I have been offered the opportunity to stay in touch with my resident at St. Mary, Vicky, over the past few weeks. The Activities Coordinator at St. Mary, Sandy Geller, has graciously offered her phone as a means to conduct Facebook videocalls. Every week at our scheduled time to visit, Vicky and I have had either a video call or a phone call. It has been great to stay in touch, and I am thankful for Sandy in making this happen!
One thing that I definitely am missing is the garden at St. Mary. Last spring, another Holy Cross student (Megan Treanor ’20) and I applied for a Marshall Grant to establish a garden at St. Mary. We were awarded nearly a thousand dollars to implement a wheelchair-accessible garden where all residents would be able to grow their own fruits and veggies as well as get their hands dirty if they wanted. Vicky was one of the residents who led the charge on this activity, offering her guidance from decades of managing her own garden at her home.
Last year was our first year, so there definitely were some challenges to overcome. However, the garden was a huge success with many residents, Holy Cross students, and families of residents, participating in cultivating the garden. Several residents told Sandy that they now had a purpose in life. Megan and I were proud to have made such a big impact and are thankful for all that helped make the garden such a success.
I was excited for this spring to really grow a fantastic garden. With the current situation, it doesn’t look as if that is going to occur. But one thing is certain: I know for a fact though that once this time of social distancing comes to an end, Sandy, Vicky, and many of the other residents will be outside at the garden. In the meantime, I look forward to staying in touch with Vicky via phone.
To the current CBL students reading this, I would recommend that you reach out to your community partner. Maybe a phone call is something that could be facilitated for your site. You never know until you ask!
The famous quote by Vivian Greene, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain,” has been circulating social media recently to lift spirits amidst our current global crisis. Each time I have come across it, I have been confronted with wondering how I really can learn to “dance in the rain” while reflecting on what my responsibility to others and the larger society is during this painful time. Although I do not have answers to these questions at this point, my optimism and involvement with the Community-Based Learning (CBL) community has helped to carry me through so far and has prompted me to reflect on these questions.
As a student of a Jesuit institution, I have been reminded countless times of my call to be a woman “for and with others.” Empathy and mutuality have inspired me throughout many of my Holy Cross experiences and continue to be influential forces even as I am learning remotely, physically removed from campus. While early findings suggested that those who were young and healthy were at low-risk for becoming ill, even if they had contracted the virus, I realized that this did not leave my peers and me “off the hook.” I quickly learned of the severity of the spread of the infection as I came home to New York City, the epicenter of the virus. While I would propose that our immediate call to be “for others” is to stay home in order to reduce the risk of transmission, I believe that our responsibility to be “with others” is just as immediately necessary. In these times, I have been reminded of ways to show empathy and to consider the unique struggles and powers of marginalized populations. Through my involvement with CBL, I have gained a widened perspective on various systemic issues that cause certain populations to become vulnerable. Now, I can’t help but imagine how an added global health crisis deepens existing vulnerability and causes major financial and emotional strains on those populations.
One way I am harnessing my lessons from CBL is through unbound presence. In between Zoom classes and meetings, I have found more free time in my daily routine. While I may be tempted to jump right into tackling a “master checklist,” I have tried to embrace these quiet moments. I have realized that the coronavirus does not have a master checklist nor a set end date. As an organized and thoughtful planner, I have become very anxious that the only things that I can truly plan in advance are the meals I am going to eat for the week. Even though meal prep does bring me a lot of joy, it does not provide the level of structure to which I am accustomed. This pandemic has caused countless cancellations for the months ahead, including three summer opportunities I had been anxiously awaiting to participate in. In the absence of planning, I have been approaching each day with minimal expectations. This practice is one rooted in my engagement with those in Worcester. Most of the time at my CBL site I do not have a clear agenda or any expectation of what I am going to do. I find beauty in being present with the students with whom I work. Our responsibility to others, especially those we are living with right now, includes being more present with their needs – whether that means unloading the dishwasher before your family member gets to it or reaching out to an old friend.
As a Catholic, something that I have been reflecting upon is how the Lenten season prompts Christians to “give up” something as a sacrifice to God. I now believe that “giving up” has taken on a new perspective for Christians amidst the coronavirus. The tangible and intangible items individuals must give up during this time has been difficult to witness. My hope is that we, as a society, do not just “give up” completely. Rather, I believe that our responsibility to others is to instead “give in,” to show mercy, and to find ways to be in community with others from afar. Greg Boyle, S.J. beautifully summarized this idea by calling people, in the meantime, “to create fires that keep each other warm. In other words, in these times of physical distance, how can we “keep each other warm” through social connection?
Many people may be stuck in the mindset of viewing their days in relation to the number of days “stuck at home.” Instead, I propose to channel the hope of the message of Greg Boyle, S.J. to live out this time of social distancing as “one day closer to normal.” Even as we move forward in hope, viewing each day as one “closer to normal,” these times in which we are living are a “storm,” particularly for individuals and communities who are marginalized. Tragically, this “storm” has yet “to pass.” And yet, can living in the present and acting upon our roles and obligations to one another be our way to “dance in the rain”?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!