Class of 2015: What Will You Miss?
The W&L Class of 2015: A Celebration
On September 3, 2011, 498 young men and women began their journey at Washington and Lee. On Thursday, those students began the next chapter of their lives.
W&L’s Russ Miller Analyzes New Developments in German Spying Scandal
Edward Snowden’s 2013 disclosures of the National Security Agency’s spying and surveillance programs shocked the world. Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Germany were particularly strained when it was revealed that, for many years, the U.S. had been pursuing massive intelligence gathering operations in Germany, including the collection of Germans’ telecommunications data and content.
“Spying between friends, that’s just not done,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the time.
Now, the shoe is on the other foot as Germany is acknowledging its own surveillance practices and its intelligence agency’s deep cooperation with the NSA, including operations that involved spying on the French president and the aerospace company AirBus.
Washington and Lee law professor Russ Miller, an expert on the German legal system who is one of the only Americans to testify before the German parliament’s special committee investigating the NSA affair, was quoted extensively on these recent revelations in a report in the Christian Science Monitor. Miller discussed the weak oversight of the Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND, Germany’s foreign services agency. Miller explained that the BND is overseen by the G10 Commission, a panel of former legislators who are often undertrained in the technological aspects of the BND’s work.
“They’re trained for the deployment of a complex legal standard but not necessarily for evaluating the high level technology that the BND uses,” Miller told the paper.
Miller is extensively involved in scholarly efforts to mediate the growing controversy. He presented at the German Center for Research and Innovation conference on cybersecurity and ethics in New York and will participate in June at an American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) program in Washington, D.C. on privacy and security. He also authored an essay that is available at the AICGS website in which he discusses the current debate in the U.S. Congress over the USA FREEDOM ACT, arguing that its passage could help repair the “tattered transatlantic relationship” between the U.S. and Germany. Miller was also quoted in a recent article on the espionage scandal that was published by the German news agency DeutscheWelle.
Miller’s book-length treatment on the NSA affair, its impact on relations between the U.S. and Europe, and the subsequent reevaluation of intelligence practices across the globe is due to be published in 2016 by a major academic press.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Merkel is facing calls from inside and outside the German government to reveal other BND spying targets and to implement major structural reforms within the agency.
“There’s no doubt that the mood has shifted from pretty profound dismay at the Americans and the NSA, to a focus on the BND,” Miller told the CSM. “If there’s a moment for reform, in the German context, this would have to be it.”
Miller serves as a DAAD/AICGS Research Fellow, a former Fellow at the Center for Security and Society at the University of Freiburg, and the Editor-in-Chief of the German Law Journal. He is the author/editor of a number of books, including “Privacy and Power: Transatlantic Relations in the Shadow of the NSA-Affair” (forthcoming 2016), “The Constitutional Jurisprudence of the Federal Republic of Germany” (Duke University Press 2012), and “U.S. National Security, Intelligence and Democracy” (Routledge 2009).
New Lectern at W&L Commencement Has Historic Significance
Few people attending Washington and Lee University’s 2015 commencement probably noticed the new lectern at the center of the podium or understood its historic significance.
The lectern is made from wood from the old “commencement tree” that graced W&L’s front campus since it was planted around 1866 and cut down in 1998. An ash tree with a canopy of between 40 and 50 feet, it used to be in full leaf during the many ceremonies for which it provided much needed shade to graduating seniors and their families.
The tree received its name because it was a pivotal point of the graduation stage when commencement was held on the lawn between the President’s House and R. E. Lee Episcopal Church. “The tree was the corner that anchored the stage, and it was the point from which we placed alignment markers in the ground and strung lines to get the stage square to the seating,” said Scott Beebe, projects engineer in facilities management.
Beebe was director of facilities at W&L when he made the decision to cut the tree down. A survey of all the trees on the front campus had identified the commencement tree as a liability since it was hollow. Realizing the historical significance, Beebe decided to mill a stack of boards for possible later use.
Decades later, the University’s existing lectern, made of dark brown plywood and used for all campus ceremonies, needed to be replaced. Randolph Hare, director of maintenance and operations in facilities management, remembered the planks from the commencement tree that had been drying in W&L’s barn for years and suggested that they be used to create a new lectern.
John Hoogakker, executive director of university facilities, took on the task of designing the new lectern, although he said it was hard to reach the planks and to mill wood of sufficient quality for a lectern.
Hoogakker, who has a significant background in architecture, researched the classical references around campus and studied detail and proportion in historic texts on classical architecture. As a result, the new lectern he designed has four columns that are very similar to the columns on Washington Hall.
One challenge that Hoogakker found was that he had never worked with wood from an ash tree before. “There was some quirkiness about the grain of the wood that surprised me, but it was a pleasant experience to learn to deal with this species of wood. I discovered things as I went along. For example, I had a very different finish in mind—something more like cherry or mahogany—but ash wood has a more rustic quality to it, and the dark part of the grain reached through the finish as a texture in a much different way than more traditional furniture woods. I think it gives the piece a character that I find pleasant and surprising.”
Patrick Harris, systems programmer and administrator in information technology services (ITS), built the lectern to Hoogakker’s design, and John Watkins, director of client services in ITS, created the four columns. Watkins’ greatest challenge was creating four identical columns by hand, instead of using a machine. “I think that, for the discerning eye, the design of the new lectern is really sophisticated, with the specifications for the different spaces and how the columns sit on the base,” observed Harris.
“Using the commencement tree gave the whole project a lot of meaning that it wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said Hoogakker.
Positive Change Honors the Past, Doesn’t Reject It, W&L Graduates Told
A university is not a museum where change should be seen as a rejection of the past. Instead, advancing and improving are the ways universities like Washington and Lee honor their commitment to, and reverence for, the past.
That was the message Kenneth P. Ruscio, president of Washington and Lee University, delivered to 453 students who received bachelor’s degrees from W&L on May 28. James C. Cobb, a leading scholar of Southern history and a professor at the University of Georgia, received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
Ruscio asked the undergraduates to discern between character and artifice at their storied alma mater and in their lives. He told them — gathered on a campus that is a national historic landmark — “what truly matters here are the intangible attributes” of learning, friendship and integrity. “That is the character, the essence, the wavering nature of the place nourished by its source,” he explained.
Ruscio said that “as your life goes on, as you assume the duties of citizenship in this democracy, as you contribute to your communities and professions, I wish for you the quality of discernment — the ability to distinguish between what is real and what is artifice.”
Ruscio warned the graduates, “Celebrity is not leadership. The volume of an argument is not a measure of its quality. Repeating a false statement over and over does not eventually make it true. Sticking with an opinion in the face of contradictory evidence is not principled conviction, but is instead intellectual laziness.”
“Cultivate that quality of discernment in every corner of your lives, including your vigilant stewardship of your alma mater,” he asked, noting that when the Class of 2015 returns for its 50th reunion, it will notice some changes.
“If Washington and Lee is not a different place, and a better place, you should be ashamed of it; and if you have not played a role in advancing it, you should be ashamed of yourselves,” Ruscio said.
“It is perfectly fine for those of us here today to benefit from the sacrifice of those who came before us, provided we sacrifice equally for those still to come,” he said. “Our inheritance from the past becomes our obligation for the future. No other university has a past like ours; no other university has a future like ours.”
During the honors and recognitions portions of the commencement exercises, Provost Daniel Wubah presented Cobb for the honorary degree, calling him “one of the foremost scholars of Southern history, a teacher who has had a profound impact on generations of students, and a writer who has interpreted the South for academic and lay audiences alike.” At the May 27 baccalaureate service, Anne Holton, Virginia secretary of education, received an honorary doctor of law degrees.
Three graduating seniors, tied with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages, were named valedictorians: Christopher Hu, of Ridgewood, New Jersey; Eric Schwen, of Cottage Grove, Minnesota; and Scott Sugden, of Circle Pines, Minnesota. Eighteen earned both a B.A. and B.S. degree. Three each completed three majors. Four ROTC cadets were to be commissioned as U.S. Army officers in a late afternoon ceremony.
Va. Education Secretary Holton Speaks, Receives Honorary Degree at W&L
Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton advised Washington and Lee University seniors at their May 27 baccalaureate service to “live life optimistically, be on the lookout for opportunities, jump in vigorously, and don’t worry about who gets the credit.”
Holton, the guest speaker and recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree, said she learned those lessons from her parents, former Virginia Gov. Linwood Holton, a Washington and Lee alumnus, and Virginia “Jinks” Holton, a former W&L trustee.
Holton said her father often awoke the family’s children in the morning by shouting, “Opportunity time, kids!” She continued, “He chooses optimism. That’s the secret of his success.”
She said she learned from her father always to be on the lookout for opportunities and to seize them, no matter the circumstances of the day. She recalled the unexpected court decision seven months into her father’s term that ordered Virginia to desegregate its public schools. Instead of following the lead of other Southern governors in leading massive resistance, Gov. Holton enforced desegregation and even sent his children to previously all-black Richmond public schools.
“Most importantly, what others may have seen as a stumbling block or a problem or at best a challenge to address in due time, a chance for a speech or two, my dad saw as an opportunity — an opportunity to live his values,” she explained.
On the personal level, she described the opportunity she and her husband, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, discovered by visiting “a small, black Catholic church in Richmond shortly after moving there. Not many white people, after all, get the chance to experience what it means to live in the minority within a community. Over 30 years ago, we joined that church, and now it’s been our church home — we were married there, all our children were baptized there, we’ve heard a lifetime of great gospel music, we have fast friends from all walks of life.”
Holton told the W&L seniors to jump in vigorously like her mother, now 89, who in her early 80s was still swinging a hammer as a volunteer building Habitat for Humanity houses. And, she said, her mother never looks to take credit.
Holton said she could have adopted her father’s wake-up call, also the title of his memoir, “Opportunity Time,” to sum up her advice to the seniors. Instead, she paraphrased the lyrics of the popular song “I Hope You Dance,” by Mark Daniel Sanders and Tia Sillers.
“Graduates, I hope you dance. Welcome to your dance,” she concluded.
W&L President Kenneth P. Ruscio presented Holton with the honorary degree for being an advocate for children and families, a champion of quality education for all of Virginia’s citizens and an esteemed member of Washington and Lee’s extended family. “Your commitment to justice and opportunity for every person serves as a model for us all,” he said.
Jim Head III ’64 To Receive the Penrose Medal for Work in Planetary Geology
James W. “Jim” Head III, who graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1964, will receive the Geological Society of America’s Penrose Medal in Baltimore this November. Head is the first planetary geologist to win the GSA’s highest honor.
Last fall we blogged about an award Jim received in 2013 — the Norman L. Bowen Award for his outstanding contributions to volcanology, geochemistry or petrology from the American Geophysical Union. As W&L professor emeritus Ed Spencer pointed out in that post, “This is one of the highest recognitions for scholarly achievements given among the geoscience societies.”
The Penrose Medal, awarded since 1927, is given “in recognition of eminent research in pure geology, for outstanding original contributions or achievements that mark a major advance in the science of geology.” Ed noted that Albert Nobel overlooked geology when establishing his international awards. Hence, the Penrose “is one of the highest honors a geologist can receive.”
Jim is the Louis and Elizabeth Scherck Distinguished Professor of the Geological Sciences at Brown University. He received an honorary degree from W&L in 1995.
You can read more about the Penrose award and Jim’s distinguished career on the Brown website.
Alumni in the News, May 2015
Here’s our roundup of law alumni in the news recently. Send alumni news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has appointed Michael Scott Carlson ‘92L to the state’s Court Martial Review Panel. Carlson currently serves as a deputy chief assistant district attorney with the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office
More details at Middle Georgia CEO
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe appointed Evan Feinman ‘10L as the new executive director for the recently created Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, which changes the way the state distributes its money from the national tobacco settlement. Feinman previously served as deputy secretary of natural resources and as deputy policy director for the governor’s post-election transition team.
More details at the Lynchburg News Advance
Roanoke attorney John Fishwick ‘83L has been recommended as the region’s next U.S. attorney by a panel formed by Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. The senators made the recommendation to President Obama following an interview process conducted by the panel, which included attorneys from across the state.
More details at the Roanoke Times
Cabell Youell ‘98L was named the “Influential Woman of the Year” by Virginia Lawyers Weekly. Youell was honored for her work as head of Saint Francis Service Dogs, a non-profit that pairs disabled children and adults with professionally trained service dogs. Youell got her start with the organization as a volunteer in 2002 when she helped launch a program that enlists state inmates in service dog training.
More details at Virginia Lawyers Weekly
W&L’s President Ruscio to Step Down in July 2016
Kenneth P. Ruscio will step down as Washington and Lee University’s president on June 30, 2016.
Ruscio, who announced his decision to the campus community today, will have completed a decade as president of his alma mater when he leaves the position. He intends to take a one-year sabbatical leave for the 2016-17 academic year and then return to the faculty.
In a letter to the university community, Ruscio said that while he had no timetable in mind when he became president in July 2006, “a decade now seems about right — enough to have achieved many of our goals and the right moment for the university to start anticipating the new ones.”
Ruscio’s decision comes as W&L is nearing the end of its historic, $500 million fundraising campaign. That campaign, which officially concludes on June 30, will have successfully funded most of the initiatives included in the university’s current strategic plan, which was formally adopted in May 2007.
“The board has accepted President Ruscio’s decision with reluctance, but with deep appreciation and admiration for his exceptional leadership,” said Donald Childress, rector of the W&L Board of Trustees. “Washington and Lee is a stronger institution today by virtually every measure because of the way President Ruscio has combined his vision with his devotion to Washington and Lee.”
Among the numerous achievements of Ruscio’s presidency:
- The $50 million renovation and restoration of the historic Colonnade, which comprises the signature campus buildings. Work on four of the five buildings has been completed, with construction on the fifth, Tucker Hall, scheduled to begin in the summer of 2016.
- The development of the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity, created through a $100 million gift that has created a major scholarship program, two professorships, and an array of summer internship and research opportunities for students.
- The creation of such new academic initiatives as the Roger Mudd Center for Ethics, the J. Lawrence Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship, a reinvigorated, four-week Spring Term, and the innovative, nationally regarded third-year curriculum in the School of Law.
- A major expansion of the University’s financial aid program that has made W&L’s distinctive education available to qualified students regardless of their family’s financial circumstances. It has also resulted in the removal of student loans from all financial aid packages. The W&L Promise, created in 2013, guarantees free tuition to any admitted undergraduate student with family income below $75,000.
- The $66 million Lenfest Challenge that created 15 of the 20 new endowed chairs and 10 term professorships and improved faculty compensation. The University has also introduced major work-life initiatives for faculty and staff.
- A strong commitment to sustainability initiatives featuring a successful, cost-saving energy-education program, as well as the state’s largest solar-panel array at the time of its 2011 installation.
- The construction of new facilities: the Center for Global Learning, Hillel House, upper-division housing neighborhood and natatorium. In addition, the University has made extensive renovations to first-year housing, Leyburn Library and Lewis Hall, and has developed the Duchossois Athletic Complex, featuring Wilson Field.
- The support for the communities of Lexington and Rockbridge County through the creation of the Community Grants Program, the relocation of the national Omicron Delta Kappa headquarters to Lexington, and the partnership that has resulted in the restoration of the historic former courthouse and jail into University-leased buildings.
In his letter to the community, Ruscio praised the quality of the people who compose Washington and Lee: “The strength of this community has always been its people — the thousands of alumni who remain dedicated to their alma mater, the creative teacher-scholars on the faculty, the devoted and highly competent staff, the parents and families of the students, and most important, our students. I certainly knew that before assuming the presidency. That is affirmed every day I go to the office.”
A distinguished scholar of democratic theory and public policy, Ruscio earned his B.A. in politics from Washington and Lee in 1976, and a master of public administration (1978) and a Ph.D. in public affairs and public administration (1983), both from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
He was a postdoctoral research scholar at UCLA and taught at both Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University of Kansas before returning to his alma mater in 1987. Between 1987 and 2002, he held staff and faculty positions as professor of politics, associate dean of the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics, and dean of freshmen.
From 2002 to 2006, Ruscio served as dean of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond before he rejoined W&L as the University’s 26th president.
Active in national higher education circles, Ruscio serves on the boards of the Council of Independent Colleges and the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U). He is currently the immediate past chair of the AAC&U. He has also served as national president of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership society founded at Washington and Lee in 1914.
Ruscio is the author of “The Leadership Dilemma in Modern Democracy” (2004) as well as numerous papers and articles. In recognition of his scholarly and professional accomplishments, Washington and Lee’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa inducted Ruscio as an alumni member in 2008. He has also received the Jepson School’s James MacGregor Burns Award for contributions to leadership studies.
Ruscio is married to Kimberley O’Donnell Ruscio. Their son, Matthew, is a 2012 graduate of St. Lawrence University.
More About President Ruscio:
Washington and Lee University to Celebrate 228th Commencement, Baccalaureate
Washington and Lee University celebrates its 228th undergraduate commencement May 28 when it will award bachelor’s degrees to 452 students.
University President Kenneth P. Ruscio will address the graduates at the 10 a.m. ceremony. Lucy Wade Shapiro, president of the Executive Committee of the student body and a graduating senior from Memphis, Tennessee, will speak on behalf of the Class of 2015.
Commencement festivities begin May 27 at 10 a.m. on the Front Lawn with the traditional baccalaureate service, featuring guest speaker Anne Holton, Virginia Secretary of Education. Holton will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at the service.
A graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Harvard Law School, Holton has compiled a decades-long record of service to Virginia’s families and children. She first worked as a legal aid lawyer serving low-income families, then became a juvenile and domestic relations district court judge. As Virginia’s First Lady from 2006-10, she spearheaded a reform of the Commonwealth’s foster care system to connect greater numbers of children with permanent families. She later consulted on foster care reform nationally for the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
In 2013, Holton served as program director of Great Expectations, an initiative of the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education that helps youth in the foster care system gain access to higher education. Gov. Terry McAuliffe appointed her education secretary in January 2014.
Holton is the wife of U.S. senator and former governor Tim Kaine and the daughter of former governor Linwood Holton, of the W&L Class of 1944.
During the commencement ceremony on Thursday, W&L will recognize seven retiring members of the faculty: Bob Culpepper, visiting professor of business administration; Tim Jost, Willett Family Professor of Law; Bill King, professor of accounting; Craig McCaughrin, professor of politics; Brian Richardson, professor of journalism and mass communications; Ken Ujie, associate professor of East Asian languages and literatures; and Lyn Wheeler, professor of accounting.
The University will also award an honorary doctor of humane letters degree to Dr. James C. Cobb, Spalding Professor of History at the University of Georgia.
The Class of 2015 hails from 40 states, the District of Columbia and 11 other countries. Two seniors have received scholarships for postgraduate international work. Naphtali Rivkin of Teaneck, New Jersey, been awarded a Fulbright research grant for research in Latvia the country’s resistance to postwar domination by the Soviet Union. Sommer Ireland of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, has been awarded a U.S. Teaching Assistantship from the Austrian government to teach English in the country’s rural Western Tirol.
In the event of rain, events will be held at Virginia Military Institute’s Cameron Hall, and the University community will be notified by broadcast e-mail, a notice on the University’s website and other means. Full details on all commencement activities at W&L can be found at www.wlu.edu/commencement. The commencement ceremony will be streamed live online at http://livestream.com/wlu/ugrad-2015.
W&L Student Wins Regional, National Journalism Awards
Rachel Adams-Heard, a junior business journalism major at Washington and Lee University, has won first place for general news reporting-newspaper (small school division) in Region 2 of the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2014 college journalism competition.
Adams-Heard’s entry, “Commercial Drones Take Off in Charlotte,” published by the Charlotte Observer (www.charlotteobserver.com/news/business/article9147617.html), also was one of only two finalists nationally in SPJ’s Mark of Excellence contest. Region 2 includes colleges and universities in Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and North Carolina.
A project by four other W&L students was named a regional finalist in the Online In-Depth Reporting category. Seniors Micah Fleet of Cordova, Tennessee, and Janey Fugate of Atlanta and 2014 graduates Evelyn Rupert of Frederick, Maryland, and Andy Soergel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, won for “Natural Bridge,” published by W&L’s website and online television news program, Rockbridge Report (http://naturalbridge.academic.wlu.edu/).
Adams-Heard will work as an intern at Bloomberg News in Washington, D.C., this summer. She has previously performed internships at CBS News in Washington, the Charlotte Observer, and in the news department of NPR member station KUT (90.5 FM) in her hometown of Austin, Texas. At W&L, she has written for the independent student newspaper Ring Tum Phi and reported and edited Rockbridge Report. She also received the Landon B. Lane Memorial Scholarship, a journalism scholarship awarded annually to one junior, and volunteered as campus coordinator for Rockbridge Area Special Olympics.
A graduate of James Bowie High School, Adams-Heard plans a career as a financial and economic news reporter. She is the daughter of Martha Adams and David Heard of Austin.
Two Washington and Lee Students Named Kemper Scholars
Parker Burrus of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Lee Sommerfeldt of Sealy, Texas, both first-year students at Washington and Lee University, have been selected as Kemper Scholars.
The highly selective Kemper Scholarship Program prepares students throughout their undergraduate days for leadership and service, especially in the fields of administration and business. In five of the last six years, two Washington and Lee students have been selected.
Recipients are selected from a national applicant pool of first-year college students and receive scholarship assistance for three years based on financial need. Each also receives summer project stipends for two years, attends the annual Kemper Scholars Conference and performs a summer internship at a Chicago-area non-profit organization after the sophomore year.
The James S. Kemper Foundation, which funds the program, supports undergraduate study of the liberal arts as the best preparation for life and career, while providing opportunities for career exploration, practical experience and professional growth. It fosters potential leaders who pursue a broad undergraduate education, while participating in community service, campus activities and vocational exploration outside the classroom.
“Kemper Scholars represent a select group of undergraduates from a group of exemplary liberal arts colleges around the country,” said Ryan LaHurd, foundation president. “They are selected because they are committed to their studies and service in their communities and because they have exhibited leadership and well-rounded, ethical character. Throughout the over six decades of the program, scholars have gone on to make outstanding contributions as leaders in organizations around the country.”
Burrus is a volunteer in the special needs program of Rockbridge County (Virginia) public schools, continuing similar service work she performed during high school. She is a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at W&L and serves on its public relations committee. Burrus plans to major in business administration.
Sommerfeldt is a member of W&L’s Venture Club, which helps students learn about start-up businesses in a hands-on environment and promotes entrepreneurship, and the university’s First-Year Leadership Council, which promotes campus and community activities that lead to an organized, united and active first-year class. He also belongs to Sigma Nu fraternity and plans to major in accounting and Japanese.
Sommer Ireland ’15 Awarded Teaching Assistantship in Austria
Washington and Lee University senior Sommer Ireland, of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, has been awarded a U.S. Teaching Assistantship (USTA) in Austria for the 2015-2016 academic year. Although it is a one-year fellowship, she has the possibility of extending it for another year.
Ireland surprised herself by coming full circle in her feelings about teaching. Before coming to W&L, she didn’t feel she would be a good teacher. Today she volunteers as a German teacher to elementary students.
“What I love most about working with pupils when they’re learning about a foreign language and foreign cultures is their extreme curiosity,” Ireland said. “Giving these children the opportunity to learn a foreign language and explore a different culture is in my opinion the most important thing that I have done this year.
“I know that most of these children will probably never go to Germany, Switzerland or Austria, but I have in a way brought these countries to them and shown them that the world is so much bigger than Rockbridge County, Virginia.”
Ireland has studied in Germany and is eager to return. Austria will be the ideal experience because she speaks the language, but will have different opportunities.
“From essentially her first day on campus, Sommer has made it a priority to become an expert in German-speaking cultures,” said Paul Youngman, professor of German. “In her pursuit of this goal, she enjoyed multiple study abroad opportunities in Germany, serving as the W&L DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) student ambassador and as the president of the German Club at W&L. In short, she was perfectly positioned to be honored with an Austrian Teaching Assistantship. It is always a pleasure to watch our students achieve their goals, but it is especially gratifying in the case of Sommer, who has contributed so much to the department and to the University.”
“The Austrian teaching assistantships, organized through the Austrian-American Educational Commission, are quite competitive,” said Roger Crockett, professor of German. “They involve teaching English at one or, in Sommer’s case, two schools. She will be teaching in a beautiful and rural part of Austria, Western Tirol. Sommer was chosen because of her academic excellence at W&L but also because of her extensive foreign study experience. She has spent two semesters at German universities and six-weeks on another language immersion program. She is highly proficient in both spoken and written German, and her strong desire to teach came through clearly in her application. The Department is proud of her, and two schools in Tirol will be most fortunate to have her.”
Ireland is a graduate of Wando High School in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. At W&L, she is an economics and German double major. She has been a first-year resident advisor; a volunteer at Central Elementary School and a volunteer German teacher at Mountain View Elementary School; a phonathon solicitor for W&L; a summer research scholar for the economics department; and a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority.
“I feel that so many people approach teaching with the ‘anyone can do it’ mentality,” said Ireland. “My experience this year working in a primary school has taught me just how wrong that mentality is. Teaching requires patience, dedication, time, creativity, enthusiasm and a firm hand. I will be located in Imst, teaching at the Bundesrealgymnasium (essentially the high school), and I will also be teaching at the Bundesrealgymnasium in the neighboring town of Landeck. I’m really looking forward to this opportunity.”
Each year, more than 100 college graduates from the United States teach in Austria under the auspices of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education and Women’s Affairs (BMBF) Foreign Language Teaching Assistantship Program.
Final Exams: Yay or Nay?
It’s the last week of classes at Washington and Lee University, which can only mean that finals are right around the corner. So how well does a final exam actually assess student learning? It’s a question The Chronicle of Higher Education recently asked W&L alumnus Henry L. “Roddy” Roediger III ’69, a professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis. Unfortunately for the students, who have to take them — and the faculty, who have to grade them — he thinks final exams are a pretty good way to evaluate what student have learned over the course of a semester.
Roddy, who co-authored “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning,” said, “Unless you have a cumulative final exam, you don’t get students to review the information from the early part of the course again at the end of the course. I do think final exams are good.”
He added, “As long as you have an exam that asks deep, meaningful questions, questions that make people interrelate and integrate things across the course, they’re not just a measurement instrument, but they are a very important learning instrument.”
He notes the best way to learn material is to constantly test one’s self. Students who outline the material and paraphrase it in their own words are able to more easily remember what they’ve learned later on. It might be too late for this round of tests, but it’s something to keep in mind for next term.
Dixon Theater in NYC to Present Choreography by W&L’s Davies
The historic Dixon Place in New York City will showcase “Two People, Three Voices,” a dance choreographed by Jenefer Davies, as part of the performance “Crossing Boundaries” on May 26 at 7:30 p.m. Davies is associate professor of dance and director of the Dance Program at Washington and Lee University.
Dixon Place provides a space for performing artists to develop new and experimental works of art in front of a live audience. Opportunities for performance are competitive, with established artists submitting a high volume of choreographic work for selection by a panel of experts.
“The dance is a product of three years of experimenting with weight-sharing in new and unusual ways,” explained Davies. “This piece exposes the strength of women through crafted lifts where the dancers share each other’s weight in specially devised sequences. This is then juxtaposed with the marginalization of women, shown through choreographed contortions and warped shapes, which make the two women appear to have one body.”
An early version of Davies’ piece, which was then titled “Veil of Ignorance,” was performed by the W&L Repertory Dance Company at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland in 2012. Davies has since revised, reworked and added new sections to the dance for the performance at Dixon Place. In preparation for the concert, Davies is rehearsing with Emily Danzig ’16 and W&L alumni Jennifer Ritter ’13 and Tory Dickerson ’11.
“I am quite honored to have my work chosen to appear in New York City, the heart of contemporary modern dance in this country, and delighted to be able to give W&L dancers the opportunity to perform there,” Davies said.
IRS Matching Grant Helps W&L Tax Clinic Serve Low-income Taxpayers
The Tax Clinic at the Washington and Lee University School of Law has been awarded a matching grant from the Internal Revenue Service’s Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic program (LITC). This is the eighth straight year that the Tax Clinic has received federal dollars to support its efforts.
The grant of $75,000 will help fund the Clinic for the 2015 calendar year.
“I am so pleased that we are able to continue providing these important services as part of the LITC program,” said Michelle Drumbl, associate clinical professor of law and director of the Tax Clinic. “Our Tax Clinic serves an important population and provides an excellent opportunity for our students to provide pro bono services to taxpayers who need a voice before the Internal Revenue Service. “
Law students working in the Tax Clinic provide free legal representation to low-income taxpayers in resolving their controversies with the Internal Revenue Service. The Clinic students assist taxpayers with audits and a wide array of collections issues. The Clinic also represents taxpayers in tax cases before the U.S. Tax Court and in refund suits in federal district court.
The Tax Clinic serves the entire state of Virginia. At least 90% of the clients represented by the clinic are “low-income”, meaning their incomes do not exceed 250% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines published annually by the Department of Health and Human Services. For example, a family of four making less than $60,625 per year is eligible to use the Tax Clinic’s services.
The IRS Low Income Taxpayer (LITC) grant program is administered by the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, which operates independently of any other IRS office and reports directly to Congress through the National Taxpayer Advocate. Likewise, clinics funded by the grant program remain completely independent of and are not associated with the federal government. The LITC grant program was created as part of the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998.
Washington and Lee’s Kassie Scott to Attend Fulbright Summer Institute in London
Kassie Scott, a rising sophomore at Washington and Lee University, from Pennsville, New Jersey, will attend a Fulbright Commission King’s College London Summer Institute this July, taking a three-week academic and culture course called “Wonderland: 100 Years of Children’s Literature.”
“As a first-generation college student, I never thought a college education was within reach, let alone a Fulbright award,” said Scott. “As a Fulbright Summer Institute participant, I hope to strengthen my voice to empower those who are silenced in my own country and countries around the world. My experiences in London will contribute to my story, setting the stage for the creation of my most beautiful life.”
Scott is an English and journalism double major and a poverty and human capability studies minor. She belongs to Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society; was on the Dean’s List and Honor Roll in fall 2014 and winter 2015; and writes for the Ring-tum Phi student newspaper and the inGeneral student magazine.
She also is a flutist in the W&L University Wind Ensemble; a leader of the Gender Action Group; an SAT tutor and college application mentor; and a volunteer at Lexington’s Heritage Hall Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center.
The U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission is the only bi-lateral, trans-Atlantic scholarship program, offering awards and summer programs for study or research in any field, at any accredited U.S. or U.K. university. The commission is part of the Fulbright program conceived by Sen. J. William Fulbright in the aftermath of World War II to promote leadership, learning and empathy between nations through educational exchange.
Each year, the commission supports around 60 U.K. and U.S. undergraduate students to undertake demanding academic and cultural summer programs at leading institutions in the U.S. and U.K. respectively. Fulbright summer programs cover all participant costs.
The U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission selects participants through a rigorous application and interview process. In making these awards the commission looks not only for academic excellence but also for a focused application, a range of extracurricular and community activities, demonstrated ambassadorial skills, a desire to further the Fulbright Program and a plan to give back to the recipient’s home country upon returning.
Davis Projects for Peace Awards Two Grants to W&L Seniors
Two seniors at Washington and Lee University have each received a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant. While a W&L senior has won this award each year since its inception, “this is a rare result in the competition and speaks to the quality of both proposals,” said Larry Boetsch, director of international education at W&L.
Both students have designed projects to enhance the lives of people in their countries of origin. Cynthia (Ho Yee) Lam, whose parents were born in Hong Kong, will establish a leadership academy for youth in the poorest district of that city. Daphine Mugayo, who is from Uganda, will create a computer laboratory in an area of her home country with limited access to technology.
Leadership Academy in Hong Kong
The daughter of first-generation immigrants to the United States, Lam will establish the Breakthrough Leadership Academy in the Sham Shui Po District. Lam, a native Cantonese speaker, is a double major at W&L in English and business administration, with minors in creative writing and philosophy.
In her application, Lam pointed out that Hong Kong has the largest wealth disparity of any developed nation in the world. Sham Shui Po has the lowest median household income in the city. One in five children live in low-income housing, 76 percent of residents lack secondary school education, and the rates of crime, prostitution and drug abuse surpass those of any other area of Hong Kong.
“Trapped in a cycle of intergenerational poverty and inequality, the youth of Sham Shui Po face much fewer prospects for higher education and upward mobility,” Lam said.
Lam will establish the academy in partnership with Hope of the City, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting families in Sham Shui Po, and through which she has recruited a group of high school volunteers, including one from the United States. “Hope of the City has connected me to the larger Sham Shui Po network so I can reach out to a greater range of individuals, organizations and resources and ensure the academy’s sustainability,” said Lam.
The academy will provide a free three-week program of mentoring and teaching to motivated students from Sham Shui Po in English — a prerequisite for success — plus leadership and confident communication. The curriculum will offer bilingual education in Cantonese and English, and the students will return to their district with a long-term action plan and strategies for achievement.
“I think a huge part of learning is to make it fun and interactive,” said Lam, who has worked with children through volunteer work in local communities. “We will include a lot of sports activities and games so the students can use their vocabulary and learn as they play. We will also have simulations where they will be given different scenarios to practice how they might respond using English phrases.”
To ensure that the academy is a lasting legacy, the volunteers will receive individual training before the academy begins to prepare them to direct it the following summer and recruit further volunteers. Lam hopes the volunteers will become a support network of lifelong mentors and friends for the students of Sham Shui Po.
“I’m really excited about this project,” said Lam. “Education opens so many doors, and being able to provide it to those in need who would not normally have access to this type of education and may otherwise be on the streets or dropping out of school is really important to me. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and is one of the highlights of my college career.”
Computer Laboratory in Uganda
Mugayo, a double major in biochemistry and economics at Washington and Lee, grew up in the Hoima district in Uganda, where her grandparents and extended family live. She will create the first computer laboratory of its kind there.
Oil deposits were recently discovered in the Hoima district, leading to new construction that resulted in land disputes and further limited job opportunities for the residents. “My family is one of many families that, even though educated, lack the computer skills necessary for the competitive job market of the oil industry,” said Mugayo. “Almost none of the schools in Hoima district have access to computers, and the youth have barely any computer skills. And while mobile phones have improved communication, limited and expensive Internet communication has barely improved.”
Mugayo has partnered with her alma mater, Hilltop High School, a private school with electricity and broadband Internet, both of which are scarce in the area.
As a result of Mugayo’s project, the school will provide a building on its campus to house the computer laboratory and hire a teacher to instruct adults in computer literacy programs at a subsidized cost. The Davis Projects for Peace grant will primarily purchase 14 desktop computers, and Mugayo will work with the new instructor to organize the course and incorporate it into the school’s curriculum. As a number of staff members are computer illiterate, Mugayo intends to first work with them to enrich their computer skills.
In her application, Mugayo wrote that she hopes her project will empower the local people to become more competitive in the job market and increase their incomes. She also hopes that, through e-mail and social media, the locals will communicate with the rest of the world, create global friendships, become more familiar with their rights and build conflict-resolution skills.
“The United World Colleges sponsored me for my last two years of high school and exposed me to different areas of life, service and outdoor activities. They opened my mind to the wide range of opportunities I could take advantage of,” said Mugayo. “I don’t believe that I’ll create the most marvelous education system but I believe that, through smaller steps, I’ll make a difference in my country, and this is my first step to getting to where I hope to be.”
W&L is one of more than 90 colleges and universities eligible to receive funds from the Davis Projects for Peace by participating in the Davis program, which provides scholarships to students who attend the United World Colleges international high schools around the world.
Projects for Peace funds 100 projects each year and is part of the Davis United World College Scholars Program, based in Middlebury, Vermont. It is funded by the late Kathryn Wasserman Davis, a philanthropist and the widow of Shelby Cullom Davis, a businessman and former U.S. ambassador to Switzerland. Davis launched the initiative on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 2007 to challenge college students to build peace throughout the world through meaningful and innovative projects.
For Sumnima Udas ’01, Reporting on the Nepalese Earthquakes is Personal
Viewers of CNN know that award-winning reporter Sumnima Udas will cover with care any story on her beat — India. When she’s reporting on the recent earthquakes in Nepal, however, the 2001 graduate of Washington and Lee University brings extra depth, for she is a native of that country.
In this piece about the 7.8 earthquake that struck on April 25, she takes viewers on a tour of Katmandu, so much of it now destroyed or heavily damaged. (The May 12 quake has caused even more loss of life and destruction.)
“What’s lost is intangible,” she says in the report. “Somewhere in the back of my head, I always knew I would have to cover this story one day. An earthquake in my homeland, something I’ve always feared.”
Sumnima holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communications from W&L, and a master’s in history from Oxford. She began her career with CNN in 2001 as a news assistant, and has been full-time since 2006, as a producer in Hong Kong and then Delhi. Currently, she is CNN International’s correspondent in Delhi.
In that post, she has done extensive reporting on violence against women in India, kidney trafficking in Nepal and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Fight MH370.
Read more about Sumnima Udas’ career and watch her reports on her CNN website.
J. Lawrence Connolly Joins W&L Board of Trustees
J. Lawrence Connolly, of Atlanta, the former CEO of Connolly Inc., a recovery audit accounting and consulting firm, joined the Washington and Lee Board of Trustees on May 15, at its spring meeting, in Lexington. He is a member of the W&L Class of 1979.
After graduation, Connolly joined the company of the same name, which his father had founded that same year. He earned an M.B.A. in 1982 from Tulane University and went on to a career at Coopers & Lybrand before returning to the family fold in 1986. With his sister, Libby Connolly Alexander, as the COO, they grew the company from 30 employees to more than 1,250. It made frequent appearances on Inc. 5000’s list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. In 2012, he and Alexander sold the company to Advent International, and he stepped down as CEO.
In 2013, he and wife, Leigh, established at W&L the J. Lawrence Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship and the J. Lawrence Connolly Endowment for the Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability. In 2010, the Connollys established an endowment to support W&L interns working in Atlanta through the Shepherd Alliance, a summer internship program administered by the Shepherd Program. He serves on the University’s Entrepreneurship Advisory Board and formerly served on the Shepherd Program Alumni Advisory Committee.
The Connollys have two children, Catherine and Jay.
The Dart Internships at W&L: Five Years Strong
In March, Phil Marella ’81 and his wife, Andrea, visited campus, not only to visit their son Phil, who is a first-year student here, but to also personally deliver a check from Dana’s Angels Research Trust (DART) to President Ken Ruscio ’76. For the fifth straight year, those funds will be used to place W&L students into some of the most prestigious labs in the country to work on a disease that has a deeply personal meaning for the Marella family.
The yearly visits began in 2011, when Marella approached W&L with the idea that DART could provide research stipends for undergraduate students majoring in science. The organization, founded by Marella, raises money in support of research on Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC), a lysosomal storage disease that manifests predominantly as a collection of progressive, degenerative neuropathologies. At the moment there is no cure. Marella’s son Andrew suffers from the disease, and his daughter, Dana, died of it 2013.
In trying to help their children, the Marellas discovered that because so there are few diagnosed cases of NPC — about 200 in the U.S. and 500 around the world — there is very little research being done on the disease. They have become vigorous advocates for research into its cause and potential cure and, through DART, have established collaborations with five laboratories for the support of accelerated research of the disease.
Over the last four years, funds from DART have helped place 16 W&L students into top-notch research facilities, and this summer, another five will begin their stints:
- Emily Doran ’16 at UT-Southwestern Medical Center (Brown-Goldstein Lab)
- Nicole Kasica ’16 at the University of Pennsylvania College of Veterinary Medicine (Dr. Charles Vite’s lab)
- Scott Philips ’17 at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (Dr. Yiannis Ioannou’s lab)
- Jenny Wang ’17 at the NIH (Dr. Forbes Porter’s lab)
- Harrison Westgarth ’17 at the Einstein College of Medicine (Dr. Steven Walkley’s lab)
Bob Stewart, chair of W&L’s Psychology Department, said, “This is such a unique experience for our students, and I have to hand it to Phil, the members of DART and the principal investigators (PIs) for taking a chance on our students, because they don’t have a lot of science under their belt. But from everything I’ve heard, our students have impressed the PIs.” He noted that McCauley Massie, who worked for the Nobel laureate laureate Joseph Goldstein ’62 last summer, has been hired to continue her work with his lab after graduation and before she starts graduate school.
The DART internships are quite a bit different from others that W&L students can access. “A couple of the lab groups attend the DART fundraising gala over Memorial Day, and they meet the Marellas, other families with NPC kids, NCP kids and the scientists,” Stewart said. “When they get into the lab, some students are using cells obtained from NPC patients, others are seeing patients or working with clinical faculty. The closeness of the science to the patient makes this experience particularly unique. The research they are doing has a very human face associated with it.”
When students return from their internship, Stewart notices an immediate difference. “Virtually every student who has been through this internship is now in graduate school. Of course, that was their intent from the very beginning, but having this experience—working with the graduate students, the post docs, PIs, the professional staff — changes their view of what they need to do to achieve their objectives. The education they receive from W&L and the DART internship experience is synergistic, and that was the intention from the beginning of this collaboration.”
W&L Senior Awarded Fulbright Research Grant
Washington and Lee University senior Naphtali Rivkin, of Teaneck, New Jersey, has received a Fulbright research grant to Latvia for his project “Anecdotes of Bravery: An Oral History of Latvia’s Popular Front.”
After traveling to Latvia last summer, Rivkin said, “By returning to Latvia as a Fulbright researcher, I want to investigate the multiplicity of reasons why ordinary Latvians risked their lives to resist the Soviet Union. Was it for lofty ideals like independence from Russia and freedom to rekindle Latvia’s heritage, European values and constitutional democracy? Or was it for something more personal, like a better quality of economic and civic like for them and their families?”
He continued, “I find oral histories to be an exciting and useful tool for explaining why major historical events happened.” As a student of culture and history, he wants to hear from people how they survived the transition from the Soviet Union to Russia.
“In a broad sense, I want to spend the rest of my life learning and explaining what makes people do good things and bad things,” Rivkin said. “If we can figure this out on a personal scale, we can become more fulfilled and honorable people. If we can figure it out on a community scale, we can curb crime and build society. If we can figure it out on a global scale, we can ensure liberty and prosperity for the future. For me, this Fulbright is just the beginning of a long journey toward understanding what inspires people to act.”
“Naphtali Rivkin is one of the most energetic, bold, dedicated young men I’ve ever taught,” said Kary Smout, associate professor of English. “This Fulbright fellowship will take him back to the land of his ancestors, where he will study in innovative ways why many Latvians were willing to take the risks to oppose the Soviet Union. What led these people to say ‘enough is enough’ and take part in a revolution? This is an exciting research project.”
Guided by Janis Taurens, professor of modern and contemporary history at the University of Latvia, Rivkin will begin his search for extraordinary stories of ordinary Latvians in the Latvian State Historical Archives, which contains over six-million documents of state and local authorities, courts, estates, religion, politics and public organizations.
“I plan to search for registries of political groups and Soviet arrest records for political dissidence, continuing my search for arrest records in the State Archive of Personnel Files,” Rivkin said. “From there, I will search out and contact the people I find referred to in the archives, contacting Latvians through communities that keep track of one another, like The Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia.”
After Rivkin records his interviews, he will then draw on his resources at the modern history department of the University of Latvia to help him contextualize the stories against the backdrop of Latvian independence.
“Naphtali is an eminently well-rounded person: he not only does the highest quality academic work, but he is also a member of the ROTC program,” said Anna Brodsky, associate professor of German at W&L. “As that combination of interests might suggest, he ties his academic life closely to issues of real and potentially imminent historic significance. He has undertaken an intensive study of Russia and its developing political culture based on his sense that Russia is NATO’s potential adversary.”
Rivkin is an English and Russian area studies double major. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies, Sigma Nu Fraternity, varsity riding, and Army ROTC. He is also a W&L writing tutor, an honor advocate for W&L’s judicial system and a radio disc jockey for WLUR 91.5 FM.
He is co-founder of The Stone, a W&L student publication; volunteers for English for Speakers of Other Languages; was a presidential scholar at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress; was a concert pianist with performances in Carnegie Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, Steinway Hall, among other venues; and is the author of five publications including “Russia’s Identity Crisis,” published in the Washington and Lee University Political Review.
Rivkin’s family escaped Soviet Belarus in 1975 and he grew up in America “in a Russian-speaking, Jewish-American home where we celebrate our heritage but take pride in our progress — where we fiercely defend our independence but happily accept our responsibilities as members of a greater community.”
Rivkin was particularly inspired by Donald J. Raleigh’s “Soviet Baby Boomers: An Oral History of Russia’s Cold War Generation,” which he read to prepare for his study abroad in Moscow during the fall 2013. “Because of my fluency in Russian, I was able to interact with the native Russians outside the classroom of the Russian State University for the Humanities.”
His music training has taught him to listen attentively during an interview — “cadence, rhythm and tenor add a dimension to my interactions in another language.” That music training included studying piano for 15 years.
Rivkin has never taken his unique upbringing for granted. He has trained in the Army’s ROTC program to become an Army officer and is “committed to defending the freedom that provides the peace conditional for my well-being.”
Rivkin continued, “Whether in war as an Army officer or in peace as a scholar, musician and athlete, my aim is to live as a testament to my values so that I may continue to take action in helping others live well.”
“Naphtali is an ideal recipient for the Fulbright program,” said Richard Bidlack, the Martin and Brooke Stein Professor of History. “In class discussions in my Soviet history course, I could always count on him to think outside the box, to contribute original and intelligent insights. His infectious enthusiasm for learning and warm and friendly personality should enable him to make the most of his year in Latvia.”
Sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program.
New Program at W&L Introduces American Students to an International Student’s Home Country
Five international students at Washington and Lee University will each take an American schoolmate home for the summer to perform service projects and introduce the people and cultures of their countries.
The International Student Collaboration, a new W&L program funded by part of a $219,000 grant from the Endeavor Foundation (formerly the Christian A. Johnson Foundation), will place the pairs of students in Cameroon, Costa Rica, Mongolia and China this summer and continue for the next three years. An Andrew W. Mellon Student Initiative grant will fund a similar project in Argentina.
On their return, the students will present the results of their work on campus and at W&L alumni chapter events.
“The International Student Collaboration program grew out of Washington and Lee’s current initiative for global learning,” said Larry Boetsch, director of international education. “There are more than 100 international students at W&L, many of them from countries that our students don’t usually visit. We wanted a way for them to collaborate, so that our international students have a greater impact on campus and also to internationalize our domestic students. The program provides our international students with a way to give back to their countries while introducing American students to understudied areas of the world through an immersion experience.”
Boetsch explained that the primary focus of the program for the international students is service to their communities, while the goal of the Americans is learning about their hosts’ countries. Spending time in another country should be more enticing to American students when traveling with a W&L schoolmate.
Amy Richwine, associate director for international education at W&L, said that she hopes the program will result in more student collaboration on research and group study on campus.
Water Quality Project in Cameroon
Two recipients of W&L’s prestigious Johnson Scholarships will collaborate on watershed and water quality research in Cameroon. Jenna Biegel, a sophomore from Mesa, Arizona, is a double major in geology and environmental studies with a minor in computer science. Amirah Ndam Njoya, a sophomore from Yaounde, Cameroon, and a double major in politics and studio art with a minor in creative writing, will host Biegel.
The students will conduct research and youth outreach on water quality and its impact on local inhabitants in three locations in the west of Cameroon. Biegel will conduct field tests of water quality, while Ndam Njoya will study the social and political factors that affect the domestic consumption of water in the rural, agricultural and semi-urban areas of Cameroon.
They will also share their knowledge on water consumption and its impact on global climate change at a camp for children and teenagers and donate 50 trees native to the region, one to each child, as a symbol of growth, renewal and hope for a sustainable environment.
Socioeconomic and Environmental Study in Costa Rica
Alejandro Paniagua and Kevin Ortiz will participate in an unpaid internship with Fundación Quiróss Tanzi, an organization whose goal is to improve the public education system in Costa Rica. The students plan to study the differences between public education systems in Costa Rica and the United States, gaining first hand insight into the Costa Rican education system through community service, fundraising and strategic planning projects.
Paniagua is a junior from San Jose, Costa Rica, and a double major in business administration and environmental studies. Ortiz is a junior from Charlotte, North Carolina, and a double major in politics and sociology-anthropology with a minor in education.
They will meet with many different organizations and people to improve their understanding of the country, including Abel Pacheco de la Espriella, president of Costa Rica from 1986–90.
Comparative Study of Breakfast Food Culture in the United States and China
Wan Wei, a sophomore from Wuhan, China, and Olivia Howell, a sophomore from Thomasville, Georgia, will create a documentary on the differences between the breakfast cultures of the United States and Wuhan. They will focus on fast food restaurants McDonalds and KFC, which combine eastern and western traditions in China, and on the traditional Chinese breakfast reganmian, a dish of hot dry noodles.
The students began their project during the spring term course, Cross-cultural Filmmaking, where they investigated and filmed the breakfast culture of the United States. In China, they will study the clash in breakfast culture between east and west and how fast food chains have changed to fit Wuhan’s culture while introducing western cultural traditions.
Family Planning in Mongolia
Meera Kumar and Oyumaa Daichinkhuu are currently in Mongolia, where both are spending spring break from their studies in the United Kingdom. They have positions with the Zorig Foundation, the largest non-governmental organization in Mongolia, and are learning about family planning and women’s rights. They have attended a United Nations conference on the Millennium Development Goals and the future of Mongolia and spoken with representatives from major Mongolian think tanks, ministries and aid organizations.
Kumar, a junior from Chandler, Arizona, is a Johnson Scholar and double major in mathematics and economics with a minor in art history. Daichinkhuu, a junior from Ulan Bator, Mongolia, is a double major in business administration and economics.
The pair will help organize the Mongolian Economic Forum, with more than 1,000 attendees including the prime minister and the president. They will also help create a sustainable banking program to incentivize businesses making green decisions and will assist with a women’s leadership program and an oral histories program about the Mongolian democratic revolution.
Research and Development of Eco Snowboard in Argentina
This project is separately funded by an Andrew W. Mellon Student Initiative grant and entails researching materials, testing designs and optimizing mass production of a recycled and recyclable snowboard that is in the final stages of testing by two materials engineers from Universidad de Mar del Plata in Argentina.
Junior Juan Cruz Mayolis, from Mar del Plata, Argentina, is a double major in physics-engineering and economics, while Samuel Sheppard is a junior business administration major from Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.
They will follow their initial research with field testing of the final snowboard prototypes in Patagonia, looking for ways to improve them, and then developing business and marketing strategies to help launch the start-up company.
W&L’s Contact Presents Laverne Cox of “Orange Is the New Black”
Laverne Cox, best known for her recurring role in Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” will speak at Washington and Lee University on May 21, at 7 p.m. in Lee Chapel. The event is sponsored by the Contact Committee.
The title of the talk is “Ain’t I a Woman: My Journey To Womanhood.” It is open to the public and tickets are not required.
On “Orange Is the New Black,” Cox is known as Sophia Burset, a transgender woman sent to prison for credit-card fraud. Cox is also a reality television star, television producer and LGBT advocate. She is known for appearing as a contestant on the first season of VH1’s “I Want to Work for Diddy” and for producing and co-hosting the VH1 makeover television series “TRANSform Me.”
In April 2014, Cox was honored by GLAAD, a U.S. non-governmental media monitoring organization founded by LGBT people in the media, with its Stephen F. Kolzak Award for her work as an advocate for the transgender community.
She has earned numerous honors and award nominations for her work and advocacy and has been awarded a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series in “Orange Is the New Black.”
She was also named one of Glamour magazine’s 2014 Women of the Year, one of The Grio’s (African American Breaking News and Opinion) 100 Most Influential African Americans, one of the Top 50 Trans Icons by the Huffington Post and honored with the Courage Award from the Anti-Violence Project and the Reader’s Choice Award from “Out” Magazine, among other accolades.
Prepare to be Dazzled
A year ago, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, who graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1996, received a commission to write a poem inspired by the artist Jacob Lawrence’s “Great Migration Series,” now on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) through September. His paintings cover lynchings, voter rights, riots in St. Louis and the incarceration of black men.
Earlier this month, Lyrae joined 10 other highly acclaimed African American poets who also wrote poems inspired by Lawrence’s paintings at MoMA for a historic reading of their contemporary works. Joining her were poets laureate Rita Dove and Natasha Trethewey, MacArthur “genius” fellow Terrance Hayes and National Book Award winner Nikky Finney.
The evening’s host and brainchild of the event, poet Elizabeth Alexander, said: “Art begets art and influence crosses art forms. Prepare to be dazzled.” You can watch the entire performance on YouTube. Lyrae’s reading starts at 33:27.
Lyrae is an associate professor of English at Cornell University, where she teaches creative writing/poetry, African American literature and Southern literature, among other topics. She is the author of “Open Interval,” a 2009 National Book Award finalist, and “Black Swan,” winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, as well as “Poems in Conversation and a Conversation,” a chapbook in collaboration with Elizabeth Alexander. Her work has appeared in such journals as African American Review, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, Gulf Coast and Shenandoah, and in the anthologies “Bum Rush the Page,” “Role Call,” “Common Wealth,” “Gathering Ground” and “The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South.” She is at work on a third collection, “The Coal Tar Colors.”
Genelle Gertz Awarded Fellowship from Folger Shakespeare Library
Genelle Gertz, associate professor of English and Writing Program director at Washington and Lee University, has received a short-term fellowship from the Folger Shakespeare Library to conduct research and write during the 2015-2016 academic year. The title of her fellowship is “What Happened to Women Mystics After 1534?”
Gertz will use this time to advance her research and writing on women mystics in pre-modern England. Building off of research conducted for her first book, “Heresy Trials and English Women Writers, 1400-1670” (2012), her focus will be on a largely undocumented disappearance of female mystics in the years between the Reformation and the English Civil War.
Gertz notes that prophecies and revelations by women played in an important role in England’s public religious life, with roots going as far back as the 14th century. During the period she will research, however, women mystics seemingly went silent, even in the communities of Catholics forced into secret practice or into exile by the Reformation.
“I am thrilled to receive this Folger fellowship,” said Gertz. “It affords me access to the Folger’s magnificent rare books collection and provides an extended opportunity to work with other scholars of the early modern period. It will kick-start my sabbatical by immersing me in research and expert discussion, processes foundational to the intense work of scholarship.”
The fellowship will provide Gertz with a supportive stipend and three months of access to the Folger Shakespeare Library’s extensive collection of rare and non-digitized texts on this period of English history. An internationally recognized research library located in Washington, D.C., the Folger offers advanced scholarly programs in the humanities and is the repository for the world’s largest Shakespeare collection.
Gertz joined Washington and Lee faculty in 2003. Her research is on Medieval and early modern women writers; the Reformation; republicanism and the English revolution; prophecy, mysticism and heresy trials; and the politics of reading.
She received her B.A. in English and philosophy from Wheaton College, her M.A. in English from the University of Pittsburgh and her M.A. and Ph.D. in English from Princeton.
W&L’s Helen I’Anson to Lecture on Increased Soda and Snacks in our Diet in her Inaugural Perry Professorship Lecture
Helen I’Anson, professor of biology at Washington and Lee University, will give her inaugural lecture marking her appointment as the John T. Perry Jr. Professor of Research in Biology, on May 19, at 5:30 p.m. in Parmly 307.
The title of the lecture, which is free and open to the public, is “Soda and Snacks: Is There Any Good News?”
“I’ll begin by talking briefly about my research background, and then I’ll focus on my work on energy partitioning during development from weaning to adulthood,” said I’Anson. “Most recently, my lab has been developing an animal model that will help us to understand the mechanisms regulating the onset of childhood obesity and metabolic syndrome. These diseases are reaching epidemic proportions in Western society—a rise that is correlated with increased sodas and snacks in our diet.”
I’Anson joined the faculty of Washington and Lee in 1995. She earned her B.S. in botany/zoology from the University College of Wales and her Ph.D. in physiology from the University of Kentucky. She did two years of post-graduate work in reproductive neuroendocrinology at the University of Michigan.
I’Anson is a co-author of “Integrated Principles of Zoology” (12th-16th eds.) and was a contributing author to the 11th edition. She is the co-author of 32 refereed research articles and co-author of the book chapter Nutrition and Reproduction in “Oxford Reviews of Reproductive Biology” (1991). She is the author and co-author of 52 published abstracts and meeting presentations.
She received the 2015-16 Lenfest Sabbatical Endowment award; was the primary writer and program director for 2012-2016 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Science Grant ($1 million); and was the primary writer and program director for 2008-12 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Science Grant ($1.3 million).
I’Anson is an ad hoc journal reviewer for the Journal of Reproduction and Fertility; the Journal of Endocrinology; Neuroendocrinology; Biology of Reproduction; Endocrinology; Physiology and Behavior, and Hormones and Behavior.
W&L Theater Professor Wins 2015 Mednick Fellowship
Jemma Levy, assistant professor of theater at Washington and Lee University, has won the 2015 Mednick Fellowship from the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC).
The Mednick Fellowship encourages the professional development of college teachers through fellowships for research and advanced study. This year’s award will support Levy’s work to combine three of the earliest scripts of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” to create one to which all audiences can relate.
Levy’s new version will be staged by Muse of Fire Theatre Company in Evanston, Illinois, July 25-Aug. 30. Levy founder and artistic director of the company and has been directing professionally for almost 20 years.
“ ‘Hamlet’ is often considered the greatest play in the English language, but I have found that many productions of it feel stuffy and unappealing,” Levy said. “To me, however, it is a great play because Hamlet himself is incredibly human — full of confusion and conflict and questions about his place in the world.”
Levy is creating a script drawn from three sources — the 1603 “bad” quarto, 1604 “good” quarto and 1623 first folio editions of the play.
“This year’s Mednick Fellowship is an especially timely honor because it occurs during the academic year when W&L will celebrate the 400 years of William Shakespeare,” said Suzanne Keen, dean of W&L’s undergraduate College. “Performances before live audiences ensure that Shakespeare’s plays remain a vital part of our shared culture.”
The Maurice L. Mednick Memorial Fund is administered by VFIC was created in 1967 in memory of the young Norfolk industrialist who died from accidental causes. His family and business associates established the memorial fund to support his and their strong interest in higher education.
VFIC advances the distinctive values and strengths of its 15 member colleges by securing financial support from the private sector, increasing visibility, facilitating innovative and collaborative initiatives between the colleges, and supporting initiatives that ensure that this personalized educational experience remains an affordable choice for tomorrow’s citizen-leaders.
W&L's Sykes Receives NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) released its 2015 winter postgraduate scholarship winners and Washington and Lee’s Rick Sykes ’13 was among the 29 Division I, II and III men that were recognized.
The selection of Sykes gives the Generals 19 scholarship winners in the last 12 years and 38 W&L athletes have been honored since 1970.
Sykes, a 2013 graduate with a degree in neuroscience, is currently attending Virginia Commonwealth University where he is enrolled in the School of Dentistry.
“This award is a very humbling experience for me and I am very thankful to the W&L community for all the support and opportunities they have provided me,” Said Sykes. “The swim program taught me the value of individuality with team success. Coach (Kami) Gardner and my teammates provided never-ending support in achieving my goals, both athletically and academically.”
Sykes was a four-year letterwinner for the swimming team and he served as a team captain for his senior season. He was a four-time First Team All-Bluegrass Mountain Conference selection, a seven-time All-America honoree and a Capital One Third Team Academic All-America honoree as a senior. He was a First Team All-American as a senior when he finished fourth in the 50 free at the NCAA Division III Championships with the second-best time in school history (19.96).
Sykes also graduated with the second-fastest 100 free time in program history (45.34) and he was a member of the then school-record setting 200 medley (1:31.82) and 400 medley (3:24.20) relay teams.
The NCAA awards up to 174 postgraduate scholarships annually, 87 for men and 87 for women. Scholarships are awarded to student-athletes who excel both academically and athletically in intercollegiate athletics competition.
The one-time grants of $7,500 each are awarded for fall sports, winter sports and spring sports. Each sports season (fall, winter, spring), there are 29 scholarships available for men and 29 scholarships for women. The scholarships are one-time, non-renewable grants.
A Haven for Readers
Over the years, Jeffrey Lee and his wife, Ann Martin, have amassed more than 32,000 volumes, centering the collection on Western land, history, industry, writers and peoples. Why? Because they wanted to create a haven for readers like the residential library they once visited in Wales.
Lee, who graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1978 with a degree in geology, worked for the federal government on the U.S. Geological Survey. Although he was based in Denver, his work updating topographical maps took him to remote sections of the West, opening his eyes to the beauty of the region. His next career move pursued a different passion: books.
He worked at the Tattered Cover bookstore, where he met his wife. The two traveled to England in the late 1990s and spent part of the trip at a residential library called Gladstone Library. As he says in an interview with the Meriden, Connecticut, MyRecordJournal, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a residential library in Colorado? We have such great access to mountains and prairies; it’s more or less wild land, and our collection of books would be a great combination.”
From that idea, the Rocky Mountain Library was born. According to a story in The New York Times, they have invested an estimated $250,000 in their collection. In 2013, they found the property to house their collection at Buffalo Peak Ranch— about two hours from Denver. Jeff said, “As important as the books have always been, the place is really important too. It’s just this wonderful, quiet landscape, and it doesn’t take long before it gets into your bones; this slowing down more to nature’s rhythms. I think people need that.”
Renovations to the buildings on the ranch begin this summer, and the two hope to open the library, along with artists’ studios, dormitories and a dining hall, not just to academics, but to birders, hikers and others to study and savor the West.
W&L’s Reeves Center has Acquired Rare Chinese Porcelain Vases Showing Scenes of Porcelain Production
The Reeves Center at Washington and Lee University has acquired a rare and unusual pair of Chinese export porcelain vases decorated with scenes of porcelain production. They are a helpful illustration of how the ceramics on display at the Reeves Center were made.
These self-referential vases are decorated with scenes of porcelain production in Jingdezhen, the city where almost all Chinese porcelain was made.
The scenes depict many of the stages of production, from mining the clay, to shaping vessels, to firing them in a kiln. Chinese porcelain was mass-produced, with different stages of production divided among different semi-skilled workers.
One visitor to a typical Chinese porcelain factory noted that its staff consisted of “a large number of workers who each have their appointed task. One piece of porcelain, before it enters the door of the furnace, passes through the hands of more than 20 people without any confusion. No doubt the Chinese have learned that the work is done faster this way.”
The vases were purchased at a Christies Auction in January and recently installed in the atrium of the Reeves Center.
The Reeves Center displays Washington and Lee’s ceramics collection, which spans over 4,000 years of human history. The collection includes ceramics from Asia, Europe and America and is especially rich in Chinese-export porcelain made for the American and European markets between 1600 and 1900.
The Reeves Center is located in an 1842 house on the campus of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. In addition to the ceramics collection, the Reeves Center houses the paintings of Louise Herreshoff Reeves (1876-1967).
The Watson Pavilion, behind the Reeves Center, houses a Japanese tea room named Senshin’an, “Clearing-the-Mind Abode,” by Sen Genshitsu, 15th-generation grand master of the Urasenke tradition of tea.
The Reeves Center and Watson Pavilion are open Mon. – Sat., 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. The Watson Pavilion is temporarily closed until the end of May for a W&L Spring Term course.
Interns at Work: Alee Johnson ’15 Live Like Jack Foundation, Washington, D.C.
“I had an amazing experience working with the fantastic group of individuals on the LLJF board, and the advice and support they offered me was tremendous.”
How did you learn about this internship?
I received an email from Career Development inquiring interest in the internship and followed up to learn more about the opportunity, whom I should contact and the application process.
What gave you the edge in landing this internship?
My passions for the outdoors and working with people were instrumental in the kind of enthusiasm LLJF was looking for in an intern.
Describe your daily duties.
Each day was always different, which was an aspect I really enjoyed about this internship! My tasks included a wide range:
- Generating and managingsocial media presence
- Developing blog and Instagram accounts, managing Facebook and email communication
- Creating and organizing fundraising strategy
- Planning a fundraising event for 250 attendants in collaboration with the Holleman Fellowship
- Strengthening board communication and organizational structure
- Forging communication for corporate partnerships
- Designing newsletters and potential merchandise logos
- Organizing contact lists
- Editing print and digital communication materials
- Delegating tasks among foundation supporters and board members
What was your favorite part or perk of the internship?
I had an amazing experience working with the fantastic group of individuals on the LLJF board, and the advice and support they offered me was tremendous. For this reason, I also most enjoyed being able to make an impactful contribution to LLJF as a new and growing foundation.
How did you like living in the city where the internship was located?
I loved being able to live in D.C.–it is such a fantastic city! While a large metropolitan area, it offers such a unique atmosphere with its vast amount of green space and sense of southern charm. I also really enjoyed having access to such a great and large network of W&L alums.
What key takeaways/skills will you bring back to W&L?
A great network of mentors within and outside the W&L community is a key takeaway. Communications and versatility are other major skills I will take away from this experience.
What advice would you give to students interested in a position like this?
Be open to learning every single day. You will be handed a wide range of tasks, so prepare and be eager to develop new skills.
Will you pursue a career in this field after graduation?
While a great experience, the non-profit sector will not be the direction I take. However, I do plan to stay connected with LLFJ as a board member and continue my involvement aside from my professional career.
Describe your experience in a single word.
Hometown: Salisbury, NC
Major: Studio Art, English
Company Name: Live Like Jack Foundation
Location: Washingon, D.C.
Position: Summer Intern
Was the internship paid? Holleman Fellowship recipient
School of Law Honors Graduates at 2015 Commencement Ceremony
The Washington and Lee University School of Law celebrated its 160th commencement on Saturday, May 9, awarding 174 juris doctor degrees.
In contrast to last year’s rainy weather, clear skies and bright sun shown over the commencement ceremony, which began with an official welcome from President Ken Ruscio and remarks from Dean Nora Demleitner, who recounted the many successes of the Law Class of 2015. She also noted the class size, largest in the school’s history.
“You changed the standard for the W&L experience, and you made it a better one,” said Demleitner.
The graduates were then awarded their degrees.
After the degrees were presented, Shelley Moore Capito, U.S. Senator for West Virginia, delivered this year’s commencement address. In her remarks, Sen. Capito recalled the previous W&L Law graduations she has attended, first in 2007 for her son Charles and then in 2011 for her son Moore and daughter-in-law Katherine. She noted that for those occasions, the commencement addresses were delivered by author John Grisham and reporter Nina Totenberg.
“Mr. Grisham brought the perspective of a writer of fiction; Ms. Totenberg nonfiction,” said Sen. Capito. “I’m here, as a United States Senator, with insight from the world of science fiction.”
Jokes about Congress aside, Sen. Capito said that her 14 years serving West Virginia have taught her many lessons, including the importance of community and the importance of lawyers. But her final thoughts were reserved for the subject of happiness. She remarked that the founding fathers set down the pursuit of happiness as one of our inalienable rights, though she cautioned the graduates not to define their happiness as a goal.
“Do not say I will be happy when I make partner, or I will be happy when I win my first case or when I am appointed as a federal judge,” said Sen. Capito. “No doubt those goals can contribute to your happiness, but they should not define it. Define your happiness as a state of mind as you pursue your goals.”
Following the Senator’s remarks, third-year class officers Bret Marfut and Rachel Kurzweil presented Sen. Capito with her very own walking stick, traditionally given to students at the awards ceremony preceding graduation. The walking stick, or cane, originated in the 1920’s as a way to distinguish third-year law students on campus. At that time, only two years of law school were required, and the walking stick served as a way to reward and honor those students who stayed for a third year.
Graduation festivities began Friday afternoon on the Lewis Hall lawn with the annual awards ceremony and presentation of walking sticks. The John W. Davis Prize for Law, awarded to the graduate with the highest cumulative grade point average, was awarded to Tara L. MacNeill of Vestal, New York.
Four students graduated summa cum laude, 22 graduated magna cum laude, and 27 graduated cum laude. 17 students were named to Order of the Coif, an honorary scholastic society that encourages excellence in legal education. A list of honors and awards appears below.
In addition to achievements in the classroom, the Class of 2015 distinguished itself with its pro bono service to the law and the community. In all, the class completed 16,082 hours of service during this academic year, and 59 students were recognized during the awards ceremony for completing 100 hours or more of service.
One student in the Class of 2015 was honored by the Virginia State Bar for her service. Katherine Moss received this year’s Oliver White Hill Award for her extensive pro bono work in indigent criminal defense, and specifically indigent death penalty defense.
The Student Bar Association Teacher of the Year award was also presented at the awards ceremony. This year’s recipient was Prof. Beth Belmont, who teaches Evidence and directs the Community Legal Practice Clinic.
Special honors at Friday’s awards ceremony went to the following students:
Tara L. MacNeill was awarded the John W. Davis Prize for Law, given to the student with the highest cumulative grade point average.
Erin Leigh Shaver was awarded the Academic Progress Award for the most satisfactory scholastic progress in the final year.
Paul M. Wiley won the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association Award for effective trial advocacy.
Daniel R. Nappier won the Roy L. Steinheimer, Jr. Commercial Law Award for excellence in commercial law.
Ryan Christopher Redd won the Calhoun Bond University Service Award for significant contributions to the University community.
George MacDonald Mackie won the Frederic L. Kirgis, Jr., International Law Award for excellence in international law.
Madeline Taylor Morcelle won the National Association of Women Lawyers Award given to an outstanding woman law student.
Donavan Keith Eason won the Charles V. Laughlin Award for outstanding contributions to the moot court program.
Babatunde Mohammed Cadmus and Hernandez D. Stroud shared in the Randall P. Bezanson Award for outstanding contributions to diversity in the life of the Law School community.
Jasmine Denise Brooks won the Virginia Bar Family Law Section Award for excellence in the area of family law.
Cody Allan Phillips won the American Bankruptcy Institute Medal for excellence in the study of bankruptcy law.
David Lee Johnson won the Barry Sullivan Constitutional Law Award for excellence in constitutional law.
Christian A. Pritchett won the James W. H. Stewart Tax Law Award for excellence in tax law.
Terrence Anthony Austin and Katherine L. Moss shared in the Thomas Carl Damewood Evidence Award for excellence in the area of evidence.
Paul M. Wiley won the A. H. McLeod-Ross Malone Advocacy Award for distinction in oral advocacy.
Ryan Redd won the Student Bar Association President Award for services as the President of the Student Bar Association.
Noelle Linda Quam won the Clinical Legal Education Association Award for excellence in clinical work.
Summa Cum Laude
Lauren Ashley Brown
David Lee Johnson
Tara L. MacNeill
Richard Garrett Rice
Magna Cum Laude
Jonathan Lee Caulder
Sarah Elizabeth Curry
Joshua Mason Deal
Michael Glenn Finnell
Alexander D. Flachsbart
Elizabeth Jones Flachsbart
Michelle Ruth Gibson
Stephen Robert Halpin III
Daniel Scott Jacobs
Timothy Paul Kucinski
George MacDonald Mackie V
Brendan P. McHugh
Katherine L. Moss
Daniel R. Nappier
James F. Parker
Cody Allan Phillips
Christian A. Pritchett
Meg Elizabeth Sawyer
Krystal Brunner Swendsboe
Adam Charles Wendel
Paul M. Wiley
Henry A. Andrews
Sarah Kathryn Atkinson
Terrence Anthony Austin
Trista Nicole Bishop-Watt
Tara Nicole Bradsher
Alexander James Bylund
John Carr Clarke Byrne II
Amanda Leigh Cecil
Jessica Drew Cohn
Brenna D. Duncan
Donavan Keith Eason
Stephen Douglas Hall
Lindsey Katherine Jones
Risa Sarah Katz
Alison Elizabeth Leary
Austin Lee Lomax
Weston M. Love
Sarah Rose Murphy
Noelle Linda Quam
Brandon Evan Raphael
Katherine Curie Skilling
Andrew Talbot Squires
Lindy K. Stevens
Anne Elizabeth Wilkes
Zachary Alexander Wilkes
Order of the Coif
Lauren Ashley Brown
Jonathan Lee Caulder
Alexander D. Flachsbart
Elizabeth Jones Flachsbart
Stephen Robert Halpin III
Daniel Scott Jacobs
David Lee Johnson
Timothy Paul Kucinski
Tara L. MacNeill
Brendan P. McHugh
Katherine L. Moss
Daniel R. Nappier
Christian A. Pritchett
Richard Garrett Rice
Krystal Brunner Swendsboe
Adam Charles Wendel
Paul M. Wiley
Ben Ersing ’12 The Palladium Group, New York, NY
When Ben Ersing ’12 arrived on the Washington and Lee campus his freshman year, he had a lot of questions he hoped to find answers to in the next four years.
Ersing spent a gap year between high school graduation and matriculation at W&L as a volunteer in Ecuador’s capital city, Quito. “I was completely on my own,” said Ersing. His goals were to become fluent in Spanish, volunteer for nonprofit organizations and learn to dance Salsa.
He accomplished those goals, but more importantly, the experience set his studies, life and eventual career on a path that would compel him to have a lasting positive impact on society.
It was in Ecuador that Ersing experienced significant economic underdevelopment and social injustice firsthand. At W&L, in a class taught by Jeff Barnett, professor of Spanish and program head for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, he began to understand the causes of those conditions and the discontent toward the United States’ foreign policy that often resulted.
A documentary about the perils faced by undocumented migrant workers crossing the U.S.-Mexican border shown in the class “had a profound impact on my career trajectory,” he said. The following summer, using a small stipend from W&L, Ersing volunteered with one of the organizations profiled in the video, conducting field research in Mexico with his spare time.
“I came to the personal conclusion that the best solution to address poverty and underdevelopment, and subsequently, the need for migration, was access to better paying jobs,” said Ersing. He realized that if he wanted to have a lasting impact, he had to find a way to provide potential migrants with access to a sustainable income.
Back at W&L, Ersing began what has become his life’s work. He enrolled in an economic development course taught by James Casey, associate professor of economics. That led to his organizing the General’s Development Initiative, nonprofit organization that provides micro-financing (loans without collateral up to $5,000) to people in developing countries. Because of his network of contacts in Ecuador, the group initially worked on projects there. The organization continues to make loans in developing countries, and students often travel to work on the projects they fund.
Ersing started GenDev, as it is known on campus, with his own funds. As the organization grew and developed a business plan, fundraisers and university grants provided additional support.
After graduation, Ersing was determined to continue on his social entrepreneurship path. He moved to New York City and enrolled at NYU for a master’s degree in international business and diplomacy. At the same time, he went to work for the Center for Technology and Economic Development, where he became involved in smallholder agriculture market and commodity exchange development, while also researching the role of early entrepreneurs in post-colonial West Africa. He was gaining the skills needed to advance his passion for combining business with social impact.
Ersing received the master’s degree and nine months ago joined The Palladium Group, a global, boutique strategy consulting firm in New York City. He was in the right place at the right time, he said, because the company recently merged with GRM International, a large international development consulting firm headquartered in Australia.
Though exactly what the new entity will look like is still emerging, executives of both firms see the new company as being one in which GRM’s expertise in the developing world is leveraged to provide private sector clients in the United States with insight into emerging market trends and the opportunities around Shared Value, a concept named by Harvard University professor Michael Porter. “Corporations need to look at the value they provide to society as well as to their financial stakeholders,” Ersing explained.
Even before the merger, Ersing was able to do some pro bono consulting work with small nonprofits and environmental organizations, including one focused on wildlife preservation and economic development in Sri Lanka.
He also is a member of an advisory board of an impact investing advisory firm organized by several NYU alumni. The firm facilitates connections between private capital in the United States and small businesses in sub-Saharan Africa.
Ersing credits his three W&L advisors — professors Barnett, Casey and Tyler Dickovick, associate professor of politics — with helping him find the answers he sought as a freshman.
He now recognizes that inequality and limited access to information and opportunity are realities of the world we live in, “but it is a reality I don’t want to accept. I feel that I have an ethical obligation to provide a tangible social impact while simultaneously providing for myself and future family.”
Campus Kitchen at W&L Wins National Community Impact Award, Grant for Older Adults
Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee University (CKWL) has won both a national award for its impact on hunger in the community and a grant to address hunger among the area’s older adults.
The national Campus Kitchens Project presented its Community Impact Award to W&L at the second annual Food Waste & Hunger Summit in Athens, Georgia, recognizing the local project’s measurable impact on food insecurity and food waste.
The Campus Kitchens Project has also awarded CKWL a share of a three-year, $625,000 grant from AARP to develop innovative, sustainable solutions to increase food security for older Americans. Campus Kitchen projects at nine other universities will also participate. In addition to providing more meals for older adults, the grant will enable CKWL to create solutions to the root causes of hunger among older adults, ranging from transportation and mobility issues to lack of access to fresh produce and isolation.
In presenting the Community Impact Award, the national Campus Kitchens Project noted that 4,460 residents of the area around Washington and Lee struggle with consistent access to adequate food and that the Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee serves almost 25 percent of them.
“It shows just what a difference it can make to leverage the existing resources of the local university in traditionally under-resourced rural areas,” leaders of the national Campus Kitchens Project said in making the award. “The face of food insecurity is different in every community, but whether serving seniors, youth, fellow students or families in need, has not only offered great services to individuals, but has had a broader population-level impact.”
The Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee expanded its services this year to 300 additional clients and now serves more than 1,000 community members each month. The growth resulted mostly from its Backpack meal program for schoolchildren and the creation of a new Mobile Food Pantry, which started at a third location last month and will expand to at least three other locations during the summer.
The Backpack program covers all seven elementary schools in the Rockbridge area. Volunteers deliver backpacks filled with non-perishable food to each school for distribution to children eligible for free or reduced lunches, providing them with nutritious snacks for the weekend.
The Mobile Food Pantry distributes fresh and non-perishable food items monthly to remote areas of Rockbridge County using a large refrigerated truck and volunteers’ vehicles. More than 35 student and community volunteers have distributed 2,591 pounds of assorted grocery items to 143 families in three communities in Rockbridge County during the 2014-15 academic year.
CKWL began fighting hunger and promoting nutrition in 2006 by recovering and distributing food that would otherwise go to waste, using it to provide balanced meals for low-income residents of Rockbridge County. It operates out of the University’s Global Service House and is directed by Jenny Davidson, coordinator of student service learning.
Avery Field '17 Wins All-American Attorney Status at Mock Trial Nationals
Avery Field, a sophomore at Washington and Lee University and a member of W&L’s (undergraduate) Mock Trial team, won All-American Attorney status for his outstanding performance at the American Mock Trial Association’s National Championship Tournament, held April 17-19 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Field, from Goodlettsville, Tennessee, received the second-highest amount of ranks (points) among Mock Trial attorneys in the nation.
The AMTA gives All-American Attorney awards only at nationals because it is the single most competitive tournament.
“To put Avery’s award as All-American Attorney in perspective, let’s assume each team has five students competing as attorneys,–a fair, but conservative, average,” said Beth Belmont, clinical professor of law at W&L and director of the Mock Trial team. “There were about 600 teams competing in the nation this year, so that means about 3,000 students competing as attorneys during the regular season. Of those, after elimination at regionals and again in the opening round of nationals, only 48 teams, with about 240 students who compete as attorneys, make it to the national championship. So, making it to nationals as a team is quite an accomplishment.”
Belmont continued, “Then, of those students who competed as attorneys at the national championship, only 24 were deemed to be All-Americans. So, the All-Americans are the top 24 out of the about 240 attorneys who made it to the championship, which in turn means that they are the top 24 out of the about 3,000 students competing as attorneys throughout the country during the regular season.
“On top of that, in Avery’s division, there were 13 All-Americans. Avery had the second highest score in his division. We are very proud of his accomplishments and of our whole Mock Trial team.”
The Mock Trial team helps Washington and Lee undergraduates develop critical-thinking and public-speaking skills and an understanding of the American justice system and its practices and procedures. They prepare for and engage in trial simulations in competition with teams from other colleges and universities.
Washington and Lee fields two teams each year, both of which compete at invitational tournaments in the fall and the national tournament in the winter. Although team recognition is important for Mock Trial, students may win individual awards for outstanding performances.
“It’s a considerable accomplishment to earn an All-American award in this competition, and it’s even more impressive to do so when you’re a sophomore,” said Andy Budzinski, assistant coach of the Mock Trial team and a member of the W&L Class of 2010. “I’m incredibly proud of Avery and excited for the role he’ll play in W&L Mock Trial going forward.”
Former vice president at Lehman Brothers to speak at W&L on May 14
Larry McDonald, a vice president at Lehman Brothers in the years leading up to its collapse, will give a talk, “21st Century Wall Street: Is It Different This Time?” at 5 p.m. on Thurs., May 14 in Huntley Hall 327 on Washington and Lee University’s campus. The event is free and open to the public.
The author of A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers, McDonald is a sought after speaker for his insights into the 2008 Wall Street crash and how we might manage risk to avoid a repeat. He joined Lehman Brothers in 2004 and was an early voice warning others about the sub-prime mortgage crises. He is a frequent guest on news outlets like CNBC and Bloomberg TV.
Mock Convention Spring Kickoff on May 6-9
A procession of the country’s political stars, including presidents, governors, cabinet officials and campaign strategists, has traveled to Lexington, Virginia, every four years since 1908 to participate in Washington and Lee University’s presidential Mock Convention.
The Mock Convention Spring Kickoff will be May 6-9 at Washington and Lee University and will include The Capitol Steps, a Washington-based troupe of Congressional staffers turned songwriters and political satirists; a presidential issues panel; and two speakers. Mock Convention will be in early February 2016.
Every four years since 1908, the students at W&L have gathered to create one of the most ambitious non-partisan student political research projects in the country. Fifty-six state and territorial delegations draw on the latest polling data and the insight of officials and analysts on the ground to predict the exact distribution of delegates from their state.
After months of preparation, these delegations gather for a convention conducted according to real party procedures and featuring some of the most engaging political voices from around the country. With the stage set for an intense contest for the 2016 GOP nomination, they will be celebrating the complexity and importance of the electoral process.
Mock Con, as W&L’s students refer to it, has correctly picked the eventual nominee of the party out of power 19 of the past 25 presidential elections, and the candidates or their campaign leaders have taken notice. Bill Clinton played saxophone after his address. Former President Harry S. Truman keynoted the 1960 event. Barry Goldwater, Andrew Young, Tip O’Neill, Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich, Mario Cuomo and George W. Bush (on tape) have spoken.
Schedule for the Mock Convention Spring Kickoff:
- 7 p.m.: The Capitol Steps in Keller Theater, Lenfest Center. Tickets are available for purchase online at www.lenfest.wlu.edu or at the box office. (Call 540-458-8000 for more information.)
- 7 p.m.: Presidential Issues Panel in Wilson Auditorium, moderated by W&L Professor William F. Connelly Jr., the John K. Boardman Professor of Politics. Panel members are James E. Tyrrell III, Clark Hill Political Law Associate, Carl Cannon, Washington bureau chief of RealClearPolitics, and Jay Nordlinger, senior editor of the National Review).
- 6 p.m.: Speaker in Wilson Auditorium
- 5:00 p.m.: Speaker on Lee Chapel Lawn
- 5:45-6:30 p.m.: Reception in Huntley Hall/Newcomb Hall Courtyard
W&L Art Professor and Students Develop Digital Map of Great Wall of Los Angeles
A new digital annotation technology being developed at Washington and Lee University lets people explore a famed mural, the Great Wall of Los Angeles, in ways impossible even when viewing it in person.
The Great Wall is half a mile long and located in a flood-control channel in California’s San Fernando Valley. A project of the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), the mural was created between 1976 and 1983 by 400 youths and dozens of professional artists to depict the roles that African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Jewish Americans played from prehistory to 1960 in the creation of California’s culture. It highlights themes such as immigration, exploitation of people and land, women’s rights, racism, racial inequality and gay rights.
“The mural visualizes stories that nobody was talking about or writing about at the time,” explained Andrea Lepage, associate professor of art at W&L and creator of the project. She has received a summer stipend from the National Endowment of the Humanities to further develop the project, “Mapping Histories, Hearing Voices: A Digital Resource for the Great Wall of Los Angeles.”
“The impulse for the project was to find a technology that would allow us to interact with such an expansive and culturally significant artwork, look really closely at the wall and engage specific details,” Lepage explained. It is difficult for people to get close to the mural since it lies in the flood channel.
Lepage worked closely with Jeff Knudson, senior technology architect in Information Technology Services at W&L, who developed the visual annotation program, called Image Map. It maps out a particular area on a mural image in red, so that when viewers click on it, they can see associated images, documents and audio and video testimonials, including newspaper accounts, historical photographs, artworks and interviews. Lepage has already researched and digitized hundreds of primary sources for the project.
In her application for the NEH grant, Lepage described the project as “facilitating a greater understanding of history by preserving the voices of the individuals who experienced the events depicted on the Great Wall.” As an example, Lepage cited a segment of the mural related to the deportation of Mexican Americans during the Depression. “Zooming in and clicking on one part of the image produces an audio testimonial of a man whose family was deported at that time, so he’s able to talk about it and really bring the art to life,” she noted.
According to Lepage, few such projects emphasize the diversity and multiplicity of voices necessary to tell a story as they apply to the visual arts, allowing side-by-side comparison of the artwork and its sources.
Lepage has already begun to use Image Map in her classroom, with her students helping to improve the technology and make it more user-friendly. “This technology stimulates students to look at an image more closely and for a longer period than they would otherwise,” she noted. “My students spent a semester really engaged in looking very closely at a single painting, and it’s astonishing what they are able to produce with that kind of close observation.”
Students involved in the project include junior Laura Lemon, a journalism and mass communications and art history double major, who used Image Map to analyze a small detail of a painting by Caravaggio; Kendall Knoll, a junior art history major, who hopes to develop an iPad version of the technology to analyze Dutch paintings; senior Keifer Winn, an economics and politics double major with a minor in art history, who has mapped the wall. Junior Lindsay George, an English and art history double major, will travel with Lepage to Los Angeles and Mexico City this summer to continue work on the project.
“Working with Jeff and some of my students on this project has been a really exciting collaborative experience,” said Lepage. “I am amazed at how quickly Jeff works and the really fun collaborative style we have developed. Eventually we’ll get to the point where we can open it up to the rest of the world as open source and, hopefully, some other institution will take it on, develop it and find new ways that the technology can work.”
Lepage has divided the mural into 180 segments, and plans to map the first 1,000 feet during the summer and complete the project during her sabbatical next year.
For further information on the Great Wall of Los Angeles, see the website http://sparcinla.org/.
Mark Rush Talks Baseball on May 3
Mark Rush, W&L politics and law professor, will be the special guest on the “Sports Palooza Radio Show” May 3 from 7-9 p.m. Rush will join hosts Lisa Ianucci and Ej Garr and other guests talking about Major League Baseball’s American and National League West divisions and their relevance to fantasy baseball this year. In addition to his academic responsibilities, Rush is an author, writer, frequent guest expert on the news programs of National Public Radio and the Arabian News Network, a baseball columnist and player analyst. The program can be heard online live or as a podcast at www.blogtalkradio.com/sportspalooza.