Innovative study of city and country by Senior Fellows Dunfey and Cain

One studies the role of the bicycle in urban environments; the other explores the loss of rural America in poetry and film. What do McKayla Dunfey and Martin Cain share? They’re Hamilton’s Senior Fellows.

Each spring the dean of faculty may designate up to seven academically outstanding rising seniors as Senior Fellows. Fellows are exempt from taking a normal courseload, and they need not complete concentration requirements; they may take courses appropriate to their fellowship projects and educational goals. A written thesis is required at the close of the fellowship year, along with a public lecture to the College community.

That the two 2012-13 fellows are pursuing such complementary projects — a waning rural landscape and a changing urban one — is coincidental, though their efforts have some interesting ­parallels.

Senior Fellow Martin CainCain’s project, “The Poetic Art of Rural Decay: Reinterpreting the Pastoral with a Surreal Sense of Place,” grows out of his own roots in small-town Vermont as well as his own work as a poet — he was the youngest poet at the prestigious and highly selective Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference last year. Cain is exploring rural decay — which he calls “the surreal contrast between urbanized and rural America” through pastoral poetry and sensibility — “a genre that idealizes rural living and a rustic lifestyle,” he says. “True pastoral living exists in a ‘golden age.’”
A creative writing major who continues working on a senior thesis under Professor of English and Creative Writing Doran ­Larson, Cain is also a cinema and media studies minor, and his fellowship project will incorporate cinematic elements.

Senior fellow McKayla DunfeyDunfey, too, can trace her interest in her topic to childhood roots: Dunfey has been bicycling since she was a child, and she became involved in road biking at 13 — when she began to ride a bicycle that her great-grandfather had built, complete with lantern holders on the handlebars. She has continued her riding at Hamilton and spent her sophomore year doing an independent study project on bicycling in Europe.

There, she notes, cycling is often highly integrated into city life. Dedicated bike lanes are used by thousands of commuters and travelers; bike rental racks abound on city streets. American cities, by contrast, tend to be far less bicycle-friendly. Her project, “The Bicycle’s Influence: Changing Perceptions of Place and Space in Urban Environments,” entails visits to six cities across the country with varied biking communities and policies in order to document the effect biking has on each area and its place in the urban culture. “I hope that it becomes a lot easier and a lot safer for people to ride bikes, and that it will become something that’s possible for more people,” says Dunfey, who is considering a career in transportation planning. 

— Contributing: Ester Malisova ’13; Vige Barrie; Holly Foster; Amy Lindner

Follow the money: Recent grants and what they’re doing

Hamilton College received the largest award among 23 Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad international education grants recently announced by the U.S. Department of Education. Hamilton was awarded $671,975 in federal funds to support the project “The ACC Intensive Language Training Program for Students and Language Professionals.” It will be managed by Hong Gang Jin, the William R. Kenan Professor of Chinese and the general director of the Associated Colleges in China (ACC) program.

The ACC Intensive Language & Culture Program in Beijing is a Chinese language program administered by Hamilton College and hosted by Minzu University of China. Hamilton is the only institution in New York State to receive the two-year education grant. 

The grant will allow the ACC program to continue experimenting with innovative program models such as experiential learning and performance-based curriculum. In addition, it will provide 44 fellowships, instructional support and international travel to enable American students to engage in advanced Chinese language studies in China and become competent speakers in the global market.

Eugene Domack, the J. W. Johnson Family Professor of Environmental Studies, has received a pair of National Science Foundation grants related to his ongoing Antarctic research. A $166,285 grant for collaborative research is underwriting continuing core collection activity at the Totten Glacier System; and a $182,453 grant provides for ongoing work on the LARISSA Continuous GPS Network. The project seeks to identify which portions of the glacial cover in the Antarctic Peninsula are losing mass due to warming temperatures; estimates of the loss are made more accurate with instruments locked into ice-free bedrock and monitored by GPS.

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