Chicago Seven: One
In the second installment of a four-year
project, the Magazine revisits seven very different College
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 independencetwo
have moved off campusmost 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.
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."
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
Last year Ashley White-Stern
cradled a Super-8mm camera in our photograph; this year
her pointe shoes dangle at her sidesa 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
thingspaint 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 Barcelonaand who knows what to inspire her next.
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 shapehas 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.
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
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."
"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 physicsan
academically humbling decision that nonetheless has left
her a much happier personshe'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."
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 viewof Lake Michigan
and the Point, seen from his 12th-floor, three-man suite"changes