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Courtesy of Sally Mundell

Sally Mundell (00C) is the founder of The Packaged Good, a nonprofit aimed at encouraging kids to give back while creating care packages. The care packages are assembled by children, families and groups at the Packaged Good store, located in Dunwoody, Ga, and then sent out to various non profit community partners, such as Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Rainbow Village Inc. The packages include anything from toiletries to school supplies. Inspired to give back after the passing of her husband in 2013, Mundell opened The Packaged Good this July. The company has produced over 5,000 care packages and worked with over 700 children. The Wheel spoke with Mundell about her experience at Emory, where she was an economics major, and the process of creating a nonprofit.

We, as human beings, receive a lot just from giving. It feels good to give. When we’re too busy to give … we’re actually doing ourselves a disservice, because not only are we not helping other people but we’re not healing ourselves — and everybody could use some type of healing.

A lot of the parents around me were having birthday parties for their children but they were adding a charity component. I thought that [was] great, but that [was] one time a year. Wouldn’t that be fantastic if it was something … ongoing? Let’s do something where, as a family, we can give together.

There really is no right answer. It’s about finding your individual way and enjoying the ride. When you hit that level of success but keep pushing yourself to the next level, you’re not enjoying it along the way. It’s important to enjoy what you’re doing to get to that success.

The nice thing about coming out of school is you don’t have any fear of making mistakes. You’re learning, figuring things out and you have low expenses. So, it’s a good time to try some of these things and explore.

It’s interesting because if you look back, everything’s led to where I am and why I can do what I’m doing, but at the time it feels disjointed.

I’m a problem solver, and I like to figure things out. Everything was something that hadn’t been figured out yet.

[Networking] is nice because you have your assortment of people who’re good at all these different things, and it makes you so much stronger and you’re able to do so much more. You don’t have to be the expert in everything, you just need to know who to put around you.

You can’t expect anything from networking. A lot of people think of networking as transactional, and it’s not tit for tat. You might develop a relationship over many years and then at that point you need their help with something. You might not know when that’s going to be, but you just have to know it will happen.

There [are] not failures, there [are] learnings. When I was young, I was so scared to fail, and it all is good at the end of the day. If you’re so scared — “Did I pick the right major?”  “Am I picking the first job right?” “Is this the right career path?” — know that nowadays it’s all over the place. There is no one career path that you’re going to stay in for 60 years. You’ll move all over the place and it’s OK. That’s how you learn. You’re going to make mistakes, and that’s how you learn. So keep trying things.

Courtesy of Emory

“My life doesn’t look real,” Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Mathematics Ken Ono said.

From the looks of his laidback, vibrant orange Hawaiian shirt, you would never know how busy his schedule is. How From a National Geographic interview a few hours prior to co-writing a TV show, Ono seems to never have time to take a breath in between teaching three math courses and managing his research.

Ono’s currently busy life is hardly telling of his unconventional past.

Friday, Ono spoke at the White House regarding the release of The Man Who Knew Infinity, a movie based on the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan. Deemed one of the greatest mathematicians, Ramanujan made crucial advancements to the analytical theory of numbers despite having no formal training.

Ono’s father Takashi Ono idealized Ramanujan. After Ramanujan passed, Ono’s father was one of 80 professors who donated to fund a bust of the mathematical mastermind for Ramanujan’s wife. Decades later, he received a thank you letter that brought him to tears.

“My dad didn’t even cry when his parents died, but when [my father] got this letter, he opened it, and he came to me a couple hours later in tears,” Ono said.

Despite being a two-time college dropout, Ramanujan still managed to contribute significantly to the world of mathematics, Ono said.

On one of the first paragraphs of his book My Search for Ramanujan: How I Learned to Count, Ono explains that he was not always so fond of mathematics. He admits that he did not receive his first A in college-level math until his senior year.

Ono described the approach of his Japanese immigrant parents as one of a “tiger mom,” which is understood as a parenting technique that involves academic stringency at the cost of a child’s well-being and happiness.

“If I wasn’t the best student, then I would bring shame on my family. It was understood that it was my duty to be ‘the best,’ ” Ono said.

According to Ono, this continuous pressure weighing down on him was so overwhelming that he tried to take his own life in 10th grade. Ono flunked all his classes one semester, dropped out of high school and ran away from home after 10th grade.

Ono believes that there are many people who seek to take as many AP courses as possible, care deeply about having a high class ranking and mold their lives around a career with a high salary.

“Is the mindless pursuit and devotion in seeking out these kinds of numbers what leads to happiness?” Ono asked. “Nobody is going to say yes, but everyone who is listening — especially those who are young — are going to say, ‘But these are things you’re supposed to do.’ ”

Ono’s father did not challenge his decision to move out; he simply asked that he do it safely and live with his brother in Canada. Ono argued it was unfair that his parents demanded him to be a perfect student when his father idolized Ramanujan, a two-time college dropout.

“I love my parents, but I did not understand any of [their parenting] growing up,” Ono said. “How could I?”

Ono did not want to put any effort into his academics. He avoided hard classes; he simply wanted to “get by.” Ono’s unmotivated mindset began to change with the help of a few notable mentors.

With the aid of Johns Hopkins University Psychology Professor Julian Stanley, an advocate of academically gifted children, Ono was admitted to the University of Chicago (Ill.) despite lacking a high school diploma. However, he was stuck in his old mentality of cruising through with minimal effort. He graduated without distinction with a 2.7 GPA.

Another mentor struck a chord with Ono: Paul Sally, UChicago’s “pirate professor,” known for wearing a black eyepatch. Despite Ono’s low grade point average, Sally helped Ono get accepted into top graduate programs at universities, such as the University of California, Los Angeles.

However, Ono continued to put minimal effort into his studies. He failed his first Ph.D qualifying exam and did not try to improve his situation. Then, he met his Ph.D. advisor, Basil Gordon. Gordon nurtured Ono and taught him to appreciate simplicities like art and music before starting any mathematics. Together they took walks on the beach and watched sunrises. Ono developed a renewed passion for math and loved his research. He wrote his thesis inspired by one of Ramanujan’s unpublished manuscripts.

Throughout college, Ono did the bare minimum academically and maintained a C average. Years later, mathematician Andrew Wiles used the information in Ono’s thesis to solve what the Guinness Book of World Records deemed “The Hardest Math Problem,” Fermat’s last theorem.

“This is a story I haven’t been telling until last year because people think, ‘Well, he advises the president.’ No one would believe it, so that’s why I have to tell it,” Ono said. “My path’s not what anyone expects. I didn’t follow the usual paths.”

Doolino

And there goes Halloween, a wonderful time of the year filled with candy, parties and visiting the president’s hou — oh, that didn’t happen this year. Anyways, as we depart these wonderful days of pumpkin everything, we enter a rather awkward phase: too late to celebrate Halloween, too early to get into the Christmas spirit. Nevertheless, fun is not a date on a calendar but rather an experience that can be had at any time.

Dear Doolino,
Well that was an interesting past few days. I decided to dress up as Harambe for Halloween (a somewhat antiquated joke at this point, to be brutally honest). Let’s just say I … had a few too many cups of punch. One thing led to another and although I don’t remember the details, I woke up the next day having spent 55 dollars on the adoption certificate of a Bengali tiger. Oh, and with 230 seconds of absolutely humiliating Snapchat videos!
What do I do? How can I show face around my social circle?
Yours truly,

One Punch Man


Dear One Punch Man,

You were drinking punch? What is this, elementary school?
Let’s be honest, buying a tiger is the best thing you could have done when intoxicated. Embarrassing drunken shenanigans are the cornerstone of college life. You may be embarrassed now, but think about it this way: everybody has done something in their life that has totally mortified them to the point where they have had the exact same mindset as you.
Let me tell you a little story. There was once this cute skeleton girl sitting across from me at Woodruff Library (my 206 bones became 207 that day). Here I was in a trance, thinking of all the things I would do to that ribcage, until suddenly she comes straight to me and slaps me across the face — I had been staring at her chest this whole time! Everyone in the library laughed at me and my face was completely red despite my lack of blood vessels.
If someone oh so wise as me can commit such a perverted and embarrassing act when totally sober, imagine what the rest of the student body has done? That kid next to you in NBB 301? Probably took a dump in a mug when he was desperate and the toilet was too far. That girl in your archaeology lab? I’m willing to bet money she lost a few hundred dollars falling for the Nigerian prince scam that landed in her email inbox.
Shame is ubiquitous, but it doesn’t defines who you are. As long as you have learned from the sting of this experience and endeavor to know your limits when it comes to alcohol consumption, you have no reason to feel embarrassed around your friends, whom I can guarantee have done far stupider things.
Yours sincerely,
Doolino


Dear Doolino,
I haven’t slept before 2 a.m. in several weeks. My eyelids continue to droop and my morale continues to drop. I have tried my best to sleep at 11 p.m. or some sort of sane hour, but even on days when I wake up early I simply can’t find it in me to get into bed at a decent time. Maybe it’s because I listen to a lot of heavy metal before I go to bed.
As a result, I mope around all day feeling fatigued, and it’s really impacting my social life. Additionally, my academics are taking a big hit.
How do I stitch my life back together?
Ever faithfully,
Sleepnot

Dear Sleepnot,
Your academics surely are not taking a hit judging by the wit that is your name.
Jokes aside, sleep deprivation is a common symptom among college students. Eccentric sugar consumption (I am a jar of marshmallows away from type II diabetes), late nights at Georgia Tech and stupid wake up times in those precious moments of sleep autonomy are all leading factors in this endless cycle of pain.
What do I recommend? Exercise. It need not be heavy weightlifting; you do not need to get an absolutely perfect body like that guy in the DUC who wears a tank top (you know who I’m talking about). Work to get tired and release endorphins; all of this will eventually lead to a more-than-decent sleep schedule. An hour or so of shooting hoops, maybe a light jog or even some badminton with a suitemate, do whatever you want as long as it is reasonably strenuous.
Lay off the midnight Woodruff Cafe Coke runs, too. If you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time I take a nap.
Yours sincerely,
Doolino

For your day-to-day qualms and minor life crises, send anonymous questions to [email protected]

iow-innermonkey-1024x680

A monkey died last winter at Emory University’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center, marking the third primate death at Yerkes after which animal rights group Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) has alleged negligence since December 2014.

In January, a surgical sponge was left inside the rhesus macaque, an Old World monkey, during an experimental surgery, according to Yerkes Chief of Public Affairs Lisa Newbern. A Feb. 1 letter, leaked from the research center informing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) of the incident, stated that an internal investigation found that the monkey appeared normal until a day after the surgery, when it began vomiting and became dehydrated. The surgeon determined a “low likelihood” that a sponge was left in the body but a decision was made to euthanize the monkey for its worsening condition, the letter said. An autopsy discovered the sponge caused an inflammatory response leading to blockage of a portion of the small intestine, according to the letter.

“The surgeon and the research center regret this death,” Newbern wrote in a statement to the Wheel. “The research center has implemented additional processes to prevent any similar occurrence.”

This incident is not the first case of an accidental monkey death at Yerkes. USDA inspection reports released Sept. 22, 2015 indicate that in 2014, a deceased monkey was discovered in an enclosure adjacent to its own at Yerkes. The USDA report revealed that an internal investigation was unable to determine how the monkey accessed the area. In January 2015, a rubber band restraint was left on a monkey after a routine tattooing operation, and the monkey was euthanized two months later after entering respiratory arrest, the reports said.

As of Oct. 18, 2016, the USDA was an investigating Emory for research animal handling, according to USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Public Affairs Specialist Tanya Espinosa. Espinosa declined to provide further details of the investigation.

The USDA oversees research animal handling and investigates potential violations of the Animal Cruelty Act in the U.S., according to its website. In all three cases, Emory notified the USDA of the incidents, as required by the Animal Cruelty Act, according to Newbern. Procedural changes to prevent similar incidents from occurring were included in Emory’s letters to the USDA.

In Emory’s first two disclosure letters to the USDA, Vice President for Research Administration David Wynes wrote, “This appears to be an isolated case and not a programmatic issue. While additional suggestions are being considered to help prevent recurrence, the [Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee] feels the corrective actions taken will prevent further occurrences of this nature.”

On Oct. 3, SAEN filed a formal complaint with the USDA, according to (SAEN) Executive Director Michael Budkie.The complaint states that the three incidents are violations of the Animal Cruelty Act and calls for the maximum fine of $10,000 per incident.

“If the incompetence at Emory wasn’t so tragic, it would almost be comical,” Budkie wrote in a Sept. 25 press release. “Who works at Emory, the Keystone Cops?”

The research center, which contained more than 2,000 primates as of May 2016, according to USDA inspection reports, stood by its practice of animal research.

“The groundbreaking discoveries being made at Yerkes would not be possible without the knowledge and conviction of our researchers and staff who are as dedicated to scientific discovery in nonhuman primates as they are to the highest quality animal care and enrichment,” Newbern wrote. “Yerkes follows established regulations and guidelines and has maintained accreditation for more than 25 consecutive years.”

Melissa Defrank/Staff

College Senior Bethany Studnicky is an Interdisciplinary Studies major with a concentration in Visual Culture and Integrated Visual Arts Co-major (IVAC) who grew up in Severna Park, Md. During her time at Emory, she started b.stud, a business that sells original and commission artwork, along with graphic design. She invited the Wheel into her cozy room in the Media, Literature and Arts Outreach (MLAO) house to answer a few questions.

The Emory Wheel: Tell me about where you grew up.

Bethany Studnicky: Everyone was super into themselves, and it was really difficult growing up in that area because I have six siblings, so my family didn’t have as many resources as everyone else did. It was a beautiful area, and it was a lot of fun being on the water, but there was definitely a pretentious energy around the whole place that was difficult to navigate.

EW: How did your passion for art develop?

BS: I had trouble with the social scene when I was younger. Not only were the people in my area difficult to get along with, but I was also super overweight, and that led to me being bullied a lot. … People would call me horrendous names, even my family members. I just didn’t feel like I ever had someone to rely on as my true friend.

I took my first art class in seventh grade. One of my teachers, Ms. Burns, saw potential in me and worked with me on a project. It was called the “Peace Begins with Me” poster competition. She helped me through the process, and I ended up winning. It was my first taste of affirmation in something that I did.

That was kind of the first time my family recognized me as someone worthy of their praise. I got frustrated with that because once I received praise from them, I thought it seemed superficial. I went through this process of trying to figure out what I really wanted, and artwork became my testament to my identity. It helped me work through finding femininity as something I could embrace, losing weight and engaging with people in an outgoing and social manner, really engaging with them rather than just chasing them.

EW: What drew you to Emory?

BS: I definitely didn’t want to go to art school. Having been in [a gifted art class], I saw the way that artists were treated when they specifically denoted themselves as artists. I worked really hard on my academics in high school. I felt like if I went to art school, all that hard work would be pushed to the wayside and people wouldn’t recognize it. So I applied to a lot of really good schools, Emory among them.

EW: Would you say that Emory has been conducive to your artistic development?

BS: I would say that Emory has been conducive to my psychological development in relation to my art. But when it comes to the physical creation of art, I can’t say that because they haven’t offered me any mentorship in that way. I think that’s one of the things Emory’s programs lack the most. But, it was because Emory lacked that mentorship that I was forced to find myself as a leader. …  I always had people telling me I had to complete art. I came to Emory and no one was telling me that anymore … yet I still felt this inherent need to create.

I decided I was finally ready to share the work that I was creating with my peers. The business has forced me to learn about the arts industry, but I think it has been detrimental to my own development as an artist because I get pigeonholed into whatever project I’m working on at the time. So when I was doing puppy portraits, I was the “puppy portrait girl.” People think that that’s what I do; it’s what I can do, but it’s not the substantive work that I like to create.

EW: What is the name of your business?

BS: The business is called b.stud, and I sell original and commission artwork, along with graphic design. That’s what my whole Instagram is for … I don’t want to feel like I’m putting them online for social affirmation. But, being a business owner, I know people have to know about my work. People complain to me when I don’t put art up, which is a cool thing. It’s the best thing for me when people say: “Oh, you haven’t put anything up recently.” That’s an honorable experience.

EW: Tell me more about what you are involved in this year on campus.

BS: The biggest thing that I do is run the Emory Arts Showcase … It has turned into the largest annual student art showcase at Emory. At first, it was kind of just a hallway show in White Hall. To watch that process grow has been by far one of my favorite experiences. Our president, [College junior] Wei Wei Chen, has done exceptional things growing the program.

A lot of my volunteering stems from my artwork and my involvement in the Greek community. I volunteer all the time for creating recruitment materials for Alpha Delta Pi, the sorority I’m in. Women’s rugby was huge for me for the first two years, but I recently stopped playing because I needed to re-allocate my time for my thesis.

I’m writing an honor’s thesis right now on identity formation. It focuses on the co-creation of identity and the way that we are forced to physically manifest our identities in order to communicate with our peers. The main concept is about how physical manifestations of self (for example, fashion and vocabulary and artwork) inherently miscommunicate our identities. That miscommunication of identity impedes our ability to access one another’s true selves, if the true self even exists. The conclusion talks about how social media is a new form of self-portraiture, and how manipulations of identity through social media can negatively impact mental health. … Also, I’m going to have my first personal art show this year.

EW: As a senior, do you feel prepared for what lies ahead?

BS: Not exactly. I have a lot of ideas for what I want to do. I know that I want to do something fun and exciting, and that I won’t be able to do with the rest of my life … I’m hoping to take time to travel and see the world. I’ve never been out of the country, which I regret every day.

After that, I want to work or go to graduate school. I intend to pursue an MBA, hopefully to do with brand management. I love learning, so after an MBA I would want to pursue a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Visual Culture. I’d love to stay in Atlanta.

Naifmul Huda/Contributing

On-call nights. Songfest. Programming events. Lost freshmen. These are all too familiar to any Emory Resident Advisor (RA).

After an exhaustingly long day and having just finished running a hall meeting, Senior RA and College senior Alicia Johnson unashamedly and energetically dances to a resident’s rock music and passes around a small bag of Sour Patch Kids among her second-floor Alabama Hall residents. After eating a couple of her sweets, she takes me to her room, which is laden almost entirely with star lights and earthy-colored fabric banners that make the room feel warm and fuzzy.

Johnson is no beginner when it comes to being an RA, with previous experience as an RA in Dobbs and Alabama Hall, as well as Oxford College residence halls.

“Being a Resident Advisor is about trying to make your hall a home away from home and making sure people feel safe,” Johnson said.

Some students see RAs as supervisors who spend the entirety of their nights roaming campus sniffing out alcohol and shutting down dorm parties; however, this popular view does not represent RAs’ duties accurately, according to Johnson.

“What we do [on big partying] nights is just making sure that people stay safe — we aren’t just out to get you,” she said.

On-call nights have become routine for Johnson. They start at 5 p.m., when she picks up the on-phone call from Dobbs Hall.

“The on-call phone tells me what’s happening to residents around campus and whether I have to respond to something like a sick resident who needs to go to the hospital,” Johnson said.

From 5 to 8 p.m., RAs must stay close to the residence hall for which they are on duty. Around 10:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., RAs complete a 15-minute walk around their residence hall.

“It rarely ends up being 15 minutes — most of the time I walk around I end up seeing friends I want to talk to,” Johnson said.

The next morning at 9 a.m., Johnson details on an on-call log what occurred the previous night, which goes to Residence Life.

However, on-call night only scratches the surface of RAs’ responsibilities. It’s the RAs’ job to make the hall feel like a community. In a smaller hall like Alabama or Dobbs, Johnson said that her residents  become like a family.

Within the past few days, Johnson comforted a resident who was stressed out about a job interview, helped out a group of stressed pre-meds for their organic chemistry test and helped someone find lost valuables.

For many of Johnson’s residents, college is their first time living for a long period away from their parents.

“A lot of incoming first years don’t realize how incredibly difficult and strenuous independence can be,” Johnson said. “I’m incredibly passionate about being an RA for first years and the radical change that can happen within them.”

Although the University holds many programs to help freshmen transition to college, RAs play a significant role in a freshman’s transitionary period.

“I’m not sure I would be an RA for any other class,” Johnson said. “You have the incredibly important role of influencing students in the most vulnerable and formative times of not only their college careers, but in their entire lives as independent adults.”

Outside of Johnson’s busy RA schedule, she is a pre-health mentor, the vice president of the Emory Pre-Dental Society and is involved within IDEAS, which promotes liberal arts on campus, all while preparing for dental school. RAs in Alabama must also organize seven programs, attend a weekly two-credit RA class and go to a weekly mandatory meeting with the residence hall directors. RAs and SAs have four one-on-one meetings a year with their residents.

“If you really care about the job, it can be a challenge to take care of your own life as a student while simultaneously taking care of your residents,” Johnson said.

However, being an RA isn’t made up entirely with excessive stress and work. Through the hall programs that RAs are mandated to launch, the job can be therapeutic.

“I use my RA role and my hall as principal outlets for my creativity,” Johnson said. “I specifically chose Alabama Hall because its creativity and arts theme aligns well with my passions.”

Johnson believes that the perks of being an RA, including hosting fun programs and bonding with residents, are more than worth the grueling nights on-call.

“Being an RA is hard, but through the ‘Bamaly,’ I have finally come full circle to creating the close-knit and loving community I always dreamed of since I was a freshman,” Johnson said.

David Kulp, College freshman

Few college freshmen can casually say that they’ve delivered a baby in orientation icebreakers, but College freshman David Kulp is the exception. Kulp took a gap year prior to his freshman year at Emory, during which he traveled to many different parts of Israel.

For the first half of his gap year, Kulp lived in Jerusalem, studying Middle Eastern history, Jewish studies, the Arab-Israeli conflict and Islam-Christian history. While exploring North and South Israel, Kulp discovered more about his own family history.

Starting in January, Kulp trained with Magen David Adom, which he called the Israeli equivalent of American Red Cross, to serve as an emergency medical technician and first responder in Yerucham and Dimona, two small southern desert villages. The training equipped him to work on both basic (BLS) and advanced (ALS) life support ambulances. He learned to deal with a various crises, including cardiac and respiratory emergencies, terrorist attacks, workplace emergencies and car accidents. As part of this training, Kulp received only 20 minutes of instruction on delivering babies and treating pregnant women.

During an excursion with a BLS ambulance, the BLS team received a call from a Bedouin village regarding a woman who had gone into labor in a pediatric care center. BLS ambulances typically do not handle pregnancy emergencies; his ambulance, however, raced to the care center, and when they arrived, it became clear that the woman could not be moved. Kulp and the other ambulance volunteer used a birthing kit, and within 20 minutes, helped deliver the baby boy.

According to Kulp, when the baby was first born, his color was slightly grey and the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. As an ALS ambulance arrived on the scene, Kulp’s associate cut the umbilical cord, suctioned the baby’s face and, miraculously, the baby cried to life.

“I was nervous, but it was the most meaningful sight I’ve ever seen,” Kulp said. “Once he started crying, we were all very relieved.”

The ALS ambulance wasted no time and immediately took the Bedouin woman and her child to a hospital. To Kulp’s knowledge, both the woman and her baby survived.

“In this moment, when people need help the most, it doesn’t matter what political group you’re from,” Kulp said. “We were in a Bedouin village, and we were Jewish [emergency medical technicians] and they were Bedouin Arab Muslims and it didn’t really matter. All of the differences, all of the challenges, all of the preconceived notions — everything disappeared.”

Kulp spoke extensively about how much he learned about Israel’s conflict with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel has faced attacks from militant Islamist organizations. Kulp witnessed countless acts of violence while serving as an emergency medical technician but remained optimistic about the conflict, he said.

“It gave me some hope that in the very complicated situation that is the Middle East, that one day there might be peace,” Kulp said.

The gap year helped him gain a lot of perspective, Kulp said. He encouraged all, whether before graduate school or during their undergraduate experience, to find time to explore the world and learn more about themselves in the process.

Hailing from Potomac, Md., Kulp decided to pursue a gap year following his February 2015 graduation from Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. The school, according to Kulp, typically sends the graduating class to Israel for several months. Kulp wanted to both explore the world and take a break from academics, so he took advantage of the opportunity. Following the trip, he and nine other students stayed to spend the next academic year in Israel.

Immediately after graduating high school, Kulp studied for three months at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel based in Hod HaSharon, exploring the country through outdoor education and volunteering. For an additional two months, Kulp travelled around the country and volunteered in a pediatric rehabilitation hospital. After returning home for a short stint from July to August 2015, Kulp returned to Israel on the Nativ College Leadership Program which brings students to different parts of Israel for a full academic year to explore and immerse themselves in Israeli culture. The program is affiliated with the Conservative movement which aims to preserve Jewish tradition instead of reforming it or abandoning it.

“I loved my time abroad. I loved taking a gap year. I think I really needed it in the end,” Kulp said. “I think it made a massive impact on my identity.”

Yiqian Wang/Contributing

At the start of college, many students join campus organizations hoping to find a like-minded community of people who can understand them. Oxford College freshman Rose Porter attended Oxford’s PRIDE meeting in hopes of finding students who could relate to her story as a trans woman shortly after her arrival to campus this fall. Unfortunately, she did not.

“There’s a lot of people who probably still see me on campus and don’t really know what to think of [me], and that’s kind of weird,” Porter said. “It’s rough because there are no other trans people [at Oxford] by which any context can be given, or kinship to be had.”

Porter felt a sense of loneliness upon realizing that she was, to her knowledge, the only openly trans person at Oxford, but she has still been able to find an accepting community within the liberal arts campus.

Before calling Oxford home, Porter was born in Atlanta, Ga. She then moved to Gainesville, Fla., at a young age. As a child, Porter said that she didn’t think in terms of gender. She just liked certain things that happened to be traditionally feminine, such as the idea of geishas or female characters on TV. For this, she often felt harshly judged by society. However, as she matured, she realized that who it is she was trying to be and who it is she wanted to be was what society would call a girl. She felt restricted in her way of life because she was expected to act like a boy; eventually, she realized that she had to change.

But even as a trans woman — even after changing how she identifies — Porter feels restricted. Porter said  she now feels as though she is expected to act in alignment with society’s ideals of a typical woman, and while cisgender women are also judged by this code, Porter believes that it can be a much harder standard to reach for trans women. She said that it is important that she act ultra-feminine and that she is expected to tailor her behavior to fit into that feminine mold if she wants to be taken seriously: the way she carries herself, speaks, stands and her mannerisms are judged more radically by society’s definition of femininity.

“No one knows the social codes for how women are supposed to behave better than trans women,” Porter explained.

Struggles like these continued after Porter arrived at Oxford. According to Porter, she does not always pass as a girl and thus feels inclined to explain herself in new environments. She said that she had to constantly re-introduce herself and explain that she was trans to everyone, furthering  her feelings of isolation.

Porter describes her life as normal, despite certain aspects that are hard for her. According to Porter, communal bathrooms scared her when she first came to college, and the showers still do. She usually tries to spend as little time in the communal bathrooms as possible.

“Part of living my day-to-day life is being very, very consciously aware of your presence in social situations and what people are thinking and looking and doing,” Porter said.

This includes her dorm room, where she was prepared to never be nude in front of her roommate, so her roommate would not feel uncomfortable. She bought full-length, total body coverage pajamas. According to Porter, her roommate, Oxford College freshman Annalys Hanson, luckily cared little about nudity .

 

“She needed a safe place,” Hanson said. “There aren’t any other trans people on campus; it’s up to somebody who was cisgender to step up and make it a safe place for her.”

Hanson believes that Porter being trans has only brought benefits to their room. Hanson and Porter mutually respect each other and work hard to ensure  both are comfortable within their living arrangement. According to Hanson, her family was initially concerned with her roommate choice, but she was sure she wanted to room with Porter and feels very safe in their room.

Oxford’s housing policy states that students will be paired with someone who identifies as the same gender, according to Assistant Dean for Campus Life, Office of Residential Educational and Services (RES) Director and Chief Conduct Officer Michele Hempfling.

Porter was unaware of the same-sex roommate policy and afraid that she would have been assigned a male roommate if she had not found a female roommate on her own. She said that she could not imagine having a better roommate.

Outside of the room, though, Porter has found that identifying as trans can make it difficult to join certain social groups and make friends. In general, Oxford students treat her politely, Porter said. Although she has heard rumors about herself that sometimes include slurs, she believes that these reactions stem mostly from confusion and curiosity, not necessarily from malevolence. Porter enjoys educating others about issues of misunderstanding, and she is happy to help anyone who is confused or needs explanations.

According to Porter, frictional transphobia, derived from the economics term frictional unemployment, means that transphobia is part of our current system, and as long as this system is in place, transphobia will be present. Porter said there is still a lot of frictional transphobia at Oxford.

Despite Porter’s belief that frictional transphobia is still embedded in Oxford’s campus, she says that the faculty and staff have been very supportive, especially Oxford Dance Instructor Alejandro Abarca, who offered to be there if she ever needed to talk. Porter explained that Oxford as an institution did not have to go out of its way to make her feel comfortable, since Porter is currently rooming with a cisgender woman and enjoys the school’s gender-neutral housing and secluded bathrooms.

“I think what a lot people don’t realize is that Oxford is a much more trans-accepting place than most of the places [I have lived],” Porter explained. “I got more harassment at my high school for being trans than I ever had at Oxford and probably ever will at Oxford.”

Porter’s Oxford community has been more than open and mature when approaching Porter about being trans. However, she still wishes people would see the bigger issue represented by her story.

“Trans people are a testament to everything that is wrong with how we view gender,” Porter said.

She added that our society needs to learn how to accept and understand trans people, but also what exactly trans people say about this society.

Porter eventually wants to get into trans activism and work with trans youth. She plans to double major in sociology and women’s, gender and sexuality studies.

The University itself has also tried to educate people about gender; however, its efforts are not always successful. During orientation, for example, Porter found the the Peer Assistance Leaders’ (PALs) skit trying to explain trans people inaccurate.

“You have this cis girl actor [with a] ponytail, tight jeans and everything come on, and she starts talking about how she doesn’t feel like a woman and that was just kind of like, ‘I don’t think you guys really get the idea here,’ ” Porter said. “And then of course they had a cis man actor, who was [a] scruffy, very manly looking guy come on and say, ‘I feel like a woman,’ and of course everyone laughed at that, and that was kind of rough.”

Porter did not feel attacked, but she also did not think the skit helped protect the trans community. She said that events like this skit are unavoidable if students are uneducated about trans people.

Overall, Porter said that Oxford does a good job in ensuring she feels accepted. She explained that in order to protect the trans population at Oxford, the College has implemented policies such as the Safe Space program, which trains allies to help and advocate on behalf of LGBT students, and anti-discrimination policies. Although she has never felt the need to use these tools, she appreciates that there are people she could turn to if necessary. Porter encourages society  to work on many gender issues, but she understands that colleges can only do so much. As long as colleges continue to accept trans students and make them feel comfortable, Porter believes that they are encouraging the necessary discussion.

“[Trans people] don’t exist as this outside anomaly. We exist as a result of systems that everyone lives in and that’s kind of scary,” Porter said. “Gender is something that affects everyone. … I think people need to realize more … how gender affects them, look at how [these] systems affect them.”

Ian Fried, Environmental Science Teacher at Woodstock School (13C)

Ian Fried (13C) began his second year of teaching environmental science at the Woodstock School, an international school in Mussoorie, India, this year. Fried shared his experience of teaching while living in a new environment in an interview with the Wheel.

When I was a kid, I thought that teaching was cool, but never really gave it too deep of a thought. As I was graduating from Emory with a Bachelor of Science in environmental studies, I was planning on pursuing a Ph.D. However, as I talked to others I realized that none of my friends were particularly happy about [the work required to attain a Ph.D.], so I thought that maybe [getting a Ph.D.] was not a track for me.

I then worked in a New York public school in Brooklyn as a teacher, and I learned a lot. There are many differences between private and public schools, and you see a big gap between the wealthy and poor kids.

At first, it was very hard for me to teach, and in the first six months of school there was not a day that I did not want to quit. However, the more you [teach], the easier it becomes. Teaching is very similar to learning. The amount you put in is proportional to what you get out of it.

I also learned a lot about content. For example, as I was teaching AP Biology, I had to review the content before I taught it in class and I would constantly add on to my knowledge. But content is an easy thing to learn, and it gets easier as you do more and more of it.

[One of the best memories] from my Emory experience would be going to Madagascar as one of the Emory-supported programs. I really like travelling, but that was the first time I did something of that sort, and it lasted for two months — I loved it.

I lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., most of my life and after teaching for two years there, I decided to change my life. So I went to a job fair, where a lot of international schools were represented, with an intention of leaving N.Y. I came across a representative from [the] Woodstock School in India, and [the representatives seemed] to be great people. So I applied and got the job.

Living in India is great. I enjoy outdoors a lot, and in here I get to go on many treks around the mountains. I also do rock climbing and volunteering and get to know the students a lot through these activities. A lot of times you tend to judge a student by their performance in your class; however, they might be an awesome person outside of your class. So it is pretty important to get to know them

I miss everything about N.Y., but at the same time I really love it here in India. India has a very different way of doing things than the U.S. For example, if someone cuts you off on the road in the U.S., your mood is going to be terrible — you will get annoyed. In India, you will say “OK” and just let them go. This attitude applies to everything. I love it.

The thing I miss most [about Emory] is being with [my] friends 24/7. When you are in college and you are bored, you can just go bother your friends whenever you want. As an adult, you don’t have that anymore.

[Being in a] fraternity taught me the most about social life. It was great to be [myself] with other people. Usually you can always be yourself with your friends, but it is nice to have an opportunity to do that with other people, as well. It also gave me a chance to meet people I would not have met otherwise, which is the best opportunity ever.