Friday, April 29, 2016

The First Year at Macalester

As we are slowly approaching the final weeks of the second semester we are marking the end of the first year at Macalester for the Class of 2019. This is often a time of reflection for the newest members of the college so read along as the first years Pietro Tardelli from Brazil and Abigail de Rancourt from France share their look back at their experiences. 

Tina Esmail ‘19

Global Ambassador Coordinator

Ophir Gillad and Pietro Tardelli

My first semester at Macalester was intense. From orientation to the last day of classes, I don't think there was a single day where I didn't lay in bed thinking “Wow, I did a lot today”. Right from the start with PO4IS (Pre-Orientation For International Students) I felt welcomed. People were willing to talk to me, ask questions and actually tried to get to know me, independent of which year they were or where they came from. Many of the friendships I formed on those few awkward days are the ones I cherish almost a year later. Mac provided me the perfect academic environment, where I was (and still am) encouraged to discuss and reflect upon everything I learned. I was particularly excited about my First-Year Course, “Creatures and Curiosities”, where I not only got the chance to meet a professor extremely passionate and knowledgeable about her subject but also to explore a topic I was very interested in, which actually led me to choose my current major. Mac gave me all the tools and guidance I needed to have a smooth new start and I’m really looking forward to all the semesters to come!

Pietro Tardelli ‘19

Ceren, Yangdon, Tina, Abigail and Vergi
As an international first year at Macalester College, my first semester was challenging and filled with growth. Pre-orientation and orientation enabled the spark of new relationships, bound from all horizons, as well as a thorough introduction to the College’s mission and values. The environment I had chosen to be a part of is certainly fit for the vast development of my identity and person. In saying this, I do not exclude the academic rigor Macalester offers.

I arrived convinced that I would double-major in Neuroscience and Studio Arts, perhaps minor in Educational Studies and eventually add in a few languages. The array of departments that exist would have enabled me to do so, but the intensity of the courses helps me to focus my interests into a field that I am most passionate about. Having said this, I have discovered the art of ceramics, challenging myself as an artist; I have explored theatre within the Twin Cities, partaking in thorough discussions of issues within the region; I have come to understand the multitude of dimensions involved in education and its role in international development; and I have come in touch with the fundamentals of psychology, a field that has sparked my interest for the brain and the mind.

Finally, my first semester here has exposed me to the myriad of spaces available. Friends have made my ease into the community much more exciting and enjoyable. The open and liberal mindset has allowed me to question and become aware of surrounding issues and learn to be inclusive in my discussion about them. The experiences I have had, and the ones that are yet to come, have gone far beyond my expectations. It is slowly, but surely, becoming a new home!

Abigail de Rancourt ‘19


Monday, April 4, 2016

Geographic Information System; Applying Concepts

I try to take a GIS (Geographic Information System) class every semester. I really liked the concept of this one in that we’re pairing with a community organization and doing applicable work for them.

This year we’re paired with Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), an organization that’s trying to close the achievement gap in North Minneapolis by supporting low-income children of color.

NAZ’s motto is “cradle to career.” They are trying to get all students within their zone to be college ready by improving both the schools and the community of North Minneapolis. They use a wraparound approach. In order to improve students’ performances in schools, they have to also improve the home environment, so they’re trying to work on housing conditions, health, employment, and transportation. They are partnered with 140 or so other organizations within the Twin Cities that they can direct families to—like parenting classes and health organizations.

My group is looking at the housing environment of North Minneapolis. In particular, we are looking at variables such as foreclosures, mortgage rates, and if the houses are renter or owner occupied. We are seeing if the variables have changed over the years and how they affect the overall neighborhood dynamic.

At the end of the semester, we’ll have a final report for NAZ. We’ll share all of our maps and data, which they can use however they want. It’s really cool that we’re doing something useful and that this organization is so appreciative of the work we’re doing for them.

GIS is always tricky—finding the data, cleaning the data, and making it usable. That’s always the challenging part. For my career, I want to do something with GIS, so this is a really good starting point. I’ve enjoyed the class so far and want to continue doing this type of work. If you’re interested in GIS, I highly recommend this class.         

Hannah Bonestroo ’17
Ames, Iowa
Geography major with Urban Studies concentration

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Class trip to Higher Ground

We’ve all been there. Your flight is delayed. Your phone is about to die. You scan the gate for available outlets with no luck. People have staked their spots, even hunkered down on the floor, gripping iPhones and glaring at anyone who dares challenge them. Scarcity of resources brings out the worst in people. Add fatigue, hunger, anxiety, and frustration into the mix and it’s not surprising that verbal and physical spats ensue between complete strangers over who gets to charge their phone.

Homeless shelters often face these same issues. Limited outlets causes strife between clients. On a class trip to Higher Ground shelter in Minneapolis this past fall, we stood in a room filled with empty bunk beds and learned about adaptations the shelter has made to reduce such conflicts. Every bed has its own outlet. For people who carry their life’s belonging on their back, this sense of privacy and dignity goes a long way.

Higher Ground embraces the sentiment of “meeting people where they’re at,” which reflects in its day-to-day operations. For example, it provides lockers for alcohol. Clients are not allowed to bring alcohol into the shelter, but upon arrival, they can safely stow away alcohol to retrieve in the morning. Before the lockers were introduced, clients sometimes chugged half a bottle of vodka while waiting in line because they knew the alcohol would be confiscated. A Higher Ground employee explained that it’s not just about the alcohol. It’s about knowing your belongings are secure; they will not be taken away from you. Since introducing the lockers, Higher Ground has had fewer alcohol-related incidents.

Located near downtown Minneapolis, the shelter is open 365 days a year. The name Higher Ground speaks to its mission—to help guests attain permanent housing. The ground floor offers 171 spaces with light dinner, breakfast, and shower facilities.

On the second floor, guests pay $7 a night for beds, lockers, linens, showers, and access to employment resources. Higher Ground holds this money for guests to put toward rent for permanent housing. With 80 beds, the Pay-for-Stay facility is quieter and calmer than the first floor. Access to storage on the second floor is crucial. Before moving upstairs, clients must carry everything with them all the time. Showing up to a job interview with a suitcase is “the kiss of death,” a Higher Ground employee explained. Moving upwards means increasing privacy and independence. The higher floors contain individual rooms for clients; it feels similar to a college residence hall.

The trip to Higher Ground was an eye-opening and humbling experience. In Community Psychology and Public Health, we could read articles from psychology journals, we could sit in a classroom and discuss homelessness, but nothing could replace the feeling of standing in that room lined with empty bunk beds. Moving up the levels gave abstract words like “privacy,” “security,” and “independence” a tangible meaning.

My time at Macalester has included many field trips. I baked bread at Great Harvest; I toured the Minnesota Public Radio headquarters in St. Paul; I contemplated modern art at the Walker. The readings, our class discussions, even my final papers fade, but I remember the field trips. And since touring Higher Ground, I’ve never thought of outlets in the same way.

Alexandra McLaughlin ’16
Rosemount, MN

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Night at the Guthrie

Last fall, I attended the play adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. The play was great; it struck the right balance of funny and sobering; it transported me into the world of 1930s Alabama; it took me away from thoughts about homework and whether my spinach was still good. It gave me pause—something I consider one of the most important and difficult tasks of any type of entertainment. Some people struggle with adaptations. They complain about misrepresentations of characters or that a stage production reduces the themes of the novel. But I think such productions make stories tangible. They attest to a story’s lasting impact. Though Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird over 50 years ago, people care enough about her work to keep it alive.

I never would have attended this play on my own. Tickets cost between $20 and $60, the Guthrie Theater is located in downtown Minneapolis, it was a Thursday night, and as a busy college student, I could have named a thousand reasons to stay within the comforts of my daily routine. But thanks to the English Honor Society, I attended the show without paying a cent. All I had to do was indicate my interest in an email, climb into a yellow school bus that whisked me to downtown Minneapolis, and sit back and enjoy the show.  

The Twin Cities have no shortage of fun activities: plays, major league baseball games, art, history, and science museums, zoos, lakes, restaurants, the list could go on and on. Last October, I went apple picking at Afton Orchard. A bus took us there and back and we entered the orchard for free. Though I was raised in Minnesota and have visited apple orchards countless times, I never grow tired of the hayrides and hot apple cider.

A regularly-priced adult ticket to the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown St. Paul costs $13, but at certain times during the year, you can buy $5 tickets from the Information Desk with transportation included. The Info Desk also offers discounted movie tickets to a few local movie theaters. When The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 premiered in November 2014, Program Board offered $5 tickets and free transportation. The regular price to see this movie? Sixteen dollars.
Macalester offers numerous opportunities like these. I did not realize this before coming here, and it’s definitely something I will miss after graduation.

Alexandra McLaughlin ’16
Rosemount, MN

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

#WinterOrangeCrew: Igloos

Season’s greetings from the #WinterOrangeCrew! We are a small group of Macalester students united by one mission: to bring you a snapshot of how to beat the cold and have a blast in the midst of Minnesota’s deep freeze. Keep checking the blog and our Instagram (@macalesterorange) over the next few weeks and follow our excursions to a variety of events, both on campus and throughout the Twin Cities.

This week, we decided to start our adventures right here on campus and take advantage of a classic Macalester tradition: the winter igloos!

Clockwise: Dan, Ben, Rebecca, Mo, and Max
Every year, students are greeted by these festive hangouts when they return from winter holidays. They are hand-crafted and built to last. Most of them remain on our lawns in the Spring long after the snow around them has melted.

Although the igloos themselves are a Macalester staple, the team of artists typically rotates from one year to the next. When I was a first-year, a Class of 2016 student built a monstrous four-foot tall cave all by himself, right in the middle of the residential quad. This year’s iterations are more modest, built by the budding architects at Laura Jeffrey Academy, the middle school on the corner of campus. But what they lack in size, they certainly make up for in number and atmosphere. The kids built a small village of them on Old Main Lawn, embellished with decorative twigs and pine cones, a huge snowball door, and even a driveway.

We had a whole bunch of fun with our first event and are very much looking forward to our next adventure in the Cities. Catch all the excitement of the #WinterOrangeCrew right here on The Orange blog, we’ll keep you posted! Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go nap in my new favorite residence hall.

Dan K. ‘17
Chicago, IL