The Problem with Student Wages

Haverford and Bryn Mawr students speak out about campus jobs

By Amana Abdurrezak

There are two types of students at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges: those who do work, and those must also go to work.

For the former, work requires setting aside time outside of lectures and lab sessions to finish papers and problem sets. But for almost 1,500 Bryn Mawr and Haverford students, work is more than classwork—it’s also attached to the on-campus job they have.

On both campuses, students spend an average of six-to-eight hours per week managing front desks, helping fellow students with class assignments, ensuring smooth operation of the dining halls, and attracting prospective students to the Bi-College community. The list of student jobs is a long one.

Based on their home campus, the type of job they have and their experience level, students are paid between $9 and $11.15 an hour. What do they think of their jobs and their wages?

To find out, our News and Feature Writing class interviewed over 85 students on both campuses to understand the nature of student jobs in the Bi-Co and find out if students believe they are paid fairly for the work they do. Here are our findings:

  • Since many jobs on-campus allow students to only work up to a certain number of hours, it’s very common for students to sidestep that restriction by having multiple jobs.
  • Students who use their earnings for smaller purchases like food, clothing or setting aside money for savings accounts are generally satisfied with their pay. However, many recognized that they are satisfied because they don’t have to worry about bigger costs like tuition. The students who use their earnings to pay for tuition, room and board, bills, or even sending money to family back home, wish their wages were higher. Their money is not used for extras but for the basics.
  • Opinions on pay depended on how demanding the student’s job was. Those who work low-pressure jobs were satisfied with their wage. Those who felt their jobs were more laborious or required more expertise were also generally satisfied with their pay, but felt that they should be paid more.
  • The fact that both campuses’ baseline pay is higher than Pennsylvania’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour factored into many students’ opinions. This trend remained consistent with out-of-state students who compared their wages on-campus to their home states.

We also noticed that Haverford’s baseline pay of $9 an hour is a dollar lower than Bryn Mawr’s baseline of $10 an hour, despite having most of the same jobs across both campuses.


Bills, Bills, Bills

For many in the Bi-Co, juggling multiple jobs on top of classes is the norm, but many can justify adding a job or two to their schedule if it means they can enjoy nights out in Philadelphia with friends or a new pair of boots when the weather gets chillier.

However, some students have to use their earnings to pay for larger expenses.

Princess Jefferson, a Bryn Mawr College junior, juggles supervisory positions at two dining service establishments. At Haffner Dining Hall and Wyndham Alumnae House, she delegates duties to workers, oversees the desert bar, and drives Wyndham’s catering van. When she isn’t in class or working in dining services, she’s at the Civic Engagement Office prepping ACT/SAT test-prep curricula or driving a Bryn Mawr van for student programs. At all of her jobs, she makes $10.95 an hour, working a total of 36 hours a week.

“For all of my jobs except one, I think I get a fair wage,” said Jefferson. She puts all of her earnings towards tuition, food, her phone, and transportation.

“If I take into account the management at Wyndham & how my back feels after work, then I think we should get paid at least $12 an hour,” she said.

Jefferson isn’t alone in using her money to pay for financial expenses and wanting better compensation. Sara Jones, another Bryn Mawr junior, makes $10 an hour as a kindergarten teaching assistant and a student activities orientation assistant.

As a kindergarten TA, she helps out in the classroom through helping manage group activities and student work. As a student activities orientation assistant, her responsibilities vary. Some days she organizes student events, other days she hosts dorm hangouts. But her role always requires that she supervise “customs people”—members of Bryn Mawr’s residential life who help students in the dorms.

Jones works seven to eleven hours a week and uses her money to either pay for food or send money back to her family to help pay for household expenses.

She thoroughly enjoys her kindergarten job and feels like she’s fairly compensated but does feel underpaid at her job at student activities given the amount of work she puts into planning and preparation.

Like Jefferson and Jones, some students work on-campus to meet their financial aid package obligations, but some have a hard time juggling classwork with financial responsibilities.

At Haverford, freshman Alissa Vandenbark serves food and cleans tables for Haverford’s dining services. Her second job as an AUDIO-VISUAL assistant requires that she set up projectors and recorders for on-campus events. She works anywhere between five and ten hours a week, earning $9 an hour at each job.

“All of the money I make goes to tuition. The low wage makes it necessary to work a lot of hours to make enough money,” she said.

Considering both schools’ cost of tuition is on the rise and pay rates have remained stagnant or similar in recent years, some student workers feel that they’re being unfairly compensated for the demanding work that they do — given the fact that they are students first.


Pay Me What You Owe Me

Many Bi-Co student workers recognize pay inequity exists between more and less demanding positions such as the dining hall versus front desk work. But the other pay inequity present on both campuses is the one between jobs that require more qualifications and/or more training.

At Bryn Mawr, sophomore Janina Calle works two jobs, one that requires more qualifications than the other but pays the same hourly rate of $10 an hour.

As a Career Peer, Calle helps students create resumes and cover letters, as well as navigate internship and funding searches. Her second job consists of working as a backup driver for the Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work, where she is responsible for picking up and dropping off graduate students to and from the Rosemont train station near Bryn Mawr.

Calle can go a few weeks without being called in to her driving job because it operates on an “as-needed” basis. But her work as a Career Peer is significantly more involved, requiring extensive career knowledge and six hours of work a week.

“I think career peers should be paid at least $12 an hour because we don’t just meet with students and address their career-related concerns,” said Calle, “We have projects we work on throughout the year…and do work outside of the office by hosting hall hangouts.”

At Haverford, students have a similar attitude, agreeing that jobs that require more technical knowledge should be compensated better. This is especially true with teaching assistants, especially in STEM fields.

Rebecca Seeley, a senior at Haverford, earns $9 an hour working as an organic chemistry laboratory teaching assistant (TA). She assists students during lab hours, hosts office hours for students needing help, and grades lab reports. Depending on whether or not lab reports are due, Seeley works up to eight hours a week.

“I get that $9 an hour sounds acceptable given that Pennsylvania has the lowest federally legal minimum wage at $7.25 an hour…but I think it should be higher,” said Seeley, “TA-ing requires special expertise and interpersonal skills. It’s similar to tutoring, and private tutors get paid upwards of $25 an hour,” she said.

Sadie Kenyon-Dean feels the same as a physics 101 TA making $9.25 an hour.

“Sometimes it’s very hard to grade assignments because students don’t have a high level of comprehension,” said Kenyon-Dean, “I think I should make at least $10 an hour.”

For students whose jobs are more involved and require specialized knowledge, many believe they should be paid more. This is especially true for Haverford TAs, who are paid less than Bryn Mawr TAs.


The Price of (Working in) Admissions

Bi-Co students are no stranger to fitting work around demanding schedules to help pay for necessities like groceries. In the case of some student workers at Haverford’s admissions office, this goal is difficult when they’re not being properly compensated for every hour they work.

Claudia Ojeda, a Haverford sophomore, earns $9.25 an hour for the ten to twelve hours she works as an Access Diversity Initiative intern in Haverford’s admissions office. She doesn’t have regular hours, instead working three times a year to help plan “fly-in” weekends for prospective students of underrepresented backgrounds.

The problem is that the office doesn’t pay for all of the work that she does.

“Every time there is a fly-in weekend, I get paid to work the events I sign up to attend ahead of time,” said Ojeda, “But I often have to attend many more hours of events that I don’t get paid for.”

This issue extends to other student positions in Haverford’s admissions office. Students in admissions work as both tour guides and hosts, showing prospective families around campus and answering questions in the office. But the admissions office doesn’t pay its tour guides or hosts for the first hour they work.

And if a Haverford tour guide shows up to their tour slot and a prospective student or family isn’t there to take a tour, they aren’t paid either, a frustrating reality for those who need the money and responsibly show up to work.

Bryn Mawr admissions pays for all hours that workers are present, but senior Nadia Delisfort thinks her $10.40 an hour wage doesn’t compensate her for how emotionally draining working in admissions can be. She’s in her third year in the office and works 16 hours a week.

“If you’re doing Admissions for more than one or two years, you should definitely get paid more,” said Delisfort, “I think $10 an hour is low.”

But she also believes that senior tour guides should be compensated better because of the number of extra responsibilities they have.

“It’s not like I’m doing the same thing as a first-year tour guide who’s only exclusively giving tours,” said Delisfort, “They rely on me a lot more to talk at promotional events, be on panels, and do interviews. And the number of interviews that I do a week is actually ridiculous,” she said.

Though the pay scales on both campuses recognize that more experienced students should be paid more, the differences are slight: students in their third year at the same job only make 40 cents an hour more at Bryn Mawr and 50 cents more an hour at Haverford.


A Change is (Probably Not) Gonna Come

Some student workers believe that their expenses, the qualifications they need for their positions, and the emotional labor required for many jobs in the Bi-Co warrant better pay. But a pay revolution may not be coming anytime soon: the majority of students we spoke to were satisfied with their wages.

Sadie Kasten, a Bryn Mawr first-year, works eleven hours a week prepping salad at Erdman Dining Hall and tutoring three students at Ardmore Community Tutoring. She makes $10 an hour at both jobs and spends her money on her siblings, buying clothes, and using Uber.

In comparison to her hometown of Champaign, Illinois, she thinks that Bryn Mawr’s hourly wage is fair.

“It’s higher that what I’m used to at home,” said Kasten, referring to Illinois’ $8 an hour minimum wage.

Many students who believe their job’s pay rate is fair point out that even though they are personally satisfied, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t want more for their fellow students.

Julia Frederick, a junior at Bryn Mawr, works three jobs. She does tech support as a help desk student technician and helps students with STEM classes as a peer tutor. At both jobs, she makes $10 an hour while earning $10.75 an hour as a biology TA. The money she makes tends to go towards buying food or a train ticket to Philadelphia.

Frederick emphasizes that student workers sacrifice a lot of their time for their jobs. If students were paid more, it would make the hours they put in more meaningful.

“Work study can hold back student workers because they have less time to engage in other activities. They have less time to study, socialize, and relax since they have to work to pay off their tuitions,” said Frederick.

Haverford senior Ethan Emmert earns $9 an hour as a TA and echoes the same sentiment. Though he works five hours a week and depends on his job for resume experience rather than financial stability, he doesn’t think the wages are sufficient for all students.

“If I had been depending on the job for even a part of my finances, I probably would’ve been disappointed with the wage –time is so valuable in college,” said Emmert.

Ultimately, students agree that pay should be higher for on-campus jobs, but what are the odds that the students will lead the revolution for better pay in the Bi-Co?

For now, unlikely.

Hosting a ‘Shabbanukkah’ Dinner

Young Jews find new ways to celebrate old traditions

By Sasha Rogelberg 

In Judaism, welcoming strangers into one’s home is considered a commandment and virtue.  For Shosh Lovett-Graff and Rel Bogom-Shanon, two Jewish food justice activists, it means an opportunity to create the Jewish community they have yet to find as recent college graduates living in Philadelphia.

On a Friday night in early December, the intersection of Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, and the fifth night of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, Lovett-Graff and Bogom-Shanon decide to host a “Shabbanukkah” dinner. Each would invite a few people over who did not already know each other. Everyone would bring something over and break bread together.

Bogom-Shanon expected guests to arrive at “around seven,” which really, to her, meant before 8:00 p.m.  Over the course of an hour, about seven people file into her kitchen. They drop off the side dishes they brought onto the wooden island and pour themselves a mug of cider warmed in a Crock Pot that has seen better days.  Most pour a glug of brown liquor into their mugs too.  It’s cold and rainy out, after all.

Bogom-Shanon is trying her best to make small talk, but mostly she’s incessantly checking her small challah in the oven.

“About an hour ago, I realized it’s Shabbat and we don’t have a challah, so I just decided to make one!” she explains.

She just started watching The Great British Bake-Off, a British baking competition that has gained popularity in the United States, thanks to Netflix, and feels inspired.  Despite her admiration of the show, Bogom-Shanon knows her challah needs some help.  It didn’t have enough time to proof, for the yeast to absorb the sugars and expand the bread into the fluffy and eggy loaf she is familiar with.  She keeps opening the oven door, then closing it, then opening it again.  The challah looks the same every time she checks on it: a small braided log, pale, with a crack running right through it.

Scraps of fried beet, potato, and sweet potato are piled on top of the stove above the oven.  It’s the latke graveyard, the remnants of the fried pancakes cooling on a tray on the kitchen island.  Bogom-Shanon picks at the crispy fried bits every time she checks the bread.

Meanwhile, Lovett-Graff is coolly leaning against the counter by the cider and booze. She’s trying to facilitate conversation, insisting everyone goes around and introduces each other.  It seems likes she’s the only person in the room who knows everyone else.


            Lovett-Graff seemed like the only person who knew all the guests because in reality, she was. Though Bogom-Shanon had invited a few folks, only one or two people were able to make it, so Lovett-Graff took over the guest list.  For her, inviting strangers was intentional.

“I just like the experience of being forced to spend time with people who you don’t know, but have been vetted,” she joked.

Lovett-Graff moved to Philadelphia after graduating from the New College of Florida two years ago. Living in Sarasota, she said that she wasn’t really around people with whom she could express her identities as a Jewish person, queer person, and activist.  According to Lovett-Graff, in Sarasota “the average age is 63, and there’s no progressive Jewish communities of any sort.”

After moving to Philadelphia, Lovett-Graff knew she needed to come to terms with what it meant to be an independent adult who also wanted to have a Jewish community.  Though she was a member of a local synagogue, attended events at the Jewish Farm School—a Jewish organization working towards greater environmental justice and education—and participated in protests and rallies for various causes, she was not fulfilled.

“Those are things I am a part of, but not necessarily things I have a clear part in, or in the creation of,” she said.

She realized that in order to have feelings of community, one needs to create community.  She sought to do this, even if she was only creating a community for a few hours.

Lovett-Graff began to celebrate Jewish holidays by inviting people to her home and feeding them.

“I do think there’s a lot of value in sharing holidays with people who aren’t Jewish or with people who are maybe—their parents were Jewish, but they haven’t practiced ever—and working to make that a welcoming, inclusive experience for people,” she said.

One Hanukkah, Lovett-Graff recalls, she threw a party and invited mostly non-Jewish people.  She wrote out the story of Hanukkah on piece after piece of construction paper and asked her guests to illustrate the text, page by page.  At the end of the night, she read the illustrated pages to her guests, like a storybook.  “Everyone has a place within the telling and retelling,” said Lovett-Graff.

Bogom-Shanon’s search for Jewish community began before she graduated, in a completely different part of the country than Lovett-Graff.

After participating in a fellowship at Urban Adamah, a farm in Berkeley, Ca. that integrates Jewish values and agricultural sustainability, Bogom-Shanon returned to Skidmore College in New York.  For her thesis, she wanted to see if this Jewish food movement from the last 15 years in the United States could be made accessible to people who didn’t have the means or desire to have a fellowship at larger non-profit organizations.

Also feeling isolated and without a Jewish community at a mostly secular school, Bogom-Shanon hosted weekly Shabbat dinners. These dinners culminated into one larger dinner that she discussed and analyzed as a case study in her thesis.

Using some grant money from Skidmore, she bought a locally-sourced chicken to prepare, and invited others to bring over a dish as well.  Bogom-Shanon said inviting people over “elevated the Shabbat atmosphere in a new way.” Able to escape their “dehumanizing” dorm rooms, guests, all college students, were able to go to someone’s home for a homemade meal.  Having a potluck also gave everyone the opportunity to have ownership over the meal, hoped Bogom-Shannon.

In her thesis, Bogom-Shanon concluded that the Jewish food justice movement could indeed be accessible to all. She was able to hold a more ethically-sourced Jewish communal meal, combining the teachings and values of her summer-long fellowship.  While Bogom-Shanon believes that building community is “as easy as having friends over on a Friday night,” community-building must still be conscious.

“Just having a dinner on Friday night doesn’t feel like Shabbat to me,” said Bogom-Shanon. “At a Shabbat table there really needs to be some intention in conversation and connection to each other.”


Everyone meanders to Bogom-Shanon’s living room, as one of her housemates starts shoving candles into the wells inside of the Chanukkiah, the traditional Hanukkah candelabrum.  Lovett-Graff looks for something to hold the Shabbat candles, which are substantially bigger than the thin Hanukkah candles.

She settles on a pair of thrifted champagne flutes on the bookshelf, bedazzled with little rhinestones.  They are ugly, but they will do. As Lovett-Graff finally balances the Shabbat candles upright in the makeshift candle holders, the small talk finally stops.

Bogom-Shanon’s housemate begins to light the Shabbat candles. Everyone shifts uncomfortably in their seats, waiting for someone to begin the prayers. Lovett-Graff takes the lead, and everyone follows. All but one of the guests are Jewish, but all the Jewish guests know how the prayers go, and they sing, shyly, under their breaths, slowly becoming louder when they realize they finally all have something in common.

In between each prayer, no one talks. Tiana, the housecat, gregarious but polite, paws at her stuffed dreidel toy and mews.  Everyone else is looking intently at the glowing Chanukkiah.

Another guest pours the wine she brought, says a prayer, takes a sip, and then passes around the glass for everyone else to take a sip.  Bogom-Shanon leaves the room and comes back with her now-finished challah.  She makes some excuses for how it didn’t turn out the way she wanted, but almost immediately after the prayers are finished, people begin to unceremoniously break off some pieces, all grateful to chew on something warm and doughy.

Everyone sufficiently hungry, Bogom-Shanon insists people begin to help themselves to latkes and more wine.


Both Bogom-Shanon and Lovett-Graff came from homes that practiced Judaism and where food was at the forefront of that practice. (Bogom-Shanon joked that she and Lovett-Graff’s hyphenated last names are a result of having hippy Jewish parents.)

“A big part of my Jewish identity was formed in the kitchen,” said Bogom-Shanon.

Bogom-Shanon’s family would roast chicken for Shabbat dinner, and many of the cookbooks in her home were Jewish holiday cookbooks.

She remembers, “A lot of how I marked Jewish holidays and cycles were in the kitchen.”

Moreover, for Bogom-Shanon, food was what held her American and Jewish identities together.  “Food is such a good touchstone for identity because there’s so many ways to interact with it,” she began. “In the context of Torah, so much can be found on food.”

Lovett-Graff grew up in a kosher kitchen, and her mother grew up keeping kosher as well.  In some kosher homes, families have separate plates, silverware, and appliances for meat and dairy foods, and will only consume animal products that have been prepared a certain way.

One Shabbat, Lovett-Graff’s mother decided that she would buy meat that was not explicitly kosher, but rather one that was bought from a local farmer, who treated the animal with respect, but didn’t necessarily follow Jewish kosher laws.  From that moment on, Lovett-Graff’s family no longer kept kosher and symbolically got rid of a traditional Jewish ritual in favor own their own personal one.

This was the turning point in Lovett-Graff’s experience with Jewish food and ritual.

“Creating your own tradition, creating your own sense of grounded Jewish family ethics in your home, even if it means breaking from tradition, that’s what I want to do somehow or another.”


The bottle of wine is nearly finished.  Conversation has shifted from the obligatory “so, what does everybody do?” to one guest showing a video on his phone of the 1986 Cleveland “Balloonfest,” where citizens broke the world record for biggest simultaneous balloon release, then causing a local environmental crisis after all the balloons soon popped over Cleveland’s small bodies of water.

Lovett-Graff is snacking on some gelt, festive Hanukkah chocolate coins, that were scattered across the table.  They are certified fair trade, of course.  Others are munching on some gingerbread men (ironically brought by the only non-Jew invited).  The Hanukkah candles have long gone out, but the Shabbat candles in the champagne flutes are still flickering in their pools of melted wax.  They have left sooty residue all over the flutes, but Bogom-Shanon doesn’t seem bothered.

Someone gets up to leave for the night. In typical West-Philly fashion, she has left her bike in Center City and has to take the trolley to retrieve it and bike back home.

Lovett-Graff feels a buzz in her pocket; another acquaintance of her’s texts her, saying he wants to stop by. Lovett-Graff looks up at Bogom-Shanon, who nods and gives her speechless approval.


Lovett-Graff’s and Bogom-Shanon’s views on Jewish food and ritual have permeated into their professional lives.

Lovett-Graff works for Reconstructing Judaism, which is the home of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical School and the newest sect of Judaism, Reconstructionism, focused on spirituality and progressivism in a Jewish context, and less on traditional Jewish laws and theological beliefs.  She is currently thinking about the Jewish need to create ritual around food and how it intersects with worker’s rights, animal welfare, and environmental justice.

Because of her family’s adoption of new ethical, but not kosher, eating practices, Lovett-Graff wants to create “ethical kosher” standards for some Jewish sects to adopt.

Lovett-Graff recently led a workshop on creating ritual around food at Shamayim V’aretz, a Jewish organization focused on animal welfare and Jewish values.

Bogom-Shanon is a fellow for Repair the World, a national Jewish organization in partnership with the Jewish Farm School and the Philly Farm Crew, which works with urban farms and gardens in the city to bring volunteers to help farmers maintain their land.

Repair the World works with 11 different food organization in Philadelphia, including the Mitzvah Food Program, which has five different food pantries around the city.

She is still on her mission to create a community based around Judaism and food justice and plans on hosting more Shabbat dinners in the near future.


The new guest arrives at 10:30 p.m., three hours after the party started.  He pulls up a chair and sits down with a pile of latkes already beginning to sully the flimsy napkin they are being held on with oil.  He pours himself what’s left in the bottle of wine and joins in the conversation.  The Shabbat candles are still fluttering.

Underground Philadelphia

Students unlock the secrets of the region’s geology

By Stephanie Widzowski

Mineralogy, one of the four 200-level major requirements for geology students, has been taught in a myriad of ways – some more successful than others. Professor Selby Cull-Hearth has tried everything from lectures to a life-like research experience. She works hard to create the best environment for students every year.

She refuses to assign a textbook because none of them explain mineralogy well enough. So she writes her own chapters on Microsoft Word, draws her own figures, and uploads them all to Moodle.

This year class time is entirely for the students. Need to study for the next exam? Pore over the readings or work with someone else to quiz the concepts. Test your memory with optional Moodle quizzes or get familiar with a tray of minerals in the back of the classroom.

All the deadlines are listed on Google Sheets files  Cull-Hearth made, and all students have to do is fill their box in green after finishing something. It’s collaborative, so people can see where others are stuck and offer a hand.Cull-Hearth is there to help too, but students often depend on each other more.

Final exams and papers are standard, but this final is neither.

The class is putting together something the whole Bi-Co can enjoy: an exhibit to go in the long-empty display cases in Park Science Building. It will tell the geologic story of Philadelphia and the evidence behind it.

“The best way to know what you know is by explaining things to others,” said Cull-Hearth.

But telling the entire geologic story of the region, a history over a billion years old? Where should a handful of undergraduate students start? And what does mineralogy have to do with it?

Scholars like Howard Bosbyshell have spent decades studying the region and published papers on their work. To start, each person in the class picked a local rock unit and scanned the articles for any mention of it, trying to figure out the age of the rock and how the experts think it formed.

The major rock units being studied and where they meet the Earth’s surface. Cull-Hearth.


There’s still a lot of uncertainty about the rocks in this region. For one, there are hardly any exposures that aren’t covered in plants or weathered by rain, and getting funding to excavate rock is near impossible.

For the sites geologists can access, not all rock can be dated. That requires elements that decay radioactively over time, which are rare. (Carbon-14 is common, but that’s only good for 10,000 years or so.) Even when it can be dated, often what’s recorded is the age of mountain building when the unit was deformed, not its original age. So scientists and geology students alike do their best with the information they have, and constantly try to get more.

Reading the literature is only a prelude for the main event – the signature of all geology courses – the field trip and following report.

Saturday at 6 a.m. sharp, the geology department vans revved their engines as sleepy students packed in. They were named Betty and Bascom and had labels next to their license plates. They sailed through misty back roads on their way north into the Honey Brook Upland, where an exposure of rock about a billion years old lay on a road cut.

The department has a saying on field trips: “Put your nose to the rock.” That’s exactly what 15 students did, field notebooks and rock hammers in hand. No one dared back into the road with the occasional truck barreling by.

Mineralogy students “putting their noses to the rock”. Photo taken at Mt. Airy.

Knowing what minerals are at any given stop is important. You may remember the three types of rocks – igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.

Igneous rocks form from magma or lava, sedimentary rocks form from grains of other rocks, and metamorphic rocks are ones transformed by heat and pressure. Certain minerals are more likely to appear in different types. For example, kyanite, staurolite, andalusite and sillimanite only grow in metamorphic rocks, and which ones grow depend on the heat and pressure. So, geologists can tell how extreme conditions were at any given site just by looking at the minerals.

Continental collsions tend to get pretty extreme. The rock at Honey Brook Upland had bands of enormous crystals. The banding is a sign of metamorphism, and the larger the crystals are, the longer the rock took to cool.

“This was almost a migmatite,” said Cull-Hearth, indicating the rock was so hot while it was being compressed that it almost melted. This was almost definitely a result of an old supercontinent called Rodinia coming together about 900 million years ago. But this was only the first stop of the field trip, and there was still a lot of rock between here and Philadelphia. Where was evidence of Pangea, the supercontinent that began to break up 175 million years ago?

Younger continental collisions were recorded in rock closer to the coast, as that land attached to the side of North America much later. Minerals once again come in handy

. Small staurolites were found at a stop far from Philadelphia. Closer to the city in the same unit, the staurolites were giant – sometimes an inch long. Even closer, and suddenly they disappeared.

Here’s the interpretation: staurolite is stable at moderate temperatures, so the rocks heated up closer to present-day Philadelphia until they were so hot that staurolite broke down. That’s a sign that the collision was happening on the border. This younger event is most likely evidence of Pangea.

At each stop, someone was responsible for collecting a sample. They would spend the rest of the semester turning that sample into a thin section to put under a microscope.

The process is long and grueling. Take a trip down to the rock room in the basement of Park, and you’ll see a lab like no other. Every surface is covered in clay. The equipment is closer to what you would expect from a workshop.

First, the rock is cut under a saw. Igneous and metamorphic rocks are pretty hard, but this saw is coated in diamond dust and makes short work of any sample. Once someone has a small rectangle or “billet” of rock, it gets polished into a perfectly flat surface that will be glued onto a glass slide. The billet then gets ground down from the non-glass side until the thinnest layer of rock is left. Finally, a cover slide is glued on top. The result: a glass-rock-glass sandwich thin enough to shoot light through.

Rocks, can be seen below, look spectacular under a microscope.

There are hundreds of thousands of minerals, and many look alike to the naked eye. Mineralogists rely on a handful of tricks to tell them apart under a lens. Why is this important? Each mineral forms in a slightly different environment. We can use them to tell what Earth was like in the past.

Minerals also hide crucial details – alignment, deformities – that are evidence of events through Earth’s history. Understanding the big picture can start smaller than the eye could ever see.

To cement their understanding of the science, the class met with one of the experts whose papers gave the foundation. This information is Bosbyshell-verified.

In this thin section (seen above) the rock has been deformed at least twice – once to make the original sheets of mica and again to fold them. This pattern is called crenulation cleavage.

The science is important, but it does no good unless the public can follow it. That’s why faculty from the museum studies department gave a talk to the mineralogy class with tips for making the best exhibits.

“You need to give the reader ownership over their own education,” said Carrie Robbins of Special Collections.

Cull-Hearth has also been working on her own exhibits and used them as an example. The title: Poison Paints. It’s the story of how the most iconic pigments in art are often made from deadly minerals. An interesting theme, catchy title, colorful minerals, and a bright backsplash – Starry Night, by Van Gogh – are all vital. Making an exhibit is as much art as it is science.

Each placard has at most 70 words. Boiling down the entire geologic history to a few hundred words is going to take a lot of work.

To help gather ideas, Cull-Hearth arranged for the class to meet with curators at the Washington D.C. Smithsonian Museum. Another field trip!

The vans left the Wawa parking lot after a short breakfast and joined rush-hour traffic on the ramp to I-95. Cristian Clothier, a senior student and second driver, floored the gas pedal of Betty as soon as he got a chance, prompting screams from the back. Despite his best efforts, Bascom disappeared from view in front of a truck.

“This is my contribution to the class,” said Abby Harrison, pulling out her phone to get directions to the Smithsonian.

A large part of the Smithsonian’s success with their mineral exhibits are the size and quality of the gems. It’s hard to compare to a world-class museum, but Bryn Mawr does have a vast collection of minerals. The writing will just have to be as clear and informative as possible.

Finally, it was time to get to work making the exhibits. The class created a sign-up sheet to decide who would work on what. The background poster had to be designed, minerals from the collection had to be chosen, and the story had to be written, among other things.

Under field trip photos, someone had written “I volunteer Abby as tribute”. Harrison is a professional photographer and her skills come in handy. Katie Billings, another student, is a talented graphic designer. It seemed everyone was suited for a role.

Michelle Luu and Elizabeth Yost sorted through samples everyone had collected from the trip and polished them on a special machine. At the same time, Billings was working with Harrison and a senior named Ankitha Kannad on diagrams. The three disagreed on how to present the information.

“Not everybody is a visual learner,” said Harrison.

“Because we’re in an academic building and not a museum, I don’t think many people will stop and read the paragraphs,” said Billings.

Two other classmates, Elizabeth McGuire and Alexis Pecknay, were writing the story.

“Mostly I write something and then Alexis deletes it and fixes it,” McGuire laughed.

“We’re both contributing material and writing,” said Pecknay. She knows a lot about the Octoraro formation because it was her unit. “But for the other ones, we’re reading the entries other people have written and trying to put it into layman’s terms.”

“This thin section has a lot of weird shit,” said Clothier. He was scanning through thin sections, identifying minerals, and taking pictures of them to upload to Pinterest.

One morning, Cull-Hearth greeted the class with bad news: the display cases that were meant to be installed at the end of the semester wouldn’t come in until winter break at least. The class would end and the exhibit wouldn’t be ready for viewing. What was all this work for?

“But,” added Selby, “we might be able to throw an installation party early next semester.”

There is definitely a need to make exhibits like this, according to Billings.

“I had someone ask me if Pangea broke up because of the meteor that killed the dinosaurs,” she said. That seems far-fetched, but people might not know that without taking geology courses.

Studying goes on as usual in Park, but one class holds its breath for the day when the hallways glitter with minerals. Next semester, watch for the Philadelphia (Geologic) Story and the mark of dedicated students.

The Buzz About Bees

Philadelphia is passionate about beekeeping

By Sally Pearson

There are many unknowing Philadelphians living with a beehive right next door.

“When a hive is happy and healthy and non-aggressive, there’s no issue,” said beekeeper Eli St. Amour. “Neighbors don’t even know that there are bees.”

St. Amour’s hives at Haverford College are likely overlooked by many students. They hide in the corner of campus on the small Haverford farm.

Most beekeepers fall into one of two categories: hobby beekeepers or commercial beekeepers. Hobby beekeepers might sell honey and break even on a good year, but don’t treat beekeeping as their main job, said St. Amour. Whereas commercial beekeepers do, often owning hundreds of hives.

St. Amour doesn’t fall into either of these categories.  He operates about 20 hives at 10 different locations around the Philadelphia area and focuses on the educational aspect of beekeeping. In the younger schools where he keeps hives, like Friends School Haverford, the focus is on sharing the importance of bees and getting kids excited about them. “‘Hey look, bees, bees are good bugs’, that sort of education,” said St. Amour.

At the colleges where he operates, like Haverford and Bryn Mawr , education factors into their wider sustainable education initiatives.

Eli St. Amour

“It’s one of the most easy insects to study”, said St. Amour. “You can take apart one of these hives and look at every single cell and put it back together and you haven’t destroyed anything”

The bulk of his income comes from the contracts with these locations to install and care for hives, but he also sells honey and lip balm.

St. Amour is experienced–he has been beekeeping for 10 years he’s only 23. He started when he was 12  after a field trip.

He was homeschooled so had time to pursue beekeeping. He apprenticed at Harriton House, in Bryn Mawr, where he learned a lot about beekeeping. He started his first hive soon after. He’s just graduated with a degree in Sustainable Business from Saint Joseph’s University and plans to pursue beekeeping full-time.

The Changing Face of Beekeepers

Twelve is a remarkably young age to start beekeeping, but even a 23-year-old beekeeper would have been unusual a few years ago.

“When I started the average age of beekeeper was in the 60’s. It was definitely an old man’s profession.” said St. Amour.

But about six years ago there was an influx of new, younger beekeepers.

“A lot of it is the media attention,” said St. Amour. “With the bees having a tougher time there’s more news stories, there’s more media attention towards beekeeping in general. Before people hadn’t even really thought of it.”

The Obamas were particularly outspoken about bees. Michelle Obama added a hive of 70,000 bees in the White House’s Garden, and the former president created a task force to save pollinators in 2014, according to the Obama White House website.

This media attention on shrinking bee populations made people more aware of beekeeping, but most new hobby beekeepers didn’t take up the challenge to save the environment, though that was sometimes a part of it. They often just realized how cool beekeeping sounded.

Many of these new beekeepers were women.

Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild President Sarah Plonski was one of them. “I believe women are the future of beekeeping,” she said .

The makeup of the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild supports her prediction. Four of the ten people on the leadership board are women, and there were more women than men at the Guild’s December meeting.

The trend extends beyond Philadelphia. In an interview with National Public Radio, longtime Ohio beekeeping instructor Kim Flottum noticed this increase in women beekeepers. “The surge has really been with younger, urban women,” he said.

There isn’t a consensus on why this increase in female beekeepers in particular occurred.

“I believe we are observing a phenomena among women in which it appears that we are beginning to value ourselves and our skills and becoming more willing to learn from each other” said long-time beekeeper and founder of Cascade Girl, Sharon Schmidt in an article with University of California Davis.

Plonski suspects that for some women, beekeeping is an extension to gardening. It’s also pretty badass to take care of bees, Plonski said.

One of Plonski’s new goals for the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild was to continue to increase diversity, especially racial diversity within in the beekeeping community.

Most of these new beekeepers, of all genders, start with apprenticeships or classes held by local organizations or experienced beekeepers. St. Amour teaches beekeeping to students and community members every year and the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild has three-day workshops every spring. But a lot of the learning happens as they go.

“There’s a learning curve,” said St. Amour. “It’s a different kind of business. You’re always dependent on the weather and the crops.”

Philadelphia Urban Beekeeping

            Philadelphia has a deep history with beekeeping. The traditional ten frame, Langstroth hive was invented by Philadelphia native Reverend Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth in 1851, according to the Smithsonian website. In reality, Langstroth spent most of his life in Massachusetts, but Philadelphia beekeepers still hail him as one of their own.

Today, Philadelphia is a popular beekeeping city for its size and density. Plonski suspected it’s because of Philadelphia’s broader sustainable agriculture movement. Beekeeping is another way to eat local and sustainable and help the environment.

The laws in Philadelphia also help. The government has kept it pretty easy to keep bees.  All beekeepers need to do is register their collection of hives with the state for $10 and comply with an annual or bi-annual inspections of their hives.

In some cities and states, beekeepers pay higher fees and have to comply with stricter regulations.

In Minneapolis, for example, urban beekeepers pay $100 for a permit application and can only apply after completing particular beekeeping courses, according to the City of Minneapolis website.

Hatfield Borough, in Montgomery County, recently passed a regulation on beekeeping after neighbors complained about stings, said an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The regulation limits beekeepers to two hives for every 2,000 square feet of property.

Hatfield Borough is an exception to the trend. Beekeeping laws are becoming more relaxed overall. “With more beekeepers, laws become more friendly to them,” said St. Amour.

New York legalized beekeeping the city in 2010 and Los Angeles started allowing it in 2015, according to National Public Radio.

Laws might be easy to follow in Philadelphia, but that doesn’t mean that urban beekeeping is an easy task.

It involves a lot of ingenuity. Beekeepers are squeezing hives wherever they can–often using rooftops and small backyard areas.

Beekeepers Carol and Davey Rance keep hives on their windy Philadelphia roof. To prevent them from blowing over, Davey Rance constructed a horizontal hive. Rather than tall stacks, his hives are long rectangles. His system also eliminates heavy lifting of large stacks. The top of the box comes off and the frames slide out.

To get bees water on their city rooftop, they plumbed a watering bowl usually used for chicken coops into their household watering supply. Then the bowl was suspended over the side of their roof to prevent water from damaging their ceilings.

The Rance’s have dealt with the usual, though still difficult challenges, of urban beekeeping which they document on their website–

They’ve had hives after hive that die in the winter, dead queen bees (one because of an accidental stepping on), topled hives, hives robbed of their honey, and–of course–varroa mite infestations.

The Threats to Bees

The varroa mite problem is common among beekeepers. The mites spread on worker and drones bees that move between colonies.

The mites spread viral infections and weaken bees by feeding on their blood, according to the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International or CABI. If untreated the mites cause the most colonies to die within one or two years.

There is a big debate in the bee community today over chemically treating for mites.

Plonski is in favor of chemical treatments. “It takes a lot of time to manage mites without chemical treatments and people don’t realize that chemical treatments can still be organic”, Plonski said. They are chemicals bees would produce themselves, but at very high levels.

Some oppose chemical treatments dislike human interference with hives, but raising bees in boxes is already human interference, Plonski pointed out.

Some beekeepers are concerned that chemical treatments affects the quality of the honey and the wellbeing of the bees. It is true that many of the treatments, including the natural treatments, leave residue in the honey and are linked to bee mortality and reduced queen reproduction, according to an article from Cornell University.

Varroa mites weren’t always a problem.

They were first detected in the United States in 1987 and have since spread to most of North America, said the CABI. They are in almost every area of the world today, except for Australia.

The other danger to bees today are neonicotinoid pesticides, which are widely used in farming.

The pesticide leaves a residue in the pollen bees bring back their hives. This results in sharp declines in queen bees and impairs bees ability to navigate back to their hives, leading to colony collapse disorder, said an article from Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

They impact commercial beekeepers more than hobby beekeepers because the pesticides are primarily used in commercial agriculture, but there are trickle down effects.

“It’s definitely a concern for me,” said St. Amour.

When commercial beekeepers lose a lot of bees, they buy up the nucleuses and starter hives, raising prices. When St. Amour started ten years ago, he could buy a hive for $60, but today the the price has gone up to $185.

While the growth of hobby beekeeping helps, bees face a serious challenge from mites, neonicotinoids, and other threats like climate change and habitat loss. It’s something that could impact everyone.

“Bees are really important, a third of everything we eat is pollinated directly by honey bees”, said St. Amour. “Without them, it’s kind of dire for humans.”

The Year of Redemption

Haverford’s soccer team comes back from a bad year

By Alexander Clark

For the Haverford men’s soccer team, 2017 was a year to forget.

Starting the year in all of the national rankings, the team started 6-1-1, accentuated by a 2-1 win over eventual national champion Messiah College. After the strong start, Haverford finished the rest of it’s their games a combined 4-4-2.

A 10-5-3 record with an appearance in the conference tournament is nothing to scoff at. For the Haverford standard, though, it simply wasn’t good enough. A 5-0 thrashing by Dickinson in the first round of the conference tournament ended the Fords’ season of bitter disappointment.

As those who follow Division III soccer know, keeping up dominance for years on end it an extremely challenging task. After two straight Centennial Conference championships and an appearance in the NCAA Elite 8 the previous two years, those within the program knew that the 2018 season would be a defining year for the Fords.

Losing three all-conference performers and the entire coaching staff from the 2017 squad, the spring and summer would prove to be vital if Haverford were to restore its place as one of the premier teams within the region.

Safe to say, Haverford soccer is back.

Led by the 10 seniors in the class of 2019, Haverford soccer reestablished itself as the team to beat in the Centennial. Picked fifth in the preseason conference poll, the Fords’ revenge tour resulted in a 14-4-1 record, highlighted by another Centennial Conference championship, the seniors’ third in four years.

After a 2-0 start to the year under new head coach Zach Ward, the Fords ran into a rough patch. Losing four of their next five, with two of those games being against nationally ranked opponents, Haverford had run into an early stumbling block. The season had reached its turning point, for a slow start sometimes can doom a team, keeping them out of the at-large bid discussion when it is time to select teams for the NCAA tournament.

The seniors, through their experience and leadership, had the roster regroup and refocused heading into the bulk of the conference schedule. Sitting at 3-4, the Fords ripped off 11 straight wins, including an undefeated October, en route to the Centennial Conference championship.

Haverford’s year of redemption was brought on by uncharacteristic losses during the 2017 season. A 2-0 loss to Johns Hopkins, a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Gettysburg, and two losses, 3-2 and 5-0, to Dickinson had left Haverford out of the national conversation.

This year? The Fords went undefeated in matches against those teams. A 1-0 win against Johns Hopkins opened the conference slate, while 2-0 wins against both Gettysburg and Dickinson helped the Fords to win the regular season title, giving them the right to host the conference tournament.

A 1-0 win over Dickinson in the conference semifinals allowed Haverford a rematch with the only team that had beaten them in conference during the season. The Franklin & Marshall Diplomats, ranked as the 19th team in the country, had handed the Fords a 2-1 overtime loss in Lancaster in late September.

Haverford’s main rival within the Centennial, F&M had won the conference in the 2017 season. This year, their quest to repeat fell short.

Haverford prevailed with a 3-2 double overtime victory, capped off with All-American junior Nick Jannelli’s goal in the 103rd minute.  Walton field went into a frenzy, and although there were hundreds of ecstatic fans, parents, and players, none were more satisfied than the seniors.

After their year of hard work, leading the team through a coaching transition, and directing the squad on and off of the field, their main goal was achieved. Although this was just one of the three championships the seniors left their Haverford careers with, this one proved to be the most special.

The contribution of the 10-man class on the field as well as the leadership they provided academically and within the community dispelled the naysayers claiming that they had been carried to their first two championships by older members of the teams. Rewarded with four all-conference team selections, the seniors proved their worth as one of the best classes in Haverford history.

These are the players that led to Haverford back to the top of the conference. Graduating as the winningest class in school history, the group’s leadership and poise has Haverford soccer perfectly primed to be a national contender for years to come.

The Defenders 

Ben Clark, Reiss Berger, Nick John, Aaron Sterngass, and Jeremy Astesano all contributed to a defense that limited conference opponents to just 0.63 goals a game during the 2018 season.

Riddled with injuries during most of his playing career, Clark overcame a torn meniscus towards the end of the 2017 season to earn a first-team all-conference selection.

Berger and John, who grew up playing club soccer together, combined to have a three-year run in which they were the best pairing of outside backs in the conference.

Sterngass, a walk-on during his junior season, pushed underclassmen in the weight room and was always there to pick the team up during tough stretches.

Astesano, a goalkeeper who battled injury throughout his senior year, graduates as one of the top-10 goalies in Haverford history.

A strong defense, a hallmark of great Haverford teams, was led by this group. With Sterngass as one of the leaders of the reserve unit, Clark, Berger, and John were pushed on a daily basis in training in order to continually fine-tune a defense that proved to be tops in the conference two out of a possible four years, finishing no worse than fourth best.

A talented goalkeeper lauded for his athleticism and shot-stopping ability, Astesano played in 31 matches in his Haverford career, going a combined 19-5-5. Although a lingering concussion kept him from playing his normal minutes this year, Astesano graduates ranking third in goals against average (0.98), seventh in save percentage (.791), and tenth all time in wins. Had he not been injured, those stats would’ve only continued to ascend the record boards.

While all contributed to the success of the team both on and off the field, they also applauded their fellow seniors and their ability to lead the team back to prominence.

“The way that everything came together by the end of the season was really special,” Clark said. “If anyone had told us that we would win 11 straight and be conference champions after losing to F&M in September, I don’t think I would have believed them. The team really came together, and it showed with results on the field.”

Sterngass echoed similar sentiments.

“Feeling like our class was directly responsible for the leadership and the subsequent success of the team and winning so many redemption games helped to make the year so special,” he said.

Despite the fact that he wasn’t able to see the field as much as he should have, Astesano still thinks it was the collective work of the senior class that led the group to new heights this year.

“On the field, I think our class’ significant contribution throughout our four years fostered success in the final one,” he said.  “Off the field, an understanding that hard work is what would lead us to more success gave us the opportunity to go into games and win.”

Each defender brought their own strengths on the field, with the unit combining for 32 shutouts, three goals, and six assists throughout their stint with the Fords.

Most of all, the senior defenders leave thankful for being able to leave their stamp on the program and graduate with a new set of teammates and brothers.

“I’m most thankful for the bonds that I’ve created with my teammates,” Berger said. “There’s nothing quite like winning and succeeding with your brothers. The program and coaches also taught me to dig deep and grind no matter what.”

John, who stated his love for the program similarly, also added that he’s able to give back to the program as much as possible.

“My classmates are some of my closest friends I have in my life. I think we demanded success, and we were going to get it no matter what was thrown at us,” he said. “I hope to be there for the guys below me as my upperclassmen were to me.”

The Midfielders

With the loss of three 2017 all-conference selections from the team, the midfield was bound to have a new look headed into the season. Replacing three new starters is no easy task for any team, let alone a team with Haverford-like expectations.

Come the end of the 2018 season, a case could be made for saying that this midfield group’s ability to step up was the most important piece in Haverford’s success on the year.

Julian Bright, Max Krieg, Aditya Dias, Nick Montgomery, and Michael Carr all contributed to run a midfield unit that dominated on both sides of the ball.

Although Julian Bright didn’t see the field his senior year due to injury, his leadership and experience proved invaluable to the outside midfield position, a group that was still finding its identity as the season began.

A player with a knack for performing in big moments, Max Krieg proved to be an invaluable part of the team this year, earning second-team all-conference honor.

Seen as a “super sub”, Dias was almost always the first player called off of the bench during his senior season.

Nick Montgomery, although only playing three years for the Fords due to injuries, became an important cog in the wheel of Haverford’s success, earning 52 appearances and 12 starts over his three years.

A four-year starter, Carr saved his best soccer for his last year, turning in a second-team all-region performance, along with a first-team all-conference award in his final season.

Spearheading a unit that scored 13 goals and assisted on 10 more throughout the 2018 season, these players’ ability on both sides of the ball allowed Haverford to right their ship and turn the year around. With Carr leading the attacking aspects and Krieg leading the defensive responsibilities, Ward did not have to worry about they work rate and leadership in the middle of the pitch.

“For me, this season was the culmination of all my hard work over the previous three and a half years. Transitioning from consistent substitute to consistent starter was a goal that I had been pursuing for a while, and I’m so happy that I was able to stamp my influence on this season’s success,” Krieg said. “My performances this season were something that I knew I was capable of, and it was an amazing feeling to know that I was right to believe in myself.”

Carr, who graduates as the all-time leader in matches played, also soaked in the successes that the season provided.

“I think it was a special season because so many guys understood their role in the team and understood how to take a hold of that role and maximize their impact on the team in a unique way,” he said.

Dias and Montgomery, although not consistently in the starting 11, were always the first two called off of the bench. When the Fords needed a spark, they were the two to provide it.

Both were quick to praise their fellow classmates for their ability to draw the best out of the squad.

“I think our class did a good job of consistently acting as though we were going to control our own results,” Montgomery said. “Having such a big class of guys who played gave me a sense that we had total control over how far we were going to go.”

Dias was happy that the specifically the seniors put their own stamp on Haverford history.

“Even though we had been successful before our senior year, I never really felt like it was our class’ success – we had obviously contributed but there were older guys on the team who always bore most of the burden and took on more responsibility,” he said. “This year though, we proved that we could bring the same success on our own.”

With a goal and three assists in 37 career appearances, Bright, who couldn’t play due to a cartilage injury, shifted his focus from providing an impact on the field to mentoring and supporting from the sidelines. He commended his classmates for helping him to push others throughout the season.

“Everyone stepped up. Just watching from the sidelines, you could tell that we all wanted this and recognized that we had what it took to lead this team to a championship,” he said. “Nobody had an underclassmen mentality anymore.”


As the last senior, I write to express my gratitude to all of the other members of the class of 2019. I could list my statistics as I did the others, but the thing I am most proud of is the band of brothers that I’ll leave Haverford with. No matter the goals that each person scored or prevented from happening, I am most proud of each player for contributing to a culture that breeds success both on and off of the field.

Each player listed above helped me grow as both a player and person during my four seasons here. I’m sure everybody else would say the same about their classmates. We’ve had our disagreements about both soccer and life in general, but we’ve always made decisions with our team and friends in mind.

In the spring, it will be a strange feeling. Staying in our apartment while the rest of the team goes out for their allocated spring practices will be a change that none of us are used to. Hell, this is the first time that we won’t all be playing competitive soccer since we were around five years old. We will, as we have in the past, lean on each other to get through our difficulties in academics, life, and the lack of soccer. But looking back, we couldn’t have asked for more as a senior class. To leave with three conference championships is something we wouldn’t have ever imagined when stepping on to campus for the first time.

Our year of redemption has come to a close, and our next steps in life are unknown. I do know one thing is for certain. When next year’s alumni game comes in August, the class of 2019 will be back. Maybe then, the alumni can finally have their long-awaited revenge on the varsity squad.

Nerd House’s Magical Yule Ball

How Haverford’s Nerd House becomes Hogwarts for a night

By Chris Xue

Every child who grew up with Harry Potter dreamed of attending Hogwarts and living through all the magical adventures it held within. They’d stare out windows and peek into mailboxes in hopes that their Hogwarts letter will come to them. Maybe instead of getting an owl to deliver the letter they’d get a Hogwarts professor to deliver it instead.

Unfortunately for these children, their Hogwarts letters never came in the mail, much less from one of the famous characters in the franchise.

However, if you happened to attend Bryn Mawr, Haverford, or Swarthmore Colleges, then you would have had a chance to attend Haverford Nerd House’s Yule Ball event which was just as magical as the books were.

Haverford’s Nerd House is a specialty dorm on the main campus. Its specialty is anything nerd related. Ranging from obscure tabletop games to large franchises like Harry Potter. No matter what it is, Nerd House has got it covered.

Throughout the semester they host events that fit in different parts of nerd culture. For the dramatic book-lovers there’s a murder mystery night. For the more active gamers there’s a laser-tag night. Then, at the end of the semester, there’s the Yule Ball for the Harry Potter fans.

Nerd House’s goal isn’t just to cater to nerds. Ever since its formation six years ago, members have wanted to share their interests with the rest of their fellow students. All these events are open for students from any the three sibling colleges. Anyone who has any amount of interest is welcomed with open arms.

The Yule Ball is a special case amongst all the Nerd House events. Haverford once had a Winter Formal, which served as the fall semester’s large dance. Anyone who wanted to relax and party before finals attended. Around the same time of year, Nerd House’s Yule Ball would be held in the small common room of Nerd House. It was a small and low-key event.

Late fall of 2017, Nerd House got some special news. It would be getting a budget increase for their event!

But there was a catch.

The budget increase was given to them because the Yule Ball would become Haverford’s new big event of the fall semester. Nerd House was responsible for pulling  this event together in three weeks.

Even though the members only had three weeks to put together a major campus event, Nerd House succeeded.

Even better, Nerd House’s Yule Ball was a hit. The college wanted officially wanted them to replace the Winter Formal.

So, when the notice came in the fall semester of 2018, Nerd House was ready to pull off a magic worthy of Harry Potter himself.

Haverford’s dining hall was completely transformed. What was normally a typical dining hall became a winter wonderland. Glowing snowflakes were cast onto the wall. Cardboard cutouts resembling piles of snow and frozen trees led up to a dance-floor. Tables with elegant white cloths and chairs took up a third of the room. At the other end of the room, a DJ waited for the guests to arrive and dance their night away. The dance floor had a deep blue glow to it.

Underneath the dining hall, there was a whole section that came out of the dreams of any Harry Potter nerd.

White cotton and silver glitter combined to imitate snowfall. A large Hogwarts banner hung off the ceiling and welcomed all Harry Potter fans to their fantasy. The soundtrack from the movie played in the background.

The room was divided into four distinct sections. One for each of the main school houses from the series. Gryffindor in red for the brave, Ravenclaw in blue for the wise, Slytherin in green for the cunning, and finally Hufflepuff in yellow for the kind. Each house’s charm shone through the careful arrangements Nerd House made.

In the Gryffindor section, a variety of boardgames were scattered across the tables. These games brought up excitement and friendly competition between players following Gryffindor’s spiritedness. Along the wall there was a fireplace made-out of red Christmas lights. The face of Sirius Black was taped into the middle, referencing the time when he used a fireplace to talk to the Harry Potter in the Gryffindor common room.

Ravenclaw’s section gave a challenge to work with all parts of the mind. Puzzles of varying difficulty encouraged groups to put their minds to good use. A difficult 3-D puzzle depicted the Hogwarts castle. A meeting room became a wand-crafting room. Yet true to Ravenclaw’s value of creativity and thinking outside the box, it was open for any kind of crafting.

In a secluded corner, a green light signified that Slytherin was ready give guests a fun time as well. Like Gryffindor, their section had boardgames. The difference was the nature of the games. Friendly competition for the lively Gryffindors but crafty strategy for cunning Slytherins. To represent the rivalry between the two houses, a poster signified that Potter, and by an extension Gryffindor, stinks.

The sweet smell of apple cider came from the Hufflepuff corner. To fit in with Hufflepuff’s stereotypical kindness, this section offered no challenge. A cheerful yellow light became the backdrop for the tables lined up with delicious candies and drinks. Cream soda and whipped cream were combined to create a simple version of the famous butterbeer that characters drank throughout their adventures.

Each floor catered towards a certain crowd. That appeal to a wide audience was what Nerd House needed for their event to succeed.

Sam Lowenstein was a major organizer of the event. All Nerd House members dressed up to stand out from the crowd in case anyone needed help. Lowenstein dressed up as Gilderoy Lockhart, an antagonist from the second book in the series.

Since Nerd House was replacing the Winter Formal as the major fall semester event, they had to make sure people would come even if they weren’t Harry Potter fans. Yet, they wanted to stay true to their culture and values. Lowenstein and the other members of Nerd House designed the upper-floor to cater to those who wanted to party and the lower floor to those who wanted to embrace Harry Potter culture.

“I think there’s something for everyone,” Lowenstein said.

  • * * *

“Welcome to Hogwarts,” said a member of Nerd House as every guest walked in.

At the front table, Daniel Sole-Barber was dressed as Hagrid. He greeted passing guests as merrily as the Hagrid in the books would. As he greeted them, he gave them a brief description of where major events would be. Then, he’d offer a house quiz and a raffle ticket. The sorting would be at 10 p.m. and the raffle would be at 11 p.m.

Some put raffle tickets into a pot for a chance to win a special prize. Others filled out their quizzes with excitement as they tried to predict what answers would put them in their desired houses.

About an hour into the event, Sole-Barber beckoned Lowenstein over. There was a minor problem. The guest turnout was already larger than expected. Sole-Barber was afraid that they would run out of house quizzes.

Moments later, Lowenstein walked into the library in full his full Lockhart costume complete with sparkly cape. A few Haverford students looked up in curiosity. They quickly lost interest when Lowenstein simply went to the nearest computer. As technology does during times of need, the first two computers Lowenstein tried didn’t work.

Eventually, Lowenstein made it back to the party with 200 extra copies. With a minor problem sorted out, he returned to his task of watching over the event.

While he watched over the event, Lowenstein couldn’t resist having a chat with Arthur Chang who was dressed as Harry Potter. Both knew immediately what to do and slipped into character. With Lowenstein playing Lockhart and Chang playing Potter, they bantered with each other. Lowenstein referenced when Lockhart unsuccessfully tried to wipe away Potter’s memories and cracked a joke about Potter’s dead parents.

“Just complain about your dead parents,” said Lowenstein with Lockhart’s arrogance.

Chang was prepared for the event. He was one of the few guests to show up in full costume. His naturally messy black hair was a perfect match to Potter’s. All he had to do was prepare the perfect outfit complete with cape, red tie, and wand. He even pointed out that he had Gryffindor socks on. To a casual fan, Chang had the perfect costume. However, Chang wasn’t satisfied with it.

“I wish I could have prepared more Harry Potter-esque clothes,” Chang said.

As a fan of Harry Potter, Chang had been eagerly awaiting the Nerd House Yule Ball.  Even though dressing up as the titular character is considered a popular cheesy choice, Chang was glad to have the opportunity to dress-up.

“I’m really thankful that Nerd House is hosting this event,” he said.

  • * * *

The clock struck ten and Nerd House gathered the eager Potter fans into the basement. In front of the crowd was a stool and a club-owned sorting hat. Sole-Barber hid inside one of the darkened meeting rooms and took advantage of the speaker system.

Even though the upper-floor of the dining hall had more than enough room for the sorting to take place, not everyone attended the event for the Harry Potter theme. Nerd House took this into account and moved the sorting downstairs, far away from the party-goers.

“People don’t want to be interrupted by Harry Potter nonsense even though we want to interrupt them with nonsense,” Sole-Barber said.

One-by-one, every person that filled out a house quiz sat on the stool to be sorted. Most guests had an idea of what house they were in, but they still enjoyed the thrill of having a deep voice call out their house in front of a cheering crowd. Many came to the event already dressed up in their favorite house’s color. Some made the wrong choice in doing so.

“Looks like somebody came in with the wrong outfit,” said Sole-Barber several times throughout the sorting.

People gathered around the table where the quizzes had been dropped off. They questioned how a certain answer pushed them towards one house over another. Many dissatisfied Ravenclaw fans were sorted into Slytherin because they believed that Ollivander’s wand shop was a Ravenclaw answer.

Nerd House’s sorting quiz wasn’t a typical one. This quiz relied on the gut instincts, or failed guesses, of those who took it. While most online sorting quizzes rely on house stereotypes to place people into houses, Nerd House made sure that their quiz was guess-proof.

  • * * *

An hour later, the clock struck 11. This time, the crowd gathered around a table that held the prizes and a pot fill. Every guest had the opportunity to put in one ticket for a chance to win one of the prizes. The prizes were a plush of Harry’s pet owl, an elder wand, and a quill and an ink set. All three were special pieces of merchandise that any fan would love to have.

“I don’t know why we’re giving this stuff away,” said Sole-Barber before the raffle began.

One guest saw an opportunity to reference the fourth book, where Potter was drawn as the fourth champion. The problem was that there were only three spots in the competition just like there were only three prizes to giveaway.

“Is there a fourth champion?” shouted a voice within the crowd.

Unlike in the books, there was no secret fourth prize winner and only three winners walked away with one prize each.

  • * * *

Thirty minutes before the event ended everything was running smoothly. The dance-floor was packed and the basement activity was still buzzing. There were no major problems for the guests. However, there were some problems for the organizers of the event. Justin Moses, one of those organizers, was a bit worried about the event’s popularity.

“How are we going to end this event in 30 minutes?” wondered Moses.

Ending the event turned out to be easy. Once the clock struck one a.m. the party DJ stopped the music and turned on the lights. Downstairs, the organizers announced that the event was over. Everyone filed out of the building still chatting about the fun they had.

Nerd House was happy to have hosted such a successful event. They were less thrilled when they saw the mess they had to clean-up. Unfortunately, with such a big boom there follows a big clean-up. The members readied themselves for hours of making the dining hall look like it had before.

It took magic to make the event flourish.

It would take even more magic to clean-up.

How Does a Writer Write?

Novelist and Teacher Daniel Torday explains how it is done

By Ana Azevedo

It is said that those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. But what about the lucky few who get to do both?

Daniel Torday is a professor and the director of creative writing at Bryn Mawr college. He is also an author. More specifically, he is a novelist and short story writer.

His students at Bryn Mawr know him as their quirky, funny professor. A man who is always around to listen and give advice, whether it be about their writing or just life in general. He is someone who is kind, but also direct. Understanding, but firm. He is relatable, and outspoken about his views.

Daniel Torday

For example, all his students know how he feels about our current president. Hint; he is not a fan. He is the type of professor who would bring donuts on the last day of classes, but not without bringing along a substitute for any students with dietary restrictions. It’s obvious to whoever knows him personally that he cares about his students and their personal journeys as writers, very much. That is the man who his students and colleagues know.

But to the literary world, he isn’t just a quirky professor, he is a star.  He has written and published three books, “The Last Flight of Poxl West”, “The Sensualist”, and “Boomer1”. His 2012 novella, “The Sensualist”, won the National Jewish Book Award for debut fiction.

In 2015, his novel, “The Last Fight of Poxl West”, was published and received a glowing review from The New York Times. It was even featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review. Along with winning several other prizes, the novel was also long-listed for the International Dublin Literary Award, one of literature’s most esteemed prizes.

His most recent work, Boomer1, has seen it’s own share of literary acclaim. His short stories have been featured in the New York Times, and in the Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays series.

To the world, he is a well respected author, but if you asked him what his definition of literary success looks like he would smile and say, “My dear friend the YA [young adult] novelist John Green once said, you know, the success is good, but it’s about touching one reader, somewhere, who really just gets it and loves it. So that.”

Torday does what he does because he loves it, plain and simple. This is clear from the way his eyes light up when you reach out to him to discuss writing and literature, from the way he gestures dramatically when the subject of his favorite novel comes up, and from his dedication to showing his students what works and what doesn’t in the world of writing.

However, he’s not out to train young writers to become cookie cutter versions of the literary greats. He emphasizes how important it is to establish your own writing style, all while encouraging students to break the rules of writing after they have mastered them.

“Some of the best works of literature have been produced from going against the grain, from doing what was never done before. But before you can break the rules, you have to learn them,” he tells his students.

You would be hard pressed to find a writer who is more passionate about their work than Torday, and who matches that level of passion in their teaching. There is much that can be learned from him and his artistic process of crafting a work of literature. However, it is also useful to know how he came to be where he is now. When people turn to novelists for advice, it is usually from a place of awe and admiration. People imagine them to be so different from themselves, so much so that their current position seems unreachable for the average human. But Torday’s start is most likely much more similar to yours then you would think.

The Making of An Author

Torday is similar to most writers in the sense that he has always loved this one specific thing, to read. When asked when he first realized he wanted to be a writer, one would assume, based on his success, that it was from the moment he picked up a pencil.

But his actual response is much more relatable, “It’s so hard to say! When I was a teenager I wanted to be an NBA basketball player. That didn’t work out.” He laughs. “When I was in my 20’s I wanted to be a novelist, but also a journalist, and a Supreme Court justice, and a rock star. More than anything I loved reading.” When pressed, he says that there was no specific “Ah-ha!” moment, but rather a slow realization over time that, as far as work goes, there was nothing he enjoyed more than to write.

Like most of us, Torday spent his early years grappling with what direction he wanted his life to take. Now we know that he wasn’t born knowing he wanted to be a writer, but he did grow up knowing that language had power. He was lucky to have parents who recognized and encouraged his passion.

He recalls a short anecdote from his childhood when this fact became clear.

“My parents took me to the Robert Frost Place in New Hampshire every summer. One summer when I was 6 or 7 my dad told me he’d buy me a book if I memorized a poem. I still know ‘Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening’ to this day.”

Eventually, he decided to pursue writing with full force. Torday graduated from Kenyon College in 2000 and continued his study under George Saunders, a well-respected author, in Syracuse University’s graduate writing program. He later worked as a junior editor at Esquire.

“I actually planned, after working as a magazine editor for years, to go back and get a Ph.D in English Lit.” He says, “Took the GRE Literature test and everything. But I wanted the time to read and write.”

So he took it, then he turned around and created a few of the books that are so popular with people today.

The Writing Process

As Torday has emphasized with his students, it is essential to develop your own voice as a writer, your own style that sets you apart from other writers. When asked what he would classify as his interesting writing quirk, his answer is short and direct, “Coffee.”

What about how long it takes to write a novel? Does one have to sit down and dedicate oneself to one book at a time? Torday doesn’t think so.

“It’s so variable.” He says, “I’m always working on a million things. It took eight years for POXL, but I was working on my first novella at the time. And years of that was putting it down. Boomer1 took three.”

For those of us who go through phases with our writing process and feel the urge to give up on a project now and then, Torday’s response is comforting. He says that this feeling is common, and he’s gone through the same thing more than a couple of times, but he claims it’s simply part of the process

Some writers believe that you should write everyday, but Torday disagrees. He is, however, strict about how long he writes when he does write. When asked how many hours he writes a day, he responded with, “three hours, no more no less. But I don’t write when I’m not writing.”

So what about the background for your storytelling? There are people who believe that heavy research only needs to be done when writing a work of non-fiction, but this isn’t true. Even when writing a work of fiction, one needs background knowledge to create a world that is believable. Research comes in many forms, Torday says, and it is not always in the traditional sense of interviewing the experts on a subject or reading up on certain topics.

“I do a ton of research,” Torday says. “but mostly to throw it away, or not use it. I’m a big fan of first person narratives, especially unpublished– for Poxl it was self-published memoirs. For Boomer1 it was just trolling around chat rooms.”

He explains that research for a novel can also come from reflecting back on ones own experiences. Imagine you are attempting to describe how a character feels in a certain scenario: Have you ever personally been in that scenario? If you have, how did you feel? Even if your character is very different from yourself, you may use your own experience as a basis for discovering how to frame that character’s perception.

If you love to read and do it frequently, this can only help you when you’re attempting to describe a characters emotions, Torday says. After all, reading develops empathy. Which is the ability to understand how another person is feeling. Or in other words, the ability to place yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Most people envision the writing process to be between the writer and his writing and that’s it. Eventually your work goes to an editor, but the process before that includes you and only you, right?

Torday believes otherwise. He says that work-shopping your writing with other writers can only improve it, and it may be exactly what you need, especially if you’re stuck. To workshop your writing is to meet with other writers and engage in discussion over your work, while others provide helpful feedback and you search for advice. As anyone who loves to write will tell you, while you are first starting out it can be very scary to allow others to read your work. Downright, terrifying even. You have put your heart into your work, to listen to someone else judge it can be overwhelming.

Torday says it’s worth it, “I’ve actually come to believe that early on, the process of reading fellow writers’ work closely might be the most useful part of workshop—if you can come to see your own work as clearly as you generally see another’s, that might be 80% of what you need.”

You may have a vision in mind of what you’re trying to convey with you’re writing. But you don’t know how to reach it. You may struggle with finding the right words to express what you want to say, but at the same time, you know exactly what you want say. Torday wants you to know that this is not only common, but also part of the process.

In an interview with Hilary Plum, the book review editor for Kenyon Review, he put it best when he said,  “You know when your mom would walk around asking, ‘Where are my glasses?,’ when she was wearing them the whole time? Being a writer is like that, only with sentences, structure, characters.” Glasses on, but—where are my glasses? But the serious part of the metaphor is that I think it’s supposed to be that way. You can see just fine, but you’re blundering around going, Why can’t I see? Part of me feels like it’s because your subconscious gives you only what you can manage at the moment, while retaining the ability to move forward.”

Since Torday is such an experienced writer it is easy to assume that the writing process comes easy to him, that he’s always confident about his work. But he says this is far from the truth. When asked what is the most difficult part of the artistic process for him, he says “Knowing when I’m done, knowing when to stop. I could edit a single sentence a year if I wasn’t careful.”

These are comforting words to budding writers who often feel like their work is never good enough. If even the best writers feel the same way sometimes, what does that say about your own work? Trust yourself, and trust the process.

The best thing you can do to become a better writer is something you most likely do all the time anyway. When asked what his advice would be to a writer just starting out, Torday replied: “Read, read, read, read, read, read, read.”

Work Hard, Play Harder

A snow day at the Phoebe Anna Thorne School

By Amana Abdurrezak

8:00 a.m. – The Calm Before the Storm

Early-bird parents, many who drop off their kids on their way to work, enter the Phoebe Anna Thorne School in the morning with a sigh of relief. Unlike the chilly air and silvery clouds that have enveloped the air outside, inside the school is a warm and colorful cocoon.

With hues of red and yellow, the entrance resembles an L shape: At the shorter end, some parents greet the teachers who oversee the kids’ day of play. At the longer end, others chat and examine the row of picture books that sit atop a long bookshelf.

Thorne School parents can find informational material about play-based learning and logistics at eye level regardless of where they stand. But three-feet below rows of flyers, the kids that trot in the entrance gravitate towards the whiteboard nestled outside of the pre-K classroom. It hints at the day ahead in different shades of purple marker.

It’s Thursday: Water beads, Pumpkin bars, Snow?!?


The Method Behind the Madness

The Phoebe Anna Thorne School, located on both Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College’s campuses, is an untraditional option for parents thinking about early education programs. The school is modeled around the philosophy of “play-based learning” and has kindergarten, toddler, preschool, language-enrichment and early-intervention programs.

“We focus on child development as opposed to academics,” says Amanda Ulrich, the director of the Thorne School, “We think about each individual child and what their needs are whereas a lot of other schools stick with a curriculum.”

Ulrich is normally hustling around the floor, especially on late-minute snow days when kids need to go home early. In her calf-high boots, black leggings, and jersey-shirt-and-cardigan combo, she is answering questions from kids, figuring out logistics with teachers, and answering phone calls from parents.

You won’t find her wearing a hat, but she wears many of them as the director of the small operation. Her roles range from admissions and supervising the staff, to making sure there’s enough toilet paper in the bathroom and the kids get home safely.

Managing administrative work and budgeting are challenges, but she thoroughly enjoys her job and the mission of the school.

“The philosophy is rewarding because it’s organic and you see growth in ways that aren’t forced. Different kids have different experiences and you get to see them flower and bloom in different ways,” says Ulrich while keeping an eye on a boy who is anxious to get a glance at the snow.


9:30 a.m. – The Jury’s Verdict

In the Pre-K classroom, a jumbo paper turkey hangs from the ceiling with the body in the shape of a slightly-burnt omelet. It revolves on a string to show off its finger-painted “feathers” in different shades of green, red, yellow, blue, and orange. The few kids who gravitate towards a quieter playtime come in and plop down on the tiny chairs whose wooden seats look like xylophones. While they play with game pieces or toys laid out on the hexagonal tables, the crooked googly eyes of the turkey watch over them, a silent spectator.

In the Pre-K playroom, a group of kids sits around a castle playhouse and negotiate which doll should be thrown in jail.

“How about the witch?!” exclaims Emily, after raising a figurine with a black cape and hat in the air.

They quickly agree and open the sliding door to the dungeon. With little mercy, they shove the witch headfirst into the dungeon and slam the plastic gate. The group laughs and continues playing with the figurines who were deemed innocent.

10:00 a.m. – The Fire Squad Arrives

“The cubby is on fire!” yells Michael while fashioned in a fireman’s costume. His entourage consists of Jim, dressed in a crossing guard uniform, and Frank, dressed as a park ranger. Both diligently follow Michael’s lead: Frank bolts across the room as he yells into a fake walkie-talkie and Michael drives the toy firetruck across the room.

“Whooooooooooosh!” Michael sprays the cubbies with a green garden hose in hand. The three boys nod at each other in approval after deeming the fire is under control. They retreat back to their station.

The Thorne School’s play-based spaces provide kids with the toys and freedom to learn how to collaborate within the realm of their own imagination. One of the Thorne School’s teachers, Jodie Baird, enjoys fostering collaboration in the little worlds the preschool kids create every day.

“Children get to try out a lot of different ideas through play, they can work through emotions,” says Baird, “It’s also a great breathing ground for social interaction.”

In traditional early education classrooms, students may be more focused on academics: working on a letter of the day, engaging with books, practicing writing and more. Rather than disregard the importance of academics, the Throne School aims to build environments where students get to practice social and emotional skills on top of the academics.

For her preschoolers, Baird especially sees the play-based structure pay off as the school year progresses.

“They start the year playing, but all playing independently in parallel,” she says, “and what happens is a real social awakening where they see each other as potential playmates.”

In the middle of the playroom, Jim the crossing guard is off duty from the fire station and is playing doctor with a stuffed cow. Holding the toy carefully in his hands, he tries to quietly listen for a heartbeat with a plastic stethoscope. After only setting it down for a moment, his stethoscope is snatched away by a boy named Patrick.

Playtime leads to collaboration, but Baird is no stranger to having to teach her kids the difficulty of negotiation. “There’s much more room in a play-based scenario to learn the skills of conflict resolution, of perspective taking.”

Baird swoops in to settle rising tension between Jim and Patrick. Bending down to their level, Baird reminds Patrick to ask Jim for permission but also reminds Jim to share the toys with everyone in the class. Both sit quietly and sulk but nod their heads and move on.

After a minute, Jim decides that his cow is alive and well, leaving the stethoscope alone on the floor.


Learning Goes Both Ways

The Thorne School’s activities consist of more than just play from morning until the afternoon. Play sessions are separated by typical early education activities: story time, snack time, and activities developed by the teachers.

“Today, for example, we’re making handprint turkeys because that’s an iconic Thanksgiving activity and we’re reading a book about Thanksgiving, too,” says Baird.

Much of the curricula the teachers develop are a reflection of the kids’ interaction with the world around them.  “On our sensory table, I put plastic snowflakes because we’re expecting snow today.”

The books students read at story time are also carefully chosen to reflect the environment or problems that arise in interactions in class.

“As the weather changes, we choose books that reflect the changing seasons,” says Baird, “Or as a holiday approaches, we select crafts and books that celebrate or reflect on that holiday.”

Regardless of the activity or type of day the teachers are running, Baird’s aim is to build trusting relationships with each of her students. Each morning as the students come in, she greets them by name at the door.

“What I hope that they get from me is a very consistent caregiver. School is kind of the same every day, and that’s very reassuring for a three-year-old who has so little control over their general life.”

“They can come to school and they know exactly what to expect. My behavior with them is the same every day, and they can trust that even if they do something that is a mistake or if they have an angry emotion, that I will still love them and accept them for who they are.”

For Baird, she finds this type of teaching to be incredibly rewarding—but she often finds herself learning from the kids as well.

“I say this to the children all the time: everyone is learning and growing. People make mistakes, but we can fix our mistakes. That is why we come to school.”

“I also see in children every day that they experience big feelings, anger, sadness, pain. But those feelings are just feelings—and they’re going to go away. I think being around that helps me remember that my feelings will come and go. That’s something I’m teaching to them and something I’m reflecting back on for myself.”


11:00 a.m. – Surprise Questions

The Thorne school is a snow globe by the time the district decides to cut school short. In the Pre-K room, some of the kids squish together on the rose-colored couch to share a picture book.

While their parents are making arrangements to pick them up, they’re unaffected by the logistical mayhem that comes from snow days. Instead, they enjoy spending time together while snow flurries gently fall outside.

For a 25-year veteran teacher like Kirsten Mudd, overseeing the kids’ growth and interactions is fruitful—and it has its amusing moments too. Teaching preschoolers and kindergartners sometimes requires answering simple questions like ‘where is my jacket?’ to bigger philosophical questions that take people by surprise.

“The big questions that we get are really interesting and funny because they’re about God and death. They’re starting to realize that their parents are not all-powerful,” she says.

“And I think it’s really funny when kids say, ‘I believe in God, but my parents don’t.’” she says with a chuckle.

In the play-based environment, these kinds of questions aren’t uncommon. Kids have a tendency to bump into each other during playtime and grapple with some of these themes through innocent play.

“Death is a huge one, particularly for preschoolers coming into the Pre-K class. They’re just learning what it is, but they don’t really understand it,” Mudd says, “They’ll offer you a cake, say, ‘it’s poison!’, and then bring you back to life. So, they don’t get it, but they are kind of getting it,” she says.

Some kids learn to grapple with big questions through play, even if they don’t get concrete answers. For others, they’re learning to become comfortable with their own authority.

“Some of them come in with a big voice and they know what they want, but they need to listen to other people.”

“And some of them come in without their own voice, so it’s rewarding if by the end of the year to sort of feel like they’ve made headway in whatever direction it was that they needed.”

Ultimately, the goal of the Phoebe Anna Thorne School is to let kids grow organically and learn to work through problems that they individually are prepared to tackle.

“Really, kids are working so many things out through play. They tend to choose what they are working on.”

“It just all sort of happens through play naturally and that’s the beauty of it. It’s right at their level—you’re not picking something that you think they should have. It just happens organically.”

Note:The names of children mentioned in this piece have been replaced with pseudonyms for their privacy and security. Photos are from the Phoebe Anna Thorn School.


His Appointed Rounds

A day in the life of a man who delivers the U.S. Mail

By Aarionna Goodman

6635-37 Charles Street: Mayfair Garden Apartments

There was power at the end of his gold chain. As he swung it back and forth in his gloved palm, the keys jingled and clanged against each other, announcing their unordinary presence.

“Do not duplicate” they all read in tiny raised letters.

He had on Under Armour sneakers and the standard issued blue with navy striped pant; which was pressed and creased to perfection.

“The loss of feeling always starts with your fingers,” he said in light of the cold day. “They no longer feel like your own, or like they’re a part of your body.”

His hood was drawn around his neck and tied under his chin to block out the biting wind. On his back, under the official seal of the eagle read, “United States Postal Service” in capital white letters. On his shoulder, reaching the middle of his left side, sat his bag. Big, wonderful and endless. It held the lives of the people around him. Cable bills, PECO bills, acceptance letters, or credit card applications. All and more have seen the insides of this blue canvas bag.

His possession of both the keys and the bag, however, was not unique.

Many other Mail Carriers swung their chains and wore their bags over their shoulders. There is, however, only one Aaron Goodman; and this route is his route.

Goodman, 43, husband, and father of three, has been with the Postal Service for almost 16 years. During those years, Goodman has carried for three different stations; this station marks his third route which he has been with for three years.

Northeast Philadelphia was colorful under the afternoon Fall sky. Trees were almost bare with the steady tones of red and brown hanging onto their branches. With the snow the day before turning to slush underfoot, the world looked muted and wet. The colors seemed pale without the shining of the sun. The cold breeze that brushed against the skin bit in small bites.

The apartments were not like normal houses. They were very different in size and close together. The spaces between them were akin to alleyways. Goodman moved quickly, using the keys at the end of his gold chain to open every door and to open the communal mailboxes within.

Other than taking outgoing mail from a woman living in one of the lower levels and letting in a locked out apartment manager, Joe, there was not much interaction. Goodman took on the demeanor  of the patrons of Mayfair Garden Apartments: quiet, polite and out of sight.

Frankford Avenue and Knorr Street

He ordered both a double chocolate chip and pistachio muffin from the bakery in Shoprite before turning to the cashier at the customer service desk behind him.

“Hello!” he said. With her blonde hair braided in two pigtails and a red collared shirt on her back, she also said her greeting.

“I don’t want this,” she said playfully to Goodman has he handed her the mail. Sharing laughter he turned and waved. “Have a good one, you guys,” he said.

“Happy Thanksgiving!”

Most of Goodman’s conversations were a lot like this. Brief, pleasant banter.

Frankford Avenue and Longshore

The Streets were wide (double-laned on either side). Running across it was a sport that Goodman’s route had trained him for.

There were billboards everywhere flashing their neon lights. “Come in, stay awhile,” they seemed to say.

Walking to a PNC Bank, Goodman goes through a metal detector on both his entrance and exit, placing the mail on a desk he knew very well.

Standing in an elevator he faced a personal hygiene poster and a “fresh thinking” flyer as he waited for the doors to open in a waiting room with “LIVE With Kelly and Ryan” playing in the background. Handing a single envelope to a woman through a window, he returned to the elevator.

He laid mail down in an AAMCO and yelled, “What’s going on, D!?” to a man working in the back.

Walking into Kendall Motor Oil he stopped in front of a man at the cash register.

“How are you?” said the man.

“Not bad so far, how about yourself,” said Goodman.

After responding with a monotonous “good”, Goodman made his farewell and walked into another building where a woman and a man were immersed in conversation before the manager who sat behind his desk. The couple did not look up as Goodman entered, but the manager readily held out his hand without question.

Goodman walked in and out of lives mid-scene. His constant and punctual interruption was expected and even anticipated. His presence meant they were getting something.

Hair Wizards on Frankford and Magee asks for packages every time Goodman delivers to their shop. He laughed as he recounted this memory. It was funny to him how many of his patrons related him to United Parcel Services (UPS). Mail Carriers had only small parcels, things that can be easily slipped behind a screen door or in a mailbox. No matter how many times Goodman told them he had no packages for them, they continued to ask every time he made his rounds, whether they were expecting packages or not.

Frankford Avenue and Wells Streets

One does not think of a Mail Carrier walking into a Pizza Hut or a Dunkin Donuts and not order mini-cinnamon buns or an iced mocha.

He went to chiropractic offices, hookah bars, foot specialists, hoagie shops and health aid pharmacies.

The owner of an Italian bakery, dressed in a purple shirt, a grey sweater, and a green apron exclaimed, “no bills, right?”

Goodman sighs and smiles, “no bills today”.

“Yay,” said the lady.

They both laugh

“Have a good one,” said the lady.

“You as well, thank you,” said Goodman.

Like Goodman’s other interactions, he was quick, moving from front door to side door in under a minute. From placing mail on desks to sliding them in a mail slot at the very bottom of doors, he never lost his pace. However, when his route slowly shifted to the residential side of Frankford Avenue, his conversations became less brief, and there was a clearer feeling as to who Goodman was delivering mail to.

Corner of Frankford Avenue and Fanshawe Street

Recycling and garbage cans lined the sidewalk.

Goodman began to jog from house to house. Some had rocking chairs on their porches, patterned chairs, play sets on their lawns with plastic slides, swings, toy cars, and seesaws. Some let their lawns grew their hair out; weeds intermingled with dry leaves and debris. Others were simply unique.

The front lawn of one house, in particular, looked lived in, and the newfound slush from the impromptu snowstorm seemed to have washed the inhabitants away. It had the usual small steps in front of the door with an awning overhead, but there was a lot more that shadowed the wet stoop.

As Goodman walked further down to the mailbox, there sat a soaked cushioned burgundy chair along the pathway. There were two shopping carts, one with a blue trash bag attached to the front holding a large number of empty soda cans. Between the carts and the chair sat a waist-high brick structure with a plant growing out of its middle. On the right, under a wooden weather-beaten table sat a single Timberland boot, and on top of the table sat an unopened envelope and murky water in a flowerless vase.

Charles and Unruh Street

After sorting out the mail for the next couple blocks to come, a crossing guard stops Goodman before he can sling his bag over his shoulder. She told him about her horrible weekend and the status of her car after it broke down the night before.

“Thank you for all that you do!” She yelled from the window as he crossed the street.

As Goodman worked the block, he made something of a ruckus to let people know that their mail had arrived. With each slam of a screen door then came an inquiring head out of the front door.

A little girl poked her out and thanked him.

In a neighboring home, another child was already at the door, waiting with their hand out.

“Hi Sweetie!” said Goodman. “No mail today.”

On that same block, there came the newspaper delivery truck. The men in the driver and passenger seats were flinging bundles just a fast as Goodman was hopping over railings to get to the next house. Even without words, the community seemed to be speaking (competing even) with one another. There was a rush between mailman and the newspaper delivery men, not to get home but to get to the end of the block.

The game was wordless but, one could hear it in the bumping music playing on the van’s stereo and the see it in the smile dancing on Goodman’s lips.

Erdrick Street

Goodman let another door lightly slam and an older woman’s head popped out with an outstretched hand holding a water bottle and Pepsi.

She promised him something warm next time and Goodman politely declined and said it was too much and altogether too cold.

She hushed him and said he was already in her budget.

“Trust and endearment, that’s what people have for a mailman,” said Goodman.

Glenview Street

Here, he heard the barking before he saw the dogs and he reached into his canvas blue bag and pulled out dog treats.

The dogs went wild, dressed in their wintry overcoats.

Another man met Goodman at the gate, decked in Eagles paraphernalia. “Let me save you a few steps,” he said to Goodman.

Before letting Goodman continue, he also invited him in for a cup of hot chocolate.

By this time, Goodman was losing the light of the day, but he didn’t care. These small interactions filled him up.

“You build a special relationship with everybody that you talk to,” he said. “It becomes this special relationship that is much more than the weather, it’s much more than the local sports teams. It’s ‘how’s your kids, how’s your wife doing’?”

Because these interactions, though small, happen every day, they become meaningful and enlist natural and authentic familial feelings. “The dogs become like your own pets and the old ladies giving out Pepsi’s become these maternal like figures”. These are the moments that make the community.

Historic photos courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service 

The Journey to Tandoori

It’s been a long road for the manager of Tiffin Restaurant 

By Arub Butt

There are people with otherwise chaotic and disorganized lives, a certain type of person that’s always found a home in the restaurant business in much the same way that a lot of people find a home in the military.” – Anthony Bourdain

Dinner at 5?

The hustle and bustle of the kitchen was pressed into the ears of anyone who was present, creating an atmosphere of intrigue and slight alarm around any observers. Five people scurried around the kitchen, shouting orders and directions at each other, working at top speed to get orders out in the two-hour service time.

“It usually starts getting busy around 5:00, especially on a Saturday,” says Rudra Regmi, manager of Bryn Mawr’s popular Tiffin restaurant. His thick Nepalese accent and heavily-accented English give an impression of a hardworking, humble and uncomplicated man.

“I don’t really understand why, but that’s normally the time the dinner service begins.”

However, Regmi runs a tight ship, taking phone orders, serving customers, while directing his staff…Its sheer theater, a nightly performance he and his staff have mastered.

“Most of our customer base ends up being Americans who like the fact that there’s something different to try locally. There’s also lots of business coming from Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College.” Regmi pauses to run and answer the phone, one of many pauses yet to come.

He returns having yelled through a spicy korma and rice order, to be delivered as soon as possible.

“There’s around 20-30 orders every night, sometimes the weekly count gets up to 60 or 70. People like to order takeout more than dining in, and there aren’t many people who come in and actually sit down to eat.”

The proof is in the pudding, or more accurately, the empty dining area.

“I managed restaurants in Nepal, and even then, it wasn’t this crazy. There’s a big demand for Indian food and having one in a very populated area like this makes a big difference in business.” Another pause to answer the phone. This time, it’s an order of 2 vegetable samosas, a fiery plate of chicken tikka masala over a blanket of fluffy rice, and a to-go cup of thick mango lassi (Yogurt smoothie).


Coming right up to the counter allows a full view of the kitchen, and at the helm is where Regmi stands, simultaneously taking and packing orders. The tantalizing fragrance of kormas, biryanis, and naans waft over the room like a heady breeze. Orders are tossed back and forth, poured, packed and sealed into containers with mounds of basmati rice, and into a thermal bag for the Doordash carrier to pickup and deliver.

“A lot of orders come at the same time,” Regmi.

“We use different platforms like Grubhub, Doordash, and we have our own delivery as well. This means we have to prepare food for all of these at the same time!” He exclaims, throwing up his hands in an all-encompassing gesture.

“It’s a little difficult, so a lot of the cooking has to be done before in preparation of the dinner rush.” The Doordash driver has arrived and takes both the korma order as well as the chicken tikka masala order.

“Some drivers don’t have just one order, because multiple people order from the same platform. This sometimes leads to certain issues, such as the customer calling because the delivery is late, or the driver got stuck. Lots of things happen.” Regmi pauses to hand over an order to a couple who came up to the counter to pick it up.

“People also come up to the counter to get from the restaurant, or they want to dine in, so it’s a little crazy around here.”

From A Tourist Agency To An Indian Restaurant

During a quick breather in between orders, Regmi explains how he ended up where he is.

“I lived in a remote area in Nepal, where I went to high school/college in a monastery, in the capital of Nepal which is Kathmandu. I first started working at a newspaper, and from there I ended up at a tourist agency, giving tours of Nepal and doing other activities such as river rafting. I also ended up being a manager there, so I spent a total of 12 years working for that agency.” He pauses, reminiscing for a moment, bathing in the nostalgia, before continuing.

“I didn’t want to sit in an office all the time, I wanted to be with the people, so I started trying to get a visa to come to America. It took almost 2 years for that to happen! My friend even got his lawyer involved to make it a reality, and after a lot of struggle I finally came to America in 2009, ending up at an Indian restaurant in San Francisco.” He looks down with a faint smile on his face, as if fondly reliving the good old days, before rushing into the kitchen again… Another phone order.

He waltzes back, and still has that faint smile on his weathered face.

“I came to Bryn Mawr in 2010 and have been working at Tiffin ever since. I didn’t have any training, everything came to me through experience and hard work. I’d say it’s paid off well,” he nods.

The Trials and Tribulations of Tiffin (as a manager)

Another phone call order, It’s a big one! Papri chaat, (whose combination of soft chickpeas, crispy, crunchy fried dough bits, yogurt, chutney, and a multitude of other ingredients feels like a wonderful surprise party in your mouth), smoky tandoori chicken straight off the grill, spicy lamb biryani, all together with buttery naans, mango lassi, and a warm bowl of kheer, a rice pudding dish topped with pistachio and mixed with cardamom.

Regmi puts down the phone, closes his eyes, and takes a deep breath, inhaling the smell of mint, garam masala, and coriander floating around the kitchen, before opening his sleep deprived eyes and setting to work.


 “I work from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., 7 days a week. It’s hard, and I only get to take off of work for an hour or so sometimes, but it’s part of the job. I do sometimes wish for less hours, but it’s necessary because my father is sick, and even though I don’t get to see him a lot, I know it’s all for his benefit.” Regmi looks away from the papri chaat he’s preparing, lost again in thought, but before he can get too caught up in memories another customer comes to the counter, waiting to be served.

She’s an older woman, with lightly graying hair and blue jeans with a red sweater on top. However, she has the telltale sign of someone from the Indian subcontinent; a vibrant green and gold shawl wrapped around her shoulders. Her head held high, she gives notice of her order to be picked up (Vindaloo with rice) and is promptly handed her bag of food.

Regmi gives her a subtle nod after eyeing her shawl and says “Namaste” which means peace in Sanskrit. With a bright smile of satisfaction on the efficient and friendly service she receives, she walks out the door as quickly as she came in.

It is 6:45 pm and the busy time is almost up, phone orders seem to be coming in further apart. Regmi begins to give the last few orders as everything is prepared and the rush hour service is beginning to wind down.

Regmi seems to relax, his voice doesn’t have the same sense as urgency as before. He sits down while still keeping an eye out, looking at the last few minutes of the mad Tiffin rush.