Interfaith Chaplain for a Non Religious School?

It can be done Chaplain Nora Wood believes, even at Bryn Mawr

By Katelyn Schlefke             

Religious is not the first word that anyone would use to describe Bryn Mawr College. Chances are it isn’t the second or third either.

The image that comes to mind for many students when asked to imagine the stereotypical Bryn Mawr student is a young, liberal, progressive woman dedicated to feminism and social justice.

Most people would say that religion has no place in that picture, but according to the college’s Interfaith Chaplain Nora Woods, this isn’t necessarily the case. Many Americans view religious beliefs and political beliefs as things that go hand in hand: if you’re a liberal, you’re not religious, and if you’re a conservative, you are religious.

Woods has a very different opinion. “I don’t think the story that religiosity and conservatism have always gone together is even remotely true.” said Woods, “I think it’s an American story of the most recent decades.”

Nora Woods

Woods doesn’t fit the stereotypical idea of a religious administrator at an American college. She’s a fairly young Jewish woman, a self-proclaimed progressive, and a member of the LGBT community.

According to Bryn Mawr College’s website, Woods is currently in her final year of study at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and will be ordained as a Reconstructionist Rabbi in June.

Woods summed up her job on Bryn Mawr’s campus with the following three roles: “Pastoral care, support person, multi-faith community.”

The first role, provider of pastoral care, consists of providing support to individual members of Bryn Mawr’s community.

For Woods, “Spiritual care is about helping people think through: what is it you believe in? How do you make sense of the world? But in a more meta way.”

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The Passion of Stephen Fried

The journalist and author has spent a lifetime pursuing stories about people

By Colin Battis 

“I stayed by the phone that entire time, just waiting to be sued. A week, maybe ten days later, I got a call from the main source, who was a medical examiner. He told me she had confessed, and nobody else knew. I remember I fell on the ground in my office crying, because I realized at that point how worried I was, ‘cause we hadn’t heard anything, that we had gotten some major thing wrong.”

Stephen Fried speaks casually about solving the largest-ever case involving children killed by their own mother, sitting in an office that seems like that of a stereotypical professor or academic. Every available surface of desk, shelf, or windowsill seems weighed down by books, magazines, or sticky notes.

Some of that material relates to Fried’s latest project: a foray into history to write an acclaimed biography of Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and important figure in treating mental illness.

As he leans back in his chair, Fried’s face is accidentally framed next to a bobblehead figure of himself, which does a great job of capturing his shock of curly white hair and the eyebrows that arch sternly above his glasses.

Author and Journalist Stephen Fried

There are a few concessions to the accomplishments of his 40-year career in journalism- framed newspaper articles and magazine covers, copies of his own books, and a cluster of awards. One of those awards is a medal from the Vidocq Society, an organization of forensic professionals specializing in cold cases, given to him for his investigation of a woman who had killed eight of her ten children and had gotten away with it, fooling authorities into believing it was a tragic case of SIDS.

This is the story Fried is currently caught up in telling, having passed the part where he turned over his material to the police and just now caught up to when the killer confessed to her crimes.

“People always said that this woman is either the most sympathetic woman in history and we were reopening every one of her wounds, 30 years later,” Fried said. “Or this is the worst unsolved crime in the history of being a mom, in which case you are saving the memories of the most kids ever killed by the person who gave birth to them…”

Though he might look perfectly suited to the stereotype of a ‘writer’, Fried is harder to pin down in person, leaning back in his office chair and seeming to enjoy each question that comes his way as an exercise in dissecting his own career. He pivots from decade to decade, jumping from high to low points as he questions or looks back fondly on his own decisions and strokes of luck.

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To Be the First

The first to enter a world no one in your family has entered before.

By Kathryn Gonzales 

Ana Fuentes, 17, will be the first in her family to graduate high school, but instead of pride she feels the pressure of success that has been growing as she has achieved more than her parents ever could.

A senior at Furness High School in South Philadelphia, Fuentes was raised by Honduran immigrant parents and is the oldest of her three siblings. At a young age, Fuentes had to become her own teacher when it came to navigate the world of academics.

“I needed to get the grades in middle school and high school in order to show myself I can do it, but also my parents”, she said. “I realized I was weighed down by the pressure to show my parents and my little brothers that it can be done.”

Fuentes is one of many first-generation students from immigrant families to continue the educational journey despite the challenges that are in their way. A 2011 report from the Higher Educational Research Institute at UCLA found that within four years, only 27 percent of the first-generation students earned a bachelor’s degree; in comparison, 42 percent of their non-first-generation peers had received their degrees.

College students who have the shared status of being first-generation and an immigrant are burdened with navigating the college process, finding resources and balancing their dream and goals with those of their family to name a few. These students pursue higher education to improve their family’s socioeconomic status, which makes choosing a career path an important decision.

“It is already hard enough being first-gen but when my parents don’t know what I am going through with the college process then it’s kind of lonely,” Fuentes explained.

For many first-generation immigrant students, it is there sole responsibility to make sure they are on track to academic success, while still providing support for their family.

While these students are climbing the ladder of academic achievement in their families, they are faced with dealing with family obligations, which may create tension as students are torn between the demands of their home and family versus those of their academics. Continue reading

A Stitch in Time

The craft of embroidery is alive and well at Bryn Mawr College

An embroidery design circa 1760

By Meagan Thomas 

At Bryn Mawr College, the art of embroidery is a secret trend.

“I just don’t think people do it in groups” said senior Margaret O’Hare, 21, speaking to the trend. Each embroiderer seems to know a few others, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to do it collectively the way students might with knitting circles or other clubs.

“It’s harder to do in public,” said senior Beckie Bull, 21.

O’Hare said she hadn’t seen anyone collectively embroider at all.

“Except when my friends wanted to learn and I taught them,” she said. Seeing it makes other students want to try it, which O’Hare used as an opportunity to teach her friends. Most of the people she knew who embroidered have graduated, but she still sees it around.

As to why it might be less visible, Bull offered a potential reason.

“I actually once got in trouble for embroidering in a French class,” said Bull, “Because in sewing you have to look at your work and so the teacher thinks you’re not paying attention.”

Fifteen of the most popular stitches used in embroidery

If it’s hard to see, one might ask how anyone knows where to find it at all. Each embroiderer knows a few other links in the chain, like an underground network about which no one has all the information.

“I do know other people here who do embroidery,” said Bull, though she agrees that it’s not as collective.

“A supervisor at [the dining hall] would bring embroidery to our meetings,” said O’Hare of her on-campus job. It would give her something to do while she listened. There are students who brave practicing it in class. They make door signs, samplers, and other projects.

Social media is another way to spot the patterns, no pun intended.

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Poke on the Rise

 The popular spin on a traditional Hawaiian dish   

By Maeve Pascoe

The Hawaiian poke bowl, served at Tsaocaa on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, is customizable but typically comes with cubed salmon, fresh mangoes, warm rice, and vegetables that are topped with spicy mayonnaise, a drizzle of siracha, and crispy onions.

Nearby, Wiki Poke serves a Nacho Poke- a poke bowl with salmon and tuna that substitutes the usual rice with chips.

These two dishes only represent two variations on the traditional Hawaiian meal. Today, poke consumption in the United States has skyrocketed, allowing for the success of restaurants serving their modern take on the fish salad. Hawaiian poke typically only consists of seafood, seasoning, oil, and vegetables, but the version most popular among Americans today is called the poke bowl.

There were only two poke restaurants in Philadelphia in 2016. Today, there are over a dozen poke restaurants in Philly and others on the Main Line.

“It’s a buzz right now,” said the manager of The Pokespot on Chestnut Street. “We are so new we just opened last year. We were really busy around then,” she added. Even now she said they get over 100 customers per day.

An array of the dishes offered at Wiki Poke in Philadelphia

According to Yelp, worldwide there were 67 poke restaurants outside of Hawaii in 2012. In 2018, there were over 1,900 poke restaurants in the United States. In a blog post, yelp said poke businesses opened at a rate outpacing other restaurant categories such as ramen and coffee roasteries.

In addition, the food-ordering service Grubhub reported a 91 percent increase in average monthly popularity of poke bowl orders in 2018. A catering company, ZeroCater, reported a 78 percent increase in poke deliveries in major U.S. cities.

According to Foursquare data, the number of Hawaiian restaurants, including those that serve poke, doubled from 2014 to 2016 in the United States, meaning 700 Hawaiian restaurants on Foursquare in August 2016.

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Finding a Home at Lupita’s

A man’s journey to bring a piece of Mexico to the streets of South Philly

By Kathryn Gonzales     

When Ernesto Atrisco walks into his storefront on 9th Street, it feels like home.

Atrisco, 50, and his family opened Lupita’s Grocery in 2003, offering everything from cornhusks for tamales to glass bottles of Coca Cola. The small grocery shop is filled with bright, colorful packages carrying spices, sauces and various Mexican kitchen staples.

The South Philadelphia grocery was not only a way to make a living, but also a testament to the life Atrisco and his family left behind in Mexico.

“You start to remember home. It makes you feel like you are closer to where you were born and raised,” he said. “I want to show Philadelphia locals and even all people food they’ve never seen before. They can come and experience my culture.”

Atrisco hails from Acapulco, Mexico where he lived in a low socioeconomic class in a house that could barely fit all his family members. “It was the hardest decision for my Dad to let me go, but it was what he had to do,” he says.

While acknowledging the physical and emotional risks that came with going up North, he says asserts that “I never thought about the bad things that could happen to me because I knew if I did I would not go; you just go until you are there.”

Settling in South Philadelphia, an 18-year-old Atrisco started out delivering pizzas for a Greek-owned restaurant but he felt alienated and alone. By his mid-20s, though, he had married and gained citizenship in the U.S., creating a life for himself where he could make a living for his family in the States and for his family in Mexico

There was something missing for Atrisco; a piece of culture that he wanted to add to his community.

“I wanted to own a store that sold products that I remember from home,” he says. “Where I can provide a space for people who look like me that could come and not feel as alone as I did when I came to the U.S for the first time.”

Inside Lupita’s

As his wife, Lourdes Atrisco, 45, recalls: “I thought he was crazy, I mean who wakes up one morning wanting to open up a grocery store” but understood that the need was there in her, too.

It began as a modest operation, a sparse, dull small store with little in the way of structural logic. Walls were discolored with shelves that were disorganized and cluttered, while Atrisco and his family members, traded shifts between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Soon, through the assistance of community members, Lupita’s Grocery became a regular stop for many locals, adding to the growing multicultural experience in 9th Street.

Walking into the grocery store, you are met with the smell of nostalgia. You’ll see Mexican soccer jerseys, luchador masks [fighter masks], candies and many other products that not only come from Mexico but other Latin American countries.

Lupita’s is one of the many Mexican-owned businesses that have brought new vitality to what is known historically as the Italian Market, after the immigrant street vendors who first set up business on 9th Street beginning in the 1880’s.

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The Traditions Mistress

Liz Marchini is a keeper of Bryn Mawr’s many, many traditions

Lantern Night in 2014

By Chloe Vilkin         

Liz Marchini is a big fan of “mugging” first years. Just days before the rest of the student body arrived at school Marchini could be seen confidently crossing the auditorium’s stage, long nails catching the light as lead the new students through the first school tradition of receiving mugs in their class colors.

Marchini is a junior at Bryn Mawr College, a Political Science major with a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies and a minor in Global Asian Studies.

She is also a Traditions Mistress.

Traditions are a large part of the Bryn Mawr College experience, as they often are with colleges and universities, but Bryn Mawr takes more pride than most in their traditions, using them to advertise for the school’s tight-knit community.

This sense of community is exactly what drew Marchini to Bryn Mawr in the first place, and what lead to her becoming a Traditions Mistress.

Traditions Mistresses are exactly what they sound like: two students elected for the academic year to organize the four major—and some minor—traditions at Bryn Mawr College. The position seemed interesting to Marchini from the time that she applied, but she had to be sure she was ready.

“I’d kind of sit with myself and be like, do I have the resources, do I have the capabilities, do I have the capacity to do this” Marchini said. She sat comfortably in an armchair with one leg crossed over the other, her bright white sneakers nearly matched her manicure.

As a former ballerina of 11 years and a musical theater performer of several years, Marchini does not shy away from commitment, which is exactly what being a Traditions Mistress demands.

“There’s not an hour that goes by that I’m not working on traditions,” said

-Liz Marchini

Marchini, later saying she was working even while in Singapore for break. “It’s kind of like just constantly diving for loose balls.”

Despite the sometimes-hectic nature of the position, Marchini went into it with a goal: make people feel at home. Traditions are like open arms to Marchini, welcoming everyone into a community where what you look like, where you’re from, or what you can do doesn’t matter.

Marchini wanted to help maintain and even improve that sense of community for everyone by being as inclusive and transparent as possible in her role as Traditions Mistress, “because I want everyone to feel they belong on this campus.”

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Making Sense of Squiggly Lines

Poet Dee Matthews on the art and craft of poetry

By Meagan R. Thomas

“You should turn this into a contrapuntal.” Dee Matthews asks me to hand over her laptop and starts to move words of my poem around on the screen. When she shows me the result, I’m floored. She has moved the words into two columns, and triplicated their meanings. As a poet and professor, this is day-to-day for Matthews, who teaches at Bryn Mawr College.

As we work, she tapes my poems to the blackboard like we’re arranging an elaborate conspiracy. She sees the connections, the art of it all, even where I can’t. She gives all the poetry she touches new life.

Matthews has a soft face and wide eyes that achieve a soul-searching intensity. Her hair is twisted into tight rows, and falls gently unnoticed across her face when she concentrates on a page. She often wears statement jewelry, including elaborate gold bangles and cuff bracelets for a regal touch.

– Dee Matthews

In the classroom, Matthews is slow and methodical. She eases the knots out of poetry, highlighting the smallest insights into the language, form, and images. She speaks in a low, mesmerizing voice that makes her students lean in to listen with an intensity of which most college professors could only dream.

Teaching is a big chunk of the work Matthews does. “Much of my time during the academic year is devoted to trying to give my students my attention” She says. “It’s actually hard to concentrate on my own [work] from September through May.”

That devotion is clear. Matthews works personally with each of her students. She has them call her Dee, and is insistent that everyone is equal in a workshop. Everyone is an artist.

“I’m one of those people who wants to share what I’ve learned, and I encourage my students to teach me what they’ve learned.” Matthews says. “My classrooms are symbiotic environments.”

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The Long and Winding Road

From Afghanistan to Swarthmore: An American success story

By Sweeta Yqoobi

On the edge of Dartmouth Avenue in the quiet town of Swarthmore, Mr. Azim Naderpoor, a 46-year-old Afghan refugee, owns a half-Mediterranean half-Afghan restaurant.

Shortly after opening his restaurant 15 years ago, Naderpoor took down all the good pieces of art he had placed on the walls of his restaurant, and replaced the neatly folded napkin cloths and freshly ironed tablecloths with cheap silverware wrapped in paper napkins and bare tabletops.

Shaking his head in disappointment, he says, “when I first opened this place, I decorated every corner of it. I even hang an evil eye on the wall to keep the bad spirits away, but the students destroyed all my good napkins and tablecloths”. Or so they did in those early days when Aria Mediterranean Cuisine was rather a fancy place, ready to serve Swarthmore’s middle and upper class clientele.

Soon Naderpoor realized that most of his customers were broke students from the nearby small liberal arts college of Swarthmore, and so he embraced every affair of academia that came his way; hungry students before and after parties, curious professors with groups of students out on a field trip to study the art of cooking, or international students from East Asia and the Middle East who would stop by to have some familiar food or to simply have a chat with Naderpoor.

“I made this place look like a dining hall for these students,” he smiles sarcastically.

When he speaks in his native Farsi, he mixes in some English words into his conversation, but those English words also sound Farsi in the rhythm of the conversation. When he pauses the interview to give instructions to his American staff on how to prepare the food, his strong accent immediately fades away.

Naderpoor has been living in the U.S. for almost 30 years.

“If I tell you how I came to the U.S., you will start crying,” he says. While delicately putting chopped pieces of turnip next to each other in a row, which he further chops into rather uneven smaller pieces, he begins to tell the story of his journey to America.

“I was so lazy in school that I failed my midterm exams in twelfth grade,” says Naderpoor with a grin on his face. “I skipped school regularly, and had accumulated 130 absence days that school year.” Continue reading