200 Days in the Life of the College

Tuesday, May 3

No courses, but a full plate for a Senior Fellow

By Lauren Howe ’13

Imagine that you are a college senior, but you are not taking a normal courseload. You don’t have a variety of teachers grading you on a variety of papers in a variety of classes. What college student wouldn’t want that? Caitlin “Caty” Taborda ’11 was given just such an option when chosen as a Senior Fellow, but it has allowed her far more than the luxury of sleeping in.

Taborda began the grueling Senior Fellow application process a year ago. Her detailed proposal had not only to emphasize how her independent study project would represent Hamilton’s liberal arts experience, but also to explain how it would require more time than a traditional thesis and justify why she should not have to take classes. “So I essentially had to try and sort through the next year of my life,” she says.

Typically, Hamilton awards up to seven such fellowships a year and gives the fellows a stipend to defray research costs. But Taborda, a sociology major, is the only Senior Fellow this academic year. Titled Local, Organic, and Sustainable Privilege: Understanding the Social Significance of Food Movements and the Socioeconomic Factors that Influence Participation, her project, presented today, focuses on the history of food movements and current consumption patterns in New York’s Mohawk Valley.

Having grown up in the kitchen with her dad as a cook, Taborda has always looked at food “as something more than what we eat; it’s an aesthetic experience and a historical journey.” In looking back on her year, Taborda acknowledges its challenges of time management and organizational skill. But she appreciates the experience. “The single most enjoyable aspect has been showing myself what I am capable of,” she says. “I’ve taught myself, and though I’ve made mistakes, I learned from them.” In other words, her senior experience has provided food for thought … and thought for food.