Designing an Experience

When Marion Kudla '19 finished her Ancient Greece seminar in the fall, she wasn’t sure she'd return to that world anytime soon. But diving deeply into Herodotus’ Histories with J. Archer and Helen Turner Professor of Classics Rosario Munson this summer collapsed that notion.

“It helped me realize all the subtleties of Herodotus and see the ways in which the Histories shed light on discussions we’re having today —  issues such as immigration, racial tension, cultural immersion, and language,” says Kudla, an Honors Greek major from Red Hook, N.Y., who helped edit a commentary for the book with Munson and Carolyn Dewald, professor emerita of classical studies at Bard College.

“It reminded me of why I study the Classics,” she adds, “and why I think they are so important.”

Kudla is among the nearly 300 Swarthmore students who received funding to gain first-hand, real-world experiences across an array of disciplines — and the world — this summer. The College provided $1.3 million in endowed scholarships, internships, and awards through the Provost’s Office, the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility, the Dean’s Office, academic divisions, and faculty grants.

Two students stand in a garden on Swarthmore's campusSustainability interns Kemi Oladipo ’18 and Bridget Scott '18 harvesting vegetables on campus.

Nearly half of those students stayed at Swarthmore this summer, joining the dozens of students who broadened their perspectives and, in some cases, built upon coursework by working for the College.

Among them is Chase Williamson '19, who went to City Hall for the Philadelphia Behavioral Science Initiative co-founded by Assistant Professor of Economics Syon Bhanot. He relished the chance to apply insights from behavioral science to the city’s public policy and took away a deeper appreciation for the people who make government go.

“Almost everyone I meet is highly passionate, engaging, and they love what they do,” says Williamson, an Honors economics and mathematics major from Jonesboro, Ark. “The city government is massive in scale, but the individuals make it lively and provide hope.”

Also inspired by her colleagues in the city this summer is Michelle McEwen '19, who worked on the Education in Our Barrios research project led by Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Edwin Mayorga. The team surveyed Latinx youth on their perspectives of their communities, hoping to put the data back into Philly neighborhoods to improve policy.

By incorporating Latinx high school students directly into the effort, the team disrupted the usual relationship between researcher and researchee.

“We are giving the Latinx students the power in the process of the research as co-researchers,” says McEwen, a political science and educational policy special major from Cold Spring, N.Y. “Our hope is to co-create knowledge that humanizes the people who the research is about.”

McEwen was one of the 93 students funded through the Lang Center. Ten received Chester Community Fellowships and five received Swarthmore Black Alumni Network Urban Internships. Others interned at non-governmental organizations such as the Nationalities Service Center, the Committee of Seventy, Women in Transition, JeffDESIGN, and Juntos.

Julian Turner '18 traveled to The Deaf Apostolate in Philadelphia for a project with Professor of Linguistics Donna Jo Napoli to adapt childrens stories for a bilingual, bimodal e-book for deaf and hard-of-hearing children. Among the group’s efforts was recording a seven-year-old deaf girl telling stories through sign language.

A student in a labAudra Woodside '19 helps to develop novel aluminum complexes in the inorganic chemistry lab.

“This project introduced me to the unique storytelling capacities of deaf children,” says Turner, a history major from Mount Juliet, Tenn. “Communicating the stories in sign language requires performance, imagination, and attention to the specific learning mechanisms of deaf children.”

Also exploring the cognitive sciences was Umi Keezing ’19, who researched visual perception with Elizabeth and Sumner Hayward Professor of Psychology Frank Durgin. They studied how humans perceive space, through virtual reality and the real world; in particular, how we perceive our own direction of gaze, Keezing says.

Her tasks ranged from building a wooden base for a couch to recording and analyzing data to — most arduously — recruiting subjects.

“I’ve had to go up to every Swarthmore student I come across,” says Keezing, a psychology and art major from South Hadley, Mass., who plied the agreeable with candy.

Blending psychology and politics were Tess Wild '19, an Honors psychology and economics major from Chalfont, Pa., who examined the cognitive differences between people along political and ideological lines with Visiting Assistant Professor John Blanchar, and Ashley Hwang '18, an Honors economics and sociology & anthropology major from Munster, Ind., who joined Assistant Professor of Sociology Daniel Laurison '00 for a quantitative analysis of the 2016 election cycle.

Professor of Engineering Carr Everbach worked with students on a variety of projects, including the development of a prototype for “an affordable, safe, and easy-to-operate” personal aircraft by Bilige Yang '19, an engineering major from China, while Associate Professor of English Literature Rachel Buurma '99 and two Swarthmore students collaborated with students from UPenn and Williams in Philadelphia for The Early Novels Database Project.

Five students worked at the Lang Performing Arts Center for commencement and summer rental seasons, another five catalogued and archived online and print resources and photos for the Friends Historical Library, and one sorted and processed 1,500 books recently donated to the Underhill Music & Dance Library.

Bobby Zipp ’18, an Honors English literature and political science and educational studies special major from Dover, Del., served as one of two summer fellows in the Admissions Office, primarily assisting with interviews of prospective Swatties, while Gina Goosby ’20, of Memphis, Tenn., and six other students guided campus tours.

For Goosby, it was a chance to bring the same kind of energy and passion for Swarthmore with which her own tour guide hooked her on Swarthmore.

“Ever since then," she says, "I’ve wanted to pass that gift on to others.”

Also reminded of why she chose Swarthmore — namely, the tight-knit community and wealth of opportunities — was Bridget Scott ’18, who built upon her President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship as an intern with the Office of Sustainability this summer.

“With the help of [that] office and others like the Lang Center, I was able to design a summer experience that I thought would be meaningful to me and also to my immediate community, all while gaining skills that I can take with me post-graduation,” says Scott, a biology and educational studies special major from Media, Pa. “How cool is that?”