Jon Greene – Class of 2018 – Tamarind Institute – Albuquerque, New Mexico

My name is Jon Greene and this is my first blog post. I am a studio art major who graduated from Skidmore in May. Since August, I have been participating in the Printer Training Program at Tamarind Institute. Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tamarind is “a nonprofit center for fine art lithography that trains master printers and houses a professional collaborative studio for artists.” Tamarind is the only institution in the world that trains lithography in an educational format. It is credited for reviving the medium of lithography in the United States and around the world.

In the first four months of the program, the other seven students and I were directed to complete many rigorous projects that exposed us to the many processes and techniques of printing professional quality art with aluminum plates and Bavarian limestones. Concurrently, twice week, we attended a University of New Mexico arts business class, where we each created a three-year business plan for a lithography workshop. And, each weekday, one of us was assigned to work on the professional side of the workshop, assisting the master printer and her two apprentices in creating lithographs for professional artists.

Playing the roles of printer and artist, last semester we simulated collaborative printmaking in four collaborate projects. This semester brings this process to a new level. In the past three weeks, I have collaborated with two MFA students from the University of New Mexico. I have been given the challenge of introducing the processes without overwhelming them. I worked to translate each artist’s conceptual motivations to lithography, giving them tools and materials that would bode well with their studio practices. Additionally, in two weeks, a professional artist will be flying from the East Coast to work one of my peers and me. Instead of the business class, this semester, the PTP students are taking a fantastic art history course that focuses on printmaking.

This experience has already given me access to the supportive and close-knit Tamarind, lithography, and printmaking communities. Tamarind’s name alone will support my ventures in the future, and the connections I am in the process of making are priceless to me. I am learning in nine months what would have taken years apprenticing and working to obtain. In the years follows this program, I hope to apprentice at Tamarind, work in a professional shop, or get my MFA in printmaking.

Thank you to the Summer Experience Fund, the donors who support it, and the CDC for funding my attendance of this incredible program. And, thank you to Skidmore’s Art Department for directing me to Tamarind and preparing me for this experience. I will continue to provide updates in the final months of this program.


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Planning the International Symposium to Commemorate the 10 Year anniversary of the Rights of Nature in the Ecuadorean Constitution

I am Rafaela Iturralde’18, a recent graduate from Quito, Ecuador. I majored in International Affairs and Environmental Studies and focused both of my majors in my home country. As I mentioned on a previous blog post, for the past three years, I have been involved in the Rights of Nature movement due to its importance to my country. In 2008, Ecuador’s new Constitution included the idea of Sumak Kawsay (good living), which considered nature as subject to rights. This summer I interned at the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, an international organization destined to promote and support the rights of nature in South America and around the world.

The end goal of my internship was the International Symposium to Commemorate the 10 Year anniversary of the Rights of Nature in the Ecuadorean Constitution. For this important event, our role as the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature was not only organizing the logistics of it, but we also had to complete an extensive mapping of the rights of nature cases around the world. After completing this, we had to contact all of the people that we found where involved in the movement and invite them to assist and present at the symposium. This entailed many national participants as well as well-known international rights of nature activists.

The journey of organization and planning was very long and tough but at the same time extremely rewarding when everything followed through and was successful. We had to organize everything, from plane tickets to ground transportation and even a retreat for the key people of the movement for after the symposium. I really enjoyed working with the GARN team. The office was located in the outskirts of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. With huge windows, you could see the Andes mountains and some volcanoes on sunny days. I have to say, I was excited to go to work every day.

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Vanna Ramirez ’18 Volunteers with FIMRC in La Merced, Peru: Part III

CHAPTER 3: One Last Story

One of my favorite memories throughout my two months in La Merced began one day while I was shadowing in the OR. It was the last week of June and we were having our final hospital visit before the next month began. Our program manager asked us about our shadowing preferences, and I agreed to go to the OR alone and was excited to have another opportunity to observe that area of the hospital again.

That morning, only two surgeries were scheduled. The first one was an orthopedic surgery repairing a fractured tibia and fibula. The other surgery started just as the first one was ending. From what I had been told earlier, the patient had been stabbed in the abdomen earlier that morning and was currently being stabilized. I soon switched over to the other operating room, but was not allowed in at first. As I was peering in the small window of the door waiting for permission to enter, I noticed the lead surgeon was a young female, the first and only female doctor I had seen while shadowing—that in itself made this observation quite special. Once the patient was better stabilized, I was allowed in the room. It was quite the operation, with two main surgeons on the job, three blood bags used up, and the patient received a colostomy in the end.

About a week later, when I was walking back to the homestay with two of my fellow peers from hospital observations, we decided to stop by the coconut stand to get some fresh coconuts. While we were waiting, one of my peers picked up a conversation with an older gentleman and his wife. As we were walking back home, she recounted how the couple was asking us what we were doing there, and if we were volunteering we should help donate blood. They knew someone in the hospital who really needed help, but no one was there to help. Coincidentally, soon after we got back home, I received a message from one of the FIMRC staff asking me if anyone would be able to help donate blood at the hospital; that someone had been injured and was in need of blood. When I asked what blood type, she said it was O+. Right away I volunteered myself, and soon another volunteer and I joined our staff member to walk over to the hospital where our program manager was already donating her blood. After the basic check-up and blood test, we were cleared to donate! I had been wanting to donate blood for a while, but had been declined in the past for different reasons. But this time I was finally able to give my first blood donation!

After we finished our blood donation, our program manager wanted to introduce us to the recipients who were in the waiting room as we were leaving. I was thinking the whole experience couldn’t get sweeter. But actually, the best and most beautiful part of it all was finding out that the couple we had seen earlier at the coconut stand were the recipients of our donation! Apparently, the patient with the stab wound I had seen in the OR the week before was their son, and they were looking for people to donate blood to help reimburse their blood loan (since their son needed three blood bags during his operation). Because they live several hours away from the hospital, they didn’t have any family around the area that could help. Fortunately, my program manager met them at the coconut stand as well, and immediately stepped forward to help, notifying us FIMRC volunteers to help out too. As we said goodbye, the father held our hands and kissed us on the cheek, thanking us quietly and dearly.

When I think back on this string of events, I often wonder at how neatly they tied back together in the end. Perhaps, it was a gift of chance that allowed me to view and participate, in full circle, the struggles endured and the small acts of kindness that hold the power to lighten the weight of suffering that some are burdened to bare. I truly feel so humbled by the entirety of these happenings, and by the touch of someone who was able to receive.


Some Final Thoughts:

For those who are considering studying and volunteering abroad, there are many factors to consider, but most importantly, know your purpose and go with the right mind and heart. This kind of experience requires much patience in adapting to the differences and openness to learn, change, and grow. As a dear friend of mine told me once, traveling is really one of the best forms of education; there is so much you learn about yourself and others.

One of my biggest reasons for applying for the SIHF program with FIMRC was that I had been undecided as to what career path I wanted to pursue (as I mentioned in my first post). Throughout college, I studied both Studio Art and pre-med so I would have the choice of either pursuing medicine or art in my career after graduation. However, come spring semester of my senior year, I still felt stuck in the middle. So I decided to find an opportunity that would allow me to learn more about medicine and giving back to the community, as well as give me a space to reflect on my experiences and my true passions. After finding out about this program, I knew that working with FIMRC would allow me the opportunity to learn about a different healthcare system, continue improving my Spanish skills, and also work with and learn from the people around me whose mission is to help others.

During this summer, one of the things I realized was that there are many ways to help someone outside of medicine, especially since a lot of our volunteering was mostly focused on education rather than clinical assistance. For me, while medicine cares for the physical body, I find that art is a way of caring for the self. While I love the idea of being a doctor and helping others through medicine, I know now that art is the way I must learn to help others, at least for now, though I will continue to keep the doctor’s door open if I find it is right for me later in life.

I am so grateful to have been able to travel to La Merced and work with the community as a FIMRC team member for an extended time. I would like to thank Skidmore’s Summer Experience Fund again for supporting me with your generous fund this summer and allowing me to not only grow as a person in awareness, kindness, compassion and humility, but also find my true vocation.


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Karli Rasmussen (’18) SFSU Part III

Hi this is Karli Rasmussen again checking in for my third blog. I was waiting to post my last blog until I had finished my internship, which was supposed to be over in early September. But, in a very unexpected way, my research advisor and Professor was very happy with my results and wanted me to continue on for a couple more weeks. As I explained before, I am working with in situ hybridization, which is a way of mapping where certain genes are expressed. The genes we are interested in are HoxA genes, which are known for mapping sites for unique development, often in developing fins and limbs. The project I have been working on this summer was directly related to a project another student had completed earlier in the summer in the same lab. In his project, he was placing blue-banded Goby embryos in various treatments and analyzing the effects on their development, in regions that were assumed to be under HoxA11a and HoxA13a expression. My experiment utilized these same embryos after he scored their phenotypic differences and utilized molecular biology techniques to analyze whether gene expression in these regions were altered. From the first successful trial of the experiment, it was determined that there was definitely an alteration to both HoxA11a and HoxA13a expression. While these results were expected, the clarity of results was much better than we could have hoped for. In the next week and a half, I will be repeating the experiment again. If we see the same results, she wants to move forward with publishing the results and making me the author of the paper! I really did not expect this going into the summer and could not be happier with the outcome from my work this summer.

Example work-in-progress figure that may eventually be published!

Advice I have for anyone looking for summer internships: start looking early and don’t be afraid to talk to people about it! I never would have found this experience if I hadn’t emailed random lab advisors that I was interested in working with. Often people are much more receptive to helping students than I ever thought they would be. Especially in the sciences, I have found professors and other scientists really want the younger generations to succeed. Even if someone doesn’t have exactly what you are looking for, they might have connections that align more closely! So never hesitate to reach out.

And onto the next steps for me, working in this lab–on top of past research experiences with Skidmore–gave me the skill set and knowledge in order to land a full time job in a biotech start up around San Francisco. I will be starting in October, when I completely finish up with my extended summer work. Each new experience such as this one has only allowed me to transition from a student into a scientist and I am so grateful for this opportunity. Thank you to all the donors who made this possible!

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Emma Bloom ’18 – International Medical Aid in Mombasa, Kenya (3/3)

For my last blog, I will speak more about how I found this internship and how the Summer Experience Fund helped me get to Kenya. As a pre-med student with a passion for travel, I knew that I wanted to begin my post-grad career with healthcare experience abroad. However, I quickly came to realize that so many of these programs are overly expensive and oftentimes overtly unethical. I spent weeks and weeks researching various programs, reaching out to participants, and seeking advice from healthcare professionals close to me. International Medical Aid was just what I was looking for—it is a non-profit that reinvests into the communities they serve. I get hands-on experience, but not any more than my experience and education level should allow. Most importantly, IMA addresses the root causes of health issues and gets community leaders involved so that the initiatives we bring are sustainable.

In looking for an internship in any field, it is crucial that you find an organization whose values align with yours. I believe this to be particularly true in healthcare or in any kind of work in vulnerable communities, as these present situations where it is entirely possible to do more harm than good. It is often possible to gather this information from the program’s website, but that is not always the case. I also recommend reaching out to former participants. Never be afraid to reach out to someone who can provide you with an unbiased review of the internship or organization—and they can also help you with tips on what to pack, how to prepare, where to go!

Lastly, internships are a fantastic way to explore possible career options. It is important to be passionate about what you’re doing, but it’s even more important to stay open-minded. In my first ever internship as a college student, I learned that biomedical research (my career goal at the time) was definitely not for me. Now, here in Kenya, I have broadened my passion for and understanding of clinical medicine while also discovering that I want to pursue public health as well.

While internships are a crucial part of higher education and ultimately establishing a career path, they are often a large financial burden. Skidmore’s Summer Experience Fund made this incredible opportunity a possibility for me and I highly recommend applying. The funding I received made it possible for me to cultivate my existing interests, and also gave me the exposure I needed to so much more. There are many opportunities to receive this kind of funding—as long as you can effectively voice your passions and curiosities and plan accordingly!

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