Each year, the College awards four Pamela Daniels ’59 fellowships, which consist of $3,500 for the recipient to pursue a project they would like to accomplish before graduating.
Daniels was class dean at Wellesley College from 1981 to 2000. When she retired, students, classmates, family and friends funded and dedicated the fellowship to her. Daniels explained that part of the story behind the establishment of the project was a concern that many Wellesley students were pressured to participate in mainstream programs and perceive education as something pragmatic.
“What my former students who created this fellowship had in mind was to create some fellowship opportunity that would identify the dreamers and the darers who would do something different and risk something unconventional,” Daniels said. “And that kind of student and that kind of project deserve, in a place like Wellesley, to be identified, to be celebrated, and very importantly, to be supported.”
Provost Andrew Shennan, who, together with Daniels, hosted a lunch on Monday for the fellows, said that the idea behind the fellowship was to encourage students to pursue a dream project and to be mavericks.
Shennan emphasized that a project that is traditional to one person may be untraditional to another. “I don’t sort of see it as traditional versus nontraditional. I see it more in the sense of pursuing a project that matters to the individual,” Shennan said. He added that the pursuit of personal dreams and the courage of stepping out of comfort zones is an integral part of Wellesley’s philosophy.
Over the past decade, the fellowship has supported projects in a diverse range of disciplines, including medieval and renaissance studies, English, chemistry, psychology, neuroscience and Africana studies.
A special highlight this year is that one of the fellowships was awarded to a group of recipients. Ayana Aaron ’15, Katie Barsottie ’15, Adrienne Ogle ’15, Gladys Raygoza ’15, Lilly Tyson ’15 and Abra White ’15 are collaborating together to create a set of drama, action comedy and sports comedy short films.
The six cinema and media studies majors began pre-production during their first week of classes and split into writing and directing teams of two while working on their scripts. During the film production process, the team rotated the roles of co-directors, producer, cinematographer, gaffer, boom-operator and art director. The team said that while the work in the group may only require one person, everyone enjoys being involved in every aspect of the film production.
“We are heading into post-production this week, where our editors, Adrienne, Ayana and Gladys will begin editing our projects and consulting with their co-directors about stylistic choices. We are always ready to help one another. It is hard for me to picture any future plans at Wellesley that do not involve my teammates,” Tyson said.
While the team members share the same passion and creative mindset, they noted that film production always presents challenges. This production is no exception. However, the Daniels Fellowship has helped them relieve some of the stress and solve several problems.
“The Daniels Fellowship has helped us transport actors, build a dolly on our own, and buy costumes and art supplies.” The team added, “These are all challenges that, without this fellowship, could have resulted in major issues on set, but they have so far been avoided or solved quickly.”
After post-production is complete, the team plans to enter their short films into festivals and plans to continue to collaborate next semester before they graduate.
Audrey Tran ’15 decided to apply for the fellowship because she has always been captivated by music and wanted to achieve her dream project of incorporating music with her scientific interests. Tran said that her project aims to create and produce an entire album of original songs and she is excited to experience the process of producing her own music.
“I am going to understand more concretely the entire creative and technical process of ‘making music,’ in the modern, do-it-yourself, Youtube-era sense. This music-making process — from writing the lyrics, to establishing the melody and harmonic structure to capturing the appropriate rendition of the song in my homemade recording studio has many steps and this project is as much an artistic as it is a technical endeavor,” Tran said.
While Tran intends to pursue a medical degree, the Daniels Fellowship has helped her figure out how to incorporate her musical inclinations into her post-Wellesley plans. Tran said that she plans to intersect the spheres of science, medicine, music and education.
“How will I use my songwriting skills to pen jingles and songs intended for scientific education? How far, exactly, do I want to take my music, and how far can I take it? This project is an attempt to understand what it might be like to juggle my musical and scientific projects simultaneously,” Tran said.
Michaela Fendrock ’15, a geoscience and astronomy double major, said that she applied to the fellowship because her research project — mapping and geochronology of Salem Neck — requires significant funding to date rocks. Very modern and expensive methods are necessary for this endeavor. Fendrock explained that geologic maps are one of the most fundamental tools to geologic investigations because they show the type and age of rock in an area, and therefore can be used to decipher its geologic history.
“The prevailing dates on the rocks there have ranges of error of give or take 25 million years, which is really too much to make robust interpretation,” Fendrock said. She mentioned that her fieldwork has already shown that the situation is much more complex than that, which is why she hopes to create a more detailed map with more precise dates.
Fendrock’s childhood experiences of hiking and playing in the woods led to her love for studying the Earth. After graduation, Fendrock said she plans to take some time off before attending graduate school. She is considering working for a lab or with the Peace Corps but eventually wishes to pursue a PhD in glaciology or climate science. With this plan, Fendrock hopes to build her lab and fieldwork skill set, an expertise that is important in all realms of Earth science.
“I have learned so much already working on this project,” Fendrock added. “I know that I’ll be a much better scientist, more qualified to pursue a higher degree, at the end of the year.”
Another recipient, Claire Whitman ’15, an architecture major, applied for the Daniels Fellowship because she is doing a year-long independent study in sculpture using marble and bronze.
“The cost of these materials can add up very quickly — marble is about $100 per cubic foot, and casting bronze starts at about $200 for four to six inch works — so I applied for both a research grant and the Daniels Fellowship to help alleviate my expenses,” Whitman said.
Whitman said that she will essentially be carving an ear, nose and mouth in separate large scale marble pieces, which will be stacked and arranged in a dynamic manner.
Whitman thinks that faces and facial features are fascinating because they are so personalized.
“However, once separate from the combination of features that make up a face, they are transformed from an identifying feature to an anonymous one,” Whitman concluded.
In her independent study, Whitman is constantly thinking about the three-dimensionality of her sculptures, which presents challenges because she often has to step back and evaluate her progress.
“In the subtractive process of carving marble, if I make a mistake and carve away too much, I then have to change the rest of work to match my error,” Whitman said.
Overcoming this challenge, however, will be very helpful in whatever future endeavor she chooses to pursue.
“I really enjoy textile design in addition to sculpture. After graduating, I’d like to work for a fashion start up and eventually continue my studies in textiles,” Whitman added.
The diverse plans this year’s fellows hope to pursue after graduation reflect the core values of Wellesley’s liberal arts education and the purpose of the fellowship. As Daniels has said, “The fellowship contributes more to a sustained creative state of mind rather than any particular career choice.”
Shennan would like to see an expansion of what the fellowship already offers.
“I would hope that, over time…more students would see themselves as having projects that would be relevant or appropriate for the Daniels Fellowship,” Shennan added.
“Any way we can keep the values of a liberal mind and a creative spirit alive and well is a good thing,” Daniels concluded.
Feature photo courtesy of Claire Whitman ’15
Sabrina Leung ‘18 is the Digital Editor who is plans to major in International Relations-Political Science. She is best reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @sabrinatzleung on Twitter.