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Allegheny College Joins Growing Alliance of Colleges Working to Expand Access and Opportunity for 50,000 Talented Low- and Moderate-Income Students

Allegheny College is now part of an alliance of some of the nation’s most respected colleges and universities working to expand the number of academically talented low- and moderate-income students who have access to higher education.

Called the American Talent Initiative, the effort launched in December 2016 with the aim of educating an additional 50,000 high-achieving, low- and moderate-income students at the 270 colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates by 2025. Membership in the alliance is limited to institutions with six-year graduation rates above 70 percent; Allegheny is one of 38 new members of the 68-member group.

“We are delighted to join the American Talent Initiative,” Allegheny College President James H. Mullen, Jr., said. “Allegheny College has long been committed to inclusion and academic achievement so students of all backgrounds can excel. Our participation in ATI reaffirms our commitment to an attainable Allegheny education and ensures talented students can fulfill their potential.” (more…)

Chamber Choir Kicks off New Zealand Performance Tour

James Niblock, facing a momentous undertaking, thought of the stars.

“A week from now, you won’t recognize the constellations in the sky,” Niblock ’97, associate professor of music and director of choral activities at Allegheny College, wrote in an e-mail to his choir students.

An entirely different collection of stars shines in the Southern Hemisphere.

Today, after more than 18 months of planning, preparation and practice, 19 students from the Allegheny College Chamber Choir will depart for New Zealand in what will be the choir’s first international performance tour since 1980 and its first-ever tour to the South Pacific. The two-week trip will include performances in Auckland, Whitianga, Rotorua, Christchurch and Queenstown, along with plenty of sightseeing opportunities and an introduction to Māori culture.

For Morgan Hazzard, a 21-year-old biochemistry major from Lafayette, Colorado, the trip is the ultimate capstone to her college career. She was among the eight choir members who graduated on Saturday with the class of 2017.

“It will be the most incredible last experience I could have at Allegheny,” Hazzard said a few days before Commencement. “I couldn’t think of ending my senior year any other way. This is it. This is what we’ve been waiting for.”

The trip is breathtaking in both scope and purpose, involving more than 30 hours of air travel, including layovers (and that’s just one way); eight performances in five cities; and 27 pieces of music sung in eight different languages, including native Māori. It is one of the most logistically complex endeavors the choir has undertaken in recent memory, requiring extensive support from alumni and donors. There are also hundreds of people waiting on the other side, including partner choirs from other schools and organizations as well as host families who have agreed to house the students for parts of their stay.

The tour is the culmination of what began as decidedly smaller-scale discussion in November 2015. Then, Niblock was floating the idea of a California trip, maybe over spring break, or perhaps a European tour.

“By the time I said going to New Zealand was a possibility, everybody’s jaws just dropped to the floor,” said Niblock, who will lead the students along with pianist Douglas Jurs, assistant professor of music at Allegheny. Rounding out the entourage will be alumnus Jeffery L. Webb ’98, himself a collegiate choral director and avid singer.

“We’re not testing the boundaries of campus or the boundaries of Pennsylvania or how far we can take a coach bus,” Niblock said. “We’re testing the boundaries of what’s familiar. We’re going to a place where a European culture we understand very well exists side-by-side with a Polynesian culture most of us don’t know about. The ‘not familiar’ part meets a lot of musical and institutional goals.”


Chamber Choir New Zealand Tour – Allegheny College

John Knobel, a music major from Carlisle, Massachusetts, started singing in fourth grade. He joined the Allegheny choir as a first-year student and now plans to pursue a career as a choral conductor, a music teacher or a music therapist after graduation.

The New Zealand trip is a chance to grow and do what he loves while being an ambassador for Allegheny, said Knobel, 22.

“Anywhere we go, we always have Allegheny on our chest,” he said. “We’re all representing the college. The relationships we’re going to (build) with other schools and other choirs are very important to our education on an individual level, but also to the groups as a whole and to their improvement.”

He’s looking forward to staying with local families.

“I’ve stayed in a few different countries in hostels and you always meet different people and you always gain new perspectives on their lives and experiences,” Knobel said. “It’s always something you can grow from.”

Unlike Knobel, most of the students in the choir are not music majors. The 19 students traveling represent 26 different major and minor programs and nine different states. Ben Thomas, a tenor who joined the choir as a first-year student, graduated with a neuroscience degree on Saturday.

“In many ways it sums up Allegheny as a whole,” said Thomas, 22, of California, Pennsylvania. “There are only two or three music majors in the Chamber Choir and the rest of us are in different disciplines. We all get to take this trip halfway across the world to a place we’ve never been.

“It’s basically the textbook definition of ‘unusual combinations,’” he said, referring to Allegheny’s national reputation as a place where students are encouraged to explore their unusual combinations of interests and talents. Students often focus their energies and curiosities on courses of study that are not closely linked to their major.

Beyond the opportunity to travel abroad, the choir has helped forge deep friendships that will continue beyond college careers, Hazzard said.

“I could care less where we go,” she said. “I just want to be with this group of people.”

Read student blogs about the trip under “News & Events” on the Music Department website.

Students Perform Prince’s ‘Waterbearer’

Associate Professor of Black Studies and English Valerie Prince’s choreodrama “Waterbearer,” which uses lyrical prose to explore the labor of African-American women, was presented as a dramatic reading in Pittsburgh on August 24th at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Performed by Itzel Ayala ’18, Luka Crozier ’19, Robyn Katona ’19, and Nia Shuler ’18 and directed by Professor of Theatre Beth Watkins, the company was invited by the Larimer Consensus Group, the River Roots Community Arts Project, and the Metro Urban Institute, arts and advocacy organizations working on integrating green infrastructure into urban spaces.

Caballero’s Poems to be Published

Associate Professor of English M. Soledad Caballero has two poems forthcoming, “Stories for Strangers” in the magazine Voices from the Attic, and “This Body” in the literary journal The Iron Horse Literary Review. In addition, she has been selected to be a CantoMundo Poetry Fellow at Columbia University this summer. CantoMundo is a national organization that promotes and cultivates the work of Latinx poets.

Mehler Speaks at United States Institute for Theatre Technology Conference

Associate Professor of Communication Arts & Theatre Michael Mehler presented on “Sustainable Strike” at the USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology) Conference in March. Convened by the Broadway Green Alliance, the session panel discussed how to minimize waste stream impact when a theatrical production closes.

On April 27, Mehler hosted a conversation with Tony-Award winning designer Santo Loquasto at Drama Book Shop in New York City. The event launched the recent publication, “The Designs of Santo Loquasto,” the 10th in a series of designer histories that Mehler oversees as the vice president for communications for USITT.

Mulryan Presents Senior Research

Ashley Mulryan ’17 presented the research from her senior comprehensive project titled “How Mexico Remembers the Dirty War: A Study in Collective Memory” at the XIII Undergraduate Research Symposium of Latin American and Caribbean Studies held at the University of Pittsburgh on April 14th.

Reed Wins Mid-Atlantic Writing Centers Association Scholarship

English major Jessica Reed ’18 was awarded a scholarship from the Mid-Atlantic Writing Centers Association (MAWCA) to present her work at the 2017 MAWCA conference held at Penn State Berks on April 1. Reed and Director of Writing and Associate Professor of English Alexis Hart presented as part of a roundtable titled ““Playing with Topics and Tools: Undergraduate Research as Intellectual Maker Space” ( Reed was also recently awarded a summer internship at the Modern Languages Association in New York City.

Marthinsen, Taapken Present at Undergraduate Research Conference

On April 22nd, Grant Marthinsen (’17) and Lisa Taapken (’17) presented papers at the 3rd annual International Studies GLCA undergraduate research conference whose theme was “Challenging Borders.”  Both presentations focused on the Middle East and North Africa region: Marthinsen presented “De-Ba’athification, Sectarianism, and the rise of Daesh,” and Taapken’s title was “The Future of the Moroccan Women’s Rights Movement.”
  Visiting Assistant Professor of History Brian Miller spoke on the conference’s faculty panel, “Contemporary Issues in Migration Studies.”

Wahl Wins First Place for Senior Research Project

Nadiya Wahl ’17 presented her senior project research at the “Undergraduate Research at the Capitol Conference” in Harrisburg on April 25. She won first place in the Arts, Humanities, Business, and Social and Behavioral Sciences Division for her comp, titled “Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science: An Empirical Look into Chakra Meditation.” Her research advisor is Professor of Psychology Joshua Searle-White.

Riess Short Story Translation Published

Associate Professor of Modern and Classical Languages Barbara Riess’s translation of the short story “Brutal Mirage” by Guillermo López-Prieto was published in this month’s Cuban Counterpoints: Public Scholarship about a Changing Cuba.

Riess will be taking a group of 12 Allegheny students with Prof. Brittany Davis to Cuba for an Experiential Learning Tour, “Revolutionary Products,” on May 18.