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Reed College Provides Extraordinary Opportunities for Summer Fellows


Portland, Ore--The Reed College President’s Summer Fellowship offers students a chance to think big and tackle a summer project that combines intellectual pursuit, imagination, adventure, personal transformation, and service to the greater good. The program was established in 2012 with a gift from trustee Dan Greenberg ’62 and Susan Steinhauser and inaugurated by President John R. Kroger, who wanted to ensure that students had an avenue for following their academic passions over the summer months.

From a highly competitive field of creative proposals, the fellowship committee at Reed has selected eight outstanding projects for the summer of 2014.

This year’s fellows will investigate topics including exploring alternative power supplies; creating a documentary film on Eritrean refugees; and cracking the Chinese government’s training techniques for badminton. With the $5,000 stipend, the select students will follow their curiosity and passions to Appalachia; London England; Uganda; Italy; and Kathmandu.

Winta Yohannes ’15, psychology major, has partnered with the Center for Intercultural Organizing to make a documentary film on the plight of the Eritrean refugees that centralizes on last year’s tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea. Italian fishermen, afraid of being prosecuted for aiding illegal immigrants, watched as more than 300 Eritreans drowned less than a kilometer away from shore after their boat caught fire and capsized. “I will interview Eritrean refugees in Uganda, Italy, and the United States. Being an Eritrean immigrant myself, I will explore the diaspora within my own family and demonstrate how film can be a medium for promoting social justice,” said Yohannes. She plans to share the documentary with the Portland community.

Nicholas Irvin ’15, physics major, hopes to harness the largely untapped potential of wind and water to generate power. He will travel to Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory in Minneapolis, Minnesota to examine the fluid dynamics of waves and wind. “Unfortunately, scientists do not understand fluids as well as they understand solids or gases; thus, we cannot fully harness the energy of fluids until we better understand their flow,” he wrote in his proposal. Irvin plans to share his findings with Portland students to inspire them to dedicate their educational quest to help find alternatives to fossil fuels as a power source. 

Johnny Mendoza ’15, biochemistry major, wants to cut down on waste in chemistry classrooms. This summer he’ll work in the classroom/lab of Reed alumna Dr. Julia Robinson-Surry ’06 at Bard High School Early College Queens in New York City, where he’ll construct environmentally-conscious organic chemistry experiments for her early-college students. If his summer goes as planned, the Reed tandem will submit their findings to the Journal of Chemical Education. “The goal of this project is to get me thinking like a green chemist, while giving other aspiring chemists the opportunity to do the same,” said Mendoza.

Maddy Wagar ’16, psychology major, wants to give prisoners a voice through her photojournalism project at the Campus Within Walls College Program located at the Lunenburg Correctional Center in Virginia. “I believe that every person has a story—and also has a right to tell that story and be heard,” said Wagar. “Prisoners in our society tend to be dehumanized and cast aside, effectively silenced as a result of being judged based upon their criminal history. I intend to create the space for prisoners to share their stories, and be recognized for their full and complex humanity.” Her project will focus on inmates who are working toward self- and life-improvement.

As commercially made pots become easily available to the Newa culture in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal, the tradition of creating ceramic earthenware is being lost. Religion major Briana Foley ’15, plans to spend the summer in Old Thimi, a small community in Kathmandu. “I plan to live among the traditional potters and farmers known as Prajapati and learn to throw pots myself,” said Foley. She hopes to learn their craft, document the potters’ techniques and catalogue and photograph their traditional pots.

Biology major Katie Halloran ’15, hopes to improve her mandolin skills while living in Asheville, North Carolina as she investigates how playing music builds community. Specifically, she is exploring bluegrass as “it transcends social boundaries like age and class and brings together people from radically different backgrounds,” she said. Katie hopes to have gained the musical chops to support a bluegrass jam upon returning to Reed.

“Scientific knowledge is never produced in a vacuum,” said John Young ’15, history major, in his proposal. Last summer, while riffling through the voluminous work of the influential 19th-century naturalist Robert Swinhoe, Young found no hint that Swinhoe was a member of the British diplomatic corps in China and Taiwan. Young wants to better understand Swinhoe’s scientific work while learning about the man as a historical actor who was shaped British imperialism. Young will travel to the London National Archives to retrieve Swinhoe’s consular records. “Then I will pore over the documents, analyzing them closely and adding my findings to a study of Swinhoe’s natural history,” said Young.

Badminton is something of an afterthought on the US sports’ landscape, but in China it carries huge cultural and political import. Chris Stasse ’16, history major, hopes to explore first-hand the teaching techniques the Chinese government has developed to train its top players, while seeking to understand how badminton has become a source of Chinese national pride. “As a life-long lover of the sport, I am eager to hone my racquet skills in addition to broadening my understanding of Chinese language and culture. I hope to return with insights and experience to expand the Reed Badminton Club and continue coaching at the Portland Badminton Club,” said Stasse.