New Math

imagesFor those of us who are not officially enrolled students but are certifiably nosy, there is no more satisfying time of the semester than “intro classes.” This is when each professor gives a half-hour, hypersonic, lickety split, college-on-coffee run-down of their whole class. If you spent two solid days going to intro classes, you would probably be totally exhausted but smart enough to score in the 95th percentile on your GREs. Some of the classes that jumped right out at me this semester were Sex and Gender in Late Medieval Europe, Philosophy of Poetry, and Agroecology Seminar. Senior Justin Harrison is teaching a class called Nobody Loses All the Time: Obsession and American Crime Film, and the new anthropology professor Rebekah Park is teaching Introduction to Human Rights and Anthropology, which is sure to be popular. So which intro class did I willingly chose to go to? Topics in Algebra, Trigonometry, and Calculus—yes, math.

julie_rana_lrNow, as the two of you who read my blog regularly will know, I am no Pythagoras myself, preferring less mathematically rigorous activities like thumb-twiddling, navel-contemplating, and watching lichen grow. Seriously, differential equations give me hives, but this class was different. Math fellow Julie Rana, who graduated from Marlboro in 2006 as math professor Matt Ollis’ first Plan student, has totally revamped the class to be more accessible and flexible and…well, more Marlboro. I mean, students can choose from Julie’s carefully crafted units to meet their needs, whether that’s preparing for the GREs, incorporating some math into their Plan, or just getting back onto the ol’ math horse after being kicked off in high school by teachers with the social skills of an avocado. Julie is just so excited about the course, the new units she has developed, and math in general, and that excitement is contagious. You know, not contagious like the flu or dysentery or even like a yawn, but like laughter. Julie is teaching another contagiously exciting class called Math and Art, which sounds so cool it could make me get over my math allergy for good.

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Clean Water in Cambodia

photoMost college students think of winter break as a special, snowy time to catch up on their sleep, watch bad television, and commune with boredom, right? Well, a handful of Marlboro students took the time to do something way beyond their couch-potato comfort zone, traveling halfway around the world to Cambodia to participate in service learning projects. For the past two weeks, art faculty John Willis, Cathy Osman, and Tim Segar and five students have visited communities, participated in ESL classes in local schools, and helped with water projects. I mean, you can’t find this kind of adrenalin-pumping, eye-popping, intercultural-feel-good thrill on television, no matter how late you stay up.

photo-1This is the third service-learning trip Marlboro has taken to Cambodia in the past five years, building on relationships already forged with sustainable development groups in Cambodia and in the U.S., such as the Amherst/Cambodia Water project. The group is visiting schools in Champon Chhnang, Ang, Pursat, Siem Reap, and other communities where they are participating in service projects, testing water quality and supporting clean water efforts. They are also visiting the busy capital of Phnom Penh, the temple of Angkor, and memorials to those killed during the Khmer Rouge period.

photo-5But perhaps the most rewarding part of the trip has been the amazing people that they’re meeting along the way, people they were not so likely to find on ol’ Potash Hill or at ol’ Mocha Joe’s or shopping for socks at ol’ Sam’s. Like Buddhist novices in saffron robes at Monk Ang Pagoda, colorful merchants at market, stately elders in the villages, and of course the kids. Wherever you go, nothing like adorable kids to bring out the cultural relativist in all of us. I leave you with one of their young students in a village ESL class, below:

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