Reed Community

President's Summer Fellows Named

Eight students win awards to pursue summer projects.

By Katie Pelletier ’03 | May 4, 2018

Congratulations to the eight students who each won a 2018 President's Summer Fellowship. Their research will take them around the world including Zimbabwe, the Salish Sea, Poland, and Paris. The fellowship program, now in its sixth year, was inaugurated by President John Kroger and established with a generous gift from trustee Dan Greenberg ’62 and Susan Steinhauser. The fellows each receive $5000 to undertake 8-10 week summer projects that combine intellectual pursuit, imagination, adventure, personal transformation, and service to the greater good. Read on for more about their endeavors in their own words. 

Meeting the Black Madonna

Alystair Augustin ’19, Anthropology

Historically and contemporarily, Poles have situated themselves as separate from blackness. A common narrative is that racism cannot exist in Poland because there were never enough black people for systemic inequalities to develop against. Growing up, I was never told that my blackness could be found in my Polishness. I now know that the black subject is, in fact, visible in Polish history, particularly in artistic depictions. Most significant is that of Our Lady of Czestochowa, a Black Madonna and Poland’s most sacred religious icon. This image of the Virgin Mary is so crucial to Polish identity that Polish immigrants built a shrine including a replication of the Black Madonna in the U.S. Through my research I will explore Polish relations to Blackness, especially regarding Catholicism, art, and national identity. I will see how I, as a half Black, Polish American fit into this dynamic. My trip will culminate in pilgrimage to both icons of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

The Black Urban Narrative

Simue Isabel ’18, Economics

The United Nations recently visited the state of Alabama and deemed it a developing area within developed nation. Yet Alabama is not altogether a demographic or socio-economic anomaly. America’s political economy is built on the historical devaluation of black labor reinforced by recent public policy measures in federal legislature that have legalized ethically inequitable business behaviors and mandate discriminatory practices. I will travel to Atlanta, New Orleans, and Miami documenting the effects of these collective and geographic memories on present day urban blacks by collecting oral histories. After using census data and public records to empirically document the dissimilarities and similarities between black urban lived socio-economic experiences. I will analyze how economic decisions around urbanization in the past encourage the erasure of narrative history in the present. My project is to create an economic ethnography of Black southern history exploring how policy measures have used “creative destruction” and gentrification as tools resulting in the cultural erasure of Black southern history. Film and photography framed my own first encounters with black countercultural knowledge of a subjugated history, and I plan to document the lived realties of urban blacks using this precedent.

Investigating the Preservation of Shona Mbira Music among Zimbabwean Youth

Anesu Ndoro ’21, Anthropology

Discussions surrounding the “preservation” of traditional Zimbabwean music have recently become common talk in ethnomusicology and anthropology, beginning as early as the 1930’s under ethnomusicologists like Hugh Tracey. To this end today, organizations in and outside of Zimbabwe such as the Mbira Center in Harare, the International Library of African Music (ILAM) in Grahamstown , and several others, have been founded to accomplish the agenda of "preserving" the centuries old music. But what does it mean to “preserve” a cultural practice? How do ethnomusicologists tell the difference between cultures that are dying and cultures that are changing? And why is there a panic that the younger generation of Zimbabweans is becoming increasingly unfamiliar with Shona traditional music in spite of efforts to preserve it? My project will focus on how Zimbabwean and non-Zimbabwean parties answer these questions in light of their preservation efforts and the younger generation of Zimbabweans. I intend to visit ILAM in South Africa, which has the biggest collection of African instruments, and interview Hugh Tracey’s son Andrew and grandson Geoffrey. I also plan to visit Zimbabwe’s national archives, galleries, culture centers and interview the traditional Shona mbira artists, who play the music in its cultural context.

Finding the Dancer-Self

Kiara Piazza ’19, Economics

The culture of dance in Chicago is a unifying force among young women of color. For me, dance started as a passion that I could explore in an informal setting, but it is difficult to imagine a path that would allow me to transform this passion into an artwork that I could make a living off of. I am inspired by other women of color who have greater racial, economic, and gendered obstacles in their way, who have or are trying to sustain and empower themselves in the city. I will spend two months in Chicago taking lessons from local black and brown female dancers, documenting my progress in their style of dance, talking with them about their journey in dance. I will develop a map and directory that makes supporting black and brown owned female artists in Chicago more accessible and nuanced than a google search which says, "Hip Hop lessons in Chicago".

Aging Off the Grid in British Columbia

Hannah Rosenthal ’19, Economics

I will spend ten weeks on an isolated island in the Salish Sea, learning and documenting what it means to live—and grow old—off the grid. Lasqueti Island is a bastion of counter-culture and self-reliance, with a rich ecological, social and economic history. Once a haven for draft dodgers and alternative lifestyle seekers, this eccentric community of artists, homesteaders, and hermits is steadily aging: two-thirds are over fifty. I will explore what it means to live without access to electrical and water utilities and comprehensive health services, and how communities adapt their physical and social infrastructure to address their changing needs. While there is long-standing cultural and academic interest in life off the grid, I will write a critical anthropological essay on what aging and death off the grid mean to the community. I will focus on Lasqueti’s new community-built and -funded healthcare center, which gives residents an alternative to moving back onto the grid for healthcare, thereby avoiding painful choices between longevity and quality in the final stages of life. To complement my intellectual inquiry, I will compile a journal of prose, poetry, and paintings reflecting my experiences and sense of place on Lasqueti.

Investigative Journalism in Paris

Shea Seery ’20, Comparative Literature

I am pursuing journalism because it combines my writing abilities, people skills, intellectual curiosity, love of languages, and desire to use the power of knowledge to spark action and bring about positive change. This summer I will collaborate with two journalists from Le Monde Diplomatique, a Paris-based progressive newspaper offering in-depth analysis on politics, culture, and world affairs. I will shadow editor-in-chief Halimi to learn about how a large-scale paper functions, from finding leads to editing. Halimi and journalist Hélène Richard will guide me on an independent research project in which I will be investigating the U.S. role, both covert and overt, in Russian politics. My research will include examining recently released documents, memoirs and articles; conducting interviews; and writing up findings and analysis, all in both French and English. I will use my research to write my own analytical articles and contribute to Halimi’s and Richard’s work as journalists. I will also write short essays on my insights and take photos to comprehensively record and reflect. This experience will enable me to use the critical thinking instilled at Reed; hone my language skills; learn about complex global events; and explore my pursued profession of journalism.

Uncovering the Origin of the Foundational Hand through Calligraphic Research and Practice

Oona Sullivan Marcus ’19, Physics

When I arrived at Reed as a physics major, I never expected to become so absorbed with studying calligraphy. Through Reed’s Scriptorium program, I have developed a fascination with letterforms and a love for the italic hand, which, thanks to the influence of Reed’s own Lloyd Reynolds, was the first script I ever learned. In calligraphic communities outside the Northwest, a script developed by Edward Johnston, the father of modern calligraphy, is the starting point for studying letterforms. This script is called the foundational hand, and it is the focus of my research. This summer, I will travel to archives in San Francisco, London, and Ditchling in order to study work by Johnston and his students, notes from Johnston’s classes, and the 10th century manuscript that inspired Johnston’s creation of the script. Along the way, I will also spend time working closely with experienced calligraphers in order to solidify my practice of the foundational hand. I plan to produce a handmade book compiling the notes from my research as well as teaching materials, which I will share with calligraphers at Reed and beyond.

Following the Footpath of Identity:  A Creative Exploration of the Pacific Northwest

Jordan Witt ’19, English

I was lucky enough to grow up in Portland; I spent my childhood summers camping in evergreen forests, collecting seashells on misty coastal mornings, and bicycling around my hometown. As an adult, I have developed an academic interest in how physical locations influence the people who live in them and the community, culture, and monuments they build. This summer I will pursue these two passions by traveling around the Pacific Northwest, exploring landmarks and small towns alike, compiling historical research and photographs which I will use to write a collection of 6-8 creative short stories inspired by the sights, sounds, and narratives of the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, I plan to maintain a blog that will document my research, photography, and thoughts throughout the writing process. Through my work, I aim to explore and express the unique geographic and atheistic landscapes of my home while studying the complexities of local identity in the Pacific Northwest.

Tags: Cool Projects, Students