Vassar in the fall of 2007— on a whim, as I mainly intended to visit an old high school classmate—I had no idea where I was going to apply. It would be a stretch to say that I received Vassar with the enthusiasm my friends showed, but after I saw the famed stained glass Cornaro Window in the Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library and walked through the arboretum that I now call my campus, I decided that it couldn’t be all that bad. So I applied. In retrospect, maybe it would have been better to figure out what I wanted out of my college experience before I chose one. While I do not regret my decision to attend Vassar—quite the contrary, in fact—I do regret that I did not make better use of my time here. I can hardly remember my first two years at Vassar; the memories are hazy and clouded, like an incident from your childhood that will never be fully—or fairly— recollected. This isn’t so much because my first two years at Vassar were such a whirlwind of new experiences and people and emotions, but because I retained the same apathy about the opportunities available to me that I had had in high school. No particular academic program inspired my curiosity; I eventually decided to declare a major in political science after I decided that department had the most entertaining professors. I signed up for membership in approximately 50 student organizations during my first week here—don’t we all?—but quickly lost interest. It would seem that eventually, though, ambivalence paid off. Even my two-year stint
Matthew Brock as a member of The Miscellany News’ editorial board—singlehandedly the most enriching, meaningful and memorable aspect of my time here—began on something of a whim, when a horrendously fact checked column in the Opinions section—a rarity in the Miscellany, I assure you—annoyed my sophomore self to the point of writing a letter to the editor. I continued to write guest columns throughout the year, always at the editor’s request. I only thought about the position of opinions editor—not really knowing what to expect, or how deep of a commitment I would truly be willing to make—when a terrible break-up left me with far too much free time to be heartbroken and pathetic. So I applied. I’m not sure what it is about the Miscellany, but this newspaper has stirred something completely unfamiliar in me. It’s difficult to put into words, but more than anything, the Miscellany has been a gateway into a world in which I feel invested. I have learned so much about this college and its people during my time on this newspaper that I now must make an effort to not get worked up about things. I have also learned more about myself—as a friend, coworker, writer, editor and plain old human being—from the Miscellany editors than anyone else. I should probably be angry with the Miscellany editors for their large role in my probably reckless decision to pursue a career in journalism, but I love them far too much to say goodbye on such a sour note. Instead, I can only say thank you, and that I wish I had known you longer. Of course, I could not reflect on my time at Vassar without also thinking of my dear friend Andrew Spencer, who taught me so much about relationships and self-respect, but also about California, submarines and baseball. I would be remiss not to mention my father, possibly the only person to provide unlimited and unwavering support of my decision to come here. I am convinced that I would not have made it through these four years without either of you. And while I leave Vassar as I left high school, still without a concrete plan, I am at least satisfied to say and confident in knowing that I am leaving with some direction. —Angela Aiuto is the outgoing senior editor of The Miscellany News.
s I write my final column for The Miscellany News, I find myself conflicted about whether or not I am finally ready to leave Vassar. I know that the time has come for me to move on with my life and I look forward to starting law school this summer, but I can’t help but wonder if the three years that I was here after my transfer from Brandeis University were truly enough time for me to fully enjoy everything that Vassar has to offer. Over the last week of school, I will be facing a lot of lasts of my time here at Vassar. I will hand in my last exam; go to my last party at the Town Houses; see some wonderful people for the last time; eat at the All Campus Dining Center for the last time; and, for the last time, find that there is nothing there worth eating. While these experiences range from amazing to unpleasant, I’m not quite sure how I’ll be able to go on without all of them in my life. It’s as though I’m only just starting to get to know Vassar—the people, the places, the classes—and it feels as though I’m cutting this relationship short. Of course, I’ll still come back from time to time—I’ve already made plans to meet up with underclassmen friends on Founder’s Day, and my mom tells me that I have to repeatedly donate money until I’ve repaid my scholarship—but I know that Vassar and I will never be as closely connected as we have been over the last three years. That being said, I should be ready to move on. When I arrived at Vassar three years ago, I knew that I wanted to go to law school afterwards and, when I started looking at schools I decided that Columbia was the best fit for me and, through some measure of luck, I got in. By the time this paper goes to print, I will have just signed a deal for an apartment near my new school, will be more than ready to leave the suburbs once and for all and will be looking forward to seeing whether the alums are right in telling me that law school involves less work than Vassar. By all accounts, I should be thrilled to be living out my dream, and I am, but at the same time I know that what comes next may very well not be able to measure up to how great my time at Vassar has been. So my challenge, going forward, will be to make sure that it does indeed measure up.
My goal for the next stage of my life will be to find a way to take Vassar with me wherever I go so that I can remember all that I have gained from my time here. I will of course remember everything I’ve learned in classes—from obscure political science statistics to how to write a four-part harmony—and I will hopefully still be able to keep in touch with my friends even after I leave Vassar to go to law school. On that last note, I am also fortunate that many of my classmates will be joining me in New York City next year, so I will always be able to relive some of the experiences that made my time at Vassar memorable, like helping each other procrastinate on important assignments or going to the local diner at 4 a.m. But the most important gifts that Vassar has given me will always be there, even if I’m miles away from the people and places that made it great. I was recently being interviewed by the Campus Life Office for a video that will be shown to the Class of 2015—our replacements—at the next orientation. The last question threw me off—they asked, “How are you Vassar?” How, over the past three years, have I come to embody the Vassar College experience? I don’t think that you can say that there is one Vassar College or one experience that everyone has here, but my personal Vassar experience has most certainly affected who I am today and who I will be for the rest of my life. Gone is the shy transfer student from Brandeis University who put academic success and distinction over all other priorities in life. Vassar taught me how to spread my wings, to try new experiences and to be confident that I will be able to do whatever I need to do to succeed. While I will miss Vassar in the years to come, I will always carry a part of it inside me—the part of me that Vassar helped create. So while I may be sad to leave Vassar, I know that Vassar and I will never fully be apart; the Class of 2011 will be able to move forward with all of the lessons that it has learned here as it faces that future nobody ever thought would arrive. —Matthew Brock is the outgoing senior editor of The Chronicle and an outgoing contributing editor of The Miscellany News.
y name is Maya Casilda Acevedo and I was born in Nyack, New York, right down the river from here. I’m an American Cultures major, focusing on Native American Studies and Environmental Studies. I have been at Vassar since fall of 2006, having taken time off for two nonconsecutive semesters (which was the best decision I made while at school, by the way). My campus involvement this year included being the Vassar Student Association (VSA) representative for town students, the president for the Grassroots Alliance for Alternative Politics (GAAP), and the academic intern for the American Cultures Department. I have also been a nanny locally for all five years. I have grown to love Vassar dearly. So many incredible professors and great classes. The cheerful flowers in the spring and colorful leaves in the fall. One place that I’ve never really gotten the opportunity to recognize and thank fully is the Women’s Center. In fact, I want to dedicate this senior retrospective to the great women I have encountered on those second floor offices of Baldwin. In particular Marlene, Mary, and Dr. B hold a very special place in my heart. I have been in the Center many times over the years and have really seen first hand the important role that it plays for Vassar. And I know I am not alone in these sentiments, for many girlfriends of mine have also been deeply appreciative of the care that is shown in those offices. I remember one of the first things that struck me upon entering the Women’s Center was how much effort was made to keep things confidential. Although at first I was struck in an odd way by the incredible care that was taken to be discreet– from phone conversations to detailing charts– it immediately and unknowingly made me feel very safe. It was upon reflection years later that I realized that it was the attention given to those details that made me willing to go there as many times as I have. From
freaking out over the natural lumpyness of my breasts to the regular pap smears, I have never hesitated to go to the Women’s Center to help me out. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you Mary, Marlene and Dr. B. However, I cannot just write this retrospective as though things have just been so nice and peachy here. There are many things which trouble me deeply about this school. In particular, something that has been bothering me in these past years is the relationship that this college has with its employees. Particularly with service employees– whether it be the custodial staff who just in recent years has been given an absolutely insane work schedules starting at 5 a.m., to the dining staff who are no longer hired over the summer – although the strenuous relationship extends into other departments as well. I was here when the lay-offs happened and through the rallies and hunger strikes I have seen first hand how disrespectful things can get. Furthermore, just this year I was told by someone higher up in the levels of operation of this school that if a person is working class they don’t come to Vassar, they go to SUNY New Paltz. I was very upset about these comments and yet I felt unsurprised by them. And I cannot sit here and act as though it all comes from “up above”; a lot of my upset over the years has come from fellow students who have convinced me through their actions that they were mostly raised with maids and chefs. If Vassar is to be the kind of institution that I am proud of having gone to, it must aim to be a place that respects its own employees and remembers that community starts with how we treat our family and our neighbors. —Maya Acevedo is the outgoing Town Studens president and president of the Grassroots Alliance for Alternative Politics.
he Miscellany News office is a cluster of rooms tucked away up on the third floor of the College Center. Situated far above the hustle of the Center’s ground floor, few people know this corner of campus even exists. From the office’s oversized windows, one gets a pretty good view through the College Center skylights of the throngs and activity below. It’s a holistic view of Vassar, an appropriate view for a newspaper office if there ever was one. Friends, housemates, and parents often struggle to understand exactly why I chose to spend so much time there. I’ve averaged probably 25 to 30 hours a week, every week, for years. I joined the paper at the very beginning of my freshman year, and I’ve been involved in over eighty issues since then. This retrospective, however, is actually the first Miscellany article with my name in the byline. I’ve spent all my time on the design side of the paper, and overseeing the entirety of Miscellany design meant my attention was needed from the very start of every issue to the very end of every issue, and everywhere in between. Print layout, web design, ads, graphics, and the Miscellany brand itself. Being so intimately involved for so long has given me a fairly unique opportunity to watch the history of The Miscellany News unfold first hand. From the first issue of Fall 2007 to the last of Spring 2011, the changes the staff has effected have been dramatic. The paper’s physical size changed three times. We switched printing companies. The logo was redesigned drastically. The front cover image changed to a traditional newspaper front page. The Backpage moved to the middle of the paper. The Life section became Features, Staff Writers became Staff Reporters, and the paper got a new website, an online editor, and a social-media editor. The office was repainted, rearranged, and redecorated (twice). And I’ve watched it all from the same position for four years, a rarity in this organization. But it’s not just the changes to the paper that I’ve seen. The people who come and go each year are some of the most dedicated I’ve ever known. Over my four years I’ve worked for five editors in chief: Lauren Sutherland, Acacia O’Connor, Brian Farkas, Ruby Cramer, and Molly Turpin. Each brought with him or her the drive and dedication to make their Miscellany bigger and better than the last. The first
May 22, 2011
two, along with Sam Rosen-Amy, gave me my start during my freshman year. The remaining three became some of my dearest friends. Whether it’s a revolutionary change like replacing the front page format, an evolutionary change like changing the body text typeface, or refinements like removing borders around images, each editor in chief has a singular goal: to make the Miscellany the best it can be. And that strong leadership at the top has always been supported by a staff that is just as dedicated. It is a pretty diverse group of students, from English majors to Political Science, Economics to Media Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies to Film, Computer Science to Art. Yet all will, for better or for worse, put their studies aside for awhile to write their articles, edit their sections, take their photographs, and stay up until the wee hours of Wednesday morning to get this newspaper to print. Those early mornings, though busy and stressful and tired, have been some of my best experiences at Vassar. As twenty people work from the Tuesday sunset to the Wednesday sunrise in the same room, everyone becomes good friends pretty quickly. If the Misc office’s walls could talk, you’d hear success, failure, hopes, dreams, and regrets. You’d hear crazy ideas involving jackalopes or an editor riding a flaming motorcycle being driven by the Easter bunny. There was the Case of the Disappearing Red Bull and the Case of the Disappearing Page 16. There was food article headline brainstorming, “go-to grass,” and bow tie graphics. You’d learn the revels of Beaker, Statler, and Waldorf and the revelations of the cartilaginous skeleton of sharks. “Eric, make it more… spindly.” “Eric, make it be good.” There’d be an office listening to Obama’s victory speech live on election night and an office listening to David Sedaris’s CDs on triumphant Wednesday afternoons. I’ve spent so much time in this office because I have gotten to do what I love with great people, and we’ve all had a ton of fun doing it. This newspaper has been an enormous part of the last four years of my life and it’s hard to imagine no longer being in this office, perhaps harder that it is to imagine no longer being on this campus. —Eric Estes is the outgoing design and production editor of The Miscellany News.
Amanda Giglio I
am going to preface this retrospective by admitting that I am currently using it as a means to procrastinate writing the final paper of my undergraduate career. Take that in whatever way you’d like. Recently I attended The Phillies, an annual awards ceremony organized by the executive board of Philaletheis in an effort to celebrate the year’s productions and say good-bye to the graduating seniors. In order to do this, the Phil board strategically sets up a video camera every Founder’s Day and allows people to permanently document their thoughts and feelings about that year’s seniors. Obviously the video is hilarious—there is usually an abundance of slightly (read: extremely) belligerent professions of love and admiration—but it also provides an interesting insight on the impact these seniors have made on Vassar’s campus. I was dreading my segment of the video (mainly because I figured I would start sobbing and that’s embarrassing because I’m an ugly crier), but was genuinely surprised by the comments people made about me. While I assumed my reel would consist of a few people who called me “nice” and/or “pleasant” and/or “tolerable” with a random spattering of the words “love” and “busy.” It actually consisted of five or six different sets of people
who immediately associated me with my hugs and thanking me for giving them. Now, this is certainly not the first time I’ve been called a good hugger, I just didn’t realize that it was one of my defining qualities, especially since I’ve always associated this campus with hugs. When I prospied at Vassar one of the first things I noticed was the abundance of physical affection on its campus. People were hugging everywhere and seemed genuinely happy to see each other. The abundance of love made it seem as if everyone on this campus had a place in the Vassar community and I immediately wanted to be a part of it. pre Because of my preconceptions of the Vassar community, I walked onto this campus ready to embrace everyone and everything around me. I made sure to greet everyone I met during orientation activities and my first set of classes in an attempt to make friends and establish myself as an approachable person. (Fun fact: one of my first interactions with a fellow freshman was hugging/scaring Dana Cass—one of my housemates—in the Villard Room, since I recognized her from the 2011 Facebook group.) Within the first couple of weeks, my freshmen year roommates—two of my closest friends to this day—would make jabs at the number of
people timidly responding to my overenthusiastic waves as we walked to the DC. I took the mockery in stride (kind of) and continued my efforts to make myself a place on this campus. Over the last four years, I have probably waved at, smiled at, and (of course) hugged more people than I can count. I try to foster relationships with people who I meet in classes, at random parties, and even people I see in performances. Even though this probably seems obnoxious, it has allowed me to connect with people who exist in completely different worlds on this campus and bring these people together to form wonderful groups. It was only because I kept on saying hello to Jon Fuller after meeting him one random night in the Retreat that I was asked to direct bare the second semester of my freshman year and have one of the greatest experiences of my life. Bare, in turn, led me to FWA, a group that has defined my Vassar experience and brought more joy into my life than I can possibly express. Random connections with a member of my Construction of Gender class inspired me to intern at Battered Women’s Services over my sophomore summer, the reason why I will be attending American University’s Washington College of Law this fall. I always thought my hugs and my attitude were
MISCELLANY NEWS | VASSAR COLLEGE
just for me—small gestures that made me feel like I had a significant place on this campus more so than the leadership roles that are listed underneath my name. I never knew that they did this for others as well. I’m not telling everyone to go on a hug rampage right this very second. All I’m saying is that you should embrace our small campus for the tight-knit community that it is. Say hello to that random person you’ve always been interested in meeting and actually tell them that they were wonderful in that thing that you randomly saw because you know this other person; hug an acquaintance who seems to be having an off day; compliment a random stranger’s outfit. Because you never know how much your small gesture—a gesture that I promise will make you feel good too—impacted that other person. So, to everyone that I’ve attacked with love over the past four years, thank you. You have helped define my Vassar experience by making me feel loved, wanted, important, and special just by being there and I hope that hug did something for you too. —Amanda Giglio is the outgoing president of the Future Waitstaff of America.
May 22, 2011
Katie Atkins W
hen I arrived at Vassar as a freshman, I had no idea who I really was or what I wanted to do with my life, let alone my time in college. I was shy, quiet, and unsure of myself. But now that it’s time to go, I can safely say that I know who I am, and I know where I’m going. So many different things about Vassar have helped me to figure that out, from the classes I’ve taken, to the friends I’ve made, to all those “deep” conversations about life that never fail to materialize, whether they happen in the All Campus Dining Center or at the Mug. But when I think of the experiences that have defined me during my time at Vassar, my mind goes to two specific things. Two things that I can point to and say, “These experiences changed me, inspired me, and made me who I am.” The first experience began when I joined ACT OUT! my freshman year. I had known even before I got to Vassar that I wanted to join a group for queer students, so on the day of the activities fair during freshman orientation, I looked around for any sign of a rainbow flag that would signify the queer organizations. When I finally saw one on the table for ACT OUT! I hesitated before walking over, nervous because I hadn’t come out yet and I didn’t really want anyone to see me. But I eventually worked up the courage and signed my name on their email list. The act of signing my name on that list was one of the most important things I’ve ever done. I started attending ACT OUT! meetings, where I met other queer people for the first time in my life, and I started participating in LGBTQ activism. It was at this point that I started to come out to people. But, even then, I still couldn’t fully embrace my queer identity. That changed one night when ACT OUT! got together after a day of chalking in the college center circle. We met up in the seminar room in the library to eat some rainbow cakeand hang out. Somehow, we ended up going around the table and telling our coming out
Gulfem Demiray stories. Hearing everyone else’s stories, and being able to share mine, made me feel like, for the first time, I wasn’t alone. I had a found a community, and it was ACT OUT! The second experience began with a class: Domestic Violence. This class ignited something inside me that I couldn’t ignore – a passion and a need to become involved in the Battered Women’s movement. So, in the summer after my sophomore year, I became an intern at Battered Women’s Services in Poughkeepsie, working as a domestic violence counselor/ advocate. Starting this internship was almost like an awakening. It was like someone flipped a switch and I suddenly knew: this is what I want to do with my life. Since that first internship I haven’t been able to stop, and have continued to work at BWS in several different capacities for the last two years. Thinking back to that first internship, I really can’t believe how different things are now. Answering the crisis hotline used to make me so anxious that I would jump when the phone rang. The first time I went to Family Court, I didn’t even know what floor I needed to go to, let alone how to help a client petition for an order of protection. Now the security guards and lawyers wave to me, and the court clerk knows me by name. I’ve helped clients through more petitions and court appearances than I can count. Through these two experiences, I have discovered my passion for social justice. But I have also discovered myself. Though my formal Vassar education is something I will forever value, I believe that the education Vassar has given me outside of the classroom is just as crucial. Thanks to those experiences, I am no longer the shy, quiet, and unsure person of four years ago. Instead, as I leave Vassar, I am confident, passionate, and excited for what the future may bring. —Katie Atkins is the outgoing president of ACT OUT!
s I have tried to put together the Sesquicentennial Vassarion, my last year at Vassar has been full of nostalgia. The yearbook made me consider not only the past four years, but also my entire academic career – a fifteenyear-old journey I started as a little kid that will culminate in a diploma on Sunday. I remember the first week of my freshmen year. I was extremely jet-lagged and was trying to adjust to my tiny room in Jewett. It was also the first time I had ever set my foot on campus. Unlike many new friends I made, who had eagerly sent early-applications, I had not really considered coming to Vassar but still ended up here somehow. So my mind was set on transferring to some other school when I first got here. But my transfer applications were trashed after the first few weeks of college. I loved Vassar so much and was so happy here that I felt like I couldn’t leave this place ever. During the freshmen winter break, I couldn’t wait to come back to Vassar, no matter how much fun I had at home. Ever since, it has been like an anchor I could keep coming back to. I joined The Misc around that time as a fledgling staff writer covering the art and music scenes on campus. I worked for the paper through my sophomore year as well, getting to know new people in various campus organizations, ensembles, or a cappella groups, as well as all sorts of cool artists and musicians that came to campus. Although it took so much time, I took a perverse pleasure in working for the Misc, doing interviews, writing articles and reviews, and doing countless edits and revisions on the Arts section. The newspaper was among my numerous other interests. I always wanted to do 10 different things at once. So I kept playing the piano, worked for the yearbook, and joined the Jewett House Team. All the experiences I had with the house team were special and meaningful, including setting up for study breaks and decorating Jewett for Seven Deadly Sins. And of course I had to do a double major, having such strong desire to pursue many
things. For some, double majoring in art history and economics sounded like having the best of both worlds, although it was more like living in two separate worlds on the same campus. Steadily working everyday on a different problem set with fellow econ majors, I usually missed out on all the fun activities many of my friends did in their free time. And when my econ major friends were finally done at the end of the term, I’d be struggling to finish a gazillion papers along with other art history majors. So while at Vassar, the birds-chirp a cappella has been a regular part of my daily nocturnal routine and I always wished humans needed less sleep because I always wanted to enjoy all that Vassar had to offer. Of course, we have all been here for academics, but I really can’t sum up my Vassar experience fully in terms of readings and problem sets. For me, Vassar has been far more than just academics. I have also made great friends, from whom I have learned as much as I have from classes. Looking back on my college experience, it’s the nocturnal chats with friends, the all-nighters we took playing beer pong, trips we made into the woods, and random ACDC sessions that I recall first. I have neither come to terms with leaving this place that has been my home for the past four years, nor leaving my friends. Yet, it’s time to bid farewell, at least for now. Having reached the end of my odyssey at Vassar, I still feel dazed, confused, and unready for May 22. But even when I’m not physically here, breathing in Vassar’s atmosphere, I know Vassar will be with me, as part of my character, my identity. I’m very grateful to Vassar for everything it has given me and for being my home. And I want to thank my friends for everything, for helping me build an amazing college experience. I really wish I could take you guys with me wherever I go after graduation. —Gulfem Demiray is the outgoing editor-inchief of the Vassarion.
May 22, 2011
can’t imagine having gone anywhere else. Vassar has been the perfect environment for me both academically and socially, and has given me so many opportunities to be engaged in things both inside and outside the classroom. I have had countless experiences that I owe to Vassar, including the chance to direct three plays and serve as the facilitator for Unbound. Prior to coming here I had an interest in theater, but never envisioned myself being so involved. Once I discovered the resources available to me, I was able to not only make theater, but actually grow as a director throughout the years. With each play I directed I challenged myself in new ways, which allowed me to learn more and more about the theater making process. It was often uncomfortable for me, and I think that being able to conquer that discomfort was an invaluable lesson that Vassar taught me. I am very thankful that I have had the opportunity to contribute to the dynamic theater community here, which was an experience that showed me just how much I could learn from my peers. Vassar’s emphasis on executing creative endeavors is something that I have come to strongly value. In addition to extra-curricular possibilities, I think that one of my favorite aspects of Vassar was having the opportunity to pursue my own academic interests, while at the same time being challenged to explore territories that were out of my comfort zone. For my Political Science seminar I was able to combine my interest in political theory (something I felt was accessible to me) with my desire for art (something that I’ve felt has always been inaccessible). Since I am the worst artist I know, it was a sincerely meaningful experience for me to put my heart into something artistic for a final project. Creating a work of art that I actually liked was something I never could have seen myself doing, and having the support of my professors and peers is the only way that I was able to achieve that. During the creation of my collaborative sculp-
ture/performance art piece about the meaning of signs, we found that our project exposed a controversy between provocative art and public space. We were forced to meet with several administrators about it. While the project ended up being slightly censored, the administration gave us the opportunity to talk with them in order to understand our project. Rather than shutting down the piece, we had several discussions with different people, which forced us to think about the significance that it could have for the community. Although I was angry at the time that we couldn’t utilize the public space at Vassar the way we wanted to, I now have a great deal of respect for how the situation was treated. Vassar wants us to explore our creative motivations, and even though it caused somewhat of a stir at the time, I think that even the administration appreciated the discussions we had, the challenges that we brought to their policies, and the project itself. While the opportunities here are unbelievable, nothing will compare to the friends I have made. Each semester was a new exploration into the vastly unique student body that we have. My peers have provided an atmosphere in which I could be completely comfortable with my own self, which has further allowed me to grow and mature in unexpected ways. I even think that those people who I did not get along with have taught or showed me something in their own way. The professors I’ve had have also made a profound impact on my life, and many of them are responsible for many of my current academic interests and motivations. I am also grateful for getting to know many of my professors outside of the classroom, and I consider them my friends. I will greatly miss all of my friends, students, faculty, and administrators alike, that I have met and had the opportunity to interact with throughout the course of my four years at Vassar. —Michael Hirsch is the outgoing president of the student-theatre group Unbound.
ooking back on my time at Vassar College, I am filled with gratitude for my time spent as a member of the Crew Team and for most recently having the honor to serve as Captain. One year ago, when the team’s varsity status was revoked, I thought I would lose what mattered most; one year later, the team is on its way to becoming one of the most competitive club teams in the northeast. Each day, I am in awe of the work my team puts forth, its unbridled success, and the respect and support each rower maintains for another. My time at Vassar is the Rowing Team. There is something both sacred and healing about being on the river before the sunrise. Although I gave up a normal life when I became a member of the Vassar Crew Team, I never realized how much I would gain by devoting myself to this sport and this group of people. In a way, I think rowing saved my life, for it was during one of its most challenging (and yet formative) periods that I decided to yoke myself to this discipline. There is an unfolding that happens when you stay with something this long, sit with it, and at last surrender. There is a place that is carved out, one in which you can stand and begin to see yourself, really, for the first time. This can be beautiful and yet also extremely painful as you grow with yourself and your boat throughout the seasons. As far as I know, there is no sport other than rowing, which is bound so intimately to the flow of the Time. A rower begins his or her year in the Autumn and stays on the water until the onset of Winter and can physically no longer endure the cold. We then remain indoors until early Spring, going through one of the most grueling periods known as “Winter Training” before the Hudson thaws and permits us to return. This past season, under the guidance of my advisor, Beth Darlington, and a generous grant from the Carolyn Grant Fay ’36 Endow-
MISCELLANY NEWS | VASSAR COLLEGE
ment, I was able to help design and oversee an eight-week long meditation and stressreduction program with the Rowing Team. The team was required to meet once weekly in a group setting and then practice daily on its own throughout the course. When we began in January in the dead of Winter, I did not foresee the effects of this work on those who chose to participate or the sense of gratitude I would feel toward them as my teammates. It is one thing to train with a teammate, but how many captains have the honor of watching someone begin to see that they have value? To love him or herself? To find a new sense of faith in what they do with clarity and ease. Or perhaps to admit that they aren’t who they thought they were? I do. As I watched my teammates throughout their experiences with meditation this semester, I realized just how far we had all come: this wasn’t just about rowing any more; this was much, much bigger. This was about finding a sense of self-worth, healing from the anxieties of the demands to perform, compassion, and the value of time spent together both on and off the water. And for me, personally, my time spent with the senior members of the team, Peter Muhn, Alina von Korff, and Evan Ross, has been one of utmost joy. To grow with these three individuals has been one of the most rewarding experiences I could have ever had while at Vassar. They remind me daily of what it means to be both a rower and a friend. Their dedication is unmatched and I will remember my years spent with them throughout the seasons on the river, grateful for the time which seems to have passed me in the blink of an eye. Who knows where the Time goes? Perhaps it does not matter when you are with those whom you love, united by a single passion. The value of Time… —Morgan Mako is the captain of Vassar Rowing.
May 22, 2011
Kelly Long T
here’s this strange thing that happens to you at Vassar. You wake up one morning and you feel old. That sounds silly, I know: I’m only 21. We’re none of us who we were when we first came here. Look at photos of your friends from freshman year. Look at yourselves now. Somehow, we’ve all grown up. We’re women and men, with no memory of where we shed our childhood-selves. I’m trying to remember where I left mine, and here’s what I think: I left it in the 2-East stairwell of Cushing, where my friends filled their room with packing-peanuts one Sunday afternoon, and then swam in it like fish in a too-small-tank. I left it in the Art-105/106 lecture hall, where mine was the only light that didn’t work, and where I lost my heart to Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. I left it on the smelly couch where I cried—to the point of embarrassment—when Obama won the presidential election (don’t worry, they were happy tears!). I left it in McAuley’s, where I laughed until my sides hurt while my friends stood up and did a drunken cover of Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me” on karaoke night. I left it in my senior thesis carrel (known affectionately as “Carrel Carol”), where I got on a firstname basis with Mark Rothko, and threw dirty notes to my friend sitting two carrels in front of me. I left it in the hidden parts of the Chapel, where I ran around barefoot at midnight while waiting, with the other senior coordinators, to welcome the newest members of the Daisy Chain. I left it somewhere over by the New England building, where I got lost looking for
Sander’s Classroom on my very first day of freshman classes, and was rescued by a friendly senior named Hannah (thanks Hannah!). I left it on the roof of the water-tower behind Baldwin where I star-gazed with the first boy I ever fell in love with. I left it in the basement of the Loeb, where I was told to close my eyes, and was handed a three-thousand-year-old Egyptian bird sarcophagus. No big deal. It was left here, and there, in pieces too small to gather, too small to hold on to. Vassar has made me brave. I don’t mean “I-can-watch-horror-moviesby-myself-in-the-dark” brave. I still won’t do that. I mean brave with my mind, and brave with my heart. I’ve come to a place where I know that new ideas don’t hurt (much), and that letting people into your heart is a strength. Some of them will stay there, and some of them will float away. Our lives are so circular: it’s just time to part ways with people and places, and, to a certain extent, I think that fate takes care of you. When people drift out of your life, new ones come in and spackle up those cracks. Does anything ever really end? I don’t think so. I will forever cut sandwiches diagonally because my best friend from elementary school told me it was bad juju to do it down the middle. People don’t ever really disappear. They’re in your sandwich. So. Dear Vassar. This is my love note to you. I don’t want to leave…but I’m ready to. —Kelly Long is the outgoing president of Promoting Equality And Community Everywhere (PEACE).
elcome, fellow Vassar students, to my Senior Retrospective. I would start by saying I just finished a take home final exam for Paul Kane’s Contemplations in the American Landscape course (which as many people as possible should take. This means you, underclassperson!). The last question I answered for the final was: “Discuss how personal encounters with a landscape might result in wisdom. How would this come about for you? Define carefully what you mean by wisdom.” Surprisingly, I was able to answer the question (which I would have once found eyebrow-creasingly vague) with relative ease. My housemate recently told me that Vassar students, when compared with other liberal-arts students, give nearly identical results on psychological surveys. However, even when asked relatively simple, yes or no questions, Vassar students typically preface their answer with two-paragraph explanations. To me, this is fascinating (and hilarious, because I recognize it readily). Despite accusations from family members that I’ve become “too heady,” or “too self-analytical,” I’m happy with my education. After all, isn’t wisdom having both a wealth of knowledge AND the ability to understand and contextualize that knowledge, as well as one’s own thoughts and feelings? And isn’t the purpose of an education to learn to be wise and self-sufficient while navigating the world?
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I remember, in my college search, reading testimonials from students who said Vassar “taught them how to think.” Beyond that, I find Vassar has taught me how to live, and it has refined my definition of a successful life. It has given me the tools and the emotional strength to be successful according to that definition. Through Vassar, I’ve met a lot of wise mentors who are truly living, with careers they love passionately, large circles of families, coworkers and friends, and respect in their communities. And they advocate for the lifestyle I’m trying to lead and the feminist, environmentally-friendly, sociallyconscious, spiritually-committed, politically-responsible mindset I’d like to have (A lot of qualifiers). I’ve learned from their examples, so I’m going to try to think and live that way. Too often we gripe about the things we’ve missed in our four years at Vassar, the problems we’ve had and the lack of opportunities we’ve experienced. The Class of 2011 attended this school at an admittedly difficult moment — with the rug pulled out from under us halfway through during the economic downturn of 2007-2009, or at least rumpled a bit — and we’ve had to paddle hard. But really, when all is said and done, Vassar has given me much: the ability to know what to look for, to understand what I see, to verbalize what I understand and communicate it to others, and to act on what I say I’ll do. And in our time of financial
difficulty, with so much dialogue on-campus about tightening our belts, I feel like my place here and the financial aid I received was testament to Vassar’s commitment to its stated goals. So thank you, Vassar College, and thank you to all of you who welcomed me and made my education at this institution what it was. All my life, I have never felt at home — until I learned to love the landscape that is the Vassar campus, the people here, and this part of the world. I’m on my way to wisdom after graduation from here, I hope. Thank you to all of my Ferry Haus housemates, past, present, and future, for teaching me about community, cooperation, food, and so much more. Thank you to the Vassar Filmmakers, especially my ridiculously on-point executive board. Thank you to Ken Robinson for teaching me to shape film (and putting up with me!). Thank you to Sophia Harvey for four semesters of well-appreciated advisor-ship. Thank you to Paul O’Connor and three years with Team Workstudy! Thank you to Paul Kane and his fantastic course. Thank you to all of my other professors, mentors, friends, and family. You are all inspirations, and I owe you much. I’ll bake you cookies. Ok, enough with being sappy. Congratulations, everyone! Go do good! —Grace Statwick is the outgoing president of the Vassar Filmmakers.
May 22, 2011
earest Underclassmen, I know this sounds cliché, but it’s true: your four years at Vassar are going to go by so fast, you honestly won’t know where the time went. So take it from us wizened, old seniors and start your graduation bucket list now! A bucket list may sound kind of morbid but believe me, for us over-scheduled Vassar students, it’s beyond helpful ... and motivating. So here I present to you, in no particular order, some bucket list items you might want to remember. 1) Vassar Farm: I always knew I wanted to visit this ecological preserve on the way-over-there end of campus, but I didn’t get the chance until this year. Go with a friend, go alone, take your folks, walk a dog, go in the snow or the sunny greenery, or at the peak of fall foliage season. You’re bound to encounter a plethora of interesting sights, sounds, and smells. 2) The South Hills Mall movie theater: They show movies that have just come out of regular theaters but haven’t quite made it to DVD yet. That movie that came out six months ago that you really wanted to see but didn’t feel like paying 11 bucks at the Galleria for? You can see it for two or three dollars at the South Hills Mall right next door! ! Unfortunately, concession stand prices are just as high as anywhere else. $4 Junior Mints, anyone? 3) Drive-in movie theater: Speaking of movie theaters, drive-ins are a quintessential American experience. There’s at least two very nearby (Overlook Drive-In and Hyde Park Drive-In) and when the weather is nice, everyone should go and have their own little Grease moment (though maybe without the corny “Stranded at the Drive-In” song). 4) Night at the Observatory: I’ve heard whispers that on Wednesday nights you can go over to the Class of ’51 Observatory up behind Sunset Lake and look through the telescope for free! I’ve heard that it’s “open to the public.” Alas, this is one of those items on my list that I have not gotten around to. So follow those whispers and see if you can get in to see quite a star-studded show. 5) See and/or meet Meryl Streep: Yeah, yeah, I know. Everybody’s too obsessed with her, you say. But have you seen her films? The woman can act like nobody’s business, and she’ll do it so smoothly you’ll forget you’re watching one of the most famous actresses of all time and get caught up in the character, not the actress. All fawning aside, unless you’re going into the entertainment business, it is unlikely that you’ll
ever again have the opportunity to casually run into Ms. Streep as you both order the Wednesday chili at the Retreat. Sadly, I’ll have to settle for just catching a glimpse of this wonderful woman as I walk across the stage to shake hands with Cappy on that fateful day known as Graduation. 6) Traying: Now seniors, remember when you could actually go traying with those great, sturdy trays ACDC used to have. However, you can still go, you’ll just have to use something else. But definitely do it! Especially in that prime spot over by Sunset Lake or on Graduation Hill! For those of you who come from warmer climes and have only seen your first real snow at Vassar, as well as you seasoned snow bunnies, this is an experience you cannot miss! 7) The Culinary Institute of America: Now, you may be thinking, no way could I afford one of their fancy shmancy restaurants! But wait! There’s a perfectly-affordable and delicious alternative called “The Apple Pie Bakery.” Also, any excuse to get on that campus and see the view from up there is a good reason in my book. 8) The Walkway Over the Hudson: I may or may not have taken a senior seminar this semester that focused on the Walkway, and this may or may not be an undisguised plug for majoring in American Culture, but the point is the Walkway is breathtaking. It’s really close by (10 minute drive, tops, 25 minute bike ride), it’s free (except for parking) it’s beautiful (glamorous views of the Hudson River, the Mid-Hudson Bridge, Poughkeepsie, and Highland), it’s good exercise, and it’s a great place to go with family, friends, boyfriends or girlfriends, or just by yourself. If you’re really into running, I suggest taking the loop that goes around the Walkway and the Mid-Hudson Bridge. Lastly, bring a camera. 9) Go to as many performances (plays, recitals, concerts, etc.) as you can: Fact: there are some insanely talented people on this campus. I think I must have been to about 10 different recitals, musicals, plays, a cappella concerts, and instrumental concerts and I have yet to be disappointed. I’m only disappointed I didn’t go to more. And where else are you going to be able to see and hear such great performances for free? 10) Acropolis Diner any time after midnight: Whether or not you are under the influence, the food at the Acrop tastes much better after midnight. It’s just one of those indisputable facts. Ask anyone. —Heather Tannenbaum is the outgoing co-president of Togther Opposing Neglect and Child Abuse (TONCA).
t might surprise people who know me well, but I will dearly miss Vassar. I don’t think they’d be surprised if I merely said I loved the education I’ve gotten here. After all, I stayed here because of the education. But it’s not the only reason. As much as I’ve had an occasionally difficult time here, in many long, complicated, and ultimately embarrassing ways, I love this school and I will never regret what I have gained here. Mostly, in these last few weeks here, I’ve been thinking how much I love this place. There are not many opportunities in the world where you can wander around in an arboretum at night and feel completely safe. I will miss those watchful blue lights, just waiting for you to get in trouble so they can save you. I will miss the random herds of deer wandering with impunity across the campus. And of course there are things wrong with this— blue lights go out, the herds of deer are a symptom of an imbalanced ecosystem. But still: There is nothing as beautiful as Vassar’s campus at night. Unless it’s Vassar in the day. Vassar is always beautiful. We’ve got the splendor of trees in the autumn, the pristine brilliance of the winter snow and the exuberance of spring flowers. (There are maybe two weeks in March where things are grey and muddy and just not comfortable, but even then, Vassar’s still pretty nice). And that’s not even counting the buildings. The first time I came here, I looked at the library and called it a palace. Actually being enrolled didn’t change anything. For my very first of classes, I had a 9 a.m. Latin class. I remember walking into Sander’s classroom and thinking, “Wow, I’m in college. I must be, there’s all this brick.” Vassar just looks like a college, doesn’t it? Sure, there’s the brick, but there’s also the hollows in the stairs where years upon years of students have walked, the books in the library that thousands of people have read and learned from. There’s so much history here and that’s a wonderful
Francesca Cocuzza I
cannot express in one little essay how much I have learned at this college. Looking back now, the girl who arrived as a freshman now seems like a child, and I feel extremely fortunate to have grown up on this campus. I have done many things here that I am proud of, a few that I’m not proud of, but mostly I’ve built a lot of memories with many wonderful people. I have had the privilege of learning from so many brilliant and gifted professors who have helped to shape the way I think. But even more important have been my peers and classmates. This college has allowed me to encounter so many young individuals of remarkable talent, ambition and compassion, who continue to impress and inspire me. It is an honor to graduate among them. One of my accomplishments at Vassar stands out among the rest: I now speak a language that I did not speak when I got here. Studying Italian at Vassar has been challenging, exciting, and truly the most rewarding endeavor I have ever undertaken. My involvement with the Italian department has contributed tremendously to my experience at Vassar, and I am grateful to have been part of such an intimate and welcoming community. This year, as the Italian Department’s intern, I had the opportunity to tutor students in some of the introductory classes. Helping these freshmen and sophomores learn grammar was like stepping into a time machine; they are now where I was four years ago, constantly memorizing and struggling to express themselves with foreign words. From their perspective, studying at an Italian school, making Italian friends,
even holding a conversation in Italian seems unfathomable. It has made me so happy to help them, knowing how many wonderful experiences in Italian await them. Working with the freshmen always reminds me how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned in only a few years. And now upon graduation, I am unwilling to suspend my engagement with Italian and my relationship with the culture; in the fall I plan to teach in Italy, live among Italians, and continue on with the course which my studies at Vassar have directed me to these past years. I cannot express how much I owe the Italian department, not only for advancing my facility with the language and my knowledge of the culture, but also for their consistent help and guidance outside the classroom. To the Italian professors, I am truly indebted to you; vi ringrazio con tutto il cuore. Although at this point I realize I have no choice but to leave campus and start a new chapter of my life, I know that everything Vassar has given me will stay with me forever – memories, friendships, values, an open mind; the list goes on. Wherever I go, I will be proud to carry with me the traits that characterize me as a Vassar alumna. After four years, I realize that I still have a lot of growing up to do. Yet perhaps the most valuable lesson this college has taught me is always to seek new experiences and to continue to grow. Vassar has instilled in me not only a profound appreciation for my education, but also a firm desire to keep learning. —Francesca Cosuzza is the outgoing president of the Itialian Club.
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gift to have. It’s a history that we’ve heard so much about and celebrated so much this sesquicentennial. I’m a Victorian Studies major and there are very few people in the world who appreciate the Victorian Studies majors at Vassar. For the past three years, I have often walked across campus dressed in Victorian garb and no one has looked twice. (Okay, they looked twice. Sometimes three times. Sometimes they giggled. But mostly they smiled and approved). Vassar has taught me to embrace my love of the past. But so much of what is Vassar is what is new. Would Main be as awesome as it is if the College Center wasn’t attached? Would I be a Victorian Studies major if I couldn’t also be an English major? I have always felt that the best way to understand ourselves is to understand the past. But it’s also important to remember that we live in the present. Being here constantly reminded me of that, whether it was because I was discussing Lady Gaga in class or because I was listening to her at a party at the Town Houses. And I’ve learned other things, arguably more important. I have learned how to read novels with a critical mind and read criticism like a novel. I’ve discovered how much I enjoy Tennyson and how hard it is for me to learn Latin. I wrote—and finished—my thesis. I’ve gotten really great at packing up a dorm room and finding people to help me carry boxes of books down many flights of stairs. Best of all, I’ve figured out how to take care of myself, which is worth more than anything else I could have gotten here. I am excited about graduating. Excited and terrified, but completely ready. I love that I went here, I love what this experience has given me. I would not be who I am without Vassar and that would be a shame. —Breanna Lee is the outgoing president of the Knights of Commuknitty.
May 22, 2011
began Vassar with the self-mandate that I would never again be involved in as many activities, clubs, and extra academic classes as I had been in high school. Whoops. I envisioned becoming more focused in college and learning how not to over-commit myself; but instead, I learned how the (perpetual) variety of endeavors I undertake support each other and make me who I am. After taking a ballet class as a prospective student, I met with the chair of the Vassar’s Dance Department. She told me the arts supplement I had submitted was sub-par and that the dance program at Vassar would definitely challenge me. At the time, it stung. I wrote her off as a little crazy, but I wanted to prove her wrong. Since then, I have come to appreciate her honesty and meticulousness which has made me a more mature dancer. My four years as a member of Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre have provided me with numerous opportunities to take the stage and the members of this company have become my family. When I applied for the Undergraduate Research Summer Institute, the faculty member who interviewed me asked me why I had chosen a biomechanics lab. After I blabbed some incoherent nonsense, she summed up my interests perfectly: “Well, I think you applied because you’re a dancer and a scientist and studying the biomechanics of fish allows you to investigate movement of another organism’s body.” Oh! This was perhaps the first concrete moment where I realized that sometimes faculty knew more about me than I could say myself, although it certainly wasn’t the last. The lack of graduate students at Vassar permitted me to work closely with faculty on projects and publications and I am forever grateful for these opportunities to delve into the realities of scientific research. I chose my major by perusing the course catalogue and highlighting the classes I thought sounded interesting. The largest number of bright green classes happened to be in the Science, Technology, and Society Program (STS) so the next day I met with the head of the program, filled out various colored forms, and became an STS major. I had no idea that it would provide me with the tools and the mentors to help me synthesize what had always been two cognitively dissonant forces
in my head: the science behind medicine and the society it both resides within and actively affects. Later in my sophomore year I traveled to Uganda to implement the first phase of a motorcycle ambulance program. My first foray into fieldwork simultaneously confirmed that I was interested in global health and underscored how much I had to learn. The following year, myself and another student led a team to Haiti to establish our own relationships and projects. These experiences in the field were just as important as those I had in the classroom and they were only possible because Vassar brought me into contact with other students who think like me. I was also able to take advantage of the funding mechanisms Vassar has to offer; I would venture to say I’ve taken the most advantage of those yearly activities fees we pay the institution. I used my classes to investigate the field of global health from different perspectives. Most professors were receptive to my desire to have a hyper-focus within their syllabus. Others were not. I came to define a “good” professor by whether or not they took interest in me as a person, sought to further my interests and aknowledged that their class was just a brushstroke in a larger picture. I am so grateful to say that I’ve met many “good” professors here and a handful of them have forever changed how I think for the better. When I got here, I knew I thought the world was messed up and that I wanted to change it but it was because of the four years in this place that I figured out why and how. Vassar has enabled me to grow. I was supposed to write something specific for this reflection and if this were my last assignment at Vassar, I’m pretty sure I would have failed to follow the prompt. But I just couldn’t. To reflect on just one aspect would have been antithetical, perhaps even hypocritical. The reason why I’ve thrived at Vassar is because this environment has allowed me to do a million and one seemingly disparate things and find the connections between them, to understand how they are mutually reinforcing, and that is what I am most proud to take with me into the real world. —Nicole Krenitsky is the outgoing president of ProHealth.
eader, my reminiscence is not really all that useful to you. I instead leave you with some instruction that may truly serve you: how to write an English paper. Every afternoon, around 6 p.m. the last of the general chemistry lab students have cleaned up and left for their dorms, the classroom lights are shut off, and the professors climb the stairs from their offices towards the fresh air. On classroom blackboards the day’s lectures can still be made out; arrows chase from atom to atom in sweeping gestures; equations are blurred into a language of extraterrestrial symbols. The clamor of the hundred fervent students who walked its halls that day fades away, leaving only the whirr of computers, the hiss of equipment, and the plod of dripping faucets: a deep and meditative respiration. It is during this hour that Mudd is turned from a bedlam of intellect, anxiety, triumph and disappointment into a peaceful haven, restorative of calm and determination. The day’s work has finished; the absence of the exams, laboratories, and research struggles is striking. With the breathless toils of present obligations removed, all that remains is the march towards tomorrow’s efforts. Here, students’ new labors will progress in harmony with the building’s tranquil sighing— steadily, determinedly, and driven by calm necessity and the simple assurance that as the next problem rises, so surely it will be completed and fall in their wake. This is where you should write your English paper. The students that remain within the building’s resting walls are the members of an unspoken moonlight society of academe and camaraderie. Even as their unfailingly friendly faces are turned towards respective papers and screens, they reassure each other with an agreeable and secure presence. In that third floor laboratory, warmed by the assurance of companionship the students are allow each other a sensation of good-natured safety and focus. These will be your companions as you write your English paper. Climb the stairs to the third floor of the building, and turn right to find the computer lab. The fourth chair from the back on the left hand side of the room has a sturdy armrest and swivels comfortingly with an optimistic murmur of churning gears. Turn to the desktop on your left and rest your forearms on the cool, smooth surface as you type. Look up periodically to observe the strange programming language being typed by your neighbor, to attempt to discern the faded note on the blackboard, or to simply listen to the slow breath of the building. Work carefully, and not
too quickly. This is how you should write your English paper. Write the structure of the building. Mudd’s skeleton is clear and straightforward. Each floor is designated its own function, specific and finite. However, an intricacy of layout and content that adds unexpected depth to each section of the building. In the maze of the basement, a mere turn around a corner will draw one from a flask of living cells to a vial containing a single type of delicately purified molecule. The classroom laboratory function of the second floor is forgotten in a small side room, where exquisitely cultivated crystals are bombarded with X-rays until their molecular structure is discerned. Your paper must also have clearly defined levels and a solid foundation, but you must allow yourself to explore, forget, and reflect in the corridors and side rooms of your discussion. The diversity of scholars and researchers that have walked the floors of Mudd have left a legacy within the building; they are present in the papers and posters affixed to the walls, in the well-used and carefully maintained laboratory equipment, and in the occasional flask of unidentifiable substance, ancient and repulsive enough to resist cleanup efforts, hidden in a laboratory hood. Write with the same diversity of intellect and recollection of previous scholars’ work. Write the respiration of the building. The calm, confident air of Mudd Chemistry sooths and reassures its occupants while telling the story of its heavy use in the education of the Vassar community within its walls. Allow your paper the same flowing poise, and you will find success. Having been deeply involved in both the scientific and literary communities at Vassar, I am aware of the apparent divide between the two fields. I have heard peers in each discipline disdain the legitimacy of the other. The truth is that the studiy of humanities and sciences inform and enhance each other within the mind of a dedicated student. A multidisciplinary education provides a student with an exceptionally informed and discerning perspective with which she can approach any endeavor in any discipline. This is especially true at Vassar, a liberal arts institution that encourages a diversity of scholarship and assists its students in developing such a perspective during their time within its hallowed edifices. If you don’t believe me, try writing your English paper in Mudd. —Kelly Fitzgerald is the outgoing editor-in-chief of Helicon.
Lillian Reuman E
ach day in my work as an intern in the Office of Admissions, I am challenged to sum up two enormous questions in one sentence for prospective students and their parents – ‘Why did you choose Vassar’ and ‘What don’t you like about Vassar?’ My “appropriate” replies required some fine-tuning, and over the past couple of years, they’ve become automatic. Honestly, I find my initial reasons for “choosing Vassar” somewhat obsolete and my qualms quite trivial. In response to the first question, I typically speak of highlights from my overnight visit as a prospective student with Caitlyn Ly ’10, my visit to a small anthropology class in the high-tech Kenyon Hall, and the Thompson Memorial Library’s overwhelming splendor on a gloomy day’s tour. And, if I were to list off the variety of reasons why I love Vassar, they’d be sitting there for hours. The little things that temporarily ticked me off pale in comparison to the rich resources that Vassar has offered me. Generous invitations to share stories from abroad at a professor’s house or dine on fine Vassar china at President’s house overwhelmingly negate the incomprehensible lack of a dishwasher in my newly constructed town house. Twisted Soul’s lavender lemonade on Tasty Tuesday quells my cravings for a long-overdue Atrium smoothie. And the beauty emanating from the flower beds in front of Main Circle and the Library quickly suppresses any lingering loathing that I harbored from the winter days wrought with a sub-par shoveling job on the steep path that leads to the Town Houses. Through my service to the Office of Admissions, I also hope that I have helped to assuage the rampant stereotypes that surround the Vassar namesake. At times it was hard to maintain composure in front of a packed Sanders Audito-
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rium as I responded to the recurring questions of “Does anyone here take science classes?” and “Is everyone here gay?” followed by the predictable sequence of “Will my daughter find a boyfriend?” and “Does Vassar offer more of a hook-up culture or a dating culture?” – prefaced, of course, with “It really isn’t that important to me, but… ” or “I’m unsure how to phrase it, but…” Others seemed to wonder what “constitutes” the typical Vassar student. And then there is always the sophisticated question: “What’s your policy on alcohol?” I typically offer a simple reply along the lines of “Students have many interests” or “Students are open-minded.” In terms of dating and drugs: “If you’re looking for it, you can find it.” Regarding the “typical Vassar student” inquiry, I’ve adopted the favored response of, “The typical Vassar student is atypical.” I suppose I could elaborate and let them know that some of us appreciate experimental fashion, encourage some pansexuality here and there, and adore our gender-neutral bathrooms. Are these visitors looking to hear that everyone is heterosexual, abstinent, and pre-med? The thought of a biology and music double major or a studio art major on the rugby team makes me proud to be part of a school that fosters such diverse interests and talents. For me, the fact that some Vassar students identify with one stereotype or fulfill multiple stereotypes while others completely loathe the very notion of conforming to a stereotype makes for an interesting (read: the best) campus environment – one that creates unique conversations, lifelong friendships, and the tangible energy that is Vassar College. I wouldn’t have it any other way. —Lillian Reuman is an outgoing contributing editor of The Miscellany News.
side from the wise words of my coaches and teammates, disappointment and failed-expectations have been my greatest teachers at Vassar. In fact, I’ve learned more about success from failure than I have learned about metabolic pathways from biochem (sorry, Professor Jemiolo). Entering as a freshman runner, I could only expect that I would continue to improve in cross country and track as I had throughout high school. Freshman year of cross country, I ran slower in the 5k than I had in high school. Sophomore year, I trained my butt off over the summer and came back strong, only to burnout mid-season. Junior year, I entered with calf problems and too little sleep, and ran like I needed a leg amputation the entire season. In track, I began up running the steeplechase, my favorite race, a 3,000 meter race over metal barriers and a water pit, but found myself hopelessly hitting the same 12:30ish time over and over again, getting slower as the season progressed. Needless to say, I felt frustrated that despite the past four years of running 5570 miles a week, lifting weights three times a week, and spending 30 hours in practice and competition a week, I had only gotten slower. Then my coach, James McCowan, decided that what I needed was to back off the training. I was put on the “Running Restriction Plan,” which centered on the idea that less was more. Fewer miles, less lifting, lower intensity. To any runner with the typical Type-A personality, the RRP plan is a pretty offensive idea. How can you possibly get better if you aren’t trying hard? I followed this new plan, restricting my distance and effort, and totally forwent pumping iron. The first race back, I ran the same time as always. The second race I ran 20 seconds faster than my previous personal best, and by the fourth race, I was two seconds from qualifying for ECACs, the big athletic conference championship that I had only fantasized about before. While I wish I could say I returned this year and continued my streak, I can’t. As I entered my fourth and final cross country season, I found myself absolutely incapable of completing a workout on pace. As it turns
out, I had Lyme disease and couldn’t run for two months because of the way my body responded to antibiotics. No matter how badly I wanted to break 12:00 in the steeplechase, I kept hitting 12:30ish again and again. The antibiotics were still in my system. Half of me berated the hopeless optimism that had fooled me into believing I would come back stronger, while other half of me kept thinking of my entire college running career as a failure. Interrupting my self-deprecation, my teammate Arial asked me to accompany her to get a cortisone shot in her foot. She’s deathly afraid of needles and nearly broke my metacarpals by squeezing my hand so fiercely during the shot. Afterwards, over bubble tea, Arial told me she was proud of me for having run while feeling so crappy, that I inspired her, and the team wouldn’t be the team without me on it. Another teammate, Hannah, told me that I hadn’t failed by not reaching my college running goals—I just needed to revise my timeline because I have the rest of my life to run below 12:00 in the steeple. And she is right: I haven’t failed, I just haven’t succeeded yet. Leaving my team after this year is difficult because I love my teammates for who they are and what they’ve made me realize in what at first glance seem to be failure. They’ve left me with the major life lessons derived from successive failures and defeats, which I now pass on to you. The first is that sometimes, to succeed, you really just need to stop trying so hard. Many of us never realize that, particularly at this level of academics, success will come when you try to relax. I don’t mean give up, but tone down the intensity (If any underclassmen are reading, take note that you really don’t need to do all the readings. Go to sleep.). The second lesson is that success isn’t measured by what you do in a given amount of time; it’s measured by what you can do that you previously couldn’t, and by the people you change through your perseverance. If I’ve learned anything from running, it’s that failure can’t exist if you don’t believe in it.
couple of days ago, I called my dad to discuss plans for commencement weekend with him. He let me know what time he, my mom, and my brother plan to come on Saturday, as well as where they will be staying. We discussed the logistics of getting all of my things back home. After that we both had to go. Love you. Talk to you later. Bye. I put the phone down, and remained sitting at my desk. It hit me then. Like a caffeine crash, out of the blue. I realized exactly what would be happening in less than two weeks. In less than two weeks, I will no longer be taking inebriated walks down the path to the Town Houses; or visiting UpCDC for a smoothie; or checking my mail at the College Center; or rehearsing with Matthew’s Minstrels. And many, many other things. Drained of energy and willpower, I sat there and pondered my four years at Vassar for close to an hour. I will be frank: For me, Vassar was an acquired taste. When I first tried it on move-in day, it was intriguing and a little foul. Many people I met had a markedly different outlook from mine. I was nervous, overly enthusiastic, and—in retrospect—trying too hard at life. Many of the other students seemed like they had their personalities and goals all figured out, while I had nothing. At first, I had some trouble fitting in socially, which is not to say I didn’t make friends. Some of my closest friendships at Vassar were with the people I met back then, having lasted for all four years. Initially, I channeled my inadequacies into academics and research. Then, my wonderful professors and advisors turned into close mentors, as they imparted in me invaluable knowledge. From research, field work, and summer shadowing experiences, I realized that my true calling was in science, and gradually got less nervous about responding to it. This freed up my mind more; I became more receptive and comfortable in the non-academic parts of my life. I warmed up to my fellow Minstrels and to my comrades on the debate team. Becoming an Supplemental Instruc-
—Brittany Davis is co-Captain of the Vassar College Cross Country team.
Moey Newbold D
uring my second week as a freshman at Vassar, my new friend Molly asked me if I wanted to go on a lobbying trip to Washington, D.C. with her and a campus organization I had never heard of before called Operation Donation. I did not know what the Farm Bill was, and I had certainly never lobbied before, but I was eager to take advantage of any new opportunity presented to me. Within a week I was in a carful of young idealists headed down the Garden State Parkway to the nation’s Capitol. The next morning, we went to Oxfam America’s D.C. Headquarters to learn how to lobby. Before I could sit down they told me I had to leave in order to make it to my 9:30am lobby appointment. I rushed to the Senate Office buildings, and ended up, sweaty and nervous, at my Senator’s office. To my surprise, the meeting actually went well. I realized that I didn’t have to be an expert in a suit to make an impact. I was inspired to put what I had learned about political activism into action. A native Oregonian, I had always had a deep passion for the environment, so when I got back to campus, I became a dutiful member of the Vassar Greens. I tabled when nobody else wanted to and I went to Do It In the Dark (back when Joss Parlor could still be used as an event space). During the meetings we talked about environmental problems we saw in the world, but we never really did anything. The sense of empowerment I had felt in D.C. was gone. Still, I stuck through to the end of the year because I wasn’t ready to give up on my hope to make change during my time at college. It was precisely because I was one of the few freshman still attending Greens meetings at the end of the year that I was appointed co-president for the next year. This inspired me to apply for a summer program with Oxfam America called the CHANGE Initiative. There I learned about how to organize on campus. I dreamed that through my leadership, the Greens were fi-
nally going to become the active, involved organization that I had hoped they would be. Implementing this vision was harder than I had expected. The Greens remained the same low-energy, low commitment group focused mostly on organizing fun events with only the slightest environmental bend. My biggest accomplishment that year was organizing a lobby day in D.C. about climate change, modeled after the one Jimmy had organized my freshman year. However, we weren’t able to bring the momentum from that event back to campus. Instead of going abroad for my junior year, I went to the University of Oregon in my home state. Luckily for me, I was able to jump straight into action by helping to plan and execute a regional climate change conference, Powershift West, that was being held at U of O that fall. I then helped to co-found a new campus organization at U of O called the Climate Justice League (you KNOW we wear capes!). It was from these peers that I learned how to organize successfully on a college campus. When I came back to Vassar for my second year as co-president of the Greens, I applied what I had learned off-campus to organizing on campus. With the right organizational framework, I was amazed with what Greens members were capable of. This year, we expanded our executive board by four-fold, ran three campaigns simultaneously, passed a bylaw through the VSA, and created a community of engaged activists on Vassar’s campus. My experiences this year have taught me that every person has unseen potential that is just waiting to be tapped. Working with the Greens has helped me find my passion for empowering other people to discover their own potential. I am excited to pursue this passion outside of Vassar’s grounds, and I feel my unique college experience has prepared me to do just that. —Moey Newbold is the outgoing president of the Vassar Greens.
MISCELLANY NEWS | VASSAR COLLEGE
May 22, 2011
tion (SI) instructor in the Chemistry Department helped me begin to unify the academic and social facets of my Vassar career. By this year, I had grown to really like (dare I say love?) Vassar. But here’s the thing: What is it about Vassar itself that I grew to like? Reading over this retrospective, I realize that I’ve been writing mostly about myself. My justifications for growing to like Vassar have arisen from my impression of having become a better person. Put another way, I really like who I have become at Vassar, as opposed to who I was when I moved in; therefore, I have grown to really like Vassar. Does that make sense? Well, yes and no, I think. In the end, Vassar isn’t about the debate team, Minstrels, research, SI, etc. All of these things are instead the ways in which I found and developed my identity while at Vassar. To some other student, an analogous list may be different. Vassar is also not about all of the people whom I have met, really. While they were and still are important in making my change for the better possible, they are not intrinsically tied to Vassar. Many of them will walk with me at commencement. All of them will leave Vassar eventually one way or another. Yet I feel like Vassar is still somehow a part of it. Where? I’m not sure. Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the greenery and aroma of every blossoming tree I passed on my way to class. Or the wetness of every muddy puddle around the Noyes House field that I stepped into on rainy nights. Or the stale scent of books permeating the library that I smelled whenever I walked in. Though I might be wrong, I speculate that there is an answer, and that it’s the same for every past, present, and future Vassar student. It’s the thing that catalyzed my transformation into a better person. It’s the thing that I’ll probably sense when I come visit again. It’s the thing for which, well, I love Vassar. —Jack Bulat is the outgoing co-president of Matthew’s Minstrels.
May 22, 2011
Dana Cass T
his is about my fourth draft of this retropsective, and every time I write it, it turns into a sappy ode to John Meehan’s ballet class and my housemates. But since I’m
Alistair Hall known these days for the 420 characters of wit I display with my Facebook statuses, I figured I should stick to short forms. So here goes – a timeline of key events in my Vassar career.
Moved into Joss 305! OMG, college is the best. My fellow group is so cool! We’re all going to be BEST FRIENDS. August 25, 2007 I got into FlyPeople! They have the BEST parties and their favorite choreography is “Walk eight counts and touch yourself!” September 2007 I haven’t eaten anything besides grilled cheese and French fries in a month. October 2007 I’m no longer speaking to half my fellow group and if I eat another grilled cheese sandwich, I’m going to slowly turn the color of Kraft American. Time to go home? May 2008 I got into VRDT! I will soon discover the joys of Irish step dance, Steve Rooks’s leotard, and Ray Cook’s leather pants. This year is going to be so awesome! September 2008 James H. Merrell gave me an A- on a research paper. I can die happy. December 2008 Bardavon is the MOST AWESOME. I love it when people I’m understudying sprain their ankles and I get to go on for them at the big show! If it were two years later, this would be SO “Black Swan.” February 2009 Unpaid internships are so fun! I really like existing entirely on peanut butter and Wheat Chex. July 2009 I don’t want to write a thesis, so I’m changing my major from history to English! October 2009 I don’t want to do anything academic ever again, so I’m going to move to New York and become an actress after I graduate! November 2009 Give me your VCard, I’m going to the DC! May 2010 Champagne toast before the company piece backstage at the last senior Bardavon! February 2011 I’m cutting off contact with everyone who is writing a thesis because it’s SUCKING OUT THEIR SOULS. March 2011
ver since freshmen move-in day when two then juniors on the Vassar Swim and Dive team assaulted/welcomed me to Cushing, the Swim Team has served as the great constant in my Vassar career. It has always been there for me through thick and thin. As I moved up through the ranks of the team from freshman, to sophomore, to junior, and then to senior and being co-Captain of the men’s team, it’s incredible to see the shift all team members undergo from being the apprentice to the mentor during their four years. When my own college athletic career began at that first away swim meet against Skidmore College, you just sort of assume that its going to last forever. But you soon realize that there are only four Liberty League championships, only four State championships, and only four opportunities to give you and your teammates ridiculous haircuts. Being a part of any team, you see how fleeting your time at Vassar is, but you also see the incredible ways in which students, whether athletes or not, still leave their mark on campus. In February, this point was driven home when after all these years it came time for my own senior recognition day, and the happy and sad realization that this was the last time I would race in the Kresge pool. The Swim Team has taught me some valuable life lessons, but the best part of my Vassar experience has been the opportunity to explore beyond the pool and not just be known as a varsity athlete. Coming in as a freshman I really had no idea about what I wanted to study: maybe Psychology? Math? Engineering at Dartmouth? It was spring semester freshman year and Intro to Urban Studies in New England 201 from 3:10 to 4:25 though that really got my heart set on becoming an Urban Studies major. Looking back, it’s funny the amount of coincidence that shapes our careers. If it were not for a spur of the moment decision to take that Intro class I would not be where I am today: a senior who has just presented their Urban Studies senior thesis to department faculty in that very same classroom. It has been my recent work with the Office of Admissions as a Senior Intern, though, that has really driven the point home that four years is really quite fleeting. Talking with prospective
TOO MANY EMOTIONS. CRYING AT BARRE DURING LAST BALLET CLASS. May 2011 I’m graduating in two weeks! Can’t wait to be unemployed and homeless. May 2011 —Dana Cass is an English major with a correlate sequence in the History Department.
David Iselin I
f you are reading this, you are probably bored and waiting for commencement to start. Or maybe you are bored in the middle of commencement. I understand and forgive you; it happens to the best of us. To help you pass the time, I going to tell you about my time as a Vassar College Tour Guide. When I signed up to be a tour guide, I thought it would be a fun way to share my love for Vassar with others. Little did I know it would be that and more. Giving tours has made me a walking target for my friends’ pranks and misplaced frustration. The conversations probably go like this: “Ooh there’s David giving a tour. Let’s embarrass him! I love watching him suffer and blush a crazy shade of red.” And then they let the nonsense fly. I have been mooned, heckled, and even abducted. There’s nothing better for my focus than seeing a hairy, pale buttocks hanging out the Raymond window. There’s nothing more ego inflating than being told that I was great last night. There’s nothing more guilt inducing than a reminder that “you forgot to call me this morning, babe.” And certainly there’s nothing more enjoyable (horrifying) than being ambushed by three friends and carried away from my tour, while a fourth friend leads the tour towards ACDC and complains about the sucky food.The Residential Quad became a minefield. If you think my friends are geniuses, you
are wrong. If you think my friends are sadists, mazel tov. You are right. Truthfully, though, it’s a combination of both. I love being harassed on my tours. It added some flavor and spontaneity. Don’t get me wrong, I am awesome tour guide. People love David. But me droning on about student fellows and genderneutral bathrooms is, believe it or not, not as illuminating as my friends’ antics. They epitomize the Vassar student body; creative, funny, quirky, outgoing. They are what Vassar is all about. Their enthusiasm shows their complete and utter love for the school. In attacking me, they serve as a brilliant and accurate representation of the Vassar student body. I hope this helped pass the time. If it didn’t, I apologize. I’m an Economics major, not an English major. Before I finish and let you get back to checking the golf scores on your phone, (Dad) I must be sappy and thank my friends. Twenty years down the road, when I think of Vassar, I will remember you. You guys have made these past four years awesome. You made my Vassar experience. Through the ups and the downs, we’ve had tons of fun. I am a better person having met you all. So thank you again. And to those underclassmen reading this, please share the love and continue to heckle my fellow tour guides. —David Iselin is the co-Chair of the 2011 AllSchool Gift.
MISCELLANY NEWS | VASSAR COLLEGE
students, most of whom are four or more years younger than me, has reminded me why I loved Vassar as a senior in high school and why I continue to love Vassar now as a senior in college. One of the most surreal experiences associated with this was on Admitted Students’ Day when I sat on a panel in the chapel in front of 600-plus eager students and their families and was told to ‘discuss Vassar.’ Not only did it bring back my own vivid memories of Admitted Students’ Day, but also the very real fact that I was helping these high schoolers decide where they would want to have their own four year adventure. Sure, as part of my job I do my best to answer their countless questions on JYA, coed bathrooms, the Library’s research resources, pre-med and pre-law opportunities, the party scene (which is present like at many schools) and everything else that is absolutely critical to the college decision process. In the end, though, it’s not the million-plus print volumes in the library that have defined my career but rather the opportunities I have had to be involved in all parts of the college, be it in the pool, the classroom, Cushing, Admissions, or the Sesquicentennial. Looking back at my four years here at Vassar it is fairly astounding to see how my career has come around full circle. The Vassar Swim and Dive Team has been a singular constant throughout my time here, but one of the greatest things about Vassar though is being a part of the Team has not limited my involvement on other parts of the Vassar campus. My experience with Urban Studies has been interesting, for even though there are basically only three core classes that every major takes, our varied interests in social inequality, architecture, urban design, history, sociology and more somehow all come together into a cohesive whole. Most importantly, these last four years at Vassar have played a huge role in determining the next stage in my life that involves working proactively in sustainable and ecologicallysound community projects as a member of the 2012 Class of Green Corps Interns. —Alistair Hall is the co-capain of the men’s Swim team.
Rachel Eisen F
our years ago, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I was going to study history and get my teaching certification, after which I would be a high school teacher. Then I came to Vassar, and, well, that didn’t exactly work out. The plan has changed so many times. But somehow, never once did I panic. Not when I dropped my certification plan. Not even when I dropped my Education correlate altogether and changed my correlate in Jewish Studies into a second major…at the end of my junior year. Four years ago, I would never have considered a career in faith-based community youth education. You’re probably asking yourself what that even is. Compared to the careers I’ve heard other Vassar students say they want to have, it doesn’t actually seem that strange. But when I tell non-Vassar people that I want to create alternative, informal communities of Jewish teenagers who want to engage their spirituality in new, creative and socially-aware ways outside of the congregational system, I get sympathetic nods. You know, the kind where the person is trying to look supportive, but what she’s actually thinking is, “Sure, Rachel. You’re a do-gooder, I get it.” Certainly, my 18-year-old self would have thought this is crazy. But can you actually get a job doing that? Teaching is hard work, but it’s a real job! The structure already exists! Four years ago, I would never have imagined myself as president of one of the largest student organizations on campus, the Vassar Jewish Union (VJU). I was too shy, too unsure, too lacking in confidence. One moment changed all that, when I decided that I wanted to run for a position on the board of the VJU. I actually lost that election to someone who would later become one of my best friends. But that did not stop me from becoming an unofficial board member, showing up to the open board meetings and helping out with events. Just a year into my Vassar education, I was surprised to find that I had the guts to do that. But lo and behold, here I am, an integral part of a community I hold so dear. I’ve held several positions over
May 22, 2011
Chelsea Mottern the years with many organizations, including The Black Hat, Vassar’s magazine of Jewish culture, and Iced Brew, Vassar’s synchronized skating team. All these organizations and positions have meant something special to me, but they wouldn’t have happened if I had not decided to step outside my comfort zone that elections day and put myself out there and say, “My name is Rachel Eisen, and I want to be a leader.” There’s an incident that stands out in my mind from my first week at Vassar. I’m a figure skater, and I had gone to McCann Ice Arena at the Civic Center to practice and take my first lesson with the new coach I had found here. Happy and exhausted, I got in my car and started to drive back to Vassar, when I realized I didn’t exactly remember how to get back. The haze of orientation activities had rendered my usually astute memory and excellent sense of direction useless. I picked a road I thought looked familiar and suddenly found myself driving up Route 9 North, away from campus. I panicked, but only for split second. Then, I decided that everything was going to be just fine, got off at the next exit and miraculously made my way home. Looking back on that incident, it almost seems like a foretelling of how Vassar was going to change me. Four years ago, getting lost in a new place with no one to call who could give me directions would have unraveled me. But I’ve gotten lost a lot at Vassar. Professionally. Academically. Personally. But instead of panicking, I’ve learned to enjoy exploration. I’ve learned to relish new experiences and I’ve pushed myself outside my comfort zone more often. Four years ago, I was smart and thoughtful, open-minded and dedicated. But today, I’m also brave and adventurous, more critical and ambitious. And I have no doubt that it was my experiences at Vassar, both inside the classroom and out, that pushed me to discover that side of myself. —Rachel Eisen is the outgoing president of the Vassar Jewish Union.
s a graduating senior, I’ve been asked about my future a lot lately. Do I have a job? Where do I want to be? Am I ready to leave the safety net of Vassar and dive headfirst into the scary unknown—the “real world?” The answer is a resounding no. I have no job, no concept of where I will end up, and I am most certainly not ready to leave. It’s really nice to be asked about the past in the midst of all this talk about my future. I’ve spent the past few weeks focusing solely on what is to come, with very little time to reflect on what has happened in the past few years. I came to Vassar as a wide-eyed freshman walk-on to the volleyball team, and could not have been more miserable. I was used to being the best, and for the first time, I was surrounded by people who were far better than me. Mid-sophomore year, after many matches as a regular on the bench, countless long arguments with Coach Penn, and an unsuccessful attempt to quit the team, only to continue sitting on the bench, something finally clicked. I had been holding back, not only from myself, but also from my team, and from Vassar. Coach Penn and Vassar Volleyball taught me one of the most important things that I learned at Vassar, and it was not something that could be read in a text book or studied and memorized—it was that in order to reap the benefits from something, you must be willing to commit yourself to it wholeheartedly, fully, and with abandon. Coach Penn likes metaphors, and one of his favorites is to compare playing volleyball to falling in love. In trying to explain why I wasn’t “getting Vassar Volleyball,” he told me that falling in love can be scary, but in order to do it, you must jump into the unknown. In order to reach my full potential, I had to let go of insecurity and fear. I left Coach Penn’s office after this discussion thinking that he was crazy, and that I should have gone to Skidmore. As it turns out, however, Coach Penn was right. By the end of the season, I had grown remarkably as a player and as a teammate, and earned consistent
playing time. By junior year, I was the starting libero, and now, as a senior, I was voted team captain with one of my best friends. This realization seeped into other aspects of my life, as well. It was no coincidence that as my place in Vassar Volleyball grew and solidified, my friendships both at Vassar and at home blossomed and grew stronger, my grades took a turn for the better, and I grew closer to my family. I began my time at Vassar terrified to fail and determined to keep my weaknesses hidden from others, and it took nearly two years to learn that this was unsustainable, and that I was missing out. I could have missed out on stealing cones, having Thanksgiving dinners with my Vassar family, dressing up like old people and having a retirement party, spending Spring Break in Florida with a drag queen from New Jersey, wearing garbage bag jackets and free Baccio’s sweatpants. I could have missed out on all of this because I was afraid to fail; but after jumping into that unknown, I am left with a group of friends who love me unconditionally and a set of experiences that I would not trade for anything in the world. I have fallen madly in love with my time at Vassar, and everyone who has influenced it. As I return to thinking about my impending graduation, it’s hard to imagine life after Vassar, but what is harder is thinking about how I will graduate, and Vassar will still be here. My team will go on and make new memories together, and have new experiences, and I won’t be a part of them. I will become one of those alums that incoming freshmen hear funny stories about, and will meet once or twice when I come to watch a match, but I will be removed from the team, and from Vassar. This doesn’t scare me anymore, though. I love Vassar for helping me become who I am today, but I am ready to leave, and to enter the next phase of my life with abandon. —Chelsea Mottern is the outgoing captain of the Women’s Volleyball team.
May 22, 2011
ho would win in a fight: five ducksized lions or a lion-sized duck?” I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this same debate hashed out. And you’d be surprised how vehemently people defend their opinions. Some people claim that no matter their size, the duck-sized lions’ teeth would rip the lion-sized duck apart before it could do anything in retaliation. Others insist that the duck would stomp on the lions, crushing them and preventing any attack. A few days ago, I was sitting on the sidelines of our annual seniors vs. freshman frisbee game, listening to my teammates reason this out for what seemed like the thousandth time, when it hit me: this might be the last time I ever get to hear these guys have this silly argument. I’ve spent the last four years of my life hanging out with these people, and I hadn’t realized until this moment exactly how much those four years have meant, and changed us all. With a few notable additions, I’m pretty much still friends with the same people I knew freshman year. Which, when you think about it, is sort of ridiculous. How is it possible that, in these years of change and growth and HORMONES, that we’ve all changed and become closer rather than further apart. Who would have thought that the girl who I awkwardly met on the night of Serenading (and her birthday) freshman year would become one of my closest friends and housemates? Or that the girl who was my partner for my Stagecraft project and those three randos in my freshman writing seminar would work on a senior thesis project with me? Or that that boy that I had SUCH a huge crush on first semester freshman year would turn out to be a totally platonic but completely irreplaceable friend and co-captain? And what’s even more incredible than the fact that I have known all these people so long is that we’ve put up with each other’s crap, and loved each other
despite of and because of it. When it comes down to it, what I’ll remember and cherish most about my time at Vassar is the people I spent it with. I spent most of my days running from appointment to meeting to rehearsal, with few breaks in between. My calendar was almost always completely full, and yet it rarely bothered me. I just knew that whether I was headed for Shakespeare Troupe rehearsal or frisbee practice, wherever I was running off to next was a place where I could look forward to spending time with people I enjoyed spending time with, whether we were being productive or just silly. I don’t know how many of these people who I’m in constant contact with will continue to be in my life after college. I can only hope that most of them will be, even if only peripherally or occasionally. I have so appreciated getting to know the quirks and mannerisms and conversations of my Vassar classmates, and I’m so excited to see where all of our paths will lead us. One of the great tragedies, if you can call it that, of college is the breadth of people with whom you come into contact, and the lack of time to spend with each of them and to tell them how much you love them. I firmly believe that I would not be the person I have become at Vassar had it not been for the beautiful and wonderful people with whom I come in contact every day. Vassar people are just special in their own way, and are singularly capable of switching from intellectual discourse to duck-sized lions at the drop of a hat. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, thank you guys. For being silly and making theatre and playing frisbee and eventually morphing into real people with me (And just in case you’re wondering, there’s no way in hell that a bird, no matter how big, could ever beat five carnivores in a fight. Duck-sized lions for the win). —Michele O’Brien is the captain of the Vassar Ultimate Frisbee team.
rocess” is a word we throw around a lot at the Vassar College Writing Center. The required Writing Center course is called “Process, Prose, and Pedagogy,” we host faculty workshops called “Process in Progress,” and our student-published academic journal, The Oak Door, serves to share an “exploration of the reflective process” necessary to create great undergraduate scholarship. To some unfamiliar with our Writing Center jargon, the term “process” sounds like it refers to strange tics each individual writer performs in the act of writing a paper. For those of you who know me, you know my way of going about this involves arriving at the library with way more books than necessary, several laps around the library to speak with anyone who will help me procrastinate, a good chat with LTRC Director Natalie Friedman, a stop in the Writing Center to commiserate with my fellow consultants, and several trips to the Retreat and/or Bean for many outrageously large cups of coffee. While these ritualistic acts certainly bear influence on the writing I produce, they are not part of the “process” we advocate in the Center. Rather, writing consultants understand “process” as the development of a greater understanding of oneself as a writer, not only through writing one particular paper, but taking what we learn about our writing and ourselves from that one paper and carrying it into the next assignment we attempt. “Process” can also involve revising an old paper with a fresh perspective and new experiences that may help us tackle the challenges we struggled with before. In this sense, the act of writing a paper is never really over—the writer can always revise phrases, rethink transitions, and try on different ideas to decide, for themselves, what best suits the assignment at hand. This is the basic philosophy that informs the way we approach consulting writers in the Center. When I try to explain this to writers during my Center shifts, I am often met by blank stares and questions like, “But once my professor grades this paper, isn’t that kind of the end?” For this particular paper—maybe. Some professors allow revisions on rough first attempts, and some give valuable feedback, noting that they look forward to seeing how that student will incorporate the feedback into following assignments. But no writer should expect a
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paper to be a means to an end; each attempt at a paper, rather, should inform our process and invite us to bring what we learn into the next assignment. The reason I think it’s important to stress this philosophy so much is that it is not just the chosen principle of the Vassar College Writing Center alone; it’s the philosophy that Vassar, as an institution, encourages among the members of its community. Vassar advises its students to try out new ideas and take on new challenges, reminding them that if they fail, they fail, but there’s something valuable to be gained from trying because we learn something about ourselves in the process of trying. In the classroom, my “process” took awhile. I came to college an adequate five-paragraph essay writer, only to find that this writing style wouldn’t cut it in the academy. Professor Merrell took me to task my sophomore year, giving me several B minuses to show me the error of my ways; though discouraged, Professor Merrell offered wonderful constructive criticism and encouragement, giving me the balance of space and structure I needed to develop a more nuanced writing style. As a result, my paper grades definitely improved, and the following year, I found myself working as a consultant in the Writing Center. On the field hockey field, I was a mediocre athlete my freshman year; I was slow, not very skilled, and intimidated by my faster, stronger upperclassmen teammates—I thought I’d never make it through preseason. Despite my concerns, my teammates and coaches only supported me to perform better; the following year, I came to preseason in much better shape and, in my senior year, I became captain. I’m not one for personal philosophies, but if I were to have one, this would likely be it: love the “process”—take risks, try hard, and learn from defeat. But, of course, such words to live by are always open to revision, and once I actually apply my supporting evidence they will likely need to be tweaked, and then I’ll have to rework the conclusion…but that’s what makes writing—and life— exciting and worth living. —Kara Voght is the outgoing captain of the Vassar Field Hockey team, as well as a tutor in the Vassar College Writing Center.
THE YEAR IN PICTURES
May 22, 2011
Christie Cheat/The Miscellany News
Approximately fifty members of the Vassar community gathered to pay tribute to President Virginia B. Smith at a memorial service held for the former president in the Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library on Saturday, Nov. 13. Madeline Zappala/The Miscellany News
Take a look back at the year 2010-11 in photos
A musical performance by the Stringengo Orchestra School of the Hudson Valley took place on Thursday, Jan. 20 as a part of Vassar’s MODFEST.
Madeline Zappala/The Miscellany News
Eric Schuman /The Miscellany News
After being defeated by the faculty last year, students were victorious at the second Student-Faculty Basketball Game that took place on Thursday, Feb. 10.
The Sesquicentennial Birthday Bake-Off was held in the Villard Room on Thursday, Feb. 3. The cake pictured above —“Vassar: A Year in the Life”— made by Class of 2012 President Pamela Vogel won the award for best design.
Carlos Hernandez/The Miscellany News
Madeline Zappala/The Miscellany News
Students, professors and local residents enjoy the tenth annual Arlington Street Fair, held of Sept. 25 last year. The fair brought the New York State Chili Cook-Off to Arlington for the first time.
On Feb. 26, members of the Vassar women’s lacrosse team went for a run across the Walkway Over the Hudson as as a part of an initative for the team to get out into the community.
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