Local Impact, Institutional News

Class of 2019 Hits the Ground Running

Bennington College celebrated the achievements of the Class of 2019 at Commencement this year with the three members of the acclaimed folk trio Mountain Man: Molly Erin Sarlé ’12, Amelia Meath ’10, and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig ’09, who shared their advice to their younger selves, spoke on the importance of balance and collaboration, and performed several songs.

"How wild it feels to leave the guardrails"

"Nothing can truly prepare a person for how wild it feels to leave the guardrails of 20 years of living within an educational system," said Alexandra Sauser-Monnig '09. "Keep the people who inspire you to do better and to work harder close to you, and let them become the touchstones of your growth as a person doing the work that you care about."

"My greatest rule of thumb is be kind to everyone you meet because you are more likely to be remembered for your kindness that you will be for your talent, particularly if you are in a creative pursuit," said Amelia Meath '10.

"Be humble, work hard, and don't wait for other people to give you permission," said Molly Erin Sarlé '12

Michelle Cirillo ’19 was this year’s Class Speaker. As a student of Ceramics and Philosophy, Cirillo sought new ways to strengthen communities and spark cultural change through her dedication to a critical study of ethics and rigorous attention to the practical demands of being a working-class artist. Cirillo’s academic path has been a model for fusing creative inquiry with social good. In both the classroom and the field, she has been lauded for her principled, empathic, and visionary leadership skills.

Sarah Harris was the faculty speaker. A scholar of contemporary Spanish fiction, Harris spoke about the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, which has been in construction for over 137 years, yet attracts millions of visitors per year. Harris spoke about the tenacity of the architectural teams who have taken on this project, and told graduates, “You, too, are a spectacular work in process.”

Enjoy photos from the Commencement dinner and ceremony, see Cirillo’s speech, and watch the 84th conferring of degrees.

Mountain Man band play video
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Mountain Man Performs for the Class of 2019

Awards and Honors

Carling Berkhout ’19, Carlota Gamboa ’19, Lydia Golitz ’19, and Jane Knoll ’19 are among the recipients of the Bennington Undergraduate Writing Fellowships for 2019, which allows a select group of undergraduate writers working in poetry, fiction, or literary nonfiction the opportunity to further their study of craft with a 10-day residency at Bennington’s MFA in Writing program.

Mira Darham ’19 exhibited two of her etchings at the Yellowstone Art Museum, the largest contemporary art museum in Montana.

Aubrey Lavender-Cook ’19 and Foster Powell ’19 were the recipients of the John Hendrick '86 Memorial Music Commission Award, which is given annually to gifted Bennington student composers chosen by the music faculty. Recipients are awarded a commission for musical work they composed and presented in concert during the academic year.  

Matthew Tuckner ’19 received a scholarship in fiction to study the New York Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore College this summer. His poem “Ornithology” was recently selected by Rick Barot for the 2019 Academy of American Poets—University and College Poetry Prize.

A group of Bennington collaborators including Asad J. Malik ’19, Phoebe VanDusen ’19, and Mariana Irazu ’19, created A Jester’s Tale, an Augmented Reality (AR) project that was selected for the Sundance Film Festival New Frontiers. Theirs was the only New Frontiers submission helmed by undergraduates. In 2018, Malik led another team of Bennington collaborators in developing another AR project, Terminal 3, that explored Muslim identity and perception and was included as part of the immersive Storyscapes lineup at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

Malik, who was named a Top 10 Filmmaker to Watch in 2018 by The Independent and selected by AdWeek as one of its 2018 Young Influentials, will continue pursuing his own augmented reality (AR) ventures through his company 1RIC after graduation.

Kaitlyn Plukas ’19 and Daniel Coelho ’19 have been awarded prestigious English teaching fellowships by the French government’s Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF), becoming the latest in a long line of Bennington students who have won these competitive grants.

The Beginning of Songs, a short animated film by Julia Granillo Tostado ’19, was selected for film festivals in Baixada Animada, Rio de Janerio; Todos Somos Otros, Mexico City; and the Vermont Animation Festival. Over Field Work Term, Granillo Tostado created animations for the film La Nave, directed by Batán Silva. The film will be in movie theaters in Mexico beginning fall 2019.

Graduate Studies

Many graduating students will use their Bennington education as a springboard for advanced studies in poetry, international diplomacy, astronomy and physics, filmmaking, and more. The inquiry, research, creativity, engagement, and communication skills they honed through the Plan process will be put to use at such prestigious institutions as the University of Sussex, Michigan Technical University, and University of Bayreuth in Germany.

Catalina Adragna ’19 will begin a fully-funded MFA in Poetry at Rutgers University-Newark.

While at Bennington, Haixin Wang ’19 took part in a year-long exchange program at Lorenzo de Medici Institute in Florence, Italy. During this time, she discovered her love for jewelry design. Wang will pursue a masters program in jewelry design at University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, England.

Lisa Jones ’19 will begin graduate work in International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London.

Madeline Peterson ’19 plans to pursue her MS in Applied Ecology at Michigan Technical University. Over the summer, she’ll work at MTU as a field and research technician on a project studying the drying of peatlands, which is anticipated by climate change.

Naomi Middleton ’19 will be attending the University of Sussex to pursue an MA in Filmmaking.

Mirza Becevic ’19 will start a graduate program at the University of Bayreuth in Germany to continue his work in Environmental Chemistry researching microplastics.

Amanda Bacon ’19 will pursue her PhD in Astronomy & Physics at the University of Pennsylvania. She has been nominated as a Fontaine Fellow for her first year at UPenn, which intends "to encourage a diverse population of graduate students by supporting the education of members of groups that tend to be underrepresented in United States PhD programs."

Ignjat Milenkovic ’19 has been accepted to King's College in London to study Comparative Literature.

Future Plans

Ivett Martinez ’18 graduated in December 2018 after completing a senior work comprised of a documentary and thesis addressing issues of immigration, gender, and social justice. Martinez is currently a legal assistant at an immigration law firm in Southern California, as well as an active member of Mijente, a digital and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx organizing and movement building, and is connecting with other organizers in Orange County to create an organizing network in Southern California.

An Nguyen ’18 graduated in December 2018 and is currently working as data scientist at the University of Texas - Austin for the Beaufort Lagoon Ecosystems Long-term Ecological Research project.

Maegan George ’19 will spend a year volunteering at the Camphill School in Pennsylvania, where she will live and work with students who have a range of developmental disabilities to build a community that goes beyond the usual “caregiver” model.

Matt Jones ’19 will join Amazon as a Software Development Engineer, where he will write code to help secure AWS, the largest cloud computing platform. This opportunity arose following his four internships—first for Field Work Term, then during three summers—at Amazon.

We Work Here

Work-integrated learning has been integral to a Bennington education since its founding. Through their four Field Work Terms, the class of 2019 explored passions, made professional connections, and gained work experience at institutions ranging from Arizona State University, Christie’s, New Orleans Film Society, SpeakOut Boston, Dartmouth College, Global Youth Connect, and the Oregon Jewish Museum.

Graduates also worked with alumni in their fields, extending the Bennington network across generations alongside luminaries like Jason Fridley ’97, Dr. Robert Davis ’79, and Bryn Mooser '01.

Members of the class of 2019 participated in The Lucille Lortel Foundation Fellowships in Theatre, a grant program offering paid internships during Field Work Term in off-Broadway non-profit theater companies for exceptional Bennington drama students.

Ron Anahaw ’19, Catalina Andragna ’19, Rob Ascher ’19, Joe Coppola '19Fiona DeVito ’19, Inas Gacanin ’19, Annie Stone ’19, Phoebe VanDusen ’19Verreth Wilson ’19, and Joseph Woodard Murdock '19 worked at MCC Theatre, Mint Theater Company, The New Group, Cherry Lane Theatre, Vineyard Theatre, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, New Georges, and The Flea Theater.

Upon graduation, Verreth Wilson ’19 will begin a full-time position at Cherry Lane Theatre, an opportunity that was offered to him upon the conclusion of his Lortel Fellowship.

Museum Fellows Term is an immersive educational opportunity in which students gain professional work experience at a major cultural institution, visit exhibitions, and study multiple aspects of the art world with Bennington faculty, and meet artists, curators, and other arts and culture leaders. Members of the class of 2019, including Carlota Gamboa ’19, Julia Granillo Tostado ’19, and Lydia Barnes ’19 worked at Cooper Hewitt and Museum of the Moving Image as part of Museum Fellows Term.

Lisa Jones ’19 spent a Field Work Term in Washington, DC, with the Carmen Group, a bipartisan political lobbying firm, where she learned about the American political system. After working with the Carmen Group and writing her senior work, which focused on understanding the rhetoric around the rise of post-truth politics, she has decided to pursue a career in the diplomatic field.

Carling Berkhout ’19 was profiled in The Manchester Journal for her work at the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Berkhout also toured with Amayi Anders '21 and student Magdalen Wulf, who comprise the folk trio Surplus Daughters, over Field Work Term.

Sam Wood ’19 spoke to the Cape Cod Times about his Field Work Term at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre.

Livia Chesley ’19 studied Butoh, a type of Japanese dance theatre, across Field Work Term experiences and a three-month European tour with Julie Becton Gillum, artistic director of Asheville Butoh Collective.

Madeline Peterson ’19 spent a Field Work Term at Syracuse University’s Fridley lab, run by Jason Fridley ’97, cultivating seedlings for a long-term experiment that delves into how microbial soil affects the growth of native plants and how invasive species alter this system.

Naomi Middleton ’19 integrated her Field Work Term experiences into her senior work to create a portrait documentary about HELO Orphanage in Haiti. Middleton’s documentary is a combination of stories told by the children, Middleton’s own footage, and the children’s photographs pieced together in an exploration of how the elements of home, education, love and opportunity are at play in the children’s lives.

Molly Fleiner-Etheridge ’19 assisted faculty member Aysha Peltz at Claytopia, an annual ceramics conference hosted by the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA), at which Peltz was a demonstrating artist. After graduation, Fleiner-Etheridge will work as the manager for the grants program at Studio Potter magazine.

Bronwyn Edwards ’19 interned at New York State Council for the Arts (NYSCA), learning about grant administration at an organization that administers $41 million in grants to 2,400 arts and culture organizations throughout the state.

Odessa Jacobson ’19 received and completed an artistic residency at Lake Studios in Berlin, Germany. Over summer 2019, she will participate in Urban Bush Women's Summer Leadership Institute, WHEN BLACK WOMEN(+) PREVAIL, WE ALL PREVAIL: ERASED NO MORE.  

Over Field Work Term, Sadip Giri ’19 worked at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center with Dr. Robert Davis ’79 to use artificial intelligence to identify patients with PAF atrial fibrillation during their normal sinus rhythms. The interpretable insights of Giri’s work will help to improve patient care and diagnostic accuracy.

Even as research develops around PFOA’s potential health effects and toxicity, little is known about how PFOA works inside bodies. Ivy Lehner ’19 spent Field Work Term studying the biological effects of PFOA and will present the project’s findings at the American Chemical Society conference in June 2019.

Campus Collaborations

At Bennington, education is a shared endeavor. Students are encouraged to seek out interdisciplinary connections between their courses and to learn from each other and their surroundings, as well as from their instructors. Bennington students, alumni, and faculty often collaborate on projects that both deepen students’ own courses of study and broaden their understanding of the world.

In the Barn East Gallery, Emma Castle ’19, Jane Knoll ’19, and Izzy Greenberg ’19 displayed silk scarves dyed using Japanese manual resist techniques like arashi and itajime, learned during Richard MacPike’s Resisting the Stitch course.  

Building upon his broad background in literature, drama, and music, Rob Ascher ’19 found his passion for dramaturgy after taking Maya Cantu’s Intro to Dramaturgy course. For his senior work, he served as the Production Dramaturg for the faculty production of The Christians by Lucas Hnath, and he consulted with first-time dramaturg Soumya Shaliendra ’21 on The Place We Built by Sarah Gancher ’01. Ascher also studied abroad at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he developed an interest in arts administration.

Lydia Golitz ’19 interned for the Office of Alumni Relations, during which time she wrote a guide to recent alumni works and a round up of the best horror stories, television, and films done by alumni.

Bailey Kushinsky ’19 participated in Language Series events, including a discussion with French filmmaker Alice Diop.

Ron Anahaw ’19 was accepted into and attended the 2018 Kenyon Playwrights Conference, and he spent a Field Work Term as a Screenplay Intern at the Austin Film Festival. A member of Bennington College’s Drama Collective, Anahaw also organized an on-campus student playreading festival, during which participants read the original works of four student playwrights.

Along with Anahaw, Sam Mistry ’19 co-wrote Around the Fire, a full-length play that follows four students of color who are accepted to a historically white private liberal arts college. On condition of their admittance, the students are sent on a separate pre-orientation wilderness survival trip in the woods, led by a white counselor from the school. There’s only one requirement of this trip: each student must write and share a story about their lives around the fire. Personalities clash, and tensions rise, as these five students learn to survive both the woods, and each other.

Emma Salazar ’19 researched the formation of calcite veins across Vermont as part of her senior work.

Local Impact

While in Thorsten Dennerline’s Intermediate-Level Printmaking course, Isabella Adler ’19, Esme Chant ’19, Livia Chelsey ’19, and Miranda Gibbs ’19 presented their own work at the 10th annual Bennington Printmakers Show, in partnership with the Vermont Arts Exchange (VAE).

Amanda Bacon ’19, Josie Bunnell ’19, Madeline Peterson ’19, and Emma Salazar ’19 participated in Scientificus, a pop-up math and science museum offered over spring break at the Village School of North Bennington.

Bacon and Bunnell also served as co-leaders of the Astronomy Club, which aims to make astronomy and using the telescopes more accessible to students. During Spring 2019, they hosted Public Observing nights, open to both the campus and local communities, at the Stickney Observatory.

Students studying languages, including Daniel Coelho ’19, Toby Lewkowicz ’19, and Kameyo Okamoto ’19 taught Chinese, French, and Japanese to students at the Village School of North Bennington and Bennington Elementary.

Bronwyn Edwards ’19 worked as a North Bennington stringer for the Associated Press during the 2018 midterm elections. Along with Daisy Clennon ’21, Edwards led a voter registration drive on campus, tabling in the dining hall to assist fellow students with voter registration and requesting their absentee ballots.

Sophia Gasparro ’19 curated her senior show from Bennington College’s art holdings and installed pieces at the Robert Frost Stone House Museum as part of (Im)Possibilities of Landscape, which explores representations of landscape, domesticity, and sense of place. The exhibition will run until September 2019.

Naomi Middleton ’19 served as editor for Bennington: View from Bingham Hill, a special issue of the Bennington Museum’s Walloomsack Review, which produces riveting, in-depth articles about the history of the region. As part of Mirka Prazak’s Studying Place by Metes and Bounds course, students—including Benjamin Wolinsky ’19 and Jessica Jaundoo ’19—contributed to this essay collection, which uses a variety of research methods to describe the environment and socio-political-economic concerns of the town of Bennington.

Wendy Ulloa '19, who will graduate in December 2019, has been been highly involved in GANAS, a course in which Bennington College students support the Latino migrant community within Bennington and its surrounding areas. Through this project, Ulloa and her peers have worked toward offering ESL Lessons, high school mentoring programs, translations, social events, radio, women’s group, and other services to help support migrant families within the community. 

Kilpatrick Fellows

Since Bennington’s founding, students have graduated equipped to influence places and matters of great personal and public importance. Named after William Heard Kilpatrick, an advocate for progressive education in America and one of Bennington’s founders, the Kilpatrick Fellowship program prepares new graduates for careers in higher education and nonprofit management.

Now entering its sixth year, the program welcomes new graduates Bronwyn Edwards ’19, Carling Berkhout ’19, and Adityajit Kang ’19 beginning July 1 to work in the President’s Office, Robert Frost Stone House Museum, and the Office of Admissions and receive professional mentorship from members of Bennington College’s senior administration.

Recent Graduate Trustee

After a campus-wide nomination and application process and a final vote at the May Board of Trustees meeting, it was announced that Asad J. Malik ’19 will be serving a two-year term on the College’s Board of Trustees.