Out and About

Southern sculpture students have collaborated on “Silence the Violence,” a three-dimensional work referencing the national debate about 3D printed guns. Their socially engaged work is being presented in the #Unload: Pick Up the Pieces exhibition at The Ely Center for Contemporary Art in New Haven.

The work encompasses a human-shaped target with circular vignettes representing the different viewpoints of each of the artists. Each vignette becomes a point on the target that can be interpreted as either a bullet hole or as a lens detailing the student’s personal thoughts, feelings, and opinions about guns.

The individual vignettes are constructed as 3D prints to serve as a formal reference to the 3D printed gun debate. Guided by Professor Art Rachael Vaters-Carr, Southern’s student collaborators include: Karen Daye, Evan DiGiovanni, Danielle Fleuriot, Tyãnna Garner, Sammi Huang, Tyler Kopeck, Isabelle Louime, Duke Pierre, Amber Pindulic, and Jenna Reeser.

#Unload: Pick Up the Pieces, which runs through November 11, is an unjuried, inclusive, community-driven exhibition that explores issues surrounding gun control laws and the impact of guns on society. The exhibition aims to raise questions regarding violence, safety, gender, equality, and the influence of media on violence and mental health stigmas.

Artists from diverse backgrounds and working across media have created material-driven and conceptually-charged works either from decommissioned gun parts from a Hartford buy-back program or works inspired by the theme. The artworks reflect society’s divided attitudes towards gun control, gun safety, gun reform, the Constitutional right to bear arms, as well as recent events relating to gun use, ownership, safety, and violence.

The exhibition is a highlight of Artspace New Haven’s 21st annual City-Wide Open Studios festival  complemented by artist talks, panel discussions, presentations by political candidates and other community notables, and a voters’ registration table leading up to November 6 mid-term elections.

 

Elm Shakespeare Company returns to New Haven’s Edgerton Park this summer with one of the Bard’s less performed plays, Love’s Labour’s Lost. Celebrating its 23rd season, Elm Shakespeare is Southern’s theater company in residence and provides world-class theater, free of charge, to audiences of approximately 30,000 people from throughout greater New Haven and statewide. This year will mark the company directorial debut of Producing Artistic Director Rebecca Goodheart and will also feature the return of Elm Shakespeare Company Founding Artistic Director James Andreassi in the role of Don Armado.

This year’s production will also feature acclaimed professional actors and theater professionals with ties to Southern, including SCSU faculty and sound designer Mike Skinner, Theatre Department Chair Kaia Monroe-Rarick, and lecturer Benjamin Curns. The company also employs a number of current and former Southern students as actors and production staff for the summer, including senior Matt Iannantuoni as company manager and recent graduates Kevin Redline as wardrobe supervisor, Ashley Sweet as second assistant stage manager, and Cailey Harwood Smith as property master. The Love’s Labour’s Lost cast also features several SCSU alumni, including Betzabeth Castro as Katherine (pictured above), Brianna Bauch as Moth, and Gracy Brown as Boyet, as well as senior Sasha Mahmoud as Maria.

The powerful longstanding partnership between Elm Shakespeare and Southern, begun in 1997, became official in 2016 with the signing of an official Memo of Understanding designating Elm Shakespeare as the Theater-in-Residence at Southern. Elm Shakespeare now has offices on campus, offers a variety of its educational programs to youth ages 7-18 at Southern, and is fully integrated into the SCSU Theatre Department activities and facilities.

The 2018 production of Love’s Labour’s Lost is a whimsical jazz-age tale chock full of witty wordplay, music, dance, and riotous mishaps. Love’s Labour’s Lost marks the start of Shakespeare’s most lyrical comedies. With live music before and throughout the performance, Elm’s production promises to be as luscious in language and look as Edgerton Park itself, while posing questions about consent, class, and a woman’s role in the political arena. Love’s Labour’s Lost is a tale of love — for big ideas, for delicious words, and for that special someone. The King of Navarre has sworn to give up the pleasures of the world for serious study and contemplation. But when the Princess of France arrives, exuberant frivolity triumphs over studious drudgery, and the whole town erupts in pursuit of what (and who) they love!

Goodheart says “Love’s Labour’s Lost is indeed a romp and yet it’s also a timely story of what happens when, too enraptured by our own desires, we fail to listen. Love can still win, but there is a price to be paid.”

Summer performances will run Thursday, August 16 through Sunday, September 2, Tuesday-Sunday at 8 p.m. (with live music beginning at 7:30 p.m.) in Edgerton Park in New Haven, located at 75 Cliff Street. The performances will be free to the public with a suggested donation of $20, $10 for students and $5 for children 12 and under. Picnicking prior to the performance is encouraged. Visit the Elm Shakespeare website for more information on cast and production staff bios, play synopsis, directions, news on New Haven food vendors in the park, Tree Talks, and protocol for cancellations due to inclement weather.

SCSU archeology program, students, excavation at Whitfiield Museum, Guilford, Conn.

Anthropology students this summer have been exploring what lies underground on the property of the oldest house in Connecticut – the Henry Whitfield House State Museum in Guilford.

Under the direction of William Farley, assistant professor of anthropology, the students have been engaged in an excavation project that has turned up pottery, smoking pipe fragments, toy soldier body and other domestic artifacts dating as far back as the 18th century. An English gun-flint, estimated to be from the 17th century, also has been found.

The Whitfield House was built in 1639. It originally served as the home for the family of Henry Whitfield, and was sold 20 years later. It became the first state museum in Connecticut, and is considered to be the oldest stone house in New England.

“First and foremost, this collaboration between the museum and SCSU is an opportunity for two state institutions to work together to train archaeologists of the future,” says Michael McBride, museum curator.

“Secondly, it provides the public with the opportunity to see what archaeology is all about and how valuable the data and artifacts that are found contribute to piecing together the history of the site,” McBride adds. “Thirdly, we are hoping that this brief field school will contribute info on land use and land change over time.  The findings will be added to previous excavation information and applied to the historical timeline that we are still putting together.”

Six students have been participating in the summer archeology program. They are: Taylor Tenenbaum, Jonathan Godfrey, Amelia Hoyt, Brianna Dainiak, Angela Buckley and Karli Palmer.

View more photos of the excavation site.

A group of students, accompanied by Assistant Professor of French Luke Eilderts and Professor of Art History Camille Serchuk, recently returned from this summer’s International Field Study in Paris, France. Eilderts and Serchuk provided the following account of the students’ experiences. 

Dear Friends of the Southern in Paris Program:

With the close of the program only a few short days ago, Dr. Camille Serchuk and I would like share with you some of the highlights of this year’s trip to the French capital and its region.

We departed New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on May 31, 2018, shortly after 11 p.m. After picking up baggage and making our way through passport control and customs, Dr. Serchuk, who had departed a few days earlier, met us at arrivals bearing croissants and water to the great excitement of the students. After a short ride on the RER—the regional train system that serves the Paris region—we arrived at our lodging for the month. Built to house students from Belgium and Luxembourg, the Fondation Biermans-Lapôtre also welcomes guests for short stays during the summer months. This is our third time staying with them, and we continue to be impressed with their dedication to the students’ comfort and wellbeing.

That evening we began our culinary tour of the city; we try to introduce students to regional French cuisines and International foods that they might not find at home. Our first meal together was a dinner at the Crêperie Plougastel, a restaurant specializing in the cuisine of the western region of Bretagne (often called “Brittany” in English). Students feasted on savory galettes and sweet crêpes until they could eat no more. Tired from travel, we headed back to our rooms and turned in for the evening.

As a part of their introduction to the city, students familiarized themselves with the neighborhood by visiting the local grocery store, bakery, and banking locations. Since it is vitally important that students become proficient users of the city’s many transportation options, one of the orientation activities included a race to see which three-person group could reach the Louvre the fastest. Not only entertaining, this activity turned out to be a very useful exercise since the transportation workers had announced multiple strikes throughout the month. With this early training in problem solving, students were well prepared to tackle a variety of challenges.

Since we use Paris as our classroom, every day brought a new adventure and a new piece of French art, architecture, history and culture to study. From the remains of the Gallo-Roman Arènes de Lutèce, an amphitheater that could hold up to 15,000 people, to the Centre Pompidou, the modern art museum; from the Basilica of Saint Denis, the first example of Gothic architecture, to the Art Nouveau architecture of the Métro system. While Paris offers a nearly inexhaustible list of objects to study, we also traveled outside the city to important sites such as the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte, the Palace of Versailles, the medieval town of Provins, and Monet’s gardens at Giverny. With each visit, students were asked to consider several probing questions and/or exercise their linguistic and cultural competencies.

Throughout our stay, Dr. Serchuk and I asked the students to reflect upon their time in France. Here are a few of the impressions they gathered as well as some of the lasting memories they made:

“I think one of the amazing qualities I took away from studying abroad was patience, with myself, others, with the RER B. Paris has stolen my heart, and if I ever have the opportunity to return I will do it in a heart beat.” – Kulsoom Farid

“I have grown through this program tremendously and not just through my school work but as a person. I’m more independent, confident, resourceful and mature and these are just a few things that have changed.” – Lauren DeNomme

“It’s my last day here studying abroad and I’m actually really nervous. It feels strange that I won’t be in Paris anymore. I’m not sure if I’ll get an opportunity like this again. […] I’ve actually considered moving here.” – Joseph Warzel

“One of my goals this trip was to improve my French speaking & use it whenever I could! Since I decided to make my own food every now and then, I’ve met some French speakers in the shared kitchen we have. They’re all so nice and help me with my French if I get stumped. I got invited to attend some events with them on campus & they made sure I was going to be able to attend the floor family dinner & photo op near the end of the month.” – Jessica Hartwell

“We’ve seen many things in France, but my favorite would have to be the Louvre. I loved the gothic chapels as well, but the stories told within their stained glass cannot match the stories told within the endless works of art at the museum. One night, we had class in one display room of the Louvre, and spent a long time analyzing each painting in the [Marie de Médicis] sequence. It was so interesting, I didn’t even feel the discomfort from standing in virtually the same spot for an hour! I look forwards to Louvre classes the most, because there is just so much the museum holds that I know the class material will always be interesting.” – Madelon Morin-Viall

“I cannot thank my two professors enough for their generous effort throughout this trip. Reflecting back, I can see how much time and energy they put into showing us the ins and outs of Paris. I do not know how they do it, but they have created a fantastic program that I am blessed to be a part of not only once, but twice. MERCI BEAUCOUP!!” – Alexandra Takacs

“Though I have only been in Paris for [a short while], I feel at home. The room where I stay I have made my own, I see familiar faces in the hall each day such as my friend Katherine from Luxembourg, and whenever I want, I can hop on the RER (across the street) and take it to whichever place I choose. One thing can be guaranteed- no matter where I go, it will be beautiful and there will be really good food.” – Ally Morin-Viall

“A month seems like a long time but it’s not. Every single day I spend in Paris is precious and I’m not gonna waste a second. The only great thing about coming home after my trip in Paris is I get to brag to all my friends about my new experiences!!!!” – Trevon Homeward-Bennett

Finally, we would like to thank the Office of International Education for all the work that they do before, during, and after the trip.

Thank you for supporting Summer study abroad programs!

Drs. Camille Serchuk and Luke Eilderts
Co-Directors, Southern in Paris 2018

About a quarter of New Haven residents don’t have enough food or enough money to buy food, and most people who can’t afford food don’t go hungry for just a day or a week — they experience food insecurity over long periods of time. The Food Recovery Network, the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in America, has created a sustainability network across the United States where “food recovery is the norm and not the exception.”

To address hunger in Greater New Haven, in 2015 the Office of Sustainability, along with Residence Life, partnered with Chartwell’s and the Food Recovery Network’s Connecticut chapter to collect excess unserved food from Conn Hall and campus food retail locations. The unserved food is delivered to soup kitchens like the one at St. Ann’s Church in Hamden. “Without the students, we wouldn’t have any of it,” says Suzanne Huminski, campus sustainability coordinator. Each semester, SCSU sustainability interns plan and manage all aspects of daily food recovery, including logistics, collection and delivery, scheduling, administrative meetings, tracking results, and communications with community partners.

The food recovery program is the fastest growing initiative that the Office of Sustainability oversees. Since 2015, over 30,000 pounds of food have been diverted from the waste stream, which equates to 23,000 meals served to those in need. The food recovery program has been such a success that there are plans to expand it. “We find that it really resonates with students, from donating the food to thinking about where the food is going and how’s processed,” says Heather Sterns, recycling coordinator.

Nonperishable foods collected from resident students are delivered to St. Ann’s Church food pantry.

The nonperishable food collection is another initiative that engages students. At the end of each semester, when they move out of their residence halls, resident students are encouraged to donate their unused, nonperishable foods instead of throwing it all away. Julie DellaVecchia ‘17, now a university assistant in the Sustainability Office, notifies students months beforehand with handouts and flyers, asking them to save as much food as they can before collection. The efforts for the 2018 spring semester yielded 2,500 pounds of nonperishable foods to go to people in need.

The impact of Southern’s sustainability efforts isn’t just felt on campus. “We make sure to reach a broader campus community and the city of New Haven to promote and facilitate sustainability,” says Huminski. Fighting food insecurity and giving people in the Greater New Haven area not just the resources they need, but the education to produce these resources, is just one way Southern gives back to the community.

The campus garden is another example of Southern’s outreach. The garden is student-run, and the produce grown in the garden is donated to organizations in the community, such as soup kitchens and emergency food pantries. Jennifer Anaziano, ‘18, is one of the sustainability interns who works in the garden. “We do things like weed, and recently we’ve planted more basil plants and a butterfly bush,” says Anaziano, adding, “we grow produce without using any pesticides. We only use organic chemicals.” In 2017, the garden was able to donate over 900 pounds of food to organizations in the community.

Last year, the Sustainability Office partnered with CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement) and New Haven Farms to allow the students to grow more produce and offer nutrition programs, cooking demonstrations, and garden tours to families during the summer. Founded in 2007, CARE works to identify solutions to health challenges through community-based research and projects focusing on social, environmental, and behavioral risk factors. The summer garden nutrition program is running again this summer, again serving area residents who want to learn about growing fresh fruits and vegetables, nutrition, and healthy cooking. Many of the participants don’t have a yard, so they can’t have a garden, and they enjoy watching the vegetables grow and learning how to cook with fresh produce.

A tour of the campus organic garden, during the summer garden nutrition program

Having people take what they learn from the community garden and sharing it with friends and family is a major step towards a more sustainable future, “Sustainability is a long-term issue that is never going to go away, so having a population that is prepared to manage those challenges in the future is vital,” says Huminski.

 

Jesse Manning, '18, and Heidi Reinprecht, '17

Recent graduate Jesse Manning, ’18, and his girlfriend, Heidi Reinprecht, class of ’17, are already using their communications expertise to change lives 7,000 miles away in Uganda.

Manning, 22, and Reinprecht, 25, who have started their own film production company, will fly to Uganda July 12-25 to film a documentary on a primary school built from donations that has positively changed life outcomes for more than 550 children from nursery school to 7th grade.

Their hope is that by telling the poignant stories about the value of education through the eyes of the children, parents, and educators, more people will want to donate money and/or time to the cause.

“Making the film will make them grow in ways you can’t imagine,” Reinprecht said of the documentary. “It’s a small, grassroots organization and I don’t know how they do it.”

The school was established through HELP International Uganda, a partnership between HELP International and the Ugandan people in Eastern Africa. The mission focuses on breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and hunger in the small, poverty-stricken Ugandan village of Masese.

Manning, who hails from Trumbull, majored in communication and became enthralled with the cause after a friend, Christopher Martin, who attends Molloy College in New York, returned from an internship in Uganda.

Martin couldn’t stop raving about the beauty of the school’s impact through educating, feeding, and delivering medical care to 550 impoverished children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend school. Primary school in the village normally is not free and so many don’t automatically receive an education. When Martin shared his experiences, Manning felt an instant connection.

“$1 there can help feed a family for a week, $30 can change someone’s life,” Manning said. “I felt I wanted to do my part.”

The couple already has a film company — Little Tree Farm Productions — and the farm in the name is intended to convey that people can “grow their ideas,” Reinprecht said.

Promoting the school through film “felt natural,” said Reinprecht, who noted, “I’ve always wanted to help people,” she said.

The couple has raised $5,000 toward the trip — enough to get them there — but are fundraising about $10,000 more to pay the rest, including insurance, medical expenses such as vaccinations, and production costs.

They are donating their time to make the film.

The pair met in their first film class at Southern and were always paired after that in class.

Reinprecht, originally from Watertown, graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in communication with a concentration in film and television.

Reinprecht says she has sensitive ears and is an audio production specialist, while Manning is a natural with the camera.

“He’s my extra set of eyes and I’m his ears,” she said.

Their approximately 40-minute documentary will highlight the climate of the village before the school was built, what it has become, and an expansion planned for the future.

“We want people to take away from it that they can really help,” Manning said.

Reinprecht added, “The children love this school.”

Martin became involved during his sophomore year of college when he interned with a global justice NGO aligned with the United Nations. Martin’s area of expertise was micro-finance, which included giving small business loans to people in developing nations.

His professor was involved in the school in Uganda.

“We decided to team up to give small business loans to people in the village,” Martin said.

But he fell in love with the school as well, and this summer Martin will make his fourth trip to Uganda in three years, volunteering in the school, tutoring the children, and helping in any other way needed.

“The people there are just so amazing,” Martin said. “They are extremely poor – they live on about $1 per day, but they’re so friendly and excited we’re there.”

Martin is excited about the impact of his friends’ documentary.

“The biggest thing for people who have not seen the project – film might make them want to help,” he said.

graphic for Mary and Max film

ReelAbilities is the largest disability film festival in North America dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different abilities. This spring, Southern is joining venues in New York, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago, Portland, and San Francisco, among others, to feature films selected from over 1000 competitive submissions from an international community and reviewed by the screening committee in New York City, where the festival premieres each year in March.

Southern’s contribution to the 2018 festival — the first time the festival has been in Connecticut — is a screening of Mary and Max, a tale of friendship between two unlikely penpals: Mary, a lonely eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, and Max, an obese, middle-aged Jewish man with Asperger’s, living in New York. “This film will be the first time ReelAbilities has been in Connecticut,” says Fran Prezant, of the Department of Communication Disorders, “and it will be here at SCSU.”

The film, to be screened in the Adanti Student Center Theater on March 19 from 5-7:30 p.m., has some adult content and is not appropriate for young children. A panelist talkback will follow the screening of the film, and light refreshments will be served. Admission is free. The theater is physically accessible and the film is captioned.

Initiated in New York in 2007, the ReelAbilities Film Festival presents award-winning films by and about people with disabilities in multiple locations throughout each hosting city. Post-screening discussions and other engaging programs bring together the community to explore, discuss, embrace, and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience.

“At a time when discussions about differences and inclusion are so important in this country,” Prezant says, “recognizing the strength in diversity and challenging stereotypic notions is important.” The festival offers a great opportunity, she says, “to discuss differences rather than ‘deficits,’ bust stereotypes, and challenge long-held and often erroneous assumptions.”

ReelAbilities events have been held in over a dozen cities in North America and have expanded from the United States to Canada and soon, Latin America. Since its start, ReelAbilities has been consistently receiving an increasing number of outstanding film submissions from across the globe.

The campus screening is sponsored by Judaic Studies with contributions from Deans’ Offices: Arts & Sciences, Health and Human Services, and Education; and the Department of Communication Disorders.

With support of the SCSU National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the Autism Awareness and Advocacy Club

Learn more about this screening.

 

Four CARE leaders in front of SCSU Buley Library

This fall, The Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE), based at Southern’s School of Health and Human Services, launched its “New Haven Neighborhood Health Leaders” program, a leadership program for SCSU students, faculty, and New Haven residents to work together on solutions to pressing social and health issues identified by the community.

Alycia Santilli, CARE director, explains, “The program is based on CARE’s work in New Haven – organizing around health issues at the grassroots level. This program helps to put a framework on and build upon several years of work.” Examples of past CARE projects have been community gardens, creating urban walking trails, bringing mobile farmers’ markets and food pantries to underserved neighborhoods, nutrition education and exercise programs, and supporting neighborhood antiviolence initiatives.

The Health Leaders program is open to faculty and graduate students in the School of Health and Human Services, as well as to residents of the Dixwell, Newhallville, West Rock, Beaver Hills, and West Hills neighborhoods. Two cohorts are being funded in the 2017-18 academic year, with the opportunity to implement a community-based participatory research (CBPR) project. The health leaders that started this fall include two city residents — Jacqui Pheanious, a resident of the Beaver Hills neighborhood and Makia Richardson, a resident of the West Rock neighborhood – and two MPH students, Cerella Craig and Meadeshia Mitchell. The graduate students are GAs, paid through a grant. The neighborhood health leaders are asked to commit about five hours a week to the program in return for a monthly $200 stipend.

The same four people will be continuing through the spring semester and are working on project planning now. In West Rock, they are focusing on transportation and safety issues, and in Beaver Hills/Whalley, they are focusing on health promotion in barber shops.

To find health leaders from the community, Santilli says, “We got the word out through neighborhood networks and through our community connections at CARE.”

The intent of CBPR is for researchers to work side by side with community members to define questions and methods, develop interventions, implement research and evaluation, and disseminate the findings. The two cohorts are focusing their work in two geographic areas — Dixwell/Newhallville/Beaver Hills and West Rock/West Hills — as a means to better engage with neighborhoods immediately adjacent to Southern. The health leaders work closely with residents of these neighborhood to identify an issue to tackle together.

The responsibilities of the health leaders include working in collaboration with CARE’s community coordinator and SCSU faculty and students to build relationships with leaders, other residents, and organizations in the New Haven community. Part of the work they do is to develop health activities and initiatives in collaboration with neighborhood groups and SCSU faculty and students; conduct outreach about neighborhood level projects and other CARE-related projects; and work with leaders and residents through neighborhood associations and groups to develop and implement projects that meet their priorities and needs.

So far, Santilli says, “The program is going great! We provided three initial co-learning workshops, in which we focused on CARE’s New Haven Health Survey data, social determinants of health, community organizing, and community based participatory research/planning.”

The mission of CARE is to improve health in New Haven. CARE seeks to build bridges and share resources between Southern and the community to improve the quality of life for all residents. It is developing neighborhood-level health interventions with local neighborhood groups.

Rachael A. Vaters-Carr, professor of art, and Jeremy Chandler, associate professor of art, are participating in Further On, an art exhibition at the Hans Weiss Newspace Gallery on the campus of Manchester Community College (MCC). The gallery’s curator, Susan Classen-Sullivan, professor of visual fine art at MCC, invited Vaters-Carr and Chandler to take part in the exhibition of works by nine artists who are professors at institutional neighbors to MCC. The institutions being represented are: ECSU, CCSU, SCSU, UConn, and Hartford School of Art, all popular transfer destinations for MCC students. The exhibit, intended as an opportunity for MCC students to connect with faculty from those programs, runs through December 6.

Classen-Sullivan explains, “We have a vibration Fine Art Program at MCC, with over 100 fine art majors. Though many go on to specifically fine art institutions, some transfer to Connecticut four-year schools. The exhibition, along with bringing strong relevant contemporary art to the college and community, serves to acquaint MCC fine art students with the work of professors they may have as instructors in the future. Additionally the exhibition verifies that fine arts professors also have rigorous art making practices.”

snow-cave-mergedJeremy Chandler – “Snow Cave Merged”

Chandler, who teaches photography, says of his work, “My art practice continues to grow out of a desire to express my personal history, experiences and relationships, through a prolonged engagement with place and a process that emphasizes structured improvisation with those I photograph. I primarily engage with my audience through rich, open-ended narrative imagery, which subverts ritualized expressions of masculinity, while creating altered perceptions of space and place.”

vaters-carr_18_document_2017Rachael Vaters-Carr

Vaters-Carr says that her work “is intimately connected to survivorship. Themes of healing, destruction, protection and defense have consistently resonated throughout my work and have always served as the primary catalyst for my art practice. The forms and shapes found in this body of work are inspired by objects that have been altered to include reference points that hint at medical intervention, altercation, and trespass. Over the past few years, I have been obsessively reworking these forms into drawings, paintings, and sculptures that explore personal narrative with more universal implications.”

Learn more about the gallery and the exhibition.

 

Paris Diaries 2017

Dear Friends of the Southern in Paris Program,

It is almost cliché to say, but time has flown by. Today marks our eleventh day in Paris, and the students have already experienced so much. I’d like to take a moment and reflect on our activities, as well as showcase some of the students’ work so far.

We departed New York’s JFK airport on May 31st on an overnight flight to Paris. Students settled in and enjoyed the in-seat entertainment, food, and service provided by our carrier, Air France. Although airline food does not have the best reputation, some students remarked that they were surprised by the quality. Arriving in Paris at 8 o’clock in the morning, we were greeted by one of the longest immigration control lines the program has ever had to endure. Luckily, the agents were quick and efficient, and we were picking up our bags and getting into the shuttle in no time.

Our residence, the Foundation Biermans-Lapôtre, welcomed us with open arms, clean rooms, and recently installed Wi-Fi. Built to house students from Belgium and Luxembourg, the foundation allows groups hailing from other countries to stay for short visits, and we are very grateful for their continued hospitality and professionalism.

After settling into our rooms, students headed to the local grocery store to pick up essentials. Now a bit more familiar with the neighborhood, the group returned to the foundation for a well-deserved rest. Student intern Andrew “André” Janz and I took advantage of this moment to visit the nearest transportation office to purchase our Navigo cards. These magic items allow us to use every facet of Parisian public transportation, even including the regional train system! For many of the students, it is quite a change from relying solely on a personal vehicle to get around. That evening, we took a walk to a neighborhood known as “Montparnasse,” which is anchored by one of the only skyscrapers inside the city limits. There we enjoyed some refreshments at a local café while enjoying one of the most popular Parisian pastimes: people watching! Once we had had our fill, we enjoyed a dinner of galettes and crêpes at Crêperie Plougastel, an event that has become a bit of a tradition for the program on the night of arrival. Filled with cheese, chocolate, and a variety of other tasty ingredients, it was time to turn in for the night.

Friday included a few program set-up activities, lunch at a student-favorite bakery called Paul, and a walk through the courtyards of the Louvre. Students had the evening free to themselves, and many took advantage of the mild weather to explore more. On Saturday, we made our first visit to the Louvre, where we saw the three ladies: the Mona Lisa, the Venus di Milo, and the Victory Angel of Samothrace. These pieces of art alone draw an amazing number of tourists each day, and many students were surprised at how much activity buzzed around them.

On Sunday, we made our first program visit ever to the village of Provins, a UNESCO World Heritage site about eighty kilometers outside of Paris (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/873). Known for its medieval architecture and underground tunnel system, the city was one of the most important economic centers of the European world during the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries. The next day, we continued our exploration of the medieval world with a visit to the Basilica of Saint-Denis, often considered one of the first examples of “French Work,” as it was known at the time, and that we have come to know as Gothic Architecture. Students marveled at the stained glass, arched ceilings, and funerary statuary since Saint-Denis is the traditional resting place of the French monarchy. Following this early example, Sainte-Chapelle did not disappoint during our visit the following day. An example of later gothic style, Sainte-Chapelle was built to house the relics that king Louis IX, later Saint-Louis, brought back from the crusades. With walls appearing to be made of only stained-glass, this favorite stop on the trip continues to marvel visitors nearly 770 years after its consecration. Finally, we ended that day’s visit with a stop at the Conciergerie, formerly part of the royal palace and often used as a prison.

On Wednesday, students met at the Musée de Cluny, a museum dedicated to medieval life and art. Built upon Roman baths, the museum houses a very impressive collection of tapestries, the most notable of which is probably the series known as “La Dame à la licorne,” or “The Lady and the Unicorn.” After leaving the museum, we took a detour and stopped in at Angelina’s, a famous tea room specializing in hot chocolate and delicious pastries. Students marveled at the consistency of the drink, remarking that it was indeed like drinking melted chocolate. They all agreed that it was like nothing they had had before! After enjoying our short rest at Angelina’s, we made our way to the Louvre to explore the medieval foundations discovered during the renovations of the 1980s, followed by a short tour through the French small-format paintings. We then walked along the rue de Rivoli and the Seine to get to our dinner reservation at the Trumilou. Offering traditional French fare, the restaurant did not disappoint. Hesitant to try them on their own, students eagerly split a plate of a dozen escargots. Savoring the buttery, garlicky, and earthy flavors, many of the students were surprised at how much they enjoyed the typically French dish.

Thursday and Friday were free days for the students, while Saturday we left the city for an all-day visit to the 17th-century castle Vaux-le-Vicomte. A highlight of the trip, the property offered up all it had to offer to the students, who explored the property for nearly six hours. As spectacular as the building itself is, the gardens are indeed the highpoint. Designed by famed landscape artist André Le Nôtre, the gardens play tricks on the visitor’s perspective and uncover surprises as s/he walks further into the grounds.

Interested in reading what the students have to say? Take a look at our program’s Tumblr page at https://scsu2017paris.tumblr.com.

Some highlights include:

“What caught my attention were the stained glass windows all around the church. The usually dark colors like the red and the blues shone exceptionally well. I enjoyed the light pouring out into the church.”

“One of my fondest memories from my first visit to France is my first visit to the chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte. I was born and raised in a small town (around 5,000 people) and find it somewhat difficult to adjust to the pace of city life. While Paris is a fantastically unique city, the Vaux has always offered me a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of metro trains and pedestrian laden streets.”

“After our brief visit [to the Louvre], we were desperately hungry […]. We went to a nice cafe called Cafe Joli and I had a fantastic Croque Monsieur. I was in heaven after eating that.”

“I can only wonder how the Mona Lisa feels. Launching into the spotlight is difficult for anyone, but she didn’t ask for this. Why, of all da Vinci’s breathtaking works, why her? Why this piece? Bulletproof glass, a wooden rail, two bodyguards, and a fabric rope barring the spectators from getting too close. She sees thousands of people a day, and I can only imagine she’s lonely on her private wall. I wonder if she feels guilty about drawing people away from the other pieces in the room, either by sucking the public in like a fly to her web, or repelling visitors completely from the room as a whole to avoid the buzz in the middle.”

Wishing you all the best from Paris,

Luke L. Eilderts, Ph.D.
Director, Southern in Paris program 2017
Assistant Professor of French
World Languages & Literatures