As a sophomore, I applied and was accepted to the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology at Connecticut College. The Center is one of the five academic centers on campus that provide resources to students and faculty doing interdisciplinary work on a specific subject. Learn more about my journey as an Ammerman Scholar.
A dramaturg is someone who reads plays and musicals and does an analysis of the texts to help convey messages and historical context to the cast as well as the audience. In November, I worked as the dramaturg for “Life Is a Dream,” the theater department show at Conn. I came on board in September. Most of the work I did early on was independent research, but I went to some early rehearsals when I was able to go. The show was written by Pedro Calderon de la Barca in 1635, the Spanish Golden Age. My initial research about the time period uncovered themes that were also present in the production–the basic themes of which involve religious ideals, honor and the role of women.
As a sophomore, I applied and was accepted to the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology, one of the five academic centers on campus that provides resources to students and faculty doing interdisciplinary work on a specific subject. This year I’m working on my Senior Integrative Project (SIP). SIPs are year-long independent studies for seniors in the College’s four center-certificate programs that culminates in a final performance or installation from each senior in the spring. My project is to develop a piece of classical music where audience members get to participate. Learn more about my journey as an Ammerman Scholar.
Even when you don’t have an important exam, it’s still important to reset your brain and take a break. This has been something I’ve been good at for the most part, but this year, with my schedule much heavier, it’s something I forget often. In my Psychology of Disorders and Dysfunctions class, we learned about Mindfulness Meditation— a type of meditation where you focus on nothing but the present and yourself in that moment. For a few weeks every class, we would take five minutes or so to do what was called a body scan. We all put our heads on our desks and listened to the voice of the women guiding the meditation, doing as she said, aware of our breathing and surrounding sounds. I found this to be a nice break, helping us to regain our focus for the remaining hour of class time. We were then assigned to practice this five-minute exercise, five days a week, for five weeks. After the five weeks was over I realized how helpful these types of exercises are for me, along with other breaks like running outside or going to yoga. It’s tempting to just climb in bed and take a nap after a long day of classes before starting some homework, but you end up being so much more productive if you take the time to get some fresh air or just do anything that works for you to reset your brain.
I was excited to start my sophomore year, particularly academically. I thought I had it all figured out. I had begun to discover my passion for psychology and philosophy and planned on taking one philosophy course. But at the last minute, I decided to take two. I emailed Simon Feldman, my Introduction to Philosophy professor, and he encouraged me to join his Philosophy of Law course. I was excited, believing I was checking another box and that philosophy could become my minor.
The spring semester of my first year, I took a course called Building Culture. A course cross-listed in both the art history and architectural studies departments, it focused on the history of various art movements, how they were introduced by the social climate, and how they influenced architecture. One day in class we focused on modern architecture and Phillip Johnson, a renowned architect, for his Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut. Last weekend, I got to travel to the Glass House with the Department of Architectural Studies for an in-depth tour. Here are some of best moments and features I was able to capture!
As a sophomore, I applied and was accepted to the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology at Connecticut College. The Center is one of the five academic centers on campus that provides resources to students and faculty doing interdisciplinary work on a specific subject. Learn more about my journey as an Ammerman Scholar.
This semester I’m starting to produce my senior integrative project (SIP) for the Ammerman Center. SIPs are year-long independent study projects that seniors participating in the College’s four center-certificate programs undertake culminating in a final performance or installation from each senior every spring. My project is an attempt to develop a piece of classical music where audience members get to participate. It currently uses the working title “Democracy and Classical Music,” which stems from a challenge posed to me by professors who I have worked closely with developing this project. They posited that allowing audience members to interact raises problems similar to those raised by the challenge of satisfying people with different viewpoints in the democratic process.
I chose Connecticut College for many reasons. One aspect that caught my eye when scrolling through the website my senior year of high school was the College’s Connections curriculum, specifically Pathways. Pathways help you build on your major by connecting the coursework in your major, the required coursework outside your major, your study abroad experience, your internship and your senior capstone. Pathways seemed right up my alley since they are an interesting way to connect multiple interests, and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to major in. When I was in high school, talking about college, and going on college tours and having to introduce myself always freaked me out. I tended to be the only person in the group saying that I was “undeclared.” Everyone seemed to have a plan. Even at the start of my first-year at Conn, I felt everyone knew what they were doing but me. Turns out this wasn’t true at all and I soon met many other students who were undeclared as well.
Maryum Qasim '20 is an international student from Rawalpindi, Pakistan. She is an International Relations major on a pre-law track and is also a CISLA scholar. Maryum is the Student Government Association's Chair of Equity and Inclusion and is also an executive board member of the Muslim Student Association.
Little did I know that a research paper for my first-year law class taught by professor Peter Mitchell would eventually take me to the tribal areas of Waziristan, a military controlled drone warzone cut off from the rest of developed Pakistan. My primary research paper for the class explored the legality of the employment of drones. I felt so passionately about the subject that when I became a scholar with the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA) I decided to conduct my senior project on it. My CISLA project, guided by former CISLA Director and Professor of History Marc R. Forster, aimed to explore the psychological impacts of drone strikes on young adults. This summer I was awarded the Stephen and Pamela Rearden '67 Travel Fellowship to conduct research in Pakistan on the psychological impacts of drones for my project. I arrived in Bannu, a city about 200 kilometers away from the military-controlled areas of Waziristan. These areas are highly secured with multiple military check posts monitoring any and all movements in and out. Due to security concerns, I decided to stay in Bannu to meet my point of contact Farooq Mehsud, a local journalist from North Waziristan. Mehsud coordinated interviews for me with other journalists and university/college students in Bannu.
Coming into my first semester at Conn, I had my mind set on majoring in Behavioral Neuroscience. I told all my friends, family members and high school teachers I would go on to medical school after graduating from Conn and study neuropsychology. That same semester, I took on the normal four-course load with Cell Biology, Chemistry, Toxins and The Nervous System (my First-Year Seminar) and a Chinese philosophy course. As we inched closer to winter break, however, I realized that I, in fact, did not want to major in Behavioral Neuroscience. I normally like to be certain about major things in my life, so being unsure about my major was more than unsettling.
Editor's Note: Guest blogger Ashley Myers '19 of Winchester, Massachusetts, is majoring in English with a concentration in fiction writing, and minoring in Classics and Psychology. She is the president of Cadenza, the literary magazine on campus, a member of Relay for Life, and is an intern at SWAAY, an online media platform that is empowering women in business. Writing is her passion, and she wouldn't want to pursue it anywhere other than Conn.
Last week, I left the long-awaited spring sunshine and entered Tansill Theater, the black box theater on campus. Contrary to my usual aversion to being stuck inside when the weather is fine, this was a welcome shift to darkness; soon I was raptly listening to dramatic readings of the Greek tragedies I’d been studying in class. The dim-lit setting reflected the grim nature of the tragedies. It would feel wrong to discuss infanticide, deserted soldiers and mourning sisters in the pleasant glow of May light. The event itself was titled: “Truth, Lies, and Deceit in Greek Tragedy,” a collaboration between my “Greek Tragedy” class, taught by professor Nina Papathanasopoulou, and professor David Jaffe’s class “Acting II: Play Analysis.”
On the first day of my first year at Conn I was intent on declaring a double major in Art and Chemistry. Things don’t always turn out how you planned. I am now a double major in Psychology and Africana Studies and minoring in Gender and Women’s Studies. This change was a result of finding interests I did not know I had and connecting with students and faculty in each major. Despite not being an Art major, there are still a lot of opportunities for me to produce art and share it around campus. I often draw in my room while I am (mildly) procrastinating or as a way to de-stress. If I like what I make, I sometimes post it on Instagram and Facebook. Three seniors at Conn, Gabby Schlein, Catherine Healey, and Katie Soricelli, saw some of my drawings and asked me to produce a few pieces for their senior theater capstone. Senior capstones are final projects that are the culmination of a senior’s work in their major. Capstones are great because they give people outside of the major an opportunity to be involved in and meet new people in different areas.
Recently, a dream of mine came true. Acclaimed author and journalist at The New Yorker David Grann (‘89) joined us in our "Narrative Nonfiction" class. Being able to speak to a writer for The New Yorker was a cool opportunity, but what made the day special was being able to sit with an author and inquire about their entire writing process. When reading, I often compile a long list of questions in my head asking why the author decided to make the decisions they made. The list usually stays unanswered. However, that particular day Grann answered certain questions I’d been eager to know, such as: what does the organizational process look like when writing about a subject laden with so much historical background? My classmates and I also asked him to talk about how he became a writer and how one knows what path to follow in such broad industry. Blanche Boyd, the writer in residence at Conn and the professor of my writing class, assigned The Lost City of Z by David Grann for us to read over spring break. Though not typically the kind of thing I read—a story about adventure, disease and death in the Amazon—I enjoyed this fast-paced tale. It made me want to ask questions.
Jai Gohain '19 is an international student from Kolkata, India. He is a classical studies major, with minors in dance and mathematics. He is also a member of the Connecticut College Dance Club and Connecticut College men's rugby team.
Ruby Johnson ‘21 hails from Medford, Oregon. She has yet to declare her major at Connecticut College but has an interest in education, American studies, Classics, and music. She sings as a soprano in Camel Heard, Connecticut College's advanced vocal ensemble, and is a member of the Connecticut College Figure Skating Club, where she teaches learn-to-skate lessons to local children on the weekends. She is working on designing her own major and is planning on declaring a Pathway this coming fall.
I declared my major, American Studies, the week after Thanksgiving in 2015. A week earlier, I found myself attempting to answer the question on many of my family members minds, “Now Julesy, how will you explain to an employer down the road what the heck American Studies is?” To put it quite simply, American Studies is not just American History. My major is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of America through history, culture, theater, food, and historical figures. As Professor Jim Downs, chair of the program, would say, “American Studies is the bottom-up story of American History. It tells the story of all peoples, and makes sense of where there are holes in the stories we tell.” That means that my classes have ranged from an American Drama course to my Globalization Senior Seminar about the growth of globalization following World War Two.
I was the first to arrive at Tansill Theater. This black box performing space on Conn’s campus is also home to many of the classes available in the theater department. On Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:15 to 3:15 p.m. it is home to me and the other 10 members of my Acting II class. Our first project this semester was a monologue from Jose Rivera’s “Sonnets from an Old Century.” We have been working on them for about a month now and the final showing was approaching.
It was an exceptionally busy day Wednesday: I had two classes, rehearsal for improv and a film screening. On top of all of that, I had a looming 5-6 page sociology essay that was due promptly at 1:15 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Luckily, I found time in a break in my schedule around noon to craft the bare bones of my introduction. Unfortunately, I was not able to continue my paper until 9:10 p.m. when I returned to the library after my film screening. This is when the bulk of my work began and I started to understand that the only way this paper would get done was with caffeine, motivation and a little help from my friends.
Never in a million years did I think I’d be taking another art class—especially not in college. I took my first one in third grade, and I remember two things about it: struggling with every assignment and learning that I never shook the inability to color (or paint, for that matter) inside any kind of line. After that experience, I pledged to my 8-year-old self that I would avoid every art class for as long as possible.