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Sixteen students of high academic achievement and promise will participate in the distinctive McKelvy House Scholars Program during the 2003-04 school year.

“The McKelvy Scholars Program provides a continual outlet for meditation, social commentary, and active discussion that serves to broaden and round a student’s education,” says Hart Feuer ’05, a double major in economics & business and German from Portland, Ore. “This intellectually free environment has fostered the unteachable, indirect, and very necessary aspect of my learning and conditioned my personal, intellectual, and philosophical development.”

Since 1962, the McKelvy program has brought together Lafayette students with a wide range of majors and interests to reside in a historic off-campus house and share in intellectual and social activities. Weekly Sunday dinner discussions that engage the students in debate and exchange of ideas that continue long after the meals are over are the hallmark of the program. Most members also contribute to the annual McKelvy Papers, written on a topic of each person’s choice.

This year’s McKelvy contingent includes five Marquis Scholars. Chosen from among Lafayette’s most promising applicants, Marquis Scholars receive special financial aid and distinctive educational experiences and benefits, including a three-week, Lafayette-funded study-abroad course during January’s interim session between regular semesters. Marquis Scholars also participate in cultural activities in major cities and on campus, and mentoring programs with Lafayette faculty.

Six of the incoming McKelvy Scholars are present or past participants in Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars program, in which students collaborate with faculty on research while earning a stipend. Many of the more than 160 students who participate each year go on to publish papers in scholarly journals and/or present their research at leading academic forums and conferences.

The seniors in McKelvy House are Geoff Oxholm, a computer science major from Merion Station, Pa.; Ramona Bejan, an International Economics and Commerce major from Oradea Bihor, Romania; Timothy Bragdon, a physics major from Rahway, N.J.; Robert Conner, a double major in English and American Studies from Lewisburg, Pa.; Paul Germain, a double major in English and art from Coral Springs, Fla.; Adam Glickman, a biology major from Miami, Fla.; Jared Mast, an art major from Easton, Pa.; and Amanda Roth, a double major in philosophy and Women’s Studies from Easton, Pa.

The juniors in McKelvy are Feuer; Jeremy Bennett, a neuroscience major from Riverside, Pa.; Keith Helwig, an economics and business major from Hinsdale, Ill.; Elissa Molloy, a double major in psychology and English from Troy, Mich.; Briana Niblick, an electrical and computer engineering major from Hatboro, Pa.; Nana Opoku, an double major in English and philosophy & anthropology from Easton, Pa.; and Erich Struble, a government and law major from Mountain Top, Pa.

JoAnna Vetreno, who intends to major in electrical and computer engineering, is the sole sophomore living in McKelvy this year.

“I transferred to Lafayette in the fall of 2002,” explains Struble. “One of the major reasons I chose to transfer [here] was because of the McKelvy Scholars Program. I thought it was rather unique and that it would be a wonderful supplement to my education.”

Bennett, Conner, Niblick, Roth, and Vetreno are Marquis Scholars.

“The idea of an intellectual atmosphere really appealed to me,” says Vetreno.

Prospective McKelvy Scholars are nominated by a faculty member. Candidates are interviewed by a professor on the McKelvy Scholars Committee and a McKelvy resident. They also submit a writing sample and a written reflection on a recent world event. Selection is done by a committee of four faculty members and two McKelvy students.

The McKelvy Scholars were featured in the weekly national program CBS News Sunday Morning. A crew from Sunday Morning visited McKelvy House to videotape the students engaging in a Sunday dinner discussion.

“We came to Lafayette to listen in as the McKelvy House students discussed their perceptions of materialism in America at the approach of the new millennium,” says associate producer Sandra Malyszka. The students served as the “voice of the next generation” in the program’s cover story, entitled “Greed,” presented by correspondent Thalia Assuras.

In addition to the dinner discussions, McKelvy Scholars share other activities, including field trips to plays, concerts, and exhibits. In the past, the group has journeyed to New York City, visited the Rose Planetarium, seen the Tony-award winning play Proof, and eaten dinner at Indian and Afghani restaurants. The group has also seen George Carlin perform at the State Theatre in Easton and gone whitewater rafting on the Lehigh River near Jim Thorpe, Pa.

Owen McLeod, assistant professor of philosophy, serves as faculty resident adviser.

“The McKelvy Program provides a home for students who seek an intellectual community more intense than is typically provided by a dormitory or off-campus apartment,” he says. “The Scholars get to stretch their minds, sharpen their analytical skills, and push creative boundaries in an atmosphere of trust and joint exploration. They are enriched by field trips, campus debates, and, most importantly, the weekly dinner discussions. The campus benefits as well from the many activities that we sponsor in our ongoing efforts to enhance the intellectual life of Lafayette.”

Activities sponsored last year included a November debate on the war with Iraq, which featured Laura Walls, associate professor of English; Guy Hovis, John Markle Professor of Geology and Environmental Geoscience; Lafayette President Arthur J. Rothkopf ‘55; McKelvy Scholar Zach Bittner ’03; and McLeod as mediator. McKelvy House also held receptions for slam poet Alix Olson and the Urban Bush Women dance troupe, as well as a holiday party for all faculty members.

During the spring semester, the group sponsored the McKelvy House Spring Lecture Series, “Our Modern World,” which featured Elaine Peeler Davis, the nationally recognized principal of Montclair High School in New Jersey, who spoke on “How High School Reforms Address the Minority Achievement Gap”; Elizabeth Meade, professor of philosophy at Cedar Crest College, who discussed “The Ethics of Sex Selection”; and Robert M. Seyfarth, professor and head of philosophy at University of Pennsylvania, who talked about “Communication and the Minds of Monkeys.”

The incoming Scholars plan all trips and activities when they return to campus in the fall.

This year’s McKelvy House Scholars have already distinguished themselves at Lafayette.

As an EXCEL Scholar, Bejan examined parallels between Stendhal’s “The Red and the Black” and Lord Byron’s “Don Juan” while she translated German-language criticism under the guidance of George M. Rosa, associate professor of foreign languages and literature.

Bragdon will continue his EXCEL research with Andrew Kortyna, assistant professor of physics. Bragdon will use the Doppler Effect, a phenomenon used in astronomical measurements, radar, and modem navigation, to investigate the fundamentals of atomic collisions.

Mast spent last semester exploring aesthetic theories in history and putting his thoughts on canvas in a creative project centered on the concept of the sublime. He completed the project under the guidance of Ross Gay ’96, Dean of Studies Humanities Fellow.

Oxholm has worked with Chun Wai Liew, assistant professor of computer science, and Yoshihiko Ariizumi, assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures, on an internet-based Japanese tutoring system. The goal of the project is to facilitate the grading of questions and the assessment of their corresponding level of difficulty by automating the process.

“This next year will be my third in the McKelvy program,” says Oxholm. “I have come back because of the diverse and engaging company and conversations. Part of the strength of my friendships is owed to the intimacy of the house. [McKelvy] has become like a second home to me.”

Niblick worked with Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger, associate professor of foreign languages and literatures, to explore the cultural identity of East Germans residing in an area known as Euroregion Neisse. Niblick looked at East German, Polish, and Czech literature and regional media to understand how residents of the region are coming to terms with their past and how they are forging a new identity.

Roth worked on an oral history project to document the education and experiences of African-American and women students at Lafayette in the late 1960s and early 70s.

Niblick is one of several students who have studied abroad. She spent the January 2002 interim session in Russia and Poland, where she was introduced to the culture through a Lafayette course, Russia and Poland: Past and Present, and also traveled to Germany and Austria this May to take a special three-week Lafayette course entitled “Germany and Austria: ‘Green’ Europe.”

Conner journeyed to Hawaii during January’s interim session between regular semesters to take a special Lafayette class, The Geologic Evolution of the Hawaiian Islands. He spent his spring 2003 semester participating in the Pittsburgh Semester at Sea Program.

Feuer spent this spring and early summer in a double-semester program through the Academy for International Education that includes extensive language training, culture studies, and a full-fledged semester (in German) studying at Bonn University, Germany, as well as at the University of Cologne, where he is studying economics. He is one of 80 students nationally who have been honored this year as recipients of Morris K. Udall Scholarships.

Roth traveled to Florence, Italy, in May 2002 to take a three-week Lafayette class, Florence: Birthplace of the Renaissance. The experience prompted her to spend the following semester in Greece.

McKelvy Scholars demonstrate their commitment to the community by participating in service programs through Lafayette’s Landis Community Outreach Center, under whose auspices students conduct more than 25 programs of sustained voluntary service each year, serving human needs in Easton and beyond. Oxholm spent last year’s spring break doing volunteer work in a Honduran hospital, nursing home, elementary school, and orphanage through Lafayette’s Alternative School Break Club. Niblick tutors neighborhood children in reading and math through the America Reads program. Roth also volunteers through the organization.

McKelvy Scholars are involved in a variety of other activities that enrich the campus community and beyond. Feuer has been president of Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection. Niblick is a member of the multicultural recruitment team, brass ensemble, concert band, and choir, and serves as activities coordinator for Society of Women Engineers. Conner and Roth assist students with writing assignments as Lafayette Writing Associates. Oxholm is president and co-founder of CHILL (Creating a Healthy, Interesting, Livable Lafayette). Lafayette’s Hillel Society participants include Feuer, who is an honorary board member, and Germain, who serves as the social chair and music director. Roth and Opoku are members of Students for Social Justice.

Several students are involved in sporting activities: Vetreno plays Ultimate Frisbee and is a staff member at the climbing wall in Kirby Sports Center; Mast is a member of the men’s varsity basketball team; Struble is a member of Crew Club; Bejan has been on the women’s varsity volleyball team; and Helwig has been a member of the men’s varsity lacrosse team. Other activities the Scholars are involved in include Physics Club, Investment Club, Philosophy Club, German Club, French Club, Debate Club, Forensics Society, Questioning Established Sexual Taboos (of which Roth is co-chair), Association for Lafayette Women, Arts Society, fraternities, tour guiding, The Lafayette (student newspaper), and a comedy improvisation group.

The 2002-2003 McKelvy Papers are due to be published in early fall. The authors and paper topics include Jessica Merkel-Keller ’04, a double major in neuroscience and biomedical ethics from Bridgewater, N.J., “Chinese Medicine and the Hippocratic Oath: The Ironic Adoption”; Niblick, “On the Gender of Religion: Wicca and the Modern-day Goddess”; Elizabeth Ponder ’04, a double major in biochemistry and cultural biomedicine from Oaks, Pa., “Alternatives to Marriage: Is the Old Tradition Detrimental to Women?”; Roth, “Women’s Sexuality: ‘Logic with a Hole in it'”; Oxholm, “The Difference Between Farting in Church and ‘Seinfeld’: A Theory About Appreciation of Humor”; Lauren Sheldon ’04, an English major from Somerville, N.J., “School Violence: The Loss of Innocence”; Conner, “Justice”; Feuer, “Peace: What’s It Good For?”; and Dave Castelletti ’04, a music major from Martins Creek, Pa., “est: Much More Than Landmark’s Skeleton in the Closet.”

“McKelvy House brought me into the social circle of a very interesting group of people,” says Castelletti. “It also gave me a chance to learn more about different academic fields through conversations in the house. But the biggest benefit of living there was being able to enjoy an intimate number of people in a living group. Being able to interact with and know everyone I live with really added to my experience at Lafayette.”

McKelvy House was built in 1888 on High Street overlooking the Delaware River, three blocks from campus. Designed by McKim, Mead, and White, it originally was known as “Oakhurst.” The home was built for John Eyerman, a faculty lecturer in mineralogy from 1888-1891. It was bought by trustee Francis G. McKelvy and donated to Lafayette by his heirs in 1960.

Categorized in: Academic News