Feature Stories Campus Events

Interactive Exhibition by Tibetan Artist Gonkar Gyatso Opens at W&L’s Staniar Gallery Gyatso is best known for his work mixing Buddhist iconography with pop imagery.

“This exhibition will activate the gallery space in exciting new ways. Gonkar is creating a facsimile of a countryside shrine informed by Tibetan traditions, and viewers will be invited to engage with the work through immersion in the transformed space.”

Tibetan Artist Gonkar Gyatso

Washington and Lee University’s Staniar Gallery presents “Buddha’s Picnic,” an exhibition by Tibetan artist Gonkar Gyatso. The opening reception and artist’s talk will be held on Feb. 12 at 5:30 p.m. in Wilson Concert Hall. The exhibit will be on display in the gallery through March 17.

Gyatso is best known for his work mixing Buddhist iconography with pop imagery to examine the complexities inherent in defining identity when different cultures simultaneously coexist and conflict. He has recently completed installations in Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as in the United States at galleries in Boulder and Atlanta. “Buddha’s Picnic” will be his first installation in the region.

Visitors to “Buddha’s Picnic” are invited to interact with Gyatso’s installation of a modern shrine filled with mass-produced Buddhist devotional objects including electric prayer wheels, spouting mantras in Tibetan, neon colored Buddha statues and brightly colored lotus flashing lights. The exhibition is a material and experiential reflection upon modern practices of constructing temporary sanctuaries within a fractured, dislocated world.

“This exhibition will activate the gallery space in exciting new ways,” said Clover Archer, director of the Staniar Gallery. “Gonkar is creating a facsimile of a countryside shrine informed by Tibetan traditions, and viewers will be invited to engage with the work through immersion in the transformed space.”

The Robert Lehman Foundation awarded the Staniar Gallery a $10,000 grant for the “Buddha’s Picnic” exhibit.

“The grant from the Lehman Foundation allowed us to expand the scope of this project to include a site-specific installation,” said Archer. “With the additional funding we were able to support Gyatso in realizing an ambitious new project, one that would not have been possible without the grant.”

This is Washington and Lee’s first grant from the Robert Lehman Foundation. Based in New York, the Foundation’s mission is to “fulfill and further [founder] Robert Lehman’s vision and therefore to support the visual arts in any fashion that seems likely to enhance the appreciation, knowledge and enjoyment of this central aspect of our culture.” Grants are made to museums, arts organizations, educational institutions and other cultural organizations with the goal of enhancing the role of the visual arts within American and world culture.

Staniar Gallery is located on the second floor of Wilson Hall, in Washington and Lee University’s Lenfest Center for the Arts. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, please call (540)-458-8861.

‘Leaders Like Me’ Lex McGriff '18 has grown into a leader in W&L's Student Association for Black Unity. As she prepares for graduation, she hopes more underclassmen will become leaders like her.

“Often times, people speak of finding organizations that they resonate with, but I believe that SABU is an organization that found me.”

Lex McGriff ’18

Hometown: Vero Beach, Florida
Majors: Computer Science and Sociology

My experience at W&L has been filled with nothing but exponential growth, mentally and personally. As a wide-eyed Floridian first-year, I would have never been able to guess how much the school needed leaders like me, but also how much I needed a place to challenge me and ground me in my beliefs. That is exactly what W&L has done, and is continuing to do, for me.

This became especially evident in my involvement in the Student Association for Black Unity (SABU). Often times, people speak of finding organizations that they resonate with, but I believe that SABU is an organization that found me. My first year at W&L was one in which I struggled with the fact that I was, as I like to call it, a quadruple anomaly: African-American, a woman, of low socioeconomic status, and an independent (not Greek-affiliated) student. At W&L, this is an interesting dynamic. I often times felt frustrated with the fact that a majority of the students here don’t have to be concerned with issues surrounding race. There are issues that exist that most people have not and will not ever have to experience, and there was an illusion that everyone was okay with that.

Luckily, I figured out that not everyone on campus was okay with that, nor is everyone okay with that today. SABU is one of those areas. There is a desire and a necessity for diverse interaction that breeds learning. Working in the leadership of SABU has taught me how to articulate that need while also taking my best shot at providing the interaction even when it may be a little uncomfortable. Working in SABU has also taught me that to be uncomfortable is to grow, and to be different is to glow. As I gear up to say “see you later” to Washington and Lee, I urge my peers, especially the underclassmen, to not be okay; to be dissatisfied with things rather than be complacent. You can all fall into your own SABU and change this place for the better.

If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.

A little more about Lex

Extracurricular involvement:
I am the vice president of the Student Association for Black Unity (SABU) and vice president of Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), and I am currently serving on the Strategic Planning Steering Committee and the Diversity Sub-Committee of Strategic Planning.
Why did you choose your major?
I chose to major in computer science because I was interested in learning more about a field that is very exciting and relevant to our ever-growing global environment. I took one class in the sociology department my first year and knew I would want to come back, and I just never left.
Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Napa Thai. I order chicken fried rice with a spicy level of 3.
What one film/book do you recommend to everyone?
“The Dark Knight” is my favorite movie because I love Batman and the way it presents morality and chaos.
Post-graduation plans:
After graduation, I will be working at Citibank in Jacksonville, Florida as a full-time analyst in their Leadership Development Program.
Favorite class:
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pick one favorite class, but my Race and Ethnic Relations course with Professor Novack would definitely be one of them.
Favorite W&L event:
Black Ball 2017
Why did you choose W&L?
I chose W&L because, as a Quest Scholar, it took the financial burden off my family and me.

W&L Theater Presents Children’s Favorite “James and the Giant Peach” “James and the Giant Peach” follows the story of James, a forgotten and lonely child, played by Arthur Love ’18.

“I like embodying the dynamic nature of James. While he was a sad and lonely boy at first, James learns that he can find friends in the most unlikely places. He also learns the value of being a hero and never leaving your friends behind.”

“James and the Giant Peach”

Washington and Lee University’s Department of Theater, Dance and Film Studies presents “James and the Giant Peach.” The show runs Feb. 8-10 at 7:30 p.m. and will also run on Feb. 11th at 2 p.m. at the Keller Theatre, Lenfest Center for Performing Arts. Tickets are required and may be ordered online at lenfest.wlu.edu or by calling the Lenfest box office at (540)-458-8000.

“James and the Giant Peach” follows the story of James, a forgotten and lonely child, played by Arthur Love ’18. James is forced to live with his mean and wicked aunts, played by Katie Cones ’21 and Rachel Rothken ’19. Finding his escape from his nightmarish life in the form of a gigantic magic peach, he sets sail across the ocean and becomes friends with magically altered garden bugs: Miss Spider, played by Melissa Yorio ’21; Centipede, played by Mike Bracey ’20; Green Grasshopper, played by Will McLearn ’20; and Earthworm, played by Hailey Glick ’19.

“I like embodying the dynamic nature of James,” Love said. “While he was a sad and lonely boy at first, James learns that he can find friends in the most unlikely places. He also learns the value of being a hero and never leaving your friends behind.”

Love also acknowledged the difficulties of being in college and playing a young boy on stage. “Obviously, being a 22-year-old man playing the role of a 12-year-old boy has its challenges in terms of physicality and voice,” Love noted. “However, working with visiting professor Robyn Berg has been very helpful in allowing me to find myself in James and to return to my 12-year-old self.”

Rockbridge County and Lexington City elementary school students will be taking field trips to the Lenfest Center to watch the show.

“I am absolutely excited to bring these students into the whimsical world we have created and I hope they like my portrayal of James and all our efforts put into this amazing play,” Love said.

Box Office hours are Monday – Friday, 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. and one hour prior to performance time.

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks to Speak Parks is the eighth speaker in the 2017–18 Equality and Difference series, sponsored by the W&L's Mudd Center for Ethics.

Suzan-Lori Parks

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks is the eighth speaker in the 2017–18 Equality and Difference series, sponsored by the Roger Mudd Center for Ethics at Washington and Lee University. This event will be on Feb. 8 at 5:30 p.m. in Stackhouse Theatre, Elrod Commons.

The title of Parks’ talk, which is free and open to the public, is “One Million Suggestions.”

Named one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next New Wave,” Parks is one of the most acclaimed playwrights in American drama today. She is the first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for the Broadway hit “Topdog/Underdog” and is a MacArthur Fellow.

Parks has taught at the California Institute of the Arts and Yale School of Drama and holds honorary doctorates from Brown University, among others. She credits her writing teacher and mentor, James Baldwin, for starting her on the path of playwriting. One of the first to recognize Parks’ writing skills, Baldwin declared her “an astonishing and beautiful creature who may become one of the most valuable artists of our time.”

Parks has been awarded grants by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation and numerous others. In 2000 and again in 2017 Parks was awarded the PEN/Laura Pels Award for Theater.

Parks’ project “365Days/365Plays” was produced in over 700 theaters worldwide, creating one of the largest grassroots collaborations in theater history. Some of her more well-known plays include “Topdog/Underdog,” “The Book of Grace,” “In the Blood” (2000 Pulitzer Prize finalist) and “Venus” (1996 OBIE Award).  She’s written screenplays for Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington and Spike Lee, and adapted Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” which premiered on ABC’s Oprah Winfrey Presents. Currently, Parks is adapting Richard Wright’s “Native Son” for film.

Parks’ visit is co-sponsored by the Ruth E. Flournoy Theater Endowment.

The Mudd Center was established in 2010 through a gift to the university from award-winning journalist Roger Mudd, a 1950 graduate of W&L. When he made his gift, Mudd said that “given the state of ethics in our current culture, this seems a fitting time to endow a center for the study of ethics, and my university is the fitting home.”

For full details on this series, visit https://www.wlu.edu/mudd-center.

NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans to Deliver 2018 Fishback Program Talk The title of Deggans’ talk is: “Building Bridges, Not Walls: Decoding Media's Confusing Coverage of Race and Culture.”

Eric Deggans

Washington and Lee University’s Fishback Program for Visiting Writers and the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications present Eric Deggans, NPR’s first full-time TV critic. His talk will be Feb. 6 at 5 p.m. in Stackhouse Theatre, Elrod Commons.

The title of Deggans’ talk is: “Building Bridges, Not Walls: Decoding Media’s Confusing Coverage of Race and Culture.” The talk is free and open to the public; a book signing will be held immediately following the talk.

Deggans crafts stories and commentaries for multiple NPR shows, including “Morning Edition,” “Here & Now” and “All Things Considered,” along with writing material for NPR.org and the website’s blogs.

He joined NPR in 2013 from the Tampa Bay Times newspaper in Florida, where he served as TV/Media Critic and in other roles for nearly 20 years. A journalist for more than two decades, he is also the author of “Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation” (2012).

In 2009, Deggans was named one of Ebony Magazine’s “Power 150.” Deggans serves as co-chair of the Media Monitoring Committee for the National Association of Black Journalists. He has also served on the board of directors for the national Television Critics Association and on the board of the Mid-Florida Society of Professional Journalists.

William H. Fishback Jr., a Washington and Lee journalism major of the Class of ‘56, generously endowed the Fishback Fund for Visiting Writers at W&L in memory of his parents, the late Margaret Haggin Haupt Fishback and William Hunter Fishback. The Fishback Fund is administered by W&L’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communications. The fund brings to campus annually an outstanding writer to deliver a public lecture. In selecting the visiting writer, the campus-wide Fishback committee’s first consideration is to those who have written with distinction about public affairs, nature and the environment, history and the theater – all special interests of the Fishbacks.

W&L’s SonoKlect Presents Trio ZBR in Concert Trio ZBR will present a program that expands the definition of virtuosity in music.

Washington and Lee University’s SonoKlect will present Trio ZBR in concert on Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. in Wilson Concert Hall. The concert is free and open to the public and no tickets are required.

Trio ZBR will present a program that expands the definition of virtuosity in music. The program contains three works written specifically for the trio and, although all the pieces are deeply versed in the classical tradition, they each resist categorization and are quite novel in terms of formal structure, without ever losing an ever-present direct emotional impact.

The ensemble includes Grammy-winning flutist Molly Alicia Barth, a founding member of the new music sextet Eighth Blackbird; cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, who spent eight seasons with the renowned Kronos Quartet; and pianist David Riley, a SonoKlect regular who has been mesmerizing audiences at many of North America’s most prestigious venues for more than two decades.

For more information, visit wlu.edu/lenfest-center.

Related //,

Diversity of Experiences Sima Sharma ’18 used her time at W&L to explore her passion for the world and its various cultures through volunteering and study abroad.

Sima Sharma ’18

“My study abroad experiences in China and Scotland have enriched my understanding of the world and aided my personal and academic growth, nurturing my passion for learning and making me more open to and receptive to change.”

Sima Sharma ’18
Majors
: Computer Science, East Asian Languages and Literatures (Chinese)
Hometown: Singapore

As I reflect back on my Washington and Lee experience, I realize that I have grown in ways I could never have imagined when I first arrived here. My time at W&L has enabled me to explore my passion for the world and its various cultures. By becoming actively involved in the Multicultural Student Association and the Student Association for International Learning, I was able to plan and organize multicultural events that promoted the understanding of diverse cultures in the W&L and the Rockbridge-area communities. My study abroad experiences in China and Scotland have enriched my understanding of the world and aided my personal and academic growth, nurturing my passion for learning and making me more open to and receptive to change.

I have become a more engaged volunteer during my time at W&L. I tutored students in Rockbridge County Schools who learn English as a Second Language by helping them with their English and reading skills. I have also been fortunate to volunteer several times with W&L’s Nabors Service League in under-resourced cities such as Charleston, West Virginia, and Birmingham, Alabama. Before coming to W&L, I was more involved with the fundraising aspect of volunteer work. W&L has given me opportunities to become much more involved in directly volunteering, an experience which I find incredibly fulfilling.

Lastly, another key part of my W&L experience was understanding and articulating my own cultural and national identity. Although I was born in the U.S., I largely grew up in Nepal and Singapore. Having never spent significant time in the U.S., aside from the occasional family visit, my understanding of American society and culture was mostly informed by my family, my peers and my education rather than through firsthand experience. My time here has helped me better understand American society and the diversity of experiences in this country. Learning about different perspectives, whether from my classes, extracurricular involvement or conversations with peers, has helped me understand how my experiences have shaped and continue to shape me into the person that I am today.

The last four years has significantly expanded my worldview and made me become a more well-rounded and engaged individual. What I have learned has transformed my understanding of the world and of myself, and this will surely continue to benefit me as I move forward.

If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.

A little more about Sima

Extracurricular involvement
Multicultural Student Association
Student Association for International Learning
Rockbridge County Schools Tutor
Student Environmental Action League

What’s your personal motto?
“The only constant thing is change.”

What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
I wish I had known how cold Lexington could be. Living in a tropical country (Singapore) had ill-prepared me for any weather below 70 degrees.

Post-graduation plans
I plan on gaining work experience in the tech industry after graduation. After a few years, I plan on attending graduate school.

Favorite W&L event
Mock Convention. I found the talks and the events very informative and interesting.

Favorite W&L memory
Nabors Service League alternative break trips. I enjoyed volunteering and helping out under-resourced areas during our breaks, while also meeting W&L alumni who were passionate about volunteering.

Favorite class
Death and Dying taught by Professor Marks. Although the subject matter could be heavy at times, discussing cultural and religious viewpoints on death helped develop my perspective on an important, but rarely discussed, topic.

Weaving a Web of Research Andrew Mah ’18 has spent his undergraduate career studying the circadian rhythms of spiders.

Andrew Mah ’18

“In a unique experience for most undergraduates, I got to work extremely closely with multiple advisors at multiple universities to truly see how the scientific sausage is made firsthand.”

Hometown: Radford, Virginia
Majors: Neuroscience and Math

Extracurricular involvement:
Co-president of General’s Unity
Tutor at the Math Center
Tutor with the Peer Tutor Program

There’s a reason I’ve become the designated spider-catcher in all my friend groups: I’ve spent basically all four of my years at W&L, up close and personal, studying our eight-legged friends. My current project combines my experience in a spider lab with my research passion in computational neuroscience (think math meets neuroscience) to study some strange patterns in circadian rhythms that arise in some spider families. Not only does this project allow me to explore my research passions, it also helped forge a new collaboration with spider circadian experts at East Tennessee State University (ETSU), where I spent the summer collecting literally hundreds of spiders for our work and meeting some unique characters along the way.

The reason I’m so passionate about spider circadian rhythms does not lie in some deep-seated childhood love of biological rhythms. Rather, I was inspired by the passion that my W&L and ETSU mentors brought to the table, day after day, even in the face of setbacks and less-than-ideal results. In a unique experience for most undergraduates, I got to work extremely closely with multiple advisors at multiple universities to truly see how the scientific sausage is made firsthand. I was not handed this project on a silver platter with a well-defined goal and plan of attack. Instead, I found myself on the front lines with my professors with a vague end goal, figuring it out one step at a time. And even though we’ve still got a mountain of work ahead of us, I couldn’t be more proud of the work that we have done.

The experiences afforded to me by W&L’s unique dedication to research in a tightly knit community has helped me grow immeasurably as a scientist and a person. Spending the summer in Johnson City, Tennessee, allowed me to meet so many wonderful people, both in and out of the lab. Presenting my work at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference allowed me to engage in conversations with world-renowned neuroscientists about my research and the greater field of neuroscience (as well as generate quite a bit of media interest). Without the near endless support from W&L and ETSU, I could never have been exposed to such formative experiences. I got to see the wet and wild world of science, warts and all, and I can’t wait to continue my education as a scientist in graduate school and beyond.

If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.

A little more about Andrew

Why did you choose your major?
Everything that we are, everything that we experience, every memory we have, is mediated by the exchange of ions and neurotransmitters in a collection of billons upon billons of neurons organized into complex circuits. I’m fascinated by how this process works, from the molecular to the behavioral level, and neuroscience and mathematics provides me with the tools to investigate these kinds of questions on a theoretical and experimental level.

Has anyone on campus inspired you?
Hands down, my research advisors, Dr. Nadia Ayoub and Dr. Natalia Toporikova. I’ve worked with them in one capacity or another since my first year here, and they’ve seen me grow and mature as a scientist and a person. The guidance they’ve provided me along the way, in addition to their passion for science, played a major role in my decision to pursue a career in research.

What’s your personal motto?
Keep moving forward,” which I did not realize was from the seminal film “Meet the Robinsons” until I recently re-watched it.

Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Napa Thai, easily. I still haven’t decided between chicken pad Thai and drunken noodles.

What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
Learn to roll with the punches. Whether in your personal or academic life, sometimes you’re going to deal with some crappy situations. But don’t get discouraged. Just learn from them and keep moving forward.

Post-graduation plans
Hopefully attend graduate school to study computational neuroscience. I’ve got some interviews at prospective schools, so fingers crossed!

What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I have what some people might refer to as “grandmotherly” pastimes: knitting, crocheting and cross-stitching.

Department of Music Presents Faculty Recital: “Russian Series” The concert will feature W&L’s Ting-Ting Yen on violin and Anna Billias on piano.

Ting-Ting Yen and Anna Billias

Washington and Lee University’s department of music presents a Faculty Recital, “Russian Series,” on Feb. 4 at 3 p.m. in Wilson Concert Hall, Lenfest Center for Performing Arts. The concert will feature a violin and piano duet from the music of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev, and is presented by W&L’s Ting-Ting Yen on violin and Anna Billias on piano. The concert is free and open to the public.

“We hope in this repertoire to highlight the transformative music of Russian composers, which unifies us as people of the world, rather than of politics and ideologies,” said Billias.

The “Russian Series” performance commemorates the 75th anniversary of composer Sergei Rachmaninoff’s death.

Related //,

W&L’s Repertory Dance Company to Perform in NYC Students and alumni members of the award-winning W&L Repertory Dance Company will perform in NYC the last weekend in Jan.

“The experience offers the students an experiential educational opportunity that broadens the scope of their lenses, encourages them to explore the art form from a new perspective, and offers them greater responsibility as artists.”

W&L Repertory Dance Company

Twenty students and eight alumni members of the award-winning Washington and Lee University Repertory Dance Company will travel to New York City the last weekend in Jan. to present an evening of multifaceted modern dance works performed and created by nationally renowned choreographers as well as students and alumni of Washington and Lee.

“The experience offers the students an experiential educational opportunity that broadens the scope of their lenses, encourages them to explore the art form from a new perspective, and offers them greater responsibility as artists, “said Jenefer Davies, associate professor of dance at W&L. “This exposure to new ideas and influences will increase their cultural awareness and influence and inspire their future work.”

The dancers will perform at the Center for Performance Research in Brooklyn and alumni from all over the United States have committed to the trip.

“The alumni have been creating new choreography and rehearsing in New York since last summer and the students and I have been creating new works since last term,” said Davies. “We will meet in NYC and rehearse and perform over one weekend. It’s really exciting and a beautiful collaboration.”

Student choreographers include Sara Dotterer ’18, Cate Peabody ’19, Julia Udicious ’19, Davis Straske ’19, Kitty Lambrechts ‘19 and Sutton Travis ’19.

Hailed as a company of outstanding artistic merit, W&L Repertory Dance Company captivates audiences with its unique blend of humor, soulful dancing and cultural relevancy. The Company is committed to the creation and performance of artistically vibrant contemporary dance works.