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Centers of the Universe - Building Bridges across Disciplines

Watt Warrior:
Emily Wheeler ’08

Global Explorers:
Nino Guruli
’07 and
Ally Neher ’07

Translating Ideas into Action: Lucia Morales Cariani ’08

MHC's Newest Students


Mount Holyoke College News and Events College Street Journal Vista

Winter 2005 / Volume 10, Number 2

MHC's Newest Students

They come from 41 states and 29 foreign countries. They were all top scholars in their high school class. They have traveled around the globe, and they are ready to transform the world.

The 500 new students who arrived on the Mount Holyoke campus in September have interests as varied as their ethnic backgrounds, reinforcing the College’s commitment to achieving a diverse and accomplished student body of women. Sixteen percent of the class of 2009 comes from outside the United States, and more than 25 percent of them are African American, Latina American, Asian American, and Native American (ALANA). They have volunteered at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying and Destitute, secured a patent with the Chinese government, performed on Broadway, and won competitions in art, music, diving, and Ultimate Frisbee.

“We are very excited about the incoming class of 2009,” said Joanne V. Creighton, president of Mount Holyoke. “These new students embody everything we prize in Mount Holyoke women—academic success, drive, creativity, and a desire to make a difference as leaders in the world. The campus community welcomes the newest generation of Mount Holyoke women through our gates.”

These incoming students are passionate about learning and committed to connecting with the global community. They were chosen from the
second-highest applicant pool in Mount Holyoke’s history. Since 1996, the College has seen a 44 percent increase in applications; this year there were 2,924. Among the pool were 252 Early Decision applicants.

The new students hail from all over the country. Thirty percent are from New England, 19 percent are from the Middle Atlantic region, 18 percent are from the West, 11 percent are from the South, and
6 percent are from the central part of the country. They come from 422 high schools; 57 percent public, 29 percent private, and 13 percent parochial.

Also joining the student body this fall are 45 Frances Perkins Scholars, or women of nontraditional age, and 25 transfer students from other colleges.

Meet a few of the New Faces of MHC

Crystal Allen ’07
Fallon, Nevada

Crystal Allen
Cyrstal Allen ’07

Crystal Allen ’07 has dedicated herself to improving the quality of life for members of her tribe, the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone, in Nevada. From tutoring younger children and teaching child abuse awareness to doing cancer research at the water treatment plant and establishing a recycling program, she’s hoping to bring a higher level of education and awareness to the tribe, which has a 57 percent dropout rate among high school students. “The education level isn’t very high here, so I figured I’d go and get educated, then come back and help, ” she said.

After studying biology at a community college, Allen comes to Mount Holyoke as a transfer student, with plans to study political science and psychology and ultimately work in public relations in the health and science field. “I like dealing with people, and I think a lot more can get done that way.” She has seen relations between the tribe and the surrounding county improve after her tribe started a child abuse awareness program for the local school system, funded by the U.S. government. “A lot of kids don’t know what child abuse is. Their parents don’t tell them. The tradition among the tribe has been to keep it quiet.” By including nonreservation children in the program as well, tribal relations with the county have improved.

But despite all the hardships, Allen revels in the small successes, like the fourth grader she tutored in math who finally improved. “Just a little help and encouragement, and the sky ’s the limit.”

Isabelle Castillo 09
Miami, Florida

Isabelle Castillo
Isabelle Castillo ’09

As a young girl, Isabelle Castillo ’09 would listen to her grandfather playing the classical guitar, and occasionally she would pick it up and strum it. When she was nine, her grandfather asked if she wanted to learn, and she’s been playing ever since. Her grandfather served not just as a teacher but was also a mentor, helping Castillo in all facets of life. She has performed at her school as well as at Spanish and French cultural centers in Miami and is practicing some pieces to try out at Mount Holyoke.

But Castillo doesn’t always let her fingers do the talking. She is also an accomplished debater. Her junior year, she was an octofinalist at a Wake Forest University national debate tournament. “It’s one of my passions. I’ve learned about everything from mental health care to ocean policy. It sparked a passion for learning and research,” said Castillo. Her favorite subject to debate was the law of the sea, which gave her an introduction to the international legal arena. Castillo is thinking about going into law someday and is planning on majoring in psychology at Mount Holyoke.

Samantha Goldman 09
Philadelphia, PA

Samantha Goldman
Samantha Goldman ’09

Political activism, community service, and the arts have been defining activities for Samantha Goldman ’09, who sought to fill the need for all three at her high school. “To be the driving force behind something, to truly make something happen not just because you want it to, but because the community needs it to, is just incredible,” Goldman said. Whether it was editing the school’s literary magazine, initiating a community service program, or orchestrating a trip to see a Broadway play, Goldman made things happen—and then some. Before the school’s trip to see Rent, students were invited to submit original compositions based on themes in the play to be judged by the staff. Goldman’s piece, titled “Non Gender Specific,” won the contest, and she had the honor of performing her monologue on Broadway before the show. But she is most proud of her political endeavors, which have included working with refugees, joining the March for Women’s Lives, and founding a student youth action group. “Political work has really changed the way I think and made me who I am, ”she said.

Goldman is planning to major in environmental studies at Mount Holyoke, and while she’s not under any illusions about being able to continue all of her activities at MHC, she has no intention of relaxing. She’d like to continue practicing dance and working with a gay/straight alliance. And she’s excited to be in a place she said is “nothing like what I experience now.”

Lauren Griffin 09
Homewood, Illinois

Lauren Griffin
Lauren Griffin ’09

For Illinois state diving finalist Lauren Griffin ’09, the prospect of having two-time Olympic medalist Mary Ellen Clark as a diving coach was exciting. Griffin knew she wanted to dive in college, and she was also looking for a school that would afford her enough time to focus on her studies. “When I learned about Mary Ellen, I was excited about the possibility of working with her,” Griffin said. “I’ll get the attention I need in diving to be successful and as competitive as I want to be. I can’t wait to train with her and see how far my future will go in diving.” In high school, Griffin was a state qualifier three times, and last year she placed eleventh in the state. Her father taught her how to dive when she was eight, and she has always loved the entertainment aspect of the sport. “Diving is a mix of a lot of things: guts, power, and grace, which are traits I have acquired over the years,” Griffin said. But in a sport where results are determined by subjectivity, it’s not always easy. “I know that it is just part of the nature of the sport. Dealing with certain situations in diving only drives me to work harder to do better, grow as an individual, and to come out on top.” Griffin, who would like to work in physical therapy or sports medicine, said Mount Holyoke will give her the ideal combination of personal attention in sports and academics.

Clarity Guerra ’09
Los Angeles, California

Clarity Guerra
Clarity Guerra ’09

In the summer of 2004, Clarity Guerra ’09 spent two-and-a-half weeks on the beautiful island of St. John in the Virgin Islands. But instead of vacationing on sunny beaches and white sand, Guerra was trekking through jungles and crawling under thick brush in order to observe an arboreal species of termite and the effects of a parasite on the insect’s behavior. “At first I was like, termites? But I really got into it,” said Guerra. “We were studying an incredible cycle.”

Guerra was chosen to participate in an Earthwatch expedition through a Student Challenge Awards Program (SCAP) scholarship. The experience ignited her fascination with “anything to do with research,” and she found that she loved being in the field. She plans on studying environmental science at Mount Holyoke and is particularly interested in how to reduce human impact in places that are most precious to us.

While Guerra loved her Earthwatch experience, the achievement that has meant the most to her was being senior class president of the Zoo Magnet Center at North Hollywood High School. “It’s not glamorous, but we did a lot of things.” She helped orchestrate the first-ever Zoo Magnet art show for students, which she hopes future classes will continue.

So does she see more termites in her future? “I wouldn’t mind it. As long as I have a bandana to keep them out of my hair.”

Natash Gutierrez ’09
Garnerville, New York

Natasha Gutierrez
Natasha Gutierrez ’09

Natasha Gutierrez ’09 became interested in science in seventh grade, when a new teacher began talking about genetics, cells, and DNA. By the time she was in eighth grade, she was routinely seeking out the Tuesday New York Times for its science section. “I was all into science. I knew I wanted to pursue that,” said Gutierrez, who wants to be a geneticist.

She got her first taste of scientific research in high school after being accepted by I-LEAD, Institute for Leadership, Excellence, and Academic Development. For three weeks one summer at Brown University, she studied microbes as infectious agents. “I really got into the firsthand college experience,” said Gutierrez, who loved lab, even skipping dinner and working until 8 pm in order to “get it right.” Gutierrez also traveled to Australia as part of the I-LEAD program, where her group helped build a house for Habitat for Humanity. “By the time we left, we actually had the frames up. It looked like a house. It was awesome.”

Mount Holyoke’s science facilities were a big reason Gutierrez chose the school. “When I saw the lab, I was in love,” she said. So will she be taking lots of science courses this fall? “My whole outlook on college is to try something new.” So in addition to a class in biology, she’ll be taking a music department course on Beethoven symphonies.

Elise Hale-Case ’09
Seattle, Washington

Elise Hale-Case ’09

Even though Elise Hale-Case ’09 still comes across people who don’t know what Ultimate is, the football-like game played with a flying disc is a serious sport in Seattle, where she lives. Case in point: her high school had a varsity Ultimate team, but no football team. Hale-Case started playing Ultimate in sixth grade, and in 2004 she was one of 16 women in the country chosen for the junior women’s USA team. Her high school team often reached the finals, and she has played on several club teams, winning a national tournament with a Seattle junior women’s team. “I like the emphasis on sportsmanship,” Hale-Case said of the game. “It has a competitive edge, but you’re also allowed to shake hands with an opponent after they make a good play. It doesn’t get too heated.” Hale-Case hopes to play Ultimate on a local team or start one at Mount Holyoke. She’s also excited to get involved with other outdoor programs at the school. In high school, she participated in a series of backpacking trips with a YMCA camp in Minnesota, culminating in a 40-day trek in Alaska last summer. “It was more mentally challenging than physically challenging—knowing at 20 days out that you still have 20 to go. But it was gorgeous, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

Ru’Ya Norton ’09
Seward, Alaska

Ru'Ya Norton
Ru'Ya Norton ’09

Coming to school in New England might normally be an adjustment for someone from Alaska. But for Ru’Ya Norton ’09, who lives in Seward, the adjustment will be nothing compared to her move to Alaska at age ten from Yap, an island in Micronesia where she grew up. In Yap, daily life consisted of school (at home) and playing in the jungle. “Living outside of the U.S. really gives you a different perspective on the world. I’m sure it has made me a lot more accepting of other cultures and people,” said Norton, who chose Mount Holyoke in part for its diverse student body.

Moving to Alaska was a complete shock, both in culture and climate. Her family moved to the small town of McGrath and then to Seward, the first place she was able to do things like play soccer and join a choir—singing had always been a passion. When budget cuts at her school discontinued music classes, she got help making audition tapes and went on to be the only representative from Seward in the All-State Honor Choir. Rehearsals were often several hours away, and Norton had to get funding from the booster club for hotel stays.

Norton hopes to join the Peace Corps after college, an interest that started in Yap. “So many of our friends were Peace Corps volunteers. They were such caring and kind people and inspired me to do that when I was older.”

While Norton hasn’t yet returned to Yap, she hopes to study abroad somewhere in the Pacific while at Mount Holyoke—with a stop at her former home along the way.

Piper O’Sullivan ’09
Providence, Rhode Island

Piper O'Sullivan
Piper O'Sullivan ’09

When Piper O’Sullivan ’09 was a little girl, she fell in love with a picture book of India and said to herself, “I have to go there.” She never thought she would get her wish so soon, but through the open curriculum at her high school, the Metropolitan Regional and Technical Center in Providence, she has traveled not only to India—twice—but also to Russia, and she will be returning to India again this January. “I loved reading about Hinduism and the mythology and social issues in India. It’s the complete antithesis of how we live. I knew it was the first place I wanted to go.” With some basic Hindi under her belt from classes at Brown University, O’Sullivan signed up with the volunteer agency Cross-Cultural Solutions and in 2004 spent a month in New Delhi, where she worked at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying and Destitute. “It was intense. But it was really good. It’s not something you’d ever experience if you were a tourist,” said O’Sullivan, who is going to study studio art at Mount Holyoke. She turned several photographs of her patients in India into a series of charcoal drawings that was displayed at several local schools and universities. In January, O’Sullivan returned to India on her own and taught at a school for young boys and worked on her photography.

While working as a student intern in the Slavic department at Brown, O’Sullivan took Russian for two years, which she put to use in her six-week trip to a small town outside of Moscow, where she worked at a nursing home for abandoned elderly.

Where else would she love to travel? “I really want to go to Iran to study Persian. I’m really visual, and I love learning different alphabets.

Ningmei Zhuang ’09
Chengdu, China

Ningmei Zhuang
Ningmei Zhuang ’09

Ningmei Zhuang ’09 is serious about fighting pollution in China. In high school, she was the leader of a group called Greens, which she and several other students formed to increase awareness about the environment. The group began collecting used batteries, leaving boxes in shops, parks, and schools. But Zhuang didn’t stop there. Since large numbers of batteries are used to start natural gas water heaters in China, she began looking for a cleaner alternative and started experimenting with hydropower. She finally created a hydroelectric device that managed to strike fire, and she secured a patent for her invention from the Chinese government. “The patent I’ve gained greatly encourages me to explore new things myself,” she said.

The Greens group also took the initiative during China’s SARS outbreak to sterilize public spaces at their school and educate
fellow students on the disease and prevention measures. Not a single student was infected during the outbreak.

With a strong foundation in accounting from classes at Sichuan University in China, Zhuang plans to study economics at Mount Holyoke.

On the MHC Web:

Vista - Winter 2005 Index


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