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What is the Benton Scholar Program?

By bentonscholars on April 16, 2013

The Benton Scholars Program was developed as a model for how a liberal arts education can be shaped to fully prepare students to think, act, and create in a world that is increasingly diverse and global.

Colgate University has a long and proud history of graduating students who lead in all aspects of their lives.  In the spirit of that great tradition, this program has been designed to infuse leadership and global themes into the Colgate experience by providing its members with activities and selected courses that will enrich and bring new perspectives to their experiences on campus and throughout their lives.

Each year, as part of it admissions process, Colgate identifies a number of applicants who, through past experience and/or expressed interest, have demonstrated the potential to focus with particular emphasis on the complex global issues that will challenge them not only academically as undergraduates but also professionally and personally once they have graduated from Colgate.

A carefully selected group of 15-18 First Year students are then invited to join a vibrant community of upperclass students who have already chosen to target their individual commitments and to expend their collective energies on raising the profile of global issues among their fellow students.

Throughout their four years at Colgate, Benton Scholars support and motivate each other as they develop into thoughtful, creative, and well-informed leaders both at Colgate itself and beyond the gates of the university’s campus.

Read more about the Benton Scholars Trips

Trip to South Korea
Trip to Argentina
Trip to India
Trip to China
Trip to Uganda

TBS Abroad Week 5: Drinking Fountains

By Jessica Li on February 26, 2015

05 - drinking fountain 2

Drinking Fountains: The drinking fountain can be a powerful signifier. Though simple in purpose and function, it stands as a physical manifestation of common biological needs while staking claim to public spaces we all share: parks, streets, airports, libraries. A drinking fountain might well be “read” as an invitation to linger; but as the civil rights struggle in the United States showed, it can also be used to divide society along racial or ethnic lines: to mark social spaces where insidious ideologies oppress, demean, and segregate minorities.

05 - drinking fountain 1

This week, find and photograph a drinking fountain. Where do you encounter them? Is there any logic to their placement? What message(s) do they communicate? Do drinking fountains bring people together or keep them apart? Take a picture of a drinking fountain you have used. If there are none, speculate as to why.

Ryan Hildebrandt ’17, Psychology & Japanese

Drinking fountains? There aren’t any. Anywhere (or at least it feels like they’re never where you need them when you need them). Not in train stations, not on University campuses, and rarely in parks or other public spaces. This posed a special challenge when walking was my main form of transportation throughout Kyoto, and I had to plan accordingly in order to make sure I didn’t run out mid excursion. Usually my best bet was to leave the house with a full bottle and refill at lunch, making sure to have an extra glass of water at each meal to keep ahead of dehydration throughout the day. Instead, there are beverage vending machines and convenience stores on even the most remote outskirts of the city, so a couple hundred yen water allowance was always a good idea.

TBS Abroad Week 4: Public Parks

By Jessica Li on February 20, 2015

04 - Public Park - Barnes Common

Public Parks: Access to nature is often recognized as a key quality-of-life indicator, and for many people, public parks are the easiest place to find a bit of fresh air. But nature is not always as natural as it might seem. Indeed, the very term “landscaping” implies that something has been altered or reconfigured to fit an ideal — suggesting that, despite appearances, the “wildness” of New York’s Central Park is not so terribly different from the placid beauty of the Gardens at Versailles. This week, pay attention to parks. Is there an arboretum or other “natural” public place where you live? What is it called? Is it actively manicured or left wild? Who maintains it? What do people do there: Sports? Picnics? Protests? Theatre and music? Take a picture of the park and tell us how it’s commonly used.

Ryan Hildebrant ’17, Psychology & Japanese

The main Park in Kyoto serves all the functions one would expect: picnics, public events, sports, and general relaxation in nature. This park, which lies at a central location in the city of Kyoto, also happens to be the former Imperial palace and palace complex. One of my first experiences with the palace/park was a visit to the Palace, which is usually restricted. Having seen the inside, and this isn’t to belittle the beauty of the palace, it’s quite a nice residence, I have to say the outside of the palace and the palace grounds are much more spectacular.


The main Park in Kyoto

The main palace is surrounded by walls and then an open expanse of gravel on all sides. Beyond that are various paths and miniature parks, with pine, maple, and many other trees overlooking the entirety of the grounds. During fall, the maple and other trees are famous for turning brilliant shades of crimson and bright yellow, and the result is a park cloaked in color for a few weeks or a month of the year. 

Adam Basciano ’16, International Relations

Parks seem to be everywhere here in Jerusalem and Israel. On my daily walk to campus, I pass a large public garden/park that many students take advantage of for studying. On days that I am not running behind on schedule, I can walk through Hebrew University’s own Botanical Gardens which leads right to my day’s classes.

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Gan Sacher Park

Since the weather has been magnificent ever since I have gotten year, each day you can see students relaxing from the stresses of their exam seasons by enjoying a smoke or a bite to eat. Jerusalem as a whole is also home to many large and beautiful public parks that get hundreds of visitors daily. Shabbat is the nation-wide day of rest, and as a result no businesses are open from sundown Friday until Saturday night. This means that on the weekends, Israeli families and visitors flock to public parks to enjoy picnics and time with family and friend. The two pictures shown are from last weekend when I enjoyed a pleasant day at the Gan Sacher park in the Nahalot village of Jerusalem with some Israeli and American friends.

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Jerod Gibson-Faber ’16, History

The first thing I think I noticed about London is probably how the roads are all wrong here. After that though, I couldn’t help but be very impressed at all of the parks and open spaces throughout the city.  I live in housing on 20 Bedford Place, very close to the British Museum.  If you exited my flat, took a left, and kept walking straight, you would end up at Bloomsbury Square Gardens.  I often times cut through here when I’m trying to get to Kingsway and go places.


It’s not the biggest park, but there is a small playground area that I would love to play in if I were about 17 years younger.  People also walk their dogs around and on the green, which the dogs seem to love – they are all so friendly. Go back to my flat, take a right instead, keep walking straight, and you’d end up at Russell Square.  This space is a bit larger and in addition to dogs and readers on park benches, runners frequent the park on their daily routes.  I’m pretty spoiled with a park on each end of the street I live on, but it seems like little green open spaces like these are not hard to find – especially in central London.  There are a number of larger parks, too, like Regents, Hyde, and St. James’s to name but a few.  As far as the authenticity of the natural environment, it’s tough to say. These places – especially Greenwich – were heavily attacked in WWII.  Some parks were even dug into for shelters from bombing.  It’s a pretty safe bet that however the land recovered after the war, it’d still in that condition – with maintenance of course.


 Peter Tschirhart, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Scholars Programs

One of my favorite local spots is Thayer Park on the banks of Lake Skaneateles. Visit sometime on a beautiful, sunny day and you’ll find it filled with picnickers with plaid blankets, kids with frisbees, and grownups with books. It’s unquestionably one of the most picturesque places I know, and it reminds me very strongly of the more pretty spots in the Lake District (Cumbria).

A warm October’s day in Thayer Park, with (from left to right) me, my partner Brian, and my brother Steve

I don’t know much about the history of Thayer Park, though: who designed it or who maintains it. I spent some time researching these questions, but as it turns out, much more information is available about other parks in the area – Shotwell Park, for instance, memorializes local residents killed in foreign conflicts since the First World War. Thayer Park seems to lack a comparable high-minded purpose. From what I can tell, the land for it was set aside in 1874 by a local businessman named Joel Thayer, who made his mark on industries as varied as distilling and carriage works. Today, the park is actively manicured and maintained — I suppose by the Village of Skaneateles — and is used primarily for quiet leisure. Music, arts, entertainment, and, of course, boat tours are kept at Clift Park further down Genessee Street. From the ladder descending into the lake, built directly into the concrete retaining wall, one might assume swimming, too, was once common here.

TBS Abroad Week 3: Libraries

By Jessica Li on February 12, 2015

03 - Libraries

Week 3 Prompt: Libraries

Libraries aren’t just places to store books or sit and think. They link a community to important resources, serving as a hub for information about taxes, voting, and other issues of local concern. Libraries can be big or small, publicly-funded or privately-endowed, grand or humble, focused on research or designed to attract a wide audience. There may be a children’s section, but there may also be other special collections: maps, large-print, computer terminals, or rare and valuable books, to name just a few. This week, take a photograph of your local libraryand tell us about it: Why do people go there? Are there books and computers? Is it usually busy? How is it used — for research, reading, or as a common gathering place? Do people take pride in their local library, or is it largely hidden from view?

Kevin Costello ’16, Philosophy & Political Science

I suppose it would be wrong to do a “libraries” post in DC on something other than the famous Library of Congress. To provide a quick history lesson, the original library, at least in DC location, was established in 1800, tucked away inside the Capitol building. After the British burned the Capitol down during the War of 1812, however, all was lost, and the library needed to start anew. Thomas Jefferson, an avid book collector whose expensive tastes were plunging him into crushing debt, offered to sell his personal library of nearly 6,500 books to the government for the purposes of establishing a new Library of Congress.


The Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress

Today, the LoC houses over 150,000,000 books, periodicals, and other items and serves the unique role of being both a tourist attraction and a fully functioning public library. The aesthetic of the library’s primary building, the Thomas Jefferson building, combines classical republican architecture, renaissance flair, and other recognizable aspects of Western culture. The building was designed as such in order to make European scholars and intellectuals notice a young America’s cultural and artistic depth. The Main Reading Room, which is perhaps the library’s most recognizable space, is a great example of such design, as the circular room is lined with heroic statues of some of the West’s most valuable contributors, such as Michelangelo, Newton, and Plato. A fun, albeit strange, fact about the Main Reading Room is that all photography is expressly prohibited. Fortunately, though, my dedication to TBS-Abroad knows of no such limitations, and as such, I’m happy to contribute my own illicit photograph of the Library of Congress’s Main Reading Room. If I mysteriously disappear at some point in the coming weeks, at least Colgate will know what’s happened.

TBS Abroad Week 2: Cigarettes

By Jessica Li on February 4, 2015

02 - Cigarettes

Week 2 Prompt: Cigarettes

Cigarette use is on the decline in the United States. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 24.7% of American adults identified as smokers in 1997. That number fell to 18% in 2012. But Americans account for only a small minority of smokers throughout the world — and on the whole, demand for cigarettes is booming. According to The Tobacco Atlas, people living in the Americas consume just 11% of the world’s cigarettes, with Europe at 24%, and Asia and Australia together accounting for 48%. Put another way: if the average American smokes 3 cigarettes each day, the average Russian smokes 8. This week, pay attention to cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and other forms tobacco. Is smoking common? Where do people smoke? Is it allowed inside cafes? Is it considered “good manners” to smoke outside and “bad manners” to smoke indoors? Do women smoke? Is smoking a guilty pleasure or a source of power and pride? Take a picture of an ashtray or a place where people commonly gather to smoke.

 Ryan Hildebrandt ’17, Psychology & Japanese

Legally: Yes. But not really, unless you want to be that guy, which you don’t.

Smoking in Japan is, like many things, governed more by social convention than law. In Japan, there is no national ban on smoking in any location, any time, although some bans have become more popular in recent years in certain prefectures and metropolitan areas. Cigarette smoking is still allowed and not necessarily looked down upon in the vast majority of Japan, and any restrictions on smoking are much more based in consideration for those around you rather than the law. Although this might be just as much due to the presence in many train stations, public parks, and outside convenience stores of designated and often fully enclosed smoking areas or boxes. These boxes are an especially common sight on the streets of Kyoto, where smoking bans and restrictions have made more legal progress than many other municipalities in Japan. That being said, there is still a large chunk of the smoking population that lights just about anywhere in public, most often walking to and from work on the main streets of Kyoto. So people are encouraged, not so much by the government as a more general sensibility and awareness of the fact that you are one person in a city of millions, to refrain from smoking in inconvenient locations.


A izakaya bar in Japan, a local spot for food and drinks.

The biggest exception to this rule comes when the sun sinks and the lights of restaurants and bars step out for a night of good business. Kyoto in particular, has a good number of Izakaya (half bar, half restaurant, all delicious and fattening), where businessmen, college students, and all those who find themselves hungry can and do gather for some bonding over food and beer. In many izakaya, smoking is quite common. Many izakaya and bars don’t regulate smoking, and it is much more acceptable to smoke in a bar or izakaya because of the casual and laid back atmosphere that often defines these establishments. So if the table next to yours in the izakaya is smoking, it’s probably best to ignore it (they’re usually pretty well ventilated anyway) and enjoy your pub-grub a la Japan.

Jerod Gibson-Faber ’17, History

Cigarettes are an interesting topic to think about.  My generation grew up learning about tobacco differently than my parents generation – and things are still changing.  As a result of increased knowledge over the years that tobacco usage can be a serious health risk, the ways I’ve interacted with cigarettes have been pretty negative.  I participated in programs in school that were heavily anti-smoking (and drugs) and I continually see ads not only on the television but in magazines and through other mediums that warn of the dangers of smoking.  Something else about cigarettes that I’ve known about is their addictive nature.  Again, through commercials and things in media, I know there are people who are addicted and need medicinal or other help to stop smoking. 


A e-cigarette shop in Cardiff, a new popular alternative to cigarettes.

Now I haven’t watched too much television here in London, but I have yet to see any sort of advertisement anywhere that deals with the harm of smoking.  I have, however, seen plenty of people outside (such as the one of the guys who works at Subway near the flats) on a smoke-break.  I grew up learning that people smoke because they are addicted and I should never do it – for fear of becoming addicted too! I never really heard about the people who smoke out of habit, but I think there are plenty of the latter.  I think this is evident with the introduction and creation of e-cigarettes.  Now I don’t know too much about them, but I have heard they are quite safer.  People had a habit and wanted it to be safer.

 Katrina Bennett ’16, Neuroscience

Smoking in South Africa is probably less prevalent than it is in the United States. I really have been on the lookout for tobacco products and tobacco smokers during this past week and have been able to spot very few. On an evening out I came across a hookah bar, the bus driver that transported me throughout my tour would grab a cigarette on rest stops and I spotted a student ducking out of a restaurant to smoke a cigarette. These, in all honesty, are the only instances that I have noticed tobacco in South Africa.


A beautiful view from a patio used for smoking

I expected to notice more smoking when I was out in the evenings as people walk out of clubs, or during the days as people walk down the streets but I definitely have not. Here, smoking seems like a fairly rare action that is not done by any one group and is also not done inside anywhere. Smoking cigarettes seems to be done in normal open spaces and not in large groups, making it not stand out in the slightest. The student I noticed ducking out to smoke at a restaurant went to this beautiful balcony attached to the restaurant where I was dining and got a great view of Cape Town while smoking. Maybe more people here should pick up smoking so that they have an excuse to step outside more often and admire the beautiful sights. 

Peter Tschirhart, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Scholars Programs

Smoking is not nearly as common in the United States as it used to be. While I’m old enough (!!!) to remember seeing ash trays in airplane armrests – some of which had burned residue inside – it’s comparatively marginal today, kept not just off airplanes, but outside most public buildings. That doesn’t mean smokers are themselves marginalized or powerless, though. Even as the Marlboro Man has ridden-off into the sunset of popular culture, the smoking of fine cigars still carries a certain social caché. For instance, there’s a well-known “Cigar Lounge” in Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal at the Frankfurt Airport. I’ve never visited (obviously), but I can imagine the rich and powerful puffing-away on rare havanas… From what I’ve observed, smoking itself isn’t bad manners – it’s all about how and where it’s done. Having good manners usually means doing it around other (consenting) smokers. Bad manners usually involves subjecting other people to second-hand smoke, fresh from the lungs or not, near hospitals, restaurants, an office, or public park.

A smoking spot behind McGregory, on campus

While I’m not a smoker – the thought of sucking heated particulate matter into my lungs always lacked appeal – I do envy the social dimensions of it: taking a few drags while discussing the day’s news. My picture this week is of a common smoking spot here at Colgate, just outside McGregory Hall. I often see people chatting there, having a smoke.

TBS Abroad Week 1: Coffee

By Jessica Li on January 28, 2015

01 - CoffeeWeek 1 Prompt: Coffee

Few commodities are as ubiquitous and varied as coffee. Frappuccinos, cappuccinos,  espresso, Turkish coffee, chocolate-covered coffee beans, iced coffee, dehydrated “instant” coffee, a French press, and American-style “drip” coffee: coffee, in one form or another, can be found in almost every part of the world — sometimes with hints of local flavor, or after-tastes of European colonialism. This week, observe how, where, and when people consume coffee. Is it a morning or afternoon beverage? Is it consumed “black” or with copious sugar? What is the most common form of coffee you see? (E.g. Iced, cappuccino, latte, K-cup, etc.) Do people prefer drinking from porcelain, or are take-away cups prevalent? Is coffee considered a luxury or is it essential to daily life? Are there local customs and history that inform how and why people drink coffee? Take at least one picture of a local coffee shop, your morning cup, or a coffee menu at a cafe. Avoid visiting Starbucks, if you can!

Ryan Hildebrandt ’17, Psychology & Japanese

Coffee in Japan is, like many aspects of the island nation, a bit of a dichotomy. Every day on my commute to school, through residential streets and city blocks, there were vending machines everywhere. Actually everywhere. It was a rare day indeed when I didn’t pass at least ten or twenty going about my daily routine, with every one I saw was advertising drinks of all kinds for sale with vibrant colors and celebrity endorsements. That’s where Tommy Lee Jones and his apparent thirst for the Boss Gold Label coffee drink comes in. It wasn’t uncommon to see his face on many of the vending machines selling coffee or coffee based beverages. Strange endorsements are a common sight on the streets of Kyoto, and this is representative of one end of the coffee spectrum available in Japan: the commercialized end.

Tommy Lee Jones on a "Boss" coffee machine in Kyoto.

Tommy Lee Jones on a “Boss” coffee machine in Kyoto.

On the opposite end of the coffee experience scale is the pure, hand processed, rich coffee of the Bonin Islands, one of the few places in Japan where Coffee can grow. I had the experience, along with my fellow students, to pick coffee fruit off the bush (called cherries before they’re processed into the more familiar beans) and taste the flesh of the coffee cherries. They were sweet and somewhat juicy, but the inner coffee bean was bitter and quite unpleasant if you made the mistake of biting into it. After picking the cherries and taking them through the bean separating process, we were treated to a cup of black Ogasawara (the name of the village in which the coffee farm was located) Coffee. I’ll admit, I’m not much of a coffee drinker, and in all honesty the first time I had tried coffee was about a month earlier in a small Japanese department store. But something about this coffee, perhaps the smell, perhaps the richness, perhaps the fact that I knew how it was made and how much effort went into each cup, told me that it was something special, something which was as far from the canned coffee on street corners as we were from the nearest Starbucks (about 600 miles away, imagine that).

Adam Basciano ’16, International Relations

Shalom from the Holy Land! Coffee is indeed an important part of Israeli culture. It comes in many different forms and is enjoyed by many. Tourists from America and other countries rush to kiosks and coffee shops for the delicious iced cafes. Here, an ice cafe is not simply coffee with ice, but rather a delicious and refreshing blended beverage. For native Israelis, also known as “Sabras”, a typical cup of coffee is whipped up quickly using Nescafe, an instant coffee brand. For late afternoon and evening relaxing, it is common for Israelis to enjoy Turkish black coffee. I am not sure where this tradition stems from, but it is hard to find an Israeli of any descent who does not own tiny shot-glass sized cups and the other essentials for making this delicious, awakening drink.

"Aroma" coffee storefront in Israel.

“Aroma” coffee storefront in Israel.

While it is easy to avoid visiting Starbucks while here in Israel, it is nearly impossible to skip out on the “Starbucks of Israel”, a description of the vastly popular “Aroma” (seen bove). Aroma is enjoyed by all, tourists and Sabras alike, as it is the first widely popular coffee chain in Israel.

Kevin Costello ’16, Philosophy & Political Science

When you think of large American cities that double as college towns, Boston is probably what comes to mind. I’d always known that Washington had its fair share of higher learning, but it wasn’t until Tryst that I fully grasped that DC has such a large, vibrant academic community of its own. Tryst, a coffee-shop-and-then-some located in DC’s colorful Adams Morgan neighborhood, enjoys a surprisingly strong draw from seemingly all of Washington’s geographically dispersed colleges and universities. When I first arrived on Sunday afternoon to do some homework, I expected a fairly calm environment, with perhaps a few American University students recharging and preparing for the upcoming week.

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Tryst Coffeehouse in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC.

What I found was a mini-metropolis of academic discourse, semi-militant nonconformity, and politically-charged artistic expression. This place was loud, packed, and moving. I sure as hell wasn’t about to find an open table, let alone get any work done in this wonderfully hectic environment, but that didn’t matter as much anymore. I was more than content to grab a latte, squeeze into the back corner, and people watch. I saw Georgetown and American University students fervently discussing President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address, while graduate students bounced ideas for their dissertations off one another. In the back, young professors with flannel shirts and nose rings vigorously engaged students who had decided to come to Sunday office hours. The appropriately-named Counter Culture Coffee wasn’t bad, but far more interesting was this coffee shop’s blend of hipster, chic, and activist. It was exactly what you’d expect from a cosmopolitan coffee shop frequented by students and academics, and yet, there was also a very unique charm to this particular place. I’m not what one might call a coffee shop connoisseur, but if the goal is to simultaneously draw on established bases while simultaneously forging a new, vibrant community with a culture of its own, then Tryst has certainly succeeded.

Peter Tschirhart — Reporting from NYC

Coffee in New York is like a public utility. It might as well flow from the tap. There are coffee shops wherever you turn, and it always surprises me how many are filled to capacity.

Inside Third Rail Coffee

Inside Third Rail Coffee

A few weeks ago, I had the surprise pleasure of taking a coffee tour of the City. We visited a number of different kinds and types of coffeehouses — from corporate chains to European-style cafés — but one in particular stood out. It was called Third Rail Coffee. The menu was completely espresso-based, and there were no fluffy, Starbucks-style drinks at all: no Pumpkin Spice Whatevers or White Chocolate Somethings. “Pure” coffee. There was really no need for all the added sugar anyway, to be honest. The coffee was so good, so sweet, nothing needed to be added. I can easily say it was among the best — if not the best — espresso I’ve ever had.

"Barista as superhero."


"Artisan" coffee at Third Rail Coffee, NYC.

“Artisan” coffee at Third Rail Coffee, NYC.











This was luxury coffee to be sure: expensive, though cash-only, served in unusually small cups, with delicate artisan touches. But it’s interesting to note how little was made of the coffee itself: its origins, the workers who picked and brought it to market, the farmers who grew it. Starbucks makes much more out of these considerations than most independent shops, like Third Rail. The focus here was on the craft of brewing (or “pulling,” in the case of espresso) and serving it — what I call the “barista as superhero” model. Equally interesting was how many customers requested paper cups and how few drank from porcelain. One might expect high-end coffee like this to be served exclusively in high-end tasse à café. But it wasn’t. I attribute the broader dominance of cardboard cups both to Starbucks’ bad influence and to the tendency in NYC to always be rushed — but in this case, the lack of seating may be to blame.

The Benton Scholars: Abroad

By Jessica Li on January 26, 2015

Infusing leadership and global themes into the Colgate University experience, the Benton Scholars program creates an educational environment that asks students to adopt an informed and critical view of emerging political, cultural, environmental, and economic issues. Just as importantly, scholars are expected to be outwardly focused: to share their insights with people on campus and throughout the global community.

Like many Colgate students, Benton Scholars often choose to study off-campus during their junior year. Unlike others, however, they are expected to stay connected to the program and each other while abroad–sharing their insights, collaborating from different points on the globe–with the goal of bringing different cultural and geo-political perspectives to bear on shared problems.

The Benton Scholars: Abroad blog functions as the locus for this collaboration. Each Monday during the spring semester, students will be sent a brief topic, idea, or problem, one that has resonance throughout the world. Students are then asked to submit a response–preferably a picture, video, or brief essay–which will then be published on this site. Responses need not be obvious: they can be creative, insightful, even clever interpretations of each week’s theme.

Entering its second year, we hope The Benton Scholars: Abroad blog will provide unique insight into topics of discussion and issues of concern that we all share in common.

This year’s contributors are immersed in different countries around the world, from Geneva to South Africa. Their profiles below:


Ryan Hildebrandt ’17

My name is Ryan, and I just got back from 4 months in Japan and 3 weeks in Korea before that. I’m from a small beach town in South Jersey called cape may, and I’m majoring in Psychology and Japanese.










Susan Price ’16

I am a Junior studying International Relations and Film & Media Studies. Though originally from Dallas, Texas I will be spending this semester studying abroad with the Colgate Study Group to Geneva, Switzerland. The program also includes a month long, language intensive home stay in Montpellier, France, two group trips through Western and Eastern Europe, and an internship with an NGO during the time in Geneva.





Adam Basciano ’16

My name is Adam Basciano and I am an International Relations major and Economics minor coming from Randolph, New Jersey. I am spending my Spring semester of junior year abroad in Jerusalem where I will be taking a multitude of courses including Hebrew, international relations, and Jewish studies.







Kevin Costello ’16

My name is Kevin Costello, and I am a Junior from Concord, CA (a short 20-30 minute trip from Oakland). I study Philosophy and Political Science at Colgate and hope to attend law school after graduation. While I imagine the Spring of 2016 won’t yield the most exotic stories or photographs, I’m very excited to “study abroad” in Washington, D.C. for the semester! I’m quite the political head, and as someone who has never explored Washington, I’m eager to share my new experiences regarding the movers, shakers, and locals in our nation’s Capitol with TBS-Abroad!



Jerod Gibson-Faber ’16

Hi readers, my name is Jerod Gibson-Faber.  I am currently a junior at Colgate University and am studying history.  I’m writing from London, England, as I’m also currently studying abroad.  During my time abroad I hope to immerse myself in local culture as well as complete my capstone paper for my major.  I love soccer and play on the club level while acting as the student manager for both the men’s and women’s varsity teams at Colgate.  I hope to attend as many games possible while I’m in the UK.

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Katrina Bennett ’16

Katrina is a current junior from Leonardtown, MD, majoring in Neuroscience. Katrina’s main interests include public health, global health, infectious diseases, and small scale community development. At Colgate, Katrina is involved with the Shaw Wellness Institute, the Colgate Global Health Initiative, Oxfam, and other organizations. Katrina is beyond excited to spend a semester in South Africa and hopes to learn much about this fascinating nation.




Student Profile: Jacq Zier ’15

By Jessica Li on December 4, 2014

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Name: Jacq Zier
Class year: 2015
Hometown: Eastsound, Washington
Major: Molecular Biology/Premed

Benton senior Jacq Zier has spent her Colgate career fostering a love for biology. Jacq spent the last two summers interning in her home state of Washington at the SeaDoc Society and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

The SeaDoc Society does research focused on measuring and maintaining the health of the Salish Sea, a body of water that stretches from Seattle up through Vancouver. It is a large ecosystem which contains a variety of species. “Seattle and Vancouver are large urban centers that have unloaded a lot of pollution into the water,” Jacq explained. “In addition to that, the area has had a history of overfishing, especially salmon. In essence, the Salish Sea is a really vibrant marine environment, however it has a lot of stresses on it.”

During her first summer at the SeaDoc Society Jacq wrote a species profile of harbor seals. Her article was published in the encyclopedia of Puget Sound, a big project in the region. Additionally, Jacq has made significant contributions to the list of species of concern in the Salish Sea by compiling the four existing lists into one. “A list that accurately describes the status of species diversity is a better metric for looking at the health of the ecosystem, because it is complete, and shows that more and more species are becoming threatened every year”. Jacq presented her findings at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference, and won first place for undergraduate presentations.

In addition to her contributions at the SeaDoc Society, Jacq had the opportunity to work as an Assistant Coordinator at the San Juan County Marine Mammal Stranding Network. “Harbor seals are the most abundant marine mammal in the Salish Sea,” Jacq explained. “Their population is at carrying capacity, which means that their populations are limited by food and space. This is a healthy sign for their population, however this also means that many of the seals will die. The population has an approximately 90% mortality rate.”

Mature harbor seals will reproduce once a year. Because all of the seals mate at the same time, they all give birth at the same time. This results in an annual pupping season, when the seals all have their babies within one month, usually July. During pupping season, the Salish Sea is filled with newborn harbor seals. Unfortunately, during this season, the young pups can also lose their mothers and get stranded on beaches.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act however forbids anyone to touch or help any protected marine mammals. “That’s where the marine mammal stranding network comes in. Anyone can call if they have a sighting of a stranded marine animal.” Jacq’s job was to respond to those calls, examine the baby seals, tag them, and monitor them after the physical.

Jacq’s experience on the team left her with a better understanding of the cross section between science and the community. She described: “Working at the Marine Mammal Stranding Network was a really wonderful experience because we were able to translate science to the community, and include people who aren’t normally involved in science. It was fun to share what I know about the biology of harbor seals with others, and to apply my knowledge to a worthwhile cause. People in the community get very attached to harbor seals, so it was fun to not only help the seals, but also talk to so many people who were touched by the seals, and help them understand the ecology and the biology of the animals that they cared so much about.”

By Jessica Spero Li ‘15




Benton Scholars: Student Activism on Campus

By Jessica Li on October 28, 2014

In the early hours of Monday, September 22nd, a group of Colgate students convened at the admissions building in a peaceful demonstration, with the goal of holding Colgate to it’s promise of “being an inclusive institution for students of all backgrounds.” These students put together a comprehensive plan of action, later distributed throughout the campus. They promised to stay at admissions until the administration responded with a comprehensive and actionable plan.

Five days later, Colgate’s administration presented a plan of action, which the ACC’s leaders agreed was a sufficient first step in what they referred to as a sustained process of development, with the goal creating a Colgate that is “a truly inclusive institution where students feel comfortable and welcome, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and gender identity.”

Hannah O’Malley, Sharon Nicol, and Grace Western–three highly active ‘17 Benton Scholars–were intimately involved in the movement. Each of them spoke about their experience as empowering and challenging on both an intellectual and emotional level.

The reasons these three women contributed to the sit-in speak to the complexities of the protest. Sharon described how she has taken many classes on topics of gender, hetero-normativity, and privilege, and has surrounded herself with peers interested in talking about those same subjects. Yet, she described her frustration with the reality that these conversations rarely leave the classroom. Hannah likewise described the incongruity she has observed between the way individuals speak in the classroom and the way they behave outside the classroom.

Hannah, Sharon, and Grace therefore committed themselves to the cause. For five days, they ate, worked, and slept in the admissions building. Alongside hundreds of their peers, they heard and shared individual accounts of prejudice, micro aggressions, sexism, and classism that exist on campus and in society. Many of these stories moved the audience, bringing them to tears. That people felt safe enough to share their stories in that environment, Hannah explained, was incredibly uplifting.

When asked about the most moving aspects of the protest, Sharon explained how “we often make these topics into academic conversations, but when I see someone show emotion, I realize that it is real and not about a theory, but that these issues are actually affecting someone’s life, their well being.”

Participating in the protest was not without its challenges, however. All three women spoke to the difficulty of engaging in productive dialogue with individuals who do not see the same issues as problematic. Grace explained her process of learning involved understanding the importance of explaining her perspective without devaluating other people’s opinions.

Ultimately, their sentiments towards the future of this movement are predominantly hopeful. “Personally, this experience broke down a lot of prejudices that I had,” Hannah said. “Typically these kinds of movements only include those who are marginalized or who the issues directly affect.” This movement, though, engaged concerned students from all corners of our campus. “It gave me a lot of hope for this campus,” Hannah stated.

Grace, Hannah, and Sharon are three students among several hundred who participated in the protests. Each student that I have spoken with who found themselves involved with the protests have emphasized the the ongoing nature of this movement. The work of the ACC has just begun, and in their view, the future of Colgate looks bright.



Hannah O’Malley ’17 – Transnational Media Studies

Sharon Nicol ‘17—Peace and Conflict Studies, African Studies Minor

Grace Western ‘17—Political Science and Women’s Studies


Author: Jessica Spero Li ’15


Benton Summer Project: Reflections, Part IV

By Peter Tschirhart on October 15, 2014

A small group of Benton Scholars took MOOCs during the summer of 2014. Participation was voluntary, and no Colgate course credit was granted. After finishing, we asked each student to write a response capturing their thoughts and reactions to this experience. Selected responses are reproduced below. Please note: the opinions expressed here are those of students–not the Benton Scholars program or Colgate University more generally.

Click here to find out more about the project behind these posts. Click here to learn more about the Online Education Symposium being sponsored by the Benton Scholars program.

Ishir Dutta ’17 (excerpts):

I have taken MIT’s “Introduction to Electricity and Magnetism” (EM), the Linux Foundation’s “Introduction to Linux” (Linux), and am currently in the middle of Harvard’s “Introduction to Computer Science” (CS50). I’ve also dabbled in solar energy, mechanics (both a student’s course and a teacher’s course), circuits and electronics, justice, linear algebra and oscillatory systems to varying degrees of intensity. Here, I’ll talk about the first three courses while also drawing on my limited experience with the others in the back of my mind.

Some Fundamental Issues

If we are to seriously consider testing an online platform, we need to take a closer look at its offline equivalent. Take the college transcript for instance. Yes, there are the classes you took and the grades you got with your name printed on it, but there is a great deal that a college transcript (or diploma, for that matter) conveys that isn’t printed anywhere. General classroom policies, grading policies, examinations, academic honesty – these are all aspects of a formal college education that we don’t ever really need to spell out because, besides the professors conducting weird classroom experiments or being particularly lenient, they’re fairly consistent all over the world.

One way to be intentional and mindful of all this information would be to offer different “tracks” – open or guided course material, closed or open book exams (harder to actually monitor, but in principle), languages to be made available – and essentially make the experience customizable so that we can reflect more accurately the KIND of course that’s been completed. I realize that this may require more work on the back end, but I don’t see it being a monumental task (may be completely wrong here. I don’t write the code for online courses, I just take them).

I’ve noticed (from a distance) that the use of fora to discuss course material is a massive plus for online course work. The CS50 group on Facebook has over 40,000 members, there are similar groups on reddit and twitter as well. This allows for almost instant feedback and help from community members. While I didn’t use these for my own questions, they had a massive impact on the way I viewed my own skills (or lack of them) within a larger classroom. I felt motivated to push through problem sets that I would have probably given up on because I kept bumping into a stupid mistake that refused to reveal itself to me. The occasional appearance of the instructors on these fora in CS as well as EM (Prof. Lewin, who taught EM, made it a point to answer every question directed at him – fantastic to be a part of) made the courses so much more engaging. These were people that actually existed beyond the recorded lectures and classrooms far, far away. The production of weekly/biweekly exclusive content for both these courses had a similar motivational effect.

Limitations (work in progress)

The biggest roadblock I kept hitting was that of bandwidth. Internet access is expensive, and taking a 4 month course meant trawling through tens of gigabytes of course material, sometimes repeatedly. Given that the ultimate goal (as I see it) of the online course is to provide a world class education to those who do not have access to it for any reason, this is a pretty major issue.

Laine Barrand ’17:

The online course I chose to take was “Competitive Strategy” offered by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität-München via Coursera. The course was organized into 6 modules that were about an hour long each. The modules were comprised of video-lectures, and the professor alternated between speaking directly into the camera and using a graphic interface to illustrate various concepts directly on the screen. The modules consisted of sub-videos that were each around 10-15 minutes long. Between every other sub-video there was a quiz, consisting of 3-4 questions, to check comprehension. After each module, there was a larger quiz of 10 questions; and at the conclusion of the course, there was a cumulative final exam of 25 questions.

What I really liked about this course was its flexibility. Unlike other online courses I’ve taken, this one was entirely self-timed. This is a major advantage online education has over classroom learning, because it enables people who may not consistently have extra time to still take the course when it’s convenient. While I chose to watch the modules over the span of a couple of weeks, someone else could have chosen to complete the entire course in an afternoon.

However, while the information I learned is useful and has been applicable to my coursework at Colgate, I believe online education should be used to complement classroom learning and not to replace it. In one of the other courses I took this summer, the format included an open forum where students could “interact” with others by posting thoughts and questions and having other students respond. This cannot replace the spontaneous discussions that happen in a physical classroom, and I would argue that we learn more from in-class discussions than we do from posting in a forum. However, I think online education has a lot of potential as a complement to classroom learning.

Taylor Mooney ’17:

Since I knew very little about online education to begin with, I felt it would be appropriate for me to take a class called “Emerging Trends & Technologies in the Virtual K-12 Classroom” from UC Irvine. In this course, Professor Melissa Loble discussed the various facets of online instruction, including what options are available and how to implement them. This course was taught in 5 modules, with a quiz at the end of each module, and one peer-reviewed assignment. It was asynchronous, but there were synchronous activities (like Twitter chats and forum discussions) that were optional, but highly encouraged.

The biggest concern I had stemmed from peer-reviewed assignments. This course was a MOOC, so there were hundreds of students taking it, and obviously our professor couldn’t grade individual assignments, so the peer review assignment was instituted. The opportunities to practice effective peer reviewing are obviously very important; but out of three people who critiqued my paper, I felt only one gave me thought-out feedback. I assume that the people taking the course knew just as much as I did about using technologies in the classroom–so how effective can peer review be?

I tried to figure out a way to make this aspect of MOOCs more effective. However, I found that the issue is not so much the assignment–it’s how big the class is. Colgate can use MOOCs more for advertising or branding purposes, since it can reach out to a huge population at once, but I don’t feel they are the right route to take if we’re looking for intellectual growth. I would certainly prefer a more intimate online classroom of around 10-15 people, where I could get more one-on-one attention from a professor and also create more of a community with other students. This kind of online class would be more conducive to my learning style. Not only this, but it is also easier for the professor to manage, allowing more time to focus on the actual material and not the technical issues that arise from having thousands of students to take care of at once.

Sharon Nicol ’17:

When I first started my MOOC venture, I was taking a course called “Programming for Everybody” from the University of Michigan. Technical difficulties kept me from completing the programming course, and ultimately this was a blessing, because the issues I found with the course that I completed would have been magnified in a subject area in which I have difficulty, such as computer science.

I completed a course called “The Camera Never Lies,” provided by Royal Holloway, University of London, through Coursera. The course was the perfect synthesis of courses I had taken in the spring [at Colgate], including “Intro to Film and Media Studies,” “Challenges of Modernity,” and “Intro to Peace and Conflict Studies,” because it focused on the role of images as historical evidence and brought up issues of authenticity, manipulation, and how images are used in the development of popular opinion. My motivations for pursuing a course within the social sciences was to gain an understanding of the role massive open courses can play in the unique needs of social scientists; the necessity for human engagement, interaction, and observation.

As a student who chose to attend Colgate because faculty make themselves available outside of class, I found it difficult to have no contact with my MOOC professor. I suppose I could have easily gone to the Royal Holloway website and found his contact information; however, the fact that it was not advertised made it seem as though this was not encouraged. Ultimately, the course felt as though there was no human in charge of it. If I had a difficulty, whether technological or intellectual, there was no point person. My only option was the forums. Although this is one of the few online courses I have experienced, it gave me the impression that MOOCs lack structure, which may be ok when all is running smoothly, but becomes troubling when problems arise.

In search of guidance, I entered the forums. The major problem with the forums is best described as the relation between quantity and quality. There are thousands of people taking MOOCs; and because these people have opinions, problems, or are looking for guidance, there are a lot of forum threads. These threads are of varying topics and relevancies, and the problem became how to sort through the hundreds of forum posts to find helpful information.

Another issue I had with the forums was that they stifled free-flowing thought. I believe that many statements of intellectual wealth come out of stream of consciousness and being able to share free thoughts with other people. However, within the forums, because the responses are typed, there is a barrier to some aspects of thought. Because of this, a dichotomy arose. On one hand, there were people who chose to say things with no intellectual basis and made the forums inappropriate rants; on the other hand, there were people who had highly thought-out positions, but who made themselves incomprehensible and seemed closed to differing opinions. There was little middle ground.

Ultimately, my experience with MOOCs does not say that they are impossible to learn from, simply that they are not well suited to all learning styles. A person who can comprehend material with little need for outside aid would be very successful with MOOCs. And as a social scientist who values structure and the intellect of my peers, MOOCs, in their current incarnation, do not fulfill my needs.

Details: Benton Scholars, Online Education Symposium

By Peter Tschirhart on September 15, 2014


As part of a semester-long program to explore online education and its implications for liberal arts institutions, the Benton Scholars are hosting visits from three experts in the field, each of whom will bring a very different perspective to the conversation:

  1. Thursday, Sept. 18 (4:30pm, Lawrence 20): Dr. Fiona Hollands, Columbia University and author of an in-depth study on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), investigates the goals of institutions that are developing and delivering MOOCs, their costs and impact on educational outcomes, and expectations for whether and how this phenomenon may change the landscape of learning over the next few years. The full report is here.
  2. Monday, Oct. 20 (4:30 PM, Lawrence 20): Dr. George Siemens, Director of the Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge (LINK) Research Lab at the University of Texas in Arlington, has been a pioneer in online education and is author of Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age and Knowing Knowledge. His blog can be found here.
  3. Monday, Oct. 27 (4:30 PM, Persson Auditorium): Dr. Marc Bousquet, Assoc. Prof. Department of English, Emory University, author of How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation, and editor of The Politics of Information; The Electronic mediation of Social Change and Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers. His website is here.

We welcome anyone interested in these topics to participate through any of several different venues:

  1. Come to the presentations! There will be ample time for discussion during and after the presentations, and a reception afterward. Times and places are listed above
  2. Listen to the presentations online. They will be livestreamed through the Colgate EdX site. You can sign up here.  The site is open, and has the following resources available:
    1. A list of readings relevant to the seminar by Dr. Hollands.
    2. Discussion questions designed by Dr. Hollands in preparation for the seminar.
    3. An open discussion forum to begin conversations.
  3. Submit questions at any time before or during the presentations by emailing: ols@colgate.edu
  4. Watch the presentations later on our EdX site. They will be archived for later viewing.
  5. Join-in conversations during and after the presentation, also at the EdX site. We invite Colgate students, faculty, and alumni, as well as individuals from our peer institutions, to participate. We hope to generate an ongoing conversation that will benefit everyone.

Please join us as we explore this important issue in higher education today. Should you have any questions, feel free to contact either Karen Harpp or Peter Tschirhart.