common good
Valerie Smith headshot
laurence kesterson

Democracy Under Duress

President Valerie Smith co-authored a column in Forbes in the fall titled “Democracy Is Under Duress,” about the imperative need to get students involved in the election. Written with James Madison University President Jonathan Alger ’86, the column argued that the role of higher education is inextricably linked to fostering civic engagement among students.

“Some people portray the role of colleges as a private good, simply preparing students for the workforce,” Smith and Alger wrote. “But our institutions are in the business of developing and disseminating knowledge, and instilling in our students the skills and abilities that enable them to contribute to creating a more just and inclusive democracy.”

Making Their Voices Heard

Although the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many aspects of the fall semester at Swarthmore, it did not deter the College community’s commitment to civic engagement through voting.

The Get Out the Vote committee once again met its charge of getting students to the polls — and, increasingly this year, to mail and drop boxes — for November’s general election. Comprising faculty, staff, and students, GOTV met students where they were, whether online, in the classroom, or elsewhere on campus.

“From promoting the importance of participating in the democratic process, to helping students navigate the complexities of registering and voting amid the COVID-19 crisis, to organizing [committee-guided walks to the polls], the members of the GOTV committee served the College and our democracy well,” President Valerie Smith wrote the day after the election. “Collectively, our community committed extraordinary energy to fostering an environment of civic engagement so that people could make their voices heard.

Student, Liam Rodgers '24 holding a VOTE sticker
laurence kesterson
Liam Rodgers ’24 displays a vote sticker ahead of November’s election. Swarthmore’s Get Out the Vote committee, which included faculty, staff, and students, worked tirelessly this fall to get students to the polls (and to ballot drop boxes) by generating excitement for Election Day, assisting with voter registration, and promoting the importance of engaging in the voting process.
common good
Girl at a voting booth
laurence kesterson
To assist with in-person voting, members of the Get Out the Vote committee led groups of students from the Dean Bond Rose Garden on campus to their polling place at the Swarthmore-Rutledge School a few blocks away. No classes were held on Election Day.

Getting the Word Out

To maximize THE NUMBER OF STUDENTS participating in the general election, the Get Out the Vote committee embarked on an array of efforts. The keystone was the comprehensive GOTV website, which walked students through how and where they could register to vote and cast ballots — especially crucial information this year, with the pandemic forcing roughly half of all students off campus. Through the website and follow-up messages shared over email and social media, the committee reminded students to register and urged them to come up with personal voting plans.

The committee also produced videos from President Valerie Smith as well as one from faculty and students on why they consider it important to vote; provided voting information at Orientation and, during the semester, at tables outside Sharples Dining Hall; presented information on the voting effort at a faculty meeting; visited academic classes to get the word out; partnered with Athletics to achieve 100% voter registration among athletes; issued a survey to gauge student voting characteristics that drew responses from nearly half of the student body; and more.

Navigating the Process

Location icon with checkmark clipart

To boost inclusivity, President Valerie Smith designated Election Day as a College holiday this year: No classes were held, and most staff members were able to take off.

The Get Out the Vote committee also offered students free stamps for voting purposes, sent members to the Dean Bond Rose Garden on Election Day to help students reach the polls, and treated voters to ice cream and a physically distanced watch party of election results.

“I want to thank the members of the GOTV committee for their thoughtful and creative efforts to engage students (residing on and off campus) on their voting options during this unprecedented election,” says Pam Shropshire, special assistant for presidential initiatives, who served as chair of the committee. “I want to give a huge shout-out to our students who successfully navigated a complicated and sometimes bewildering process to cast their ballots and have their voices heard.”

common good

National Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board Includes Two Swarthmoreans

President-elect Joe Biden announced in November the formation of the Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, co-chaired by Marcella Nunez-Smith ’96, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler, and former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

The task force was formed to advise Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and other members of the transition team on developing a federal response to the pandemic ahead of taking office in January.

Marcella Nunez-Smith headshot
courtesy of yale university
“Everyone is affected by this pandemic,’’ says Marcella Nunez-Smith ’96, an associate professor of internal medicine, public health, and management at Yale University and associate dean for health-equity research at the Yale School of Medicine.
Nunez-Smith, a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands who was a special major in psychology and biological anthropology at Swarthmore, is an associate professor of internal medicine, public health, and management at Yale University and the associate dean for health-equity research at the Yale School of Medicine. Her work focuses on promoting health and health care equity for structurally marginalized populations; some of her research interests include global health, social discrimination, and health care disparities.

“Our country is facing an unprecedented time with COVID-19 cases accelerating nationwide,” Nunez-Smith said in a recent interview with Yale News. “Everyone is affected by this pandemic, yet the burden is disproportionate. We know communities of color are grieving at high rates and are facing substantial economic impact. The transition advisory board is setting a course for everyone in our country to experience recovery. I’m honored to help lead on that work and thank President-elect Joe Biden for the opportunity to serve.”

Nunez-Smith is one of two individuals connected to the COVID-19 advisory board with a degree from Swarthmore. Rebecca Katz ’95, who majored in political science and economics at the College, was selected as an adviser to the board. Katz, a professor and director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University Medical Center, has expertise in pandemic planning. For more than a decade, she has worked to help design systems and implement policies to facilitate a coordinated response to potential microbial outbreaks and pandemics. From 2004 to 2019, Katz was a consultant to the Department of State, working on issues related to the Biological Weapons Convention, pandemic influenza, and disease surveillance.

Art Transcends

Aperture painting
Bennett Lorber ’64, H’96
Aperture, an acrylic on paper, was painted by Bennett Lorber ’64, H’96 in September. “Art transcends spoken language, geography, and time, and reveals our common humanity,” says Lorber, a physician who specializes in infectious diseases. “It brings comfort and hope in troubled times.”

A Million-Dollar Mask Idea

BRANDON ZUNIN ’20, a biomedical engineer, was part of a team that reached the finals this past fall in the $1 million Next-Gen Mask Challenge, presented by the nonprofit XPRIZE Foundation.

The challenge, which was open to innovators ages 15–24, sought inventive new mask designs that addressed barriers to regular use, including comfort, functionality, and stylishness. The prototype created by Zunin’s team, Merlin! — one of five teams globally to reach the finals — was designed to reduce voice distortion and eliminate glasses fog while leaving 60% more of the face exposed.

A special major in applied philosophy in human factors, with a double major in engineering, Zunin was also a MakerSpace student technologist during his time at Swarthmore.

common good

A Landing at Swarthmore

Liam Santry ’22, a Navy veteran who transferred to the College last spring, is grateful for the military path that led him to Swarthmore.

Growing up in an underserved community in Jacksonville, Fla., the linguistics major says he wasn’t challenged to pursue anything academically rigorous after high school. He viewed the military as a way to serve his country and access greater opportunities.

Liam Santry headshot
laurence kesterson
“I admire what the Navy does to lift people out of certain situations in life,” says Liam Santry ’22, who earned the rank of petty officer second class as an air-traffic controller and aviation administrator.
After some time in the service, Santry began to see he could also make a positive impact in a non-military role.

“The military gives you five years to think about what you want to do in life,” he says, which for Santry includes law school, followed by something related to public service or public policy.

“I chose Swarthmore because I believed that a liberal-arts education could make me a more ethical, rational, and driven person,” he says. “The small class sizes and attention to detail my professors pay to my assignments make me a better student. The thoughtful and outspoken opinions I hear from other students make me consider my conclusions more carefully.”

Valerie Gómez headshot

New associate
athletics director

The College announced Valerie Gómez as its new associate director of athletics. Gómez comes to Swarthmore from Seton Hall University, where she had been the associate athletics director for marketing for the NCAA Division I Pirates. Gómez also brings Division III experience from time at Montclair State University and Keystone College. Gómez earned a bachelor’s in government and law from Lafayette College and an M.S.Ed. in sport management from Old Dominion University, and she is pursuing an Ed.D. in higher education leadership, management, and policy from Seton Hall. Gómez also has SafeZone training and certification in inclusive leadership. “I look forward to working with the athletic department, and the entire campus community, to build upon the tremendous progress that has been made in the areas of athletic success, academic excellence, student-athlete development and community engagement,” she says.

Nematode
Neuroscience

Can the neurons inside a nematode’s gut provide insights into the human brain?

That’s what Gurrein Madan ’17 is researching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A Ph.D. student in brain and cognitive sciences, Madan recently received a School of Science MathWorks Fellowship to further her studies on gut-brain signaling in the C. elegans worm, research that could have practical implications for human health.

A transparent creature measuring just a millimeter in length, C. elegans features genes that have counterparts within the human brain. Gurrein’s research on the neurons that line the worm’s gut — on their response to food and to nervous-system feedback — could aid in the treatment of gut-brain signaling dysregulation, which has been linked to psychiatric disorders in humans.

“The general topic of how the gut is influencing the brain is a relatively new field,” Gurrein, a neuroscience major at Swarthmore, told MIT News. “I think there is a lot of space for novel, exciting contributions.”

common good
Students on steps
LAURENCE KESTERSON
“I learned to not be afraid to ask for help,” says Marie Inniss ’23, who directed a series of outdoor performances on campus in the fall.

The Show Went On

by Roy Greim ’14
during the fall semester, a group of enterprising Swarthmore students wrote and staged in-person performances of a collection of 15 short plays, no small feat amid a pandemic that has shut down live theater on a global scale.

Marie Inniss ’23, a native of Dallas, Texas, directed the project, which used the prompt “how to kill your husband in seven days” to solicit stories from student playwrights. The quartet of Reid Mansur ’23, Daniel Oakes ’24, Rosie Palmieri ’24, and Neil Steinglass ’23 starred in the production’s three live outdoor performances, staged in Scott Amphitheater while observing College policies regarding masks and social distancing.

Inniss initially believed that producing live theater was not feasible during the pandemic but wanted to see if creative solutions could be found under the unusual circumstances.

“Because of their masks, all the emotion conveyed had to be done through speech or through their eyes, which is a lot harder than using the entire face,” she says. “Staging was also a challenge: Everything had to be blocked so the actors were always 6 feet apart. I actually enjoyed it because it meant finding creative ways to portray closeness without anyone actually being close. It was cool to see choices the actors made within these parameters.”

“I learned to not be afraid to ask for help,” Inniss adds. “Having a big group of people working together to create art was amazing, especially during these isolating times. It taught us how to communicate and collaborate, which created a bond between us all.”

Other participants included stage manager Simon Herz ’23, assistant director Pablo Famodou ’23, producer Jules Lee-Zacheis ’24, and technical director Mason Hartley ’24.

The student playwrights were Herz, Lee-Zacheis, Mansur, Steinglass, Nooria Ahmed ’22, Benelli Amosah ’24, Jaxson Freund ’23, Grace Griego ’22, Addie Klingbeil ’24, Paige Looney ’23, Camryn Slosky ’22, and Alex Witherspoon ’23.

Renewed Academic Focus on Transformative Justice

President Valerie Smith selected eight courses to support as part of the President’s Fund for Racial Justice, the first component of an effort to improve the lives of Black and Brown people and other marginalized groups through engaged scholarship. The College invited members of the faculty to propose courses for the January term and spring semester that focus on transformative justice. After a review of course offerings, faculty identified more than 80 courses across 19 programs and departments with race and racism and their relationship to power and privilege as central queries for interrogation and study, Sarah Willie-LeBreton, provost and dean of the faculty, wrote in a message to the community.

The courses reflect broader curricular and co-curricular initiatives outlined in the President’s Fund for Racial Justice that will take place especially, but not exclusively, in local and regional communities.

Smith established the fund in response to a renewed movement against systemic racism, hate, and discrimination following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. As a groundswell of protests spread across the country, Smith wrote to the Swarthmore community: “We stand today with those who are suffering from the threat and the consequences of racial violence, economic despair, disease, and death. Inspired by our values and ideals, we must dedicate ourselves to fighting for justice; to caring for those who are sick, hungry, or hurting in mind or spirit; and to repairing our broken world.”

The fund was created in keeping with Swarthmore College’s steadfast commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and its mission of educating students, promoting social justice, and serving the common good. It will support Swarthmore programs focused on transformative racial justice, such as the Chester Children’s Chorus and summer research opportunities through the Swarthmore Black Alumni Network, as well as initiatives with a focus on local and regional communities, all with the goal of improving the lives of Black and Brown people and other minority groups.

common good
Women looks at art
COURTESY OF PAFA
Art From Afar
Writer and art critic Miriam Scheiber Seidel ’73 was part of a recorded talk in the fall for the opening of the Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts show at Hot.Bed gallery in Philadelphia. With no public reception possible, a virtual documentary helped to share the creativity. “I recorded comments about a number of the works, and these were incorporated as voice-overs in a film created by John Thornton,” says Seidel, who has written for Art in America, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Dance Magazine. A psychology major at Swarthmore, Seidel attended PAFA from 1976 to 1980.

WATCH: bit.ly/pafaSeidel

Art and the Environment

Njideka Akunyili Crosby ’04, H’19 and Dan Hammer ’07 were tapped this fall by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art for its new Environmental Council, the first for a major American art museum. Crosby, a world-renowned Nigerian-born visual artist and 2017 MacArthur Fellow, joins as a founding council member, while Hammer, a founder and partner at Earthrise Media and a climate fellow and senior adviser at X Development, joins as an expert adviser to the council.

In memoriam: Robert Roza And Larry WestPhal

Robert Roza HeadshotRobert Roza, the Susan W. Lippincott Professor Emeritus of French
Larry Westphal HeadshotLarry Westphal, the J. Archer and Helen C. Turner Professor Emeritus of Economics

Swarthmore mourns the recent loss of two retired faculty members.

Robert Roza, the Susan W. Lippincott Professor Emeritus of French, died April 9 at age 88.

During his 33-year tenure at the College, Roza taught classes on symbolist poetry, modern drama, the 20th-century novel, Nouveau Roman, and Realism and Naturalism, among other subjects. He introduced French cinema to the curriculum, as well as co-taught a course on Marcel Proust and James Joyce.

“Bob’s intellectual curiosity had no bounds,” says longtime friend and colleague Philip Weinstein, the Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor Emeritus of English Literature. “Thanks to a capacity to consider life’s frightening aspects as well as its delightful ones, he approached books and ideas without preconceptions. No less, he possessed a — dare I say French? — delight in life’s bizarreness.”

Larry Westphal, the J. Archer and Helen C. Turner Professor Emeritus of Economics, died Nov. 11 at age 78.

Westphal came to Swarthmore in 1985 after 11 years at the World Bank, where he focused on the economic engines of emerging Asian economies as the youngest division chief in the Bank’s history. However, among Swarthmore students, Westphal was perhaps most infamously known for teaching Intermediate Microeconomics, a departmental institution in which, during weekly recitations, the 70 or more students were graded on solving problems in front of the class.

A passionate underwater diver, Westphal was also instrumental in the formation of the College’s short-lived scuba program and the Environmental Studies Program. He retired from the College in 2012.

“Larry was my adviser when I was a student here and has been an important mentor throughout my undergraduate and postgrad career,” says Assistant Professor of Economics Jennifer Peck ’06. “Over the years, I’ve been so grateful for his kindness and wisdom.”

Swarthmore mourns the recent loss of two retired faculty members.

Robert Roza HeadshotRobert Roza, the Susan W. Lippincott Professor Emeritus of French

Robert Roza, the Susan W. Lippincott Professor Emeritus of French, died April 9 at age 88.

During his 33-year tenure at the College, Roza taught classes on symbolist poetry, modern drama, the 20th-century novel, Nouveau Roman, and Realism and Naturalism, among other subjects. He introduced French cinema to the curriculum, as well as co-taught a course on Marcel Proust and James Joyce.

“Bob’s intellectual curiosity had no bounds,” says longtime friend and colleague Philip Weinstein, the Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor Emeritus of English Literature. “Thanks to a capacity to consider life’s frightening aspects as well as its delightful ones, he approached books and ideas without preconceptions. No less, he possessed a — dare I say French? — delight in life’s bizarreness.”

Larry Westphal HeadshotLarry Westphal, the J. Archer and Helen C. Turner Professor Emeritus of Economics

Larry Westphal, the J. Archer and Helen C. Turner Professor Emeritus of Economics, died Nov. 11 at age 78.

Westphal came to Swarthmore in 1985 after 11 years at the World Bank, where he focused on the economic engines of emerging Asian economies as the youngest division chief in the Bank’s history. However, among Swarthmore students, Westphal was perhaps most infamously known for teaching Intermediate Microeconomics, a departmental institution in which, during weekly recitations, the 70 or more students were graded on solving problems in front of the class.

A passionate underwater diver, Westphal was also instrumental in the formation of the College’s short-lived scuba program and the Environmental Studies Program. He retired from the College in 2012.

“Larry was my adviser when I was a student here and has been an important mentor throughout my undergraduate and postgrad career,” says Assistant Professor of Economics Jennifer Peck ’06. “Over the years, I’ve been so grateful for his kindness and wisdom.”