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An Immersion Trip Q&A: Marlon Lewis ’20

Over Thanksgiving Break, art major Marlon Lewis ’20 went on his first immersion trip to Prague, Czech Republic to hand carve puppets with his Theater 303 class. In January, he will be leaving for South Africa for a semester-long study abroad program.

We sat down with Lewis to hear about his immersion experience and learn more about the Chicago-native’s desire to travel.

 

Marlon Lewis '20, far right, and the Theater 303 class in Prague

Marlon Lewis ’20, far right, and the Theater 303 class in Prague

Q: For starters, why puppets? And why Prague? What’s the connection there?

A: Our Theater 303 class spent the entire semester learning about Czech puppetry – it’s super connected to their culture. Puppetry has been around for a really long time. When the Czech Republic was under Habsburg rule, German was considered the official language of state, and Czech language and culture was suppressed. The traveling puppeteers continued to perform in Czech and helped the language survive through puppet shows. Over time, puppets have become a symbol to the country.

We went there specifically to make our own puppets with professional puppeteers. Over the semester, we designed our puppets, sent them out to the workshop, and got feedback from the puppet masters.

 

Q: Before your trip to Prague, had you ever been out of the country before?

A: No! I hadn’t even been on a plane for longer than two hours! When I came to Wabash from Chicago, I didn’t even think of leaving the country. I never thought I’d be in Prague, making a puppet. That was so surreal, yet I didn’t feel out of place. I could tell I was somewhere new, but it felt normal. I jumped right in and did my thing.

 

Q: Were you nervous?

A: I was nervous about getting lost. Not being able to talk to anybody. I didn’t know enough Czech to get by at all. I could wake up and say, “Good morning.” I could say, “Good day.” And I could say, “Thank you.” But I was also really looking forward to experiencing something that wasn’t American. I wanted to see a different perspective.

 

Lewis in the puppetry workshop in Prague

Lewis in the puppetry workshop in Prague

Q: What was the shop like where all of you worked?

A: People spend their entire life in puppetry and never get the chance to be in the shop where we worked. That shop has a waiting list!

When I heard that, I was like, “Dang!” We really felt special. And all I could think about was thanking Wabash for using my tuition in a way that I never would have thought of.

 

Q: How much of the trip did you spend working, and how often did you get to explore?

A: We went over there to do a job. We worked about 40 hours in the shop that week, so it felt like we were workers—not tourists. After our second day, I was wishing that we had the morning to go out and do stuff. To see things in the light. But then I realized that everyone else in the city is doing their job or going to school, so I wasn’t in broad daylight embarrassing myself, trying to figure out where to go!

 

Q: How different did it feel making a puppet in a workshop in Prague compared to something you create in one of your art classes?

A: It wasn’t a classroom. They were instructing you, but you were on your own. Even though we got a grade on what we made, it wasn’t a studio class where I felt like I was making it for the grade. I really felt like I was making it for me. The puppeteer we were working with is probably in the top five of all time. He brought in a top-10 master carver, who brought in another. To learn under them, to see their abilities, even though it was just for a few days, it was invaluable. Especially since I make art all the time. They taught me thought patterns that I’ll hold onto forever.

 

Lewis shows off his hand-carved creation in Lilly Library

Lewis shows off his hand-carved creation in Lilly Library

Q: How did you decide what type of puppet to make?

A: My puppet is a skeleton. At the beginning of class, we had to choose a Czech person to model our puppet after, and the guy I chose was from the 1800s. He was commissioned by a church to store and organize the bones. So it was like, “What could I do with you?” I’m kind of into the macabre thing. The beauty of it – making it beautiful. I can find positives in almost anything, so I thought I could make something really nice out of this.

So my skeleton is the protector of the ossuary (a room in which the bones of dead people are placed). My original idea was just a huge head. Arms and legs hanging out of the head – I didn’t want a torso or anything. But when I sent that out, the master carver said it would be too difficult for my first puppet.

(laughs) Now my puppet is in a black lining with gold lining and a gold chain.

 

Q: When you did get to explore, what was Prague like?

A: Prague, at least the parts we were in, wasn’t modern at all. They still have cobblestone roads. Most of what we walked on was cobblestone. Anthony (Williams ’20) and I found maybe two or three roads that were paved.

It’s such an old city compared to Chicago. The structure of the buildings felt similar with the ground level of the buildings being a shop and then people living on top – I see that all the time back home. But there’s really no space between the buildings. We barely have space between our houses back home. People in Indy are always like, “Why are the houses in Chicago so close?” In Prague, you couldn’t even walk between most of the buildings!

 

Q: Speaking of homes, we heard you all were able to meet with three alums who live in Prague!

A: Oh yeah, I was like, “What the heck?” I didn’t even know where Prague was before this class, and there were three! One alum has been out there going on eight years, and he left the day after his graduation. He initially was working with a church program, and now he works with a monastery. He’s also a football coach for the national Czech football team. Another is an English teacher, and he’s been out there for 3 years. They each gave us their own tour of the city, so that was nice.

It’s always fun to meet Wabash guys. We just all connect so easily. It was crazy to learn that there are people who know what we go through and people who have had similar experiences and are now living in Prague. If I ever want to come back, I know people here!

 

Q: Now that you’re back, you’re preparing to leave again. How are you feeling as you get ready to study in South Africa for a semester?

A: I honestly can’t wait. I’m so excited for it. That’s really why I was so glad to be part of this class. I was about to be gone for half a year, and I hadn’t even been out of the country for a day! I had no idea what that was going to be like. This trip helped me understand the mindset I’ll have to have as I travel and gave me an idea of some of the challenges I’ll face.

My goal after college is to travel, meet people, and help them better understand each other. Help people become more connected. Whenever anyone asks what I want to do, I always say, “Save the world.” But I have to explore it first.


WLAIP Gives Everyone Time to Reflect, Including Professors

Former Visiting Assistant Professor of English Andrew Klein – This year’s Wabash Liberal Arts Immersion Program has come to a close, and I’m humbled by the dedication and enthusiasm with which these 23 young men have met the challenges of the past month.

The program left a particularly strong impression on me this year as it was both the first time I’ve worked with students in the program and the last time I will teach here at Wabash.

Former Visiting Assistant Professor of English Andrew Klein

Former Visiting Assistant Professor of English Andrew Klein

I’m told students tend to approach this program with trepidation and, in some cases, outright resistance to the idea of losing their last summer at home with friends and family. So, it was gratifying to hear so many them write of the reversal of those sentiments over the course of the month upon discovering deep friendships, confident mentors, and a wellspring of intellect and academic potential within themselves. I was proud to hear my students, who only a month earlier had been dancing at their high school prom, embracing the critical self-awareness needed for them to seize their college education and to get the most out of the next four years.

Dr. Crystal Benedicks and I were responsible for the English 101 course. From July 1 to July 26, we guided our students through spirited discussion and an intensive reading and writing schedule. We asked our students to assess honestly their prior relationship with reading and writing, to examine critically the educational models they had known since kindergarten, and to explore their own personal credo or guiding question as they moved forward into a new semester and a new life.

This process of meditating on their past, present, and future gave these students what so many of us need but fail to find before committing to our next Big Thing: time to reflect.

Hearing the students encapsulate this reflective process in their final audio essays taught me the value of encouraging students to locate themselves within their studies. They described how this experience had taught them that their success going forward would hinge not on departure from their past – a past often painted with the vivid colors of their home and family life – but on embracing and uniting their new ventures with their old traditions.

Listening to these students’ final words, recorded just a day before the program ended, I was struck by how quickly their morphed into certainty. That, here at Wabash, they will take control of their lives and achieve their dreams. One student spoke of his eagerness to develop freely his ideas in dialogue with caring teachers. Another wrote of how he could pursue his education without the shame he’d felt initially about expressing himself and his ideas. All of the students found some reason to be hopeful and confident where before they had been skeptical and unsure.

If we are able to move students to feel this way before their first semester has even begun, then I consider what we’ve all accomplished this summer a job well done.

And I do mean “all” — the WLAIP works well not only thanks to the enthusiasm of its professors and students to work together but also to the guidance of others. Dr. Robert Horton, Dr. Zachery Koppelman, and other faculty were a constant, supportive presence, and together we created a productive environment that was intense for the students but not overwhelming. However, it was the student mentors and writing tutors who were exceptionally vital to this course. I saw not only our new students improve and grow, but I saw more senior students rise to the occasion and readily adopt roles of leadership and mentorship.

I left the course changed myself —invigorated by what I had learned from these students and how we as instructors can offer guidance, newly aware of how important a student’s background can be to how we approach our courses, and, what’s more, looking forward to how I might take this experience and pay it forward at my next position at a liberal arts college in Canada.

2018 WLAIP participants

2018 WLAIP participants

WLAIP is a powerful reminder of the effectiveness of the intensive, student-centered education for which Wabash is best known. And those who come through it ought to be particularly proud of their achievement.

So congratulations to Cristian, Luis, Jorge, Clarke, Emiliano, Jayden, Davionne, Ali, Johnny, Sammy, Jose, Marco, Gianni, Jonathan, Eddie, Gerald, Chris, Mike, Jesus, Walter, Leo, Elijah, and Eli. You have much to be proud of this summer, and Wabash gains so much by having you here. Congrats as well to Anthony, Leon, Ra’Shawn, Corey, John, and Kike — mentors and tutors whom Wabash is also lucky to have.

Here’s to next year’s WLAIP!


OLAB: A Herzog Family Tradition

Matchmaking and marriages. Children and grandchildren.

Tobey Herzog has seen it all during his time with OLAB, the Opportunities to Learn About Business summer program, and that’s just from his own family!

OLAB is a one-week hands-on introduction to business and the market economy for young women and men entering their senior year in high school. Now in its 46th consecutive year at Wabash, the program’s success is known nationwide.

Professor of English Emeritus Tobey Herzog

Professor of English Emeritus Tobey Herzog

In 1978, Tobey began his time as an OLAB instructor teaching about writing job applications. He later taught advertising and marketing and worked with OLAB until 2010.

“I really enjoyed interacting with the high school students in that environment because they were highly motivated,” Tobey said. “I liked watching the students take the material I taught them and put together their own ads and campaigns. Plus, it was a nice change of pace.”

OLAB marketing campaigns featuring children often included Tobey’s then young sons, Rob and Joe.

And when they were both old enough, Rob and Joe went from the instructor’s kids to participants to OLAB counselors.

Joe’s wife, Marci, also went through OLAB.

Then there’s Rob’s wife, Beth. She didn’t attend OLAB as a high school student, but her connection to the program makes this family’s story even more interesting.

Rob was living in Washington D.C. and studying at Georgetown, when he came home one weekend for a wedding.

That evening, he had plans to reconnect with his former OLAB counselor Greg Shaheen, who has now worked with OLAB in various capacities for more than 30 years.

“When he showed up at my house,” Greg recalled, “we started talking about the wedding, and he said he had hit it off with one of the bridesmaids (Beth). He said something along the lines of, ‘If I lived in Indiana, she would likely be the one.’

“I looked at him and said, ‘Then why are you here with me??’”

At that, Greg made Rob change their original plans and drove him up to Culver, Indiana, where Beth was working at her relatives’ root beer stand.

OLAB was two weeks away, and the program was short a female counselor that year.

“So I hired Beth on the spot,” Greg said.

“Beth had no idea what the program was even about,” Tobey laughed. “Greg was doing this for Rob and Beth. That was his motivation.”

Mia Herzog

Mia Herzog, bottom right

Tobey had no idea he was working with his future daughter-in-law that week, but he said that week allowed him to see how great she is.

Rob and Beth later married, and – of course – Greg was in their wedding. Now their oldest daughter, Mia, is participating in OLAB this week.

“It’s become somewhat of a family tradition: Herzog-related people go to OLAB,” Tobey said. “It’s a rite of passage in the family, and I’m really excited that Mia’s here.”

“And they owe it all to me,” Greg laughed.

“But sincerely, it is really cool to see how everything has come full circle.”


Part of the Family

There I was, sitting in the grass on the Mall, surrounded by a sea of black gowns, trying not to let my red pants be a distraction from the Commencement ceremony.

With Garrard McClendon '88

With Garrard McClendon ’88 in Chicago

My job is to let everyone see what I see – through stories, photos, and social media – but I always tell people to pretend I’m not there. (Red pants probably don’t help with that.)

In one of the moments that day when I lowered my camera from my eyes, I caught Sam Gellen ’18 wave at me as he got in line to get his diploma. I smiled and gave him a thumbs up, and, in that moment, I realized how much I’m rooting for these guys.

My first Wabash Commencement was last year after I had worked at the College for about six months. I had met several students, but I didn’t really know them. This year was different.

Every week this past school year, I had the opportunity to write about a different student. Even though our interviews lasted at most 45 minutes, I consistently walked away feeling like I had seen a different side of each student than I was prepared for.

When we got past what they thought I wanted to hear from a marketing perspective, they really opened up. Some of them shared funny stories, others shared heartbreak. Some of them talked about their achievements, and others talked about learning from their failures.

They made me laugh. They made me cry. And more than once, they made my day.

  • When Henry WebberHunt ’18, who loves fish, learned about my deep hatred of sea creatures, he told me I needed therapy.
  • Ra’Shawn Jones ’20 got so excited talking with me about his baby niece that he showed me several photos of her on his phone.
  • One night when I was taking pictures and completely focused, Byshup Rhodes ’19 came up behind me to say hi and made me almost drop my camera.
  • Jayvis Gonsalves ’18 congratulated me on my marriage when he saw an email come from the same Christina who had been emailing him before but now had a different last name.
  • Jake ’18 and Nick Budler ’19 competed with me in a GIF competition on Twitter.
  • Brock Heffron ’19 ran over on the football sidelines to give me a high five one day when I was taking photos at football practice.
  • And, more than once, members of the Sphinx Club have been more than willing to make fools of themselves to help me with social media.

I think I’ve watched more sporting events at Wabash in a year and a half than I did during my four years at my alma mater.

I attended my first Oaken Bucket game last year, and I was quite unimpressed by the size of the prize. I mean, come on. We have a 300-pound bell.

When my husband wanted to do a chemical reaction instead of a unity candle for a wedding ceremony, it was Wabash Professor Laura Wysocki who helped make it happen.

That same day, when our best man brought our car around for us to leave, Post-It notes of all colors covered the entire vehicle. Everyone there thought it was the bridal party. I knew better. What I was looking at was the prank the rest of the Wabash Communications and Marketing team had been planning since they received their invitations.

At the 2016 Monon Bell game

At the 2016 Monon Bell game

And it was Garrard McClendon ’88 who helped me plan my anniversary trip to his city of Chicago exactly one year later.

Sitting there in the grass on Commencement Day, I began to think about the Wabash community – the Wabash family.

I had written about it.

I had photographed it.

I had tweeted about it.

But it took me until that moment to realize…I’m a part of it.


Gunther’s Research Not So Black-and-White

Associate Professor of and Chair of Psychology Karen Gunther wanted to be an artist when she grew up.

In junior high, she decided she was better suited for science or math, but she never let her creative side wane. After knitting and sewing with both of her grandmothers almost her entire life, Gunther picked up quilting while studying biopsychology at Oberlin College.

Associate Professor of Psychology Karen Gunther

“I wanted to somehow combine quilting with science,” Gunther said, “so I ended up studying color vision.”

Gunther says it’s fun “immersing” herself in color, and her passion for her work even extends to her personal life.

The wedding rings for her and her husband, who is also a vision scientist, were designed based on their field of study. Coral, chrysoprase, and lapis stones were used to symbolize the three cones found in the retina – red, green, and blue, respectively. Onyx lines are on the sides of their rings, which are similar to the stimuli the couple uses in their research.

After recently receiving a grant worth more than $200,000 from the National Science Foundation, Gunther’s research is about to expand.

“Vision scientists have recently determined that the retina routes the cone signals into three ‘cardinal color’ pathways: red vs. green, bluish vs. yellowish and black vs. white,” Gunter explained. “But how do people perceive colors beyond the six cardinal colors – the ‘non-cardinal’ colors?”

The grant will fund three years of research, as well as summer interns for Gunther, but it was a long process to get to this point.

Gunther applied for the grant in August 2017. In early December, she received an email from the NSF that she had not uploaded a title slide for her grant.

The couple's wedding rings

The couple’s wedding rings

“This meant they were going to discuss my grant and put the slide up during the discussion,” Gunther said. “This was great news because my last NSF submission was rejected before discussion and they liked my grant enough to let me still submit the title slide!”

And though the waiting period was long, Gunther said she never stressed.

“Because the primary expectation of Wabash faculty is to teach, with secondary emphasis on research, my job wasn’t relying on the grant as it would have been at more research-intensive schools. Some researchers at other schools are on “soft” money, which means they need to get grants to get their salaries. I wanted the grant, it would be satisfying, it would fund more summer interns, but I wouldn’t lose my job without it.”

 

 

 


Understanding the Harmonies of the Wabash Glee Club

Being at Wabash not quite a year, I still find that I’m in the ‘I don’t know what I’m getting myself into’ stage quite often.

It’s how I felt before I took pictures in various classrooms last spring, knowing I probably wouldn’t have the slightest clue as to what the professors would be talking about.

It’s how I felt last week when I experienced Wabash Homecoming festivities for the first time. (As much as students tried, nothing could prepare me for being inside the ropes on the Mall the moment that Chapel Sing began.)

Yesterday, however, as I walked from Hovey Cottage to the Allen Center for the first evening of rehearsals for the Glee Club’s 125th Reunion, I thought I knew what I was getting into there.

Wabash Glee Club began rehearsals Thursday for their 125th Reunion on Saturday.

Wabash Glee Club began rehearsals Thursday for their 125th Reunion on Saturday.

Being a singer and a former member of a competitive choir, I understand spending long hours with the same group of people. I understand how well you can get to know someone on long trips. Therefore, I thought I understood the Glee Club.

But the more I watched alumni come down the stairs to Knowling Fieldhouse, oftentimes greeted with a huge embrace, I began to understand that these aren’t just former Glee Club members who are coming back. They’re not just old friends, either. For many, they’re best friends. For others, they’re brothers.

Leave it to Associate Professor of Music and former member David Blix ’70 to figure out what’s about the Glee Club makes their relationships seem so special.

“The music. When you sing together as a group, you have to learn to listen to the other guys,” he explains. “Not only the guys in your section but all the other sections going on. I’m wondering if just that basic activity of listening to how the parts come together and how the music works doesn’t somehow sharpen or deepen the human relationships. I think it does.”

Rob Shook '83 and Kaz Koehring '18

Rob Shook ’83 and Kaz Koehring ’18

One perfect example of the incredible bonds that can come out of the Wabash Glee Club would be NAWM President Rob Shook ’83 and Kaz Koehring ’18.

“We met in Glee Club when he came to visit the fall of my freshman year and we stayed in touch a little bit,” Koehring said. “But then we went on tour to Texas that spring. We’re Lambda Chi brothers and ended up riding together some place in the car. It was only 20-30 minutes, but I was able to share some of the things about my mom. I cried a little bit. We hugged each other. That was probably the moment that we became best friends.”

As president of the alumni association, Shook tries to connect with as many students as he possibly can. But he connected with Koehring at the very time that Koehring needed a constant in his life. And that’s what Shook became.

“We talk all the time,” Koehring said. “I can share anything I want with Rob. I was talking to him earlier about creating a family. And he is my family.”

As I sat on the risers Thursday and watched nearly 100 current and former Wabash Glee Club members rehearse together, a family was exactly what I saw.

It was evident each time a current Glee Club member helped a former member with a piece a music he already knew or when two friends couldn’t stifle their laughter anymore and simply lost it.

So to the Wabash Glee Club members, past and present, preparing for the big concert tomorrow, I say: Happy Family Reunion.