Hamiltonian Spring Breakers

By Courtney Kaplar ’16, Tsion Tesfaye '16, Charlotte Carstens '16

Clearing the Cumberland Trail with ASB

by Courtney Kaplar '16

For those of you who don’t know, Alternative Spring Break is an organization at Hamilton College that offers week-long service trips during spring break that are located in areas outside of the local college community.  The ASB program was started in 1990 when 20 Hamilton students traveled to Miami to assist on Hurricane Andrew relief efforts with Habitat for Humanity. Over the years, the number of student participants and trips has increased. This year, 100 students volunteered with one of  the ten nonprofit organization options, including Friends of the Lower Greenbrier River in West Virginia, Hurricane Sandy relief in New Jersey and Youth Service Opportunities Project in Washington, D.C. 

This year I went on my first ASB trip, travelling over 14 hours to southern Tennessee to help build the Cumberland Trail. When completed, the hiking trail project that, when completed, will stretch over 300 miles throught Kentucky and Tennessee.

At first, I was not super excited to wake up at 5 a.m. and spend the whole day on a Jitney with people  that I barely knew. On the way there, almost everyone slept and barely interacted with each other.  That awkwardness, however, diminished over the week as the group bonded while working together on the trail and playing intense late night card games.

The  facility where we stayed provided us with bunk beds and three meals a day—in that way, it was almost like summer camp.  We worked from 9 a.m. to around 3:30 p.m. and then went back to the retreat where we were staying, to do homework or (in my case) take naps by the lake.  Dinner was around 5 p.m., and afterwards there was always a program organized by the full time trail volunteers. For example, there was a lecture given by a Hamilton alumnus about the Cumberland Trail area during the Civil War and a bird show that exhibited different types of birds found in Tennessee. At night, our group would play board games or cards until the late hours, despite having to wake up at 6 a.m. to get ready for another day of trail work.

The group was also able to visit Chattanooga, Tenn. on our day off. This might have been my favorite part of the trip, not because there was no work involved but because the weather was so nice.  Unfortunately, Tennessee was not as warm as I had hoped, but on our day off, I saw more sun than I had seen since summer.

There was such a huge difference between our group’s dynamic on the way back from our trip and the group dynamic had greatly changed by the return to the Hill.  There was definitely an enthusiasm for the trip that hadn’t been there before. This change shows me how participating in ASB is a great and unique experience. It was very well organized with group activities, but it also allowed for individual freedom.  What I liked most was the fact that I was able to meet new people, which can sometimes be difficult for a somewhat shy person at a small school.  I would most definitely do ASB again, and will aspire to become a leader during my senior year.

New program increases passion for social innovation

by Tsion Tesfaye '16

The Levitt Center launched its first Social Innovation Fellows Program during the second week of spring break. The program was run by Anke Wessels,  the executive director of the Center of Transformative Action. The Center is an independent, education-based nonprofit affiliate of Cornell University that provides fiscal sponsorship and human assistance to innovative social change agents in New York. In the fall of 2010, Wessels’ course at Colgate University, “Social Innovators and Entrepreneurs,” was selected by the Ashoka Foundation as one of the 10 best social entrepreneurship courses in the country.

“Our program is unique among college campuses because we’re not coming from a business perspective, but from the transformative action model, which is about empowering people to come together, often across social differences, to imagine and co-create solutions to pressing social problems,” said Wessels. This award-winning course inspired the creation of the Social Innovation Fellows Program at Hamilton.

Readings and exercises were assigned prior to the start of the week to help students explore their passion and to discover what Wessels said “makes time fly.” Throughout the week, students worked on developing projects in areas of their interest. The range of interests, passions and backgrounds demonstrated by the 13 participating students added a special flavor to the week.

Participants learned about the different aspects of social innovation and discussed the challenges associated with social innovation organizations. The program incorporated various case studies to inspire students to take action to bring about a social change.

Students also learned about the organizational structures used by for-profit and nonprofit organizations that focus on fixing social problems. Throughout the week, students worked on planning  projects of their own design with Wessels’s tireless assistance. The students concluded the week by pitching these project ideas to the Levitt Center to seek further assistance in taking  their projects to the next level. The Social Innovation Fellows Program is a unique opportunity for Hamilton students and anyone interested in social entrepeneurship should take advantage of it.

Hamilton College Choir takes the Northeast

by Charlotte Carstens '16

During the first week of spring break, the Hamilton College Choir embarked on their annual choir tour.  The choir, which is seventy-eight members strong this year, toured throughout the Northeast region of the U.S., performing in Delmar, N.Y., Boston, Mass., Newtown, Conn., Brooklyn, N.Y., Larchmont, N.Y., Philadelphia, Pa. and Washington, D.C.  Concerts included performances by the College Choir, the College Hill Singers and Hamilton’s barbershop quartet.

The choir tour is an annual tradition dating back to before the current choir director and professor of music, G. Roberts Kolb, got the position in 1981.  After concluding the performances of the annual choir musical—the 2014 production was “Candide”—the choir concentrates its efforts on its tour repertoire.  The choir tours operate on a four-year rotation, alternating between performing domestically in the  South, Midwest, and the Northeast.  Additionally, every four years, the choir tours abroad—the choir most recently toured Italy in Spring 2013.

The program included both religious and secular music.  The pieces encompassed many genres, styles, and languages, including Latin, French, German, Russian and English.  Highlights included Handl’s “Pater noster,” Lotti’s “Crucifixus,” Josquin’s “Ave Maria,” Whitacre’s “With a Lily in Your Hand,” Carmichael’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” and Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville Overture.”  A special feature this year was a piece composed by Will Robertson ’14 and performed by the College Hill Singers, a smaller, twenty-member performance group.

The Northeastern tour is particularly personal due to the large number of parents and alumni who reside in the region.  Homestays are a frequent occurrence and allow students to connect with alumni, many of them former choir members.  Brisa Camacho-Lovell ’16 said, “I really enjoyed the homestays because we got to meet Hamilton alumni from such a wide range of graduating classes.  I stayed with an alum from the Class of ’64 one night, and an alum from the Class of ’01 only a few nights later.  Both were very fun, and it was really interesting to see how their Hamilton experiences differed, and what life on the hill was like during their undergraduate years.”

While the tour is certainly a whirlwind of a week for the students, it is an extremely valuable and enriching experience. Each year, the choir returns to campus a more close-knit group. Students had free time between in most of the cities, providing a nice contrast to the demanding performance schedule.  Traveling and performing together for a week increases the cohesiveness of the group, strengthens personal bonds and improves the choir’s overall performance quality. Rwemi Levinson ’17 said, “Being a freshmen, I didn’t really know what to expect from choir tour. Overall it was a positive experience, singing in beautiful churches and getting to know new people. It definitely made me realize how difficult it is to travel and sing every night and I’ve gained a lot more respect for all the musicians who go on year-long tours.”

This year’s tour was deemed a great success. Professor Kolb received many emails and letters  praising the quality of the performances.  Kolb states that the choir was “wonderfully received.”  Many current Hamilton students also attended the various concerts. Julie Horgan ’17 of the concert at the Old South Church in Boston said, “I really enjoyed the solos and the College Hill Singers…It was nice hearing it all in the different languages. The conductor was also very personable and kept the audience interested!”

The final performance of the tour is a home performance on Friday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m. in Wellin Hall.  After that, the choir will focus on its music for its upcoming performances in May, imcluding a concert forRachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil and a performance at the Class and Charter Day Convocation.


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