Student News

Bennington Grads Hit the Ground Running

Commencement 2015

Plans for the members of the Class of 2015 range from publishing to public service to academia to the professional realm.

Planting the Seeds
This year’s graduating class already worked all over the U.S., as well as internationally, including Germany, Israel, Mexico, China, Finland, Argentina, Sweden, Hungary, Bolivia, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and the State of Palestine, through their annual Field Work Term experiences.

The Class of ’15 spent time at such places as some of the most vital arts organizations in the country (the International Center of Photography, Martha Graham Dance Company, the 52nd Street Project, Frank Gehry’s architectural studio), centers for scientific research (the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, McGill University’s Pain Genetics Lab, and the American Museum of Natural History), the locus of the sustainable culinary movement in the US (Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture), and public policy, advocacy, and development organizations (Vera Institute of Justice, National Center for Transgender Equality, America’s Promise Alliance).

For some, the “world outside” was just outside the gates; over their four years at the college, graduating students have engaged with Bennington and its surrounds in meaningful ways, through work with 350 Vermont (a climate action organization), the Bennington County Regional Commission, Bennington Project Independence, Berkshire County Head Start program, the Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse in neighboring North Adams, the Quantum Leap program at Bennington’s Mt. Anthony High School, the Vermont State House, and the State Legislature.

The Class of ’15 has not waited for graduation before writing and publishing in the professional realm. Kate Foster’s senior thesis has been published as book of poems, Animal Problems (Electric Cereal, 2015). Bruna Dantas Lobato, Jeva Lange, and Sasha Wiseman have had their work appear in the Christian Science MonitorVice, the Atlantic, the LA Review of Books, and other national publications.

The World of Public Service
A Bennington education includes an emphasis on finding creative approaches to the , and a number of this year’s graduates are continuing that work in the coming months and years.

Megan Preis will teach mathematics in Louisiana with the Teach for America program.

The student group GANAS, led by a group of graduating seniors (Andrea Tapia, Selina Petschek, Carlos Mendez, Celene Barrera, and Nina Berenstein), launched a set of resource centers for undocumented migrant workers living near the College.

Maliha Ali’s work on public policy and international relations led her to create an online, searchable database for researchers and journalists containing facts, data, articles, and analysis related to U.S. government drone strikes in Pakistan.

Graduate Studies
A number of members of the class of ’15 will be going continuing with graduate studies in the fall at a variety of top programs in their fields. Carlos Mendez co-authored a paper this year that provides insight into “an alternative molecular basis for the initiation events in skin cancer” in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. He will continue this research when he enters the PhD program in the Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center this fall. Devon Walker will begin a MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop, one of the oldest and best-known programs in the country. Other graduates will attend programs that include Duke, New York University, the State University of New York, Albany, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Edinburgh, and the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain, and Language.

National Awards and Fellowships
Graduating seniors have seen tremendous success in national award and fellowship competitions this year.

There are two Fulbright Award winners among this year’s grads: Sheridan Baker will travel to Taiwan as an English teaching assistant, while Jaymee Weaver will create a performance art piece in Ecuador that examines the impact of “modernization” on communities and natural environments of women in the Andes Mountains and the Amazon rainforest.

Among the other national awards and fellowships received by members of the Class of 2015 are the Princeton in Asia fellowship (Forest Abbot-Lum), scholarships to participate in the 29th annual New York Summer Writers Institute Conference at Skidmore College (Jeva Lange and Phoebe Blanding), and fellowships to attend the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets, a highly selective program determined by a national competition for undergraduate writers (Devon Walker and Jessica Pacitto).

Kilpatrick Fellows
Now in its second year, the Kilpatrick Fellowship program welcomes new graduates beginning July 1 to work in the offices of academic services, admissions, alumni relations, student life, and the president. For one year, Class of ’15 grads Friederike Windel, Andrea Tapia, Ray Stevens, Michael Thompson, Selina Petschek will be professionally mentored by members of the Bennington College’s senior administration in order to prepare them for a career in higher education and nonprofit management.

Recent Graduate Trustee
After a vote at the June meeting, it was announced that Genelle Rankin will be serving a 2-year term on the College’s Board of Trustees. Genelle, who studied biology and chemistry during her time at Bennington, worked on a Plan titled “Neuroscience and Chemistry: the study of behavior,” and completed two FWTs at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.