Haverford Welcomes Seventh Cohort of John P. Chesick Scholars
Fifteen high-achieving members of the Class of 2022 from underrepresented backgrounds in higher education celebrated their accomplishments with presentations that capped off five weeks of academically rigorous summer work.
"I’m going to begin by asking you a question,” said Adrian Soto ’22 to a captive audience of his fellow Chesick Scholars and other Haverford community members. “To learn about the life of another person, would you rather read an autobiography or a biography of that person written by someone else?”
The reaction from the crowd was fairly unanimous: an autobiography, because no one can understand an experience like the person who lived it. And so began the 2018 Chesick Scholars Symposium, themed around the “Ethics of Representation” and teeming with questions like the one posited by Soto in his presentation “The Ethics of Representing an ‘Other’ and Author Reliability.”
The annual symposium marks the end of five weeks of the summer institute for incoming first-year students in the John P. Chesick Scholars Program. Now in its seventh year, the Chesick Scholars Program provides continuous support for 15 first-years who hold identities that are underrepresented, under-resourced, or that are first in their family to attend college.
That support begins with the residential summer program, which serves as an introduction for the Chesick Scholars to college-level academics and faculty mentors. Scholars enroll in two courses, one writing-intensive and one scientifically or quantitatively focused, which each meet for eight hours a week for five weeks.
This year’s cohort of scholars, who hail from Tempe, Ariz. to Charleston, S.C. and places in between, had the option to take “Reading Comics and Religion” with Professor of Religion Ken Koltun-Fromm or “The Literary Politics of South African Apartheid” with Associate Professor of English Laura McGrane and “People and Numbers: Using Data to Answer Questions in Psychology” with Professor of Psychology Benjamin Le or “The Microbes Within: Genomes, Species, and Complex Interactions” with Associate Professor of Biology Rachel Hoang.
"I'm always impressed when students choose to come to Haverford for an intensive five-week academic experience, instead of something more easygoing for their last summer before college,” said Jeff Tecosky-Feldman, senior lecturer of mathematics and statistics and summer director of the Chesick Scholars Program. “This group has taken to the academic intensity well, engaging their coursework seriously while also enjoying trips to Philadelphia and getting to know the local scene.”
The 2018 Chesick Scholars Symposium marked a chance for the students to present research completed during their writing-intensive course, with topics ranging from “The Ethics of Visually Depicting God” (by Alex Rodriguez-Gomez ’22) to “Masculinity in Apartheid: Reading into Steve Biko and Athol Fugard” (by Shayleah Jenkins ’22).
"This is a celebration of [the scholars’] dedication and hard work,” said Koltun-Fromm in his introduction to the gathering. “What we get to see [in this program] is students flourishing and engaging with and thinking differently about the world around them.”
In addition to providing a solid foundation in academic writing and study, the Chesick Scholars Program connects each student with a faculty mentor that will support them throughout their time at Haverford.
"For me, getting to know and work alongside such amazing students as they grow into full-fledged scholars is the most gratifying,” said Tecosky-Feldman. “As a faculty mentor, I get very close with my Chesick mentees, and we share important aspects of our lives, both professional and personal. I treasure these relationships, and have learned as much from my mentees as they have from me.”
Chesick Scholars meet with their faculty mentor weekly throughout their first year (and with decreased frequency over the next three years) to discuss coursework, strategies for managing time and money, work-life balance, and professional and career development. The cohort of students also meet regularly with each other to attend academic and cultural events at Haverford and around Philadelphia.
Though the program is still relatively new — the first class of Chesick Scholars graduated in 2016 — it has proved to be extremely influential and important in the lives of the participants and the Haverford College community as a whole.
"Our Chesick Scholars have become academic and social leaders, and their visibility empowers other students to excel and lead as well,” Tecosky-Feldman said. “I want to thank the President and Provost for their steadfast support of this program, as well as the donors who made it possible through their contributions. My partners Heather Curl and Barbara Hall, who direct the program during the academic year, have been invaluable in the success of the students. And there are many, many others in the campus community who are involved: faculty members who devote part of their summer to teach courses and act as mentors, staff of the Office of Academic Resources and the academic Centers who work with the students during the term, and too many more to mention. The overall College commitment to this initiative is inspiring!”