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ICYMI: Top 20 Web Stories of the Year

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From prestigious scholarships to Jeopardy! appearances and everything in between, the 2017-18 academic year provided more than its share of momentous and memorable occasions. So ICYMI, below are some of the most popular Swarthmore College web stories of the year.

  1. Developing the Future

    New PPR apartments at nightIn preparation of the opening this fall of the Hormel-Nguyen Intercultural Center at Sproul Hall, the College donated the Sproul Observatory’s enormous telescope to a nonprofit science center in northwest Arkansas. PPR Apartments opened its doors, continuing to raise the profile of the south side of campus as a destination and earning the College consideration as a finalist for an architecture award. That recognition followed the construction excellence award the College received for Whittier Hall, the 19,000-square foot academic building opened in spring 2017.

  2. Thinking Green

    Izzy Branco-Lo '18 installs solar panels.

    Fresh on the heels an award for sustainable campus excellence, the College ramped up its Zero Waste initiative, which calls for diverting 80 percent of the College’s waste from a nearby incinerator by 2022 and strengthening its commitment to the greater community. Students fueled the annual Sustainability Showcase, a lively gathering of environmental groups offering education and advocacy. This year’s Presidential Sustainability Research Fellows presented their projects to the College community, including Izzy Branco Lo ’18’s efforts to help Garnet athletics to green. The College’s Carbon Charge Program to implement carbon pricing on campus, which President Valerie Smith wrote about in August, continued to generate buzz throughout the year.

  3. Changing Lives, Changing the World

    Campaign logoAfter a full year, the Changing Lives, Changing the World campaign has raised over $300 million, thanks to more than 20,000 donors in the Swarthmore community. Throughout the year, the global Swarthmore community got to see how the College is actually changing lives and changing the world through a short documentary video detailing the perspectives of eight students. Filmed in early 2017, the video debuted at the public launch of Changing Lives, Changing the World and has since been shown at events in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, London, and elsewhere. It will continue to be screened at regional events for alumni and parents in 2018–19, including in Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, Phoenix, and other U.S. cities, as well as in Asia.

  4. A Competitive Spirit

    SwatTank team presentsInnovation whirred through The Inn at Swarthmore for the 6th Annual SwatTank Competition in April, at which more than 60 students across 18 teams conceived and pitched entrepreneurial ideas to a panel of College staff, faculty, and alumni. Also conceiving and, this year, executing a product was a team of engineering students and faculty that developed a hands-free calling system to allow Bennett Lorber ’64 to keep in touch with his son with special needs. The College also enhanced its campus navigation system for the blind, which now offers three way-finding technologies and is considered among the most sophisticated at U.S. colleges and universities. Swarthmore students and faculty teamed up with Tri-Co students to create e-books for deaf children and their families. Inventive outside of the classroom (literally) was Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Jacob Morton, who gathered 20 students to stage a Roman battle outside of Trotter Hall.

  5. Goal-Oriented

    Baseball team celebrates championshipIt was a historic year for the College’s athletic teams as three programs advanced to the quarterfinals or better in their respective national tournaments. In the fall, the volleyball team made its first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament and claimed wins over No. 10 Carnegie Mellon and No. 12 Johns Hopkins. The basketball team continued to establish itself as one of the top programs in the region with a top 10 ranking and an appearance in the NCAA Division III Elite Eight. Under the direction of Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year Matt Midkiff, the baseball team won its first Centennial Conference title, went undefeated at its NCAA regional tournament, and won a game at the World Series against No. 4 Wooster. The women’s soccer team also captured its second conference title and made its fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament. Read more athletics news.

  6. Leading the Way

    President Val SmithPresident Valerie Smith's vision and leadership were on display throughout the 2017-18 academic year. Smith penned an op-ed on behalf of more than 30 college and university presidents in support of carbon pricing, citing the College's practice​s​ as an example. In November, ​she​ was honored by the Philadelphia Business Journal as one of its "Women of Distinction" for 2017. In June, she was the keynote speaker at the National Cathedral School's 2018 commencement ceremony. During the year, Smith served as a​ keynote speaker at the Brookings Institution's ​"​Citizens of the ​F​uture​"​ ​international conference, ​the ​2018 Black Administrators, Researchers & Scholars Meeting, ​t​he Association of Black Women in Higher Education Inc. Philadelphia Chapter​'s​ 10th Annual Garden Tea Party, and The Graduate Center at the City University of New York's "Black Women in the Public Sphere" lecture series, among others.

  7. Learning Together

    VISIBILITY MagazineThe student-run conference Compass: Navigating Multiness explored the multiracial and multicultural experience at Swarthmore this April. Also highlighting the College’s efforts to promote inclusivity and diversity this year was Poetry in Context: An Encuentro, for which sociologist Eve Ewing offered a collection of poems focused on intersectionality and social justice. The College also hosted Past to Present: Queer Identity at Swarthmore, an all-day celebration of queer history and activism, as part of its year-long celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Intercultural Center. At the end of the semester, students held a launch party for the third issue of VISIBILITY Magazine, which is committed to lifting up diverse and marginalized voices.

  8. Alumni Leading the Way

    Njideka Crosby '04 paintingAlumni stood out in their respective fields by putting their Swarthmore educations to good use. Njideka Akunyili Crosby ‘04 (left), an award-winning figurative painter, was the latest Swarthmore alum to be named a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” Continuing the award recognition, seven alumni received 2018 graduate research fellowships from the National Science Foundation. Astronomer Nancy Grace Roman ’46 was one of six women associated with the Hubble Space Telescope profiled in a video celebrating International Women's Day, while Sally Ride '72 was given her own stamp. Nimesh Ghimire ’15 and Raven Bennett ‘17 were announced as the inaugural Lang Social Impact Fellows, while Nell Bang-Jensen '11, Marissa Davis '08, Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon '12, Kara Peterman '09, and Sam Sussman '13 were named to the inaugural class of Frank 5 Fellows. Michelle Johnson '16 and Michaela Shuchman ’16 brought their two-woman show to the Philadelphia Fringe Arts Festival while Assistant Professor of Music & Dance Jumatatu Poe '04 and his filmmaker sister Tayarisha Poe '12 received a Pew grant and fellowship, respectively. To close out the academic year, 16 alumni returned to campus as honors examiners, representing class years 1979 through 2012. Read more alumni news.

  9. Opening Doors

    Andrew MoeSwarthmore held its inaugural College Access Summit last June, aimed at boosting enrollment of underrepresented students by bringing more than 50 counselors and advisors from Mid-Atlantic high schools, colleges and universities, and community-based organizations together to exchange perspectives and develop solutions. The College held its second summit on campus last week, and Andrew Moe (left), associate dean of admissions and director of access and programming, advocated for underrepresented students with op/eds in The Hechinger Report, on the Rural Matters podcast, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. The College is also now home to 130 Questbridge students (or “Questies”); the program, to which Swarthmore belongs, connects low-income students to top colleges across the U.S., and helps foster a day-one sense of community among Questies on campus. Nearly one-third of all admitted students for the Class of 2022 are affiliated with QuestBridge or community-based organizations.

  10. By the Books

    Bobby Zipp '18 volunteeringSwarthmore was once again a top producer of national awards, with students receiving eight Fulbright grants (along with two alumni), a Watson Fellowship, a National Science Foundation Fellowship, a Truman Scholarship, a Goldwater Scholarship and honorable mention, a Newman Civic Fellowship, and a Beinecke Scholarship. Additionally, three members of the inaugural cohort of Swarthmore’s Summer Scholars Program attended the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science conference this year, with Elizabeth Flores ’19 earning a  student “best poster” award. Swarthmore’s seniors presented snapshots of their research projects at the annual Senior Showcase by summarizing their thesis or research project in three minutes. 

  11. Faculty Research 

    Amy Vollmer ChengAmong the accolades for Swarthmore faculty this year were linguist Jamie Thomas’ Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and microbiologist Amy Vollmer’s (left) fellowship with the American Academy of Microbiology. Also recognized for their efforts this year were physicist Mike Brown, who earned an NSF grant to fuel his study of plasma waves; statistician Steve Wang, who was awarded an NSF grant to help him, his students, and a recent alumna decode why the Earth may be entering a modern extinction; geneticist Dawn Carone, who received a Kaufman Foundation grant to research uncontrolled growth in cancer cells; and neurobiologist Kathy Siwicki, whose research was cited by the Nobel Prize Committee. Faculty from all across the disciplines helped spread the word on their work through their writing and speaking this year, including Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies and department chair Bob Rehak, with his book on special effects and the fantastic transmedia franchise; Associate Professor of English Literature Lara Cohen, who earned a national award for her look at Solomon Northup's 1853 narrative Twelve Years a Slave; philosopher Krista Thomason’s book on the reality of shame; and six faculty members from Educational Studies, working with the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, discussing engaged scholarship at the annual meeting of the American Medical Research Association.

  12. Moving In, Moving Up

    Bindu JayneThis year brought to the College new faces and familiar ones in new roles. Bindu Kolli Jayne (left) was named the new Title IX Coordinator, while Professor of Sociology Sarah Willie-LeBreton will serve as the College’s next provost. Also joining the Provost's Office is Associate Professor of Statistics Lynne Steuerle Schofield '99, who will move into the role of Associate Provost of Faculty Diversity and Development. Salem Shuchman ’84 was selected to succeed Tom Spock ‘78 as the chair of the College’s Board of Managers, which also appointed five new members at its May meeting. Twenty faculty members began tenure-track or three-year appointments, nine were recognized with tenure and promotions, and three others received appointment to endowed professorships.

  13. Giving Back

    Students hold prizes from charity putt-putt eventMembers of the College came together to serve their communities, both local and global. Students organized a chili cook-off to raise money for those affected by Hurricane Harvey and the women’s basketball and swimming teams used their winter training trips to aid aid recovery efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. A Putt-Putt Palooza with themed mini-golf courses helped raise nearly $10,000 for local persons with disabilities. A team of Swarthmore students and faculty attended the Clinton Global Initiative University annual meeting, adding voice and vision to a national movement to address social problems. Swarthmore's annual celebration of Thanksgiving included a Turkey Trot that collected 200 pounds of food for a local food bank. And the summer 2017 Chester Community Fellows reflected on and shared their stories of service.

  14. Creative Performances

    Student celebrates film prize certificateCreative expression found many forms at the College this year. A new interdisciplinary course allowed students to examine the role science plays in the artistic world, from the chemical creation of painters’ pigments to the preservation of those hues. Swarthmore ensemble Gamelan Semara Santi celebrated its 20th season with a joint concert featuring the Chinese Music Ensemble and the Lunch Hour Concert series continued to brighten Parrish Parlors with a robust slate of performances. The inaugural Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grants raised the profile of the arts and humanities by sponsoring seven projects from diverse groups of students, staff, and faculty. A student-led orchestra performed at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. A grant from the Graham Foundation will allow Assistant Professor of History Brian Goldstein to continue his research on architecture through the lens of social and racial justice, while Assistant Professor and Interim Director of Dance Olivia Sabee will work on her manuscript as a fellow-in-residence at the Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University. And, at the end of the spring semester, Swarthmore student filmmakers (left) stood out at the 7th Annual Tri-Co Film Festival.

  15. Beyond Campus

    Students poses with externship mentorOur students explored the world beyond the walls of Swarthmore with their trademark curiosity. Before their seasons started, several Swarthmore teams went abroad and combined athletic preparation with cultural enhancement. Students in an Afro-Cuba Experiential Learning Course presented research projects based on a summer trip to Cuba. A new class of Lang Opportunity Scholars received support to tackle social action projects around the globe. The externship program matched 230 students with alumni, parents, and friends of the College, giving externs an opportunity to shadow mentors in their fields of interest. For the third consecutive year, the College's Center for Innovation and Leadership sponsored a trip to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where students got an inside look at the tech capital of the world.

  16. Staff Superstars

    Donny Thomas serves foodStaff members garnered recognition for their invaluable contributions to the life of the College. Don Thomas (left), cook and unofficial “Mayor of Swarthmore,” received the 2018 Suzanne P. Welsh award -- and a standing ovation -- at the College’s all-staff meeting in March. The honor is awarded every two years to community members who “exhibit professionalism through dedicated service, initiative, high standards of quality work, integrity, and commitment to the College's mission, and serving as a model and inspiration for members of the staff community.”

    Also honored this year was Jeff Jabco, director of grounds and horticulture for the Scott Arboretum, who received the 2017 Hamilton Award from Rutgers Gardens. The Arboretum was also named one of the 10 beautiful botanical gardens in the country and received high level accreditation. On Veteran's Day, eight staff members reflected on their military experiences and how those experiences continue to inform their lives and work at the College.

  17. Class Acts

    Rebecca Rosenthal '20 with Alex TrebekRebecca Rosenthal ‘20 impressed viewers nationwide with her strong performance on the Jeopardy! College Championship. Debaters Miriam Pierson ‘18 and Nate Urban ‘18 finished their season as American Parliamentary Debate Team of the Year while Pierson also captured Speaker of the Year honors. Five students were selected for the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program and seven alumni received graduate research fellowships from the National Science Foundation. A team of four students placed in the top 10 at a national Hackathon sponsored by MIT with an app designed to detect fake news.

  18. Watch This!

    Terrence Xiao '20 sorts wasteDuring the year, we caught glimpses into the ever-interesting lives of Swarthmore students through multimedia and social media. Video highlights from the past year include a sustainability fellow explaining the four commonly mischaracterized items in waste sorting, a video prior to fall final exams with students explaining the various routines and superstitions that help them “survive” the week, an alumnus' donation of his beloved MAD Magazine collection to McCabe Library, and a “day in the life” of a Swarthmore student. On Instagram, students used stories to feature their own Swarthmore experiences, showcase campus events, and highlight unique aspects of the College. 

  19. Swarthmore Send-Off

    Sonia Sanchez at commencement 2018At Swarthmore's 146th commencement, President Valerie Smith awarded honorary degrees to social justice advocate Edgar Cahn ‘56, poet and writer Sonia Sanchez (left), and biomedical engineer Francisco Valero-Cuevas '88. In addition, 418 undergraduates were awarded degrees at the ceremony, held at the Scott Outdoor Amphitheater. The senior class speaker was Tiffany Yu '18 from Hong Kong, who graduated as a computer science and engineering double major. Assistant Professor of Peace & Conflict Studies Sa’ed Atshan ’06 and Shruti Pal ‘18 addressed the senior class at Last Collection, while Walter Kemp Professor Emerita in the Natural Sciences and Professor Emerita of Biology Rachel Merz addressed the graduating class at Baccalaureate. Here's a closer look at the event -- and all that goes into it -- by the numbers.

  20. Fond Reunion

    Class of 1968 at Alumni Weekend 2018In early June, 1,350 alumni and their families gathered on campus to celebrate their reunions during Alumni Weekend 2018. Highlights included the annual Parade of Classes; Alumni Collection featuring the Collection Address “#MeToo, Marches, and Making Noise” by former editor-in-chief at Glamour magazine Cindi Leive ’88; a talk from NASA astrophysicist and Nobel Laureate John Mather ’68, H’94, on “The History of the Universe, from Swarthmore to Stockholm and Beyond,” and the annual performance of Mozart's Requiem, by the Swarthmore Alumni Choir and the Chester Children's Chorus, under the direction of John Alston H'15.

Submissions Welcome

The Communications Office invites all members of the Swarthmore community to share videos, photos, and story ideas for the College's website. Have you seen an alum in the news? Please let us know by writing