Author Archives | tlopus18

Williams Hall previewed in open house

Brandon Bell
News Editor

On Thursday, April 26, tours of classrooms, offices and lab spaces within Ruth W. Williams Hall of Life Science were given by the Danforth Professor of Biology Dean Fraga and the Robert E. Wilson Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Mark Snider.

The tours were part of a series of open houses intended to give members of the campus community a preview of major construction projects currently underway at the College. Tours of Armington Physical Education Center, Stevenson Hall and the lower level of Lowry Center were also offered the same week.

When it fully opens in fall 2018, Williams Hall will host classrooms, labs and collaboration spaces primarily intended to support programs in the life sciences — including biology, biochemistry and molecular biology — and will directly connect to Severance Hall. The walls of the building’s spaces are color-coded to their purpose. According to Fraga, orange will represent student study spaces, blue will represent collaborative spaces and green will represent teaching and faculty office spaces.

In addition to new spaces, the building will play host to the College’s first confocal microscope, which will be used to enhance both research and classroom activities.

“[The confocal microscope] will allow students to study molecular events inside living cells in real time,” Fraga said. “It will allow them to conduct sophisticated experiments we were not previously able to do on campus.”

According to Fraga, a major goal of the spaces within the building was to encourage a greater integration between chemistry and the life sciences. Designers tried to meet this goal, he said, by having equipment and study spaces shared between the building’s labs and classrooms.

“Any time you can bring people together, you have a chance for something wonderful to happen, simply due to the spontaneous conversations we have and the connections we make when we engage each other informally,” Fraga said. “In addition, coordination between the various [chemistry and the life sciences] programs is now required, given the shared classrooms and labs.”

Previously in Mateer Hall, if a professor went on leave, lab areas they were using were simply left unused. With areas for multiple research cohorts being shared in the same lab space, this will no longer be the case.

Williams Hall also intends to offer improved teaching and learning experiences. During the tour, Fraga said this was exemplified in a large classroom on the second floor that he referred to as the “Think Tank,” which connects to two different labs. Because the laboratories will not contain the same hazardous chemicals as others in the building, materials can be brought into the classroom from the lab. Fraga said that these features will allow professors to “toggle between theory and practice” — something that may have required walking up multiple floors in Mateer. While no specific plans have been made, Fraga said this teaching model could be particularly useful for environmental science classes.

While the majority of the building’s facilities are intended to support S.T.E.M. classes, rooms were designed which could also be useful for humanities classes. For example, the Martha Chase Classroom on the ground floor features lighting and acoustics that could be useful for classes that involved playing frequent film or media.

“All other classrooms will be available for scheduling through the normal means,” Fraga said, noting that the classrooms in the building were versatile and could support classes from other departments and conference meetings the College hosted.

Faculty offices in Williams Hall are expected to be open this June before it officially opens for classes next semester. Construction of the building, which was funded via $41 million in alumni donations, began in the summer of 2017 with the demolition of Mateer Hall.

Posted in News0 Comments

College improving support for international students

Dr. Matthew Mariola led discussions on the major on Dec. 1 and 5 in Lowry Student Center (Photo by Saeed Husain).

Robyn Newcomb
Features Editor

This academic year, The College of Wooster has accepted more international students than ever before, and as the spring semester comes to a close, several policies will be changed to better accommodate the campus’s international population. Reflecting on these changes, the Voice met with members of the international student community and International Student Services (ISS) to discuss the progress being made and the work that remains to be done before Wooster can become a fully welcoming home to students from any point on the globe.

The most significant change that will be taking place in the coming year is the difference in international student insurance, which will now be able to fully provide for students who had previously lacked coverage: global nomad and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students.

“We are very excited about the new international student insurance plan through Lewermark,” said Jill Munro, director of ISS. “There are a myriad of new benefits, including more comprehensive coverage and a 24/7 International Student Support Program through Morneau Shepell. But, most importantly, we will now be able to provide coverage to two populations who have struggled to find decent plans or any plans in the past, our global nomads and our DACA students.”

“I think it’s a really important change,” said Nashmia Khan ’20. “If you’re going to accept these students, you have to take things like being able to take care of them into account.”

Another initiative has been to address the topic of summer storage, a task that has historically caused difficulties for nearly all international students.

“We worked hard this year to find a summer storage plan for international, as well as domestic, students that provided a convenient, comprehensive and affordable option. The College subsidized the program to make it as affordable as possible while still offering excellent service,” Munro added.

ISS has also been working to alleviate the stress of expecting first-year international students to complete summer reading before arriving on campus.

“One of the issues that came to light this year was the frustration incoming first-year international students have with not being able to receive and read the summer reading book until they arrive on campus,” Munro elaborated. “This caused the additional stress of having to read the book and write the essay during an already overwhelmingly stressful time.” This year, the College will be working with the publisher to provide online copies of the book to all international students, allowing them to read it on their own time so they will be on a more level playing field with their domestic peers when they arrive on campus.

“I really appreciate all the steps that ISS is taking to make the College more accommodating to international students. Still, I do think there are areas for growth,” said Tanaka Chingonzo ’21, noting that even small details, such as a more flexible meal plan that would allow students to transfer their excess meal swipes to international students – who run out earlier if they need to stay on campus over breaks – would make a big difference in allowing international students to not have to put more effort into their daily lives than their domestic peers.

Several students noted that the nature of international student orientation could be an area for improvement, as well. While it aims to equip new international students with the knowledge and resources they need as quickly as possible upon arriving on campus, it may not be sustained enough to be fostering their well-being and social connection after that initial few weeks.

“It’s six days of back-to-back events where information is being thrown at you. That’s difficult to change, but it doesn’t really ease of guide you into this new environment. You don’t really have any time to process it, and then on the seventh day classes start.”

Chingonzo agreed, suggesting that the differing arrival times for domestic and international students may play a role in the social disconnect between the two student populations as well.

“By the time that the domestic students arrive, people don’t really put in the effort, because you’ve already settled into friend groups – I think something should be done about that. If domestic and international students started school at the same time, it would make it much more intuitive. People wouldn’t have to put in so much effort to leave their comfort zones.

“For one, I feel that the disconnect between international and domestic

Posted in News0 Comments

Self-driving cars are not a viable solution

A trend has begun to emerge in the field of transportation: self-driving cars. Auto manufacturers and Silicon Valley tech titans are pushing toward a future where vehicles use artificial intelligence to drive themselves. This future is being presented as one where congestion and accidents are a thing of the past. Through new technology, they argue, we can tackle the problems that threaten urban livability and accessibility.

However, I see this push as ill-guided for a number of reasons. I fear that better, less-flashy solutions will get pushed to the wayside again, as they did in the early 20th century when the idea of car-ownership became normal. A future of self-driving cars glosses over two critical shortcomings: one, the close ties that the automobile has to American values of individualism, and two, the reality of congestion.

A key reason why a massive push towards self-driving cars seems ill-guided is that it completely ignores the appeal cars have to Americans. Cars, at their core, offer Americans a way to go where they want, when they want. To own a car is to be the master of your own fate — you are beholden only to your schedule, and you can take yourself where you would like to go.

Now it seems like the self-driving car would deliver a similar experience. After all, you simply punch in your destination when you wish and you will be taken there. However, this scenario results in the removal of agency from the individual; the driver becomes the passenger. As a result, the psychological appeal of driving is removed.

At this point, the utility of a self-driving car is diminished because there already exists more efficient forms of autonomous or semi-autonomous transit options that can carry more people to their destination in less time. Trains and buses are largely underutilized in the United States, which reinforces the idea that the appeal of cars lie in the agency that the driver possesses. Cars represent freedom and individuality, and self-driving cars remove that appeal.

Another argument being made for self-driving cars revolves around their ability to solve some of the problems associated with driving, namely congestion and pollution.

The argument here is that with intelligent software that can communicate with other cars and smart traffic lights, self-driving cars will be able to avoid common traffic-causing behaviors like last minute merging. While this facet of self-driving cars may in fact ameliorate some congestion, the idea that self-driving cars will make meaningful strides in reducing congestion and greenhouse gas outputs borders on laughable.

Even if cars are self-driving, at the end of the day, you still have millions of vehicles built for one to four people, carrying people on largely predictable routes during the same times. This sort of pattern lends itself to mass-transit options like commuter rail and bus rapid transit over hundreds of new, expensive, privately owned self-driving cars.

If we have a real commitment to making our cities more livable, then we should work on enriching our existing mass-transit options instead of advocating for a system that creates the problems it seeks to solve.

Now, just because the vision of self-driving cars is imperfect does not mean that there is not a place for this technology.

The biggest issue that mass transit presents is that it prioritizes efficiency, and thus riders have to cluster at designated stops to use the service. For riders who live in lower income areas, the most efficient transit options could be out of reach. Self-driving cars could play a role here by providing first and last mile transit for these people which in turn would give them more access to opportunity. This use-case is a much more effective use for this technology and it could help to ameliorate deeper societal issues.

Autonomous driving technology could also be incorporated into existing mass transit options to help make those more effective. This technology is already being used in Vancouver, Canada and their SkyTrain system is fast, efficient and on time.

While I look forward to a future where it’s easier to get where you want to go when you want to, I do not see a future built around self-driving cars as being the most effective for these. Conventional transit options, when paired intelligently with new technologies, provide solutions to the issues of congestion, pollution and inequality that all of America’s cities face today.

Jordan Griffith, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at JGriffith19@wooster.edu.

Posted in Features0 Comments

Listening is a valuable strategy

In today’s society, we see people turn against one another over anything and everything. Examples include religion, political preference, gender, favorite artists, favorite sports teams; you name it, someone probably has an opinion about it. At that point, we then turn against one another because not all of us think alike. Each group believes that everyone else needs to think like they do. This leads to arguments over which beliefs are right and wrong.

The reality of this whole perspective is that no single belief is wrong. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and we need to respect one another’s opinions. Respecting others opinions involves listening. Listening is a powerful tool for living happier in a society that has so many differences. Listening opens the door to a whole new way of thinking. Simply listening to your neighbor allows you to respect how they feel as well as understand why they feel as they do. Listening also allows you to better express your beliefs in return.

The goal of this viewpoint is to persuade The College of Wooster community to listen and not to argue. Listening has allowed me to expand my comfort space, make new friends and live a happier life at such a diverse college.

I would like to share with you my experience in listening and how it has changed my life at The College of Wooster. Near the middle of my first year here at the College, my roommate, a member of the Posse Foundation Scholarship, asked me if I would like to attend the Posse Plus Retreat. He gave me a quick explanation of what it was, and I decided to go. Once I learned the topic of the retreat — if I remember correctly, it was about how we interact with each other using language — I thought to myself, “Great, another way for more people to call me racist and sexist.”

I let this way of thinking dictate how I carried myself during the first night of the retreat. As the first night carried on, I found myself not talking at all. I was listening to what other members of the retreat had to say. I found myself listening for the purpose of making fun of them in my own thoughts, but as I heard more and more experiences being shared, and how those experiences affected them, I began to feel really bad about myself and about why I was there.

Having heard so many people express their opinions, I gained a sense of courage and stepped out of my safe space. I spoke up about my opinions, and to my surprise, I heard many fingers snapping as a gesture of agreement and support.

That whole weekend changed my personality in terms of how shy I was about my opinions. A simple act of listening allowed me to open my mind. Opening my mind and accepting what others had to say allowed me to state a counter opinion, which was then heard and accepted. I was able to feel what my fellow students were feeling, and so I am now able to communicate on a different level with all of them because I feel like I know them personally. I felt as if I had made 50 new friends that weekend.

I strongly encourage The College of Wooster community to listen. Be open to one another and allow yourself to become educated about your fellow students. As members of a community, we owe it to ourselves to become acquainted with each other.

Justin Klupp, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at JKlupp19@wooster.edu.

Posted in Features0 Comments

Boosting consciousness is essential to discourse

When we are pressed into an uncomfortable or uncontrollable situation, there are numerous ways we can react to whom or what is pushing us out of our comfort zone. It is human nature to react to the situation immediately if we feel threatened, or if we’re just flat-out scared. If we have a little more time, we make quick, mini calculations in our head as to what is the best way to respond to the situation. In less threatening situations, those calculations usually go to the tune of, “I know the best comeback to that” or “I’ll counter their point with this.” However, what do we do when we have no comeback? When our own thoughts and opinions could — God forbid — be wrong?

For some, being wrong is one of those annoying feelings that agitates for some time, then the feeling subsides and they move on. Others, however, try to understand why they were wrong and put themselves in the shoes of their challenger. In most situations, rarely is there a right or wrong answer or someone who is right or wrong (as Game of Thrones teaches us). But there is a way one can improve oneself to be better: consciousness.

This is the idea of being aware of your surroundings, feelings and perceptions — essentially yourself and what’s going on around you. Consciousness is a tricky thing because it forces you to be aware of numerous situations, individuals and conditions that are constantly changing, regardless of whether you have any control over them.

As we grow and understand more about the world and those around us, we’re taught to be conscious of ourselves, and of others. Yet consciousness isn’t something you can force upon someone. You can’t walk up to a stranger on the street and tell them, “You need to be more conscious of those in that building across the street!” I doubt that person would take that advice and, say, decide to bring doughnuts to a bunch of strangers the next morning.

But we can learn consciousness through experiences and situations that impact us. These do not have to be negative experiences, of course. Reading a new book that opens your eyes to a new world, having a deep conversation with a friend that challenges your thinking or even coming to that self-realization that you aren’t always right can not only change how we view our own opinions and values, but can also help us see others’ perceptions, opinions and values as not being right or wrong, but just being.

Having attended a predominately white grade school and high school, I learned from an early age that something separated me from a majority of those around me, whether I understood why at the time or not. As an African-American male, I’ve had my own personal struggles with accepting who I am in America, but those same experiences have substantially added to my consciousness, for which I am thankful. Obviously, no one enjoys being discriminated against or called a racial slur, yet I, as with many who have faced that same kind of negativity, have used those moments to try to understand those who clearly don’t share similarities with myself.

I’m not here to say minorities or any other group are more conscious than anyone. Like everyone else, my experiences are my own. However, I am saying we all possess consciousness. The differences lie in the level of our consciousness, and how we mold our lives based on that level of consciousness. In today’s world — which resembles a sitcom — practically every day we see someone or a group emerging to separate people from another. To combat the negativity and hate we all see, I believe we collectively need to increase our level of consciousness. Instead of disregarding all that one says as trash, try to understand why they are that way and how their experiences could influence what they are saying. In a lot of cases, that will also take extreme patience, something we all need. However, coming out of those situations, we may just change someone’s thinking, which can help that person see our perceptions as well.

Hateful rhetoric and hateful people don’t have a place in our community, but I like to think that those who perpetuate hate are the minority in our society. Understanding these people is quite hard, but I believe their minds can be opened to new understandings as well — they just take more time. In the meantime, step out of your comfort zone by having a conversation that challenges your thinking with someone different than you; you never know, you may end up getting doughnuts out of it.

Ethan Barham, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at EBarham18@wooster.edu.

Posted in Features0 Comments

Lakin gives a powerful final WAC small concert of the year

Eleanor Linafelt
A&E Editor

The Wooster Activities Crew (WAC) hosted their last small concert of the year on Wednesday, April 25 with an intimate and powerful performance by the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Lakin.

“I thought Lakin would be a good fit and appeal to the wider student body because we had not yet brought a woman neo-soul artist to campus this academic year,” said Linden Taylor ’19, director of small concerts for WAC.

Korri Palmer ’20 and Donté Claybrooks ’18 opened the cozy, seated show in Douglass Basement together with a few covers of songs that displayed their strong voices and impressive harmonizing abilities.

“I knew that they were in the Women in Art event that The Goliard hosted … and thought it would be good to reach out to more student musicians on campus,” Taylor said. The students engaged the audience and brought energy to the room that welcomed Lakin onstage.

Though armed with only an acoustic guitar and a pedal board, Lakin immediately filled the room with her presence. She made impressive use of her looping pedal, creating loops of rhythm and guitar riffs to play other parts over. Even on the songs without the looping pedal, Lakin integrated her deft skills on guitar with her impeccably strong voice to perform musically complex and tunefully catchy songs.

Lakin established a friendly and casual relationship with the audience, integrating stories about her songs throughout her set and displaying the wide breadth of her songwriting abilities. She performed about everything from her favorite TV show, “Lost,” to more political songs about the difficulty of being a queer woman in the United States right now.

One particularly interesting story was when she described her song with Spanish words as a way to connect to the half-Mexican part of her identity through her music.

“I loved the energy in the room. Lakin had a great stage presence and the audience was very engaged in her interactive performance,” Taylor said.

Lakin prefaced her final song by describing it as a reaction to the current lack of listening to conflicting ideas that she has observed in our political climate. In a touching way to address this, Lakin encouraged the audience to sing certain lines with her. With the entirety of the entranced audience supporting Lakin’s strong voice, this end to the show displayed the power that music can have to bring people together, regardless of background or ideas.

Though Lakin’s show was the last small concert of the school year, Taylor is already looking forward to next year’s music programming.

“I have learned how important it is to reach out, not just to artists, but to members of The College of Wooster community involved in other student organizations to get as many people engaged in the music scene on campus as possible,” she said. “I want to make sure that feedback carries over into the next academic year and that comments and concerns from the student body continue to be addressed in future event planning.”

It was clear from this show that Taylor and WAC have already begun to address this student feedback.

“I think that it is important to be intentional when deciding which artists to bring to campus,” Taylor said. “I thought that by asking Lakin to perform, a woman and person of color, I could begin to address this feedback.”

Posted in Arts & Entertainment0 Comments