The Nerd House Halloween Murder Mystery Party

A photo of our superb costumes: Teemo in his Fallout skin (Jesse Pazdera), a mummy (Harry Okun), Godric Gryffindor (ME!), Captain Hammer (Casey Falk), and the Eleventh Doctor (David Reilley).

A photo of our superb costumes: Teemo in his Fallout skin (Jesse Pazdera), a mummy (Harry Okun), Godric Gryffindor (ME!), Captain Hammer (Casey Falk), and the Eleventh Doctor (David Reilley).

The night was chill and dark. My companions and I gathered in our Halloween attire and set out for Nerd House. Upon our arrival, we encountered the eldritch scene: A mansion with ghoulish decorations, delicious snacks… and a sinister air.

Here we are examining the descriptions of our assigned characters.

Here we are examining the descriptions of our assigned characters.

We received our new identities as residents of a small town full of dark secrets. We had entered the grim world of the Halloween Murder Mystery Party hosted by Nerd House. Some of its members were the hosts of the party, and others were players in the game.

Each person in the town had a role in the grand plot assigned to him or her in an envelope of facts about his or her character and instructions for what to say to other characters. I was the mayor with a fickle personality and a hand open for bribes; another guest was an adventurer, another an actress, another a slightly crazed neighbor, another a hired gun – and the list went on. We socialized in character, sharing gossip and secrets while withholding certain other information. A web of characters and relationships (most of which were shady or deeply troubled) began to emerge. To further the plot, another set of clues was distributed by our hosts for the next segment of the party. More discussion and sharing ensued.

Then – a terrible scream! The guests rushed to the source to find a young woman (dressed as a piece of sushi) murdered! A weapon with prints was sent to the laboratory for analysis as we received new information about where our characters were at the time of the murder. The analysis came back from the laboratory as the final clue – several people’s prints were found on the gun, but we needed a motive. We gathered in teams to put all the clues together to choose a suspect and his or her motive.

Thank goodness for friend Alison Marqusee! I was in a state of confusion with all the information swirling around, but she knew what was happening. We seemed to have solved the mystery, but then came a final clue – the alleged murderer had only shot a dead body – someone else had poisoned her before. Twist!

I must say the residents of Nerd House did an outstanding job hosting the party and we all had a great time!

Nerd House Murder Mystery game participants.

Nerd House Murder Mystery game participants.

Speakers Committee Presents…An Evening with Laverne Cox

Hello, prospective students! My name is Sophia Gant, Class of 2016, and I’m psyched to join the other fabulous bloggers in the Admission Office this year!

We talk a lot about Haverford’s amazing array of clubs in the Admission Office and on our tours. With over 120 clubs, there are tons of ways to get involved with campus life. But something that deserves a little more attention are our 33 committees.

Committees are a great way to get involved directly with some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes on at Haverford. They range in everything from tackling sustainability on campus to representing the student body to the Board of Managers to planning Haverfest. Since my freshman year, I have been tremendously fortunate to serve on Speakers Committee, which selects two major speakers each year and coordinates their visits to campus. As one senior explained to me when I joined the committee, “It’s basically having dinner with famous people and listening to them say smart stuff.” Not a bad deal, right?

During my time at Haverford, Speakers Committee has hosted Gloria Steinem, Andrew Sullivan, Dan Savage, and Jose Antonio Vargas on campus. This past Friday, we had the privilege of welcoming Laverne Cox, the Emmy-nominated actress on Orange is the New Black and outspoken trans* activist, to speak at Haverford. Ms. Cox held a Q&A session with about 25 students before her public talk. Her speech was funny and thoughtful, and she touched on complications of identity, particularly the intersections of race and gender. (The speech coincided with the Sexuality and Gender Alliance’s OutWeek—more on that from Damon!).

From left to right: Caleb, Maddy, me, Nadirah, LAVERNE, Kenzie, and Ramelcy.

From left to right: Caleb, Maddy, me, Nadirah, LAVERNE, Kenzie, and Ramelcy.

At Haverford, we are so lucky to meet such inspirational people from all walks of life—and to serve on the committees that select them! Check out the photo of the committee with Laverne!

Customs: It’s so much more than an orientation program

Autumn has begun to fall onto Haverford’s campus, and October has brought with it chilly breezes, crisp apples, and the beginning of the arboretum’s colorful transformation from green to orange, yellow, and red.

Seniors are digging into their thesis topics and juniors are largely abroad or getting adjusted to upper-classmen levels of work.  Sophomores are starting to feel comfortable in their shoes as experienced members of the community, and first-years are starting to settle in and truly call this place home.

And, for many, Haverford does quickly begin to feel like home.  Whenever I speak with my family about traveling to and from the campus, I often say that traveling to Haverford is going home, and I mean it.  Haverford does an exceptional job of making the circumstances right for new students to feel comfortable in their own skin and get excited about engaging with the community they’ve become a part of.

The program that does the most to engage students right from the get-go is undoubtedly Customs.  Customs is Haverford’s version of new student orientation, but it’s so much more than orientation week.  Each freshmen hall gets eight returning students to help guide them through both their first week of college and the entirety of their first year.  On this team of eight, there are Customs People, who live with the freshmen and act as always-accessible support people; Upper-Classmen Advisors, who also live with the freshmen and help them navigate their academic decisions; Peer Awareness Facilitators, who host open-ended discussions about social issues and campus life with the freshmen; Honor Code Orienteers, who help freshmen get adjusted to life under Haverford’s unique Honor Code; and an Ambassador of Multicultural Awareness, whose job it is to connect freshmen with the resources they need to hold on to and celebrate their unique cultural identities as they transition into adult life.

Group bonding during Customs Week 2014

Group bonding during Customs Week 2014

This entails a whole lot more than just a smattering of enthusiastic orientation leaders who lead orientation week and then disappear after the semester begins.  The Customs Team sticks with freshmen throughout their first year at Haverford to help them get the most out of their first year of college life.  It’s also more robust than having resident assistants who are paid to act as disciplinarians: instead, all Customs Team members are volunteers, and their job is never to punish first-years, but help them to thrive, succeed, and get back on their feet if they falter.

Last year, I was a Customs Person (CP) for a group of first-years in Gummere Hall.  This year, I am a Peer Awareness Facilitator (PAF) for a group in Barclay Hall.  Customs Week this year was an exciting and fast-paced orientation week, filled with all sorts of fun activities such as the campus-wide scavenger hunt and the Fords Against Boredom Block Party.  There were also opportunities for freshmen to learn about the school’s traditions, such as a trust walk to illustrate living under the Honor Code, and a cultural timeline event to learn more about each other’s cultural backgrounds. The majority of the events that happen during Customs Week are intended to help first-years get to know one another and build meaningful friendships right away.

During the campus-wide scavenger hunt, one of the tasks to to photograph first-years in a laundry machine. Left to right in machines: Jess, Amanda, Emily, and Anna. Left to right on top: Max and myself (Damon).

During the campus-wide scavenger hunt, one of the tasks to to photograph first-years in a laundry machine. Left to right in machines: Jess, Amanda, Emily, and Anna. Left to right on top: Max and myself (Damon).

Now that the year is under way, it’s time to get down to business with my Peer Awareness Facilitator partner, Ellie Greenler ’17.  She and I are planning discussions on a wide variety of topics, including race & ethnicity, religion, gender & sexuality, disability, and more.  More frequently, Ellie and I (along with the rest of our Customs Team) spend a large portion of our free time just hanging out with the freshmen that we have been assigned to.  We may have explicitly defined roles, but one of the best parts of Customs is simply that it sets the stage for first years to make new friends with each other and their Customs Team.  In many cases, these bonds last for many years beyond freshman year and beyond our time at Haverford.  One of my Customs Persons from my freshman year, Dan Fries ’15, is now one of my best friends and roommates.

Me with my Peer Awareness Facilitator (PAF) partner, Ellie Greenler '17. On top of being a chance to get to know one another and get oriented to campus life, Customs is a ton of fun.

Me with my Peer Awareness Facilitator (PAF) partner, Ellie Greenler ’17. On top of being a chance to get to know one another and get oriented to campus life, Customs is a ton of fun.

Customs was named as such because it offers freshmen the opportunity to learn the customs of Haverford College.  One of the most important customs that Haverford holds in high esteem is our tight-knit, caring community.  Thus, friendship and fellowship are some of the most important customs that we have to show each incoming class of students.  So, as the Class of 2018 settles in to life at Haverford, they can be rest assured that a friend is never too far away. 

 

 

Uniting our community: The Joe Schwartz ’83 Memorial 3K Run/Walk

Hello my beautiful audience! It’s crazy to think that 1) this is the last blog post I will be writing for admissions, 2) this is the first week of finals, and 3) I AM GRADUATING IN JUST 13 DAYS! Literally this year is just flying by.

With our final week of classes, I am excited to tell you about an event I have been helping with for the past four years: The Joe Schwartz ’83 Memorial 3K Run/Walk. This event has two main goals 1) to raise money for The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association and ALS research and 2) unite the greater Haverford community towards a greater cause. This Run/Walk was created in honor of Joe Schwartz ’83 who was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 34; the full mission statement can be found at the end of this post.

This past year we had the MOST participation we’ve ever had with over 300 individuals! We were able to raise over $10,000 which will all go towards the ALS Association and of course ALS research. President Dan Weiss and his family even stopped by to show their support for the event.

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Exploring Haverford: Open Campus Day

 

Some of the Student Volunteers who made Open Campus Day such a success! Photo courtesy of Shane Trujillo

Some of the Student Volunteers who made Open Campus Day such a success! Photo courtesy of Shane Trujillo

April 13 was Open Campus Day, a day for students considering coming to Haverford to look around the campus, meet students, and learn about academic departments and extracurricular activities on campus.  It was a gorgeous day for walking around campus.  The Student Volunteers who work in the Office of Admission began the day at Ryan Gym – we reviewed our instructions and duties for the day.  A few students and I began near the parking lot, directing people to register at Founders Hall.  Next, I proceeded to Founders Hall for the academic fair.  There was a lively hub of people circulating in and out, talking with a wide variety of professors and students representing academic departments.  Of course, there were plenty of handouts to be had!  (Another way to learn about the academic ethos was at the Academics Panel later in the day.)  I talked with all sorts of parents and prospective students about my experience with academics and extracurricular life at Haverford, my interests (it helped that I had a name tag imploring, “Ask me about LINGUISTICS and Cognitive Science”), and, most importantly, the prospective students’ interests.  People had great questions which gave me a chance to expound upon what makes Haverford such a unique school with a plethora of opportunities. 

Tours of the campus and of specific buildings went off while I headed to lunch.  As I waited in the massive line, I answered more questions and shared more information about Haverford with other folks in line.  I moved back in line a few times to extend my time in line and thereby chat with more people.  (Some wonderful volunteers brought us cookies and brownies as we waited!)  After we were served, I sat down to talk with some visitors; when they left, I switched tables and had a wonderful conversation with two prospective students and their parents.  We were some of the last people to leave the Dining Center.  I directed the parents to the Parents Panel and walked the students to the Students-Only Panel, two excellent opportunities for the different cohorts to ask questions. 

My final event was at the Closing Reception.  As people met in the Gardner Integrated Athletic Center before they left campus, I approached various groups and even saw some folks I had seen earlier in the day.  It sounded like people had an exciting (and hopefully persuasive!) Open Campus Day experience, which made me ecstatic.  For me, the best part of the day was hearing so much about prospective students’ interests and ambitions, which, in turn, prompted conversations about the school.  I am a tour guide, so I get asked questions on tours, but, due to the limited time available on a tour, I can only share so much about the college.  However, on Open Campus Day, I felt like I had the chance to talk in a more extensive and detailed fashion and to describe in more detail what makes Haverford an outstanding learning environment and caring community on a personal level. 

If you are interested in working for the Office of Admission, one way you can do so is to apply to be a host (people who talk with students and parents as they wait for tours or interviews) or a campus tour guide during the Spring semester of your freshman year.  Both positions are opportunities to share the college with visitors and to present them not only with facts but with your or your friends’ personal experiences with classes and extracurricular opportunities, study abroad adventures and internships and externship experiences, funding from the CPGC and classes or exhibits from the Hurford Center.  This blog is my last for the semester, so, a bit in advance, I hope you all HAVER stellar end of the school year!

Spring has Sprung (?!)

Although the weather here has yet to catch up with the Spring Equinox, it is in fact spring on campus, and more specifically one of my favorite times of year at Haverford. As a senior this spring semester brings a lot of exciting things to look forward to: graduation (duh), thesis completion (maybe too soon?), senior week, Haverfest, and a whole bunch of other lovely events. However one of my FAVORITE events started this past Sunday, March 23rd. “What is this awesome event, Sophie?” you may be asking right now as you read my blog post. Well wonderful reader, that event is known as water tag, and it is the best.

Water tag is an event hosted by FAB (Fords Against Boredom) that occurs every spring. The way the game works is you sign up by contacting FAB, they assign you a target, and you seek that individual out while simultaneously avoiding the individual who is hunting you. In order to “eliminate” your target you must get him/her wet using water only. This can be achieved by using water bottles, water guns, buckets for the brave (and ambitious). If it holds water, you can use it. Once you have “tagged” your target, you inherit their target and the cycle continues until the last man, or woman!, is standing. The last remaining person wins $250 while the person with the most tags wins $150. A large number of campus participates in water tag so if you visit campus and see students running from building to building, now you know why!

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Leadership Training: Personal Development at Haverford

 

Bonus visual: My splendid birthday cake – Haverford style!

Bonus visual: My splendid birthday cake – Haverford style!

The college experience is about academic development as well as personal development.  Of course, Haverford has plenty of resources to facilitate academic growth, but it also makes available many opportunities for personal development.  Among our many extracurricular activities is the Rufus M. Jones Leadership Institute.  The Institute has program requirements that are useful in becoming a well-rounded and informed leader; students can also complete different parts of the program as ways to hone their leadership skills.  For the spring semester, I submitted my name to be enrolled in Leadership 101: Foundations, a not-for-credit class that meets six times once a week, after receiving an email advertising it.  (As a side note, always check your college email account – opportunities can abound in the mail you receive.)  Leadership 101: Foundations is designed to introduce key themes in leadership that can be applied to real-world situations from leading a club to running a meeting.  We have had five of our six classes so far this semester, and we will have our final class on March 20 after we return from Spring Break. 

The class is a great opportunity for personal development.  Lilly Lavner (Coordinator of Student Activities and Leadership) and Chloe Tucker (International Programs Coordinator) lead the class.  Fewer than ten students are in the class, and that small class size ensures that we can hear each other’s opinions and break into small discussion groups.  (The class has also been a great way to meet new people and to get to know other people better.)  On the first day of class, we were given The Intentional Leader by Kenneth A. Shaw and Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie.  The Intentional Leader is the text on which our class topics are founded.  We used the online component of Strengths Based Leadership to take a diagnostic test to examine what strengths we had and how we could utilize those strengths to lead.  We also used this diagnostic information to learn how to work effectively with people with different strengths.  From these sessions, I have learned that introspection and self-assessment are major components of leadership. 

Group activities feature prominently in the class.  Of course, there are times when Lilly and Chloe provide information or new knowledge, but much of the time is dedicated to having discussions and participating in group tasks which are designed to put leadership skills into practice and demonstrate group dynamics.  We truly participate in learning and developing the concepts featured in the class.  The group activities allow for reflecting on what aspects of leadership worked well and which aspects could be improved.  During our classes, we have set goals, learned how to give constructive criticism, and discussed our own strengths and weaknesses, ways of working with people with different strengths or personal styles, decision-making, meetings, diversity, and identity. 

Maximizing the outcome of a meeting by establishing a purpose for the meeting, setting goals for the meeting, and using an effective meeting style was another a critical topic.  It segued smoothly into a session about effective communication.  For that session, we had a visiting instructor, Michael Webert, from the Office of Academic Resources who described proper communication techniques in addition to traits of effective leaders, values, and accountability.  He also emphasized evaluating others and oneself and creating a reason for others to follow a leader. 

I think the most important style that we discussed in Leadership 101: Foundations was facilitation.  Rather than commanding others, a facilitator can create an environment in which ideas can be bandied about without fear of harsh criticism.  A facilitator focuses on achieving discussion of pros, cons, and compromises.  Facilitating meetings to allow ideas to flourish or for ideas to be born from general themes is a crucial element of leadership.  Facilitation is perhaps an unconventional means of framing leadership, for facilitation is a hands-off approach.  However, it allows for someone to keep the meeting on task and to ensure various opinions are heard from different participants.

So far, my experience with Leadership 101: Foundations has been extremely positive.  I have gained insight into my own practices and reflected on ways to improve and refine them.  I have gained the vocabulary to talk about leadership in a precise and meaningful way.  I have learned what to look for in a group dynamic so that I can focus on giving agency to and including others.  All of the knowledge I have gleaned from the class has been extremely valuable in making me more aware of proper leadership practices that I will employ to make group experiences more effective and beneficial to all of the group’s members.

Let’s hope for warm weather!  Haver happy spring!

A Study in Sibilance: Snowpocalypse, Second Semester Senior Year, and Sappy Sentiments

I am still coming to grips with the fact that my final semester at Haverford is underway. Apparently the weather has had some similar struggles, bringing snow and ice storms and cancelling four days worth of classes. So, my semester has thus far been a combination of hibernation, intense thesis-ing, and making friends with the many snowpeople dotting campus.

Let’s start with a little photographic evidence:

photo 1-2This is Magill, our lovely library, and where I’ve currently been spending a bunch of quality time with my burgeoning thesis. I can now quote you sections from “Moon Tiger” and have a clear sense of the shape of the essay. Good thing, because my rough draft is due in a couple of weeks. Anyone interested in chronotopic/dialogic/kaleidoscopic commentaries on history, memory, and narrative theory should inquire within. I jest. In all seriousness though, yes, I’ve been engulfed in outlining, underlining, and rereading, but I’ve also genuinely enjoyed the process. Thesis is one of the best expressions of academic agency here; I have so enjoyed drawing from learning across my almost four years of study here in crafting my own critical contribution to the English discipline. It is satisfying and energizing.

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Snow Day: Transportation in the Tri-Co

Haverford’s Dining Center as the snow falls in the morning

Haverford’s Dining Center as the snow falls in the morning

Swarthmore after I finished my classes

Swarthmore after I finished my classes

Snow Day: Transportation in the Tri-Co

As I shared my Fall 2013 college stories with friends and family over Winter Break, I came to realize how vital college transportation was to my semester.  Haverford is part of the Tri-College Consortium (Tri-Co), which means that Haverford students are able to take classes at Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr.  Haverford is also part of the Quaker Consortium, which consists of the Tri-Co as well as the University of Pennsylvania (Penn); if a class is not offered within the Tri-Co, Haverford students can take that class at Penn.  This academic cooperation between the schools provides manifold resources and opportunities for students. 

For the Fall 2013 semester, I made extensive use of the Tri-Co.  There was a scheduling conflict at Haverford, so I took my classes at Swarthmore.  To get to Swarthmore, I used the Tri-Co Van, which shuttles students between the three schools. The trip between Haverford and Swarthmore is a reliable 20- or 30-minute drive.  On a related note, the Blue Bus shuttles students between Bryn Mawr and Haverford.  This ride usually takes around 5 or 10 minutes, and I have taken it to work on group projects.  Both the Tri-Co Van and the Blue Bus are complementary services to Tri-Co students.  The van was very punctual and allowed me to arrive at Swarthmore in the morning and leave in the afternoon once my classes had ended.  It also allowed me to go to Swarthmore on other days of the week (including Fridays and weekends) to, for example, complete problem sets with groups or meet with professors.  Without the Tri-Co van, my semester would have been impossible. 

However, on December 10, a snowstorm caused the Tri-Co transportation system to shut down.  Of course, December 10 was the last day of classes before finals at Swarthmore, and I had a group presentation for one of my classes.  I had never missed a class, and I did not intend to start on that day.  An email was sent, informing students that the shuttle was not operating, so I tried calling a taxi company, which was also not operating.  Then, like a shining beacon, an employee of the College appeared and told me that SEPTA, the bus and train system that connects areas in and around Philadelphia, was likely still operating.  (Students who take classes at Penn use SEPTA for transportation, and others use it to experience all that Philadelphia has to offer.)  I had never used SEPTA before, so I knew this day was going to be an interesting experience. 

Conveniently, the Haverford Station stop is near campus, and a train was leaving soon.  Inconveniently, it was still snowing, there were several inches of snow on the ground, and I was worried about arriving on time.  I must have looked ridiculous, laden with a heavy bag and my burdensome backpack, wearing dress shoes, jeans, a button-down shirt, a sweater, a coat, hat, and gloves.  I made my way through the falling and fallen snow in a combination of running, jogging, and walking interspersed with labored breathing, but I made it.  With some help from an extremely kind stranger on the platform, I took the train to 69th Street Transportation Center and boarded the 109 bus, which took me to Swarthmore.  I thought the bus driver would stop at the appropriate place, and I did not know exactly where that place was, so as we were beginning to pass the campus, I asked where the stop was.  It had been a bit before, so the bus driver let me out where we were – I was at the bottom of the hill that leads to the part of Swarthmore’s campus where my classes were, which meant more jogging, running, and panting.  At least I got to see a new part of their campus!  I trekked up to my classroom and made all my classes.  As I walked into my first class (Semantics), my professor said that I did not have to come to class that day.  Triumphant and grinning, though out-of-breath, I responded, “Where would the fun be?” before I sat down and opened my notebook.  It was a satisfying moment to have arrived at the destination of my trek. 

When classes had ended, I bolted to the bus stop and just made it.  I took the 109 to 69th Street, which was rather busy, probably due to the evening rush hour.  I was surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the end of the workday as I made it to the right train to take me to the Haverford Station, so I tried to blend in as a commuter student.  As I walked back to campus, exhausted from my classes and transportation adventure, I felt quite accomplished. 

This day was the perfect encapsulation of a hectic but ultimately rewarding semester.  In spite of an obstacle, I persevered to learn.  I view my SEPTA day as an exciting, completely new experience; the obstacle provided an opportunity to prove to myself that I could adapt to a radical change of plan.  For all the stress, I must admit that it was fun.  Instead of dwelling on the rare Tri-Co transportation cancellation, I utilized a wonderful resource (a nearby train station) that Haverford’s location offers.  The Tri-Co transportation system and SEPTA are two resources that facilitate academic activity for Haverford students and are great benefits of attending Haverford.  HAVER happy New Year!

Life as a Senior; The Senior Thesis

Hello friends! This is an exciting time of year for seniors as our senior theses are in full swing. Here at Haverford, seniors are asked to complete a research project in their respective major(s). And following the true nature of Haverford, each thesis is unique and special. Theses vary greatly from major to major.

Quite honestly, working on my thesis is a pretty incredible experience. For biology majors, we work closely with a professor and we each select a question to ask in their field of expertise. My thesis advisor, Justine Melo, focuses on understanding how animals detect invading pathogens and environmental hazards. In our lab we are using the nematode C. elegans to elucidate the inner workings of these surveillance processes. It’s some pretty interesting stuff.

For the past few weeks, biology majors have been giving department-wide presentations proposing our thesis projects. Although it was fairly intimidating to present my project to my peers and professors, it was such a helpful process. Not only did I receive suggestions for potential future experiments, but I also became of aware of some “hiccups” I may come across down the line. Scientists love to question everything. It’s what makes the field so exciting. It was such a pleasure to hear all of my peers talk about their projects as well. It’s funny, we all started off taking the same biology classes together, but our interests in the field have expanded so much!

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