About Theresa Tensuan

Theresa Tensuan is an Associate Dean at Haverford College and the Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. She teaches in the Writing Program, is an avid reader of comics and the Chronicle of Higher Education, and runs long distances at very slow speeds.

Looking ahead to the CHAS Black and Latino Males Conference, November 14-16

It’s been a busy and generative semester (indeed, before the semester even began, we had an intensive week with 20 extraordinary members of the class of ’18 who took part in the Tri-Co Social Justice Institute with students from Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore – you can learn more about the program at www.haverford.edu/oma/tri-co/):  September saw the visit of Lani Guinier to the Tri-Co community as part of the the Cooper Series marking the 60th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education series, the week-long (Ir)Reverance symposium with artists, scholars, and activists in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God while October started off with a gathering of women of color alumnae, hosted by Haverford House fellow Marla Dominguez ’14 and closed with a community-wide conversation about the reverberations of the events in Ferguson organized by OMA intern Tobi Alliyu ’16 in collaboration with Walter Sullivan, the Director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.

The issues that were articulated at the Ferguson conversation — most particularly, concerns around the ways in which men of color bear the brunt of particular social injustices, and the possibilities for changing the structures and dynamics that create these injustices — will be front and center in conversations and workshops that will be taking place at the Consortium for High Achievement and Success (CHAS) Black and Latino Males conference that Haverford will be hosting November 14-16.

The entire community is invited to the keynote talk that Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, nationally-renown President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, whose work on access and opportunity in the STEM fields for students from underrepresented communities led to creation of the Meyerhoff Program that in turn became an inspiration for Haverford’s Chesick Scholars program.

Dr. Hrabowski will be introduced by President Dan Weiss at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 15 in Founders Great Hall. Check out Dr. Hrabowski’s TED talk on “The Four Pillars of College Success in the Sciences” : http://www.ted.com/talks/freeman_hrabowski_4_pillars_of_college_success_in_science

Playing in the Dakota Digital Writing Sandbox (or, the future of Modest Open Online Communities….)

I’ve been spending a significant part of this summer in conversation with educators in places ranging from Watsonville, California to Livonia, Michigan to Belle Fourche, South Dakota to Springdale, Arkansas, courtesy of the Dakota Digital Writing Sandbox, what I’m thinking of as a Modest Open Online Community (in contradistinction to the much-ballyhooed Massive Open Online Courses)  that is bringing together 67 teachers and tech specialists who are exploring the challenges and opportunities of working with new media forms and new technologies in classrooms.

The connective tissue of this community is the National Writing Project, and I found my point of entry into the Dakota Digital Writing Sandbox through an invitation circulated through the Bay Area Writing Project (BAWP), a community of teachers of writing in Northern California to whom I’m eternally indebted for being an extraordinary source of support and inspiration as I was building my practice as a teacher. The BAWP spirit and ethos can be found in the Bi-Co community in the Teaching and Learning Institute, about which you can learn more here: www.brynmawr.edu/tli/)

In the first two weeks of class, I’ve been learning about how teachers in under-resourced elementary students are working to ensure that their students can get the tech access that gives them the tools that can support their processes of inquiry; I’ve been privy to in-depth discussions about the utility and the drawbacks of different virtual platforms for course work that takes place outside of the classroom; I’ve benefited from hearing experienced educators speak frankly about the successes and failures they’ve experienced in their own practice when using new media forms —  all of which is feeding into the work that I’m putting into the creation of the syllabus for the course that I’ll be teaching this fall in tandem with Ken Koltun-Fromm, a professor in the Religion department at Haverford in which we are thinking about how the generative tension between image and text that we find in graphic narratives can be explored and animated in new media forms.

As the title suggest, the Dakota Digital Writing Sandbox is affording participants the opportunity to try out new technological tools in a context that encourages experimentation and play, where you have folks around you offering suggestions, cheering you on, and helping you dust yourself off when you fall face first. Many of the people taking part in the course know one another from Dakota Writing Project workshops, or from other sites such as BAWP, so there is an already-constituted collegiality into which new folks are being invited, and the organizers have created a structure in which smaller groups of about a dozen convene in weekly on-line chats in which we are able to respond to one another’s ideas and questions in real time.

Thus while most of the educational press is focused on the future of Massive Open Online Courses, methinks that it would be well worth to shine some light on what I’m thinking of as Modest Open Online Communities which show the radical potential inherent in building an intellectual community focused on a circle of 60 or a dozen — reminded here of Margaret Mead’s quotation “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

From Arts of the Possible to Graphic Narratives (or, new uses for old gym lockers)

The Norristown High Speed Line runs roughly parallel to the R5, the SEPTA regional rail route that gave rise to the area’s classification as “The Main Line.” As the story has been told to me, the High Speed Line was the primary carrier of the people from working class neighborhoods who would commute out to Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Gladwyne to cook, clean, and chauffer for the denizens of the many Main Line mansions that dot the landscape, while

the masters of the house would take the Main Line into the Center City headquarters of the Pennsylvania Railroad or the Pennsylvania Savings Fund Society (fondly known as PSFS before being acquired by Mellon which then was bought by Citizens) .  John Andries, the Head of Special Collections at Magill, recently curated an exhibit of documents from Haverford’s collection that illuminated the economic, political, and social histories that shaped the development of the region,  as manifest in designs for transportation.

The image on the poster shows a now-vanished section of track on what is now known as Railroad Avenue: the Didot type, as well as the neatly demarcated lots remind me of the Sunday funnies pages from the turn of the last century, a formal framework that is on my mind as I’ve been working with Ken Koltun-Fromm, a professor in the Religion department, on plans for a fall writing seminar that will be focused on graphic narratives.  On Monday, I hopped the High Speed Line at the Ardmore Junction (the trip costs roughly half of the R5 fare, and the demographic skews younger and browner than the R5 clientele) to connect to the Market/Frankford line to get to 30th Street Station, where I met Ken and Tom Bonner, the  Coordinator for the Mellon Tri-College Creative Residencies, to take the Northeast Regional up to New York City to meet with Pato Hebert, who is teaching and making art at the Tisch School’s Program in Art and Public Policy at NYU.

I had the opportunity to collaborate with Pato on a course entitled “Arts of the Possible” thanks to  the support of Haverford’s Tuttle Fund for the Visual Arts.  In the course, we focused on the ways in which creative forms such as the spiritual, the elegy, and the documentary were recast and rearticulated in movements such as West Virginia miners’ strikes in the 1930s and the Freedom Rides of the 1960s. Over the course of the semester, Pato worked with students in their imagination and refining of their semester-long projects, which took the shape of podcasts documenting censorship in Malaysia and prison rights activists in West Chester, a photographic installation that illustrated students’ takes on the state of feminism, and, in one case, a ravaged box of chocolates that gave a statistical overview of the (mis)distribution of federal funds in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

At the time of that collaboration, Pato was overseeing educational initiatives at the AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), where he was editing an extraordinary arts journal for APLA entitled Corpus — a context in which writers and artists explored the negotiation of risk through first-person accounts, critical essays, documentations of performance pieces, poetry, and, yes, comics.

One of the projects that Pato shepherded during his time at APLA, in collaboration with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, was the publication of Jaime Cortez’ Sexile, a graphic narrative that conveys the voice, experiences, and general fabulousness of Adela Vasquez, a trans Cuban exile whose first years in the United States coincided with the onset of the AIDS crisis;  more recently, he’s been exploring the generative tension between image and text in projects such as an ongoing collaboration with Plasencia Elementary School in Los Angeles that is sponsored by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) that recently generated pieces such as “A Passing Thought,” an installation in a stairwell in the school:  the thought bubble, iconography familiar to anyone who knows the vernacular of comic strips forms, is cut from a dark blue vinyl sheet that is affixed to the windows;  as one ascends or descends the stairs, the image framed by the thought bubble shifts.

In another Plasencia project, Pato created a process in which students responded to a writing prompt:  of 1,000 responses, 400 were selected and printed on vinyl strips that were affixed to the fronts and backs of folding chairs used for assemblies, so that each time the chairs are unfolded and arranged, they create impromptu poems out of phrases such as “I need a favor” and “yesterday was one day ago” and even “I am confused by these questions.”

As Tom, Ken, Pato, I and I sat knee to knee in Pato’s office floating six floors above Broadway, we traded ideas about the ways in which our course’s focus on autobiography through the form of the graphic narrative could be a point of orientation and a point of departure for creative interventions on campus as well as for class assignments.  Pato spoke about the ease with which students can learn the program Comic Life to create their own comics:  wondering how this could be a medium in which students might frame their responses to the prompt “a moment at which my world turned upside down” or to reflect on a point at which their vision of the world shifted.

As we were thinking out loud about different ways in which students could think openly and actively about the ways in which the forms and frames of comics can be understood in relationship to architectural spaces — part of an ongoing conversation about the ways in which we articulate, animate, and document our lives and the life of a community  – Ken noted that Ryan Gym is a space on campus that is a site of extraordinary possibility/ongoing consternation, depending on how one looks at it (see Robert Homan‘s take on Ryan Gym as “the last of  our wild spaces” on campus: http://haverfordclerk.com/2012/04/where-the-wild-things-are/) which opened up a lively conversation about all the different ways in which that space could be animated.

I, for one, would love to see a project in which members of the campus community would be invited to do installations in the gym lockers in the crypts underneath Ryan Gym — thinking of the vernacular of middle school gym locker decoration, of Dia de los Muertos altars, and of shoe box dioramas as ways of marking memory and of mapping culture.  To be continued…..

 

On making mistakes, and finding spaces for play

This morning I hopped on the 9:40 Blue Bus to make the trip over to Bryn Mawr; I had the unexpected pleasure of running into Conor Brennan-Burke ’16, one of the OMA student interns who was heading over to his economic development course, with his breakfast in hand (that is, in the cornstarch-based biodegradable take-out container)– a healthy combination of yogurt, honeydew melon, and seven pancakes.  He asked me why I was on the bus; I explained that I was going to talk with a number of Bryn Mawr colleagues who were planning to teach a cluster of courses centered on the theme of “play in the city,” which led Conor and me into a conversation that touched upon the cities known for practitioners of parkour, the ingenuity of Philly skateboarders, and “build it yourself” playgrounds where kids can create their own structures from the materials on hand –thus reminding me of the most fabulous Adventure Playground in Berkeley.

When I made it to the breakfast room at Wyndham Alumni House, Cities professor Carola Hein introduced me to Hanley Bodek who has been teaching a course called “Entrepreneurial Inner City Housing Markets” at the University of Pennsylvania for 28 years.  Students who take the course — ranging from future city planners to Wharton MBAs-to-be — are drawn by the opportunity to have a hands-on experience redeveloping an abandoned Philadelphia rowhouse in which learning opportunities range from figuring out how to secure a zoning permit in Philadelphia — surely the subject of a graduate level seminar in and of itself — to finding out what to do when you have followed your blueprint only to discover that you have left yourself about eight inches in which to build a closet.

In reflecting on his pedagogical practices, Hanley said that “what I became good at was watching students make mistakes and not getting upset.” As someone who is a bit of a control freak, this kind of wisdom is revelatory — the understanding that some of our most transformative moments are precisely those points at which things do not go according to plan. At those moments we have to rethink our assumptions, reconsider the information at hand, recalibrate our approaches, and reboot our imaginations…and sometimes we even have to ask for help, and thus can draw from someone else’s organizing intelligence and animating experience.

As a professor located in the Growth and Structures of Cities, Carola was spinning out ideas about the ways in which students could engage in projects that would have them working with three dimensional structures – maybe a garden, a treehouse, or a playground — that would have the potential to reconstruct the dynamics of the communities in which they would reside.  Carola is working in collaboration with Jody Cohen from the Bi-College Education program and Darlyne Bailey, the Dean of the School of Social Work who is also the Special Assistant to the President for Community Partnerships, and the conversation around the table ranged from possibilites of college students partnering with a fourth grade classroom to design a playhouse to the creation of a “city house” that would extend the reach of the Bi-Co community into Philadelphia, that could be used for courses open to the community or as a home base for students spending extended time at an internship or visiting galleries.

We also talked a lot about what play makes possible – how just messing around can lead to new insights, unexpected discoveries, and radically different ways of moving through the world, all of which can help us get closer to our animating passions. As a group of Haverford students, faculty, and staff gather this weekend at Pendle Hill to share our understandings of and experiences with community engagement, thanks to a “Bringing Theory to Practice” grant from the American Association of Colleges and Universities’ I’m going to be thinking a lot about the place for play in all this.

Calling all recent grads with Africana or Gen/Sex concentrations….

…the Yale School of Public Health is looking for a Research Assistant to start April 1  - they’re particularly interested in recent grads with “experience working in a research setting or with issues of women’s health, HIV/AIDS, STDs, pregnancy or parenting, reproductive health, sex education, sex and gender issues, behavioral health interventions or mental health….  Preferred: Bachelor’s degree in Women/Gender Studies, African American or Ethnic Studies, Public Health, Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, or a related field.”

Details below – spread the word!

Position Description
Under the supervision of the Deputy Director, the Research Assistant will provide support for a research project that involves developing and testing a group model of prenatal care that addresses a wide range of health behaviors to diverse pregnant women in 3 communities in the US. The goal of this program is to help pregnant women and families reduce their risk for adverse maternal child health outcomes, including preterm birth, low birthweight, rapid repeat pregnancy, HIV/STDs, and diabetes.
Responsibilities:
Assistance with Research Related Tasks (50%):
• Assist in preparation of progress reports, newsletters, manuscripts for publication, and grant submissions (conduct review of library materials and synthesize for inclusion in sections of grant; obtain information from state agencies to reflect problem status; create graphs and charts to present findings; conduct simple data analyses to demonstrate preliminary findings)
• Human Investigations Committee protocol management (create HIC protocols, consent forms, medical release forms, amendments, renewals)
• Produce and contribute to PR materials (e.g., newsletters, website content)
• Coordinate meetings (e.g., meeting preparation, agendas, minutes)
• Attend regular research meetings
• Correspond with collaborators and colleagues
Data Entry, Coding, and Management (20%):
• Data cleaning; Quality control checks; Generating reports from data; Maintaining data files; Data entry into MS Access, Excel, and SPSS databases; Maintain Endnote databases for papers, grants; Maintain data dictionaries
Administrative Duties (20%):
• Order supplies, collaborate with vendors, complete administrative paperwork
• Process financial paperwork, budgeting assistance
• Miscellaneous administrative tasks, (i.e., Xeroxing, filing, faxing, mailing, courier)
Miscellaneous Duties (10%):
• Provide support with all other related duties

Qualifications:
Required: Experience working in a research setting OR with issues of women’s health, HIV/AIDS, STDs, pregnancy or parenting, reproductive health, sex education, sex and gender issues, behavioral health interventions or mental health. Excellent with Windows-based word processing, internet, and various computer programs. Able to work independently, as a team member, and under direct supervision. Excellent organizational skills. Able to work with confidential materials. Good writing skills. Detail oriented. Willing to travel occasionally.

Preferred: Bachelor’s degree in Women/Gender Studies, African American or Ethnic Studies, Public Health, Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, or a related field. Familiarity with Endnote, MS Access, MS Excel, or SPSS AND with Medline, PsycInfo, or PubMed. Experience with web design or graphic design. Ability to interact comfortably with research and clinical staff. Good verbal skills.

Availability: POSITION TO START FULL TIME NO LATER THAN APRIL 1, 2013.

To Apply: Send resume to Jessica Lewis at Jessica.Lewis@Yale.edu.

Getting through “The Daily Grind” – Zanya Harriott’s Uncommon Knowledge Project

How do the material, cultural, intellectual, and social contributions of African Americans shape your day to day life?

This is a question that Zanya Harriott ’14 is asking members of the Haverford community to consider in her week-long project, “Uncommon Knowledge” in which students, faculty, and staff have been invited to make the attempt to live their day-to-day lives without crucial inventions by black people; you can follow the project by going to the OMA Facebook page, which you can get to from the button on www.haverford.edu/deans/oma

Zanya is offering nightly video updates on the challenges for the next day, along with histories of inventors such as Alice H. Parker, (whose patent # 1,325,905 is illustrated on the right) who in 1919 invented a heater with a mechanism that regulated the flow of heat to different rooms in a building (my household tried to do without this but when the interior hit 57 degrees, key constituencies staged a successful revolt).

For today, the theme is “The Daily Grind” — what are those common items that are ubiquitous and part of the fabric of our everyday lives?

TEDx Haverford: from Shakespeare to Sun Tzu

I spent this afternoon at TEDx Haverford, which was organized by Isaac Anthony ’14, Sofia Athanassiadis ’14,  Tamar Hoffman ’15, Ellen Rienhart ’15, and Victoria Sobocinski ’13. My introduction to TED talks came via Bill Bragin ’89, Lincoln Center’s Director of Public Programming who serves as Music Advisor to TED;  TED started out back in 1984 as a conference designed to bring together folks from Technology, Entertainment, and Design — and which continues to do so in twice-yearly conferences for which registration runs to $7,500 for the four days of 18-minute talks.  TED now disseminates its talks through the web, an NPR show, and TEDx conferences in which local organizers adopt the TED format (one which works best for those who are both concise and charismatic) for locally-invited speakers who are interspersed with videos of TED and TEDx speakers whose talks address the themes chosen by the organizers.

The Haverford organizers selected three organizing themes for the day’s talks: “Past to Future,” “Hostility to Understanding,” and “Isolation to Interaction.”  Given the work of the OMA office, I was particularly interested in the second set of talks that featured Tim Wilson, whose work with Seeds of Peace brings affords people from conflict-ridden regions to meet the “enemy” face to face to work on peace-building, John Carlos, whose stance on the podium at the ’68 Olympics was an iconic moment that continues to speak to the power of resistance, as well as Lori Pompa, whose creation of the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program has been transformative for Haverford students who have taken the CPGC-sponsored Inside-Out class taught by Barb Toews.  But I didn’t want to pass up the chance to hear Swarthmore’s president Rebecca Chopp and Lafayette’s president Dan Weiss (coming to a small liberal arts college near you in 2013!) speak about their vision for liberal arts colleges as we move deeper into the 21st century, or to listen to the presentation of Hayley O’Malley ’08, who currently teaches high school English and Social Studies at Notre Dame de Namur while pursuing graduate work in English at Bread Loaf.

So while my ticket was for the second session, I snuck into the first one as well.

The TEDx experience started when I ran into Alanna Phillips ’16, a first year student from Brooklyn who, like me, thought that the talks were taking place in Stokes;  as we walked across campus to Sharpless Auditorium, we spoke about her classes which range from a Perspectives in Biology course focusing on vaccines to an introductory Arabic class (for which she would be lauded by Tim Wilson who reminded the audience that English will not be the lingua franca of the world in the coming decades).  At Sharpless, I found a seat next to Chen-lei “Tom” Zhuang ’15, one of the heads of the International Students’ Organization who was nailing down details for the ISO’s first campus-wide dinner of the year, and behind Kelsey Owyang ’16, whom I first met in the Tri-College Multicultural Leadership Institute who was coming from practice for one of the two dance ensembles with which she performs.

The breadth, depth, and range of experiences, interests, and talents manifest in Alanna’s, Tom’s, and Kelsey’s investments in their Haverford educations and experiences were material manifestations of a key insight from Rebecca Chopp’s and Dan Weiss’ presentation — that at residential liberal arts institutions, students’ presence on campus 24/7 means that they are intimately involved with making and remaking the life of the community (even as Haverford students are famous for their forays into places ranging from Philadelphia to the Philippines).  As Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs work to make bodies of knowledge available to the masses, small liberal arts colleges focus on the practice of teaching students how to think creatively, critically, and in close collaboration with people who themselves bring a diversity of experiences, perspectives, and visions — thus enabling people to reconsider and recast bodies of knowledge and ways of knowing.

My sense is that each mode of exchange has its place and space:  I think a lot about Margaret Mead’s oft-quoted call to “never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Such a group may in fact constitue itself through a discussion group engendered from a MOOC course enrolling a hundred thousand people and this is one of the miracles of modern technology.  At a place like Haverford, that group might come together in a common room in Barclay, Tritton, or HCA 42 (aka “HCA 38 in Base 9″), by virtue of a tutorial group for a writing seminar, in Superlab or on Swan Field, after a show in the Black Box or Drop Shot or James House, because of a common interest in food justice or a shared love for Korean pop music (may I recommend Eruption’s Pinoy take on Psy’s “Gangnam Style”?) or an obsession with Belgian bande dessinee.

Or it might come through a love of Shakespeare:  Hayley O’Malley opened her talk by speaking of the ways in which she gets her students to get interested in reading Shakespeare, noting that for many of them, their first significant interaction with the Bard may come via Hilary Duff or Lindsay Lohan (understanding She’s the Man to be a free adaptation of Twelfth Night, and Mean Girls as a take on Julius Caesar). Hayley spoke about the process of adaptation itself to be a sign of cultural vitality and reinvigoration, and reminded us of the power of literature to create a common ground for people who come from radically different cultures and contexts by giving us a frame through which to view and revise the world.

In a TED video of a talk by John Hunter (www.ted.com/talks/john_hunter_on_the_world_peace_game.html), Hunter flips the script by speaking to his experiences teaching Sun Tzu’s Art of War to fourth graders who are tasked with saving the world through a World Peace Game that puts students into the role of policy makers, politicians, weather goddesses and agent provocateurs as a means of enabling them to think and work through crises and challenges ranging from global warming to arms escalation.  I’m sitting with a story that he told about a 9 year old girl who, as a defense minister for an impoverished country, singlehandedly forestalled a hostile takeover by an oil-rich neighboring nation by moving to surround that nation’s oil fields with her tanks (high on the list of quotable quotes from the afternoon “You never want to cross a nine-year-old girl armed with tanks”), thus cutting off their fuel supply.  Hunter speaks about how this led to a group discussion about the ethics of engaging in a small war to intervene against larger-scale violence;  as someone who has questioned whether any war can be seen as just, this moves me to reconsider my own world view.  Wondering what Rufus Jones might have to say about this concept so am returning to an account of his work with the American Friends Service Committee;  wondering what others took away from today’s talks, and what will come of the seeds planted this afternoon…..

From the local to the global…..

Thanks to The Beet Goes On, a very enterprising group of students who have partnered with Lancaster Farm Fresh Collective, Haverford now has its own CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) outpost at 50 Hannum Drive where members of the community who have signed up for a summer share (options include full or half shares of fruits and veggies and eggs, as well as a flower share) can pick up organic produce from family farms — primarily Old Order Amish — that belong to LFFC.

In the photo at the end of this entry, you can see a representative sample of the amazing veggies that came in my share (and my thanks to Hannah, Stu, Jamie, Chris B., and Rachel who helped me sort out a snafu in my order — indeed, it takes a village to support a CSA).  In addition to extremely photogenic produce, the benefits of joining  a CSA include becoming part of an extended community:  I ran into Laurie Allen from the library as we were picking up our shares and got to chat with her about her upcoming trip; when I carried my box into a meeting of folks who teach in the Writing Program, Danielle LaLonde from the Classics department gave me a seasoned CSAer’s perspective on how to contend with the abundance of particular kinds of produce at particular times of the year (turnip print cards for the holidays, anyone?);  Debora Sherman, from the English Department, shared stories of her mother’s preferred preparation for rhubarb, and Kristen Lindgren, Director of the Writing Center and noted Disability Studies theorist and activist noted that  garlic scape (and a shout out to Sam Shain for cluing me in on the nomenclature) could function as a minimalist centerpiece.

I think about the fact that while I grew up in the fertile farmlands of southwestern Pennsylvania, my close encounters with produce came in the aisles of the A&P where cellophane-wrapped heads of iceberg lettuce and shrink-wrapped packets of green beans were the norm.  My mother somehow managed to recreate intricate Filipino dishes from whatever she found in the bins – years later, I discovered that one of favorite dishes – pork with radishes, was actually traditionally a dish made with jicama, which used to be very difficult to get in Somerset, PA.

You can probably find it there now, flown in from the warmer climes where jicama thrives, and what one might gain in “authenticity” one probably loses in terms of an expanded carbon footprint;  thus, my contribution to cross-cultural cuisine is to chop a stalk of garlic scape on the diagonal, saute it in a dollop of olive oil, add a medium zucchini sliced in half moons (there were two zucchinis in my share, one of which is hiding behind the kale in the picture since it realizes that its partner has gone to a hot skillet) and cook it until it is all crunchy-tender. If you are me, you then add a couple of teaspoons of bagoong (ask your local native Filipino informant what this is) or you could also try some patis — the fish sauce that Vietnamese know as nuoc mam, or perhaps even chop up a couple of anchovies and throw it in before you let it all simmer down. I’m sure that there is a good vegan version of this – maybe using fermented tofu or fermented black beans? – and will try it next time.  All I can say is, that other zucchini is not long for this world…..

clockwise from the bottom: broccoli, red chard, red lettuce, rhubarb, purple kale, and in the middle, my new best friend, garlic scape!

Setting up for Dakshina and new rites of spring….

I just told a friend that in addition to literary exegesis and the ability to bake a decent scone (thank you, The Cheeseboard Collective Cookbook), I can now add “installing a dance floor” to my skill set: in preparation for Dakshina’s performance this past weekend, the estimable Dom Chacon (a stage manager and tech director who was introduced to the OMA courtesy of Emily Cronin, Associate Director of the Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities, who has a deep theater background) oversaw the installation of a dance floor borrowed from Drexel University with labor contributed by Ani Leonhart, Aaron Madow, and yours truly.

It takes a village to prepare for a dance performance: Dom pulled many strings to borrow this floor from Drexel, since the floor that we would usually borrow from Bryn Mawr was already in service for a weekend series of performances there; Joe Hudgins from Housekeeping arranged a pick up of the floor with folks from his staff who delivered the 8 rolls to Marshall Auditorium in Roberts Hall. Following orchestra rehearsal, Aaron and I broke down the stage set up and helped Dom and Ani install the floor, which consisted of us unrolling these huge panels and then sort of shimmying over them (Ani favored a kind of cadenced hop, Aaron did an Electric Slide, and I basically shuffled) to stretch out the panels and smooth over the bubbles as Dom and Ani taped the panels down and covered the seams.  We left Roberts Hall just a little before midnight and left the panels to “breathe” and settle in overnight. From pick up to basic installation, the process took about five hours for something that was literally invisible to the audience’s eye but absolutely necessary for the dancers, given the intricate footwork that is part of the basic idiom of Bharata Natyam dance that informs Daniel Phoenix Singh’s choreography.

On Friday, Kai Xin Chen and Danny Bedrossian from Blast (the student-run tech group that makes magic for student concerts and performances on campus) devoted most of their day to working with Lisa and Todd Mion, the stage manager and lighting director for the company.   How hard can this be?  It is, as I learned, an extraordinary feat of choreography in and of itself:  one part of the process included the activity of sending Dom up in the aptly-named “Genie,” a lift that works when you rub the side of a lantern (no, actually, you have to get the key from Facilities) and enables you — that would be, Dom — to adjust the lights and install the gels that literally as well as figuratively color the atmosphere for the performance. Nancy Merriam, who coordinates performances for the Music department, mentioned that their budget line for lights for the stage is $1,500 a year, which made me very grateful for the instructions that orchestra conductor Heidi Jacobs had given us the night before on how to turn off all of the stage lights, and which newly emboldens me in imparting this message to the resident 7 and 10 year old in my household who believe that lights should be left on in any room that you may enter at some point over the course of any 24 hour period.

All this work for what? A phenomenal performance by an extraordinary dance troupe that includes a computer scientist-turned-choreographer and a world class biochemist. But more on this later….

“Recovering the Sacred: Religion, Faith, and the Land from a Native Perspective”

Greetings, everyone,

Those of you on campus may have seen the posters re. this upcoming series of events with Native American feminist and environmentalist Winona La Duke – folks who are interested in a conversation with her over dinner, or in taking part in a workshop with her, can apply by responding to the series of questions at the end of this blurb, to be sent to the good people in the Women’s Center.

The Women’s Center, CPGC, KINSC, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, Student Activities Office, OMA, and Quaker Affairs Office are proud to present Winona LaDuke’s visit to Haverford’s campus! She will be speaking publically on Friday, March 30th, at 7:30 p.m. in Stokes Auditorium, on the topic “Recovering the Sacred: Religion, Faith and the Land from a Native Perspective.”

Ms. LaDuke is an internationally acclaimed author, orator and activist. A graduate of Harvard and Antioch Universities, with advanced degrees in rural economic development, she has devoted her life to protecting the lands and life ways of Native communities.

Ms. LaDuke is the founder and co-Director of Honor the Earth, a national advocacy group encouraging public support and funding for Native environmental groups. She is also the founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, one of the largest reservation based non-profit organizations in the country. Ms. LaDuke served as Ralph Nader’s vice-presidential running mate on the Green Party ticket in the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections. In 2007, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Before Ms. LaDuke’s public talk, we are offering two opportunities to get to meet her in person! Any Haverford student, faculty, or staff member can apply to engage in a workshop or to enjoy a catered meal with Ms. LaDuke. There are twenty spots open for each activity.

The workshop will take place from 4:30-6:00 p.m. at the Multicultural Center in Stokes and will center on the topic of women and leadership, and the potential for women leaders to enact meaningful social change.

The dinner will be held from 6:15-7:15 in the Swarthmore room of the Dining Center, and will provide the opportunity to get to know Ms. LaDuke personally!
Applicants can apply for one or both of the activities. To apply, simply answer the questions below and email your answers to womenctr@haverford.edu. Please make sure to specify the activity or activities for which you are applying. The application deadline is Friday, March 23rd at 11:59 p.m.
1. Why are you interested in meeting Winona LaDuke?

2. If you could discuss any topic with her, what would it be?

We look forward to reading your applications!