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The Alumni Memorial Scholars Program Explained

By Peter Tschirhart on May 12, 2014

Honoring the 166 Colgate alumni who sacrificed their lives in both of the World Wars, Alumni Memorial Scholars (AMS) are selected during the admission process for their outstanding scholarly achievements and for their potential to become leaders both inside and outside the classroom.

Totaling about 150 students, the AMS community emphasizes growth and enrichment in four spheres: intellectual, social, cultural, and civic engagement. Prominent in the AMS student experience is the opportunity to receive grants, up to a total of $6,000, that can be used for independent research, academic conference attendance, and internships. In the spirit of liberal arts education, students are encouraged to utilize their grant funds toward projects that may not relate to their major, that are simply areas of interest, or which could blossom into further study at Colgate and during post-graduate work. In recent years, students have utilized their funds for internships at the NIH, independent and faculty-led research in Asia, Europe, Africa, South America and the United States, in addition to academic conference attendance from coast-to-coast.

To supplement the scholarly mission of the AMS program, students are encouraged to attend a variety of intellectually-oriented activities, including monthly “Dinners at the Dean’s,” which invite Colgate faculty and prominent community figures to a meal held at the on-campus resident of the Asst. Dean. AMS students also enjoy spring break trips, visits to the theater, and other social events aimed at cultivating a sense of intellectual and personal community among the scholars. Beginning in the fall of 2014, students in the first-year of the AMS program will live in a shared residence hall and participate in an AMS-specific orientation prior to the start of classes.

The AMS community has recently undergone a significant revival. Key has been the appointment of two key staff: AMS Faculty Director, Dr. Rob Nemes, Associate Professor in the History Department, and Dr. Peter Tschirhart, Asst. Dean for Undergraduate Scholars Programs. If you have questions about the AMS program, please don’t hesitate to contact us. To stay up-to-date with news and information about the AMS, please subscribe to our blog.

Welcome, Class of 2018!

By Peter Tschirhart on August 25, 2014
Class of 2018 Alumni Memorial Scholars pause for a picture during AMS Orientation, 2014.

Class of 2018 Alumni Memorial Scholars pause for a picture during AMS Orientation, 2014.

Linh Bui, ’14: The Human Response to Neoteny in Wild Animals, South Africa

By Peter Tschirhart on June 19, 2014

What makes an adult human or animal “cute?” According to scholars working in developmental biology and psychology, the answer relates to juvenile traits, such as small jaws, short limbs, a large head, seemingly huge eyes, etc. This is called “neoteny;” and among humans, neotenous characteristics are thought to stimulate care-giving behaviors.

But Alumni Memorial Scholar Linh Bui ’14 wondered whether neoteny also plays a role in human-animal relationships. As a Colgate psychology major and general animal lover, she hoped to investigate whether caregivers treat wild animals living in captivity differently–based on their relative cuteness. Linh developed an AMS grant proposal that took her to a lion park in Johannesburg, South Africa during January of 2014. “Those two weeks were a highlight of my Colgate experience,” she wrote. In what follows, Linh reflects on her AMS grant and her experience as a volunteer at the park.

Girraffes around volunteers' dorm

Girraffes around volunteers’ dorm

The lion park is an animal lover’s dream come true with all types of wild animals walking around. I woke up to zebras grazing in front of my door; I had to guard my lunch against giraffes; and of course, at night, I was careful not to run into hippos! The lion park offered many activities, such as a game drive, a lion walk, an elephant walk, etc. It was definitely not an “easy vacation” though. My fellow volunteers and I worked from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., and our daily tasks included weeding the grazing hills, picking up poop and bones from the predator camps, and digging a swimming pool for the elephants.

Roxy the hyena runs to visit when her name is called.

Roxy the hyena runs to visit when her name is called.

I used my free time during lunch and after dinner to conduct informal interviews and observations for my AMS project. I discovered the volunteers’ interactions with animals were, indeed, governed by “cuteness”–just not in the way I expected. For example, most people would say hyenas are ugly and scary, but many volunteers loved Roxy, the hyena at the park, for how dog-like she was. She would run to visit whenever we called her name. Another animal, a fully-grown cheetah named Oliver, would be called “scary” instead of “cute,” but volunteers simply adored the fact that he purred when petted. Some volunteers even liked the ostriches best, because ostriches followed them around. Cuteness can be defined behaviorally, not just physically.

Oliver the purring cheetah

Oliver the purring cheetah

Aside from enabling me to carry out my research, my two weeks at the lion park also taught me to appreciate physical labor. To be honest, I had never done physical labor in my life, so it was quite a shock. Before the trip, I did expect to clean up after the animals, but nothing could have prepared me for the task of shoveling elephant poop! The hard work did pay off though, and I learned how to use agricultural tools properly. Seeing the final results of my work made me very happy. A highlight of my trip was watching the elephants playing happily in the swimming pool we made for them: they splashed water and mud on everybody, but none of us cared.

Picture with the lion siblings

Picture with the lion siblings

Despite the hard work, I learned many things about neoteny, had a lot of fun, and even got to pet lions. I definitely recommend that all AMS student take advantage of the AMS Grant experience. Why would you hesitate to travel abroad and pursue your interests?

Chloe Holt ’14: The Dance of Two Cities, a study of ballet culture in Paris and London

By Peter Tschirhart on June 10, 2014

Missouri native Chloe Holt ’14 was an English and Spanish double major at Colgate, but it was her strong passion for dance and the arts that inspired her AMS Grant proposal. Chloe traveled to Paris and London over winter break (2014) to gain a better understanding of the history and tradition of ballet. As an accomplished dancer herself, with over ten years of experience, she wondered why ballet occupied a position of prominence in the life and culture of these cities, while in others–specifically in the United States and especially the midwest–dance companies struggle to stay financially afloat. The objective of her project was to dig-in to the vibrant dance scene in these two cultural centers, to find out who participates in the culture of ballet, why, and what they gain from it. Over several weeks, she attended a wide variety of performances–from an all-male version of Swan Lake to a more traditional staging of The Nutcracker–took backstage tours whenever possible, and visited museums relevant to the history of dance. She also interacted with audience members, took photographs when possible, and kept detailed notes.

Chloe Holt '14 in Westminster.

Chloe Holt ’14 in Westminster.

Chloe explains how, prior to attending each performance, reading local reviews “allowed me both to learn about the companies and choreographers, and to gain insight into the public’s general impression of the production.” Her research lead her to conclude that, “while the ballet world does seem to be leaning towards more contemporary repertoires, classical ballet will always have a strong presence. Companies such as the Royal Ballet of England, the Paris Opera Ballet, and the Bolshoi Ballet have both the talent and the support to perform [traditional] ballets … while at the same time experimenting with contemporary choreography. The public may flock to see today’s hot choreographer’s latest controversial piece, but they will not give up their annual production of The Nutcracker.

AMS Symposium, Spring 2014

By Peter Tschirhart on May 3, 2014
David Poortinga presents his work on Abraham Lincoln.

David Poortinga presents his work on Abraham Lincoln.

On April 22, then again on May 2, Alumni Memorial Scholars gathered to share the results of AMS Grants utilized during the winter and spring of 2014. From conferences in California, to archival research in Washington, D.C., and internships at the NIH, the presentations represented a wide variety of interests and displayed a high-caliber of intellectual engagement. Congratulations to everyone who utilized their AMS funding!