Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Welcome home. Look around."

By Ashlie Busone '13

After a lifetime of looking directly in front of me, three months in Tanzania taught me to look around.

Twenty-five hours in the air, one night in a dirty Dar es Salaam hostel, three hours on a crowded bus with chickens and children alike being passed along my lap, a short dala dala ride, and a long walk to the end of a dark red dirt road . . .

There’s a wall there.

There’s a what, where? With over 50 pounds of donated school supplies and tie-dyed t-shirts, and a pack on my back full of three months'-worth of life . . . I wasn’t exactly prepared to scale a large cement wall. So my traveling partner’s stark observation came as an unwelcome challenge.

Sijui, she told me. I don’t know.

Well, that’s great, I thought, staring up at the wall that separated us, clay stained feet and all, from the house we were supposed to move into for the summer. Neither do I.

I contemplated pulling out my trusty Lonely Planet Tanzania guide and scanning the index for “what to do if there’s a literal wall between you and your home,” hoping to find some helpful piece of wisdom like “use the other half of your boarding pass and the dental floss your mother made you pack to construct a pulley system and hoist yourself over the thing,” or “call the Lost Backpacker’s Hotline and ask for Juma, the wall remover—remember to say ‘asante!’”

Instead we called Mustafa, a local friend who found us and laughed for just a few minutes in the traditional Tanzanian way before effortlessly hoisting our bag full of donations onto his head, and gently leading us around the wall and through a neighboring field, over a hill and into our compound. He acted as our gardener, our guard and our source of entertainment for the duration of our stay in Morogoro. Mustafa helped us navigate many more roads, and guided us down paths we never could have found in the first place.

It was the first moment he arrived, though, that struck me. Mustafa’s smile told me he understood our frustration. He could see past our smirks and into our fear. It was as if he could hear the little voices screaming inside my head. The ones that doubted my ability to teach, and laughed at my reasons for “giving up” a summer to volunteer, as well as questioned the validity of our purpose at SEGA, the school we’d be working with. He could probably even hear the jumbled Swahili–English phrases floating around in my mind that resulted in mass confusion (not just for me, but for all of my partners in conversation).

Yes, Mustafa could hear all those voices, but somehow they didn’t prevent him from understanding our attempts (in broken Swahili) to relate to him. He simply took our hands and led us to the place we could figure things out. He situated us among our fears, our anxieties and our challenges, and helped us cultivate a life of beauty for ourselves that made sense among the confusion and the chaos. This was mostly ironic, because we thought we had gone to Tanzania to help people like him do that. We had spent our lives looking up, but he had an innate ability to look around and help those wearing virtual peripheral blinders.

Mustafa’s gesture offered more than a guidebook. At first glance, the photograph above might look like any other: two friends in a field full of flowers in the East African bush . . . frolicking and “changing lives,” and all that it may entail. But in reality, this walk was the beginning of a beautiful adventure into a Tanzanian summer full of lessons. His was the voice that told us “you’ve come home,” and welcomed us as whole people—anxiety and all.

Along with how to eat ugali, how to fashion a headscarf out of a khanga, what to say in response to “habari gani?” and where to go to get a new passport, I’ve learned that when you reach a wall in your path, what you need is someone who will help you look around. The people you thought you’d come to reach will find you first. They will (quite literally) carry you home.

Instead of saying “kwaheri” or “goodbye” to Tanzania, I ended up saying “karibu,” which means “welcome.” Welcome to a new stage in your life, to a new place on the map, to a new way of thinking, loving, and feeling. Welcome home. Look around.

Ashlie Busone '13 is a a Pike scholar majoring in Spanish from Ballston Lake, NY, and is the founder and president of Hippies for Hope.


Monday, September 24, 2012

27th Annual International Coastal Clean-up

The 27th annual International Coastal Clean-up is a coast-wide effort to clean up debris and trash on beaches and document the collected items for marine statistics and pollution research. 

Last weekend Gordon College students and faculty from the Biology Department partnered with the Trustees of Reservations and Crane Beach in Ipswich to help in this international marine effort. Students assisted with bags in hand, gloves for protection and marine stat worksheets for their documentation. The six students and two faculty members (Dr. Dorothy Boorse and Dr. Craig Story) collected items throughout the day.

"We found mostly food wrappers, cigarette filters, and bottle caps, but also found some unusual items like a glow stick and spray nozzle for a hose," said Megan Means, a senior biology major from Colorado, who helped organize the event this year. "When I volunteer for a Coast Sweep, I feel a connection with something greater than myself. Cleaning the beach is a way I can say thank you to nature for sharing its beauty with me." Means volunteered for her first Coastal Clean-up as a first-year student at Gordon. Now this college senior has participated for three years. 
Crane Beach began partnering with Ocean Conservancy in the late 80's and Gordon College over the last decade. Garry Dow heads the Crane Education program for the Crane Estate. "Gordon's faculty are a great addition to an event like this," said Dow who reported over 50 people came out this year from across the community. "They care not just about the event, but find ways to make the experience more tangible and valuable to the classroom experience." The collected data will be submitted to Ocean Conservancy where the data is analyzed and used to develop programs aimed at reducing marine debris worldwide.

"Coast sweep is a perfect marriage for Biology programs like Gordon's," said Dow. " Every volunteer is given a data card and on that card they record every bit of marine debris collected. We tabulate the local results and hand them over to the regional post at UMass Boston. It's extremely quantifiable--It gives us, and students studying marine science a really good sense of what's floating around in our local waters."

Over the past 25 years, more than 8.5 million people have crossed nearly 300,000 miles collecting 144 million pounds of trash. "Gordon's students went out for a long time," remarked Dow. "They are everything you hope for in a volunteer – the students are trustworthy, polite and know why they are here. I wish there were more local organizations this committed to the environment. It's nice to know we can count on Gordon every year to show up with a van full of students and professors."

Following their service, the crew at Crane Beach and the Trustees of the Reservation hosted a BBQ to thank this year's volunteers.

Photo 1: Gordon Professor Dr. Dorothy Boorse inspecting some of the materials collected at Crane Beach. Photo 2:Gordon volunteers and Trustees of Reservations staff member Garry Dow enjoy a cookout together following their service at Coastal Clean-up.  


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Part of a Larger Vision: Student Ministries Retreat 2012

By Rebekah Connell ’15

Everyone loves the GCSM Retreat—that’s what Gordon’s ministry directors say about their annual jaunt to Camp Brookwoods in New Hampshire. “It affords us the opportunity to really pour into our students in a way that is impossible in the hustle and bustle of campus life,” says Laurie Truschel, director of student ministries.

Earlier this month, over 60 students who will be leading campus ministries this year rode buses up to Lake Winnipisaukee for three days of fellowship, training, and Glow-in-the-Dark Steal the Bacon. (That last part was optional.) Amid large group sessions, messages from directors, worship services, prayer, and adventures in the great outdoors, students gained a clearer vision for their roles as leaders and for the purpose of ministry at Gordon. The first night at camp, Dr. Greg Carmer offered a message on the theme of “Head, Heart, and Hands.” Through this framework, Dr. Carmer guided students toward “keeping everything together in our pursuit of God.” He emphasized connectivity with God, with each other, and within oneself.

As numerous Gordon students could testify, there is never a retreat in the woods without a good measure of fun and relaxation. Early morning hikes, late night campfires, and kayaking on Lake Winnipisaukee peppered the weekend of spiritual immersion. Group meals in the camp’s elegant dining hall gave faculty, directors and student leaders a chance to get to know one another on a more personal level. “My favorite part of the retreat is just relaxing with our leaders: laughing at meals, worshipping beside them, singing around the campfire, and listening to their hopes for the ministries they will be leading,” says Truschel.

The students, too, found these times of fellowship alongside faculty and staff to be valuable. “On Saturday night everyone was praying for each other’s concerns about the upcoming year,” recalled Ben Boossarangsi, a leader of the Catacombs worship team. “It was a powerful reminder that though we all have separate ministries that we tend to get wrapped up in, we are part of a larger vision.”

The last morning of the retreat provided everyone with more than an hour of silent solitude, in addition to the memorable Commissioning Service overlooking the lake. “The setting is so beautiful—a great reminder of the majestic God we serve,” says Laura Carmer, director of missions and service learning. “This is a rich time for laying our work before that same God and asking him for the wisdom and grace to fulfill our roles faithfully.”

Abram Kielsmeier-Jones, director of Christian life and worship, also testified to the success of the retreat. “We received multiple comments about how refreshed our ministry leaders felt as a result of this retreat.”

Some of the most common favorite moments on the retreat? The times of prayer and quiet reflection—something busy college students have precious little time for. “The retreat was a great way to get me mentally and spiritually prepared to lead,” said Trey Walsh, who will be leading a spiritual life group. “To have time to clear my mind in order to better grasp the presence of God was very powerful.”

Photo: GCSM Retreat group at Camp Brookwoods in New Hampshire.

Rebekah Connell ’15 is an English major from New York and student writer for the Office of College Communications.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Alumni Filmmakers Create a Buzz

Gordon alumni filmmakers Dan Stevens '07 and David Ells '07 of In The Car have produced videos for ESPN, the BBC and USA Today. Their recent music video, created just before the pop band I Call Fives flew off for the 2012 Van's Warped Tour, was filmed across the North Shore at sites including the Gordon woods, where the plot's main visual narrative takes place.

The video for the band's new single, "Late Nights," was released on MTV's Buzzworthy this morning. Though this is the fourth music video for In The Car, this is the first time their creative work has been featured on the world's largest visual music platform. With many of the local filming taking place in the Boston region, North Shore Magazine also picked up a feature highlighting In The Car's work and the excitement this duo brings to New England's east coast.

Stevens, director for the video, credits advice he's learned over time from Gordon staff even for this particular project. "Whenever we work on a video for Gordon, we work alongside Creative Director Tim Ferguson Sauder," said Stevens. "We love working with Tim. He has great advice and insight. I always make it a point to run my ideas by Tim even when it's not a Gordon project—he definitely had some good advice for this video."

But Ferguson Sauder, who also runs the Return Design program at Gordon and teaches in the Art Department, wasn't the only Gordon connection who helped with creative production. Shaylah Fawn Deviney '10 took the photos that appeared throughout the video, James Lemire '11 and Abi Solberg '11 were production assistants, Meg Stevens '06 was the makeup artist, and Jill Rogati '06 served as the stunt coordinator. Other Gordon alumni who lent a hand included Bekah Jordan '12, Jason Rozen '05, Eve Amendola '05, Jon Chubb '04, and Audrey Claire Johnson '05.

Read the full story on North Shore Magazine, including a timeline of production photography online.

Photo 1: Gordon College alumni Dan Stevens '07 and David Ells '07 of In The Car with I Call Fives band members during production of their latest project. Photo 2: Dan Stevens. Photo 3: Jill Rogati '06 testing stunts while filmmaker David Ells captures the footage. Copyright: Shaylah Fawn Deviney '10.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Top Journalist Michael Gerson Visits Gordon College

By Amber Joy Fiedler ’13

As a Gordon student, I know it takes a lot for a speaker to engage a chapel full of busy college students in such a way that he or she is actually able to evoke laughter from the crowd. Michael Gerson—opinion columnist for the Washington Post, former aide and speechwriter to President George W. Bush and author of some of the President's key speeches following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001—did just this. He made the room laugh, yet also drew the audience into more serious reflection through his rhetorical eloquence.

Gerson also met with Gordon's six Presidential Fellows, engaging us in more personal conversation before delivering his keynote address for the Richard F. Gross Distinguished Lecture Series Thursday evening. While our meeting was off-the-record, I can say that it was an honor to meet with him, and that it was during this informal time that I began to notice Gerson's composure, confidence and personal humility.

Gerson’s Thursday night address, “Whose Responsibility is Opportunity?” began with some brief personal background and some humor at the speaker's own expense, then went on to address the “durable, deepening divide rooted in class.” In today’s society, he said, people are “betrayed by their birth,”—they are not given opportunities that others are given, because of where and to whom they were born.

Everyone should have an equal chance, Gerson stressed; everyone should have an opportunity. He encouraged us to become more aware of inequality and willing to help develop an atmosphere where creativity flourishes. We must be willing to embrace the ideology that God is on the side of justice.

When Gerson spoke the next day at Gordon's weekly Convocation gathering, he focused on "Three Responses to Suffering." He explained that as Christians, we must have compassion, demand justice, and embrace affliction. We should be willing to get involved with social activism but be careful not to make this activism itself our primary focus. He explained that by making God second, we put ourselves in mortal danger. While it is important to focus on our values, we must first focus on God. The world does not lack for important causes, he noted; it does, however, lack people pursuing these causes with their focus first on God. Here is where we as Christians must come in. We are all called to enable the flourishing of creativity and opportunity, as well as develop a compassion that is deeply rooted in a focus on God.

Amber Joy Fiedler ’13 is a Gordon Presidential Fellow working in the office of the Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications. She will be contributing her thoughts on life as a Fellow, College events, and student life over the upcoming school year.

Top photo—Gordon Presidential Fellows meet with Michael Gerson (left to right): Henry Hagen, Amber Fieldler, Skylar Bareford, Michael Gerson, D. Michael Lindsay, K. Trey Walsh, Eric Hilker.


Friday, September 7, 2012

New Exhibit in the Art Gallery: Tim Harney's Paintings and Collages

The Gallery at Barrington Center for the Arts has opened its 2012–2013 exhibit season with a remarkable new show by local artist Tim Harney, entitled My Mother’s Hands, My Father’s Heart: Paintings and Collages, 2000-2012, on display through October 13th.

My Mother’s Hands, My Father’s Heart is one of the largest and most diverse exhibits that Gordon has ever hosted, and the response from the local art community has been overwhelming. There was a record turnout at the opening reception on September 1st, as students, faculty and community supporters from around the North Shore filled the Gallery spaces to hear Harney speak about the work.

Harney suggests that the show is a series of reflections—real, imagined and dreamed—on the life and influence of his family and, in particular, his parents. “I chose the title… [as] an expression of my love, recollection and testimony to their inspiration—but another ‘reading’, and, admittedly, the one I've been preoccupied with for the past few years, is the realization that I indeed have my mother's arthritic hands and my father's heart condition,” said Harney.

Harney expresses these personal reflections in the nearly 75 paintings and collages that make up the show, created over a decade-long period of time. “These are collections of things: materials with their own history, materials with a history I've invested in them,” Harney writes in his artist statement. This material history is profoundly evident in Harney’s paintings and especially his abstract collages, created from papers and antique fibers collected throughout his career.

“When walking through the spaces it is easy to find the simplicity and composition of the collages just as intriguing as Tim’s realistic approach to the figure,” Gordon art student Sarah Cram said. “The conversation is found through his use of color, technique and composition.”

Gallery Director Bruce Herman is thrilled with the exhibit and the contribution Tim Harney has made to the contemporary art world. “As Gallery Director, it is a particular pleasure to host this talented, thoughtful local artist,” Herman said. “Full of color, compositional complexity and textural variety, Harney's work is expressive and powerful and reveals great depth of insight into the human condition."


My Mother’s Hands, My Father’s Heart will be on display in the Gallery at Barrington Center for the Arts through October 13th. The Gallery is open Monday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. You can learn more about the exhibit at


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Astounding Gains in Standardized Science Test Scores

Francis Vigeant '04 has made a tremendous impact on education since graduating from Gordon College with a degree in economics. From his public office run with the Salem Public School systems, to the successful development of KnowAtom—a curriculum for for elementary and middle school science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educationVigeant continues to make the news. This morning, he appeared for an interview on NPR's Morning Edition

The morning show, which airs on on over 170 news stations across the United States as well as internationally through the BBC, shone a spotlight on Vigeant's unique program in the context of its role in the 25% increase in standardized science-test scores for the City of Lynn—an unusually large increase for a public elementary school.   

Massachusetts is considered a leader in K-12 STEM education nationwide, but average proficiency statewide on standardized tests has been, at best, only 50%. NPR first took an interest in
Vigeant when they heard about the Lynn school district's success in test scores in schools using KnowAtom. 

"We've figured out how to help teachers deliver content required by the state (and recommended by the National Academies and National Research Council) that engages students through labs," said Vigeant, who worked as a high school math teacher following his graduation from Gordon, and before founding KnowAtom. "Our approach places the emphasis on quality instruction and appeals to children's curiosity to help them achieve with the gifts they have been given. While we're happy that the standardized tests validate that we're producing rapid gains across all socioeconomics they are merely a data point to inform practices. We're most impressed with the level of engagement and understanding students exhibit though the curriculum beginning in first grade."

The KnowAtom program will be in place in all Lynn elementary schools and one city middle school starting tomorrow. They’re among the 31 Massachusetts schools to use Vigeant's program this fall, continuing the city's outstanding gains in MCAS results. "KnowAtom empowers students to make informed decisions in an increasingly complex world," said
Vigeant. "In a classroom using KnowAtom, students learn that truth is not always what you’d expect it to be, nor is it always easy to find. As a graduate of Gordon, I’m pleased to carry forward what I’ve learned and pioneer what could transform American STEM education."

To listen to the broadcast, visit Boston's NPR station on WBUR here