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XYZ with Q 9: Cheerleading with Taylor Mooney ‘17

By Quanzhi Guo on November 16, 2016

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 went to cheerleading practice with Benton senior Taylor Mooney ‘17.


I didn’t quite know what to make of cheerleading before attending practice with Benton Scholar Taylor Mooney ‘17. I knew the stereotypes, though, and just couldn’t imagine myself in a skirt, holding fluffy pom-poms, wearing a big smile and performing for other people’s enjoyment. Thus I defied the rule of my own blog (for the first time!) by not participating but observing the activity of my interviewee.

Taylor, a Geology major, Film & Media Studies minor, and proud feminist from Lowville, NY, also experienced conflicting thoughts when she joined cheerleading at Colgate. As a gymnast of 14 years, Taylor hoped to maintain her gymnastics skills and be a part of a community with whom she could share that passion. However, Colgate does not have a gymnastics team, so she turned to cheerleading.

The decision was not easy. “I felt by doing cheerleading, I was perpetuating feminine stereotypes and gender roles,” she confessed.  She ended up deciding to try it, and it has been a really important learning experience for her. “I realized that believing cheerleading to be a one-dimensional sport was very ignorant and rooted in a lack of experience and a lack of knowledge of its history. It’s certainly difficult to reconcile how cheerleaders are perceived and what it actually means for me to be a contemporary cheerleader, but I have grown a lot in terms of being a feminist in the context of cheerleading,” she said.

And cheerleading turns out not really to be the fun-house depicted in pop culture. Taylor’s team practices three times a week with one to three games per week. My heart skipped a beat as the girls threw Taylor in the air. She then sprang into the air, kicked, turned and tumbled into a cradle of arms.  

Cheerleading requires intense trust and cooperation. “Being on the team has given me a really amazing community. Gymnastics is an individual sport. Besides the cheers you get from your teammates, you rely on yourself to do better, athletically. Cheerleading, on the other hand, is team-oriented. As someone who is thrown in the air, I need to have faith that I will be caught by my strong teammates waiting for me on the ground. It requires a lot of encouragement from everyone on the team, despite all the bumps and bruises and mild concussions everyone gets along the way,” Taylor said as she broke into her iconic laughter – loud, genuine and penetrating.   

Just as cheerleading encourages trust, it also encourages inclusivity. “We want everyone to have the chance to experience this community we build. We try to make it as inclusive as possible by encouraging any and all to try-out, including those without experience,” Taylor said. Rather than being just an expression of popularity and desirability as many perceive cheerleading to be, Taylor’s cheerleading team is full of pride, confidence and supportiveness.

Taylor also appreciates how cheerleading helps her develop a different side of herself. I would not have believed that she is a cheerleader if it was not for this interview. Always unassuming, Taylor was in her gray Colgate hoodie during the interview. “When I put my uniform on with my other teammates I can take on a different persona and experience a different part of myself, one that is more colorful and outgoing and confident than I would normally describe myself. We all build our confidence by performing for people and engaging with Colgate Athletics supporters, it’s a really important aspect of being on this team,” she said.

However, sometimes it is frustrating for her because cheerleading is seen as a supplement to the sporting events. “Instead of being considered an individual entity, some view us merely as part of the atmosphere. Cheerleading is actually a rigorous sport and is incredibly athletic, requiring intense strength and endurance, with the added need for uniformity through the sharpness of motions and a grasp of balance and tempo,” she said.

Just as Taylor supports her team and the community through cheerleading, she is a super-accessible and caring senior to everyone around her. For example, after the 2016 presidential election, she sent out GroupMes welcoming people “to talk or eat or lay on the floor” at her apartment as a form of support.

Within academics, Taylor is passionate about science outreach. She wants to help others understand science better, especially through the medium of film. In her summer after sophomore year, she interned in the Visual Productions department at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.  During her sophomore and junior years, she made videos and taught basic video production for the Advent of Atomic Bomb and BreadXclasses at Colgate produced for the edX platform.

“What is most fun about editing videos is that I get to pick out important clips, ensure a narrative, organize them in a coherent manner, and make sure it is understandable. It’s very much like a brainteaser—trying to figure out what works the best within the confines of the scope of the video. Having a final product and taking ownership are very satisfying,” she said.

Over the past summer, Taylor worked in Wisconsin with the Keck Geology Consortium and assessed the remediation efforts for pollution in the Shadow Lakes.

Knowing how the environment works and why things are the way they are is important to understand the complicated relationship between humans and the natural environment. To Taylor, understanding the sciences is not only important in the science research sphere but also the political sphere. “Science tends to become political, despite it being rooted in fact and intensive research. In the media and politics, many times science is skewed to fit a particular agenda, or the person speaking about it doesn’t necessarily have a real understanding of it. They spew out things that are not necessarily true. That’s why I think it’s important to be a science major when pursuing a career in scientific media– I want an understanding of the science before I try to teach it through film. That way, I can more easily create a video or film that accurately depicts and explains the science behind certain issues,” she said.

Coming from a conservative, small and impoverished community where there are more cows than people, Taylor experienced frustration before leaving for Colgate because, as a more liberal-minded person, she could not understand some of the perspectives people had. “But after I left, I started to see my privileges I wasn’t aware of before and appreciate my people so much more. I now realize it’s less about wanting people who disagree with me to see things my way, but more about trying to open up communication, making sure people are heard on both sides and making resources available to learn from each other. That’s where film comes in—film is an attainable and accessible resource that I can use to do that,” she said.

Among all her jumps during cheerleading practice, Taylor once almost fell onto the ground, yet she was laughing loudly when she opened her eyes and got up for the next routine. Taylor is both independent from and dependent on her team and community. When I asked her to describe herself in three words, she thought really hard for a while . Finally she broke into laughter, and I could’t help laughing with her. Isn’t everything as simple and as complex as that?


XYZ with Q 6: Pudge Wars with Caio Brighenti ’20

By Quanzhi Guo on September 15, 2016

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It’s been a long while and XYZ with Q (and Q) is back!

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 played a video game called Pudge Wars with Benton freshman Caio Brighenti ’20.


Almost every guy I know has played Dota or Warcraft at some point of life, and Caio Brighenti ’20 from Brazil is no exception. However, he did not just play it, but also modified it into a full-fledged mod game—Pudge Warsthat has been downloaded for 4,038,232 times.

Caio’s Pudge Wars is a mod of Dota 2 created by Valve Company. A mod is a custom game where new features, monsters, levels can be added to existing game. For example, Dota 2 is a recreation of DoTa by Valve, while DoTa is a mod of the popular Warcraft 3 by Blizzard Entertainment.

During our interview at Caio’s dorm, Caio and I each controlled a team of 5 players on his dual-monitored computer. The two teams are separated by an uncrossable river, and the one who get 50 kills first wins.

In Caio’s game world, Pudges, which are pudgy monsters, fight wars and throw bloody “meat hooks” to the other side of the river and grab enemies to their side. The meat hook, which is the only spell in his game, can also be upgraded in terms of its damage, radius, distance, and speed. Oh, and with a grand slam of totem, the whole earth can be fissured. Isn’t that cool?

But what blew my mind more is that all these designs, interactions, and functions are developed from scratch by non-professional game developers during their free time; and this first-year guy beside me is the core member of those masterminds.

“We didn’t start off thinking that it would be a big project. I love Dota 2, so I wanted to make its mod so that I can play it and other people can play it,” Caio said.

When Caio was little, he always enjoyed playing video games. At 12, he started messing around with his sister’s game by adding different clothes and got really interested in programming.

So when, in December 2013, Caio received a message from another player asking him to join an internet chat group for a potential mod of Dota 2, he didn’t hesitate.

At that time, Dota 2 had not released any mod yet. Players were anxiously waiting, and some started to poke around in programming files. They found some rudimentary source code created by Valve, and ideas about a mod made from scratch soon ran amok. Caio decided to work with a likeminded gamer; and the duo later worked as team for thousands of hours to develop the new game.

As ideas collided and developed, the team also grew. Caio and his partner were project heads, but they had members from all around the world, including countries like Germany and Poland.

“It is all out of passion for the game and the power of community,” Caio said, “everyone was doing it for free using their own time. For example, the icons were custom made by a professional artist. All our source code is also available on the internet.”

Caio did about 40% of the coding for the game. He also handled outreach, like writing blogs, contacting people, and managing project teams. But to develop a game with the scale of Dota 2, there were definitely difficult times. “We started from basically nothing. We just first changed this and that to understand how everything works. Sometimes I would stay up till 5 am to work with the New Zealand guy because of all the different time zones, then sleep till 7 am and go to school,” Caio recalled.

“Many people get frustrated very easily, but I don’t look at difficulties as frustrations. Just motivational challenges,” Caio said.

His efforts paid off. After a year and a half, Pudge Wars was released to players. Caio can still recall the day Valve released its official Dota 2 mod trailer in 2015. “I started screaming when I saw the video because our game was featured,” he said. “It started off as a little fun thing, but got big enough for Valve, a billion dollar company, to make a teaser video about it!”

Today, Pudge Wars is an official mod game on Valve’s website and the most well-known mod. Best of all, it’s free of charge. “Making money, that’s not the whole point of it,” Caio said.

Perhaps Caio’s incredible adaptability and maturity have something to do with his globe-crossing childhood. Originally born in São Paulo, Brazil, he moved to Michigan at age seven. Then it was back to to Santos, Brazil and Buenos Aires, Argentina—before he came to Colgate.

“I’ve been through so many moves, so many goodbyes, so I am not worried about going to new places any more. Because I have done it so many times, I thought new challenges as adventures,” Caio said.

As our mouses clicked fast and keyboards knocked furiously, a new game awaits.


TBS Abroad Week 4: Public Transit

By Evie Lawson on February 17, 2016

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Week 4 Prompt: Public Transit

Outside dense, urban cores — New York, Chicago, San Francisco — most American cities require cars to get around. The reason is rooted in ideology as much as history. Especially during the post-WWII period, automobiles emerged both as a convenient mode of transportation and as an expression of individuality: you could travel on your own schedule, at your own pace, in a car of your choice, with your belongings concealed safely in the trunk. Indeed, while the American love affair with cars has spread, many small- and medium-sized cities outside North America offer cheap, reliable, and safe public transit. Though British trains are famously (though perhaps not actually) late, in places like Japan and Germany, train operators are penalized for running even a few seconds behind. Public transit — whether train, bus, or street trolly — has clear advantages over the car: not only is the carbon footprint lower, they allow riders to make better use of their time in-transit, perhaps by reading, knitting, or visiting with friends. But it also has drawbacks: you must carry everything yourself, and transit schedules aren’t always the most convenient. This week, pay attention to public transit. Is there a reliable system where you live? Is it utilized by the people who live nearby? What modes of transit are offered? Street-level trolleys? Subways? Busses? Gondolas? Ferries? Take a picture of the public transit system: a bus, a trolly, or the like. If there isn’t one, take a picture that best illustrates how people get around.


Ryan Hildebrandt

Public transportation is the easiest, cheapest, most efficient, and greenest way to get around in Japan. Trains and busses connect every part of every major and minor city, and even connect the cities to one another. The trains run frequently and on time, and take you farther than anything else for less money. They’ll take you clear across the city in a matter of minutes and even up to the mountains to get away from it all.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Hildebrandt.


Zachary Weaver

We are on a tour of the transportation systems of the world: first trains, then planes, and now public transport! While perhaps trains are first thought of when one thinks of public transport in the United Kingdom, it is really the bus that is the workhorse of the average worker. Trains are great for getting from the outskirts of a big city to the center, or from city to city. However, one of the most efficient ways to get around within a city is by bus.

Busses in the UK are famous, if only for the iconic red double-decker busses found in London. Sure enough, those are no fantasy image: I was in London just the other weekend, and there seemed to be almost as many busses as there were cars! With purposes ranging from designated bus tours of the city to actually transporting people around the various parts of London, the bus system seemed more prevalent than the London Underground.

It is no different in Cardiff, other than the shape of the bus. Not a day goes by when I don’t see at least 3 busses, either going from the outskirts to city center or ferrying students around campus (which is much bigger than Colgate it must be said!). These aren’t Colgate Cruiser style people movers – these are full busses, more reminiscent of Centro busses for those from Central New York.  On my walk to classes I pass between 2 and 5 bus stops every day – they are almost on every street corner or intersection. Designated bus lanes are prevalent even in cities such as Cardiff.

One of the many busses I pass on my way to classes everyday. This particular bus runs from the suburbs to the city center pretty consistently!

One of the many busses I pass on my way to classes everyday. This particular bus runs from the suburbs to the city center pretty consistently!

Busses can also fill the role of trains and planes. Often, it is cheaper to buy a bus ticket to a major hub than a train or plane ticket if one is traveling around the UK. I took a bus to London the other week, and it was a fairly short three and a half hour bus ride through the countryside. Busses also run as far north as Scotland – several people have already planned a bus trip from Cardiff to London, then an overnight bus up to Glasgow or Edinburgh!

Busses are also a fairly cheap method to get around, even over short distances. A bus ride from the Cardiff City Center out to the suburb of Tongwynlais (where another castle – Castle Coch – can be found), and back cast about $6 USD, for a ride lasting about half an hour one-way. We saw numerous people who had come into the city center for shopping leave the bus at their various stops with shopping bags, and use a special prepaid bus pass to get on and off. Should we have to do any more bus travel, getting a bus pass may not be the worst idea!


Mallory Keller

Florence is a small city, with the population just under 400,000 people. While that may seem like a lot of people, the population is much more condensed than American cities. Bus is the only form of public transit in Florence. One of the reasons why Florence does not have a more common system like a subway is that the city is still laid out in medieval fashion so it would be difficult to build a system that follows the layout of the city without destroying historical monuments which are literally on every block. Buses are not even allowed on many streets because they do not fit down them or to preserve the streets. I only rode public transit a handful of times during the semester and I walked everywhere else. Most days I ended up walking around 10 miles. First, everyplace I wanted to go was within a thirty minute walk of where I was at a current moment and walking everywhere is common for Florentine people. To take the public transit in Florence, it would end up taking as much or more time than walking. So I decided to walk almost everywhere. I was getting great exercise and saw so much of the city. It was also known in the city that the transit system is not that reliable. The buses could be on strike, buses will not show up when they are supposed to, they will pass you if you do not flag/wave/jump up and down like a crazy person, and schedules would change on random days. Many Italians rode bikes or scooters around the city. They can swerve around city traffic, are better for the environment, and are much easier to park than a car. Overall, Florence prides themselves as a walking city, and I am glad that walking is the main mode of transportation because I was able to see more of the city than if I was riding a bus all day.

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Mallory attempting to take a selfie while on a bike.

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​The row of scooters that are on every street.

 


The Benton Scholars: Abroad

By Evie Lawson on January 20, 2016

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 third 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 Australia to England. Their profiles below:


Taylor Mooney ’17

Hi, friends!  I am a geology major from a lil’ ol’ town called Lowville in Upstate New York who consistently responds to the nickname “Princess,” and I am so incredibly excited to make memories in Wollongong, Australia this semester.  I’m tremendously grateful to Colgate and my parents for allowing me this mind-blowing opportunity, and I can’t wait to share my experiences with all of you!  An early thank you to all of those who follow this blog… let the shenanigans ensue!

 


Allison Zengilowski ’17

My name is Allison Zengilowski and I am a double major in Psychology and Peace and Conflict Studies from Hinesburg, Vermont.  I’ll be spending my semester in Wollongong, Australia as part of one of Colgate’s Natural Sciences programs.  While there I’ll have the opportunity to volunteer in a Psychology lab, study Australia’s biodiversity, and see a completely different set of stars (since I’ll be in the southern hemisphere!).

 

 


Ryan Hildebrandt ’17

I’m Ryan and I’m from Cape May, New Jersey.  I’m a Junior currently studying Japanese and Psychology, and I studied abroad first semester sophomore year in Kyoto, Japan.  It was a wonderful semester that helped me understand Japanese language and culture in a much deeper way than I was able to before, and I can’t wait to go back to the city I think of as my second home, Kyoto.

 

 


Danielle Norgren ’18

My name is Danielle Norgren.  I grew up in Seattle but attended high school in New Hampshire and France. At Colgate, I am a French and International Relations double major.  In my free time, I am on the rowing team and also tutor French at Hamilton Central School. I will be spending my sophomore spring abroad, in Dijon.

 

 

 


Erin Huiting ’17

I consider Evergreen, Colorado home, a small mountain town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  However, I love to travel and will be studying biomedical sciences at Oxford (England) this spring, and biomedicine at the National Institute of Health ( Washington, DC) this fall. I’m majoring in Molecular Biology, and I hope to pursue a career in immunogenetics.

 

 


Mallory Keller ’17

Hi everyone! My name is Mallory Keller and I am a junior at Colgate University. I’m originally from Kansas City, Missouri and I spent the fall semester of my junior year in Florence, Italy. As an art history and educational studies double major, I spent my entire semester geeking out at pictures on walls and dragging everyone I know to museums and churches. When I was not staring at artwork, I was eating my way through Italy.

 

 

 


Sidhant (Sid) Wadhera ’17

Sid Wadhera, or Sidward as he is affectionately called, will be spending the first 5 months of 2016 not on the North American continent.  The first 13 days will be spent in Chile, climbing up and studying volcanoes with the esteemed professor Karen Harpp.  The rest of his time will be spent in London (mostly) studying Economics with Professor Don Waldman.  Sid thoroughly enjoys blathering incessantly about topics and drawing erroneous conclusions from those topics; he also enjoys tangential ramblings.  Essentially, TBS Abroad project is a perfect match for him.  For more about his travel, visit his blog volcanicteatime.tumblr.com


Grace Western ’17

I am a junior at Colgate with a double major in Women’s Studies and Political Science.  I am very involved with the Student Government Association — my most recent position being Speaker of the Senate.  I am also a Community Leader, a member of FUSE Dance Company, an Illustrator at Admissions, and part of the Association of Critical Collegians.  Last year, I was Assistant Director of the Vagina Monologues and also participated in Spaces Between Us: a movement piece to challenge structural oppression at Colgate.  I am studying abroad in Cameroon with a focus on Social Pluralism and Development.  Specifically we will be critiquing the narratives of development and who is “developed.”  I look forward to interacting with the Benton Community, and the larger Colgate community, through my learning and reflection process abroad!  It’ll be a nice change to escape the winter tundra of Hamilton for warm, 70 degree weather!


Laine Barrand ’17

Laine Barrand, from Southern California, is an Undergraduate student in Junior standing at Colgate University. She is studying International Relations and French. Laine is involved with music on campus and in the community; she plays viola in Colgate University Orchestra and Chamber Players, works for the Music Department and interns at the Hamilton Center for the Arts and the Broad Street Gallery. Laine also works sound equipment during various events on campus and hosts a weekly radio show called Biannual Sunflower Festival, during which she plays a variety of genres including indie, alternative, and psychedelic rock. Laine loves to snowboard and travel.


Quanzhi (Q) Guo ’18

Currently wandering in Wales, originally from China, and shaped by Singapore.  Cold-bloodedly rational yet helplessly whimsical.  Trying to major in something but has never been able to make up my mind.  Interestingly self-contradictory and unexpectedly predictable to similar souls.

 

 


“XYZ with Q” 5: Theatre with Jungmin Kang ’16

By Quanzhi Guo on November 30, 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 fifth installment of the series, Q visits Jungmin Kang ’16, a double major in Theatre and Educational Studies, for a scene rehearsal. Besides sharing his passion for theatre, Jungmin also talks about his views on education in Asia.


It was 1am by the time I left my first ever theatre practice. Even by the time I got to bed, I was still pumped-up by emotions evoked during the scene and thoughts on my own educational experience. And it was all thanks to Benton Scholar Jungmin Kang ’16.

Jungmin was rehearsing a scene for his directing class taught by Simona Giurgea. The protagonist, played by Solhee Dein Bae ’17, got off at the wrong train station, encountered rude treatments by other travelers, and was rebuffed when asking for direction—in a country whose language she could hardly speak.

Because the scene was pseudo-interactive, I was free to participate. Taking a more active role in the landscape of play was a novel and engaging experience for me. With only a few lines , the simplicity of the scene left plenty of room for my own interpretation and called up my memories of being a traveller, sojourner, and foreigner.

To take advantage of my nostalgia, I tried out part of the scene, where the girl curled up in a dark corner. Thanks to Jungmin, I managed to express that forlornness—at least in the photo.

Lost my way, my phone died and no one wanted to help me...

Lost my way, my phone died and no one wanted to help me…

Not many Benton Scholars major in Theatre, so I wondered what led Jungmin here. “I was in theatre club in high school and liked it a lot, but I didn’t come to Colgate thinking that I would do theatre,” he said. His first actual production was The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht during his freshman year. “I played Tiger Brown and the street singer who gets to sing the most famous song in the play: Mac the Knife!”

But the key moment to pursue the major came later.

The following spring, Jungmin took an off-campus study semester at the National Theatre Institute (NTI) in Connecticut, and he continued there as a summer intern. “As much as I enjoy the theatre I have done at Colgate, if it hadn’t been that semester, I won’t be so sure that theatre is something I want to do for my life.”

A conservatory program that includes directing, playwriting, design, acting, movement and voice, the NTI Semester develops students to be a complete artist. “It was the most intensive semester in my life … 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. We were basically putting up a show every week, so you really get a broad range of viewpoints and get trained in all disciplines,“ Jungmin said.

Prior to attending Colgate, Jungmin lived in California for 9 years. But he spent his childhood in South Korea. Looking between cultures, he sees differences and challenges among the educational models—particularly the South Korean model, which he believes values performance on tests rather than knowledge itself.

The suicide rate is through the roof. Students are killing themselves because of grades and not getting to colleges,” he said. “I think prioritizing something over human life is ridiculous.” So, while the world may look to Asia as a model for education—its students get spectacular scores on international education tests—the system is also criticized for spreading a culture of competition, one that encourages students to see academic performance as their only source of validation and self-worth.

Some may see Jungmin’s path as unconventional, but he isn’t bothered. “It is hard when people expect you to do something great. And it is very difficult not to think about it. But ultimately people you care about the most want to see you happy and do what you want,” he said. “In both theatre and education, you are looking at people. But in both fields, we sometimes lose track of that. In theatre, we start to think about all the lights and what is a well-written play … but the most important thing is that you are looking at human nature. That’s what makes theatre so powerful. And in education, we get so wrapped up in scores, what are the best policies, what are the jobs these students get and the statistics, but what you should be trying to do is the personal development of human beings and intellectual growth,” Jungmin said.

To set aside the narrow conviction of success and to humanize deep-set cultures are not easy, but I am glad that we are starting to confront these problems and reflect on what we truly want as human beings.


“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:


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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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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.

 

 

 


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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.

 

 

 

 


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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!

 


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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

jsli@colgate.edu

 

 

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