Student Life Blog
Posts from students about life on the hill.
“It’s always a fun day at the farm,” I exclaimed to chemistry professor Todd Smith, who was coordinating work on the farm for community service day in October. As someone who has been very much involved in community service, I looked forward to getting my hands dirty again. So, I grabbed a shovel and started pulling weeds from the garden beds. One by one. Bunch by bunch. We were done by the afternoon. Everything looked clean, ready to plant our winter cover crop.
But the thing about community service is not what you give but what you get. First is the sense of community belonging. It was not just me, but each and every person who was helping out with the farm. We all were there because we cared for the community, and that is a very enriching experience. Becoming a part of the bigger picture, and realizing it is a contribution for something meaningful is a transcendent experience.
Another thing I’ve discovered about community service is that you become more compassionate for your environment. Every task that we were given, all of us fulfilled with the utmost care and diligence. Everyone felt that we had accomplished something significant to improve the campus. The tasks we were handed were not very daunting, or difficult, or prestigious, but the companionship that we experienced made our tasks seem important..
The entire point of community service is to connect and grow. While some of us were singing songs, some were ranting about politics, and others were just enjoying the breeze together. Each one of us had a story to tell and someone to listen. Working in community helped us connect and grow together, make a few new friends, and learn so many new things.
As a computer science enthusiast, it’s always a fun time to learn more about it from my peers. In my quest I came across a presentation by Nick Creel ’20 (he/him/his), who is also my Computer Science tutor. Last summer, Nick had the opportunity to work at a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Rochester, and this was the topic of his presentation. His particular REU was titled “Computational Methods for Understanding Music, Media and Minds,” an interdisciplinary research opportunity involving the fields of computer science and music.
In his presentation, Nick said that he was working to “make computers listen to music, using various algorithm techniques.” He applied some tools called computer audition and audio discourse alignment to make that happen, using data from sheet music and live performances. Practically speaking, while artists are playing live music, a computer can change the light settings according to the notes that are being played using these tools. This seemed intriguing, but what really excited me was Nick’s REU experience.
As Nick explained, REUs are much more independent and project-based than working in a classroom, and take place in a multi-faceted setting. Usually you are picking up on work done by your predecessors, hence challenging your best learning abilities. His experience includes working with graduate students, but there is no hierarchy in such a working environment and everyone is treated equally. Everyone faces the same hurdles and challenges that they need to overcome.
Nick’s advice to people like me, who are looking for REUs, was to start looking early. He also believes that you should be applying to a field that you are passionate about, and one where you could stay dedicated. Nick said that his academics at Marlboro were a huge benefit for him while he was at the lab. He asserted that Marlboro’s encouragement for independent learning assisted him a lot, giving him a slight advantage over his peers, not to mention the excellent support provided by Marlboro faculty. After learning from Nick’s experience, I am looking forward to investigating REUs aligned with my own interests soon.
Once a week I spend a couple of hours trying to stab my classmates.
I’m a part of the historical fencing club at Marlboro College. On Tuesday evenings we get together to learn techniques, practice our form, and of course stab each other. All in good fun!
We start off with a lesson. First how to stand, then advancing and retreating, how to move towards and away from your opponent. Then parries—how to block an attack—and voids: how parry, dodge, then counter attack. Parries have eight positions—prime, seconde, tierce, quarte, quinte, sixte, septime, and octave (or first through eighth, in English)—the first four of which we use in our lessons. They differ by what position you’re holding your sword to best deflect an oncoming attack. My favorite so far is the prime parry, because it tends to be the most difficult and awkward to learn, so it’s quite satisfying to master it.
Then the fun part, sparring. We start off with a game of Bear Pit, where one player is the “bear,” and the other players line up to spar against them. Any nonfatal “injuries” the bear receives, such as a hit to an arm or leg, renders that limb useless. The bear keeps these injuries, match after match, until they are killed by one of the opponents. If you can forget your compassion for bears for a moment, it’s always hilarious to see a “bear” who’s lost all their limbs except one arm, kneeling on the floor to fight. It can also be quite intimidating to actually fight that bear, both since you’re forced to play offense and because it’s easy for them to stab up at your torso.
I remember my first time in a bear pit. It was during my Bridges trip, titled Fun and Games. The OP Director Nick Katrick was the bear, and I was utterly annihilated. He started off with a cape as a side arm, waving it like a torero to distract me. He kept the point of his sword near the ground, which I thought was odd because it would be easier for me to see his attack coming. I was wrong. He was so fast that he could flick his wrist and stab me right in the face before I could even think to move. We eventually got him on both knees and one-handed and he was still taking us all out one by one.
Sparring with historically appropriate weaponry is a fun way to take a break from school work and burn off my latest comfort food. Best of all, my friends are good sports about my stabbing them.
When I first heard the word ‘improv’, I’ll be honest, I really did not know what it meant. However my first improv experience at Marlboro was something that I’ll cherish. On one of our first evenings the first-year students piled into a bus to the New England Youth Theater in Brattleboro. Being a small class we were all already acquainted with one another, but we were about to get to know each other much better.
The only thing that I was told about improv was to follow the “Yes, And” rule. Meaning that everything has to be followed by something. First we had to introduce ourselves. Sounds pretty simple. Right? But there’s always a catch. We had to follow it by producing an action with our name. It was all up to us, we just had to use our creativity and imagination. Some made a wavy sound, some gave a thunderous beat to their name. Some just flicked their hair. I, on the other hand, with my overly dramatic ideas, just went to the floor with my knees and waved my hands while shouting my name. I’m glad that I did not injure my leg with all the action.
Next we played a very fun game called ‘What are you doing?’ We were all in a circle, and the person to your left does something that their predecessor told them. And then you ask them, “What are you doing?” They can say anything but the thing that they are doing—it has to be completely different. For instance, there was one person who acted as if they were suffering from a case of poisoning, and when asked what they were doing, they replied “I’m a fish swimming in a pond.” When one of my friends told me, “I’m attacking Russia in the winter,” I acted out that, in freezing cold, I marched towards Russia.
Then we played something called ‘the sculpture game,’. In the sculpture game some of us recreated the iconic ‘Titanic Pose’. We followed it by ‘hitchhiker,’ and finally ‘boss vs. employee.’ Sorry to say that, despite my awesome excuses, I was fired from the job even though I was just trying to save my friend who was late to work. I must say we have some pretty talented actors in our bunch, and I really enjoyed the entire experience.
In early October, Marlboro College celebrated Home Days, a weekend when visiting alumni, families, and prospective students arrived on campus to a foggy autumn mountainscape. It was the peak of fall foliage, and Marlboro’s beautiful campus was dotted with gourds, apples, and campus tours. People came from near and far, and a table was set up to welcome alumni with graduation years ranging from 1956 to 2013. Returning or visiting, everyone arrived to campus the first day to see something unfamiliar. Marlboro College changes with each incoming class, and whether it is a new building or a new book in the library, there were new things to explore everywhere.
The day’s events began with a poetry workshop led by Cate Marvin DuPont ’93. From there everyone moved to lunch, and different activities such as lawn games, the climbing wall, and enjoying fresh-pressed apple cider on the front lawn. Then, everyone regrouped and marched to a young alumni pane, or a talk by President Kevin for returning alumni. Both talks dealt with the school’s recent standing academically, financially, and generally. Everyone then gathered in Persons auditorium for a memorial to Bob Engel, the late and dearly-loved biology professor. The day ended with a warm dinner, a “big dumb dance party,” and campfires. Unfortunately, the scheduled and much anticipated soccer game the following day was rained out.
With alumni, family, and prospective students roaming the campus, everyone brought their individual opinions and experiences with the college. Prospective student Linnae D’Auria said, “I did a summer program… Something about the environment just felt right- like home.” She was touring the campus, and had briefly stopped into the campus store.
For a visiting alumni though, Marlboro really is a kind of home. Carla Fogg, a class of ’94 alumni, was admiring the ways the college had changed since her time. Specifically, she stated how amazed she was by how much modern technology has integrated itself throughout the campus. Still, she said, “The campus is still beautiful, and the dining hall hasn’t changed much. There are certainly more cups!”
Isn’t that the way of Marlboro College? Anybody who knows Marlboro recognizes the celebration of radical traditionalism here. That the school is still recognizable enough with the same goals years later, but still accepting and conscious of the evolving needs of it’s growing community really speaks to that. Hopefully next year’s Home Day’s will be as successful and fun for all, and everyone will come back with a readiness to visit Marlboro College as a past, potential, or current home. Whatever the case may be, we here at Marlboro College welcome visitors with open arms and fresh-pressed apple cider!
Starting this year, First Year Forum was introduced as a way to help integrate new students into Marlboro College’s unique community. Launched by Catherine O’Callaghan, assistant dean of academic support and advisins, and Jeremy Holch, director of academic support services, the program was designed with the acknowledgement that starting college, whether it be straight from high school, or as a transfer student, can be pretty difficult. Spread out over a semester in ten sessions, the program covers several important subjects for new students, including college policies, time-management, and resources available on campus. Sessions are run by various other peer advisors, faculty, and staff, who bring their own insight into what would be helpful to new students. First Year Forum provides easy access to answers to whatever questions new students may have, and new connections that are helpful to furthering success in the Marlboro community.
During the most recent meeting, Jeremy gave a short, yet concise, presentation on time-management and planning. With the busy lives of college students in mind, the presentation provided examples of well-structured schedules, and advice on making sure there was always enough time to get everything done. There were even some laughs as the presentation ended with a picture of Jeremy’s dog, Lexi, his “alarm clock.” After the talk, students were provided with tools to help organize their own schedules. We left with the realization that although college life can feel overwhelming, it can be managed through less stressful means.
Apart from imparting wisdom to new students, First Year Forum also provides a way for students to leave their individual mark on the college forever. There is in the works, for the coming months, a plan to create a mural representing the incoming class. With the theme of “Roots and Routes,” it is to be planned by the students and facilitated by faculty. In groups formed by the most recent Bridges trips, students will each help to design pieces of the mural. The overall goal is to bring together all of the pieces into a single cohesive and beautiful piece of art that represents the newcomers of 2018. A new program with big aspirations, First Year Forum holds the potential to be one of those long standing Marlboro College traditions that every student has fond memories of.