The last few days we had on campus were filled with abrupt goodbyes, a range of emotions, and the harsh reality that we would all have to leave Holy Cross. CBL students were informed of the cancellations, and suddenly, something that was once so integral to our learning was gone. For my CBL, I volunteer at Rose Monahan Hospice Home on Friday afternoons. During my visit on February 28th, I informed the staff that the next week I would not be in for my shift because of spring break. The nurse told me that the resident I had been meeting with may not still be there when I returned, so I should say goodbye. That day, my resident and I had a lovely time together watching cooking shows. At the end of the visit, I expressed my gratitude for the time we had shared, and her smile warmed my heart. I took a long time saying goodbye, as I knew it would most likely be the last time I saw her. When I was leaving my shift that day, I said my normal goodbyes to the healthcare team, not thinking much of it.
Fast forward to our first week back from spring break. A new panic about COVID-19 permeated campus as everyone eagerly awaited the email regarding Holy Cross’ plan. When I read the email about CBL cancellations, I was very shaken up. I was concerned for Rose Monahan because the home operates by relying on volunteers, and it is a high risk community of COVID-19 infection. At that moment, I was very thankful I was able to say goodbye to my resident, and hoped that other residents would also be able to spend their final moments with their loved ones. I also felt guilty because I didn’t give the Rose Monahan staff a proper goodbye, for I didn’t know my last visit would be my last visit.
I reflected on how I could still express my appreciation for the home and say a more heartfelt goodbye without actually visiting. I decided to make cards for all the residents and send a letter to the staff thanking them for all of their hard work. While it was not how I would have chosen to say goodbye, it was still a way to communicate with my community partner. In terms of saying goodbye in this new environment, I would recommend reaching out to your community partner and spreading some words of support. Kind words can go a long way in times of crisis and may offer the reassurance they need.
Editor’s Note: Over the course of the semester, we will be sharing stories from students highlighting how they continue to engage with experiential learning even while away from campus. If you would like to share your experience with remote learning, please contact email@example.com.
By Emma Powell ’20
Remote learning has defined my life by mostly losses, but my one gain is time. I suddenly have what seems like a limitless time to do school work but also take a second to explore my passions in an environment where I can discern and ask myself, “What actions make you and only you happy?” As a decidedly extroverted person the alone time is difficult. This personality quality means I need to share my thoughts with others in order to feel balanced. I would go as far as to say it is required for my productivity level. It is difficult to focus without those coffee breaks where I chat with friends in Cool Beans.
I have wracked my brain on how to feel that void. My typical schedule would be filled with meetings, classes, and friends. The only time I spent alone on campus was to nap or do homework. I have kept in touch with my friends but facetime calls only do so much. The first week of social distancing was tough. The ongoing events were a weight on my heart and mind. I felt like screaming but instead, I wrote out a reflection for a web page Professor Hooper created for my seminar to not only share content but archive it in the context of this unprecedented historical moment. This pandemic will go down in the history books and my grandchildren will certainly ask me about it. The blog piece felt so good to write. I shared the article with The Spire, in hopes other students could empathize and relate to what I was going through.
In writing that reflection, I rediscovered something I had not done since I was a child: to write purely for the sake of writing. It was cathartic, productive, and simply made me happy.
Recently, I read an op-ed in the Atlantic about how local papers are understaffed, underfunded, and under-resourced in facing this pandemic. In writing that reflective piece, I craved to write more and to write with purpose. So now, I am writing an article on nurses and other healthcare professionals in my local community. My hope is the article will be published in a local paper so the state of Massachusetts and perhaps even higher government powers can more fully recognize just what my mother and other nurses are going through.
I want to identify myself as an activist but this is difficult to do while unable to take physical action outside my tiny bedroom. My try at journalism is an experiment to channel my energy into a space for change. Like Professor Hooper has done in our class, I encourage Holy Cross students to sit down and write about issues that matter to their community. For those just starting out (like myself), I recommend utilizing “medium” which is a free and respected writing platform for anyone wanting to write more publicly but does not want to pay for a URL for their own website. The platform also has a lot of interesting articles from students and journalists all over the country so it provides a virtual sense of community. Then from there, you can submit it to a local paper in hopes it gets published. Local papers live for community members’ perspectives. If you feel called to, use this time to write not only for fun and self-reflection, but to use your ideas for a platform for change all from the comfort of your couch.
A few years back a fellow CBL intern, Kara Cuzzone ‘19 and I started posting little sheets of paper outside the CBL office door. If you have ever passed by our door in Smith Hall I hope you have noticed how decorated it is with events, quotes, and artwork. The inspiration for this came from a journal account on Instagram that wrote plain and simple, “take what you need” with perforated tabs inviting a passerby to simply rip off a word from the bottom of the sheet. Kara and I wrote things like wisdom, peace, love, hope, passion, and confidence and it has been popular ever since. This was a peaceful project for us too, as every few weeks the sheets would become empty and we would draw another one.
When Kara graduated I really started to miss her artistic talent so I took to my computer and found that the Canva app could give me at least the appearance of artistic talent. I also found that I could print more pages, have more variety, and add more color to the idea. Just to spend a few minutes each week thinking of a holiday themed page or a new Spanish phrase was something I really enjoyed. It still baffles me today that people actually take them. I remember sitting in the office one night with the door slightly open and I kept hearing noises at the door. In the moment, I assumed it was another intern trying to play a trick on me, but as I was leaving, I realized all the words were gone and I had just witnessed people visiting the door.
I have expressed to some trusted mentors these past few weeks that what makes me most nervous about the abrupt end of my last year at Holy Cross is that I have to be apart from everyone. I know I am not alone when I say I feel like I can get through anything if I can sit with my closest friends and laugh, hug, and cry about it. So, our last few days on the hill were bearable but now comes the hard part.
This shift to remote classes means you can’t pick up a slip of paper from the door of the CBL office when you truly need it most. It means I won’t walk into the office next week to create a new page and hang it up. So, I find myself adjusting, as we all have recently, to see if we can make what was once so accessible in person, available in the digital world we now live in. These days we have a responsibility to one another to just simply check in. Even if it’s just a word or two, it can make a difference, just like a word from the door. I am confident that if we do this well it can feel like we are together again and we can get through anything.
If you are someone who frequently took a word or phrase from the CBL door for yourself or to share with a friend, please reach out! Though we may not physically be together, a hope and goal of the CBL interns is to continue to cultivate community. So, if you are in need of a word or saying to lift you up on a long day just send an email to CommunityBasedLearning@holycross.edu with the subject “Words from the CBL Door,” and I will make sure you get one!
Students across the world are experiencing significant disruption in their daily lives and in their education. At the J.D. Power Center, we know that many of the students we work with in normal times are particularly hard-hit, as internships, CBL sites, and research opportunities are curtailed. Most of these opportunities thrive most in situations where students can engage with people and communities on a close-up basis—internship supervisors, community partners, research subjects, all require the kind of one-on-one contact that the current situation prohibits. These experiences often come as the result of long term planning on students’ part, and are hard to recreate.
That’s why we’re starting a blog series on experiential learning from home—to help you think through some ways that you can keep engaging in experiential learning while you are engaging in social distancing. We invite students to join us by sharing their own experiences.
In the meantime, here are some ways you can continue engaging in experiential learning:
1.) Intern remotely
In many cases, students interning through the J.D. Power Center’s programming were automatically moved to remote work along with the rest of their work sites. If you have this opportunity, keep it up. Set aside specific hours that you can focus in on internship work, and keep in contact with your supervisor. In times like this, doing good work can really stand out, and demonstrate your engagement.
If you are not currently interning, but interned in the past, consider reaching out to past supervisors to see if you can help out—particularly if the kind of work you were doing can be easily done remotely. You likely have additional time on your schedule with normal operations shut down—offer a specific amount of time that you would be willing to return to your internship duties, and see if they could use the help.
2.) Learn about working remotely
Although the world of work is undergoing significant changes as large numbers of people shift to working remotely, remote work has been a feature of the American work landscape for some time. Take some time to think about your work habits while working remotely. Research best practices in working from home (the popular press is currently featuring a number of articles on working from home), set up your own workspace with this in mind, and monitor your own habits. Write your own guide, reflecting both your research and your own experience.
3.) Learn a skill
Often, our students have ideas for projects that they do not have a technical skill to accomplish—video editing, coding, statistics packages. This is a great time to develop some skills that might help you advance future projects. Or just engage in learning something you know you’ll value down the line: master Excel, polish your negotiation skills, or learn a new painting technique. Skills like these might help you when it comes time to launching a new project or internship when things get back to normal. Sites like Lynda.com and Coursera have a wide range of online courses that help you invest in your experiential future.
4.) Seek out a mentor
Students often say that one of the best things about experiential learning are the mentoring relationships that they develop. Make use of additional down-time by reaching out to a Holy Cross alum to develop a mentoring relationship. The Center for Career Development hosts the HC Network, a completely-online guide that lets you contact alums in fields you’re interested in via email, phone, and video conference. https://hcnetwork.holycross.edu/
5.) Build your online portfolio
Too often, social media is seen as a massive time waste (and very often, it IS a massive time waste), but it can also be a useful way to both explain and reflect on your work. Think about how you can build a web presence that you use exclusively to engage with others about your work and your interests. Maybe create an Instagram account that highlights artwork you’ve studied, or a Twitter account that posts news about an issue you care about. Use your time on social media to engage in ways that help you experience the world positively. Some helpful guides to using social media in a professionally-responsible way can be found here:
Holy Cross’s RSOs could be particularly hard-hit by the campus shut down. If you’re part of an RSO, think about ways that you can work now to prepare for starting up again. Reach out to members and plan some virtual meetings, or propose some remote projects. Are there long-avoided tasks that could improve your operations or standardize your procedures that you just never seem to get to? This could be the time to get them done.
Staying at home is going to have its highs and lows, its frustrations and its moments of peace. It is also a moment of testing, and an opportunity to learn patience with ambiguity. Don’t stop engaging!
Several Holy Cross students and faculty members spent part of their winter break taking part in the annual Joint Mathematics Meeting (JMM) in Denver, CO. The group was part of the 2019 Weiss Summer Research Program, and their research ranged from predicting individual success in the National Basketball Association (NBA) to understanding differences in behavioral synchrony in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Not only did they get to show their findings during the conference, but some were even able to win awards for their presentations.
“Our students have a significant number of opportunities to present on campus,” said Eric Ruggieri, associate professor of Mathematics, “but it’s a whole different experience to present your work to faculty and students across the United States. I also think it’s an eye-opening experience for our students. It’s a huge community of people who are excited to hear what they have to say.”
The undergraduate poster session with over 300 posters
is the highlight of the conference for students. Students are judged based on their presentation, and can win awards depending on their success. Winning an award is not the sole benefit of the competition, however.
“A high point is the judging process itself,” said David Damiano, professor of Mathematics. “It is often the case that judges will suggest possibilities for further research. This is an especially good experience speaking to an audience of students and mathematicians from across the country. Our students invariably give polished and substantive presentations, and the experience is a confidence booster.”
For the students who attended, along with presenting on their own work, the conference was a chance to learn about other research taking place across the country.
“Each day, we would wake up and attend presentations on various topics such as Probability and Statistics, Real and Complex Analysis, and Mathematical Biology,” said Marialena Bevilacqua ’20. “I was given the opportunity to meet and talk with mathematicians and other students from many universities all over the country. This conference opened my eyes to the many opportunities that (studying Mathematics) would afford me in the future.”
“My experience in Denver was exciting and informative,” said Elena Wang ’20. “I was able to see a lot of mathematics that I wouldn’t have been able to learn at Holy Cross in a classroom setting. Being able to go to Denver gave me a taste of what mathematics is like outside of Holy Cross.”
Seven Holy Cross students presented at JMM. Their project titles, as well as any awards won, are listed below.
Marialena Bevilacqua ’20 [Outstanding] Title: Predicting Success in the N.B.A.
Emily Devine ’21 Title: Understanding Behavioral Synchrony: Differences in Behavioral Synchrony in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder using Functional EEG Networks
Xu (Mike) Ding ‘21 Title: Simulating the Board Game Risk
John Graf ‘20 Title: Consecutive Increases Related to the 3x+1 Function
Piotr Pogorzelski ’20 [Honorable Mention] Title: Predicting NCAA Basketball Games Using Logistic Regression
Patrycja Przewoznik ’21 [Outstanding] Title: Structural analysis of the force chains within communities of particle
Elena Wang ’20 [Honorable Mention] Title: Clairaut Surfaces in Euclidean Three-Space
Máire White ’20 is a senior Asian Studies and Chinese double major, as well as an Ignite Fund fellow. She will be presenting on her Senior Honors thesis on March 10th in Rehm Library at 4:30 P.M. Her thesis is on Tamil Shaivite revivalism and Hindu activism. She will also discuss how her recent trip to Chennai, India, funded by an Ignite Fund grant, has enhanced her research. Máire recently took time to answer some questions about her research and her trip. She also extended her thanks to her external reader, Professor Dheepa Sundaram from the University of Denver, whose guidance on things Tamil has been invaluable to her project.
1. What was the goal of your trip to India?
I wanted to go to Chennai, India to do some fieldwork and read some primary sources for my honors thesis. Chennai is a really interesting place within Tamil Nadu because it’s an education hub as well as a major center for IT companies, so people are really well educated and very engaged with religion and politics. I chose to live in the suburb of Mylapore, where I did interviews with people at Kapaleeshwarar (கபாலீசுவரர் கோயில்), which is one of the most prominent temples in Chennai. Kapaleeshwarar is an important temple for several reasons. First, Shiva’s wife Parvati is said to have worshiped Shiva who was in the form of a peacock in this temple (hence the name of my suburb, as “mayil” in Tamil means peacock). Second, devotional poems written in Tamil called the Tevaram from the middle ages mention this temple, so it has a sort of legendary character.
I was asking people about how they engaged with Lord Shiva, one of the most popular Hindu gods in the region, on social media websites like Facebook or Instagram and how their religious beliefs inform their understanding of Indian modernity. Furthermore, I got to visit the Theosophical Society, which is a library that seeks to help people understand “religious wisdom,” mainly Hinduism. Most of the sources are from the 18th-20th centuries, and I was looking at collections of sources that were written by Maraimalai Adigal, who was a Shaivite orator, professor, and sannyasin that wanted to reform Tamil Nadu or Dravidian society (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu) and modernize without British or North Indian support.
2. What gave you the initial idea for this trip?
I found out that I could go on a trip like this when one of my professors, Dr. Lewis from Religious Studies, suggested that I go to India to further my honors thesis research.
3. Describe the day-to-day experience of traveling in India. What did you see, eat, etc.?
Every day, I would wake up at 4.30 am to go watch mangala aarti, which is when a Hindu priest wakes up the gods within the temple, and is one of the most crowded times for puja (worship) every day before school or work. Hindu temples typically serve small free, vegetarian meals to people, called prasadam (பிரசாதம்), and consists of a rice dish mixed with vegetables and a sweet. Then, the temple was usually open until 1:30 before they close until 4:30 so that the gods can rest, so I could stay and observe, chant in Sanskrit, do informal interviews, or participate in pujas in the temple. I almost always ate dosai for lunch, which is like a large, savory crepe filled with masala potatoes and served with sambar and chutney. After lunch, I could go to the Theosophical Society and read sources. Another thing that I was lucky to have the chance to see was that it was Madras Music Season, where there are Karnatic music concerts accompanied by bharatanatyam devotional dancing in temples almost every night. For dinner, I was usually given rice, some other kind of vegetarian curry, dhal, and chapati. Then, I would make my notes legible or transcribe them on my computer before going to bed early.
4. What was the most significant aspect or experience from your trip, research-wise?
For me, I had the opportunity to get access to sources and visit places I never would have had the chance to without going to India. I could not have had the opportunity to truly understand the zeitgeist within Mylapore, read some of the sources in the Theosophical Society, or do interviews without physically going to India. Further, I got to practice Tamil language every day, so hopefully it’s gotten a little bit better!
5. How did this trip fit into your academic and professional goals?
Currently, I’m writing my honors thesis on the development of a Shaivite modernity in Tamil Nadu, so this research fits in. In the long run, I’m applying for master’s and PhD programs to continue my studies on the same topics.
The College of the Holy Cross Mediation Team recently competed at the International Academy of Dispute Resolution (INADR) Intercollegiate Mediation Tournament at York University in Toronto, Canada. The team had a strong showing, winning several team and individual awards. Jake Mozeleski ’22, Alison Emery ’23, and Victoria Tara ’21 won second place for the mediator team award. Below is a listing of the full results.
2nd Place Mediator Team: Alison Emery ’23, Jake Mozeleski ’22, Victoria Tara ’21
5th Place Advocate/Client Team Award: Justin Absten ’22, Antonio Ricco ’23, Emma Kennelly ’23
6th Place Advocate/Client Team Award: Angelo Carbone ’22, Caitlin Marple ’21, Bridget Whelpley ’21
The seminar Presidential Debates: A Hands-on Approach, taught by Professor Bishop and Professor Flaherty, has been an incredible experience and I would recommend it to any student regardless of major. Both professors possess extensive knowledge of the intricacies of the American political system and the theater of debating. Despite differences in party affiliation, the professors engage in conversation and always respect opposing points of view. This respect has been echoed by the entire class, as we routinely engage in thoughtful debate and critical analysis of the current state of political affairs. This emphasis on engaging in respectful deliberation has allowed us to explore a bevy of topics surrounding not only the current state of affairs but past political events and campaigns. The professors have created an environment in which everyone in the class can feel comfortable expressing their honest opinion on matters without caution.
The professors have lined up an impressive list of guest speakers to provide us with even more expertise in the art of debating and political campaigning. The fact that these guests, ranging from campaign managers to chiefs of staff to governors, are willing to take time out of their busy days to speak with a group of students speaks to the dedication of both professors in seeking them out to try and help a group of students learn more about the field they potentially hope to enter. The lessons taught by the professors and guest speakers are not simply about debate preparation. They delve into career advice and policy analysis, and provide us with lessons that a textbook could never teach. Additionally, the skills honed in debate prep are ones that can be utilized in any context, echoing the mantra of a liberal arts college. This experience has already been one of my favorites in my entire time at Holy Cross and I’m only a month in!
CBL Intern, Delaney Wells ’20 spent her summer as a Research Fellow at EmbraceKulture. The organization works to develop the capacity of organizations serving children and youth with developmental and/or cognitive disabilities in Africa. Specifically, Delaney researched the Amaanyi Center, a project of EmbraceKulture and the first and only center in Uganda dedicated to empowering youth with special needs to achieve their potential. The following post is Delaney’s final reflection on her experience in Uganda and how it relates to other experiential learning experiences she has had at Holy Cross (Community-Based Learning, the Spring Break Immersion Program, and the Washington Semester Program).
Crazy, crazy to think that my almost 10-week experience in Africa is concluding. I contemplated for a bit which word to use in place of “experience” in my last sentence, but “visit” did not feel just right. I am very aware that I am a visitor here, and there is so much to learn about where I am. Yet, Lunyo Village has truly begun to feel like home to me. From early morning singing during Assembly, walks to church, the neighborhood goats and chickens that roam about, it is hard to believe that very soon this will not be my reality.
The last few weeks have been very special… beginning to realize my time was winding down, I was able to reallllly think about and practice living in the moment. There have been many situations that have served as reminders of the importance of presence. The very, very finicky wifi and electricity which initially was very frustrating quickly became opportunities where I could step back and take a deep breath; to learn to live in the moment. I have found that sharing time at L’Arche communities (which I did through the Spring Break Immersion Program and the Washington Program) has really reminded me of intentionality and presence, and the Amaanyi Center (where I have been spending my time this summer through the Summer Research Program) is no different. Within Disability Theology there is a writer who wrote of L’Arche and “time as experienced in L’Arche”. This revolves around the idea that time does not exist in relation to real life, things move at a truly human pace. This allows for core members and assistants alike to appreciate each moment, and feel no pressure to rush (I wrote about this a good deal in my thesis if you have more questions !!). This means that a walk that may take one person 20 minutes may take a core member an hour, and there is no shame or annoyance in that. Rather, there is just an appreciation for living life at the speed we dictate, instead of society and others dictating for us. I can attest that time as experienced in the Amaanyi Center is quite similar. We have a schedule for classes and meals throughout the day, but this is in no way binding. If our students using walkers are not in Literacy right at 9 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, we do not rush them. This applies to all members of the Amaanyi Center if teacher Rosemary needs another moment before class to finish preparing for our lesson.
I think that is where the beauty of L’Arche and the Amaanyi Center lies, in the recognition of the inherent importance of a person. Once you prioritize the person instead of the event you are late for or the deadline you are rushing to complete, you can fully appreciate them as a human being instead of a nuisance or something slowing you down. Yes, this may sound incredibly similar to the practice of patience, but I believe it is much greater than that. I just wrapped up my first flight from Entebbe and I re-read parts of “Tattoos on the Heart” by Father Greg Boyle as I tried everything I possibly could to distract myself from the mix of sadness, appreciation, love, and loss I felt after leaving the most special students behind (I think the woman next to me on the plane thought I was truly a mess). Father Boyle speaks of a parable involving a woman named Carmen, who came in to talk to him at what he felt was the wrong time. He was rushing to a Baptism and didn’t want to be bothered with whatever trouble she had gotten into. After she opened her heart to him, explaining her story, he writes “suddenly, her shame meets mine. For when Carmen walked through that door, I had mistaken her for an interruption”. In such a fast-paced world, everything that is not matching or exceeding our speed slows us down and is annoying to us. What if we spend time slowing down, to walk with someone, like Maureen, who moves more slowly? Or spent time really ensuring we hear what someone who may be hard to verbally understand, like Ketty, is saying? What if we could take the rush out of our lives and just appreciate the company of one another being human in this journey together?
Through CBL and other opportunities at school and outside of campus, many of us have come to understand the power of presence; of sitting, or standing, with someone else and engage. To truly value humanity you must spend time with the other, this is the importance of mutuality-in-community where a relationship can be introduced where people are transformed and taught how to be human. Transvaluation, a notion held central to Disability Theology and one that KEEPS coming up in my life is discovered in personal encounters with people with profound developmental/intellectual disabilities and initiates a movement towards a radically new system of evaluation. When people meet together and engage in mutually constructive relationships of friendship with people who have profound developmental disabilities, they are changed and transformed. Disability is no longer seen as an inconvenience or devaluing concept, simply just differences among people. Really, it is the practice of engagement with respect for all involved that can allow for genuine humanity to be practiced among one another. This is something that takes practice, but what a beautiful skill to hone. If this could be the reality of our world, a real inclusive society built on genuine respect for one another, a gospel of love that is lived out instead of just a faraway notion that is easily forgotten in the day to day busyness.
Father Boyle’s book title is the perfect description for the lessons I learned through my fourteen most amazing students, the staff, neighbors and all who I encountered during my time in Lunyo Village, they have truly left tattoos on my heart. I hope we can all try to take a moment to remember and recognize the humanity among us all as we move to transition into another busy (in a wonderful way!) year. Through this, we can begin towards the inclusion we ALL, people with and without disabilities, need in order to allow for humanity among us all to be celebrated as it ought to be. Love and care for one another, how can you say no to that?
Editor’s Note: This article was published on the Holy Cross news website on May 22, 2019. It was written by Jane Carlton. Mia Yee ’19, in addition to being the 2018-2019 Fenwick Scholar, is also an Ignite Fund recipient.
Every year, Holy Cross names a Fenwick Scholar — a student who spends the entirety of their senior year conducting independent research. But it’s not every year that student embarks on a study of ramen and other modern Asian American food culture. Mia Yee, the 2018-2019 recipient of the College’s oldest and most prestigious academic honor, conducted ethnographic research on Asian American food spaces, combining her passions — and majors — of anthropology and architectural studies.
Yee, who also has a minor in studio art, spent a year observing and interviewing customers and restaurant workers at innovative eateries in the Boston area for her research. Now, we turn the tables and ask Yee about her project, the research process and how Holy Cross has made a lasting impression.
How would you describe your research in a nutshell?
I did ethnographic field research in contemporary Asian food places that serve trendy foods, like ramen, bubble tea, fusion, that type of thing. I focused on spaces that deviated away from what we normally see in American Chinese or sushi restaurants. I was drawn to places that have a lot of aesthetic props and are more modern or global.
There was a moment in Snappy Kitchen (one of the restaurants I feature in my research), where one of the co-owners said, “I don’t like cherry blossoms; I don’t like maneki-nekos,” which are the waving cats. They’re these very Americanized symbols of Japan.
I interviewed a number of Asian Americans, mostly millennials, to get their take on how these spaces are constructing their experiences as Asian Americans.
Why food spaces? Why did you want to spend a year doing research there?
I’m Japanese and Chinese American. My dad is third-generation Chinese American, and my family is very Americanized and worked at the Kowloon Restaurant in Saugus, Massachusetts. In college I became really interested in how space intersects with race, class and gender. I wanted to look at how spaces are racialized. I thought that was a really cool concept that, in architecture, hasn’t been explored as much.
What were some of the questions you explored?
I was interested in the way that class and privilege come out in these spaces, and how that is tied up with ethnic hierarchies, like who immigrated here first. Who’s had the most time here? Who’s been alienated the longest, and who’s dealing with the brunt of it right now? And then also how socio-economic status plays in.
My time at Holy Cross has taught me that Asian and Asian American representation matters. I came from a high school that had many Asian Americans and then came to a college where I was one of the only Asian people in the classroom. I began to think about how and why our identities matter and all our intersectionalities — race, class, gender, ethnicity — matter.
Take for instance “Crazy Rich Asians.” Beyond being a rom-com, it’s noteworthy because it’s the first movie in 25 years to have an all Asian cast — and that matters. When Asian Americans go and eat in these trendy, cosmopolitan, modern food spaces, they gain social and cultural capital, which gives them a platform where they can say “Hey, look, Asian stuff is cool” and is a space where they don’t feel like an “other.”
What was it like to undertake a yearlong research project?
I was working on it every day, and I also spent the entirety of most breaks doing research. While it was hard to separate myself from my work, it was still highly academic and analytical. But sometimes the question was, does work really have to be separate from one’s identity? It gave me some perspective, as I was able to understand all the dynamics of being connected to my work and understanding my own place as a researcher.
As for the actual research, I think because my family has worked in restaurants my whole life, it helped immensely in terms of talking to proprietors. I was able to talk the talk, so to speak. I could talk about restaurant stuff and they were like, “Oh, you actually understand this.”
What did your path to becoming a Fenwick Scholar look like?
It took me a while to find my people here, but I’ve come to love parts of Holy Cross. I’ve met amazing friends, had amazing mentors and professors. That said, my Fenwick Scholar process was a little convoluted. It was not a straight shot. I started off thinking that I wanted to look at how general spaces are racialized. From there I focused specifically on food spaces. It’s really nice to see that projects about race and about class matter.
You’ve mentioned that Ann Marie Leshkowich, professor of anthropology, has made a big impact on your time at the College. How so?
Professor Leshkowich is one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. I went to her during my sophomore year fall semester and said, “I heard a few of Susan Rodgers’ students went to Indonesia. How can I do that?” She told me she was going to Vietnam the next summer, and suggested I do independent research with her. So I went to Vietnam with her. She has so much wisdom and so much humor. She’s known to be challenging as a professor, which I actually wrote about in my acknowledgements. But that has made me grow.
Yee’s Fenwick Scholar project was entitled “Asians Eat Food and Drink Bubble Tea: The Co-Construction of Contemporary Asian Food Spaces and Asian (American) Identity.” Her faculty advisors were Ann Marie Leshkowich and David Karmon, associate professor of visual arts.