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Rosalind Fennell '12
Hey everyone! My name is Rosalind and I'm a senior here at Amherst! I am originally from Washington, DC and I am a political science and black studies double major. I am currently working on a senior thesis in the black studies department. On campus, I sing in the Gospel Choir, usher and manage concerts at Buckley Music Hall and I am also a Peer Advocate for Sexual Respect. I hope that you enjoy my blog! Please, feel free to email me with any questions you might have at email@example.com.
Rosalind's Blog Entries
Love (and Friendship!) is in the Air!!!
This week Amherst College celebrated Valentine’s Day. Even Valentine cafeteria was decorated for the holiday. I think that many of the student groups do an excellent job of exciting the Valentine’s Day spirit on campus. The Black Student Union and a couple of other clubs sold roses, bouquets, and carnations that people could buy starting from a dollar, to be placed in someone’s mailbox. Often, students could choose different color flowers to send different messages. For example, white carnations would signify friendship, pink carnations would signify flirtation, and red carnations would signify “love” or special appreciation, etc. It was really exciting to not only receive flowers this Valentine’s Day but also to figure out with friends who sent flowers to whom, especially since they are often sent anonymously.
Last Saturday the college also hosted a Valentine’s Day themes “TAP” (The Amherst Party). Throughout the week, students had the option of anonymously pairing their roommates and friends to another student secretly. Most often, friends pair their friends to a person they know their interested in or to another one of their mutual friends. The students who are paired are notified but are not told to whom they have been matched. Once they actually arrive at the TAP they are given a number that matches the number of the student with whom they have been paired. The goal is then to find the person with that same number and if they are able to successfully find their match, they are awarded TAP themed t-shirts.
Throughout the week, the Student Health Educators and the Peer Advocates for Sexual Respect hosted tabling events in Keefe Campus Center. During these tabling events, they invited students to place candies and write nice notes in their friend’s mailboxes. They also handed out information for those in relationships and single students on ways to celebrate Valentines Day. These pamphlets often included self-care tips and also placed to go with friends and significant others for Valentine’s Day brunch and dinner. It seemed like no matter what your relationship status is, from single and mingling to fully committed, you could find a healthy and fun way to celebrate the holiday this week.
The Harlem Gospel Choir Visits Amherst!!!
This week Amherst College continued its celebration of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with a much anticipated performance from the Harlem Gospel Choir. This was the fifth year they have come to perform at Buckley Recital Hall for the Amherst community. The tickets always sell out in advance and the seats are always packed. Faculty, students, and other friends and family of Amherst community come out to support this event. For the past five years, about nine members of the Harlem Gospel Choir come to Amherst along with a couple members of their band. What is also especially exciting about this is that members of the Amherst community get to share the stage with these amazing performers as well.
As a member of the Amherst College Gospel Choir, I, along with members of the Amherst College Choir Society and several other musically inclined students are invited to participate in the concert. During the afternoon of the concert, we have the opportunity to participate in a workshop with the visiting choir. They always teach us new ways to warm up our voices and they always have a new, dynamic song to teach us. They make it seem so easy as they teach us the song we will be performing with them that night, yet, they also find a way to challenge our abilities as singers and musicians as well. At first, we are all nervous, many of us are not used to singing in the gospel tradition- yet, by the end of our practice, and especially by the end of the night, we all are so excited to be singing along as a gospel ensemble.
The actual performance was awesome! All of the singers were so charismatic and energized. They made sure that the audience was highly energized as well and made sure we spent the majority of the concert on our feet and clapping our hands and singing along. At one point during the concert, members of the choir even walk around and invite members of the audience to sing on the microphone along with the choir. It is always a ton of fun to watch as random members of the Amherst community participate to show off their hidden singing talents. This visit was especially exciting for me as this was to be my last time performing with them. Several of the Harlem Gospel Choir singers recognized my face (this was my third time singing with them) and asked how I was doing and when I was graduating. As always, there were incredibly fun to learn from and to work with. Sharing the stage with them is truly an honor.
Every “first week,” I always think that since the classes are just beginning, that this will be a “down period” of sorts. I trick myself into believing that the first couple of readings won’t be that heavy- they’re just introductions to the course after all, right? WRONG! I don’t know how I always allow myself to think this but each semester I receive a rude awakening to the fact that professors start the classes off running. The readings at the start of the classes give you a pretty good sense of what the course load will be like for the rest of the semester- and in the case of most of my classes, it’s usually a pretty heavy reading load.
However, I can’t complain too much. The Add/Drop period, particularly the first week, tends to be a very hectic and crazy time for many students. Many of the classes are overenrolled with students interested in taking popular and/or required courses. However, I have only been dropped out of an overenrolled class maybe once- during my sophomore year and finding a replacement class was not too difficult. A lot of my friends have a difficult time deciding which classes to take, which classes will provide an appropriate, but not too overwhelming, workload, and which courses will best suit their learning styles. Almost all of my classes tend to be reading intensive with 3-5 writing assignments throughout the semester. Also, this semester, I had to choose only two classes since I’m continuing my thesis work, and I had those two classes figured out before the end of last semester.
In spite of all of the frenzy and craziness during the start of classes, it is also a very fun and exciting time as well. I always enjoy seeing both new and familiar faces in my classes. I also am usually very excited to get to know a new professor whom I have perhaps heard about before. For some people, going through the syllabus can be a boring yet necessary part of the first day of class; however, I usually enjoy it. For example, for one of my classes this semester, one of the articles we will read in the upcoming weeks is an article that has pivotal in my early thesis process as I figured out my topic. In general, the first week is very exciting and also very nervous making. After a long interterm winter break, sometimes it can feel like you’ve already forgotten how to “do school.” Fortunately, our professors make sure to remind us how very quickly.
First Fall Concert
For many years, Amherst has held a huge concert in the Spring (taking place in the gymnasium) featuring some popular artist. Last year, Mike Posner came to perform here in the Spring and the Spring before that the concert featured and The Roots (I think the Decemberists may have come before that). The Program Board organizes the concert that Amherst students get to attend for free, whereas buying a ticket seeing those same artists in an off campus concert would usually cost a ton! Members of the 5-college community can also receive tickets for a heavily discounted price. Not only does Amherst College host major concerts but UMass at Amherst does as well. One year, I remember a bunch of my friends went to go see Jay-Z. Another year, there was a concert there featuring Lupe Fiasco. Just a couple of months, Tiesto came to UMass- I was very jealous of my friends who were able to attend.
This year, Program Board decided to organize the college's first official Fall concert. Last Friday GrooveBoston Wildfire came to Amherst for our first Fall concert. It was a great concert! The gym was almost unrecognizable. Of course, there was no shortage of glowstick bracelets and necklaces. There were, I think- it was crowded so it was hard to see the stage clearly, two DJs on a huge stage mixing techno-electro beats to popular songs. It was awesome. When we entered the gym, before entering the concert area, we were able to take celebrity-shot type photos, which was a lot of fun. The music was great and everyone was dancing and having fun. I will definitely miss free concerts in my life after Amherst. Today we just received the initial survey in the long process of deciding who to bring to the school for the Spring Concert. Among the possibilities were The Script, Sean Paul, J Cole, Matisyahu, Big Sean, Cake, and LMAFO. It will be very interesting to see who will come to perform at Amherst this year for my last Spring Concert.
It’s finally here! Thanksgiving break! It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for when most of us finally get to go home. Personally, I’m not one to get very homesick but the days right before I go home I start calling home all the time or randomly texting my mom throughout the day. The fact that I haven’t seen my mom, dad, and younger brother and sister finally hits me. (I know it’s time to go home when I start missing my dad’s cheesy one-liner jokes.) Now that I think of it, this will be my last time coming home from Amherst for Thanksgiving…By this time tomorrow I’ll be on a 10-hour long train ride back to DC, pretending that I was going to start homework but actually just day dreaming as I stare out of the window.
Going home, at least in theory, is a great time to relax and recharge. I always look forward to hearing my brother’s own stories about his life at college and this year my sister will probably asking me to read over her college applications that she’s about to submit. I’ll get to wash my clothes for free and get my mom to buy body wash, shampoo, mascara and other necessities instead of buying them over-priced at CVS. If I get lucky I’ll convince my mom that I don’t have enough winter clothes and boots and we’ll join in on the frantic chaos that is black Friday.
But, I have to admit that I’m also dreading the long break. Or rather, perhaps I’m dreading the feeling of coming back to campus and realizing that it’ll basically already be December and the semester will be officially coming to a close. This means that A LOT of work has to get done before I come back to campus, namely, I have to write a completed draft of a chapter for my thesis. On the other hand, if I can manage spending time with the family and getting things done, I’ll feel great when I get back to Amherst and I’ll be ready to take on the last few weeks of school. Part of me is looking forward to waking up early in my own bed and reacquainting myself with my hometown as I find new cafes to sit down to read and type. This break, I’ll have to visit the Library of Congress for the first time ever. I feel like I’m taking the next big step in my research/thesis career! Looking through this more positive light, maybe this thanksgiving break will be different…maybe I’ll actually get all of the work done that I have listed in front of me. Who knows?
Healthy Relationships Week!
This week the Peer Advocates for Sexual Respect (PA’s) are celebrating Healthy Relationships Week! It is a week packed full of activities, tablings, and events that emphasize the importance of examining the relationships in our lives (friendships, romantic, etc.) to make sure that they are positive and healthy. This is event is one of several that the PA’s host during the year to promote a culture of respect, especially sexual respect, on campus.
The PA’s are students on campus who have gone through intensive training and receive on-going supervision to provide the campus with a confidential student resource. We not only address problems as they occur, through our 24-hour hotline and counseling, but also work on ways to prevent and recognize looming problems. We serve our college community as a confidential and supportive resource, not just addressing intense illegal activity, but also issues stemming from everyday relationship interaction. The mission of the Peer Advocates for Sexual Respect is to create an environment where people are respected by others and promote awareness of what constitutes a healthy relationship and of the impact of sexual disrespect on victim/survivors.
Today, I helped to organize our tabling in Keefe Campus Center with a main focus being a fun quiz on the aspects of a healthy relationship. These aspects ranged from mutual respect and positive, consensual sexual interactions to good communication and honesty. We invited students who visited our table to participate in this quiz in which they would try to guess as many of the 10 aspects of a healthy relationship (recognizing that there are many many more) that were written on the back of the purple flash cards on the table. As a “prize” they got to take as many pamphlets and stickers as they liked. The stickers had on them fun and important messages like “I FREAKIN’ RESPECT YOU!” and “Just say Hi!” (to encourage casual dating on campus). We also had stickers of the blue and purple ribbon for sexual assault awareness. They were a big hit. It was a lot of fun!
A visiting mom, her daughter, and her daughter’s friend also stopped by our table to ask about our services and our event. They also picked up a couple of flyers and stickers. The mom was a sex-ed teacher at a high school and her daughter’s friend was considering issues pertaining to long-distance relationships after high school. Being able to provide them with information to use or consider was great. It was also really great letting these visitors know about the type of resources and support that our group offers to the students on campus. I felt very fortunate to attend a college that has so many resources, student-led and administrative, dedicated to help and support its students as they grapple issues that range from the “romantic to the tragic”.
Tomorrow, tabling in Keefe will consist of activities to encourage students to write casual, fun, and encouraging letters to their friends, which we will place in their mailboxes. Also tomorrow, we will be showing a fun, casual film: Wall-E. On Thursday, one of the favorite professors on campus who teaches a course called “Close Relationships” will give a brief lecture in one of the dorms on campus. Our week will end with inviting students walking through the campus center on Friday to sign posters and take pictures with their friends in support of healthy relationship awareness.
In my mind, I’ve always have divided seniors I know into two categories: ones who are writing a thesis and ones who are not. These are not hierarchical categories. Instead, to me, they have often helped to explain the schedules, availability, and moods of these seniors. I do not believe that a student who writes a thesis is any more intelligent or hard-working than those who do not. Many of my friends made their decision to write or forgo writing a thesis for a wide variety of reasons. However, I do consider writing a thesis a great honor. I guess I always have had it in my mind that I would write a thesis- not because I felt that I had to but because I knew that I would love to find a topic that I could become so involved with and too see what this thesis business was all about. I feel as if I am embarking on a quest to immerse myself in a great intellectual discourse on a topic of my own choosing- but one that is relevant and currently being debated in the world of academia. I also feel, however, that the library will soon become my second home and that I will spend more time there than any other place on campus.
Before this Fall, I’ve often tried to check books out of the library only to find that they would not be returned for months- the return date would suggest that they might not be due back technically until the end of the year or later. How could that be? I soon realized that these books had been currently in use by students writing a thesis through their senior year. With about eight full bags of books from Frost Library already, I’m beginning to understand. While I may return many of these books in the next couple of weeks, others will become essential to my thesis work.
I often see on people facebook status’s statements that describe their thesis work as a relationship- either good or bad depending on where they are in their process. Some want a divorce; some think they’ve “found the one”. I think my thesis and I are presently in the “honeymoon” stage. After considerable back and forth, I’ve finally found a topic that feels both comfortable (in that it is something that genuinely interests my deepest intellectual passions) and challenging as it pushes my abilities and interests to a new intellectual level. Already, I have revealed in several “ah ha!” moments where my research seems to come together to form a tangible discourse where my thesis could insert itself to say something exciting. Not long ago I was sitting at a table, books scattered all around. Suddenly, I realized that in one hand I had an essay that responded to one of the books to my side, which was also written by the same scholar that wrote an essay in another book I had. I realized that the scholars I was reading were actually “talking” to each other. I had around me, an enormous, yet tangible, conversation. I was right in the middle of it. I started exclaiming to my friends about my recent discoveries- whenever I saw reoccurring name in various texts I would get excited. If they weren’t writing a thesis or very interested in this type of research, it would be difficult for them to understand.
Writing a thesis is not necessarily about discovering something completely new that no one has heard or thought of before. As my advisor suggested, “you don’t have to reinvent the wheel”. The goal is to discover a conversation on an issue and respond to an aspect of that conversation. You’re finding a question that has been asked but only asked in certain ways and finding a way to approach the question from a slightly different angle to see what you come up with. Or perhaps you’re look at an answer to a question and wondering if it’s valid according to another perspective or even deepening the answer itself.
My goal is to continue to be excited about the research I am conducting. My hope is that I will be able to find an appropriate balance between my thesis and enjoying the remainder of my time at Amherst. At the moment, I am very excited about my thesis. This is my “chance to be intellectually interesting on paper”, as my thesis advisor often reminds me. This will be the largest intellectual endeavor that I have ever taken on. It is a daunting task that will demand a lot of patience and persistence. Already I feel like if I survive my thesis, I’ll be able to accomplish anything. Like any good and healthy relationship, it will help me to grow and further develop my confidence and abilities.
A Brief Reflection
It’s still not hitting me that this past weekend was my last homecoming as a student and that next year I will be returning to campus as an alumn. Although I’d rather not face it at the moment, time is going by fast. It seems like not that long ago, I was just moving back on campus. I was abroad last Spring in Seville, Spain, and there were many friends that I had not seen since last Fall or even since my sophomore year (if there were away during the Fall). Recently, I have had to do a lot of reflecting on my summer experience as a Community Engagement Scholar. The Community Engagement Scholar award is an excellent way to receive funding for your summer experience if you are interning (and not getting paid) or volunteering with a nonprofit organization or community initiative whether its local, national, or abroad. This past month, I have been working on the internship reflection that I’ve had to submit as a recipient of this award and it’s brought back a lot of awesome memories as well as encouraged me as a begin to figure out what I’d like to do after Amherst.
This summer I received funding as a Civic Engagement Scholar to intern in Boston. Last spring I submitted a proposal asking for funding from this award in order to intern at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) as a Community Awareness and Prevention Services Intern. I was incredibly excited when I received the notification that my summer internship would receive funding. Applying for this award was one my best decisions that I have made while at Amherst. I can honestly say that it was probably the most eventful and fulfilling summers yet. The Community Engagement Award is an amazing resource that Amherst offers that more people should take advantage of.
Interning in Boston this summer was an excellent chance to put my survivor skills to the test. Not only did I have the opportunity to work at a non-profit and meet wonderful people who are passionate about similar issues, but I had to manage my own budget and buy groceries and other necessities on my own. Since I did not know many people in the area before I arrived, I got to get to know new people who I would not have met otherwise. A lot of the exposure I received throughout the summer has helped me to further narrow down my interests into possible paths I could explore during my senior year and after graduation. After studying abroad and living in a new city here in the U.S., I feel much more confident about living away from home after I graduate. These are experiences that help to calm at least a few nerves coming into senior year- the year when I feel like I need to figure out how I’ll be prepared for the “real world” after leaving Amherst. Having had this experience of living as a mostly independent adult this summer felt like practicing for the real thing. Many of my friends who I have reconnected with have had similar experiences. Whether they worked abroad or in another state or lived at home, hearing about my friends’ summer experiences had presented a great chance to learn about the wealth of opportunities that are often available to Amherst students before and after that graduate. I would definitely suggest that more people ask and really listen carefully to what their friends have to say about their summers- even after the first few days of school. Many of my friends have also had experiences that have really changed and developed their ideas about the paths they’d like to pursue as well as their ideas about life at Amherst socially and academically. These experiences will certainly come through directly and indirectly in the classroom as well.