The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Reed College President’s Summer Fellowship

The 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.

President's Summer Fellowship Winners

Reed is proud to announce the latest winners of the President’s Summer Fellowship for 2017.

Grace Alarcon ’19, Comparative Literature
Sounds of Home: Salsa, Space, and Identity Formation

Salsa music has been one of the greatest mediums through which Latin American culture and artists have been able to construct their identities in relation to each other and to the United States. I aim to study the development of salsa and how these artists created a sense of Latinidad by way of producing a new sound based on Afro-Cuban rhythms and lyrics about home and migration. By visiting museums and libraries, speaking with scholars studying this music and with people who are a part of these communities, I hope to gain more insight into the Golden Age of Salsa and how these artists shaped Latinidad and fashioned a nostalgic image of a transnational Latin American home. I will visit New York City and various cities throughout Puerto Rico hoping to learn more about how these physical places influenced the sounds and lyrics of some of my favorite songs. I will compile images, recordings, and quotes from readings and interviews on a blog through which I will explore questions of transnational and local identity, appropriation, assimilation, cultural exchange, intersectionality, and how these two places have both influenced and been influenced by each other through salsa.

Josh Byron Cox ’18, English 


In “How It Feels to be Colored Me,” Zora Neale Hurston writes, “I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background.” My project—to write a collection of poems—is inspired by Hurston’s words, which have informed my experience as a black man at Reed. My initial culture shock revealed the nuances of my blackness and raised questions: What does my blackness mean to me? To others? My project is about how different contexts—majority white, mixed, and majority black—influence how I perceive my blackness and how this affects my overall sense of self. I will travel to and live in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, my mother’s birthplace, for 6-8 weeks. As a first-generation American, the Caribbean has affected me significantly, and with its cultures, people, and environs as a filter, I will explore my relationship to blackness. Then invoking my Caribbean roots and the unfamiliar experience of being in a black space, I will write a series of poems describing my shifting sense of identity. These poems will be juxtaposed with older ones to create a collection that chronicles how immersion in blackness differs from my experience at Reed and in New York.

Sophia Ellingson ’18, English 

Writing the Queer Identity: A Creative Study of Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group

How are queer identities constructed and expressed through writing? In their rejection of Victorian heteronormativity and rigid gender roles, Virginia Woolf and her Bloomsbury contemporaries sought to answer this question for themselves. Their stories are told through the purple ink of Virginia’s love letters to Vita Sackville-West, Lytton Strachey, and Dora Carrington’s photo album, as well as various memoirs, manuscripts and diary entries. This summer, I will travel to archives in Cambridge, London, and New York City to reconstruct an intimate history of these authors. From this informed silhouette, I will write short stories: some from the perspective of Woolf’s Sapphist lover, some occupying my own identity as a queer, feminist writer. Drawing on Woolf’s emphasis on space and locality, I will include the sensory detail of England’s natural, urban and cultural landscapes in my writing. Through my archival work and storytelling, I seek to shed light on the narratives of one specific queer history and how it has helped to carve space for the construction and expression of those identities today.

Siena Fox ’19, English
Deconstructing Gender-Based Violence in Mt. Vernon, New York 

This coming summer, I will intern at My Sister’s Place, a nonprofit domestic violence law firm in Mount Vernon, NY, just outside of Manhattan. Over winter break, I had the chance to shadow at this firm and was asked to return this summer, an opportunity usually reserved for law students. This summer, I will attend court; support clients in preparing financial disclosure affidavits; assist through research and outreach; prepare motions, exhibits, affidavits, client files, and trial files; directly interview Spanish-speaking clients; and perform other means of Spanish interpreting and translating. My Sister’s Place strives to eliminate intimate-partner violence and combat the impacts of domestic violence and human trafficking. I will work under Beth Levy, Senior Associate Counsel of My Sister’s Place, to help fight against gender-based violence.

Eliotte Garling ’18, Biology 

Unveiling the Connection Between Seizures and Learning Disability in Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy Syndrome

This summer I will be doing translational research at The Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry at Tel Aviv University, Israel. This research will explore the connection between seizures and intellectual disability in severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy (Dravet) syndrome. Dravet syndrome is a rare epileptic encephalopathy caused by a mutation that affects the voltage-gated sodium channels (Nav1.1) in the central nervous system. In most cases, children develop normally during the first year of life without any early onset symptoms and then suddenly develop severe and chronic seizures. Following the onset of seizures, children quickly experience marked cognitive decline, which leads to mental retardation and social impairment. Currently, the causal relationship between the severe seizures and the other co-morbidities of Dravet Syndrome, including intellectual disability, are not well understood. Therefore, I will be investigating the molecular and neuronal basis of Dravet Syndrome to understand the causal relationship between chronic seizures and the co-morbidities of Dravet Syndrome.

Luke Maskarinec, ’18 History
The Politics and History of Water in the Sonoran Desert

Growing up in the arid Sonoran Desert, I learned a range of meanings for the water I encountered: it was precious, scarce, expensive—and essential. When I moved to Portland, I learned to think about water in new ways. I learned that Oregon, like Arizona, was in the midst of a historic drought; in a class on water history, I learned about the complex politics of water; and I realized that the tap water I had taken for granted as child was in fact a product of great labor and unbelievable faith, and stunning hubris. This summer, I will return to the Sonoran Desert to create a documentary film about the contradictions, contestations, and challenges that surround the use and distribution of water. I hope to examine the complex politics of water allocation, conducting interviews not only with the policymakers who shape and control the flow of this resource, but also with those whose lives and livelihoods depend on its continued existence and distribution. Along the way, I will explore my own relationship to the desert, and to the increasingly scarce supply of water that brings life to the Southwest.

Sarah Nixon, ’19 Environmental Studies

Why We Laugh: A History of Black Masculinity in Black Comedy

In every stage of my life, there have been black boys who used their comedy as a superpower against a world that didn't want to see them in it. Isaiah, Antoine, Zeandae, Josh. They glided by socially, even if they suffered academically for it, and took their cues from a seemingly endless stream of popular black male comedians. Once a centuries-old tool for healing and dissent in the black community, in the past century, African American comedy has come to be exercised by black men in distinct ways in the United States across two worlds. On the one hand, black male comedians have achieved increasing crossover appeal since the days of Bert Williams, but on the other, there remain black comedic forms that are insular to the black American community. This summer, I will travel to the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, the Schomburg Center, the Library of Congress, and the UCLA Film & Television Archive to understand the history of black American comedy and its relationship to black masculinity. After constructing my own understanding of the deep history, I will synthesize my analysis of this ever-evolving story of coming to be a (funny) (black) (man) in an essay.

Moliere Xu, Philosophy ’19

Humanity, Action and Integrity: Documenting Philosophy in Greece

Philosophy could be crafted with humanistic necessity and ethical sensitivity. I propose a summer project that has two major elements to it: one, an intensive Philosophy of Action and Knowledge seminar with College Year in Athens, and two, a philosophy documentary, Documenting Philosophy, which will take place in Athens itself. I will also spend three weeks volunteering in a refugee camp to figure out how practical actions transform theoretical establishment. The study seminar is a valuable asset to both my coming years at Reed, and to my future in the field of philosophy. The opportunity to undertake documentary project work in the home city of Greek philosophy is a union between academic and creative pursuits that will attempt to bridge what I have learned in the classroom with what I encounter on the streets. My documentary of philosophy is not going to be another archive used for research materials, philosophical periodicals or academic journals. It is a realist move taken away from the mere abstraction of argumentation and into the light of challenge.


Previous winners