President’s Summer Fellows Join Hands for 2017

Luke Maskarinec ’18, President John Kroger, and Siena Fox ’19 talk about service work and summer plans.
Photo by Leah Nash & Christopher Onstott

Reed is proud to announce the latest winners of the President’s Summer Fellowship: eight outstanding projects that combine intellectual pursuit, imagination, adventure, personal transformation, and service to the greater good.

Inaugurated by President John R. Kroger, with generous support from trustee Dan Greenberg ’62 and his wife, Susan Steinhauser, the fellowship attracts scores of creative proposals each year. The winners will be awarded $5,000 each to pursue their projects during summer 2017. Here they describe their projects in their own words.

Sophia Ellingson

Sophia Ellingson ’18

Writing the Queer Identity: Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group

Sophia Ellingson ’18, English

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.

Eliotte-Garling ’18

Eliotte-Garling ’18

Seizures, Intellectual Disability, and Dravet Syndrome

Eliotte Garling ’18, biology

This summer I will be doing translational research at The Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry at Tel Aviv University Hospital in Israel. This research will explore the connection between seizures and intellectual disability in severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy, also known as Dravet syndrome. Dravet syndrome is a rare epileptic encephalopathy caused by a mutation that affects the voltage-gated sodium channels (Nav) 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, recurrent seizures, and social impairment. Recent research has demonstrated that chronic seizures and mental decline may develop as independent events, leaving doctors at a loss for how to most effectively treat their patients. The overall goal of this research is to tease apart the symptoms of Dravet syndrome so that doctors will be able to develop a better method for caring for Dravet affected infants.

Against Gender-Based Violence

Siena Fox ’19, English

This summer, I will intern at My Sister’s Place, a nonprofit domestic violence law firm in Mount Vernon, NY, just outside 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. 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.

Salsa and the Formation of Latinx Identity

Grace Alarcon ’19, comparative literature

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

Josh Byron-Cox ’18


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.

Sarah Nixon ’19

Sarah Nixon ’19

Black Masculinity in Black Comedy

Sarah Nixon ’19, environmental studies

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 ’19

Moliere Xu ’19

How to Do Philosophy with Documentary

Moliere Xu ’19, philosophy

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.

The Contradictions of Water in the Sonoran Desert

Luke Maskarinec ’18, history

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, 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.