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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mini-Grants Recap: Link Up's Sister to Sister 2015 Conference

Students reflect on the opportunities provided to them by the Rockefeller Center's Mini-Grants program through this ongoing series. The Mini-Grants program funds registration fees for students attending conferences relevant to the Rockefeller Center's mission as well as the costs of bringing speakers to the Dartmouth campus.

Link Up's Sister to Sister conference is a day-long retreat for seventh grade girls to discuss the many issues confronting young women such as health and fitness, self-confidence, and relationships with friends and family. This year’s conference focused on the theme of "Standing up and Speaking Out." 2015's conference included 122 girls from six middle schools in the Upper Valley, which was a large increase from the 2014 conference, which had only four middle schools. We included new activities including interactive skits for the girls to present a right and wrong response to different situations of bullying.

Sister to Sister 2015 conference participants gather for a group photograph.

I learned so much through planning Sister to Sister 2015, and it was an invaluable experience for all involved. First, I learned about the various logistics involved with planning a conference of this size and magnitude. The key to the success of the conference was starting to prepare very early on by noting what was and was not successful from Sister to Sister 2014. Link Up has already began to talk about Sister to Sister 2016, and I know that this will be essential to making next year's conference even more successful than this year’s. Further, it was so important that we were able to receive input from so many different people involved with the conference. We sent out surveys to the facilitators asking for feedback and we used the 2014 feedback to improve this year’s conference. Additionally, all of the Link Up executives reviewed and edited the schedule for the conference. All of this collaboration ensured that the program for the day was looked at from a variety of perspectives and therefore we could try to cover all important topics for middle school girls.

Facilitator Anne Smith '16 leads her group of girls in an interactive anti-bullying skit.

The conference itself was incredibly invaluable, and the benefits were huge for all involved in Sister to Sister. Middle school is a period charged with emotion, confusion, and feelings of loneliness, and our conference attempts to inspire confidence and empower the individual students. This year, we focused the conference around "Standing Up and Speaking Out," and had the program of the day centered around empowering these seventh grade girls. Moreover, we were hoping to create something sustainable. We hope to create a network of hundreds of young women all across the Upper Valley from six different schools that will feel connected and supported by their peers and want to provide that same support in return. In order to do that, we encouraged the girls to sign one another's provided t-shirts and write letters of self-reflection about the conference, letters they will receive next year as eighth graders. We’re creating a community that will hopefully follow them well past their eighth grade graduation.

WISE's Kate Rohdenburg leads a talk on positive body image.

In addition, we invited a multitude of Dartmouth students to participate and give back to the Upper Valley community. Prior to the event, students participated by crafting inspirational quote books that were distributed to the girls in their goodie bags. Students also helped to assemble goodie bags that consisted of a t-shirt, an inspirational quote book, a bracelet, a pin, and candy. At the actual event, we had several Dartmouth students dressed in flair greet the girls and guide them to Alumni Hall, where the conference took place. We also invited 20 female Dartmouth students to lead the event as facilitators, and their role was to guide discussion at their tables of seven seventh grade girls throughout the day. We had four female Dartmouth students share their experiences through a panel that was followed by a highly interactive question and answer period.

Link Up is so grateful to the Rockefeller Center for providing us with a mini-grant that allowed us to expand our programming. It is so important to us that Sister to Sister comes at no cost to the girls and the schools involved. Thank you Rocky!

-Written by Sarah Han '17

Monday, June 29, 2015

Recognizing Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant May Nguyen '18

In this series, the Rockefeller Center features our Student Program Assistants, student staff who contribute significantly to the success of the Center’s events, programs, and activities.

May Nguyen '18 started working at the Rockefeller Center from the fall of her first year at Dartmouth. She is a Student Photographer, a position which entails going to the many events and programs that are hosted by the Center on a regular bases. At these events, May takes pictures which she then screens and submits to be used in the Rockefeller Center’s blog posts, brochures, bulletin boards and other promotions.

Student Photographer May Nguyen '18.

Photography has always been a passion for May, so working at the Rockefeller Center was a great way for her to pursue her passion. In the months that she has worked at the Center, May has gained a lot more than just a further pursuit of photography. She explains the best thing about being a photographer at the Rockefeller Center is that "I will always get to listen in on very interesting lectures and meet the different speakers. Most of the time I learn a lot just from standing there and actively listening to what is going on. It is really fun for me. That is the best part."

The Rockefeller Center has also been an integral part of May’s learning process at Dartmouth. She explains that working at the Center has made her more aware of the world and led her to think about how to be a leader. She explains "I would say I am more aware of issues such as diversity, self awareness, and leadership because of Rocky...I heard a lot of those qualities being emphasized at the Center, and I feel like leadership is a core value at Rocky. It always reminds me that I have to be a leader and I have to be self aware."

Elizabeth Celtrick, May's supervisor and Assistant Director of Co-Curricular Programs at the Rockefeller Center, explains that May has become an essential part of the Center’s student staff. She says that "May is a super photographer and it’s rare to see her without her camera...The Rockefeller Center needs quality photos for our website and blog, printed materials, and on the Center’s numerous bulletins boards. You will find May’s work on all of these. I have to remind myself that she is an '18, because it seems like she’s been part of the Rocky photographer staff for much longer than that. We really have come to depend on her so much. I look forward to having her work for us for years to come."

Apart from all of her great experiences at the center, May also explains that she has made a lot of good friends at the Center. She says, "My friends at Rocky are super friendly and I am really glad that I met them." May intends to major in Economics modified with Computer Science.

-Written by Niamé Daffé ’18, Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Public Program: Q&A with David Leonhardt, Editor of The Upshot for the New York Times

Before his talk, "Struggling Toward Meritocracy: The Need for Economic Diversity at Top Colleges," on Wednesday, May 20, Courtney Wong ’15 sat down with David Leonhardt for an interview.

David Leonhardt is a columnist at The New York Times and the editor of The Upshot, a Times website covering politics, policy and other subjects. The recipient of the Pulitzer Price for commentary in 2011, David joined The Times in 1999 as a staff writer and then became the newspaper’s Washington Bureau Chief. He is also the author of the e-single, "Here’s the Deal: How Washington Can Solve the Deficit and Spur Growth," an Amazon.com and New York Times bestseller. He graduated with a degree in applied mathematics from Yale University, where he served as the editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News. 

David Leonhardt of The New York Times lectures on the need for economic diversity at top colleges.

Courtney Wong (CW): In the digital age where newspaper print is becoming more obsolete, The Upshot is a really interesting initiative by The Times that combines online news and data visualization. Why is it so important that we embrace data visualization?

David Leonhardt (DL): To me, the whole job of journalism is to describe reality, let people understand what’s going on in the world, give them facts and perspective, and allow them to connect the dots. Data are among the most powerful tools we have for describing reality. We are lucky that we live in a time when we can get access to vastly more data than we used to have.

When I think about stories I’ve written recently, a whole one part of the process would have been identical to when I first joined the NY Times in 1999. I would have interviewed real people who helped illustrate the trends and findings, and written up some words and quotes, so most of it is basically unchanged. The rest of it is completely revolutionized and so much better. A decade ago, there would have been a little black and white chart that ran on the side of my page that would have illustrated Georgia a different shade of gray than Illinois. And now you can hover over a [digital] map and say, "Oh look, that county is different than this one." The fact that we have more data and that we can use it in new ways, our ability to describe reality is much richer than ever before. We do all these things today that literally would have been impossible a decade ago.

CW: What are the most important obstacles we need to tackle in order to make college more accessible or affordable to low-income groups?

DL: The issues are really different depending on what segment of higher education you are talking about. At colleges like Dartmouth, it's mostly a matter of will on behalf of the institution. That relatively small group of colleges has enough money to do this, and in fact by and large is already doing it. However, they’re not doing it perfectly. The main issue is that they are not recruiting or admitting as many talented, qualified low-income students as are out there. It’s more costly to do so because it means you are spending less money on a building or department, but these colleges generally have the money.

At most colleges, however, the bigger issue is completion rates. They are enrolling an economically more diverse set of students than the Ivy League is, but their graduation rates are lower. When you look at the data of the graduation rates of low-income students at Ivy League colleges, they tend to do very well.

There is a ton of attention on cost as an issue, but I actually don’t think it’s the number one issue. The fact is that the average college graduate today graduates with $25,000 in debt, which is a sum that you can repay with a college diploma. The bigger problem is when students leave with $15,000 in debt and no degree.

CW: You wrote in an article last year that the data clearly state that a college education is "worth it," ("Is College Worth It? Clearly, New Data Say." NY Times, 27 May 2014). But does it matter what kind of college you attend?

DL: I think that the number one thing is that you want to make sure you go to a place where the odds of graduation are high. If you go to college and don’t graduate, it’s a bad deal. People don’t pay enough attention to that. I think when people are deciding among colleges, they don’t even know what the graduation rate is. It also matters where you go to college because colleges are different (economics aren’t everything), and you should go to a college that fits what you want.

CW: You also wrote, "At some point, 15 years or 17 years of education will make more sense as a universal goal," ("Is College Worth It? Clearly, New Data Say." NY Times, 27 May 2014). Do we need more years of education, or do we need to improve the composition and quality of our education?

DL: I think both. There was a time in which people thought high schools should just be for the elite. Now no one says, "Well is high school for everybody?" The economy is vastly more complex than in the day we decided everyone should at least go through 12th grade, so it seems to me only natural that people should go through something longer than that. Is it 15th grade? Is it 17th grade? I would lean towards 17th grade as a goal, but I recognize that it’s okay if we don’t get there for everybody.

One thing I will say is that the people who usually make the argument that not all kids need to go to college tend to send their own kids to college. I think that’s a tip-off that actually aspiring to a 4-year college is the rational thing for the vast majority of the population.

CW: Getting into an Ivy League school, or any competitive university, is becoming more difficult. Is this competitiveness harmful to our society?

DL: I think that it’s probably not healthy, but I don’t think it cracks the list of society’s biggest problems. But having said that, I don’t think it’s healthy. It’s important for people to realize that college is a wonderful experience and it’s deeply important, but we’ve gotten to a point where we’ve exaggerated the differences between different colleges. As a result, a certain segment of the population (upper and middle classes) has turned the college process into something that should be a combination of something joyful and anxiety-producing into something that’s overwhelmingly anxiety-producing. We should dial it back a little and stress less.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mini-Grants Recap: Annual Multidisciplinary Conference at Harvard University

Students reflect on the opportunities provided to them by the Rockefeller Center's Mini-Grants program through this ongoing series. The Mini-Grants program funds registration fees for students attending conferences relevant to the Rockefeller Center's mission as well as the costs of bringing speakers to the Dartmouth campus.

The view from outside the conference center.

Recently I attended the Annual Multidisciplinary Conference at Harvard University, where I presented my research on Hemingway as a political philosopher. This conference was a very valuable experience to me because I really got to see a full range of perspectives on issues, not to mention some really interesting feedback on my work. The Annual Multidisciplinary Conference was incredibly diverse, with many scholars from all over the world. I was able to meet people from Nigeria, Turkey, Romania, Italy, and more and discuss their findings and passions. It was so fascinating to see the array of perspectives. One scholar, for instance, was studying the portrayal of women across various countries' media circuits. It was so interesting to see how waves of feminism vary and coincide across nations.

Megan Bogia prepares for her presentation.

Later in the conference, I presented my work on Hemingway, namely perspectives on patriotism in his novels. Afterwards, I talked with professors about how notions of patriotic choice versus obligation compare to rising rebel groups in Egypt, whether they qualify as patriotic, and if so in what forms. Overall, I had a fantastic time not only applying my research and engaging with my work via new lenses, but also doing the same with research from around the world. I'm very grateful to the Rockefeller Center for the experience.

-Written by Megan Bogia '15

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Recognizing Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant Abigail Chen '17

In this series, the Rockefeller Center features our Student Program Assistants, student staff who contribute significantly to the success of the Center’s events, programs, and activities.

As an intended major in Computer Science, Abigail Chen '17 did not expect to be involved with the Rockefeller Center in the way she is now. Abigail started working at the Center last term as a Student Photographer, a position that sees her attending the many public programs, lectures, workshops and student discussion panels to capture pictures of the different events. Photography is a long time hobby of Abigail’s, and she is glad to be able to pursue this hobby at Dartmouth. She explains "Photography is something that I really enjoy and being able to apply it in a way that is useful for a lot of people is really gratifying for me."

Student Photographer Abigail Chen '17. Photo by Tim Serkes.

Abigail really enjoys how the Rockefeller Center gives her an interdisciplinary experience. She explains that "working for the Center gives me a chance to meet different people and a chance to have different experiences that I would not otherwise have and has allowed me to stay in contact with a lot of friends that I would not have otherwise met who are really cool people."

Many of the Student Program Assistants at the Rockefeller Center have expressed that the center has become more than just a place of work for them but also a place where they have met new people and forged new friendships. This component has been an integral part of Abigail’s experience at the Center.

Abigail’s supervisor, Elizabeth Celtrick, Assistant Director of Co-Curricular Programs, says that "Abigail inquired about working at Rocky at the beginning of Winter Term at the exact moment we were in need of another photographer. The timing couldn’t have been better. I talked to her about the job, and I think she was photographing an event the very next day. She just jumped right in and has been such a valuable member of the team ever since."

-Written by Niamé Daffé '18, Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant