Explore Stories

an illustration of Sayed Malawi, founder of Swarthmore's bird club.

Sayed Dreams of Birds

Spring 2016

Avian and otherwise, rare birds abound at Swarthmore. 

Among the many roosting in the College’s Peace Collection is Horace Gundry Alexander, a world-famous
pacifist, Quaker, and adviser to Mahatma Gandhi.

Nowhere in the 14 boxes of papers by the Englishman who eventually moved to Swarthmore is there more passion than in the slim folder, “Writings re: birds.” 

a plate of salad

Hungry for Change

Summer 2016

Over the past decade, the conversation about the politics of our food system has quickly risen from a simmer to a steady boil. Studies of the American industrialized food complex—which relies heavily on chemical processing and refining of foods to enhance flavor or shelf life by loading food with sugar, salt, and artificial ingredients—have revealed damning consumer health implications linked to a range of ailments, including obesity and Type 2 diabetes. 

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Dan Finkel ’02 works one-on-one with a student.

Absolute Value

Spring 2016

It is a truth universally acknowledged that math class can be boring. 

But it doesn’t have to be, according to Dan Finkel ’02. An elementary-school math whiz who went on to exhaust his district’s math resources halfway through high school, Finkel eventually majored in mathematics at Swarthmore before earning a Ph.D. in the subject at the University of Washington. 

Heather Ylitalo-Ward ’06 cradles an octopus.

The Fates of our Fathoms

Spring 2016

Heather Ylitalo-Ward ’06 was 17 years old when she had her first close encounter with an octopus. 

“I was sitting in a tide pool, looking out at the ocean, when a wave came in and a small octopus swam right up next to me,” says Ylitalo-Ward, who was living with her family in Costa Rica at the time. The creature circled her legs for a while, like a cheerful Disney sidekick, before swimming away. 

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Our Moment Is Now

Spring 2016

Melissa Tier ’14, Swarthmore’s sustainability coordinator, keeps a copy of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring on her shelf.

“The history of life on Earth has been a history of interaction between living things and their surroundings. To a large extent, the physical form and the habits of the Earth’s vegetation and its animal life have been molded by the environment. Considering the whole span of earthly time, the opposite effect, in which life actually modifies its surroundings, has been relatively slight,” Carson wrote in words first published in 1962. 

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Rebecca Louie ’99 on a New York subway car with a 5-gallon bucket of compost

The Conjurer of Compost

Spring 2016

Rebecca Louie ’99 pauses outside the door of a quiet cubicaled room and whispers, sotto voce, “This is where the magic happens.” She’s joking, but there’s something to the notion. Inside the cavernous shared writers’ space, Louie undergoes a magical transformation into the green goddess of blogging, The Compostess, and author of 2015’s Compost City: Practical Composting Know-How for Small-Space Living. Beyond, there is more wizardry.

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black and white photo of Ethel Rosenberg in her home

Correcting the Record

Winter 2016 / Issue II / CXIII

Last year, new developments roused our country’s crisis of conscience vis-a-vis the trial and execution of Ethel Rosenberg. 

Michael Meeropol ’64 (nee Rosenberg) and brother Robert, orphaned in 1953 by the execution of their parents, Julius and Ethel, served up a New York Times op-ed column in August. “Exonerate our mother, Ethel Rosenberg,” they wrote, addressing President Obama. Their plea was published a month after original grand-jury testimony was unsealed that reaffirmed perjury by the prosecution’s star witness, Ethel’s younger brother, David Greenglass.

Tomoko Sakomura holds up a spray of five fountain pens

The Poetry of Pen and Ink

Winter 2016 / Issue II / CXIII

“You have to learn not to gesticulate when holding a fountain pen,” cautions Tomoko Sakomura, associate professor of art history, who once ruined a colleague’s shirt with splattered ink. 

However, many Swarthmoreans consider the occasional stain a small price to pay for the beauty and power this writing implement bestows.

Flying Blind

Winter 2016 / Issue II / CXIII

On a summer night in 2012, Don Mitchell ’69 leaned forward, scarcely daring to breathe. These were his 150 acres of Vermont farm, fields, and woods—had been since 1972—but tonight, they felt different. 

He felt different. 

Three years earlier, he’d surprised himself by agreeing to work with state fish and wildlife officials to help a rare Vermont population of Indiana bats recover—a species that had been federally declared endangered since 1967. 

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