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Vassar College

Vassar Campus News

A Look into Vassar Science | Medical school viable option for science students
by The Miscellany News | Since 1866
Jan 01, 2018
“Jesse Small Staff Writer
This is Part Four of a four-part series. To see the previous three articles, visit
One of college students’ greatest concerns is what they will do after graduation. The daunting prospect of applying to a graduate school is enough to make some students take time off to acclimate themselves to the “real” world.
For some science and pre-med students, however, graduate programs and medical schools are the only options for advancement in their respective fields. And no one knows this better than Vassar alumnae/i, who have already traveled a considerable way along the path that many current pre-med and science students will follow.
Coming from a small college where the freedom of study is both a luxury and a curse, moving on to a graduate program can be difficult. According to Emily Whitesel ’04, who is currently in a Ph.D./M.D. program at Harvard University Medical School, “I think it’s difficult to compare the Vassar-style undergraduate education to any medical school. In medical school, there is no flexibility in course work…The focus of knowledge is different as well, as what we are learning now will be directly applicable for us in the future and our ability to care for patients, which makes it exciting, though occasionally frightening as well.”
On the other hand, graduate schools for scientific studies allow students an opportunity for deeper learning in a specific field. “In some ways, classes are more intense because you cover more material,” said Daria Van Tyne ’06, a first-year biochemistry graduate student at Harvard. “You’re expected to think on a deeper level, but at the same time, grades don’t matter nearly as much, so there’s less pressure to get everything perfect,” she added.
“The less one has to worry about grades, the more one can cope with the heightened intensity of the academics in graduate school.” said Van Tyne.
Many alumnae/i reported that the pre-med office’s advising can make applying and adjusting to a new environment feasible. “The pre-med advisors were great,” said Jeff Dan ’96, a graduate of Tulane Medical School who is currently an emergency room physician.
“They helped me to the extent that they could. I was prepared for the MCATs, but it is a difficult test.”
The fact is that even students who have excellent grades and test scores may not be admitted to a medical school immediately. Interviews and essays are also taken into account. According to Dan, however, students without excellent qualifications may still have hope of admission. “When I left Vassar, my GPA and MCATs were both subpar,” he said. “My science GPA was maybe 3.2. I worked for an ophthamologist for two years in Boston. I applied to over 20 schools. I got some interviews, but I was not accepted anywhere. I re-took the MCATs and studied three or four hours a day after work and eight hours on the weekend for maybe three months. It was pretty awful, actually.” Although it goes without saying that one has to be extremely motivated in order to be admitted to a graduate program, it is heartening to know that even a “subpar” candidate was able to gain access to an excellent school.
Having a Vassar background has other benefits. According to Lara Kunschner ’90, a University of Pittburgh Medical School alumna, “I was able to think critically and clearly, yet maintain a healthy perspective because I came out of a solid liberal arts school. I could write and imagine and empathize because I had learned about the world at Vassar. I had the tools to enjoy life outside of medicine because I had had exposure to so much outside of the narrow world of medicine.”
Kunschner advised those considering going to medical school or graduate school to pursue this goal with themselves and their own desires in mind. “Talk to people in the field, do preceptorships or internships in a variety of medical, academic or research settings to get a feel for what medicine or the lab setting is all about,” she said. “The actual job is not always what the romantic perception reflects, and certainly has absolutely nothing to do with the life portrayed on various syndicated television shows.”
According to the Office of Institutional Research, nearly 80 percent of Vassar students applying to medical school were accepted in 2006. Students should take advantage of the pre-med advising to further increase these odds.”

Colleges experience record-high applications
by The Miscellany News | Since 1866
Jan 01, 2018
“Brian Farkas News Editor
This April, high school seniors around the country will conclude their thorny struggle with the college admissions process. 2008 and 2009 will mark the demographic peak of applications to colleges and universities, meaning that Vassar and many of its peer institutions have received record numbers of applications and, in turn, rejected a record numbers of students.
“We received a record number of applications this year, with nearly 1,000 more than a year ago for a 15 percent increase,” said Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid David Borus. Vassar admitted just 1,758 of the 7,361 applicants, an admission rate of 23.9 percent, down from 28.6 percent last year. This year’s admission rate is the lowest in the College’s history.
According to Borus, admitted students have increasingly excellent credentials. “Average GPAs of those who were admitted remain very high, between an A and an A-minus,” said Borus.
Their average critical reading and math SAT scores rose about seven points as well, and approximately 80 percent of those with class ranks were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. Admitted students come from 49 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and 48 foreign countries.
The Office of Admissions is looking to admit about 640 students this year.
“We are aiming for a slightly smaller class this year, both because of last year’s high yield, which resulted in the Class of 2011 being about 20 students larger than expected, and because of Davison House being out of service next year for renovations,” explained Borus.
Vassar is far from alone in its rising numbers of applications and declining numbers of accepted students. Middlebury College received 7,823 applications and admitted only 1,400 students—18 percent, which is down from 23 percent last year. Harvard University broke all records by far, accepting just 7.1 percent of applicants, while Yale University accepted 8.3 percent, and Williams College accepted 16.3.
Many analysts have suggested that Harvard and Princeton’s elimination of their early decision programs could also have affected the unprecedented number of applicants at smaller liberal arts colleges, as well as the number of students who will accept their offers of admission.
Demographic trend lines project that next year will see a peak in 18-year-old high school seniors in the United States. About 2.9 million students will graduate from high school, a number that has steadily climbed over the past 15 years.
The demographic changes also include large geographic and socio-economic variations. Many anticipate a decline in affluent high school graduates, and an increase in lower- and middle-class students. Colleges and universities, in response, have increased financial aid spending.
Notably, Harvard and Yale have announced significant increases for financial aid to families with incomes up to $180,000 and $200,000, respectively.
Last May, Vassar announced a return to need-blind admissions, and in year, the College will eliminate loans for students with family incomes under $60,000.
Those students who have been admitted to the Class of 2012 must reply to the Office of Admissions by May 1 to accept or decline their spot.”

Yale artist’s project incites controversy
by The Miscellany News | Since 1866
Jan 01, 2018
“Shvarts reviews footage for her art project, for which she allegedly inseminated herself and induced miscarriages.
Photo courtesy of The Yale Daily News
Julianne Herts Assistant News Editor
Yale University senior Aliza Shvarts has garnered national media attention with her latest art project. Shvarts claims to have spent the past year repeatedly becoming pregnant and subsequently using natural herbs to induce miscarriages. Though Yale officials argue that Shvarts’s project is a fictional piece of performance art, Shvarts herself maintains that her claims are true.
Shvarts wrote an opinion piece in the Yale Daily News stating that anonymous men, whom she refers to as “fabricators,” donated sperm for the project after being tested for sexually transmitted infections. Though Shvarts wrote that she would not disclose the “frequency and accuracy” of insemination, she went on to state that she injected the donated sperm each month using a needle-less syringe.
Shvarts claims that she took legal herbal medicines to induce miscarriages each month on the day she expected to start menstruating. Nobody knows if the blood she collected is the result of a miscarriage or if it is merely menstrual fluid.
Shvarts wrote in the Yale Daily News that the ambiguity of the project is what makes it true art.
“This ambivalence makes obvious how the act of identification or naming, the act of ascribing a word to something physical—is at its heart an ideological act, an act that literally has the power to construct bodies,” she wrote. “In a sense, the act of conception occurs when the viewer assigns the term ‘miscarriage’ or ‘period’ to that blood,” she wrote.
Yale Spokesperson Helaine Klasky issued a statement claiming that Shvarts herself has admitted that the project is fictional. “She stated in front of the Dean of Yale College, the Dean of Students, and the Master of her Residential College that she did not impregnate herself and did not induce miscarriages,” said Klasky.
Shvarts herself denies that she ever made such an admission, though Klasky insists that the denial is part of a performance and that Shvarts herself warned the deans that she would stick to her fake story.
In light of this disagreement Shvarts’ controversial exhibit did not go on display as planned. Yale administrators refused to allow Shvarts’ display to go up on Tuesday. The exhibit will be presented in the future only if Shvarts submits a
written statement admitting that her project was performance art. In a further act of censure, Yale disciplined two of the faculty members who have known about the project since it began.
The Yale Daily News reports that in her exhibit, Shvarts planned to show video footage of herself bleeding into a cup. In some of the clips, Shvarts is said to be naked. She also planned to display the blood she collected and kept refrigerated throughout her project. She planned to hang a plastic sheeting-covered cube from the ceiling and line the sheeting with her own blood.
The graphic nature of the planned exhibition and the sensitive subject matter that it addresses have led to a great deal of national criticism and prompted Yale administrators to denounce the project.
“If I had known about this, I would not have permitted it to go forward,” Dean of Yale School of Art Robert Storr said in a statement on Yale’ Web site. “This is not an acceptable project in a community where the consequences go beyond the individual who initiates the project and may even endanger that individual.”
Stoor also criticized Shvarts for not taking accountability for her project by addressing the controversy that it has raised.
Shvarts’s project has caused national controversy and angered both pro-life and pro-choice advocates. President of the National Right to Life Committee Wanda Franz told Fox News that Shvarts is a “serial killer,” and the Communication Director of the pro-choice organization NARAL called Shvarts’ actions “offensive and insensitive to the women who have suffered the heartbreak of miscarriage.”
Vassar Assistant Professor of Art Laura Newman agreed that artists must be sensitive to their subjct matter. “Anything can be art, can be a legitimate form of expression, but it’s hard to make good art, and even harder to give difficult subjects, like abortion and miscarriage, the serious attention they deserve,” she said. “Most of the art we deal with in the studio department at Vassar is visual art, so I don’t think it would come up here.”
“I personally resent feeling like my buttons are being pushed to get attention, but there are some really good artists who made very sensationalist [art],” said Newman in an e-mailed statement, citing such controversial artists as Orlan, who expressed herself via plastic surgery and Yale alumnus Chris Burden who once nailed himself to a car and, on another occasion, had himself shot in the arm.”

Seniors search for work
by The Miscellany News | Since 1866
Jan 01, 2018
“Stephanie Damon-Moore Assistant Life Editor
As graduation approaches, the Class of 2008 has more to worry about than finishing theses and saying goodbye to friends. The daunting task of finding a job to fill the academic void may be more difficult than usual this year as the economy continues to decline.
But while job searches may yield underwhelming results, the general consensus is that the Class of 2008 will not spend the rest of their lives sleeping on park benches. Chris Jacques ’08, for example, hasn’t nailed down a job for next year, but he doesn’t view the economic decline as a threat to his well-being. “It’s easy to find a job in general. I just hope I can find something that I want to do,” said Jacques.
Ben Demers ’08 is also optimistic. “I’m pretty confident,” he said. “I know that the economy is depressed and that is scaring a lot of people, but I’m not limiting myself to any certain field right away, and I know that eventually the economy will pick up.”
Demers cited his experience marketing for various groups at Vassar as valuable in his search for radio jobs. “Especially with new media, every organization is trying to get digital and up their image and reach out to a new, media-savvy generation.”
On the other hand, seniors like Natalia Luna feel less prepared to enter the professional sphere. “I am kind of nervous about my financial prospects,” Luna said. “I’m an anthropology major—in some ways it’s harder because I don’t have a clear focus.”
Employer Relations Coordinator and Job Coach in the Career Development Office (CDO) Susan Smith has been working with seniors all year, and more come in for assistance every day. “Now I’m starting to hear the outcome of those successful stories where students have landed a job,” Smith said. “Conversely, I’ve been starting to see students who I’ve been working with all year, and who don’t have a job yet. And then there are the seniors who are just beginning the process.”
Smith wouldn’t describe the Class 2008’s outlook as worried, but said that they have seen some frustration building throughout the year. “I think some are discouraged because they’ve interviewed a lot, and they don’t have something yet. A job search really is a long process,” she said. She suggested that students use advantages such as family
connections or Vassar alumnae/i. “Any way possible that you can get a foot in the door.”
She also stressed that it’s not too late for students to come to the CDO for help. “
Don’t think that there aren’t jobs out there because it’s April.” she said, “I get postings everyday. We welcome any senior, no matter where in the process you are.”
The CDO offers a large range of services for students, including help with résumés and cover letters, practice interviews and graduate school applications. The career counselors are available by appointment every weekday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on a walk-in basis every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 1-4 p.m. and Mondays and Wednesdays from 5-8 p.m.”

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