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Twenty-one Lafayette students of exceptional intellectual promise are participating in the distinctive McKelvy House Scholars Program this school year.

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 often continue long after the meals are over are the hallmark of the program; several Wednesday dinner discussions have been added this school year. Most members also contribute to the annual McKelvy Papers, written on a topic of each person’s choice.

“I very much like the idea of a student residence that places a premium on intellect and learning — a program that takes the formal learning that goes on in Lafayette’s classrooms and transforms it into an informal, comfortable experience,” says Erich Struble, a government and law major from Mountain Top, Pa.

“I consider this a great opportunity to combine with my academic program at Lafayette,” says Richard Lear ’06, a double major in French and government & law from Stroudsburg, Pa. “Gathering a close group of people in a huge, old house to create an intellectual atmosphere and some great discussions — I’m grateful that Lafayette offers such a community.”

“McKelvy offers the intellectual outlet and discussion format that some students crave in both a formal and informal manner,” says Jesslyn Roebuck ’06, a double major in English and international affairs major from Montgomery, N.Y. “I wanted to be part of a group that considered itself an example of the intellectual Lafayette community.”

McKelvy Scholars organize activities, such as field trips to plays, concerts, and exhibits, as well as events for the campus community, such as a reception Monday for recent presidential candidate Ralph Nader. This year, the students have visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., screened movies on the McKelvy House lawn, held events in conjunction with the German Club’s Oktoberfest, hosted a panel discussion on election rhetoric in presidential debates moderated by Bill Carpenter, assistant professor of English, and hosted an intramural croquet tournament on the lawn.

This semester, three McKelvy Scholars began hosting a weekly radio program, Two Blocks Past Wawa, on campus radio station WJRH (104.9 FM), that features discussion and debate with guests and listeners who call in.

Chawne Kimber, assistant professor of mathematics, is in her first year as faculty resident adviser.

“The students are chosen because they are bright and have a high level of intellectual curiosity about a broad range of topics,” she says. “I readily accepted the challenge of participating in animated and interesting discussions with them and facilitating the construction of a vibrant intellectual life in the house. I hope to foster an environment in which we all feel free to explore new ideas and perspectives while expressing ourselves openly and honestly.”

In the fall, many of the discussion themes were based on a series of books published by the New York Public Library and Oxford University Press on the seven deadly sins. Kimber says she sought to have the students consider this concept in religious and ethical perspective and use it to examine social and political issues.

Discussions this school year have been held on Second Amendment, Torture, Drug War, Poverty, and Drug Trade, Ghosts, Death, State of music industry, Envy, Themes from A Clockwork Orange, Materialism, satisfaction, and poverty, Obesity in America, Lust, and a number of other topics.

The McKelvy Scholars program has been featured on the national television 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 were the voice of the next generation in the program’s cover story, entitled “Greed.”

The seniors in McKelvy House are Struble; Nana Addo Opoku, a double major in English and philosophy & anthropology from Easton, Pa.; Hart Feuer(fall only, having graduated early), a double major in economics & business and German from Portland, Ore.; Briana Niblick, a double major in German and civil engineering from Hatboro, Pa.; and Benton Wilmoth, a double major in government & law and international affairs from Marysville, Ohio.

The juniors are Roebuck; Lear; Brendan O’Regan, a government and law major from Ringwood, N.J.; Joshua Garber, a neuroscience major from Staten Island, N.Y.; Danielle Pollaci, a double major in English and international affairs from Trenton, N.J.; Nicholas Scopelliti, a philosophy major from Throop, Pa.; Era Fuchik, a dual-degree student in B.S. neuroscience and an A.B. with a major in international affairs, from Riverhead, N.Y.; Colby Block, a history, law, and ethics major from Boca Raton, Fla.; and, joining this spring, Haotian Wu of Suzhou, China, who is pursuing B.S. degrees in physics and mathematics; Michael Wernerof Neenah, Wis., who is pursuing a B.S. biology degree and an A.B. with a major in geology; and Ryan McCall, a mathematics major from Seneca, Pa.

The sophomores are Vijay Krishnan, a double major in international affairs and economics & business from Maharashtra, India; Benjamin Doremus, an electrical and computer engineering major from Hopkinton, Mass.; Jaclyn Smith, a double major in psychology and English from Saugus, Calif.; Kaydence Cowley ’07, a biology major from Littleton, Col.; and Carina Fritsche(fall only, now studying abroad in Germany), a civil engineering major from Columbia, Mo.

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.

This year’s McKelvy House Scholars have distinguished themselves at Lafayette. Several are present or past participants in Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars program, which provides a stipend to more than 160 students annually to conduct non-credit research with faculty.

Krishnan collaborated with three other students and three professors to start assembling the most comprehensive and searchable database about the characteristics of empires and colonies throughout the course of history.

Werner studied a set of immune cells that are an important means for fighting cancer in a study with Robert Kurt, assistant professor of biology, a leading cancer researcher whose work has been supported by major grants from the National Science Foundation and Department of Defense.

Roebuck worked to collect and analyze data in studies of Burma, Afghanistan, Somalia, and the Indian state of Bihar, helping Neil Englehart, assistant professor of government and law, finish his book about human rights.

Wilmoth studied the economic, political, and social changes of Eastern Europe since the fall of the Soviet Union and how those changes have affected women under the guidance of Katalin Fabian, assistant professor of government and law.

Lear worked on a textual criticism of the classic French work La Nef des folles, or Ship of Fools, penned by Jehan Drouyn in 1498, with Olga Anna Duhl, associate professor of foreign languages and literatures.

Wu did computer simulations of experiments that deal with the way xenon atoms attach themselves to the surface of certain metals such as platinum, working with Anthony Novaco, Metzgar Professor of Physics.

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.

Niblick also spent last spring in Austria at Vienna University of Technology, and the 2004 January interim session in Russia and Poland, where she took a Lafayette course, Russia and Poland: Past and Present. She traveled to Germany and Austria in May 2003 to take a special three-week Lafayette course, Germany and Austria: “Green” Europe.

Several of the five McKelvy Scholars who joined the program this spring have engaged in special off-campus learning experiences. Pollaci spent the fall semester in the Peace and Conflict Resolution division of the Washington Semester Program at American University in Washington, D.C., which included studying abroad in the Balkans. Lear also studied in the Washington Semester, focusing on American politics in a program that included weekly seminars with government officials and political experts as well as a semester-long research project analyzing whether gay marriage is a constitutionally protected right. Werner traveled to the Bahamas between the fall and spring semesters for a Lafayette interim session course, Coral Reefs and Caves: The Geology of the Bahamas.

This year’s McKelvy contingent includes six 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 in mentoring programs with Lafayette faculty.

Two students participating in the program are Trustee Scholars. Selected from among Lafayette’s top applicants, Trustee Scholars have distinguished themselves through exceptional academic achievement in high school. They receive from Lafayette an annual minimum scholarship of $7,500 ($8,000 starting with the class of 2009) or a grant in the full amount of their demonstrated need if the need is greater than that amount.

McKelvy Scholars demonstrate their commitment to the community by participating in service programs through Lafayette’s Landis Community Outreach Center, which coordinates more than 25 programs of sustained voluntary service each year, serving human needs in Easton and beyond. Werner is a member of Alternative School Break Club, for example, while Roebuck participates in a number of activities through the center. In addition, Niblick tutors neighborhood children in reading and math through the America Reads program.

McKelvy Scholars are involved in a variety of other activities that enrich the campus community and beyond. Struble and O’Regan are founding members of the Kirby Journal of Law and Politics, of which Struble is editor-in-chief. He also serves as a campus coordinator for Democracy Matters, an organization that informs and engages students and communities in efforts to strengthen democracy in the United States. O’Regan and Garber both have participated in Lafayette’s Technology Clinic, a hands-on course that brings together students from different majors to solve the real-world problems of a business, non-profit organization, or government body. Garber and Smith are writing associates, with this being Garber’s first stint as a writing associate mentor.

Werner is president of Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection (LEAP), taking over for Feuer, who also was a member of Hillel Society. Other McKelvy Scholars involved with LEAP include Doremus, Scopelliti, and Cowley.

Several are members of CHILL (Creating a Healthy Interesting Livable Lafayette), including Scopelliti, who has served as president, Doremus, Roebuck, and Lear. Niblick has been a member of the multicultural recruitment team, brass ensemble, concert band, and choir, and serves as activities coordinator for Society of Women Engineers. Roebuck is also editor-in-chief of the Marquis literary magazine, and co-founder of the Literary Society. Lear, Niblick, and Scopelliti are involved with Questioning Established Sexual Taboos. Cowley is also in The Arts Society, College Democrats, and Newman Association. Werner also plays trumpet in Lafayette’s jazz and brass ensembles and competes on crew club. O’Regan is also a drum major for the pep band. Pollaci, Scopelliti, Lear, and Niblick are involved with the Association of Lafayette Feminists, of which Niblick is co-president. German club members include Scopelliti, current president, Niblick, and club secretary Wilmoth. Opoku, Scopelliti, Pollaci, Lear, and Krishnan are members of Students for Social Justice. In addition to being a writing associate, Smith is a member of the Film Society and a contributing member of the Poetry Society. Block is involved in Forensics Society (speech and debate), Lafayette Dancers, Marquis Players, College Theater, College Democrats, and the Delta Delta Delta sorority. She is also a supervisor for Recreation Services. Wilmoth is also a member of the mock trial team and College Republicans, serves as secretary of the Easton City Republican Committee, and holds an elected position on the Northampton County Republican Committee.

Several students are involved in athletic activities: Struble and O’Regan are members of Crew Club, Doremus and Cowley compete on the Ultimate Frisbee team, and Krishnan plays soccer at the club level, as well as intramural basketball and cricket.

The 2003-2004 McKelvy Papers were published last fall. The authors and paper topics:

  • Jeremy Bennett ’05, a neuroscience major from Riverside, Pa., “The Inevitable Deficit?: Less-Developed Nations and the Questions of Universal Human Rights”;
  • Timothy Bragdon ’04, a physics major from Rahway, N.J., “A New Ethical Approach and Widened Circle of Consideration”;
  • Creighton Conner ’04, a double major in English and American Studies from Lewisburg, Pa., “The Virtues of Quiet”; Feuer, “The Greed Creed”;
  • Adam Glickman ’04, a biology major from Miami, Fla., “Moral Concerns of Germ Cell Genetic Alteration”;
  • Amanda Roth ’04, a double major in philosophy and women’s studies from Easton, Pa., “Necrophilia and Organ Donation: They’re Dead Right”;
  • Keith Helwig ’05, an economics and business major from Hinsdale, Ill., “Regulating Technology”;
  • Niblick, “A Critique of the Gender Dichotomy”; Opoku, “Sekyi’s Blinkards and Fela’s Music: Performance Art and Pan-African Consciousness”;
  • Geoff Oxholm ’04, a computer science major from Merion Station, Pa., “Vandalism at Lafayette and Other Colleges and Universities”;
  • Struble, “Striving for Diversity in College Admissions: Should We be Giving Preference to Race/Ethnicity?”

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 1888-91. It was bought by Lafayette Trustee Francis G. McKelvy and donated to the College by his heirs in 1960.

McKelvy House discussions in 2004-05
April 24 – Blogs
April 17 – The Right to Life
April 10 – Second Amendment
April 3 – Torture
March 23 – Drug War, Poverty, and Drug Trade
March 6 – Nationalism and Patriotism
Feb. 27 – Human emotion
Feb. 13 – Rationale Behind Military Duty
Feb. 9 – Ghosts
Feb. 2 – Death
Dec. 4 – Mind and brain
Nov. 21 – State of music industry
Nov. 14 – Consistent moral arguments
Nov. 7 – Privilege
Oct. 24 – Modern religion
Oct. 17 – Capital punishment
Oct. 3 – Revenge
Sept. 26 – Suicide
Sept. 22 – Sexual lust
Sept. 15 – Envy
Sept. 12 – Themes from A Clockwork Orange
Sept. 8 – Materialism, satisfaction, and poverty
Sept. 5 – Obesity in America

April 25 — Anti-foundationalist critique of philosophy
April 18 — Dark humor
April 11 — Cults
April 4 — Link between ethical behavior and intelligence
March 28 — Five Images of Man
March 7 — Idealized body forms
Feb. 22 — Countercultures
Feb. 15 — Eternity
Feb. 8 — Bisexuality
Dec. 7 — Anger toward computers and technology
Nov. 9 — “Unnecessary” crimes
Nov. 2 — Nov. 2 — Genetic alteration
Oct. 26 — Social construction of gender
Oct. 19 — Greed as an economic force
Sept. 28 — Value

Categorized in: Academic News