WELCOME TO THE SPRING 2018 edition of the English House Gazette, the official blog of Bryn Mawr College’s ART264 News and Feature Writing class where we post a sampler of the diverse stories reported and written by student journalists in the class.

 

Stories range from on-campus profiles and trends to ventures outside the bubble, all based on beats selected by the students.

This year we have a particularly interesting lineup.

Bryn Mawr’s RACHEL LIGHTSTONE clues us in on the latest trends iin tattoos on campus, including the popular pick and poke style.

YI GAO, a Bryn Mawr student, writes about the growing use of ancient and modern artifacts in the college classrooms, with an emphasis on some striking Japanese prints.

Bryn Mawr’s AZALIA SPRECHER, who made immigrants her beat, offers nuanced and often poignant tales of two Bryn Mawr students who are “Dreamers” who were born in Mexico, raised in the United States and now are among the 600,000 so-called DACA men and women facing possible deportation under President Trump’s crackdown on immigrants. Sprecher also profiles Bryn Maw sociology professor Veronica Montes, who arrived in the U.S. from her home in Mexico as a teen.

YUQI ZHA, a Bryn Mawr senior, chose the Chinese in America as a beat. One story reveals how a Bryn Mawr student from China manages to bring a suitcase full of food from home. It’s called The Smuggled Dumpling Caper into the U.S. The descriptions can make your mouth water. Zha also writes about Pangpang Lulu, a niche delivery service that delivers food to Chinese students yearning for their country’s food. Try the Chicken Feet stew.

To test the attitudes of Bryn Mawr’s growing cadre of Chinese students, Zha surveyed them all and lays out her results. It’s amazing how a bad bowl of white rice can ruin your day.

Haverford College senior SEAN WOODRUFF goes beyond the confines of campus to cover his beat on high tech. For starters, there is a bar in Fishtown that offers virtual reality headsets to its customers.  And he looks into the popular and successful Hackathon held each year by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Finally, Woodruff accompanies a group of accomplished Lower Merion students as they compete in a regional robotics competition with their robot Everest. Can he do it?

Haverford’s STEVE LEHMAN has a funny and endearing tale about a would-be student movie maker who reveals how hard it is to make a movie without lights, a camera and actors. Lehman’s classmate JOSEPH STARUSKI, who is a mass transit freak, adds to the canon with a look at the rage for electric bikes.

Covering the arts, Bryn Mawr’s COURTNEY EU writes about how diversity has come to the comics. Superman make way for an Afro-Latino Spiderman, a gay Iceman, and a Muslim Ms. Marvel.

Bryn Mawr’s ANIKA VARTY, whose beat was the arts, gives us an update on creative dance groups breaking new ground in ballet.

 

The Rainbow Coalition

The world of comics is no longer dominated by white males.

Kamala Kahn, Muslim Superhero

By Courtney Eu

Whether you are a Captain Marvel fan or Hulk fan, the idea of a white male hero is clear. There have been decades where most of the comic books have been dominated by white men, whether superheroes like Superman and Batman, a misfit like Hulk or Wolverine, or a kid growing up like Archie. The majority of comic books portray homogenous people and only offer one type of narration.

But, that is changing. Recently, there has been a big push to diversify comic books so that different readers can connect to characters more like themselves. Over the past couple of years, Marvel comics, which is owned by the Disney Corp., has released many new superheros, such as an Afro-Latino Spiderman, a Muslim Ms. Marvel, a female Thor, a gay Iceman, a Korean Hulk, an African-American female lead in Iron Man, and a lesbian Latina-American Chavez.

Disney has had huge success with Marvel comics, amination and TV series and the whole Marvel studios itself. Forbes says that has been more successful than DC Comics — the home of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman — which is owned by Warner Bros Entertainment, because Marvel understands what people loved about their comic books.

Comic books are successful when they allow people to be transported into another world. This world of the white male superhero is well known by companies like Disney’s Marvel Studios, who have successfully sold millions of comics with this formula. However, whether this change to diversity hs been welcomed or not, male dominance and superiority in comics is over.

As reported by Market Watch, at the last New York Comic-Con several comic book sellers reportedly did not like the change they were seeing and blamed the loss of sales of comic books to the rise in diversity. Unlike most books, comic books are mostly sold through specialized store, so they are heavily dependent on this one source of income.

Superhero Chavez, Latina Lesbian

Based on data from comichron.com, a website for comic research, the comics that sold the most so far this year are Marvel comics and DC comics which fit the male superhero formula. Many social media channels have voiced their opinion about the increase in diversity of characters, and many have not liked this change.

Comic books are big business but the “total comic book and graphic novel Direct Market sales in February 2018 took at nearly 8% dip in dollars and a nearly 20% dip in units compared to February 2017.” Right now, “there’s a struggle going on over what a comic book is and who the audience should be” said ICv2 President Milton Griepp in an interview with Market Watch.

Many fans have left the comic book world because they feel the new characters are politicizing the comic books. This could be connected to the drop in sales, but there could be other reasons too. One possibility is that the new story lines could be less interesting compared to the old comics.

Korean Hulk Superhero

They are not transporting people into a fantasy world and possibly not connecting to a growing diverse audience.  But diverse superhero movies featuring people of color have been hugely successful recently. Marvel’s Black Panther topped $1.1 billion dollars worldwide and has passed other superhero movies like the Transformers and Skyfall. Wonder Woman also did extremely well grossing $412.6 million dollars, and prior to Black Panther was the highest-grossing superhero movie.

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The Hot Pot Impresario

Long Xiang could barely cook — until he opened his own restaurant

By Yuqi Zha

One year ago, Long Xiang, 22, was a junior Business Engineering major at Drexel University, and was a really bad cook.

Today, he is the owner of About Hotpot, the most popular Chinese hotpot restaurant in Philadelphia at 125 Sansom Walkway, and spends hours in the restaurant’s kitchen.

Hotpot is a traditional Chinese dish that uses a stove to keep a soup base boiling in the pot, which is where the name “hotpot” comes from. Raw meat and vegetable are placed into the pot and cooked at the table. The key element that determines the success of a hotpot is the soup base, which often takes hours and several complicated steps to make.

“Believe it or not, I couldn’t even make tomato fried egg,” said Xiang while preparing the secret weapon that makes About Hotpot so irresistible, the beef-tallow hotpot soup base, made from beef fat and various kinds of spices.

Tomato fried egg is a traditional Chinese dish that almost every Chinese learns to cook as teenagers.

Xiang stood in front of a huge pot of boiling beef-tallow with a large silver soup ladle, wearing a pair of long cooking gloves that go all the way to his shoulders. The brown scorch marks on the blue gloves tell the difficulty of this process.

“It’s hot,” said Xiang. “By ‘hot’ I mean 170 °C (338 °F) to 200 °C (392 °F).”

He constantly paid careful attention to the heat while talking, added more than 10 different spices in the designated  order and kept stirring with the soup ladle.

“This is a really painstaking process,” said Xiang. “…Sometimes I stopped stirring for only 15 seconds to answer a phone call. When I come back, the spices were charred. Boom! Everything is over.”

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The History Behind the Accent

Veronica Montes long journey from Mexico to Bryn Mawr 

By Azalia Sprecher

Since crossing the U.S.-Mexico border at age 18 in 1988, professor Veronica Montes of the Bryn Mawr College Sociology department has dedicated herself to building bridges between the classes she teaches and her life experiences.

Montes, a petite woman with a large presence and lively eyes, energetically entered her classroom one recent Monday afternoon and greeted her students who had just returned from spring break. They mumbled a hello.

“Okay, who had a fun spring break? Any cool trips?”

She looked around, hopeful and expecting her students to respond, but to no avail. She smacked her lips and picked a student.

“Amanda, I know you did something fun. Tell us about it!”

Montes’ enthusiasm for teaching is undeniable, and she is adamant in connecting with her students. It helps that she is motherly, emitting a warm and welcoming presence that can lift the spirits of any post-spring break college student. Another undeniable characteristic that sets Montes apart from other Bryn Mawr professors is the songlike accent that carries her words to the ears and hearts of her students. Accents are usually the first thing one looks for when pointing out a foreigner, but what most people don’t think about is the journey behind the accent.

Professor Veronica Montes

Montes was born in the state of Guerrero, Mexico in 1970 to a working-class family who struggled to make ends meet. The family decided to relocate to Mexico City, and as a teen in Mexico’s largest city, Montes had dreams of continuing her life in the nation and culture she loved. All that changed during the 1980s when Mexico’s economy took a turn for the worst as the value of Mexican currency plummeted. The Montes household lost everything, and after her father abandoned his wife and children, Montes’ mother was left to fend for the family. She was the first to migrate to Los Angeles in 1986 with the help of a coyote, a smuggler who aids migrants in illegally crossing the border. The Montes children stayed behind to finish their education.

“Like thousands of migrant women, my mother did not know what she would face once she stepped on American soil,” said Montes about her mother’s decision to leave her children behind.

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Bringing Them Back Home

A Philadelphia planner is trying to bring people into the city.

By Joseph Staruski

Decades ago, America saw a great decline in urban populations as many people in the middle class moved to the suburbs. Gregory Krykewycz is hoping that that trend will change and that people might move back to urban spaces. In fact, he’s planning on it.

A mild-mannered academic urban planner, Krykewycz loves to talk about city planning. Bicycles, pedestrians, trains: these are the types of things that Krykewycz thinks about on a daily basis as an instructor at Drexel University, a volunteer at the Media Borough Environmental Advisory Council, and the Associate Director of Transportation for the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

Greg Krykewycz

Why does he want to see people move back to the city? Well, mostly because it is good for the environment.

When he was younger, Krykewycz saw himself being an environmental planner. His hope was to buy up land outside of the city and prevent people from developing there. He wanted to directly fight back against the progress of suburban development and save the natural environment around the city.

“But I really quickly learned, once I got into school, that it’s really expensive,” said Krykewycz. So, he took a different approach. His plan now is to make the city so great that people simply do not want to move away. “It is better to make the developed places more attractive so that the development pressure outward is reduced and you get organic preservation of land as opposed to just buying everything up” he said.

Krykewycz likes what he does so much that he volunteers his time with the Media Borough Environmental Advisory Council. He has lived in Media, a borough west of Philadelphia near Swarthmore College, for four years and has volunteered there for most of that time.

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Swimming Against the Tide

How one female school thrives in a tough enviroment

By Aliya Chaudhry                                                                                                                                                       

It is a tough time for women’s colleges, but not for Bryn Mawr.

Despite the college’s small size, the declining popularity of women’s colleges and the rising price of college tuition, Bryn Mawr College is thriving, with application numbers increasing each year, according to Marissa Turchi, associate dean of admissions.Bryn Mawr logo

Bryn Mawr College is a small liberal arts college for women located outside Philadelphia. It has roughly 1,300 students, with around 370 students enrolling each year, according to the college’s website.

This year, the college enrolled its largest class in history. The class of 2019 had 389 students, according to the college’s website.

The acceptance rate, now at 38 percent, is decreasing, while enrollment is increasing, according to Peaches Valdes, dean of undergraduate admissions.

It is up to the admissions office to process the growing number of applications and select the students who get admitted.

Inside Admissions

Bryn Mawr College receives roughly 2,700 applications a year, according to the college’s website. These applications are read by an admissions team of 20 people.

According to Valdes, of those 20 admissions officers, five are part of outreach and recruitment, three work in campus visits and events and seven work in operations, which is the team that collects application materials.

Admissions officers work year-round. In the fall, they spend three to eight weeks traveling across the globe.

They spend November through March reading applications. In April, the admissions officers focus on admitted students as they visit campus, attend events and select which institution to attend.

Admissions officers travel in the spring to recruit the next class of students. In the summer, they reflect on the past year and start preparing for the next, along with doing more traveling and hosting more events.

Reading applications is just one of the admissions officers’ many responsibilities. But it’s an important one.

“Just like a student is diverse and multi-faceted, so is our process,” said Valdes, who graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1999.

When an application is submitted, it is given to the officer who handles the region the applicant comes from. Each admissions officer is assigned certain territories, and they are responsible for knowing information about schools in those areas and for contacting high school counselors there.

Thirty-five percent of Bryn Mawr’s students come from the Mid-Atlantic while 13 percent come from the West, according to the college’s website. The states from which Bryn Mawr received the most applicants in 2015 were California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Texas and Virginia, according to Turchi.

May Day is one of Bryn Mawr's many traditions

May Day is one of Bryn Mawr’s many traditions

Each application is read by two to four admissions officers. Some are brought to committee, where the admissions officers discuss the applications at greater length.

Valdes said, “We have multiple people looking at it so it gives us a good sense that when we bring a student to campus we know that we’ve done all the checks and balances in the sense of academic fit, social fit, potential for growth, desire to have a transformative experience.” Continue reading

Ghostly Selfies

Ghosts are hogging the picture in some selfies

By Ava Hawkinson

                                                                                                              

Only Peaches Geldof and her young son Astala were bathing in the bathtub. But the selfie, which Geldof took, revealed a third presence sitting right behind them.

The picture, taken in 2013, shows a small hand, which rests on Geldof’s shoulder and clasps a chunk of her long blonde hair.

These four bony fingers are neither transparent nor blurry. They look as real and alive as Geldof and her son.

Selfie Ghost 2 Geldof later uploaded the selfie to Instagram and captioned it, “Close up shot of the mystery ghost hand in the pic I took of Astala and me In the bath!! And no that isn’t my hand – one of mine was around his waist to hold him during the photo, the other holding the camera to take the shot. Also the hand is around my shoulder so totally weird angle if I did it myself!! How terrifying!! I am shitting myself! #haunted #ghost.”

Geldof claimed that the hand in the photo was that of a woman who died 100 years ago.

Apparently Geldof’s South East England home was built by a man and his pregnant wife, and the wife later miscarried and spiraled into a deep depression. She ended up drowning herself in the house’s bathtub, Geldof said, according to Huffington Post.

Rise of spirit selfies

Geldof’s selfie is only one of many selfies that have gone viral over recent years for documenting ghost-like presences. There are hundreds of “spirit selfies” all over the internet.

Earlier this year, a blurry face floated over a woman’s nose as she took a picture of her newly-dyed light blonde hair.

A couple weeks ago, Julian Eltinge, a famous actor who died in 1941, is said to have appeared in a selfie a couple took while dining at a New Orleans restaurant.

There are countless other selfies like these.

Since the late 1800s, people have claimed to capture ghosts lurking in the backgrounds of their photographs, but this claim was never as widespread as it is today.

It seems that every week a new picture becomes viral which has a ghostly presence in it. And, strangely enough, most of these pictures are selfies.

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Blended Learning

BRYN MAWR COLLEGE WORKS TO CHANGE THE CLASSROOM  EXPERIENCE

By Emilia Otte

In the high-tech atmosphere of today’s universities, the chalkboard still has a place.

Even with the rise of its fiercest competitor to date, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), studies continue to show that face-to-face learning is more effective than online instruction.

However, educators are realizing that there is no reason why they can’t bring the rivaling models together for the overall good of higher education. This combination of a traditional classroom with online materials creates “blended learning”.

After blended learning had some success at large universities, administrators at Bryn Mawr College, a small liberal arts women’s college in Pennsylvania, wondered if the system could apply equally well to an institution like theirs.

In the 2011-2012 school year, Bryn Mawr received a $250,000 grant from the NGLC (Next Generation Learning Challenges). In fall of 2011, the faculty launched 18 blended introductory STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) courses. Students in lower-level biology, chemistry, and geology courses took online quizzes, watched online tutorials, and practiced basic math skills needed for the class. Professors did not have to reduce time spent in the classroom- and none of them did.

At the end of the semester, 93.5 percent of the students in the blended courses earned a merit grade (2.0 or better), versus 83 percent of students in traditional STEM classes. The average grades for the biology, chemistry, and geology courses were significantly higher than they had been in the past.

Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy

Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy

The next year, liberal arts colleges across the country developed blended courses on their own campuses. Macalester College used computer-based games and experiments for an introductory economics course. Oberlin College incorporated Skype sessions into one of its Spanish classes. A professor at Lafayette College “flipped” an introductory statistics class -students watched the lectures online and used class time to work through problem sets.

In total, according to the NGLC study’s official website, 25 small liberal arts colleges created over 40 blended learning courses for the 2012-2013 school year. None of the Bryn Mawr professors teaching the original 18 courses stopped using blended methods. This more than doubled the total number of blended courses offered at liberal arts colleges in a single year, and the trend continues to spread in small colleges across the United States. Continue reading

The Red Lips Project

WOMEN EMPOWERING WOMEN THROUGH A PHOTO PROJECT

By Kyra Sagal      

Since September, Aditi Kulkarni, 19, at Swarthmore College, has been photographing women wearing red lipstick and asking them: What makes you feel powerful?

“As a photographer, I have always been fascinated by the imagery of red lips. To me, red symbolizes power; it is a sign of strength and courage” said Kulkarni.

Thus, a project known as Dark Skin Red Lips, created by Karyn Washington, where women of color posted pictures of themselves wearing red lipstick, began. Kulkarni said, “These pictures were just one way in which women were able to fight back the beauty norms and instead revel in their own ideals.” The Dark Skin Red Lips project inspired Kulkarni to create her own project, the Red Lips Project, over the summer.

One photo on the Facebook page features Osazenoriuwa Ebose, a senior at Swarthmore College, staring assertively into the camera. Accompanying the picture, her quote says “I wear my dignity; I share my love freely. I feel fear for the future, but I do not shy from it. I feel powerful because I know my worth and the worth of others around me. I feel powerful because I respect my past. I feel powerful because I am Osazenoriuwa Osamede Ebose; there is none other like me in the world.”Red Lips

Kulkarni’s project mirrors work being done by photographers/journalists around the country who are capturing the images and words of people they encounter to try to tell larger stories about their lives.

One of the first and most influential of these is Humans of New York (HONY). In 2010, Brandon Stanton created HONY, intending to photograph 10,000 individuals and eventually plot their location and photograph on a map. Then, Stanton began collecting quotes, and the blog became something different. He says on his website, “With over eight million followers on social media, HONY now provides a worldwide audience with daily glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City.”

Yasmin Gentry, a journalist for The Quad at BostonUniversity, said, “Since HONY’s birth in the summer of 2010, Stanton has inspired others to take his lead. Photographers capture citizens in cities like Tehran, Tel Aviv, Sydney, Boston, Toronto, and Oslo.”

Just like HONY, Kuljkarni’s project is beginning to spread to other cities. Her Campus at American University, an online magazine, held a Red Lips Project event on campus November 11 after finding Kulkarni’s blog online. After reaching out to Kulkarni and expressing interest in holding an event, Her Campus asked students to wear red lipstick and “tell us what makes you feel powerful.” According to Kulkarni, the event was successful.

Alex Sanyal, 19, was one of the first subjects of Kulkarni’s photos. She said, “The Red Lips project is an inspiration, as are Aditi and Madeline – the faces behind it. They are inspiring girls across campuses all over the northeast to empower themselves and to appreciate themselves.”

The Red Lips Project is a movement of female empowerment, and it is only one of many projects focusing on people and their lives in the photos. Many photographers have been inspired by the “Humans of” projects, which photograph people in a specific area or community reveal the diverse and unique perspectives of individuals. Continue reading