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“XYZ with Q” 3: Dance with Allison Zengilowski ’17

By Quanzhi Guo on October 26, 2015

In the blog series XYZ with Q, Quanzhi “Q” Guo ’18 visits current and former Benton Scholars to learn about their interests, passions, and accomplishments. In the third instalment of the series, Q visits Allison Zengilowski ’17, a Psychology and Peace & Conflict Studies major for a dance rehearsal. Allison shares her passion for dance and talks about her involvement with online education.

To me, dancers have always been creatures of another world. I remember gaping at girls in pink fluffy dresses, envying the way the could do pirouettes so effortlessly and elegantly. So it was with excitement, and hesitation, that I joined Benton Scholar Allison Zengilowski ’17, President of the Colgate Dance Initiative (CDI), during a rehearsal with FUSE (which stands for Fierce, Unusual, Sexy, and Eclectic) Dance Company.

Right now, Allison is co-choreographing a piece for one of Colgate’s most popular events of the year: Dancefest. Despite her ambitious and busy schedule, this extra work nonetheless helps Allison cope with the challenges of student life. “Sometimes I have a hard time expressing what I am feeling or knowing what I need to do to cope with the stress that I sometimes fall victim to. It is incredibly therapeutic to get into the studio after a long day and to focus on creating something with a group of brilliant people,” Allison said.

Before coming to Colgate, Allison actually had 13 years of ballet experience. “In ballet, you are constantly comparing yourself to others, so it is easy to get caught up in the mentality of ‘Why don’t I look like her? Would I get more corrections, better parts if I was skinnier?’ ” While Allison admits that the ballet world is harsh towards dancers’ bodies, and has personally struggled with body issues, she has learnt to focus more on perfecting steps and performance quality thanks to her mom, who pursued a formal ballet program in college. As a result, Allison values her body more as an instrument and a means to communicate.

Allison’s passion for and commitment to dance carries into other parts of her life, too. After taking an online course as part of the Benton Scholars’ 2014 summer project, and later being involved in a symposium about online education, she and four other ’17 Bentons helped Professor Karen Harpp redesign and administer her course, Advent of the Atomic Bomb, offered as a seminar for the Benton Scholars program. Dubbed the “Bomb Squad” (they even have a team t-shirt!), they introduced changes to enhance the interaction and level of engagement between students and alumni. “We cleaned up the edX Edge platform to make it a bit more user friendly, we shortened the video lectures, added comprehension questions, implemented a video presentation (Fireside Chats), created small discussion groups, and incorporated a WordPress blog.”

After the course ended, Allison and Benton Scholar Sid Wadhera ’17 worked with Prof. Harpp to analyze and evaluate those changes. “Students reported a much higher confidence with their understanding of the ethical content surrounding the bomb than the alumni did. I believe this is telling of how ethical content is much more difficult to communicate and to learn through an online platform and without peers with whom to discuss the issues,” she said. Over fall break, she and Sid presented their findings at Learning with MOOCs II, an international conference held at Teachers College, Columbia University. They were the only undergraduate presenters. “It was interesting to see large research institutions patting themselves on the back for trying to model small liberal arts colleges like Colgate,” she mused.

Right now, the “Bomb Squad” is serving as TAs for the first-year seminar, Emerging Global Challenges, where the incoming Benton class is grappling with the future of education and technology by producing their own two-week MOOC, called BreadX. Using bread as a lens, this course will encourage middle school (and older!) students to ask important questions—about poverty, global food supplies, industrial farming, water supplies, gender roles, and global warming.

“Overall, I have been challenged, frustrated, but also rewarded by tackling online education. Being at the forefront of an emerging field…I hope to continue pushing the boundaries of online education while also learning more about how people are interacting with the medium to make it the most effective means … to learn new information,” Allison said. “I initially believed online education to be a fad that had very little merit. However, while working directly on a class, I’ve come to realize that online education can serve as a worthwhile means through which to acquire knowledge. I do not believe we will ever be able to truly replicate a Colgate classroom, but I hope to imbue a bit of Colgate into online education.”

Stretching, kneeling, and attempting the grand jeté will not transform me into a lithe dancer in time for Dance Fest. But will I see you in BreadX?

“XYZ with Q” 2: DJ-ing with Marc Maggiore ’18

By Quanzhi Guo on October 8, 2015

In the blog series XYZ with Q, Quanzhi “Q” Guo ’18 visits current and former Benton Scholars to learn about their interests, passions, and accomplishments. Here, in the second instalment of the series, Q spends time in the WRCU broadcast booth with Benton Scholar and on-air DJ Marc Maggiore ’18—a Bostonian and political science major on the teaching certificate track. Marc explains how his unique personal background and love for music lead him to develop an interesting mixture of skills and passions.

When I stepped into the radio control room in the COOP, I found Marc rhapsodizing about the song “Up Up & Away” by Kid Cudi.

Marc first heard his brother playing this song in his family’s garage when he was in 7th grade. Ever since then, he has loved old-school hip-hop. “Kid Cudi had a huge influence on the new-school hip-hop artists today. His music still serves as an inspiration and foundation,” Marc explained. Every Tuesday from 11am to 1pm, Marc co-hosts Hip Hop and Society along with two other DJs, Andrew Vallejos and Jonathan Burton, on WRCU 90.1 FM. To Marc, talking about the background and significance of the music is as important as playing the song itself.

“I love music and I want to share it with people. I want to let more people know about those good artists. And what is a better place than here?” When Marc said this, his passion was so contagious that even I—a person who has never touched hip-hop—started to take interest.

The old turntable

The old turntable

But what many of Marc’s listeners may not realize is that he was born both blind and deaf.

As much as it sounds like a miracle, Marc’s hearing recovered when the doctors removed excess fluid from his ears. Then the miracle struck again. A loose optical nerve, which transmits visual information to the brain, tightened, and the vision in his left eye recovered. Marc remains legally blind in his right eye.

To me, the inconvenience and physical limitations Marc has overcome are beyond imagination. I notice that, during conversations, Marc tends to tilt his head leftwards to see faces better. “And every time I pour water, I have to ensure that the edges are touching to not spill the water, because I don’t have much depth perception,” he grimaced.

And what’s more remarkable, these limitations never stopped Marc from developing his artistic flair: he played bass and guitar in high school, now sings in an a cappella group, acts with Charred Goosebeak, and is the Production Director and a DJ at WRCU FM 90.1 on campus.

When Marc entered “normal” school during 9th grade, he didn’t find it hard to adjust, as all the teachers in his new school knew about his disability. However, Massachusetts’ Individualized Education Program, a statement about disability and necessary accommodations, “acts like a horoscope. Teachers instinctively associated me with the instructions in the document, always treated me in specific ways regardless of circumstances, and had a set of fixed expectations about what I could do. It felt limiting, or even discriminating,” Marc said.

Nevertheless, his mixed experience made him more sensitive to the disability-friendliness of amenities and facilities at Colgate. Before he pointed it out, I had never realized our shuttles are not wheelchair-friendly. “This can be extremely inconvenient for wheelchair riders, because the campus is hilly and people can’t always rely on campus safety,” Marc said.

A political science major on the teaching certification track, Marc sees himself more as a supporter who helps others thrive. He thinks social problems manifest in the school system; and one thing he wants to do is change special education programs. “While they meet some needs that can’t be met in ‘normal’ schools, they divide and limit the disabled students and make it harder for them to integrate into society.” In the future, he wants to work as an educator and tour schools to help kids with special needs.

It frustrates Marc that people can’t see each other as equals. “Even the word ‘accommodation’ itself connotes some special favors.” While Marc acknowledges it is hard to treat each other like equals, stereotypes can be toxic and have to be challenged. To him, the solution is interaction. “When people experience the truth, their prejudices or wrong beliefs are shaken and will gradually be removed,” he said.

Despite its challenges, Marc enjoys Colgate; to him, it is a microcosm of the larger society. “What happens here tells of the storm brewing outside. In this small, close-knit community, I can get more involved and become more prepared for the change I want to see in the future,” he said.

Marc just got another loyal listener. Thanks Marc, and I will tune-in to your show every Tuesday!


“XYZ with Q”1: Language exchange with DAAD Graduate Scholarship winner Joshua Smeltzer ’12

By Quanzhi Guo on September 22, 2015

In the blog series XYZ with Q, Quanzhi “Q” Guo ’18 visits current and former Benton Scholars to learn about their interests, passions, and accomplishments. In this post, Q did a language exchange and interviewed Benton alumnus Josh Smeltzer ’12, who currently resides in Hamburg, Germany.


Language exchange session with Josh via Skype

Language exchange session with Josh via Skype

Learning a foreign language is hard, and German can be particularly hard with its grammatical gender and winding words, like “Entschuldigung Sie bitte” for “excuse me.” However, my language exchange with Benton Scholar alumnus Joshua Smeltzer ’12 (Josh) over Skype was not as painful as I thought.

It was, to be frank, fun to do some muscle workouts for my mouth, and Josh’s experience as a teacher definitely helped. A former Fulbright fellow, he taught English for nine months at a German high school before he started a Master of Science in Politics, Economics and Philosophy at the University of Hamburg. Recently, he received a DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) Graduate Scholarship, which covered the cost of living and insurance for his master degree.

To me, Germany has always been on my list of “Top 10 Countries to Visit” for its romantic castles, spirit-lifting cultures, and…Rittersport! But Josh’s interest in Germany was not sparked until he was in Colgate’s Freiburg German study group. “It changed my direction. I felt that I wanted to come back to Germany again,” he said.

Now he lives in Hamburg, and he likes it a lot for its greenness and cleanliness, “unlike the odor that never leaves NYC,” we both laughed.

“The government is very welcoming. Even for non-citizens, the tuition is free,” he said. I asked him why Germany could be so open to foreigners. As in the recent refugee crisis, Germany has been a beacon of hope for many desperate refugees and migrants.

“In Germany, immigrants still pay more for the social service they receive than the benefits they gain. The government also needs young people to come and stay, because of the ageing population and the low birth rate,” he said.

Despite having lived in Germany for more than three years, Josh still experiences some culture shock. “The second time I went back, when I ate breakfast with my host family, I was piling up my bread like a sandwich. To them that was totally unbelievable, as they usually stack it with only a piece of cheese,” he chuckled, and I felt appreciative about the make-it-yourself sandwich bar at Frank.

In terms of academics, the class experience is also very different. “There is less sense of community. You go to class, then leave, and there is no extra-curricular activity. At the master level, we have about 35 students in a class, so there is definitely less attention from the professors. The professors are also more lecture-oriented,” he said.

When he looks back, he thinks the most valuable thing he picked up at Colgate is critical thinking. “I notice that people in my program who go to liberal arts colleges tend to be more critical to the texts than people who go through the German system.”

And a walk down the memory lane can never be complete with a piece of advice. Here is what Josh offers: “Try to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to hear different ideas, from faculty dinners to guest lectures. For me, it is also about being open to new experience. It was not until I was in Moscow with Professor Nancy Ries on our Benton trip to Russia that I started to think about a PCON major. I was asking her about what I should major in, because I wanted to do English but did not quite like it, and she said ‘why don’t you give PCON a try.’ I was really glad I took her advice in my sophomore year and gave it a shot.”

Tschüß and Danke Josh for the fun German-learning and sharing! Good luck for your new adventures through DAAD!

About XYZ with Q, and a spoiler: in the next post, I will be doing DJ with Mark Maggiore’18, so stay tuned!




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.

katrina_lab (1)

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

FullSizeRender-2 copy

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 Bio: Andrew Isaacson ’17

By Peter Tschirhart on April 1, 2014
Andrew Isaacson

Benton Scholar Andrew Isaacson ’17

First-year Benton Scholar Andrew Isaacson is passionate about giving back to his community.

Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Andrew gained his first experience with volunteer work when he joined the staff of an emergency shelter, which assisted people living on Chicago’s south side. He has also extended his passion for community engagement to the medical field. Last summer, Andrew interned at the University of Chicago Medical Center in the psychiatry department, where he spoke with and assisted gambling addicts.

Andrew is also a firm believer in the importance of foreign travel and has brought that belief to Colgate. As a member of the international club, he speaks often about the importance of going abroad: how it helps us grow as people, how it brings more diversity to our educational experience. Perhaps not surprisingly, Andrew plans to major in Economics and minor in International Relations. He also hopes to attend graduate school and find employment in finance. In his spare time, Andrew likes to cook, read, crew (rowing) and play piano.

Benton Bio: Erin Huiting ’17

By Peter Tschirhart on March 10, 2014
Benton Scholar Erin Huiting '17

Benton Scholar Erin Huiting ’17

Erin Huiting is a first year from Evergreen, Colorado. Her passion for giving back to the community led her to Belize during the summer before her senior year of high school. While there, she assisted local hospitals with diabetes prevention education and outreach. Erin’s volunteer activities have also bolstered her passion for public health. As a member of the Global Health Initiative at Colgate, she discusses current issues of public health and plans to volunteer with the group in Hamilton. She is also a member of Habitat for Humanity. Erin intends to major in Molecular Biology at Colgate University, then pursue a Ph.D. in Epidemiology. She also plans to visit underdeveloped countries, where she will continue to pursue her interest in global health by serving the sick. During May, Erin will travel with Professor John Palmer and ’17 Benton Scholars to South Korea.

Benton Bio: Hanna Atwood ’14

By bentonscholars on April 4, 2013

394123_2350479121456_1558391376_nHanna Atwood is a double major in English and studio art at Colgate. Hailing from Dedham, MA, she has committed herself to Colgate and the surrounding Hamilton community. In addition to her academics, Hanna has been involved with other groups on campus outside of The Benton Scholar Program. As a member of Konosioni Senior Honor Society, she is involved with the planning of an annual auction that raises money to be put directly back into supporting local business endeavors. As a volunteer for Friends and Mentors Program, Hanna works alongside troubled youth of Madison County serving as a mentor and role model. She is also a member of Women’s Club Squash and enjoys cheering on any and all Colgate athletic teams!

The Benton Scholar Program encourages a global perspective. Hanna adopted this global perspective on the Benton Scholar funded trip to China after freshman year, and also traveled to Aix-en-Provence, France to study abroad for fall semester of her junior year. Hanna has also spent a significant amount of time in South Africa working with Ripples of Hope organization which engages families in community service projects; the organization partners with local non-profits in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa.

Benton Bio: Saffiate Ba ’14

By bentonscholars on April 4, 2013

Ba picSaffiate (Saffi) Ba ’14 is from Long Island, NY and is majoring in political science at Colgate. During her junior year she studied off-campus in Washington D.C. and interned in the United States Senate.

Saffiate is very passionate about education policy and youth development. She has worked as a camp counselor for four consecutive summers and is incredibly grateful and thrilled to work with some of Boston’s youth at Camp Harbor View this summer, as part of the Jim P. Manzi ’73 Fellowship. On campus, she works as a first-year mentor as a member of Link Staff and is actively involved as a leader for Colgate’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity as well as a children’s literacy group called Liberty Kids.

Saffiate is a Student Caller for the Annual Fund, a chapter leader for Students for Education Reform, and former philanthropy chair for her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma. Recently, she was admitted to Konosioni, the senior honor society that works to connect the Colgate student community to the greater Hamilton community through service work and leadership. Saffiate’s interest in the non-profit sector was sparked when she participated in Colgate’s Spring Immersion Fellowship in Washington D.C., where she and a group of students met with executives of non-profit organizations in Washington.

After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in the field of law, education or public policy; or pursue work in the non-profit sector.

Benton Bio: Viktor Mak ’15

By bentonscholars on April 4, 2013
Viktor Mak '15 in Uganda

Viktor Mak ’15 traveled to Uganda with the Benton Scholars program.

Originally from Hungary, Viktor Mak ’15 has lived in the United States since 2000. He graduated high school in Fort Myers, Florida before coming to Colgate. Viktor is majoring in global studies, a major traditionally not offered at Colgate, but inspired by the Benton Scholar Program. He is also minoring in Philosophy.

While on campus, and in addition to his involvement with the Benton Scholars, Viktor participates in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, serves on the executive board of the Student Government, volunteers for the Hamilton Mayor’s Office, founded The Open Society. He also serves as the Google Student Ambassador to Colgate.

After his freshman year of college, Viktor traveled to Uganda with the Benton scholar program where he began a philanthropy photo project. Viktor captured the images of over two hundred children, printed hard copies of the pictures, and then distributed them to the photo subjects. For some, it was the first picture of themselves they had ever seen. He spent the rest of the summer in Guatemala working for a Mayan weaving cooperative and in Budapest, Hungary interning at the Central European University.

Viktor plans to study abroad in Latin America in the Spring of 2014.