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Chicago Seven: take three
By Sharla A. Stewart
Photography by Lloyd DeGrane

A New Chicago Seven (December 2001)

Chicago Seven: One Year Later (February 2003)

In the third installment of a four-year project, the Magazine revisits its Chicago Seven. The College third-years run in different crowds, vaguely aware of each other. Four have studied abroad, three live in residence halls, and only one is concentrating in the sciences. Less engaged in extracurricular activities and more focused on the future, they are, by their own admission, growing up.

IMAGE:  Chicago Seven: John Scott-RailtonJohn Scott-Railton
Ann Arbor, Michigan

The most striking thing about John Scott-Railton’s 12th-floor studio in Mies van der Rohe’s Algonquin Apartments at 50th Street and Hyde Park Boulevard is the sweeping southward view. There is the campus, its spires barely piercing the firmament above. As clouds pile up in the west (“It’s a Dutch master’s sky! Where’s Vermeer?”), planes make their way to Midway Airport, and whitecaps build on the lake to the east. Inside, the blinds rattle in the breeze. A series of unframed, evenly spaced photographs hangs at eye level: images of towering masts, billowing sails, neatly coiled lines, the wine-dark sea. Last summer Scott-Railton lived and worked as a deckhand aboard the Alabama and the Shenandoah, two tall ships based in Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The photos were taken with disposable cameras; in a self-portrait, his hair is bleached blond, his features tanned. “It was hard for me to come off the boat at the end of the summer and get my noggin around what seems like an unhealthy existence. I’d been waking at dawn, eating huge amounts of protein and meat, hauling and lifting tons of materials. My hands were callused to hell. Suddenly back in Chicago I felt incongruous.” Nearly done with a philosophy concentration he’s developed a taste for the more concrete field of cognitive psychology, which he plans to study in graduate school. His sailor days may be behind him, but in his studio, at least, he has preserved the outlook discovered while riding high in the masts: “You can see things a long time before they happen,” he says. “It’s true peacefulness. There is nothing you don’t know will come.”

IMAGE:  Chicago Seven: Stephanie MarasStephanie Maras
Chicago

Being in an authority position,” Stephanie Maras says, “I feel like I’ve aged quickly.” It’s a theme the Snell Hall assistant resident head revisits several times on a breezy mid-April evening in her fourth-floor single. Coordinating social events for other students is a lot of responsibility, Maras explains, particularly difficult in a dorm known as “finicky and antisocial.” But the Chicago native has persevered, recruiting her mother and aunt to bake pumpkin bread and organizing trips to Graceland Cemetery and the Second City comedy club. Not that she has any illusions about sparking a culture change. Her dorm assignment is a “perfect fit,” she says, because “I appreciate the desire to be left alone to do your own thing.” As a third-year, she keeps returning to one thought: “I’m leaving college. I better figure out what I’m going to do next.” In the near term “next” means a month of intensive language study this summer at Croatia’s University of Zagreb; in the far term it’s starting to look like a doctorate in history. The trip to Croatia is her first to her family’s homeland and a chance to meet some long-lost relatives. “I’m the dumb American cousin,” Maras says—but that’s about to change. During the trip she’ll do research for her B.A.—the only one of the seven ready to talk about the project, she plans to write about the Holocaust era in Croatia.

IMAGE:  Chicago Seven: Molly SchranzMolly Schranz
New York City

The fourth-floor Broadview single where Molly Schranz has lived since winter quarter feels like a pit stop. The books, the microwave, the clothes are all there, but the walls remain almost bare. After three years of packing, storing, and moving, Schranz reflects, her stuff no longer seems so important. Or perhaps the room simply can’t live up to its occupant’s fall quarter experiences in London. What sticks in her mind, aside from the city’s great history, are its “nice supermarkets: clean and modern with a really diverse selection of food products.” The English literature concentrator also enjoyed “the great selection of quality magazines, like the classic HELLO! available at a much more affordable price than in the U.S.” But her favorite part of the adventure was a week spent traveling around the U.K. by train and ferry. “I think I left my heart in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, which is the tiniest town in Britain and also the home of the World Bog-Snorkeling Championship and the Man v. Horse Marathon. Sadly, neither of those was happening when I was there.” Outside of class Schranz continues to do programming at DOC Films, where last year she organized a series on Steve Buscemi and another on contemporary silent film.

 

IMAGE:  Chicago Seven: Julio ChavezmontesJulio Chavezmontes
Mexico City

Like many Chicago upperclassmen before him, Julio Chavezmontes splits his time between books and bars. On the former topic Chavezmontes notes, “I read a lot for school. I think it is safe to say that a lot just sticks with you. I definitely think Marx is onto something. I would say that The Communist Manifesto is interesting, but that’s what everybody says. I happen to like The German Ideology better.” Other authors the history concentrator favors: Rousseau, Adorno, Lukacs, and Brecht. His free time, he says, is spent “becoming a regular at the local bars.” He observes, “I’ve made a lot of good friends here. Teachers are good, but some are cooler than others. Like there is a former professor of mine I happen to see a lot in bars—that’s pretty cool. I have a pretty good social life. I don’t have a love affair with the Reg.” The walls in Chavezmontes’s fifth-floor Broadview single are empty save an African mask and the ubiquitous Doc Films schedule. On his wrist he wears three watches: one set to Swiss time, so he won’t miss an appointment to call his mother; another to Mexico City time, where he must call his grandmother; and the third set to Chicago time, lest he miss last call.

IMAGE:  Chicago Seven: Ashley White-SternAshley White-Stern
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

When Ashley White-Stern wanders through Hyde Park, she reads the politics of the landscape. White-Stern is a founding member of the Angels of Def student group, which formed last year as an independent study of the University’s interactions with the surrounding community. Last spring the group hosted a speaker series, bringing prominent South Siders to campus, and this April it teamed up with the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture to hold the Cityspace conference at International House, opening its discussions to the larger community. Her final paper for the independent study explored the history of the Midway Plaisance. “It’s a landscape that reflects power and ideological changes,” she notes. “When I first arrived, it was a no-man’s-land; students were warned against going there alone. Now there are efforts to rewrite it, and it’s fascinating to see how they affect the people who live on both sides of it.” The cinema & media studies concentrator has also found inspiration in recent classes on Spike Lee and on black women filmmakers. “So much responsibility is put on these African American directors to represent an entire race,” she reflects, “and there are so few of them.” Last summer she received a Mellon research fellowship to study African American representation in Hollywood film during the past decade, a project she’ll complete this summer. Fresh from a quarter-long leave of absence—used to catch up on past-due papers—White-Stern no longer feels burnt out by the College’s academic rigor. “It’s great to be back in class,” she says. “I’m excited again.”

Quan Le
Los Angeles

This is Quan Le’s last quarter in “the boy’s club,” the Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity house where he’s lived since second year. Le and his girlfriend have talked about moving in together this summer (much to her mother’s chagrin) and possibly next year. “I’m starting to feel full of responsibility,” he says. “I don’t feel so involved with the University world.” Le is applying to Chicago’s new Urban Teacher Education Program, a 15-month master’s in education course that begins during fourth-year and allows students to earn K–9 teaching certification in Illinois. Perhaps most among the seven students (except for Maras, a South Side native), the Los Angeles–born Le considers himself a Chicagoan now, spending lots of time on the North Side and downtown. “I like to get absorbed in the culture of a place,” he says. “I know my highways and streets now. I won’t get lost.” A favorite hangout for him and his friends is a Popeyes fried- chicken joint in the River East neighborhood, where they go to movies. This year Le completed the requirements for his philosophy concentration and has dabbled in the visual arts, taking studio courses in sculpture, photography, and painting.

IMAGE:  Chicago Seven: Carlos GrenierCarlos Grenier
Miami

My initial impressions,” Carlos Grenier writes via e-mail from Greece early in spring quarter, “are almost entirely positive. I love it here; I love the classes, the fast-paced schedule, the people I am with, and Greece in general.” Athens itself, however, is “hectic, smoggy, crowded,” and discounting the Acropolis, he notes, the city is “composed entirely of uniform five- to seven-story concrete apartment buildings, either white or grayed by soot. But it’s not all bad: it’s a good antidote to U of C life, I think, since as a whole it’s pretty relaxed.” Photographed in the kitchen of his three-bedroom 57th Street apartment shortly before leaving for Greece, Grenier chose to include the guitar he regretted excluding from his first-year photo. “I’m still playing guitar and still enjoying it. Not that I hope to ever do anything with this skill. It’s just a wonderful way to relax and pass the time.” As for the painting, “I’m not really a painter,” he writes. “I decided to try it out this summer, and I enjoyed it (not producing anything of lasting value), and since then I have, in manic (& ill-advised) creative bursts, painted a few things that I do kind of like.” This summer the biology concentrator will work in Assistant Professor Bruce Lahn’s brain genetics lab.

 

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