IMAGE:  February 2003  GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
Volume 95, Issue 3
LINK:  Features
Deep into the Landscape  
Minority Report  
Practice Shots
Searching for Respect  

Chicago Seven: One year later

LINK:  Class Notes
Alumni News  
Alumni Works  

LINK:  Campus News
Chicago Journal  
University News e-bulletin  

LINK:  Research
U of C Research Organizations  

LINK:  Also in every issue
Editor's Notes  
From the President  

Chicago Seven: One Year Later

Lloyd DeGrane

Sharla Stewart

A New Chicago Seven


In the second installment of a four-year project, the Magazine revisits seven very different College students.

They are now four academic quarters into their College education, on the verge of declaring concentrations, and alike only in considering themselves Chicagoans. These second-years are recent and soon-to-be world travelers, and despite early signs of independence—two have moved off campus—most remain content in the womb-like environment of the dorms.

Many talk of striking a balance in a school that so emphatically embraces the life of the mind. In this second installment of a four-year project, the Magazine revisits our Chicago Seven.

PHOTO:  Molly SchranzMolly Schranz

New York City

The view from Molly Schranz's sixth-floor Shoreland suite is worth the schlep from the quads: the lake spreads its blue cloak across the winter landscape. Last year Schranz trained for the Chicago Marathon along this shore (running it in 4:30—"Not bad for my first time"). She likes being removed from campus and cooking for herself. A bright yellow mop stands sentry in the kitchen, while the sleeping quarters she shares with two other second-years is strewn with clothing. Bare stretches of wall are interrupted by a poster from the American Folk Art Museum, snagged during Schranz's summer break at home, and tacked-up clusters of colorful postcards and photographs. Still intending to concentrate in English, Schranz has recently studied Milton ("intimidating") and creative writing ("I wish we'd read more literature"). Her free time is spent in the shadows at Doc Films or reading hard-boiled detective fiction. After a year here, she comments, "Chicago doesn't seem that different to me-and that's not necessarily a bad or good thing. It just seems familiar."


PHOTO:  Ashley White-SternAshley White-Stern

Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

Last year Ashley White-Stern cradled a Super-8mm camera in our photograph; this year her pointe shoes dangle at her sides—a change that's entirely consistent with White-Stern's all-embracing personality. Talking a mile a minute, beaming in the tangerine-colored living room of the apartment at Kimbark and 53rd that she shares with a trio of fourth-year women, White-Stern says she's rediscovered her love of dance after a three-year break. Practicing the Brazilian martial art/dance form Capoeira, she hopes, will build her upper-body strength for break-dancing. That passion developed from her after-school volunteer work with Hip-Hop University, a nonprofit group funded by The Chicago Community Trust that builds pride in black culture among South Side grade schoolers. "My most humbling experience at Chicago has been watching these kids do amazing things—paint a thousand-foot mural, do crazy break-dancing moves that I cannot for the life of me do." This January the General Studies in the Humanities concentrator was off to Barcelona—and who knows what to inspire her next.

PHOTO:  John Scott-RailtonJohn Scott-Railton

Ann Arbor, Michigan

John Scott-Railton thinks a lot about happiness—"the way you experience the world, what it is about happiness that you get in your conscious experience of the world, the happiness that comes from existing rather than from desire-satisfaction, like when you discover a perfectly good chair in a dumpster. Where does the truly joyous part of happiness come from?" The chair he refers to-perfectly good after he and a friend bent its frame back into shape—has given him much satisfaction, as do the art prints on the walls of his third-floor Burton-Judson single (same dorm as last year but two floors up, where it's quieter.) One favorite print: Bird Cloud (1927) by Lyonel Feininger, a Cubist landscape with a luminous blue sky rent by an angular cloud and a lone figure standing on a seashore. This fall he joined a busload of other Chicagoans on an antiwar march in Washington. All in all, his existence has been joyous enough to keep him at Chicago; though not ready to commit, he's leaning toward concentrating in philosophy and allied fields in human development.

PHOTO:  Julio ChavezmontesJulio Chavezmontes

Mexico City

Life at Chicago, Julio Chavezmontes says, "is quainter than I would have expected. People are very studious; they're not going out constantly; they are more centered around dorm life." The lifestyle stands in stark contrast to how Chavezmontes passes his time in Mexico City ("very active socially"), and he finds the change good for him. "You learn to deal differently with your work. Rather than messing around and doing assignments without much thought, I am more careful," says the as-yet-undeclared history concentrator. In his fifth-floor Broadview single (the same dorm he lived in last year) he surrounds himself with objects that remind him of home and family: mementos from a family trip this past summer to Africa, including photos he snapped of lions in the Serengeti and a hulking wooden mask from Kenya; and a Spanish painting his grandfather purchased in the 1920s. This winter he's taking Visual Language, through the Committee on the Visual Arts, which he hopes will inspire him and some friends to begin work on a documentary film (subject TBD).

Quan Le

Los Angeles

It's 10 a.m. the Friday after New Year's and everyone in the apartment but Quan Le is sound asleep. The place looks like a fraternity house: there's a deejay station in one corner, the flattened sections of an ocher sectional sofa scattered about, and a roll of paper towels serving as mantel centerpiece. And it is a frat house of sorts: last spring Le joined Lambda Phi Epsilon, a national Asian fraternity, and after spending autumn quarter in Paris in an intensive language program, the two-story apartment at 55th and Hyde Park Boulevard that he shares with five brothers is home. Last year Le was convinced he didn't belong at Chicago. "I still feel like that," he says, "but it's not that big of a deal anymore. You just deal with it." He's reached this conclusion, he says, after hitting "rock bottom" so many times. At one point in Paris he scraped by on about $20 a week, "which isn't enough to eat." He found a cafeteria that served $2 lunch and dinner and ate there every day. A year on campus and a quarter off has given him some perspective on the College. "Students here stress themselves over all the time. That's just not necessary," says the philosophy and religious-studies concentrator. "There is life after four years of university. It took me a while to learn that. Maybe if every student hit rock bottom now and then, they'd realize it's not the end of the world."

PHOTO:  Stephanie MarasStephanie Maras


"Steph! Contra dance! Saturday! 7:30 p.m.! You in?!?!" The handwriting belongs to Stephanie Maras's third-year suitemate in Max Palevsky, and the dry-erase note reveals why Emily Churchman serves as constant inspiration for Maras to maintain balance. "It's easy to be lonely as a second-year," Maras explains. "You can get so wrapped up in your work and just disappear." As president of the Ryerson Astronomical Society ("that just means I do the paperwork"), she's helping organize the student group's overnight stargazing trip to Yerkes Observatory and preserve past clubs' logbooks, including those written by Carl Sagan, AB'54, SB'55, SM'56, PhD'60. Having recently scrapped her plan to concentrate in physics—an academically humbling decision that nonetheless has left her a much happier person—she's switched her focus to history. Her most interesting course so far is The Nineteenth-Century City: Paris, Chicago. Of course, she adds, every great U of C class has its share of students who believe they "spout genius," and that took some getting used to. "I found it intimidating at first, but it makes the classroom a lot more interesting." Maras says she forces herself to talk in class, not because she knows all the answers but because she doesn't. "Putting my thoughts into words helps me figure them out for myself."

PHOTO:  Carlos GrenierCarlos Grenier


Carlos Grenier is 100 percent sure he'll concentrate in biology and not 100 percent sure he'll double major in philosophy and allied fields. The reason for the indecision is, he says, "I still value taking off-the-wall electives," and a double major might limit that freedom. So far his favorite courses fall squarely in his potential concentrations: Primate Behavior and Ecology and the Humanities core sequence Philosophical Perspectives. He is decidedly less enthusiastic about Organic Chemistry, a course that underscores his biggest surprise about the College. "I had known before coming here how hard it was," he says, "but I thought the challenge would be fine, edifying, something I could rise above and feel as if I'd lost nothing. But let's just say it's tougher than I thought it'd be." This past summer offered a welcome hiatus, with a month of traveling in Europe with a friend and another month with his family in South Bend, Indiana, where his father is a visiting professor-a city he enjoyed immensely. Living in the Shoreland also helps. "It's nice to have some distance from the academics. In Palevsky you look out the window and see the Reg. You can't escape it." Now his view—of Lake Michigan and the Point, seen from his 12th-floor, three-man suite—"changes every day."



Archives Contact About the Magazine Alumni Gateway Alumni Directory UChicago
uchicago 2003 The University of Chicago Magazine 5801 South Ellis Ave., Chicago, IL 60637
phone: 773/702-2163 fax: 773/702-0495