Mellon Learning Associates Program in the Humanities enhances students learning experience

Thanks to the New York-based Andrew Mellon Foundation, a Spanish poet and three Maine experts in the performing arts will join author Carolyn Chute and others in a learning associates program at Bates College.

In fields ranging from architecture to theater, experts in the Mellon Learning Associates Program in the Humanities enhance the learning experience of Bates students, especially those engaged in the college’s rigorous thesis program.

“Imagine being a drama student and having the founder of Mad Horse Theater direct your play, or majoring in English and having Carolyn Chute comment on your creative writing thesis,” says Judith Robbins, director of the Mellon humanities program at Bates. “It sounds like an undergraduate’s dream, but those things are actually happening at Bates this semester.”

Ten Mellon learning associates, eight of them from Maine, were recently approved for the program. New at Bates are intermittent learning associates Vickie Stubbs, a musician from the town of Poland; stage director Michael Rafkin and percussionist Shamou, both of Portland; and Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Sociology and African-American Studies at Colby College. All four will visit Bates during the winter 2004 semester.

Also new to the program is Spanish poet and scholar Esther Ramón, who will be a resident learning associate for the academic year 2004-05. Trained in journalism and now a doctoral candidate at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Ramón has published literary criticism and two volumes of poetry.

South Paris resident Ted Coulombe, a member of the Bates class of 1991, has returned to work as a resident learning associate through April. He will coach students on technical production of the student e-zine “E-clectic.”

The learning associates returning under this round of Mellon funding are:

Carolyn Chute, the Maine novelist, who will work with students in storytelling and prose writing;

Tomás Crowder, a faculty member at the University of San Francisco and director of the Spanish Writing Center there. He will work with students of Spanish;

Susan Dewsnap, a ceramist at the Maine College of Art in Portland who will work with students in pottery and other ceramic forms;

and Denise Froehlich, a photographer and professor of art at York County Technical College, Wells. She will work with two seniors on their photography theses.

Stubbs, Rafkin and Shamou are all working with students in the Bates Department of Theater and Rhetoric, which incorporates the dance program.

Stubbs will serve as musical director for the upcoming college production of the musical “Swingtime Canteen” (March 11-14).

Rafkin, founder of Portland’s renowned Mad Horse Theater, will direct the senior honors thesis of Saida Cooper, of St. Albans. Cooper will perform the one-woman play “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.” Rafkin, who earned his MFA in directing and theater at Carnegie Mellon University, will also oversee student costume and lighting designers, the running crew and stage manager.

Familiar to Bates as a teacher of music for dance at the Bates Dance Festival, Shamou will visit dance classes in the winter semester. He will provide music; discuss rhythmic, melodic and communicative components of that music; and instruct in playing music for dance.

Gilkes, who is a practicing Baptist minister and gospel disc jockey in addition to her teaching and scholarship at Colby, will make a presentation to students from courses in storytelling and in African-American literature and the Bible.

Mellon learning associates at Bates under previous funding proposals include: Lowell Harris, a resident learning associate in theater and rhetoric; Marta Ayala, a muralist from San Francisco who will be here for three weeks during Short Term, in May; and Joko Susilo, an expert in Indonesian gamelan music and the associated tradition of shadow puppetry. He is in residence at Bates throughout 2004 thanks to both Mellon support and the Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Program.

Choreographer Tito (Alberto del Saz) of New York City was in a Mellon-supported residence Jan. 12-18 while he worked with Bates dancers on the piece “Tensile Involvement.”

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