new Chicago seven
as Plato noted in the Republic, "The direction in
which education starts a man will determine his future life,"
then these are portentous days for the 1,081 men and women whom
the College now calls the Class of 2005. In this first installment
of a four-year project, the Magazine introduces seven from
the most recent generation of students to take up a Chicago education.
Here and in future issues, the group explains what's on their
minds, walls, and bookshelves-in addition to Plato-as they move
in the direction of their future lives.
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
Thompson House, Pierce Hall
can be divined about a College student from her selection of
late-night snacks, and Ashley White-Stern is no exception. "I
know how they are pronounced, but I have no idea about the spelling,"
she says of the North African treats baked by the Tunisian-Orthodox
Jewish nanny she and her sisters call Mémé. "Bou-lou
is a loaf-shaped cookie. It has chocolate, slivers of orange
peel, nuts, and raisins in it. Then cak look like mini-bagels,
but they are cookies. I brought them to remind me of home."
other favorite items in the eighth-floor room she shares with
a woman from a small town in Michigan (like her, a dancer, Francophile,
and heavy sleeper): Margaret Atwood poetry, David Foster Wallace's
Infinite Jest, her Super-8mm film camera, and a poster
of the film Jesus' Son.
and literature are very important to me, as are films. We use
these media to tell our stories; we use our stories to remind
us who we are," White-Stern says. "One of my old teachers
and good friends used to say 'History is the story of who we
are, where we've been, and where we are going.' This has always
stuck with me. Perhaps I feel this more than others, as I am
both African-American and Jewish. History, and the way that
stories are told, are vitally important to both the black and
the Jewish communities. This is something I've always understood,
something that I've always believed in."
for the years ahead of her: "I don't plan to change the
fundamentals: I love being in school, I love to learn, I feel
good creating things, and service to the community is important
to me," she says. "Other stuff-my desire to make films,
my desire to go to medical school-that might change, but we'll
cross that bridge when we get to it. My hope is that I will
change and grow naturally, without ever losing my center."
House, Broadview Hall
am from Mexico City," Julio Chavezmontes writes to the Magazine,
"a seemingly infinite city of sharp contrasts, engulfed by
a surreal atmosphere that makes you believe anything is possible.
I come from the American School Foundation High School, a private
international school; one of the best in the city. Throughout
high school I was involved in community service, being a member
of the National Honor Society and the president of Project Lead
for two consecutive years. Also, I collaborated with the school
newspaper and was managing editor for the literary magazine.
in the U of C, I have joined the Euphony [literary journal]
staff, and I am searching for a community service club to get
involved with. Living in Broadview [on 55th St. and S. Hyde Park
Blvd.] makes it hard to be actively involved in campus life; reason
for which I might change dorms next year. I do not know yet what
I want to concentrate in. So far, I am planning on a degree in
an area of the social sciences (except economics), along with
a degree in Spanish literature."
his photograph, Chavezmontes cradles a 1901 edition of the Divine
Comedy, an 18th-birthday gift from his mother and one of the
40 volumes he brought from home. Of the most recent additions
to his collection-textbooks-he says, "all of them seem to
have a fascinating aspect that makes them irresistible. How to
distinguish between the Iliad, the Republic, the
Orestia, the Histories by Herodotus, The
Prince, and others which one is the most interesting? I can
tell, however, which seems the most daunting. Augustine's City
of God against the Pagans seems a massive challenge, but still
Chavezmontes's walls hang "little fragments of time I cherish"-posters,
photos, and paintings by his 5-year-old sister.
Harper House, Woodward Court
don't know why I didn't have my guitar in the photo. I probably
should have." It's 10 a.m. on Wednesday and Carlos Grenier,
just woken up, struggles to recall his interests. He plays guitar
for personal enjoyment, he says, and though he wasn't involved
in high-school extracurriculars, there was Geography Club, "which
I captained for many years and took many awards." He lists
the books he brought from his Miami home-works by Jorgé
Luis Borges, Edward O. Wilson's Consilience, the Penguin
History of the World ("it's the book I always take to
the doctor's office"). Suddenly he interrupts himself: "CDs.
My CDs are probably important to mention." The grand old
men of his music collection include Frank Zappa and the Beatles-late
Beatles-whom he admires for their musical complexity and lyrics.
Grenier admits to feeling mired in this quarter's Hum core, calculus,
and chemistry coursework, he looks forward to enrolling in biology.
Torn between evolutionary biology and history for a concentration,
Grenier says, "I always had a talent for history, but I think
studying human evolution is probably the most important way I
could advance my understanding of the world."
from recent purchases from the annual Reynolds Club poster sale
(a Japanese print and a Hiëronymus Bosch, both selected for
their interesting use of color), he's tacked up a National
Geographic map of the languages of the world. "I find
something new each time I look at it," he explains.
regrets so far? Only the Hostess cupcakes on his bookshelf-which
seemed appetizing until he read the fine print for the first time:
beef fat. Now he snacks on tuna from the can. "It's
very nutritious and economical."
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Chamberlin House, Burton-Judson Courts
Scott-Railton is in his blue period. Among his first excursions
in Chicago was a visit to the Art Institute, where he purchased
the Picasso reproductions now hanging on his walls. They join
the Van Gogh above his desk, a constant presence-"a sort
of pied à terre"-in the various rooms he's
occupied in recent years, including the one in Paris during his
junior year at the École Massillon. Other comforts from
home: The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy ("something
of a bible"), Diderot's Encyclopedia, John Stuart
for the bicycle helmet, he quickly notes: "I don't normally
put things on my floor, but I thought it-and the pen in my hand-would
be appropriate. Both were a conscious gesture toward the future
and all I hope to write and think about. And I should explain:
I do much of my thinking while biking."
Scott-Railton lives in a coveted BJ single, his experience of
Chicago has hardly been the solitary life. "It's had a great
effect on me to be around all these other students," he says.
"I know it sounds like a cliché, but I've learned
more from the students here than everywhere else I've been. Everywhere.
I don't think of it as friendships, so much as comrades in arms
or colleagues. I mean, you can be having a conversation about
Plato when you brush your teeth! I expected it to be like this
only in the way one expects something without having experienced
thrills at the horizons widening around him and the person he
will eventually become. "It's less a question of inventing
myself through interactions," he says, "than interacting
however I see fit and getting an identity through that, creating
something without knowing what it is yet."
House, Shoreland Hall
Le moved from Echo Park, "five minutes from downtown, Chinatown,
and Dodger stadium," to what's known as the "Party Room"-a
three-room Shoreland suite where he lives with three other men
and where first-years congregate like parrots in Hyde Park crab-apple
love my living space," he says. "All my roommates are
great. I have to admit that they're different, but that's expected.
I just have to learn to live with them." It's a diverse-Le
says "sitcom-like"-group: T. J., from California, is
half black. José, from Boston, is half Hispanic. Ryan is
the white guy from suburban Minnesota, and Le is Vietnamese.
member of the Buddhist Association, Vietnamese Student Association,
volleyball club, and Habeas Corpus and a Jeet Kun Do martial arts
practitioner, Le hopes to improve his logic skills at Chicago,
possibly concentrating in philosophy and religion "and/or"
English and eventually attending law school.
one thing I worry about is staying in college. I'm so afraid that
I won't be able to handle the workload and just drop out,"
he says, pointing out that he is paying his own way through the
College. "I think I still feel that I don't quite belong
here at the U of C. That the only reason why I got into this University
was because they lacked a Vietnamese population. If the Office
of Admission is right 99.9 percent of the time, I would be the
0.1 percent that they made a mistake on. But in the end, I don't
really care. I'm a believer in fate, and wherever fate takes me
I will follow."
the meantime he plans to continue enjoying ramen noodles in his
room ("13 cents each!"), the sweet-and-sour chicken
at Burton-Judson, and baseball-"simple old fun baseball."
House, Woodward Court
Maras has had stars in her eyes since she was old enough to read-one
reason she came to the U of C: to study astrophysics. Her lifelong
cosmic inspiration? National Geographic.
it's a pretty glossy, idealistic view of the world on whole,"
says the secretary of the Ryerson Astronomical Society and daughter
of a Chicago police officer, "but its pictures and descriptions
allowed me to have some sort of glimpse into what was going on
in the world beyond my humble, South Side bungalow. The cultures
and peoples I was able to come into contact with are innumerable
and made the world just a little smaller."
on her walls are Winston Churchill, Billie Holiday, Van Gogh,
the Velvet Underground, and Wrigley Field. By way of explanation
she professes a deep interest in British history and an admiration
for artists "able to render emotion purely and passionately
through their chosen art forms. I love Billie Holiday's voice-it's
so heart-wrenching and electric. Lou Reed runs the gamut of emotion
through each song; it's gorgeous to hear."
she's glad she brought along: licorice (her favorite candy) and
Russian lacquer boxes and dolls ("I was first exposed to
Russian culture and history in National Geographic, and
I've been in love with it ever since"). What she regrets
bringing: "a disgusting, 50-pack of popcorn. My aunt made
me bring it under the premise that I would be able to 'snare'
friends if I made popcorn and shared." No need. The first
friend she made at Chicago, she says, "had the misfortune
of sitting next to my aunt at the orientation speech on move-in
day. My aunt chatted with her incessantly and introduced me. She
turned out to live in my house."
New York City
Flint House, Woodward
Schranz's e-mail to the Magazine is friendly and to the
she writes. "I'm from New York City and attended a Jewish
high school there called Ramaz. In high school I was editor of
the literary magazine and president of the literary club.
far as extracurricular activities in college, I am looking forward
to checking out the literary magazine, the radio station (WHPK),
and watching a lot of movies at Doc. I plan on concentrating in
my walls I have some pictures of my friends and family, a picture
I took of my apartment building, some pictures I ripped out of
the New York Times travel section (from a cover article
on Antarctica. I like that there are these landscapes with more
penguins than people. Also a photograph of these dinosaur sculptures
they have along the highway in California), a Mary Cassatt postcard,
a poster of the movie The Wide Blue Road, and a page from
a graphic novel by Jessica Abel (U of Chicago alumna) that I printed
off the Internet.
of the books I brought with me were a collection of stories by
Delmore Schwartz, my small Faulkner collection (Pylon, The
Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom!, and As I Lay Dying),
The Crying of Lot 49, Jude the Obscure, Nightwood, Ghostworld,
and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
of my books for this quarter seem both interesting and daunting.
I am looking forward to reading a lot of poems from the huge Norton
anthology of poetry.
roommate is from Chicago. She is a really nice person. My favorite
food in the dining hall is Cap'n Crunch, when they have it. I
don't plan on reinventing myself in college, I just plan on learning