Rise Up

Will Guzman ’16 explores a glacier in Greenland.

Will Guzman ’16 explores a glacier in Greenland.

Will Guzman ’16 wants to change the world—or at least open people’s eyes to what is happening in one of his favorite places, northern Greenland.

Will Guzman ’16 spent last summer working as an arctic guide for trophy hunters and scientists in Greenland.

Will Guzman ’16 spent last summer working as an arctic guide for trophy hunters and scientists in Greenland.

During his third trip to the area, Guzman spent last summer working as an arctic guide for trophy hunters and scientists.
While he was there, he kept a journal of his observations of the landscape and the culture, which scientists say is at risk of drastic changes due to global warming and industrialization. The largest island on the planet, Greenland is covered mostly in ice, which has been melting at an alarming rate. Scientists have predicted that if the Greenland ice sheet—which covers about 85 percent of the island—were to completely melt, ocean levels could rise by 24 feet, which would have catastrophic effects not just on the Arctic area, but in regions around the world.

“I’m trying to raise awareness of the really pressing changes that are happening in the arctic right now,” said Guzman, who is writing a series of stories for his senior creative writing paper. “The nonfiction stories will provide a glimpse into what it’s like to live there and be a part of that wilderness—the raw, beautiful, amazing Arctic.”

Guzman would not have been able to spend last summer in Greenland without the financial assistance of a grant from the
Randolph Innovative Student Experience (RISE) program, an initiative that provides funding to Randolph students for hands-on experiences, research opportunities, and artistic and scholarly pursuits.

“A lot of schools will tell you that real experiences beyond the classroom are important, but not every student at every school can get these kinds of opportunities,” said Peter Sheldon, a physics professor and director of Randolph’s Center for Student Research. “At Randolph, we have been very forward-thinking in giving students ways to find these experiences and get a leg up before they move on to grad school and jobs.”

RISE grant money enabled Laura Snell ’15 to experiment with different paints and canvasses.

RISE grant money enabled Laura Snell ’15 to experiment with different paints and canvasses.

For student artists, the RISE program often means being able to pursue an artistic vision uninhibited. Art majors are required to have an exhibition during their senior year, and their projects and scope used to be limited to what they could afford.

“They can develop their art for what the arts are calling for, and not what they financially can put together,” said Kathy Muehlemann, an art professor. “It allows them to have more ambition in their work.”

For instance, this spring, Laura Snell ’16 created her senior exhibition, which featured a series
of oil paintings of human, animal, and abstract figures coalescing out of primordial cosmic scenes. She used vibrant paints with heavy metal pigments to give more resonant, natural colors, and large canvases— some taller than she is.

“I want them to be a little intimidating,” Snell said. “Small things don’t intimidate people.”

The high-quality paints and the size of the canvases brought added costs, but Snell was able to utilize her RISE money to be more creative with her project.

The funding also provides the chance to experiment and take more risks with artwork, said Trey Padgett ’15. Some of his best work comes when he paints one thing and decides to then paint over it.

“When you have those supplies, you can afford to make mistakes and fix them,” he said. “The mistakes and the destruction of the first painting are important for the final product.”

Trey Padgett ’15 paints a piece for his senior art show.

Trey Padgett ’15 paints a piece for his senior art show.

RISE grants also enable students to travel and see professional art up close and in person, whether that is Renaissance art in Europe or a performance on Broadway.

Christine Gnieski ’13 with actor Matthew Broderick in New York City

Christine Gnieski ’13 with actor Matthew Broderick in New York City

During her senior year, Christine Gnieski ’13 used a RISE grant to travel to New York for a week during winter break. She wanted to see if she could thrive in the bustle of a large city. She also attended nine Broadway plays in seven days, ranging from Mary Poppins to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Her advisor also got her backstage access to the set of Wicked at The Gershwin Theatre.

The trip changed Gnieski’s approach to the roles she has since taken in professional and community theatre. “It really struck me how much the actors were putting into it and how little they were holding back,” she said. “That really influenced me to give my art everything.”

Many students use RISE grants to pay for scientific research projects, including those that require traveling the world.

For his senior project, Dan Phung ’15 wanted to study the rates at which rainforests capture carbon dioxide. His RISE money helped pay for a three-week journey to Isla Colon, Panama, where he assisted with biodiversity research while also studying a primary rainforest— which is virtually undisturbed—and a secondary rainforest, which is re- growing.

“It was the perfect place for my research because the two types of forest are right next to each other,” Phung said. He determined that the primary rainforest captures more carbon dioxide because of its additional mass, but the secondary forest is growing faster, meaning it may capture more greenhouse gases in the future. “Conserving both types of rain forest is a powerful solution to climate change,” he added.

The trip, Phung said, helped him find real connections between what he had learned in college with the skills he would need after graduation.

“Now, I feel more confident and competent to enter the job market,” said Phung. “I feel more equipped with all the knowledge and practical skills from this first- hand experience.”