Works and Days

Presidents Summer Fellowship, Art Therapy in Italy Part 3, Margaret MacLean

President's Summer Fellow Margaret MacLean '16, studio art major, is leading art classes for youth with intellectual and developmental challenges at the Cooperativa Barberi in Florence, Italy. Read on for the third installment of her adventures:

It is so strange to be back in Portland away from the hustle and bustle of Florence. I realize that I felt very big in Florence in a wide-clunky-taking-up-space sort of way. Biking to work or class I was constantly dodging tourists, locals, and dogs on narrow streets. Coffee is served in the smallest of cups. Kitchen appliances are tiny. Doorways are smaller than in the US, chairs and tables are lower, and there is always a stranger’s elbow to accidentally bump into. Being back in Portland I feel like I have space to breathe, but I still miss the chaos.

My last weeks in Florence were filled with goodbyes. First, I finished up my volunteer work at the Cooperativa as the students went on their August vacation. I had forgotten the exciting buzz that hovers around the school yard before a holiday. Most everyone in Florence goes to the seaside in August, and I found that many of my students were traveling together with their friends’ families. We finished our airplane project — ceramic planes with rotating propellers! — made more horses, and tried a new project making human figures from clay. We had a fun collage class making roosters and hens, and I learned just how messy paper and glue can be (even compared to clay and glaze!). Goodbyes were bittersweet, but with all of the pre-vacation energy in the air, it was difficult to be too sad.


Working at the Cooperativa made me very aware of the amazing education I have received and how complicated it is to implement newer and more complex educational models in the classroom. I went to a Montessori school for six years and then to an alternative high school that focused on experiential learning. I am very privileged to have benefited from this first hand experience with alternative teaching methods, but this also made it frustrating for me to teach in a more traditional classroom. I realized how passionate I am about education and how strong my opinions are about the effectiveness of different teaching styles. My work this summer has inspired me to look for more exposure to alternative educational models, and I think that Portland is the perfect city in which to explore :)

My Italian class ended with a few tears as we had become a close-knit group over the course of the summer. My Italian professor invited me over to her house to learn how to make tiramisu, and we all enjoyed it the next day during our class-goodbye-party, complete with espresso. During the party, one of my classmates who emigrated to Italy from Korea to be an opera singer, preformed a mini-concert for us! He has such an incredible voice, and it was really cool to experience Italian opera in such a friendly setting. I have met so many amazing people in my classes, and we have all come to Italy for completely different reasons. I am also proud to finally be pretty much fluent in the language, aside from some silly grammatical mistakes!


The best part of my last month abroad was definitely working with Florentine photographer, Stefania Talini. Since I had free time from work and school, we were able to meet more often and I was able to work exclusively on my photography project. As I mentioned in my last post, my camera and I were in a weird place in our relationship earlier in the summer. But with more time, the help of my bike, and extra critique time with Stefania, I found my inspiration again. My photo series explores the idea of empty and unseen places. Living in a city famous for its landscapes and architecture, I was visually attracted to scenes that are less accessible to the tourist’s eye and more representative of the version of Florence I came to love.

All in all, my PSF project this summer was an incredible learning experience for me. I have a solid footing in my italian language skills, I learned so much about the realities of working in art therapy, I was able to further explore my art, and I am confident that I want to continue working in education and art therapy in the future.



Presidents Summer Fellowship, Modeling Fluid Dynamics Part 2, Qiaoyu Yang

President’s Summer Fellow Qiaoyu Yang ’16, mathematics major, is testing a probabilistic particle model for studying fluid dynamics with Prof. Aleksandar Donev at the Courant Institute in New York City. In this post, he explores the differences between research in applied versus pure math.

The end of summer approaches. So does my summer research at Courant Institute. It’s been an exciting and productive time. During my time at Reed, I have done several research projects, some in pure math and others in applied math. Among these experiences, I liked the one I did in my freshman summer and the one I did this summer the most. They feature different characteristics of research in pure and applied math. I think some of these differences are quite interesting and would like to share them to people interested in math and emphasize the distinctions between pure and applied math.

I did the first project in the summer of 2013 with Dave, i.e., Prof. David Perkinson, in the math department of Reed. We worked on combinatorics and graph theory, a branch of discrete math. On the other hand, the research project I did this summer is building a stochastic particle model. This is a topic in scientific computation, which is a part of applied math. In the following, I will try to compare my experiences and give the readers some flavors of what research is like in pure and applied math. Of course I need to admit that these are totally based on personal experience and they can be very biased. Also, I’m still learning about math, and a lot of things highly depend on the specific subject so my conclusions can be over-generalizing. But this is not writing a research paper so I don’t want to be too rigorous in all aspects.

Connecting with Minority Youth in the Greater Chicagoland Area, McGill Lawrence, Rosa Leal

McGill Lawrence Internship Award recipient Rosa Leal, '18, interned with the Choices Youth Outreach organization, implementing youth programs in low-income neighborhoods in Chicago.

Coming back home this summer has been a truly eye-opening experience. These last few months have been some of the most rewarding and hectic times. I was originally intended to intern with the Chicago Freedom School (CFS); however CFS contacted me two weeks into the summer apologizing that they could no longer offer a position. At first, I panicked! Then I realized I could work with an organization that I had contacted earlier in the grant process. After a week of delegation, I went on to intern with Choices Youth Outreach (CYO), a nonprofit located in the greater Chicagoland area (right in my hometown of Kankakee). Despite however stressful, my path with CYO has turned out to be a truly invaluable experience!

One of my goals this summer was to gain knowledge of the sociological issues facing the area. I wanted to work with an organization that addresses the aftermath of the Chicago Housing Crisis. A devastating policy failure that culminated in the displacement of some 181,000 residents of mostly black neighborhoods in West and Southside Chicago. As a result, concentrated poverty levels were exacerbated and started filtering into nearby towns. Wealth and jobs concentrated into newly-formed mostly white neighborhoods as a result of redistricting and complete neglect by local/federal government. In fact, I didn’t realize the severity of the situation until I was actually back home: boarded-up houses, failing schools, defunded social programs, over-policing, increased gang-affiliation, and violence every day.

President's Summer Fellowship 2015: Nathan Martin - Part 2

An image of a tent and hammock set up in a clearing on a trail in Bryce Canyon.

My gloriously lazy hammock camp on a backpacking trip in Bryce Canyon - Riggs Spring Loop Trail.

Nate Martin '16, English Literature, is a President's Summer Fellow on a trip through the American Southwest with the goal of rewriting his connection to poetry by visiting areas where he first established that connection.

I was thinking about Sylvia Plath. I was reading The Colossus, and briefly read a poem called “Mushrooms.” I didn't like it much, and I started to wonder why. Why did Plath like it enough to include it in her collection? Does anyone like it? What makes one poem better than another? Why is one good, and another bad? Is it just relative, subjective? Is it about connections? Complexity? Simplicity? My mildly negative reaction to one poem brought me to questions about aesthetics, and, as sometimes happens when questions are piled up, I came up with some answers. But first I decided to try to write a really bad poem. Here it is:

This tree is like my heart.

Presidents Summer Fellowship, Supernatural Shakespearian Webseries Part 2, Liz Groombridge

Watch Act I Scene I .

President’s Summer Fellow Elizabeth Groombridge ’16, psychology/theater major, is writing and creating a queer, supernatural webseries, “The Green’s Apartment”, based on Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It.

Bumps Along the Road

We wrapped filming on August 8th in Chicago. It was an amazing experience with so many wonderful people. The whole cast was great and did so well with their parts. It was a stressful experience, filming, because I blocked out 4 hours to film each episode, and for some episodes that was more than enough and for some it was a little short. I learned so much about directing film over the course of this project, because I've never done anything on this scale before. The more episodes I shot, the better my shot compositions became, and the more I understood how to make things dynamic on camera. 

But I think what really helped me learn more about how to direct film was editing it. Choosing to edit during the process was a really good decision, I think, because by watching my footage so carefully and piecing together the narrative from different angles, I began to really understand what looked good and what looked awkward or flat. This has been an amazing learning experience for me. 

Presidents Summer Fellowship 2015 - Orla O'Sullivan - Part 2

Visual art installation. Large sheets of white fabric draped on walls and floor stained with many colors.

yes no why later by Katharina Grosse, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow

Orla O'Sullivan '16, Russian major, is diving deep into the extensive collections at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, conducting research on visual culture and responses to controversial exhbitions for her President's Summer Fellowship.

I’ve held off on my second post, because I’ve been struggling with the realization that my project, which had originally aimed to document others’ responses to contemporary art at the Hermitage, has had to take a different track, one which has been both more personally difficult and fulfilling than I had expected.  

A few weeks into my internship, I realized that implementing my project per the original plan without going completely rogue was going to be nevozmozhno, impossible. What previously seemed like a fast-paced, ever-changing series of projects revealed itself as a series of events that should have been planned months ago, but were instead hastily assembled four days prior to their official presentation date. We could complain of a lack of helpers, but that would be inverting the truth. There’s no lack of helpers (the museum pumps out visas for students from impressive European universities like clockwork); there’s just no available record of them. So when some of the more determined volunteers do make an attempt to draft a project schedule or add a little logistical infrastructure, they usually become completely overwhelmed with the scale of their endeavor, the difficulty of contacting people, and the list of unfinished projects barreling toward their deadlines. 

Presidents Summer Fellowship 2015: Haley Tilt, Visual Memory and Livy, Part 2

Haley Tilt, '16, Classics, is adventuring in Rome, tracing and chronicling the geography described by the ancient historian Livy. She plans to create a virtual, interactive map of ancient Rome, based on Livy's depictions. 

My last weeks in Rome were glorious. Finally comfortable with the city, I decided it was time to venture out into the other, more remote places Livy discusses. One of these places was the town of Veio, forty minutes North of Rome by car, two or more hours by bus.

On the rolling hills above Veio sleep the remains of Veii, the jewel of ancient Etruscan cities. Now a national park, Veii offers little to a casual tourist group. Once immense, the only area of the city now accessible to visitors is a reconstruction of a temple complex dedicated to Apollo. It’s beautiful, but not what I’m looking for. I’m searching for the cittadella, the citadel of Veii, and the seat of the symbolic power Veii held for Livy. The maps I’m accustomed to in US parks never manifest, so I’m left asking the few locals walking their dogs if they know what I’m looking for. No, they tell me, they don’t know where the cittadella is. Finally I find a woman sitting beside a waterfall, and when I ask her my question, she responds to me in perfect English, peppered with a funny combination of Italian and British sounds. Yes, she knows where it is, and she gives me detailed directions, which I will later botch completely, wandering through the hidden parts of the park. She even knows a version of Veii’s defeat by Rome, decidedly different from the version in Livy.

Citizenship and Legalization in Immigrant Communities: Portland based Immigration Advocacy, McGill Lawrence Internship Award, Francisca Garfia

This summer, McGill Lawrence Internship Award recipient Francisca Garfia, '17, Anthropology, worked with the portland-based immigrant rights organization CAUSA. Read ahead for her impressions:

As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, the struggle for legalization in the immigrant community has been central to my upbringing; I knew entire families who feared the separation of deportation, I had friends who were unable to attend college due to their legal status. This familiarity with the human side of illegal immigration led me to Causa, Oregon’s leading immigrant rights advocacy group. Causa services the Pacific Northwest immigrant community by educating them on their rights and opportunities for legalization. One way they do this is through community workshops; Causa provides access to legal forms and low cost attorneys since the legalization process is complicated and costly. The majority of my summer internship centered on a workshop, which not only served as a way to support the local immigrant community, but also pledged our solidarity to immigrant communities nationwide.

When I began planning this internship, President Obama had recently announced the expansion of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). Immigrants across the nation were abuzz with the news; if enacted, millions of undocumented immigrants would be legalized! However, the celebration was short lived as Texas and other states filed a lawsuit that prevented the implementation of the programs. As a result, immigrant advocacy groups that had hoped to help people become “DACAmented,” now had to focus their efforts on convincing the fifth circuit court that DACA was vital to these communities, and that these individuals were Americans despite their lack of documentation. 

Presidents Summer Fellowship - Art in Italy - Margaret MacLean - Part 2

A walkway between two buildings with plants on either side in partial sun.

The beautiful Cooperativa Barberi.

President's Summer Fellow Margaret MacLean '16, studio art major, is leading art classes for youth with intellectual and developmental challenges at the Cooperativa Barberi in Florence, Italy. Read on for her adventures:

The hardest part of my PSF experience so far has been wrestling with my expectations. The dreaming and planning I did to prepare for Italy was incredibly important but also left me with some lofty ideas about what my summer would look like. My views on all of the things I came here for have shifted. My project has taken a slightly new shape and is far less sparkly and neat than it was in my imagination. I suppose this is to be expected!

First of all, my relationship towards my photography has changed. Usually I feel like my camera gives me the power to enter into spaces and situations that I couldn’t ordinarily. As photographer Diane Arbus said, “the camera is a kind of a license” that allows you to ask more questions and look more carefully than is usually socially acceptable. But in Florence during peak tourist season, with a camera in hand I feel like a tourist, not an artist. When I click the shutter button I feel like I am a part of a tourist culture that takes-takes-takes and gives nothing back. Italy’s biggest industry is tourism and in Florence so many things are constructed purely for tourists to experience and photograph. I don’t know if what I am feeling is genuinely a dislike for this exploitative aspect of photography or simply a form of artistic self-consciousness. Probably a bit of both.

Frankfurt Consulate Public Affairs Internship, McGill Lawrence Internship Award, Nicole Thompson

Nicole Thompson ’16, political science-ICPS major, received the McGill Lawrence Summer Internship Award to work in Geneva as a member of the Frankfurt consulate's Public Affairs team.

It is comically difficult to summarize the events of this summer into a short and legible blog post. Perhaps that is the best way to summarize this adventure.

When I accepted the McGill-Lawrence award, my plan was to work for the US Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany. Two weeks before my departure I was notified that issues with my security clearance meant this was a no-go. Three days later, thanks to the grace of some higher power and the inhuman prowess of our own Brooke Hunter, I had secured a position in Geneva with the WHO. The next morning I received an email congratulating me on my approved security clearance and welcoming me to the Frankfurt consulate's Public Affairs team.

Presidents Summer Fellowship, Nanofluids and Gene Mapping Part 2, Abrar Abidi

For his President's Summer Fellowship, Abrar Abidi ’16, physics major is working in a lab at McGill University in Canada, helping to develop new nanofluid technology to improve DNA mapping methods. Read on for his second blog installment:

On so many warm summer evenings here, red and white flares shoot up on the horizon, hissing as they go, before exploding with a deafening pop, forming a lavish spectacle in the Montreal sky. Often as I sit in my little Victorian-era apartment, sudden bangs and crackles send me rushing out to the roof of my building, so I can look toward the harbor, where on an otherwise forlorn stretch of land, six thousand rockets now fire heavenward in a single night. Yearly, the largest firework festival in the world—a kind of pyrotechnic Olympics—takes place in Montreal throughout the month of July. Groups from countries across the world, with their eyes set on prestigious awards, collect in this city to show off their talents in front of three million people. This year, England won the gold medal, while France took home silver and China, bronze. All this amid a procession of other festivities celebrating jazz and African cultures and circus arts and film and comedy. On the few nights not occupied by these events (and we’re still talking only of July), there are huge live music shows, free to the public, many taking place a two-minute walk from my front door.

The lab is a far quieter and colder place. With vents constantly blowing dry, chilly air on every floor of the building, I’ve taken to swaddling myself in at least three layers. Fortunately, the work I do expunges all my guilt for staying indoors. The opportunity to participate in this lab’s experimental efforts is what lured me to McGill in the first place, and in the previous month, my project has taken on a more experimental flavor. Sara, a good friend and researcher with whom I’ve been working closely since June, gave me the task of analyzing thousands of fluorescence microscopy images, zoomed in so close that a fraction of the width of a single human hair could easily eclipse the viewfinder. Fluorescence microscopy is a remarkable technique, where special dyes are used to stain the object of interest, causing it, when illuminated by a powerful lamp, to cast a vivid, luminous glow, no less dazzling to the eyes than the firework displays I can sometimes see from the lab window. Our microscopes are trained on minuscule nano-devices that Sara very cleverly designed and fabricated. Below the glass cover slip, and within these tiny devices, anywhere from a few dozen to several hundred strands of DNA can be seen drifting here and there, tossed about by Brownian motion, flashing like fireflies in the night. Then, with the flip of a switch, the strands rush toward the centers of a series of equidistant spaces, where they accumulate and extend, resembling a phalanx poised for battle. A dial that controls the frequency of a current sent through the device can manipulate their movement, alternately dispersing and concentrating the DNA. The potential applications for this invention are dizzyingly exciting: nothing less than the technology future generations might use to map entire genomes, at speeds and with accuracies far beyond anything currently possible.

Siegal Salmon Restoration Internship 2015: Garrett Linck, Part 2

Garret Linck is working on habitat conservation and restoration in the California wilderness as the Paul Siegel Salmon Restoration intern.

It’s hard to believe that I only have two and a half weeks left working for the Mendocino Land Trust. I’m nearly finished with one of the largest projects I’ve been working on this summer: a management plan for the Noyo River Redwoods Property. In my last post I mentioned the salmonid habitat surveys I was conducting in the Noyo River with Doug. This property lies along that same river, but further inland in eastern Mendocino county—near the city of Willits. The 426-acre property was purchased for $7.5 million in 2011 by Save the Redwoods League (a non-profit organization that protects and restores coastal Redwood forests), before being sold to the Mendocino Land Trust in 2012. 


Presidents Summer Fellowship, Connecting to Armenian Artists Part 2, Knar Hovakimyan

Working on the ground in Armenia, President’s Summer Fellow Knar Hovakimyan ’16, linguistics major, seeks to introduce Armenian literature to English-speaking communities through poetry translation.

I just finished unpacking back home in LA. When I opened my suitcase, I was greeted by the faint smell of khorovats (Armenian barbecue) in my clothes: the pants that I wore to harvest apricots at my uncle's, the sweater I wore to Lake Sevan on a stormy day. I removed the large number of books I had managed to fit in my suitcase: I remembered discussions with poets at different cafes, afternoons I spent scouring through several volumes to pick which poems I wanted to translate, the look of the books scattered across our apartment all month. My sunscreen spilled all over everything; I had completely neglected to use it on our sightseeing side-trip to Khor Virap, Noravank, Tatev and Karahunj. My purse was crushed way at the bottom of the suitcase, water-stained from the day strangers poured three buckets of water on my head in celebration of Vardavar.


Summer School at McCoy Academy, McGill Lawrence Internship Award, Kelli Collins

Kelli Collins '15, McGill Lawrence Internship Award recipient, is teaching summer school to econmically disadvantaged youth through the Portland-based nonprofit Oregon Outreach.

Teaching at McCoy Academy has been fun, challenging, rewarding, and eye opening. I went into this experience hoping to learn how to effectively educate youth who come from difficult, often at-risk backgrounds. I've realized that many of the teachers who devote themselves to this demographic spend decades asking themselves these same questions and learning more every day about the teaching methods that are most and least effective. 


Presidents Summer Fellowship, Art in Italy, Margaret MacLean

President's Summer Fellow Margaret MacLean, '16, studio art major, is leading art classes for youth with intellectual and developmental challenges at the Cooperativa Barberi in Florence, Italy. Read on for her adventures:

Today I ran down an “up” escalator with my stomach full of mozzarella and espresso. Honestly, this is a pretty good metaphor for how the last month and a half has been for me in Italy: exhilarating, frustrating, accompanied by plenty of moving backwards, and success only after a big leap of faith. And always after eating a little more than I thought I could!

The weather in Florence is almost unbearably hot and humid but I am getting used to it. I spend my mornings in Italian class and my afternoons volunteering in art therapy or exploring the city. I drink at least two espresso a day, speak only Italian at home, and I am slowly cooking my way through a Tuscan cookbook. I work in the garden with my host nonna (grandmother). I practice my landscape sketching on the banks of the Arno and in various piazze (plazas) around the city. When I get homesick and/or overheated I watch American movies dubbed in Italian at the foreign movie theatre. I am loving my volunteer work, my students, and the new friends I have made here.

We Love Clean Rivers Environmental Stewardship Internship: McGill Lawrence Internship Award, Joshua Tsang

Recipient of the McGill Lawrence Internship Award, Joshua Tsang '18, is combating water pollution through water quality monitering of rivers around Portland with the nonprofit organization We Love Clean Rivers.

Hands-on and Hands-off River Scrubbing:

Davis Project for Peace, Celebrity Nyikadzino: Sewing and self reliance in Chivhu, Zimbabwe,

A Stitch in Time

This summer I am at home in Chivhu, Zimbabwe, implementing a sewing project, which we named A step toward hope— Education and self reliance. With the help of a local teacher, my family, and various community members, we are teaching 16 primary-age children how to sew. In addition to that we are also teaching them business skills as well as fostering a good environment for friendship making. Poverty is a major threat to peace in my village, and the main aim of this project is to alleviate the effects of poverty and to make sure the children stay in school. We hope that at the end of the day, the children can competently take care of themselves as well as help others in need.         

Prior to the start of the project in mid-June, there was great interest in taking part in the project. To my chagrin, the headmistress of Chivhu Primary had already identified and recommended more than 70 students who could benefit from it.  These children come from low-income families and more than half of them were orphaned. This situation was really hard since at most we could only accommodate 15 children. We eventually decided to choose the children based on academic skill, and also weighing who had the most probability of dropping out of school. We ended up with 16 of the least academically gifted children in the reasoning that they will be able to sustain themselves in the event that they fail in school. Four of these were currently not in school at all.

Youth Organizations Umbrella, McGill Lawrence Internship Award, Olivia Kilgore

Recipient of the McGill Lawrence Internship Award, Olivia Kilgore '16, is teaching cultural connections and slam poetry to classes to Middle School Youth in Evanston, Illinois. 

Youth Organizations Umbrella is a youth development non-profit organization that serves youth in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago.  This summer, I have the privilege of facilitating classes for an eight-week summer program to middle school students in Evanston.  As a staff member of Y.O.U., I promote positive youth development. The strategy encompasses the idea that empowering youth through supporting their voices and ideas enables them to resist negative factors and be successful in all areas of their lives. 

The summer program incorporates seven main elements: life skills (civic leadership & cultural connections, health & nutrition, healthy relationships & sexual health), electives (arts/drama/lit, sports & fitness, STEM), structured play & team building activities, field trips, supportive adult relationships, family engagement and mental health counseling/crisis intervention.

Presidents Summer Fellowship, Nanofluids and Gene Mapping, Abrar Abidi

For his President's Summer Fellowship, Abrar Abidi ’16, physics major is working in a lab at McGill University in Canada, helping to develop new nanofluid technology to improve DNA mapping methods.

A chemist who had close friendships with both Albert Einstein and Ernest Rutherford was once asked to share his recollections of the two men. In response, he explained:

“[Einstein] always spoke to me of Rutherford in the highest terms, calling him a second Newton. As scientists the two men were contrasting types—Einstein all calculation, Rutherford all experiment… There was no doubt that as an experimenter Rutherford was a genius, one of the greatest. He worked by intuition and everything he touched turned to gold. He had a sixth sense.”

Presidents Summer Fellowship, Modeling Fluid Dynamics, Qiaoyu Yang

President’s Summer Fellow Qiaoyu Yang ’16, mathematics major, is testing a probabilistic particle model for studying fluid dynamics with Prof. Aleksandar Donev at the Courant Institute in New York City.

After finishing my study abroad program in Moscow, I flew to NYC on May 23rd. The weather is terribly hot here. It took me two days to settle down and then I went to meet my supervisor, Prof. Aleksandar Donev, in the Courant Institute.

Courant is really amazing. It’s a leading center for research and education in applied mathematical science, as well as in computational and some fields of pure math. There are researchers working on different areas of mathematical science, such as computational biology, fluid dynamics, mathematical finance, and so on. Prof. Donev is working on computational physics and chemistry, so my project is also closely related to these two subjects.

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