Friday, August 31, 2012

New biology professor enjoys traveling, riding, remodeling, and teaching

For the past three years, Amanda Rumore and her husband have been restoring a 1920s farm house not far from Randolph College while she finished her Ph.D. This fall, she joined the Randolph faculty teaching biology.

Her first week of teaching here brought a pleasant surprise. "Half of my students turned their homework in early, which has never happened for me before,” said Rumore, who received her Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in May.

Amanda Rumore and her husband Michael hiked across a high-altitude glacier
in Europe this summer. She recently began teaching biology at Randolph.
“So far, I have been impressed with how engaged the students have been in the classroom,” she said. “They seem interested in the material.”

Rumore started college wanting to study interior design but later switched her focus to biology. Microbiology courses drew her interest towards biomedical research while an undergraduate at Virginia Tech.

While working towards her Ph.D.,  she researched the interactions between humans and fungi. “I specifically study fungi that cause allergies and asthma,” she said. “My focus is on understanding the mechanism by which the fungi can cause an allergic reaction in humans.”

She and her advisor worked on a minimal budget as they began that line of work. Eventually, their research attracted two grants worth a total of about $1.3 million.

Rumore was offered a position teaching at Randolph this year while Kathy Schaeffer is on sabbatical.

When she is not teaching or researching, Rumore enjoys traveling. This summer, she and her husband traveled to Europe and took a train to the highest point on the continent—Jungfraujoch, at 12,000 feet. They hiked 2.5 miles across the Aletsch Glacier, which took more than two hours due to the thin air present at that altitude.

She also enjoys riding horses (she competed against Randolph when she was an undergraduate) and working on her home remodel, which is the topic of her personal blog.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Convocation emphasizes honor, integrity, purpose

Students, their professors, and College staff rang in the new academic year Tuesday with opening convocation, an event full of class unity and reverence for the College’s academic history.

Representatives of each class carried their class banners into Smith Hall Theatre and displayed them at the front of the auditorium as the seniors processed in wearing their graduation robes—and the funny hats and buttons that are traditional at Randolph.

Randolph College President John E. Klein officially opened the academic year with a discussion of values that the College seeks to develop in each student. “Part of the Randolph College experience is developing a sense of honor, integrity, and purpose,” he said.

Honor and integrity imply honesty and trustworthiness, and both traits are embodied in the College’s Honor Code, Klein said. “For over 100 years, Randolph’s Honor Code has governed student conduct and served as the backbone of life on campus. Our Honor Code helps the College create an atmosphere where trust and respect are more than just words,” he said.

“We trust our classmates to not lie, cheat, or steal. We respect ourselves and others enough that we hold ourselves to the same standards. And we know that we are going to be held accountable for our actions.”

Our Honor Code helps the College create an atmosphere where trust and respect are more than just words.
—John E. Klein
“When you graduate from Randolph,” Klein added, “I hope that this sense of honor and integrity will stay with you, as it has for so many of alumnae and alumni who have gone before you, and help guide you as you face life’s challenges.”

Zara Sibtain ’13, president of the student government, encouraged students to embrace the optimism of the last academic year and carry it forward this year. “Let’s honor our past, but let’s not forget where we’re going—always forward,” she said. “Today, let’s make a promise together to excel in our academics and extracurricular activities. Whatever you’re passionate about, give it your all.”

Klein made an exciting announcement that the National Science Foundation has awarded the College a $600,000 grant to provide scholarships and other support for the college’s science and math programs. It is the largest grant that the college has record of receiving.

Then, College faculty and staff announced the recipients of several much-anticipated awards:
  • The Phi Beta Kappa Book Award – Emma Bartholomew ’14
  • Katherine Graves Davidson Award – John Abell, economics professor
  • Katherine Graves Davidson Scholarship Award – David Schwartz, philosophy professor
  • Gillie A. Larew Award for Distinguished Teaching – Rick Barnes, psychology and environmental studies professor
Convocation ended with the traditional singing of the College song, followed by singing around the Sundial.

See more convocation photos in this photo album on the Randolph College Facebook page.

Monday, August 27, 2012

American art by international artists featured in new Maier exhibition

The new exhibition at The Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College tells the story of cultures that have come together in America to make unique art.

Opening Reception

Bridges Not Walls opens Friday, Aug. 31, 3:30 p.m., with a gallery talk.

See the poster for details.
Bridges Not Walls: The 101st Exhibition of Contemporary Art includes the works of six artists from other countries who have made their home in the United States. It follows the theme of the College’s quality enhancement plan, also titled “Bridges Not Walls,” which seeks to build students’ intercultural competency.

“It seemed to offer a lot of opportunity for us as a theme,” said Martha Johnson, director of the Maier. “There is an overabundance of great examples of people expressing themselves creatively, bringing with them all these different heritages.”

The new exhibition opens on Friday, August 31, at 3:30 p.m. when artist Sook Jin Jo will give a gallery talk, followed by a reception. Originally from Korea, her work follows themes of finding common ground in humanity. Her work in Bridges Not Walls is an installation art piece featuring empty frames hanging from the ceiling, as well as a video of her performance art Crossroads.

Most of the other artists represented in the exhibition will present gallery talks and participate in a panel discussion during the Heather Clark Berlind Symposium, Sept. 15–16.

The other artists include:

Edgar Endress
Born in Chilé, much of Endress’ art tells the story of people moving from one country to another, Johnson said. In Bridges Not Walls, he presents The Shrine of the American Dream, which features images from patent applications for inventions that never became successful, combined with wood from demolished homes.

Muriel Hasbun
Hasbun grew up in El Salvador during a civil war. Her father, a dentist, was often called upon to use dental X-rays to identify casualties during the war. Her work Ex Post Facto turns these X-rays into art. “These images had a very haunting kind of role, but they also are very beautiful abstractions,” Johnson said. “She sees them as inner landscapes of individuals who now are identified and remembered by these X-rays.”

Assaf Evron
Primarily a photographer, Evron will display pieces from a series of photographs that portray a phenomenon in his home country of Israel. Because of the price of scrap metal, many people fill shopping carts with scrap that they can sell. His photographs in this series portray these shopping carts and their shadows with background removed, making them appear as floating sculptures.

Kukuli Verlarde
Verlarde is from Peru and now lives in Philadelphia. Her art works include ceramic sculpture inspired by pre-Columbian imagery and life-size self-portrait paintings. “She explores different identities that are stereotypical identities of Peruvian women,” Johnson said. The Maier exhibition will include four of Verlarde’s self-portraits.

Jiha Moon
Compared to the other artists represented in Bridges Not Walls, Moon’s work involves more visual blending between American culture and her native culture. “She combines Korean imagery with American imagery and puts them together in a very playful way,” Johnson said. Moon now lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Johnson said the exhibition was originally inspired by the College’s 2010 exhibition, which included works from Korean artist Sang-Ah Choi. Randolph acquired Choi’s Welcome to America, a mixed-media piece that depicts immigrants being welcomed by Mickey and Minnie Mouse and surrounded by American cultural symbols. “A lot of her work is about her coming here and about her impressions of what life is like here,” Johnson said.

“It’s a very American thing,” she added. “Ultimately, we’re a country of immigrants. It’s an old story, but one I think we sometimes tend to forget.”

Friday, August 24, 2012

Outdoor adventure and service in Day 3 of first-year orientation

Erin Reilly ’16 steadies herself with the help of Randolph College
President John E. Klein while walking a tightrope.
On their third day of orientation, the Class of 2016 participated in a variety of activities designed to strengthen the students’ skills in teamwork, leadership, and service.

One group went to an outdoor adventure course where they completed several ropes activities, including a blind maze and a rope swing. Other groups went to service projects throughout the downtown and Rivermont areas of Lynchburg. Students performed service at the YMCA, Riverside Park, Amazement Square, the Jubilee Family Development Center, the Old City Cemetery, and Point of Honor.

Here are some pictures from the events, but you can find more in a photo album on the College’s Facebook page.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Class of 2016 participates in orientation

The class of 2016 has arrived, and about 180 first-year students are getting to know Randolph College during a four-day orientation.

Wednesday began with new students moving into the residence halls with the help of faculty, staff, and returning students. Several offices around the College held an open house to answer questions for new students and their families.

That afternoon, the first-year students and their parents met to hear from campus leaders about Randolph’s academic programs and college life.

Randolph College President John E. Klein reminisced about the days that he took his children to college. “It probably seems like only yesterday that you sent your son or daughter off to kindergarten,” he told the parents.

He acknowledged that the new students might feel conflicting emotions as they begin a new chapter of their lives, but he assured them that they are equal to the task. “Over the next four years, you will meet many faculty and staff members who will become your mentors, your support system, and your friends,” he said. “This is going to be a wonderful year, and we are very pleased that each of you chose to join us.”

Carl Girelli, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, welcomed the students with an explanation of the academic rigor that lies ahead of them. “Here, you'll be asked to seek out those ideas, concepts, disciplines, and skills that your mind may tell you are beyond you. We will help you meet those challenges and persevere.”

Matha Thornton, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, explained that part of belonging at Randolph College is the willingness to work with others in a diverse environment. “You belong to a community, and the community will flourish by making the success of others possible,” she said.

“It is my deepest hope that you will be affected profoundly by our community and that your attachment to Randolph will be meaningful,” Thornton said.

Tina Johnson ’93, director of the Experiential Learning Center (ELC), encouraged the students to make connections between what they learn in the classroom and other experiences in the world. She invited the students to visit the ELC for skills assessments, help seeking jobs and internships, study abroad, and other opportunities. “While the next four years will unfold in very different ways for each of you, know that we are all here to assist you.”

Orientation continued Thursday with more sessions to help new students learn about college life and the College’s traditions. On Friday, they will participate in activities including service projects, a ropes course, and an outdoor movie. Saturday is devoted to learning about and celebrating the school’s traditional and respected honor system.

Philadelphia Zoo internship proves ‘priceless experience’ for Randolph student

Sara Graul ’13 nurtured her love for animals during trips to The Philadelphia Zoo while she was growing up. So when she was given the opportunity to work there, it was too good to pass up.

This summer, Graul interned for the Philadelphia Zoo, the oldest chartered zoo in America. She ran educational stations where she taught zoo guests about conservation while also studying the animals and their habitats.

Sara Graul ’13 worked in education and research programs
in the Philadelphia Zoo this summer.
“This internship was a truly priceless experience that has affected me in a very powerful and positive way,” Graul said. “I have learned how challenging and rewarding it is to be on the front lines of educating people on matters of science and conservation.”

She applied for the position after Doug Shedd, a Randolph biology professor, gave her a list of websites where she could search for summer internships. “I knew that working at a zoo would give me a unique experience getting to work with animals and also closely working with people of all ages in education,” Graul said. “It also would expose me to the entire array of people that make a zoo function.”

She visited Randolph’s Experiential Learning Center for guidance in drafting her resume and application. Shedd provided a recommendation letter, and then Graul snagged the job after a phone interview.

Graul’s responsibilities included education and research. She helped run “exploration stations,” where visitors looked at artifacts and participated in games that taught lessons on conservation. One of the zoo’s major themes this summer was orangutan conservation, so many of her presentations focused on the importance of trees and the effects of palm oil plantations on orangutan habitats.

For the research portion of the internship, Graul was assigned to observe various animals and events to help with ongoing research projects. She also designed her own research, which investigated interactions between the zoo’s male and female rhinoceros hornbills, “Bob” and “Nancy.” She concluded that project with a research paper and three presentations to the public.

Graul said her college studies helped prepare her to get the most out of the internship. “The material that I’ve learned at Randolph allowed me to field questions that many others could not,” Graul said. “I was able to engage in thoughtful discussions with staff concerning important issues facing science today. I also had a solid foundation to start with, allowing me to really take advantage of the knowledge that was given to me at the zoo and also to be confident in teaching others the principles of biology and conservation.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Nursery School ready for new year, taking applications for limited seats in class

Randolph College Nursery School (RCNS) has been busy this summer. After hosting five week-long summer camps with themes such as science, construction, and camping, the teachers rearranged their classrooms just in time for the school walls to receive a fresh coat of paint.

Now, with a new class of eager learners scheduled for the roster, RCNS is prepared to begin another exciting year of classes on August 20. There is limited space available for students ages three and four.

RCNS uses the High Scope Curriculum, an instruction plan that focuses on child-led, play-based learning. It involves teaching many academic topics and social skills through real-life situations the students approach as they play, explained Holly Layne, director of the school.

The lessons share more than basic reading and math skills. “We teach them how to think critically and how to problem solve with another individual. They learn how to go through the steps of problem solving, brainstorming, and finding a solution. By the time they are in the senior class, they are working problems out on their own.

Enroll Your Child Now

Randolph College Nursery School has limited space available for preschool children. You can apply online.

“It is amazing to see two children work out a problem together,” Layne said.

The school has five teachers, including Layne, and enrolls around 30 students per year, (15 in each class) granting each student a significant amount of individual attention.

“We get to know those children and their families really well. They become our family, and we become part of their families,” Layne said. “We know the kids so well that we are able to really meet their needs.”

Children worked with real tools during a construction-themed
summer camp at Randolph College Nursery School.
The preschool was opened on the College campus 69 years ago. Throughout this year, the school will be preparing to celebrate its 70th school year beginning in 2013. While it is located on the Randolph College campus, and enrolls some children of staff and faculty, RCNS serves mostly students from outside the Randolph community. The school consistently receives a four-star rating from the Virginia Star Quality Initiative.

Layne said the school gains many advantages from being on a college campus. During the fall, students roll in leaves on Randolph’s front lawn or collect leaves and other items from nature. In the spring, they get to see chicken eggs hatch in the Organic Garden. There are many educational opportunities, too.

Earlier this year, a pre-kindergarten student came to Randolph College Nursery School with a seashell collected on a beach vacation. As the class examined the shell, Layne called one of the College’s biology professors, who offered to identify the shell and teach the class more about life in the ocean.

“No other school offers the opportunity to take the children to visit the biology labs on a whim,” Layne said. “I can’t say enough about how unique we are because of the College campus.”

Monday, August 13, 2012

Alumna chosen to moderate presidential debate

The second time that President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney take the stage to debate each other in person, one of our alumnae will take the stage to moderate the forum.

Candy Alt Crowley ’70 will moderate a town hall-style presidential debate on October 16. She will be the first woman to moderate a presidential debate in 20 years.

Crowley is chief political correspondent at CNN and anchor of State of the Union with Candy Crowley. She is no stranger to high profile political figures, covering numerous presidential campaigns and national political conventions.

Here is Crowley’s reaction as she shared it on a CNN blog:
“As someone who is in awe and grateful every day  to be  in a country where freedom of the press, free speech and free elections are a way of life, I am wowed, amazed and excited by the opportunity to moderate a 2012 presidential debate."
Crowley has returned to her alma mater several times to share her experiences with students and the community. She delivered the commencement address at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in 2002. After the 2008 election, she came to Randolph College to share insights about that presidential race.

It will be exciting to watch her play a role in the important process of a presidential debate!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lyric Opera internship provided great learning experience

Tierney Dickinson ’14 had thought about pursuing a career in arts administration, but she always wondered what the work would be like. This summer, she had the perfect opportunity to find out.

Dickinson interned at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, one of the most popular opera houses in the country. The Donald P. Baiocchi - Lyric Opera internship, which is funded by Amanda Clark Fox ’67 and her husband Matthew Fox, allowed her to participate in the day-to-day operations of an arts organization and see how the efforts of many people fit together.

“My internship was a great introduction to arts administration on the large scale,” Dickinson said.

She applied for the internship through Randolph’s Experiential Learning Center. She didn’t think she would be chosen, but soon after the interview,she was told to make plans for Chicago. “I couldn’t have been more pleased,” she said.

During the 10-week internship, Dickinson helped prepare for two of the Lyric Opera’s biggest fundraisers: Operathon, an all-day radio broadcast, and Fantasy of the Opera, a black-tie gala including a silent auction. She also helped with the administrative tasks of running two of the Opera’s neighborhood chapters and one of the boards in the nonprofit’s regulatory system.

“The people that I worked with were absolutely amazing and extremely supportive,” Dickinson said. “One of my favorite things about the intern program at Lyric was the effort that they put into teaching us how our work affected the big picture of what needed to get done for a successful season.”

Dickinson also joined other interns for weekly meetings with representatives from various departments, who taught them about tasks and responsibilities important in running an arts-centered nonprofit. “It was a great way to learn about how the company ran as a whole and about the different types of people and jobs that go into running a big company,” she said.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Physics research on roller coasters

Tim Slesinger ’14 boarded Dominator, a popular roller coaster at King’s Dominion that reaches nearly 70 miles per hour. Like other riders, he was seeking thrills from the speed, twists, turns, and dives.

Unlike others, he was seeking scientific data.

This year, Slesinger joined an ongoing research project on the physics of roller coasters. Several years ago, Peter Sheldon, a Randolph physics professor, and Kacey Meaker ’08 set out to use scientific equipment to measure the speed, acceleration, and other forces experienced by roller coaster riders. They have been working on a book that uses roller coasters to explain physics to a mass audience.
How does riding a roller coaster connect with scientific
research? Watch this video to learn how a Randolph professor,
student, and graduate explore the physics of roller coasters.

“The project started because I really like roller coasters,” said Meaker, now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California at Berkley.

As Dominator shot forward, Slesinger raised his hands in the air and cheered along with other riders. Meanwhile, an iPod Touch in his pocket recorded measurements from its accelerometer, an internal device that detects orientation and motion.

He said that his goal was to find out if the accelerometer could be used to perform inertial navigation—like a four-dimensional GPS that doesn’t need satellites.

Sheldon explained that airplanes and large boats use inertial navigation regularly with the help of expensive equipment that tracks exactly where they are—including latitude, longitude, and elevation—at any given point in time. But that equipment is so expensive that inertial navigation is out of reach for educational applications.

“Physics teachers have, for years, taken their students to ride roller coasters, but they really can’t do a lot of useful measurements,” Sheldon said. “We’re trying to develop a way to do inertial navigation on a small, less expensive scale. We’re trying to develop methods that would allow people to do this in the classroom.”

This summer, the research team rode roller coasters while carrying iPod Touches and gyroscopes as well as real inertial navigation equipment. Slesinger then compared readings from devices to determine whether the data from the accelerometer and gyroscope could map the same travel path recorded by the expensive equipment.

“Mostly, we want to be able to know that we can do inertial navigation with these devices,” Meaker said. Slesinger added that inertial navigation could have many applications in high school and college physics classes if it can be performed with affordable equipment.

The calculations showed that accelerometer data can map out an accurate path with enough computation, but this fall, the project will be continued in hopes of more detailed findings.

The Summer Research project was a good opportunity to learn more about the research process and practice computer programming, Slesinger said. It also strengthened his appreciation for the educational environment at Randolph College. “You really get to know professors here on a personal level,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like college, but it feels like family when you’re learning.”

Meaker agreed with that sentiment. “Every summer I’m lucky enough to get to come back,” she said. “It’s like I’m coming home.”

Monday, August 6, 2012

Preservation and restoration summer programs give student a peek into career possibilities

The past two summers have allowed Monica Varner ’14 to hold history in her hands—and to make sure future generations can do the same.

Varner has traveled twice to Italy to help restore Roman paintings and artifacts. This summer, she spent eight weeks working on conservation on a historic island off the Massachusetts coast. The hands-on experience with archeology and art history opened a new world for her, she said.

Monica Varner ’14, right, spent her summer working on restoration and conservation
projects in Italy and in Massachusetts through programs connected to Randolph.
“There are these fields which I had no idea existed before I came to Randolph,” said Varner, who is from Northern Virginia. “Art history usually consists of sitting in a class and looking at a PowerPoint presentation, but in these programs, I have been fixing art, sorting it, and putting it back together.”

In 2011, she participated in the inaugural Archeological Conservation Institute, a program that the Centro di Conservazione Archeologica (Center for Archaeological Conservation) and the renowned conservationist Roberto Nardi launched in collaboration with Randolph’s classics department. Varner and five other students helped sort through rubble in a Roman villa, relaying a floor mosaic and repairing a fresco painting.

This year, Varner and six other Randolph students participated in the program, continuing the restoration work. Varner took advantage of the College’s RISE program to help pay for the experience this year.

After returning to the United States, Varner traveled to Massachusetts for Preservation Institute: Nantucket. This program run by the University of Florida lets students assist in restoration and preservation projects in one of America’s oldest settlements. This year, Varner and Laura Shearer ’12, a recent Randolph graduate, participated in the institute. Varner’s involvement was funded through an internship provided by A.J. Land and Lynne Coppage Land ’60, who pay for a current Randolph student to attend the program each year.

The RISE program and the alumna-funded preservation internship let Varner pursue interests that might have escaped her otherwise. “I'm so grateful that we have an alumna that is willing to support that scholarship every year, allowing me to come, not worry about paying for it, and be able to learn,” she said.

In the first few weeks in Nantucket, Varner and other students listened to seminars by various scholars, who gave them insight into the activities and goals of professional archeologists and conservationists. Then, Varner was paired with another student for a research project in a historic home.

“Our main goal was to extensively catalog the 54 windows and exterior doors of the Boston-Higginbotham House, which is a 240-year-old home in the historically black area of Nantucket,” Varner said. She and her research partner drew each of the windows and doors, analyzed paint samples, and made recommendations for the home’s restoration and repair.

The Preservation Institute added to the knowledge and experience Varner had gained in Italy and helped her solidify thoughts about her future studies and career. She plans to pursue graduate studies in art history and conservation.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer research yields new online English test, insight into college writing preparedness

A rite of passage for most first-year college English students is the traditional test to assess the student’s skills with the language. At the beginning of the semester, students taking the test might read over a collection of sentences and indicate whether each sentence is grammatically correct.

This summer, a Randolph professor and student set out to make a better test for those purposes.

Bunny Goodjohn, director of the writing program, said that the College has been using an online English skills assessment test that was free and worked well—when it worked at all.

“The idea was brilliant, but the execution was patchy,” Goodjohn said. Often, the website that hosted the test stopped working. “So I wanted to see if I could come up with an equivalent that would give us the same results but that would be more reliable, and something that we could tailor to our own needs.”

Goodjohn and Lauren Dowdle ’13 decided to work on the idea during the Summer Research Program.

As part of their research, Dowdle studied trends in students’ preparation for college-level English courses. She collected journal articles about the topic, and she also analyzed statistics about SAT scores.

Average SAT scores have usually risen in recent years, but Dowdle discovered that a high SAT verbal score does not always mean someone can write at the college level. Through further research, including more than 30 interviews, she learned that many students feel like high school writing courses did not prepare them for what college courses required. “Many students aren’t prepared for the expectations of their professors,” she said. “In high school, grammar is not covered as much. I heard that a lot in my interviews.”

Goodjohn said that Dowdle’s research shows a disconnect between what high schools prepare students for and what college professors expect.

Goodjohn focused her research on finding a way to recreate an online English assessment test. With help from Randolph College Information Technology, she found a way to administer the test online with That platform has proven more reliable, she said.

Several Randolph English professors plan to start using Goodjohn’s assessment test this fall. Currently, the test uses the same questions as the free test formerly used by the College, but Goodjohn plans to rewrite them so that each sentence related to Randolph College, reflecting the College’s culture, history, and traditions.