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Seniors Mackenzie Theobald and Evan Warnock Awarded Bristol Fellowships

By Holly Foster
Posted April 10, 2014
Tags Bristol Fellowship Fellowships and Scholarships Fellowships and Scholarships Off-campus study Students

Hamilton seniors Mackenzie (Mattie) Theobald and Evan Warnock have been awarded the college’s Bristol Fellowship. Theobald will pursue a project titled “Artists’ Statements: Arts Education at the Intersection of Policy and Culture” in Australia, the Netherlands, Philippines, India and Namibia. Warnock’s project, “Space Matters: How the Spatial and Architectural Design of Schools Affects Students,” will take him to Finland, India, Japan and Uganda.

The Bristol Fellowship was begun in 1996 as part of a gift to the college by William M. Bristol Jr., (Class of 1917). The purpose of the award is to perpetuate Mr. Bristol’s spirit and share it with students of the college that was such an important part of his life. Created by his family, the $25,000 fellowship is designed to encourage Hamilton students to experience the richness of the world by living outside the United States for one year and studying an area of great personal interest.

In her proposal Theobald, a public policy and studio art concentrator, wrote, “The writer Hendrik Willem Van Loon believed ‘the arts are an even better barometer of what is happening in our world than the stock market or the debates in Congress.’  Combining my interest in public policy and my love of the arts, I will travel to five countries to explore the degree to which political and cultural support for the arts influence the role that they play in young artists’ lives. Specifically, I’m looking at visual and performance arts as they are experienced by secondary school students in countries that run the gamut in terms of policy implementation and cultural influence.”

Theobald wrote that if Van Loon’s belief “holds true for schools, it is clear that we are in trying times. My two majors, public policy and studio art, are on a collision course. As a result of limited resources, and an increased focus on standardized testing, educational policymakers see the arts as expendable.”

“Supporters of arts program often cite academic gains in other subjects for student involved in the arts. Missing from these arguments is that the arts may benefit young people in unquantifiable ways, contributing to their holistic development… I am eager to see how varying degrees of political and cultural support for the arts influence the role that they play in young people’s lives. Specifically, I am looking at visual and performance arts as they are experienced by secondary school students in a colorful range of environments.”

Theobald will explore art in the classroom and in daily life, visiting secondary school art classes and interacting with students. She’ll also produce her own art, which she will document with her other impressions in a blog and sketchbook.

“While students are my most important resource, policy makers and teachers are instrumental with regard to what goes on inside classrooms. By familiarizing myself with the policy literature in each country, I will be able to have informed conversations with policy officials in order to understand their reasons for supporting (or not supporting) arts education in schools. Given that teachers are at the intersection between the students and the policies that dictate their curriculum, I will talk to teachers so that I can develop a better sense of their personal views of the arts in schools and what effect policy is having on students in their classrooms. Given my background in education, policy, and art, I have the proper vocabulary to speak to all parties involved: students, teachers and policy makers.”

The countries that Theobald will visit run the gamut from high-to-minimal policy support for the arts in schools, as well as varying degrees of cultural heritage that influence young adults’ exposure to the arts outside the classroom. Australia and the Netherlands are two of the world’s leaders in art education policy; India and the Philippines have intermediate levels of art policy support; and Namibia is a nation where arts education is noticeably absent.

Theobald studied abroad at the University of Stirling, United Kingdom, in 2012. At Hamilton she is co-director of Hamilton Association for Volunteering, Outreach and Charity (HAVOC); executive board member and secretary of Kappa Sigma Alpha Sorority; an Admissions office tour guide; a Studio Monitor for sculpture students in the sculpture studio; a member of the College Hill Singers and the College Choir.

She is the daughter of Sheona MacKenzie and Neil Theobald of Philadelphia, and a graduate of Bloomington High School North (Indiana).

Warnock, a psychology major, explained his proposal.  “In 1973, the United States met with the South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese to formalize the end of the Vietnam War at the Paris Peace Accords. Negotiations were stalled by a disagreement over the shape of the conference table where the different sides would meet. Some argued that a round table should be used to symbolize equality between all sides of the conflict, while others argued that a rectangular table was essential to signify their separation … The effect of space on human behavior and human interactions is at the heart of this debate. In our social world, space truly matters.

Warnock continued, “Now, imagine a secondary school classroom anywhere in the world today. What does it look like? How is space used? What does the layout of the classroom imply about the teaching style and learning that takes place there? In response to these questions, one likely imagines a classroom with students sitting in rigid rows facing a blackboard with a lecturing teacher at the front of the room …Today, however, education systems around the globe are negotiating the turn to a more service and knowledge-based economy in which top employers are looking for students who demonstrate buzzword qualities such as collaboration and creativity.”

He questions, “Does the world’s dominant factory style school design support the turn to a pedagogy that stresses project-based learning, collaboration, interpersonal skills, and technological literacy? How should governments in developing nations negotiate this transformation as they build school infrastructure?”

Through his Bristol Fellowship, he plans to examine how the spatial and architectural design of schools influences teaching and learning. “I will investigate primary and secondary schools on a number of different levels including presence of natural light, openness of learning spaces, and the flexibility of classrooms,” Warnock explained. “By volunteering in classrooms, and building relationships with architects, teachers, administrators, students and community members, I will gain a better understanding of exemplary models of school architecture, in addition to the impediments to innovative design, and how educational spaces shape the teaching and learning process.”

Warnock will travel to Finland, India, Japan and Uganda -- countries that represent a broad range in public expenditure on education. Finland and Japan represent some of the largest spending per pupil, while India and Uganda present the opposite. “The wealthier countries …boast remarkable school facilities with innovations surrounding collaborative learning environments. As developing nations, India and Uganda face provocative questions surrounding the use of informal and makeshift learning spaces in the absence of formal school buildings and the existence of a large class-based divide between access to municipal and elite or ‘modern’ education facilities,” he wrote.

Warnock studied abroad in London in 2010. In 2013 he interned at Machado & Silvetti Architecture and Urban Design in Boston and he completed a Harvard Graduate School of Design architectural design course in 2012.  At Hamilton he is a COOP Senior Fellow, serving as director of the America Reads program; he is a Levitt Center Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Intern; he is a member of the executive committee of Hamilton Alumni Leadership Training; site coordinator for Newcomers Classroom for refugee students at the Underground Café in Utica; a member and vice president of the Buffers, a cappella group; and a leader for the Adirondack Adventure pre-orientation program.

Warnock is the son of Deidre Bosley and David Warnock of Cockeysville, Md., and is a graduate of the Gilman School.

The Bristol Fellowship is intended to be highly personal and is open to all interested Hamilton seniors. Proposals are evaluated based on inquisitiveness, a spirit of adventure, depth of personal interest and openness to other cultures. While not a requirement, proposals are also considered for their sense of family connection.   

William Bristol served as a Hamilton trustee, president of the alumni association, fundraiser and benefactor. He was one of seven generations of Bristol family members to attend Hamilton, dating back to the chartering of the college in 1812. Mr. Bristol’s great, great-grandfather became one of the college’s first trustees after helping to found the Hamilton-Oneida Academy, which later became Hamilton College in 1793.

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