Title IX Holds “Let’s Talk About Sex” Program Series

Written By: Angelie Roche

For the past three Thursdays – Oct. 29, Nov. 5, and Nov. 12 – St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s (SMCM) Title IX office held a program series called “Let’s Talk About Sex”. The three programs, which centered around topics that may not have been covered by traditional high school sex education curriculums, were formatted in a seminar-type discussion wherein a presentation would be given and afterwards participants were encouraged to talk about their experiences. Title IX Investigator Helen Ann Lawless, along with a new group she calls the “Sex Ed Avengers,” worked to create a safe environment in which all students felt comfortable with asking questions and participating in discussions. The three presentations were entitled “COVID-19 & Chill: Sex & Relationships during the Pandemic,” “Queering Sex Ed & Safer Sex Practices,” and “Sexual Citizenship: Your Right to a Stellar Sex Life.”

The first presentation, which occurred on Oct. 29, addressed a question many young people have struggled with recently — how can one navigate sex and relationships during COVID-19? The best way to reduce your chance of exposure, according to the Peer Health Educators, is solo sex as COVID-19 is primarily spread through close contact. Mainly, they urged students to be “gentle and patient with [themselves and their] partners” as this is a stressful time for everyone. On Nov. 5, “Queering Sex Ed & Safer Sex Practices” defined queer sexual and gender identities encompassed by the LGBTQ+ community, and instructed viewers on condom and contraceptive use. Finally, “Sexual Citizenship” covered consent, hook-up culture, and destigmatizing different types of sex. Altogether, the programs addressed a wide variety of popular topics that high school curriculums may have failed to address, helping SMCM students learn about consent, safe sex, and healthy relationships.

Normally, SMCM would have brought in speakers to address sexual health and consent education, but due to the coronavirus, it was harder to find them. So, the student “Sex Ed Avengers” took the task into their own hands, covering subjects that they felt had been lacking in their past experiences with sex education. Freshman Claire Stephenson, who was able to become involved with Title IX in her first semester, says she was eager to teach others about safer sex from the beginning of her time at St. Mary’s; after seeing a slide about contacting Helen Ann Lawless during the Consent Education lesson at Freshman Orientation, she took the opportunity right away. She argues that high schools place more emphasis on sexual shame than pleasure and consent, which can be detrimental to students’ sexual health; “people will have healthier relationships with their own minds and bodies,” she says, “if we break down the shame people feel around sex.” Stephenson hopes that her contribution to the “Let’s Talk About Sex” series will help students overcome the negative stigma surrounding sex and grow to feel comfortable with their identities and experiences. 

If you were unable to attend the fall semester sessions and are still interested in Sex Education, do not worry —the “Sex Ed Avengers” and the Title IX Office plan to continue this series in the Spring, again covering topics they feel are essential to creating healthy relationships and sex lives. While many high schools leave out important information regarding sex, consent and pleasure, the “Avengers” have made it their mission to fill in the gaps. 

Psi Chi Holds Virtual Blood Drive

Written By: Angelie Roche

From Oct. 18 through the end of the year, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) chapter of Psi Chi is holding a virtual blood drive available to all SMCM students and staff. While blood drives are normally held in person during a single day, Psi Chi’s blood drive allows students to donate at any time, from anywhere in the U.S. To participate, simply use the QR code from one of the flyers around campus or on the St. Mary’s website, or enter the link into your browser. For those looking to help their community over the winter break, donating blood is a perfect way to do so. 

Psi Chi is the International Honor Society in Psychology, an organization that not only aims to help undergraduate psychology majors succeed, but to also participate in community outreach. In the past, they have contributed to mental health-related events such as Relay for Life and regularly offer student services such as tutoring. This semester in particular, the leaders of its St. Mary’s chapter felt that a blood drive would be the perfect way for the student body to contribute to the health of their respective communities, even after going home for winter break. According to Service Coordinator MK Meyers, this is Psi Chi’s first year holding a blood drive event, as it was mainly generated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Donating blood, she says, is “an amazing way that almost anyone can save lives and contribute to COVID research.” 

According to the American Red Cross, it is now more important than ever before to give blood as it is not only constantly used in hospital and emergency care settings, but it can contribute to vitally important coronavirus research. Donating is completely safe, and all blood is checked for coronavirus antibodies – information that could be important for not only research but for the individual giving blood. Though people are going out less frequently, the need for blood in medical settings has not decreased at all. As the US Surgeon General stated back in March: “You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.”

Donating blood, even during COVID-19 times, is simple and rewarding — not only could you find out whether or not your blood contains COVID-19 antibodies, you could potentially help a lot of people in your community. Simply sign up to donate blood or plasma at a blood bank near you, donate, and use Psi Chi’s link to let the club know you participated. Meyers also encourages all SMCM students to donate and share their experiences on social media using the tag #psichiblooddrive, saying that the drive is a perfect opportunity where “everyone could feel a part of community efforts to heal the sick, fragmented as we are.”

Last Voices Reading of Fall 2020: A Night to Celebrate “our own.”

Written By: Clare Kelly 

On Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, the Voices Reading Series welcomed back recent St. Mary’s College of Maryland alumni to share their poetry and writing. These accomplished St. Mary’s graduates shared pieces of their writing and tips for writing. 

In her introduction, Professor Karen Leona Anderson welcomed the alumni with “great and deep pleasure…for they are our own.” She expressed her enthusiasm for the reading and cited the importance of this reading because “many of the student writers have worried about what comes after this.” Anderson speaks of how these students are doing this tricky part of taking this “brave step” and are “moving day to day.” She tells of how this takes bravery and how they use their “own stubborn hope” to persevere as artists in this society to keep both their bravery and hope alive. 

The reading began with Cameron Kelley, a fiction author and poet, who is currently employed by Pearson Education. She has been published in Strange Horizons, the National Collegiate Honors Council and the Sprout Club Journal. In Anderson’s introduction of Kelley, she spoke of how her “energy and intelligence” shows through her poetry. Kelley read a poem entitled “November 3rd” that focuses on the recent weeks and a poetic sequence, entitled “Anatomy of the end,” that helped her develop as a poet. 

Omobolawa (Bola) Fadojutimi, a 2020 graduate who majored in English and minored in dance and education, holds aspirations of becoming an educator. As a writer of poetry, she explores and remains curious about how the past impacts the present. Anderson spoke of Fadojutimi’s insightful poetic narrative sequence on her family in Nigeria that Fadojutimi wrote in Anderson’s 495 Poetic Sequence class. Fadojutimi read a poem entitled, “to move,” which she wrote in Anderson’s class, that grapples with denoting the body beyond its basic functions. She also read a poem, “Metaphorical wings,” which she wrote during the March 2020 quarantine that helped her grapple with her thoughts and understand the “funk” her mind remained in during the quarantine. 

Joseph Johnson, a 2019 graduate with degrees in English and Spanish who is actively pursuing his Master of Arts at Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English, presented next. Johnson completed a St. Mary’s Project while at SMCM, where he used his craft of writing to complete a short story collection focusing on cultural awareness. Johnson chose to share in the trend of the SMCM alumni by reading a piece of “writing [that] had its birthplace at St. Mary’s.” He read a short story that recently underwent new revisions, but the original came from the second creative writing class he completed at SMCM. 

Samantha Liming, who’s actively pursuing her Masters in Fine Arts at the University of South Carolina, has collaborated with the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Origins Journal. Liming received the Gail West Parmentier Arts Alliance Award for Creative Writing. In her introduction of Liming, Anderson mentioned Liming’s ekphrastic St. Mary’s Project that stood out. As Liming shared her poetry with the audience, she mentioned that her poems reflect on her family. She read two poems, named “20 months behind” and “messes.” She also read a poem entitled, “Salt,” which focused on the rising sea level on the Eastern Shore. 

Closing the night of talent, Alex Weber, currently attending University of Southern California’s School of Screenwriting, shared his writing. In her introduction of Weber, Anderson mentioned how Weber’s “cleverness and tenderness was always striking.” Weber read a portion from his completed St. Mary’s Project novella. Weber decided to pursue screenwriting through reading screenwriting. His favorite part about writing is the dialogue and discourse that occurs between the character. He also enjoyed the collaborative effort of screenwriting, and he is currently writing a screenplay with Jack Darrell, another SMCM alumnus. 

As students asked questions regarding the writing process, one question poised includes the opinion of these authors and poets on the best time to write. Kelley mentioned how she prefers to write late into the night before she falls asleep, and Fadojutimi concurs with Kelley, saying she enjoys writing at about 2 a.m. She finds comfort in writing when everyone is asleep and the house is quiet; she enjoys being the only one awake. 

Another question raised to these stellar alumni includes where they found their inspiration. Fadojutimi mentioned how her inspiration comes from her family, and, in terms of literary influences, she finds inspiration from strong Black women in literature, such as Toni Morrison. Johnson cites his inspiration from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a magical realist writer, and that his SMP focused on magical realism. He said the “thing that’s interested me about his work is his particular voice and the way he can blend…the magic into the reality” that creates this grand, and yet natural occurrence. Johnson mentions that he aspires to capture this way of writing in the way that Marquez does this through his work. 

Fadojutimi shared this powerful piece of advice with SMCM listeners, writers, and readers: “start taking yourself seriously as a writer.” Liming advised on how to revise poetry, she said not to force the revision of the poem that is on the page, but to instead rewrite the poem. 

As the last Voices Reading of the Fall 2020 semester, this allowed the reunion of many alumni to virtually return to SMCM. These fabulous writers shared their talents with their home community, and like the St. Mary’s Way, current students, faculty and staff emerged eager to welcome them back.

It’s Real: College Students and Mental Health

Written By: Zayon Morgan 

On Friday, Nov. 13, from 3-4 p.m., the St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) Peer Health Educators are partnering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to bring the event called It’s Real: College Students and Mental Health. The purpose of this event is to learn about and discuss the unique challenges of mental health amongst college students. The event will be held via Zoom and registration is required before the link can be given. 

“It’s Real” is a mental health awareness documentary that tells the stories of six college students from across the country. The stories depicted are 100% true and convey the message that depression, stress and other mental illnesses are real issues that can be managed with treatment and interventions. The 17-minute documentary encourages students to be mindful and considerate of their mental health and seek assistance if needed. There will also be a discussion and Q&A following the discussion. In addition to SMCM students, we will also be joined by members of other college communities. The event is co-hosted by College of Southern Maryland, Anne Arundel Community College, Howard County Community College, Baltimore City Community College, and Frederick Community College. 

“Mental health is central to a student’s success and well-being” according to the American Association of Suicide Prevention. There is an ongoing battle with mental health amongst college students. As former high school students, we can all understand the excitement of looking forward to college. Everyone’s entire senior year was focused on preparing for the future after graduation. Nearly everyone has been through the struggle of submitting college applications and the anxiety that is faced while waiting for a decision. After acceptance letters come rushing through the mail, students can finally relax and begin planning for this next adventure. 

Unfortunately, there is a new challenge to face. The transition from high school to college can be very stressful. The act of moving thousands of miles away from your parents to attend school in an entirely different area is not particularly easy. For many students, this is their first time living anywhere on their own and they are faced with new responsibilities and have to deal with the uncertainty of the semester. It is important to understand how exactly these kids are feeling. Well, there is no way of knowing unless those students reach out and ask for help. According to the American Suicide Prevention Center (AASP), “Often students’ beliefs about suicide and mental health affect their attitudes and perceptions about help-seeking and their intentions towards pursuing available resources.” Every student should feel comfortable with sharing the details of their mental health, which is why the  AASP partners with college campuses, such as ours, to create more opportunities for students to be educated on and made aware of mental illnesses. 

In order to attend this event, participants must sign up at the website link on Inside SMCM by Nov. 13 at noon. Students will receive the Zoom link one to two days before the presentation.

SMCM Best Buddies Adapts During COVID Pandemic

Written By: Olivia Sothoron

From club sports to academic clubs, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) offers a plethora of clubs for students to find something that fits their interests. Across campus, there are various clubs that work to give back to the community, including Knits for the Needy, Habitat for Humanity and Relay for Life. Another student-led organization at SMCM that works to give back to the community is Best Buddies. 

Best Buddies is an international organization that has chapters in many colleges and high schools, as well as some middle schools. Each chapter is partnered with a host site or group of individuals within the school, and members of the Best Buddies club volunteer to create opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. College chapters are paired with a host site and interact with individuals in the community, whereas high school and middle school chapters are paired with students from that same school. 

Since Best Buddies is an international organization, there is an annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference which members of the executive board are required to attend. At the conference, executive board members learn strategies to make their chapter as great as possible, while also having the opportunity to meet and get to know executive board members from around the world. In addition to the international conference, there are also local state training sessions throughout the year. SMCM Best Buddies president Lily Tender (‘22) explained that she keeps in touch with local representatives and executives throughout the year to help the club become as successful as possible. 

Tender has been involved in the SMCM chapter of Best Buddies since her first year, and she also participated in Best Buddies throughout high school while serving as her high school chapter’s vice president. She has worked to create opportunities for SMCM’s chapter of Best Buddies, and explained: “In a typical year we will have a barbeque, valentines day gala, friendsgiving potluck and more. We also like to go to SMCM sports games to support members of the club.” 

SMCM Best Buddies vice president Ashley Blasko (‘23) has been a member of the College’s chapter of Best Buddies since her freshman year, and she was also involved in Best Buddies for six years prior through her middle and high schools. Blasko explained that her favorite memories include going to Indiana for the leadership conferences. She also stated: “I loved our Friendsgiving celebration last year. We carved pumpkins and ate pizza and we just had a great time!” 

However, this is no ordinary year for SMCM clubs and organizations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In previous years, SMCM Best Buddies has met as an entire group on one Saturday of every month, with peer buddies meeting with their partners throughout the month as well. Tender explained that this year, since they cannot meet in person, they have transitioned to an all online format, with buddies meeting with each other over Zoom. She mentioned, “It has definitely been difficult because of technical difficulties but we are trying our best to make it work.” 

Throughout her years as a member of SMCM Best Buddies, Tender has helped coordinate many opportunities for SMCM students to socialize and interact with their buddies. She recounted one of her favorite memories from her freshman year when SMCM Best Buddies danced during the intermission of the dance show. Tender remarked that it “was really exciting and all the buddies had an amazing time!”
Best Buddies is a great way to join a fun and inclusive club that allows members to become involved in the community and to work with people who they would not ordinarily meet. For more information, check out the club’s instagram account @SMCMBestBuddies. One can also reach out to Lily Tender via her email: lrtender@smcm.edu.

Dr. Riana Elyse Anderson Discusses Racial Trauma and Healing

Written By: Maggie Warnick

Dr. Riana Elyse Anderson was the third speaker in the psychology department lecture series  Intervention Science: Harnessing Psychology to Address Oppressive Systems. Greeted with some mild technical difficulties via Zoom, Anderson’s Oct. 23 lecture focused on “Healing racial trauma: Focusing on racial socialization as a CBT strategy for Black youth.”

Anderson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. According to insideSMCM, she primarily studies racial socialization and discrimination in regards to stress and trauma in Black families, and she is particularly interested in how these factors “predict familial functioning and subsequent child psychosocial well-being and health-related behaviors when enrolled in family-based interventions.” 

Anderson’s talk was presented as a pre-recorded lecture, with Anderson active in the chat to answer questions as they came up. She began with the question “what is a pandemic?” defining the term and describing how race is a social determinant of health. “We are talking about the virus, the pandemic of racism, and how we go about healing it,” Anderson said, applying a metaphor that continued throughout the talk. 

Demonstrating the impact of discrimination as a stressor, she showed a graph of anxiety levels, sorted by race, after the police killing of George Floyd. Anxiety spiked for adult Black and Asian Americans, and Anderson explained how this added stress can impact mental well-being and impact parenting, internalizing these issues in young children. “What’s really unique about racial discrimination is how it impacts children directly,” said Anderson, noting how the same direct effects are not present in other stressors. 

In one of the most powerful sections of her lecture, Anderson showed a video bringing to life the psychological and physiological toll racial discrimination and trauma can have on juveniles. The video showed AJ, a 10-year-old who was asked what he thinks is the most pressing issue facing adolescents today. Without hesitation, he began speaking about the pervasiveness of systemic racism and racial violence. Anderson asked attendees to respond with observations about the interaction, and the chat flooded with comments on his youth, his understanding and knowledge of racial issues, and how he appeared physically impacted by the weight of his words. An observation Anderson made was that it seemed like all of his ideas were clicking into place as he spoke. 

When faced with discrimination, individuals often encounter the problem of compromised comping, an impairment of the normal coping process that is unique to racial discrimination. To provide assistance in coping and help lead families on the path to healing racial trauma, Anderson developed and directs an intervention called EMBRace. Traditionally, methods of racial socialization and discussions about racial discrimination are measured in terms of content and frequency, but often this measure does not get at the emotional pain of the issues discussed. EMBRace seeks to open up coping strategies to empower Black parents to successfully navigate feelings associated with discrimination in order to reduce both parent and child stress. By encouraging communication and the vocalization of stress, Anderson’s intervention has received a positive response, with attendees noting a relief of stress and improved parent-child communication. 

Anderson’s parting words were a reminder to be straightforward and open with regard to racial matters, as well as to be willing to acknowledge your own bias and privilege. “My basic point is that there is no excuse,” Anderson stated. She stressed the need to both prepare for the virus of racism and intervene when it is spreading in order to inoculate for the future and “get our masks ready.”
More information about the EMBRace intervention and the research referred to in her lecture can be found in Anderson’s 2018 article “EMBRacing Racial Stress and Trauma: Preliminary Feasibility and Coping Responses of a Racial Socialization Intervention.”

St Mary’s Programs Board “Clash Of Classes”

Written By: Zayon Morgan

In the midst of this ongoing pandemic, a majority of the festivities that played a part in having the college experience have been stripped away from students because of COVID-19 regulations. HawktoberFest, Sporting Events, live concerts, and several other events have been canceled. However, the St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) Programs Board put together a new event that was enjoyed by many. It was called the “Clash of Classes.” As a newly created event, “The Clash of Classes” gave students a fun, little competition between their different classes. Similar to a high school spirit week,  The Clash of Classes had various activities where students would participate in these events and earn points for their graduating class while having a good time. It was the seniors versus freshman while the sophomores and juniors battled it out for the gold.

The madness started on Oct. 12, at 8:00 p.m. with a class battle in the infamous game of Kahoot! Or as they described it, “An online trivia experience to win points for your class and even a Fire tablet.” On the first day, students had to play a game of “What’s in the jar?” Where they had to guess the number of KitKats in a jar without going over. The winner got 100 points for their team and enjoyed an entire jar of chocolate, all to themselves.  Day two rolled around, and another game of “What’s in the jar?” was played. It was the same game with the same point value but there was no chocolate, only gummies. Still a good bargain if you ask me.

After a couple of events, the standings stood as followed. The freshman won the Kahoot and the jar event and led the pack with 238 followed by sophomores with 63, juniors with 52, and seniors with 34. At this point, it was very clear who was dominating but hope was not lost. “Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors Want to make up the difference? There’s still plenty of time.” The fun was not over yet as the next event proved to be very well-rounded. On Wednesday, Oct. 14,  a human hamster ball race was held at the Admissions field. Competitors from each class completed an obstacle course while running in a giant hamster ball. Who knew that with such skill and agility that one could conquer any obstacle, even while trapped in an inflatable ball.

Also on Oct. 14 was the third “What’s in the Jar” guessing game. In this round, a jar full of Skittles was guessing material. In addition to various events and guessing games, each class was represented by the different colors of St. Mary’s. Seniors had navy blue, juniors wore white, sophomores rocked yellow and the Freshman got red. I do wonder how red got in there though, very mysterious. On Day four of Clash of Classes, a fourth game of “What’s in the jar” was played with Starbursts, saving the best for last. It was also on this day where the current standings were updated. The freshman remained in the lead with 438 points followed by Seniors with 184, Juniors 127, and Sophomores 88.

The final event commenced on Oct. 15 with a game of, “What the duck?” Near the campus patio, a flock of rubber ducks sat patiently waiting for someone to claim them. Each duck had a point value that ranged from +100 to -100. All students had to do was pick up a duck, and earn points for their class. At the end of the week, another opportunity to earn more points was given to the classes with a photo scavenger hunt. In the end, the freshman class took the win with over 700 points, followed by the seniors, juniors and sophomores. It was a really fun event and the hope is that this becomes a yearly tradition for the students of SMCM.

She Kills Monsters Streaming on Vimeo

Written By: Angelie Roche

Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed theater productions worldwide; due to concerns about social distancing, lack of audiences, and a myriad of other problems, many small theater companies have ceased productions altogether. However, some have found creative solutions; from online showings to Zoom performances, the theater industry has slowly learned to adapt to the ongoing pandemic. St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s (SMCM) theater department is no exception, as they have been working tirelessly through the pandemic to find a production style that would follow the College’s guidelines. Beginning on Oct. 16, they will be streaming a three-episode production of Qui Nyugen’s comedy-drama “She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms, a play designed specifically for online performance. 

“She Kills Monsters” will be performed by an ensemble of 16 SMCM students, and tells the story of a high school cheerleader, Agnes, following the death of her younger sister Tilly. Agnes finds Tilly’s “Dungeons and Dragons” notebook, and through it she discovers the world her sister loved: one that was full of mythical creatures and tons of imaginary play. According to the production’s page on the St. Mary’s website, this story offers a “heart-pounding and heart-wrenching homage to the geek and warrior within us all,” and is fit for anyone looking to escape to a fantasy world and embark on an adventure without even having to leave their room. 

According to Alyssa Heintzelman, who plays the character Lillith, the production was a completely new experience for everyone in the St. Mary’s theater department. To record, the actors went to Montgomery hall, where they were each assigned a space fitted with a green screen and sound and lighting equipment. With this setup, there were challenges unique to digital performance; it was difficult to obtain professional recording technology and figure out how to make the production work for all actors, even those who were not on campus. Despite these, Heintzelman says that she was surprised by how close the cast became despite not being in person — in her words, they “stayed connected through Discord, participated in socially-distanced hangouts, and even started [their] own D&D campaign.”Though it is not possible to go to a theater and see this performance in person, St. Mary’s theater department has made sure this production will be available to all students online. The three episodes, which are about 30-35 minutes long, will be streaming on four dates: Oct. 16, 20, 23 and 24, available to view anytime from 12:00 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. On the first three dates, the performance will be split into sections, but on Oct. 24, it will be shown in its entirety. In order to make reservations, students must email the Theater Box Office at boxoffice@smcm.edu, specifying which episodes they would like to view on which dates, and the Box Office will respond with a time sensitive Vimeo passcode with which they can access the show. While there is not one set ticket price for students, the Theater Department asks that each person “pays what [they] can” at the Theater Box Office in Montgomery Hall.

Check-up with SMCM’s Pre-Med Club

Written By: Olivia Sothoron

St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) offers a wide variety of clubs, spanning from educational disciplines to community service and everywhere in between. Given the state of the world due to the pandemic, many clubs have had to adapt to a strictly online format. Despite the online transition, club members are making the best of the circumstances and continue to meet regularly to participate in club activities. One club in particular that is remaining active during the pandemic is SMCM’s Pre-Med Club. 

The SMCM Pre-Med Club was recently revived last year by current co-presidents, Lauryn Ridley (‘22) and Megan Rankin Herring (‘22). The club’s website describes the organization “a space where all aspiring nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, pharmacists, doctors, and any other health care professionals can come together to celebrate the big wins while also helping each other through inevitable rough patches in [their] undergraduate journey.” 

Additionally, at the biweekly meetings, club members discuss tips for selecting and applying to medical school. They also exchange tips for how to earn the best grade possible in prerequisite classes as well as how to best study and prepare for exams. The club serves as a safe and comfortable environment for those interested in possibly pursuing a career in medicine to learn the ropes of the various science departments at SMCM and how to best build an application for graduate school. 

Although meetings have all been moved to an online format, the club continues to meet every week. Ridley, Rankin Herring and the rest of the executive board refused to allow the pandemic prevent the Pre-Med Club from hosting interesting events and activities for their members. Rankin Herring remarked: “We have a second year medical student, a genetics counselor, a physician’s assistant, and two rockstars currently wading through the medical school admissions process all coming to speak in the month of October. We are putting together a partnership with the local rescue squad, hosting a virtual 5K, and running an Shadowing and Internship Bootcamp within the club.” Also, Ridley remarked that over the summer, she used club-raised funds to purchase perishable food items to donate to a local food pantry, which is something that the club hopes to continue into the future. 

In addition to the numerous speakers and activities, Pre-Med Club Secretary Elisabeth Wellings (‘22) noted that the club has also started a mentorship program which allows younger club members to “shadow” members of the executive board. Co-outreach chair Saige Teti (‘23) helped institute this program, and recently helped select ten students to serve as mentors. Teti remarked, “I have a lot of experience with this stuff, so I thought I would share that knowledge…I am really excited about the group of people we picked!”

The SMCM Pre-Med Club is not limited to those who know for certain that they wish to pursue a career in medicine. Wellings explained: “That is what we are all about, helping students figure out the weight of being a pre-med student and then how to handle that weight.” Anyone is welcome to attend a meeting and get to know the hardworking executive board members and the amazing opportunities that the club has to offer. 

For more information, contact premedsmcm@gmail.com, laridley@smcm.edu or mrandkinherring@smcm.edu and follow the club on Instagram @smcm_premed. The club also has its own website, which can be found at premedsmcm.wixsite.com/medicine. 

St. Mary’s Goes Bananas for Anthropologist Dr. Jill Pruetz

Written By: Maggie Warnick

On Wednesday, Oct. 7, Dr. Jill Pruetz, a primatologist from the University of Texas’ Anthropology department gave a lecture to the St. Mary’s anthropology community. Joining via Zoom, Pruetz was part of the department’s Fall 2020 Distinguished 

Scholar Lecture Series. Dr. Bill Roberts, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) professor of anthropology, gave a glowing introduction of Pruetz, stating that she is “one of the world’s foremost researchers on the chimpanzee.” Continuing with the introduction, Roberts noted that Pruetz has gained global recognition for her work in Senegal, and been on the Today Show, as well as featured in the New York Times, among other media outlets. 

Pruetz began working with captive chimpanzees in a facility in Texas before her work in Senegal at a site called Fongoli. There are few chimpanzee study sites in west Africa, where Fongoli is located, due to the harsh climate and difficulty in habituating the chimpanzees to observer presence. Pruetz stated that in the 1970s, an effort to habituate the chimps at Fongoli had been made and failed, with the researchers determining it could not be done. After four years, Pruetz’s team was able to habituate the chimps, making them used to the observers’ presence enough to act as they normally would in front of them. 

Pruetz and her team of researchers began by looking at the difference between chimpanzees in Fongoli and chimpanzees who lived in forests. Fongoli is a unique area with a very hot and dry climate most of the year. The people who live in the surrounding area have cultural taboos against killing chimps, so they are one of the few large animals that remain. Surrounded by humans, there is little contact with other groups of chimps, creating a chimpanzee “culture” that is very different from the norm. “To me as an anthropologist, that was very fascinating when I started,” said Pruetz. Because of this uncommon environment, the chimpanzees in Fongoli exhibit different behaviors than would be expected. Up until research at the Fongoli site, it was believed that chimpanzees feared water and avoided going into it. However, because the climate is so hot, at the beginning of the rainy season, the chimpanzees at Fongoli have been extensively observed lounging in the water to cool off. Additionally to beat the heat, the chimpanzees will often move around at night to stay cool. 

Pruetz explained that another anomaly of the chimps in Fongoli is their meat hunting and sharing behaviors. Due to the climate, different animals are available to hunt and eat, with the primary source being bush babies. She noted that “even though meat is a small proportion of the diet, it is highly prized.” Females engage in tool-assisted  hunting much more than expected, as men are typically the meat-hunters among chimpanzees. The chimps also share meat with their allies, and lower ranking individuals who capture and kill an animal are not stripped of it by higher ranking individuals, as they normally would be. Pruetz attributes this to a social tolerance, a product of the relatively isolated environment in Fongoli. There is more of a sense of community, as researchers have not seen the same migration patterns between groups of chimpanzees as usual. Pruetz plans to continue her research in Senegal, with future research featuring the teaching and learning of tool use among young chimpanzees.

Pruetz’s virtual visit to SMCM was a resounding success, with the deep interest in her lecture and work from the SMCM anthropology community evident in the many insightful questions asked right up until the last minute. A gifted speaker, she enthralled lecture attendees as well as the classes she visited with the details of her research, and anecdotes of time spent with the chimpanzees.