When Colgate students depart in mid-December for a five-week long winter break, they are faced with a multiplicity of decisions concerning what to do with their time away from the events and responsibilities of campus life. Working a job, spending time with friends and family and catching up on sleep are certainly viable options, yet for many it is impossible after several weeks of R&R to prevent boredom from taking over; however, for the students who took advantage of the Alumni Memorial Scholar’s Fellowship Program over break, days that could have been dull proved to be exciting, interesting and educational instead.
Two hundred Alumni Memorial Scholars are selected as especially outstanding each year from Colgate’s applicant pool. Those who choose to attend Colgate benefit from many opportunities throughout the course of their Colgate careers that are designed to enhance their educational experiences. Besides the numerous events scheduled for the benefit of the scholars on campus, students are given the opportunity to pursue independent research of their own design through the Fellowship Program. Students often take advantage of this opportunity to pursue research abroad.
Those that choose to embark upon their own project put together a proposal and submit their idea to a committee to decide upon its validity. After their idea has been approved, they are allocated money sufficient to conduct their research, up to $5000, with which to pursue their chosen endeavor, and are required to collect receipts to prove that the money was used accordingly. When they return, they are expected to present their findings to their fellow Alumni Memorial Scholars and other students who are interested in listening. The presentations are scattered throughout the semester, the first one taking place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 30 in Lawrence 205.
Those Alumni Memorial scholars that decided to take advantage of the program this winter break set off to pursue interesting projects all over the country and world. Senior Jen Simester, a psychology major, went to California to study the different ways that people try to communicate with other species. While there, she attended a workshop with a woman who claims to do telepathy with animals, observed dolphin trainers in Seaworld and visited Monty Roberts Equestrian Academy to observe a man engage in a training process called Join-Up. This individual, upon whom the movie The Horse Whisperer was based, demonstrated methods involving body language similar to that used by horses to “start” as opposed to “break” the horse.
Simester came to several conclusions about what she observed. “My hypothesis going in was that all the methods would involve non-verbal communication,” she said. “I tried to keep an open mind, but I was a bit skeptical about the telepathy.”
Simester felt that the other two did involve gestures as opposed to other forms of communication, but in very different ways.
“The dolphin trainer was effective, but it is one-way because they train them to produce behaviors,” she said. “The horse trainer used what the horse naturally reacts to, and can respond because he has learned their language.”
Simester said that her observations tied into her studies of human behaviors at Colgate. “Gesture helps people learn spoken language,” she said.
Senior Abby Cahill, a Biology and French major, traveled to France to supplement her studies here at Colgate. While there, she visited cemeteries, along with museums in which she saw a lot of art and sculptures. She even went to the house of the noted French author Balzac.
Cahill said that she planned her trip by using a book that identified several significant burial sites as well as interesting tombs.
“I went to cemeteries to see where famous people were buried,” she said. Among the graves she saw were those of Victor Hugo, Napoleon, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison.
“Oscar Wilde’s grave was covered in lipstick prints,” she said. “And it is not considered strange to put flowers on the tomb of somebody famous.”
Cahill also said that she got a taste of French history from visiting museums.
“It was interesting to see how some episodes of French history were portrayed,” she said. “The Dreyfus Affair was shown with two posters. The caricature of Dreyfus was on the body of a snake and Zola was on the body of a pig.”
Abby also enjoyed walking around the city of Paris. “I was able to see places mentioned in a book of the 1870s that were still there.”
Senior Ashley Olentine, an Education major, went to Denver, Colorado to study real estate in relation to investment banking.
The goal behind her project was to prepare for her upcoming job starting this summer at Morgan Stanley. “I worked with a real estate expert, did my own field research, and was able to use their huge library,” she said.
Olentine said that she now understands a lot more about the field she set out to explore. “I was able to learn industry jargon and get recommendations,” she said. “I’m glad I did it. I hadn’t seen Denver before and the independent research and logistical planning was fun.”
Overall, all three students were very pleased with their travels and studies. Each of them traveled for only a portion of her break, so they were still able to spend some time at home. Simester felt that the experience was completely worthwhile. “When else in your life is somebody going to hand you $5000 and say ‘Go learn something- and have fun while you’re at it.'”