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. 



Quakerliness in Motion

Quaker and non-Quaker students at Haverford’s Quaker Community retreat to Snipes Farm, Fall 2013.  The retreat included fellowship, singing around a campfire, sustainable food, and community service.

Part of what drew me to Haverford when I was going through college applications was the school’s long-standing connection to the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). A bit of history: Haverford, founded nearly 200 years ago in 1833, was the very first in a long line of colleges started by Quakers.   Continue reading

Senior Sentiments

Coming into my final year at Haverford, I anticipated feeling a bit of denial and overwhelming nostalgia. While not an untrue statement, the transition to this transitional year has been smooth and natural. Dare I say it? I’m relishing being a senior and the productive, exciting opportunities it affords.

My thesis proposal is in, approved, and awaiting remarks from my newly minted thesis adviser. I’m going to be working with Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger and exploring construction of character through geographic and mental spaces, as well as time and memory. This thesis topic draws on my established interests in perspectivalism and temporality, and allows me to reflect further on theories of identity in relationship to place, which I cultivated during my extensive travels during my semester abroad. The senior thesis experience is a space for culmination and reflection, as well looking forward within the discipline. Continue reading

Squash champions

This past weekend, Haverford’s women’s squash team packed up our squash rackets and headed up to New Haven, Connecticut for the college national tournament. After months and weeks of practice and games, we were excited to have the opportunity to play in this tournament.

We had qualified E Division and after winning all of our round-robin matches, we moved onto the championship match to compete for the big win. The night before the match, I could barely sleep. Come Sunday morning, when we won our division championships, all of the work that my teammates had put in paid off.

The squash team and athletics have been a big part of my life at Haverford; with practice everyday, we have all dedicated a lot of time to our sport and I’ve quickly become close with many of my teammates. Yet despite the time commitment required by sports, Haverford athletes have a way of balancing their time here so that their sport is not the only part of their life here. For example, many varsity athletes are involved in extracurricular activities like Honor Council, Student Council, and all of our student-led clubs on campus. In addition, there are no classes offered during practice times, 4:00pm and 7:00pm, to ensure that athletes aren’t excluded from taking certain classes. At Haverford, no one has to choose between being a student, an athlete, or a member of our student community.

All of the practice, workouts, and time spent preparing for the matches were rewarded by the title of E Division Champions.  But coming back to Haverford, exhausted from the weekend, we were not alone in our excitement; we were welcomed back as squash players, as friends, and as members of the Haverford community.


Expanding Networks

I got into a spat with my fifteen year-old brother the other day.  The keystone question: who’s the cooler sibling?  Well, if we’re being honest, my brother is a soccer star, plays bass and guitar in a rock band, and pulls off pierced ears with panache… but, I decided we should settle this debate by looking at how many Facebook friends we each have.  He has 759; I have 904.  Victory was mine.  I conveniently ignored the fact that I have a few more networks at my disposal – high school, work, college, etc. – than he does, but these are just details anyway, right?

Unfortunately for sibling rivalry’s sake, networks really aren’t negligible “details.”  As I prepare to jet off to Vienna – at least physically leaving the Haverford network – I’ve come to realize just how important and immensely helpful networks can be.  Sometimes networks mean funny coincidences; my Sociology minor advisor’s good friend conveniently works two doors down from my dad.  But networks carry larger implications too.  For example, midway through the schlump-fest that is finals week, I ignored my trusty sweatpants, wriggled into interview ware instead, and headed to the city to see about a possible summer job.

Given my impending international adventures, over this past semester I’ve been making as many inroads as possible for summer employment.  That meant reaching out to the entirety of the Haverford network: from my friends, to alumni, to former colleagues, to former colleague’s friends, to professors, to professors’ colleagues… you get my drift.  It’s meant sending a lot of kind of awkward emails introducing myself to strangers.  They’re really only pseudo-strangers, though; there’s only one degree of separation from me and all of these possible employers – we’ve got some mutual friends on FB, let’s say.  I soon accumulated a growing list of names, phone numbers, and email addresses in the “Contacts” section of my planner, and all of a sudden, job opportunities, internships, and interviews started to materialize – all catalyzed by the Haverford network.

This has all been pretty informal, but tapping into these networks has also highlighted just how wonderfully, and formally, connected Haverford is.  Janice Lion, the domestic internship coordinator for the CPGC, for example, noted the many bridge programs the CPGC offers for those interested in education and education reform post undergraduate life.  I’m still focused on this summer’s employment options (whilst still beyond excited for Vienna!), but post-Haverford employment, aka real life employment, we’ll lovingly call it, looms.  In addition to the CPGC, our Career Development Office, or CDO, links current and graduating students with alumni, polishes resumes, and conducts mock interviews.  The CDO straddles one of the strongest networks, the Bi-Co, providing Haverford and Bryn Mawr students the resources and connections of both schools.  Knowing these established connections – in addition to the many that are just a phone call away – exist, is like a warm cup of “kaffee mit schlag” (coffee with whipped cream) to those real life employment woes.

Haverford’s community is incredibly strong, and from a friendship standpoint, it’s one of, if not my, favorite aspects of Haverford.  I have made some of the deepest and most genuine friendships here, and that’s been the best.  When all of these incredible friendships also become incredible links, that’s doubly the best.  So, the bestest?  I have just under a week left before it’s “Guten Tag” to Vienna, and “Aufwiedersehen” to Seattle and Haverford friends.  I really hate goodbyes, but I take solace in the fact that Skype is an incredible invention, I’m off on an adventure, my Haverford friendships and connections will remain strong, and this four-month hiatus is just another way of expanding that incredible network.  And I’ll have more FB friends to boot!


Catching Up…

Well it’s been a bit, and a lot has transpired. To facilitate the most efficient and accurate summation of this past month and a half (sorry guys) I’m going to descend into a bit of a stream of consciousness. Let’s see how this goes…

October brought the usual flurry of papers and midterms, but it also brought my family over from Seattle. Whilst here, I joked that they had a quintessential Haverford experience. First, we had dinner at the very delicious and local Peruvian Barbeque restaurant, Barbacoa. The family platter, complete with a whole roast chicken, pulled pork, ribs, and 2 pounds worth of sides, sufficed in feeding us all. So good. The next morning, we had bagels with my advisor and her family (she conveniently lives on campus, as do about half of our professors); my dad, a professor himself, joked that this would never happen at our house. Well, dear Papi, this is how we do it at Haverford. It was a thoroughly enjoyable brunch, with conversation ranging in topics from digitized course offerings to Boobah (look it up if you dare – I’ll just say it’s fitting for a three year old’s imagination). Next up, the fam and I watched our Centennial Conference champion men’s soccer team take on Gettysburg, whisked our way through a field hockey game, and gabbed with my friends from my freshmen year Customs group. And to conclude, we made the obligatory stop at WaWa for subs…

Hurricane Sandy punctuated October’s end, closing the college for two days. The campus was extraordinarily lucky and managed to escape any real damage. We lost power for maybe an hour in sum, and the only physical effect was some excessive pine needle blanketing. Our campus arboretum stood strong, and classes were back in swing on Wednesday. Those two days brought some welcome extra hours of sleep, movie marathons, and lots of parental phone calls (my dad called every other hour, though he insisted he wasn’t worried about me). Those phone calls weren’t unnecessary, as it turned out, and my friends and I were aware of how devastating the storm really was. The college has come together and many students are proposing various avenues for the Haverford community to aid those affected. Here’s the link for those interested:

…Soon after, Gloria Steinem was on campus! I don’t throw exclamation points around often, but Gloria Steinem was seriously incredible. She shared a lot of simultaneously inspirational, insightful, and often satisfyingly sarcastic musings. My favorite? “We are linked, not ranked.” The societal (and feminist) implications of this statement are massive and incredibly important, but it really resonated with me as a Haverford student. This is something that the college really tries to embody, in the ways in which the student voice is, essentially, just as important as the administrative one, to our heavily discussion-based classrooms, to the interconnectedness of our alumni network. This isn’t a college predicated on hierarchy, and it’s one of the aspects of Haverford that I appreciate the most. Thank you, Gloria, for a wonderful visit and reminding me of yet another reason why I adore this college…

The election kicked the college into high voting gear. All partisanship aside, I’ve never seen so many Facebook statuses in my life telling everyone to vote. Various groups on campus set up voter registration tables, students were shuttling students to and from the local polling places all day, and sorry professors, absolutely no homework got done on Nov. 6; we were all glued to various screens. I made a huge pot of chili for my friends and myself, and we all huddled around my laptop, flitting between CNN and old SNL clips, as we awaited results. The election ended many group viewing sessions of debates, lots of late night political discussions, and canvassing by Haverford students… until the next four (more) years!

…Amongst all this, our fall sports teams were fantastic, bringing home half of the available Centennial Conference championships! Again, note the exclamation point. Both soccer teams, as well as our Men’s Cross Country teams were crowned champions this year, with Field Hockey and Women’s Cross Country winning second place, and our Volleyball team making the semi-finals before falling to the eventual champion, Franklin and Marshall. Those championships meant NCAA’s, so I decided to take all three extension days on one of my papers and head to Arcadia University for the Men’s Soccer games. There were so many Haverfordians there, from tons of students, to very vocal families, to professors and deans. We didn’t have any national championships (though the Men’s Cross Country team was close! 2nd place – congratulations, Goats!), but the whole college is so proud of all of our teams. Well done, well done, black squirrels!

The coffee I’ve been sipping as I’ve been writing is almost gone, so I guess it’s time to conclude. The holidays are upon us, and that means it’s getting to be crunch time at the college. Bring on those finals! But also, bring on that holiday music; I’m going to listen to Mariah Carey and relish my remaining few weeks of Haverford life until Winter break. Cheers, everyone!

Calling all students!

This past Sunday, the Haverford student body flocked to the athletic center to participate in Plenary. Plenary, held once in the fall and once in the spring, is a school-wide meeting for the entire student body to get together and vote on resolutions related to life here at Haverford. In the past, these have included additions to our Student Constitution or Honor Code, student support for administrative decisions, and changes the student body would like to see on campus.

Yet walking into Plenary in our basketball arena, the crowd is unrecognizable from what one might expect walking into a basketball game. Not only are the bleachers filled, but students have camped out on the floor with homework, snacks, and friends. Clubs have set up tables in the back on the gym, selling t-shirts and baked goods to raise money and keep their peers fed throughout this meeting. Our sound crew plays music while students chat and filter into the gym- each student being counted as the meeting cannot begin until at least 50% of the student body arrives. Student Council representatives run around the gym setting up chairs and tables while those presenting resolutions prepare their arguments for their proposals. As one of the co-secretaries of Honor Council, I have the pleasure of sitting at the front of the gym watching this entire scene unfold while frantically setting everything up in time for Plenary to begin.

Just before 7:00pm, over 50% of the student body has gathered in the gym and the meeting can begin. Our Student Council co-presidents introduce themselves, the vice-presidents and secretaries as well as the Honor Council co-chairs and secretaries. They review the agenda and the procedure for the meeting. Then, with a moment of silence followed by shouts of excitement, Plenary begins.

The first resolution this fall was a proposal to reduce the amount of paper towels used in our dorms. The presenters addressed the environmental impact of paper towel consumption as well as the cost of supplying paper towels. By reducing the amount of paper towels used in the dorms, we could lower our carbon footprint and save money, they argued. Following the proposal, the pro and con debate begun, drawing students to the microphones to argue for or against this idea. Some students questioned the practicality of this motion while others argued that becoming more environmentally conscious is a necessary step we as Haverford students must take. The debate continued past the allotted time and the students voted to extend the debate another fifteen minutes. Finally, when rounds of students had spoken at the microphones, it came time for a vote. Asking students to raise their blue Plenary packets (containing all of the resolutions in print) in favor of the resolution, the Student Council presidents surveyed the room and announced that the majority had voted in support of paper towel reduction.

From Plenary, this resolution will go to the administration and facilities, which will work to enact this resolution on behalf of the students. From the idea of a few students to a school wide initiative, this proposal will now become a part of Haverford’s day-to-day functioning as paper towel use is reduced along with our environmental waste. With the excitement around Plenary, friends all arriving together to buy cupcakes and get a spot on the floor, I loved watched each student’s role in this meeting whether it was my friend presenting, a freshmen hall all sitting together discussing the proposals, or a student running up to the microphone to add one last thought to the pro and con debate. By coming together as a community, even camped out on the basketball court floor, Plenary is our opportunity to take these ideas and run with them, gain student support, and turn them into reality.

To the Newest Members of the Haverford Community

As I write this, the sun dips below the Olympic mountain range, the lights of the Seattle skyline sparkle, and a blissful breeze billows my curtains. I am so happy to be home, relishing my time with family, hikes in the mountains, and lunch dates with high-school chums. Part of me, however, remains at Haverford in spirit…


This past Sunday, I spontaneously decided to go to the Seattle-based Haverford Class of 2016 Welcome Party. This is a chance for current students, newly minted Haverfordians (welcome!), and local alumni to connect before the freshmen class embarks on their own college experience. To be totally blunt, I hadn’t planned on going to this shindig; at this point, I had been away from Haverford for less than 24 hours and thought some separation from campus and the Haverford community might be needed. Silly me. Claire Perry ’14 and her family really out-hosted themselves – what a lovely home and such delicious food; thank you! The breakfast strata were wonderful, but it really was the get-together that made the afternoon so memorable.

One of many highlights includes reconnecting with a family I met on Open Campus Day; I had lunch with Anna and her mother that day, chatting about Haverford and the transition from Seattle to this community. I was also able to relive possibly my most embarrassing Admissions moment – and now I’m deciding to immortalize this magical moment online… here it goes! Anna’s mother was in the audience for the “Parents Only Panel” Admissions puts on for Open Campus Day – where parents have a few Haverford students and deans to their lonesome to grill – and therefore now knows my rather impressive commitment to familial connection. A west-coast mother had inquired as to how I deal with being so far from my family, and I perhaps foolishly, but very earnestly, shared that I call my parents on the daily. Plenty of parental applause and personal blushing soon followed.

There was more to my answer than that, even if that’s what ended up sticking. I also emphasized the close relationships you craft with your Customs group and the rest of the Haverford community, and those make the sting of the distance less. Throughout this blog, I’ve dubbed the Haverford community as the summation of current students, faculty, and staff. These are integral elements of my collegiate family – I can’t tell you how heartwarming it is to be welcomed into a friend’s home, or to have dinner with your professor and her family – but “community” really extends to everyone who’s been somehow impacted by the college.

Working in the Admissions Office this summer afforded many memorable moments, but my interactions with alumni were perhaps the most poignant. They ranged in age, from the class of ’52 to the late ‘80’s, but they all shared a commitment to the values of this campus. They emphasized how they adored what a caring community they came from, and how they really try to embody those values – namely, trust, concern, and respect – in their post-Haverford lives.

Meeting Melissa Lanctot, ’00, and Ari Worthman, ’02, both of whom were in attendance on Sunday, only concretized the sentiment. Here we were in Seattle, thousands of miles away from campus, but we might as well have been having a conversation over a DC table. It’s funny how you find commonalities within the community. Sure, Melissa and I have both taken classes with some of the same professors, Ari and I could each contribute moments of hilarity from the Haverford Admissions Office, but it’s much more than that. We recognize what a special place Haverford is, and whether a current or former student, we carry a little bit of campus around with us.

So, maybe to amend my Parents’ Panel answer: I love my family dearly, and I try to call them everyday because I want to hear how their day has been, to know what my fair city is up to, and to keep them up to date with my collegiate life. But Haverford is my home now, and the community – including alumni, family, and friends of the college – has become my very large, very extended, if non-genetic family. That makes the distance of a 6-hour flight seem nominal at worst.

Finally, one thing I didn’t mention during the emotional shuffle of the Parents’ Panel: My father now adamantly states that he doesn’t miss me when I’m gone. This is partly to bother me, but there’s a legitimacy to his jest; he knows how wonderfully happy I am across the country, so he’s happy too. To the class of 2016 parents, you will miss your kid. They will miss you too. But they will also have the time of their lives. Take solace in the fact that your child has come to a place where they can be wholly content, and in the fact that you are now also a part of the greater Haverford community. And maybe, if Parents’ Panel participants adopt my practices, you can look forward to daily phone calls too.


A ferry now sweeps through Puget Sound. How fortunate I am to live in such a gorgeous city, and how very, very fortunate I am to be a part of an omnipresent community. I might as well be watching the geese glide through the duck pond…