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Laurie Sandretto ’18: Stratford Shakespearean Summer Series

By Evie Lawson on January 26, 2016

The following post is by  Laurie Sandretto ’16, an English major.  Sandretto used her AMS grant to attend the McMaster Stratford Shakespearean Summer Series in Stratford, Ontario.

Photo of Romeo and Juliet performed at the festival in 2013. Taken by Kelly Bedard, My Entertainment World contributor.

As an English major, I don’t do all that much research. So, when looking for an opportunity to use my grant, I was happy to find the McMaster Stratford Shakespearean Summer Series, which I attended last July. Hosted by McMaster University, this is a weeklong program based in Stratford, Ontario, to attend many of the plays and musicals performed in the Stratford Festival. The Stratford Festival is an annual event in Stratford, Ontario. When it was founded in 1953, it was based solely on Shakespeare, but it has become a much wider event.

When I arrived, I was surprised to discover that I was noticeably younger than anyone else there. Although the seminar is hosted by McMaster University, it is part of their alumni outreach program. The other participants were all retirees who had been attending for many years together; the record was held by one man who was coming for his thirty-ninth year. Their experience at the festival gave me access to background information about the plays and the festival itself that I would not have had otherwise. They could compare this season’s plays and actors with those performed and performing decades back, and, although a lot of it went over my head, I could at least appreciate how much history was associated with the festival and the plays themselves.

The seminar itself lasted for five days. Each morning, we would meet and attend lectures about the upcoming plays. Only four of the summer’s thirteen programs were Shakespeare; the rest were by other authors and connected by a common theme, that of discovery. Some of the plays were rather more obscure than others; one was actually a new English translation of a play originally in German. Afterwards, we would attend two plays, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. Although thirteen plays were performed over the course of the season, their premieres were spread out over several months, and only ten had begun in early July. The Festival uses four theaters, each shaped differently. I was used to only seeing the traditional theater, so it was interesting to see how much the stage shape affected the performance.

The Festival itself also provided some opportunities for us. Every week, they held question and answer sessions with people working behind the scenes on the shows. Our seminar had two direct question and answer sessions with the actors, one at the beginning of the week and one at the end. Additionally, after the seminar proper had ended, I was able to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the largest theater, which provided a lot of information about all the work that goes into getting the plays ready for the actors to begin.

Overall, I enjoyed myself immensely and did learn a lot at the Festival and the Seminar. Both are annual events, so anyone interested in attending can find more information online.

Boris Shou ’18: Summer in Singapore – Internship at a Startup and beyond

By Quanzhi Guo on September 14, 2015

The following post is by Boris Shou ’18, a potential Computer Science and Mathematics major. Boris spent his AMS grant on an entrepreneurship program with a startup in Singapore. 

  • Incubator spaces
  • Neighboring countries
  • Singapore street views (and me)
  • Singapore tourist attractions

This summer, I participated in Sage Corps, a U.S.-based entrepreneurship program that sends students overseas to work for startups. Of the several locations offered by the program, I was matched with a startup in Singapore and used my AMS grant to pay for the program tuition and living. I spent eight weeks there, working mainly on software development and maintenance, and learned a lot about the field.

On the very first day of the program, I was convinced that Singapore was the right place to learn about entrepreneurship. Traveling through the bustling streets and walkways, I was impressed by the high level of development in this city-state: modern architecture, cleanliness, cultural diversity, and perfect city planning. Singapore has achieved remarkable economic growth within the past three decades, and to keep the steam, the government has been investing heavily in innovation and providing adequate grants and support to entrepreneurs. Also, Singapore is of great importance to the entrepreneurs. While the Singapore market itself is small, the country has a long history of contact with the West, and enjoys easy access to all parts of Asia, where half of the world population lives.

I learned a great deal from my startup. I chose to be a programmer when I applied to Sage Corps. Having learned Django briefly, a Python web framework, I was able to dabble in most of its features during my internship and write significant programs for the products of the startup. I spent the first two weeks studying the rigorous setup of software development environment, and the next three weeks learning and writing functional tests, which use code to ensure that all necessary features are covered in an application. Having become much more familiar with Django, I spent the last three weeks building a small web application. Beside the technology part, I helped my startup with accounting and market research to get a sense of the other aspects of a startup.

Contrary to what I thought about startups before – creative but disorganized – I realized they are in fact well laid-out and that entrepreneurship is a science. The members in my startup assumed different roles, interacted with each other, and followed the Lean Startup methodology. Throughout the program, I also thought about whether startups really benefit the public or just cater to insatiable and unnecessary desires. I still do not have an answer. Based on the pitches I heard and places visited, I think entrepreneurship is good in the medical and educational fields. On other occasions, I find it neither bad nor good in the long run, or is controversial. Cheaper alternatives from startups could increase welfare by improving market efficiency, but at the same time, they pose threat to the existing traditional businesses.

Besides, I found the program relevant to my personal goals. After the program, I am determined to major in computer science at Colgate and pursue a career in IT in the future. I am not sure about entrepreneurship, but I find it exciting and I hope to do it someday.

I also had a great time in Singapore. Over the course of eight weeks, I became good friends with the twelve other undergraduates, who all had different backgrounds and came from all over the U.S. Together, we toured the manmade wonders in Singapore, including Gardens by the Bay, Night Safari, and Sentosa. We were impressed by the local food in hawker centers all around Singapore. Chinese, Indian, and Western restaurants were all so amazing. We went to world-class bars and clubs along Club Street, Clarke Quay, and between skyscrapers. We even traveled abroad during some of the weekends to nearby countries. Each city had a different vibe. The Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia appeared magnificent yet silent, with centuries of history being calmly displayed. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia showed the stunning Islamic culture of the country that I had never known before. Jakarta, Indonesia was full of potential with its large population, even though it looked old on the outside. Every time we returned to Singapore, we saw the “Welcome home” sign and were excited by the enchantment Southeast Asia offered.

Speaking of Singapore itself, I did find its culture unique and different, though I am from China and Singapore has its majority being ethnically Chinese. I talked with many local Singaporeans as well as Chinese, who arrived on government scholarships and later settled there. It was particularly interesting to learn about the strict laws in Singapore. These laws ensure the incredible orderliness of the country, but they annoyed me at times. Singapore is a unique model in the world, for it runs well without true democracy. The rulers may control the tiny country easily, but they have to be extremely cautious in international politics to avoid getting into wars with other countries. People are generally conservative, especially on political issues like LGBTQ. All of the unique aspects of Singapore that one does not find elsewhere are more or less the result of the country’s physical constraints – size and geographic location, which fascinate me.

In the end, it was a bit unfortunate that I had to leave right before the nation’s 50th birthday. Nevertheless, I was content and grateful for what I had experienced in eight weeks’ time. Singapore has amazed me much more than I expected, and with what I learned in my internship, it has been the best summer I have ever had.







Kenzie Hume ’14: Conectando la patria a la poesía: La Chilenidad de Pablo Neruda (Connecting the Homeland to the Poetry: Pablo Neruda’s “Chileanness”)

By Peter Tschirhart on September 2, 2015
A view of the ruins at Machu Picchu.

A view of the ruins at Machu Picchu.

During the winter of 2015, Kenzie Hume ’14 traced the life and history of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda across South America. Intrigued by his surrealist aesthetics, and fascinated by his commitment to Chile’s indigenous people, Kenzie used her AMS Grant to visit sites that exerted a formative influence on Neruda’s work: from his personal library in Santiago, to the mountain-top ruins of Machu Picchu. In what follows, Kenzie reflects on her travels and the AMS Grant experience.

Pablo Neruda has intrigued me ever since I took a seminar on Latin American avante garde poetry with my advisor, Chrystian Zegarra. In this seminar, I researched how Neruda used surrealism as a reaction against excessive rational thought, bourgeois values, and the absence of aesthetic preoccupation. My study focused on a very specific stage of his long, illustrious career, because I wanted to understand how Chile’s beloved literary icon transitioned from poet to political militant. I later fell in love with Latin America while studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina during my junior year at Colgate. I visited the Patagonoia region in southern Chile on a spring break trip and was awed by the natural beauty of Torres del Paine. I hoped to return one day to get to know the rest of the country.

Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia.

Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia.

My interest in the poetry and life of Pablo Neruda, and my desire to see Chile, inspired my AMS Grant project. I decided to focus on Neruda’s masterwork Canto General, in which he reinterprets the Latin American identity from the perspective of its indigenous elements. My initial goal was to understand how Pablo Neruda formed his own conception of what it means to be Chilean and how his idea of “chilenidad,” or “chilean-ness,” influenced his representation of the indigenous people. The poem “Alturas de Machu Picchu” (“The Heights of Machu Picchu”) is particularly meaningful in this regard. It praises Peru for recognizing the indigenous elements in its culture but denounces the historical exploitation of these people in the construction of the ruins. My project involved investigating Neruda’s background and connecting his personal Chilean identity to his poetry in order to understand what compelled him to write from a viewpoint that affirmed indigenous culture.

To do this, I decided to visit his three houses to learn more about his background and inspiration. The first house I visited was La Chascona in Santiago, Chile. It was really whimsical and disjointed, almost like a treehouse, with many different parts connecting outdoors. Neruda designed it for himself and his (then) lover Matilde. The façade is not ostentatious, and the house focuses on intimate spaces. He even built secret passageways from which he would suddenly emerge to surprise his guests. Hanging inside was a painting I thought represented the themes I was studying. It depicted a fight between the indigenous people and Europeans: Sitting on a throne of clouds, a European queen watches from afar while other Europeans storm the ocean. There are many gruesome and violent elements. For example, there is an arrow in a European baby’s head. At the bottom of the painting, there is a label saying “America.” It was really interesting for him to display art reminiscent of the European-indigenous clash.

The exterior of La Chascona in Santiago, Chile.

The exterior of La Chascona in Santiago, Chile.

From there, I visited Neruda’s archives at the Universidad de Chile, which hosts his entire personal library. It seemed as if he read everything, as there were books about astronomy, medicine, philosophy, and much more. The archives also had an exquisite collection of seashells he gathered during his travels. Clearly, he was a learned man with an international outlook. My last stop in Santiago was to see the Pablo Neruda room in the library. It was interesting to see how Chile commemorates one of its greatest poets.

After leaving Santiago, I went to Valparaíso to see Neruda’s second home, La Sebastiana. This is where he wrote Canto General, the main focus of my study. I could see how he found inspiration, because the house has the most fantastic view of Valparaíso and the entire Chilean coast. The architecture also expressed Neruda’s artistic sensibility.

La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s home in Valparaíso, Chile.

La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s home in Valparaíso, Chile.

Finally, I visited Neruda’s coastal house in Isla Negra, which is also the site of his gravestone. The house is full of collectibles reminiscent of his cosmopolitan worldview and extensive travels. One of the most extravagant things in the house was an enormous brass telescope from the French government. He called his favorite room “Cosecha,” which means shelter in Mapuche language, in homage to his childhood in Telemark where there are a large number of Mapuche people.

The view of Pablo Neruda’s Isla Negra house from his backyard.

The view of Pablo Neruda’s Isla Negra house from his backyard.

Having seen where Neruda lived and wrote, I wanted to share the experiences that transformed how he viewed the world and that inspired “Alturas de Machu Picchu.” After returning to South America from abroad, Neruda toured Peru and visited the ruins of Machu Picchu. He was awed by its beauty and was compelled to write “Alturas de Machu Picchu,” a twelve-part poem that celebrates its creation and majesty while condemning the slavery it represented. To some, it is one of the most political poems of all time, while others consider it a testimony to Neruda’s mystic exploration of mankind. The poem lauds Peru for its celebration of its indigenous identity. It was easy to see why his trip to Machu Picchu had such an impact. The ruins are massive, intricate, and surrounded by the most beautiful scenery imaginable. Walking around the site, I felt as though I were on hallowed ground—a testament to the indigenous culture in Peru.

A portrait near the entrance to Machu Picchu.

A portrait near the entrance to Machu Picchu.

Pablo Neruda is one of the most influential and storied poets in any language. It was a privilege to travel to his homeland to better understand his poetry and interpret it from a different perspective. Through my research and travels, I came to see how his poetry manifests his personal cause: fighting for the identity and cohesion of Latin America. In Canto General, it was clear that Neruda connects his personal identity and voice to his poetry through self-exploration and sharing his experiences.

I am incredibly grateful to Colgate and the AMS program for allowing me to undertake this project. I want to thank my former high school Spanish teacher, Dr. Gloria Garza, who was instrumental in directing my research and gave me the encouragement to pursue my idea to study Neruda. At Colgate, Professor Chrystian Zegarra provided further guidance, advising me to focus on Canto General, and Professor Danny Barreto helped me with my grant proposal. Peter Tschirhart was instrumental in guiding me through the proposal process and aiding in the planning and logistics of the trip. Dean Gary Ross consistently uplifted me with his optimism and confidence every time I visited him.

As a double-major in Spanish and Mathematical Economics, I never anticipated that my AMS research would coincide with my Economics studies, given the topic I had chosen. However, my work ultimately served as the inspiration for my Mathematical Economics Honors Thesis. With the guidance of Jay Mandle and Michael O’Hara, I studied the economic integration of the Mapuche population in Chile after the country experienced immense growth in the late nineties. The surprising blend of my two diverse majors at Colgate my final year speaks to the beauty of a multidisciplinary liberal arts education. It facilitates creativity and passion for learning, which is the core of Colgate’s academic culture and the AMS program.

Student Profile: Mac Baler ’15

By Jessica Li on March 30, 2015


Name: Mac Baler
Class Year: 2015
Major: Computer Science and Japanese
Campus Activities: Senior Admissions Fellow, President of Masque & Triangle, Astronomy Teaching Assistant

Mac Baler is a senior Alumni Memorial Scholar and used his AMS scholars grant for a project that is both an intellectual interest and a personal passion, fostered throughout his four years at Colgate University. Mac has a love for Japan and the Japanese language, and he used his AMS grant and capstone project as an opportunity to delve more deeply into this passion.

Mac’s first time in Japan was during the fall of his Junior year on a program at a school called Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan. Although he started studying Japanese during his sophomore year, he hadn’t had any prior language experience. Mac fell in love with Japanese, which was the impetus for his decision to study abroad in Japan.

His semester abroad “was the most unbelievable experience, really.” Mac did a home-stay with a family for four months, explored various parts of the country, and was immersed in Japanese. Mac said that he believed his experience was so wonderful because “Between that family and the students and people that I met, it was so unreal how welcoming they were, not only my host family but also the students that I met, I felt like I belonged.”

Once he returned to Colgate, Mac knew that he needed to return to Japan. After a summer of brainstorming with advisors and professors in the Japanese department, he realized that his passion for the Japanese language could be the foundation for an interesting project. “I think that this is something that I realized while I was in Japan, it was fascinating to me because I had friends learning English while I was learning Japanese.”

In tandem with his professors, Mac decided to do a linguistics research project, which would be focused on youth language, or slang, in Japan. Japan has a unique culture of slang, which is highly geographically specific. “When people ask me about it I explain, in the US if you live in Boston, you say ‘wicked,’ and if you go to California people will still know what you mean. But in Japan that’s not true. So, with such massive dialectical differences the youth language is really interesting.”

Mac’s travel and research in Japan, which he conducted during winter break of 2015, was funded by his AMS grant, and afford him the opportunity to investigate the current state of youth language in Japan. Ultimately, Mac hopes to help other students interested in learning Japanese on their language journey. “I think that as someone who is learning Japanese as a foreign language, and as someone who was really excited to go to Japan, and didn’t have any language prep, there was no way that I would be prepared for youth slang or dialect and how that would change. I thought if I could provide a guide for students interested in learning Japanese that would be a valuable resource. I think it is vital to be able to speak with youth, especially if you’re going to be going to a school there.”

Ewa Protasiuk ’15: Reflections on the 2015 International Studies Association Conference

By Peter Tschirhart on March 26, 2015
View of New Orleans. Photo by Ewa Protasiuk.

View of New Orleans. Photo by Ewa Protasiuk.

The following post was contributed by Ewa Protasiuk ’15, a Biology major and PCON minor. Ewa recently used her AMS Grant to attend the International Studies Association conference in New Orleans. Along the way, she reflected on the synergies of travel and the promise of academic inquiry.


This is a post about a trip that almost didn’t happen. (Thank you, February 2015 weather!) But luckily, it did.

After two canceled flights and a delay, I made it to New Orleans for the International Studies Association’s Annual Convention. This conference brought together scholars from the discipline of International Relations. This is not my discipline; but as a Peace and Conflict Studies minor with an interest in how (or perhaps whether?) academic scholarship can be anti-oppressive on a variety of fronts, several presentations and discussions interested me. They covered themes such as feminist takes on militarism, “Queering/Querying Global Political Economy” (as one roundtable discussion was titled), the relationship between silence and agency, and how collages (yes, as in the art form) can open up different ways of thinking about political science. (Check out Saara Särmä’s dissertation collages if this intrigues you.) I also attended talks with my advisor in Peace and Conflict Studies, Susan Thomson, and met several of her colleagues, friends, and fellow Canadians.

While the discussions formally organized by the conference were certainly thought-provoking, I also thought a lot about the conference itself–as an entity with its own culture, set of power dynamics, and materialities. I’ve also been thinking about the meaning of my travel between New York State and New Orleans, and many different dynamics I saw at play just in those few days. A few scattered anecdotes:

  • While flying to the conference, delayed in Charlotte, I sat down at my gate among a number of people–apparently strangers, apparently white–who were sharing a conversation about their military experiences. The tone of the conversation was overwhelmingly positive.
  • While at the conference, held predominantly in a Hilton hotel on the riverfront of New Orleans, not far from the famed French Quarter, I heard only one panelist acknowledge that we are on Native American land.
  • While flying back to New York, sitting at the gate, delayed yet again, I got into conversation with a woman who used to live in New Orleans but who, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, moved to Central New York. She has traveled back to New Orleans as often as she could over the past ten years with devotion.

Pieces of the what scholars talk about during academic conferences are evident in the everyday—things with big names like militarism, environmental racism, and settler colonialism. What do conferences have to do with resistance to these things? I am a big-time, largely unapologetic nerd. I love school. I love research. I say this even as a second-semester senior with a matter of weeks left at Colgate. But there is some disconnect between the world I find at the conference, and the world I find at the airport. One I want to explore further.