Inaugural Group of Frank 5 Fellows Demystifies the Liberal Arts

On Thursday, the Frank 5 Fellows program of The Aydelotte Foundation will hold its inaugural meeting: a panel discussion with the five 2017-2018 fellows. The program, spearheaded by Aydelotte Foundation Senior Associate Director Pam Shropshire, was launched earlier this year with the goal of illuminating the meaning of a liberal arts education.

Frank 5 Fellows are all liberal arts graduates under the age of 30, chosen for their unique professional and life experiences. The impetus for The Frank 5 Fellows program “came from a desire to bring regular folks into conversations about higher education and the liberal arts,” Shropshire explains.

“I, like everyone, am invested in a having a higher education system that ‘works.’" she says. "I’ve heard parents, teachers and others ask, ‘What’s the right fit for my student?' and ‘Will they be employable on the other side of their education?’ And, I know that employers are asking, ‘What does job readiness look like in the 21st century.’ I conceived an initiative to address these concerns through the personal stories of young grads working across different sectors.”

This first cohort of fellows represents five different fields: the arts, business, education, engineering, and political science. Their varied experiences demonstrate the power of the liberal arts to shape dynamic personal and professional journeys.

Nell Bang-Jensen '11Nell Bang-Jensen '11 studied English literature and theater at Swarthmore and is currently the associate artistic director for Pig Iron Theatre Company and an adjunct professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She focuses on making theatre that creates spaces where creativity and inclusivity thrive. In 2011-2012, she received a Watson Fellowship for research and travel in seven countries, and she is one of eight participants in the Leadership U: One-on-One program, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group, a grant intended to develop future leaders in American theater.


Marissa Davis '08Marissa Davis '08 studied history, Spanish, and religion at Swarthmore and received her MA in public policy from Harvard University. She currently works as a network lead for DataKind, an organization that promotes collaborations between data scientists and mission-driven organizations in service of reducing human suffering and amplifying social impact. She uses leadership, program, and community building skills to create sustainable pathways for historically disenfranchised communities.


Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon '12Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon '12 studied history at Swarthmore and received her MA in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia from Harvard University. She currently serves as a teacher at Dayton High School in Texas and as an adjunct professor at Lee College. Through her work, she helps students develop a better understanding of themselves and the world around them.


Dr. Kara Peterman '09Dr. Kara Peterman '09 studied engineering at Swarthmore before receiving her MS and PhD in Civil Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. She is now an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Her research focuses on the resilience of steel structures and she works to improve infrastructure in communities. She is passionate about outreach and has spent her career promoting the advancement of underrepresented groups in engineering.


Sam Sussman '13Sam Sussman '13 majored in political science at Swarthmore and received his MPhil in international relations from the University of Oxford.  He is a co-founder of Extend, a start-up NGO that uses educational programming to create a better understanding of the Palestinian and Israeli perspectives. His work has been featured in Haaretz, Dissent, Forbes, Asian Times, The Diplomat, Salon, and The Huffington Post.


Together, the experiences of this cohort of Frank 5 Fellows reflect how a liberal arts education can help forge meaningful and creative professional paths. The College community is encouraged to come hear their stories and learn about the rewards and challenges they’ve faced in their careers this Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in the Scheuer Room.