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Trustee ScholarGreg Herchenroether ’06 (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Jesse Tron ’06 (Pelham, N.Y.) spent the summer working in the Williams Visual Arts Building digital media lab, but what they learned is far more important than how to operate a digital printer.

Under the guidance of Ed Kerns, director of the building and Eugene H. Clapp II ’36 Professor of Art, the students, both double majors in art and English, learned what is involved in creating something from beginning to end and how to do so with minimal instruction.

“From an intellectual standpoint, being involved in the creative process is probably the most rewarding thing you can get out of a project like this,” says Tron. “The greatest part of this job — if you want to call it that, but I don’t because I enjoy it so much — is that you’re involved in that process and I don’t think many people our age can say they’re able to do this for summer work.”

Herchenroether, agrees, adding, “I always like the kind of process where I get to work on something step by step until the end and I get to see the final work — something that’s tactile, something I can hold and have, something other than a term paper.”

They worked through Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, in which students assist faculty with research while earning a stipend. The program has helped make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate in EXCEL each year go on to publish papers in scholarly journals and/or present their research at conferences.

Herchenroether and Tron applied their creativity to several different high-level projects to help Kerns prepare for an upcoming exhibit at Bethlehem’s Banana Factory gallery, he says.

Among them were printing several of Kerns’ paintings from digital images in the computer onto canvases in a multi-step process to achieve a layered effect; designing, proofreading, and overseeing production of a tri-fold brochure for the exhibit; creating scarves on the digital printer using their own original and Kerns’ designs; and helping Kerns with experimental work using watercolors and acrylic paints he is preparing for an exhibit opening in March in New York.

Although Kerns gave the students several responsibilities, by in large he left them to their own devices to get the jobs done. And he never doubted their ability to do so.

“They’re both art and English majors, so I knew they could handle this stuff,” he says. “Jesse has done EXCEL work before and Greg just got back from a trip to Spain, where he was a Rothkopf Scholar, so they’re both very high-end kids.

“In Greg’s case, he’s a consummate organizer, planner, and very good designer, and in Jesse’s case, he’s very good at model building, executing design, and running the technology in the studio. I think they’re both kids for whom this was probably a very good experience.”

Herchenroether and Tron couldn’t agree more.

“There were some times where Ed said, ‘We’re doing this or that’ and we would nod our heads and later look at each other and ask, ‘Now, what are we supposed to do?’” Herchenroether says. “Then we would get it done, but just discovering how to do it, solving problems, and using that independent thought process that if something doesn’t work you have to approach it from a different angle was something that surprised me. His vagueness was always just enough to allow us to put our mark on the project.”

The ability to think their way out of problems is something that will benefit them no matter where their career paths lead.

“The skills I’m learning here are certainly helpful in the technical areas, like working with the computer and the printer,” Tron explains. “But developing a way of thinking, I think, has been the most beneficial part about working here under Professor Kerns. He’s really helped us develop our own way of thinking and incorporating that into our own work. In general, it’s helpful to have that mentality. I’m not necessarily sure I’m going to be a full-time artist, but I will have a good background, a good way of thinking already in place.”

Tron adds that the work will also benefit them in the short term.

“This is really an extension of what I’ve already done and ties in with what I’m doing in the school year,” he explains. “By working here, I’ve learned the programming, the system, and how to use the very expensive printer, so I can continue to do these things throughout the year without help from other people. It will help expedite the process once we’re into the year so we can really fly through — it really opens us up to opportunities during the year.”

A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Herchenroether is managing editor of TheLafayette and designs web sites for professors. He received Lafayette’s Gilbert Prize for demonstrating superiority in English. Previously, he participated in College Theater productions and was a writing associate. He graduated from Avonworth High School.

Tron is president of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity. He graduated from The Gunnery preparatory high school.

Selected from among Lafayette’s top applicants, Trustee Scholars like Herchenroether have distinguished themselves through exceptional academic achievement in high school. They receive from Lafayette an annual minimum scholarship of $7,500 ($8,000 effective with the Class of 2009) or a grant in the full amount of their demonstrated need if the need is more than $7,500.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Thirty-nine students were accepted to present their research at this year’s conference.

Categorized in: Academic News