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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Food for Thought

November has been stuffed — with essays, thesis deadlines, and fellowship applications — and it’s been a little crazy (for you all, ED deadlines!). But it’s also been stuffed with some awesome outings.  Last Friday, I led a group of 40 students into Philadelphia for a cooking class at Reading Terminal Market — and oh how satisfying it was!

Before I get to the juicy details, I should explain FAB. FAB stands for Fords Against Boredom and is a student-run club that organizes on and off-campus events for the entire community. We run movies, organize Quizzo nights (this year featured a special “Beat the Librarians” round), provide tickets to Phillies and 76ers games, and most recently, acquired 40 FREE tickets to the Kanye West concert! All of the events are totally free for students, actually. Sweet deal.

I’ve been a member of FAB since my sophomore year, and this semester, this cooking adventure was my brain child. We arrived at Reading Terminal Market to find a pristine kitchen ready for us:

photo 2


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Community Housing at Haverford

A portion of our costumed guests at Nerd House's Halloween Party

A portion of our costumed guests at Nerd House’s Halloween Party

Hello, friends!  One thing I love about Haverford is community housing.  After freshman year, a group of interested students can join together and apply to live in an on-campus house (Yarnall) or one of three apartments set aside for community housing.  The agreement is that, in exchange for housing, the Office of Residential Life expects those living in the community house to host events for the community.  Often, the houses have a specific theme.  The house I live in is Nerd House in Yarnall, and we are a group of 13 students dedicated to various fandoms, science, technology, literature, movies (some of us would say “films”), and board games of all stripes.  We do not use the term “nerd” in a disparaging way.  Instead, we use it as a term for motivated students with particular interests that make us interesting members of a sub-community that reaches out to the larger community.  We are all about inclusion.

When my housemates and I were freshmen, we began as several different groups of friends who all had similar interests.  Like nodes on a graph, we gradually became connected.  I was connected to many of my current housemates through my freshman hall and classes such as psychology, Spanish, computer science, and my writing seminar.  Sometimes, friends can come from unexpected places, and what can at first seem like minor events (e.g., sitting next to my current housemates in computer science and my writing seminar and thinking something along the lines of, “These guys seem nice.”) may be far more important upon further reflection.    Several of my friends started thinking about living together, and we decided that a community house would provide us with the space we needed and also be a way for us to reach out into the community.  After all, we are extremely social nerds.  (I prefer “nerdlings.”)  Once we had filled out our application near the end of freshman year and established our mission statement, we had an engaging interview with the Residential Life Committee.  When we had approval, we began to plan for sophomore year and compile an email list that we now use to communicate with numerous students who are interested in our events.  Upon our return to Haverford as sophomores, we were indeed prepared for an exciting year!

This year, we have hosted a variety of events on weekends, allowing students to have fun and “nerdy” evenings.  Some of our events have included an Open House board game night, several movie nights including an anime film night, Film Noir night complete with a jazz sextet, a Victorian Era murder mystery party, a video game tournament, and a Halloween party and costume ball.  Strategy board game night was our latest event.  Anyone on campus is invited to these events; we truly reach out to the community.  One of our crowning achievements was Humans vs. Zombies, a campus-wide game of tag wherein zombies had to infect humans to convert them, and humans had to resist the horde.  Nerd House advertised extensively and signed people up in the Dining Center; it was a phenomenal game with amazing participation.  Students have been responding with great enthusiasm to Nerd House; we have had impressive turnouts for our events, and I personally receive many compliments about those events and the general spirit of our house.  Community housing at Haverford is an excellent embodiment of the agency students have.  If there is not a club or group that suits your interests, you can create one.

Perhaps the most wonderful event that happens at Nerd House is when I walk in late at night to find my friends working in the kitchen.  We talk about our days, muse about our classes, and laugh about what is on the Internet.  I have a marvelous group of friends here whom I have gotten to know even better this year, and I treasure all of the success that we have been having in the community through Nerd House.  Be sure to check out previous and future blog posts.  HAVER great day!

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