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GISP Talks – Spring 2012

May 20, 2012

This semester kicked off Brown’s first ever GISP Talks!! Modeled after TED talks, this event showcased the exciting work of this semester’s GISPs (Group Independent Study Projects) through a series of presentations. Below are glimpses at the presentations of each GISP.

1. Study and Practice of Compassion in Medicine

Their slides: Compassion in Medicine

2. Character: Script to Screen

A trailer of the movie they made:

3. Introductory Kiswahili

A transcript of their presentation: Transcript

4. Sport for Development and Peace

An overview provided by a participant: Our GISP studies the use of sport as a tool for economic, social development, and the prevention of violence. One of our main accomplishments was learning how to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in the methodology of different organizations.

For example, in my midterm paper, I wrote about how to NGOs in Africa that work for the prevention of HIV differ in their financial management and in the evaluation of their projects. We are also using this knowledge in our final assignment, which is a business plan for a personal project within the movement. I am developing a scheme to combine a soccer and basketball tournament with vocational interests in Caribbean high schools in Costa Rica. Many of these children are in great need of guidance to fulfill and develop their goals, especially with increasing poverty and violence in the area. 

Therefore, I will create this tournament for boys and girls where I will take counselors and university representatives that can answer questions and give the students advice on how to become achievers. Pretty much, I want to create something that will allow this youth to dream again in a brighter future.
5. Introduction to Mexican-American Studies
Their slides: Mexican-American Studies
6. Science and Art: Seeking Consilience
Their slides (audio was used but cannot play here): Science and Art
7. The Entrepreneurial Musician
A group bio: PUSHgroove, formed by Richard Smith and Andrew Rapp in the Spring of 2012, seeks to transcend any particular musical genre. With sounds ranging from alternative rock, to indie, to even rap, the duo is characterized by an eclectic writing and production style, striving never to settle into one specific niche. The three songs tracked over the course of their Group Independent Study Project (under the wing of Professor Rovan) will be available for free download.
8. Global Perspectives on Disability
Their presentation:

In Due Time

December 7, 2011

Renee Neely, who left Brown as a junior in 1975, returned this past weekend to speak at the mid-year completion ceremony. Her graduation, after thirty-six years away from school, was a “loud and proud” occasion, long steeped in anticipation. Her speech follows.


Good Afternoon:

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: 


We gain strength, and courage, and confidence

by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… 

we must do that which we think we cannot. 


Courage, fear and possibility …

How do they affect my reflection on our time at Brown?  All significantly.  I hope that sharing my experiences will help you reflect on your own. 

  I am a survivor – no longer a victim – of domestic violence.    

Four years ago I stood in Stamford Connecticut Superior Court obtaining a Restraining Order against the person I’d lived with for 30 years.  All of my adult life.  I am a survivor I say this without arrogance.  Because it would be arrogant to say to you that I know exactly how I changed my life.  I don’t.

  Years of fear, homelessness, physical and emotional abuse took an unbelievable toll.   My feelings of having absolutely no future – living just to survive from day to day were stifling and sad.   In all of that time two people sincerely asked me “what was wrong?”  I’m glad they did !!!  I was  lucky. 

It was that simple interest and my faith in God that initiated my path to reclaiming myself.   

My immediate goal was to complete my undergraduate work here at Brown.  When I left in 1975 as a junior, I only needed 7 credits to graduate.  OR SO I THOUGHT !!  Apparently the curriculum was evolving too !!  It turned out to be 9 credits total !  Not very much !

   But then there was a greater fear. 

Coming back to Brown after 30 years was frightening ! 

Technology had changed.  The campus had changed.  I had changed !!

Would I fit in

   All of this was on my mind when I was re-admitted last year – all of this seemed really hard !

I want to say to you today


 Everyone has faced obstacles of every kind to be here today.  I don’t imagine that mine are unique. 

Each of us will continue to have hurdles to overcome.  Graduate school, employment – and definitely student loans !!!  

But I propose on this day – we stop and say (loud and proud)  “I did it !!!”   BECAUSE WE DID !!!  How incredibly sweet !!!  

  And with that confidence we will continue on to our next challenge.

Students and teachers have asked me what Brown was like “back then.”  You know – the 70s ! 

   Well, there was no internet, we typed papers on something called a “Selectric” typewriter,  managed without “Google Scholar”,  stood in line to register for classes,  and yes  –  the “Blue Room” was really blue and kind of creepy !

The campus has changed physically,  but not too much.  Technology has changed quite a lot.  But what has not changed at all  is the spirit of possibility,

the freedom of thought;the amazing energy in all spheres of academic life here. 

This is a special place.

 We have received the most liberal of educations, boundless opportunities for creativity and the expectation of beauty – all on a platform of infinite possibility.  With all of this comes responsibility.  How do we define what that will be?  That is our individual task. 

I am trying to figure that out even as we speak !

I gladly accept the ever evolving challenges in my life.  I may not like all of them, and some days I just want to stay in bed or play with my cats Ping and Calloway !  (I had to mention them !!! )  But even they recognize we must eventually go to Shop and Shop for food !!

I am happy to have come back to Brown and re-charged my spirit.

I am happier to share my experiences with all of you.

 As long as I have breath  –  I plan to send that energy back into the universe !


 I’d like to share with you (Psalms 90:17):


 “And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us;

 and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea,

the work of our hands establish thou it…” 




Mid-year Completion Ceremony and Plumbing

December 5, 2011

Congratulations to the point-fivers who walked across the stage this past weekend. Remember, long ago, when you read your letter of acceptance? Remember walking on the Main Green for the first time as a student, under the canopy of fall leaves? Hopefully you will never lose that sense of nativity.

One of the ceremony speakers, Sam Miller, delivered this speech:

What a wonderful day this is!  Congratulations to all the celebrants.  From where I stand, I am overwhelmed by the support I see and feel.  Parents, professors, families, and friends, thank you all for being here.

If you are celebrating, it is safe to say that something unexpected happened during your time as a college students.  Whether we transferred from another school, pursued an opportunity outside of the Brown curriculum, or took some time away from our studies, this diversion from our original plan has undoubtedly played a role in our sitting here today.  I am no exception.

When I first came to campus in 2007, I was in awe of the world that I found.  The wealth of knowledge, resources and guidance made me feel as if I could do anything.  As I set about exploring different departments, I couldn’t wait to discover my path, and welcome it with passion and dedication.

But this excitement soon turned to fear halfway through my sophomore year, when I still hadn’t decided on a concentration.  My path, which had been so clear and comforting for as long as I could remember, had all but vanished.  I was going through the motions of being a college student with no sense of where I wanted to end up.  I felt           frightened.  I thought that I would be frozen in my academics, my social life, and just about everything else until I was able to make a final decision about my professional goals.

In the midst of my confusion, I decided to take some time away from Brown.  After a couple of weeks of riding an emotional roller coaster, I got a job as a plumber’s assistant in New York City.  I hoped to prove myself in a profession that placed only a minor emphasis on a college degree, let alone the institution from which it was granted.

And so began my time as a plumber’s helper.  Every morning, I would wake up before the sun and take the train into the heart of Manhattan, where I disappeared into basements and service entrances.  My first day on the job, I worked with Benny, who was a couple years away from earning his pension.  He asked if I had gone to college and I replied, very confidently, that I went to Brown.  He smiled, and told me that he had gone to Black.  I laughed with him, but inside, I panicked.  For as long as I could remember, my academic achievements had given me a leg-up, or at least garnered me a bit of respect.  Not here.

I spent a lot of time second guessing myself.  Part of me believed that I had made a huge mistake by taking a leave of absence, nevermind working as a tradesman.   I felt out of place on the train in the morning, watching all the businessmen in their power suits as I sat in my dirty jeans and scuffed workboots.  I had hoped to find a comforting change of pace as a member of the work force, but I felt even more out of my element.  A sense of powerlessness came over me; if my surroundings weren’t the problem, it was time to turn my focus inward.  I needed to change my perspective and take advantage of the opportunities that were right in front of me.  I committed myself to bringing a smile to work every morning, and to keeping myself grounded in the present, one day at a time.

Just like all new employees, I drove the supply truck for my first months on the job.  I spent the day driving from the stockroom to the different job sites scattered throughout the city.  The radio became my best friend, as it kept me company in the gridlocked traffic.  I never dared to change the station, anxious that I wouldn’t be able to switch it back to my supervisor’s favorite preset.  I learned all the Top 40 hits, quickly picking up the words and singing out loud at the top of my lungs.  The Spanish I had studied in high school started to come back, as I struggled to decipher the reggaeton lyrics.  My music theory and ethnomusicology courses came back as well, as I began to hear the chord progressions and African drumming sampled in hip-hop beats.  Perhaps I wasn’t going to completely escape the realm of my education.

In March, my boss, Mr. Teich, offered to sponsor me if I wanted to join the Local 1 Plumber’s Union.  A couple of weeks later, I was initiated as a Class “B” Plumber’s Helper.  I learned to replace boilers, run waste lines, and test sprinkler systems.  I intuitively began to apply the concepts I had learned in chemistry, choosing which compounds would respond best to temperature changes and which materials would hold up best in high pressure pipes.  I flashed back to reading Machiavelli’s The Prince, as I learned to communicate with the supers and building managers.  They didn’t want to be coddled with reassurances that jobs would be finished quickly.  They wanted realistic goals, around which they could plan future jobs and make truthful promises to their tenants.

After a couple of weeks floating around different jobs, I was introduced to Stanley.  Stanley was about 300 pounds and had played offensive line for his high school in Georgia.  He shook my hand with the strongest grip I can remember, and went right back to running his steam line.  I stood in silence, watching his every move, until I worked up enough courage to ask if I could do anything to help him.  Stanley responded with a simple question, “Do you like to work?”  A little shyly, I muttered, “Yes.”  Stanley and I were paired together almost every day from then on.

I learned a lot from Stanley.  He taught me about work ethic.  Stanley shies away from nothing and attacks each job, regardless of the difficulty, with a tenacity foreign to most people. When I asked him how he maintained such a high level of energy, his answer was not an elaborate anecdote or exaggerated life lesson.  He explained that he needed his job to support his family, and that complaining would get him nowhere.  It didn’t matter that he was consistantly given the toughest jobs, or that I was the first helper he had ever been assigned.  He worked his job because he had to.

Stanley also taught me about self-esteem.  He derives his sense of pride and importance from within himself instead of the world around him.  In this way, he is in complete control of his self-esteem, and almost entirely independent of external gratification.  Instead of viewing each hour as the 35 dollars that is his wage, he thinks of it as an opportunity to prove his mastery of the plumbing trade.  I’m sure that each of us has found our own Stanley, often times in places we least expected.

During my time as a plumber’s helper, I came to a number of important realizations.  First, a tangible representation of a day’s work is incredibly important.  There are few feelings as rewarding as finishing a job and being able to say “now that works”, or  “this is how I helped today.”  Personally, I had lost sight of this at school.  Sometimes, it’s important for me to just work with my hands, whether it’s tying in a sink, or doing the dishes.  Second, my education reaches far beyond factual knowledge.  I have learned to think in abstract and complex ways that I use every hour of every day.   Third, I do not want to be a plumber for the rest of my life.  I loved the work that I did and in it, I found enormous gratification.  I have enormous respect and admiration for those who take this path,      it is not for me.  And lastly, that perhaps the greatest gift that Brown gives to us as its students is the opportunity to pursue any profession that we might desire.  With a Brown degree, we can go on to be successful plumbers, and we can also pursue business, or medicine, or anything else that we might choose.

I returned to Brown in 2009 with an entirely renewed motivation.  Providence was no longer the next stop on my educational path, but rather the site where I would discover opportunities, make and give myself choices, and open doors that I never knew existed.  I declared Psychology as my concentration, not because I was commited to a particular career, but because I simply enjoyed the classes.  I went to office hours and review sessions, joined research labs, and took on more responsibility in extracurricular activities because I loved the feeling of grasping material, learning new ideas, and being involved.  I worked to build relationships with my professors, asking them for any guidance that they might give to a student unsure of his ultimate goals.  I did my best to listen, and absorb all I could from the people around me.

Here at Brown, we have been taught not only theories and formulas, but also confidence, perseverance and acceptance. We can hold our own in boardrooms with CEO’s, and we can contribute on job sites with strong and skillful blue-collar professionals.  We have learned that we can be successful in any environment and to be comfortable in our own skin.  Brown prepares us to enter the working world, return to our families, and go out into our communities and be sources of knowledge, of service and of strength.

Over the last couple years, I have been asked many times “when are you going to finish at Brown?”  What follows is usually a scattered story of transfer credits, semester standing and something about the Winter of 2011.  A seemingly simple question gets an awkward and complicated answer.  But to be honest, I’m a little awkward and complicated myself, and my time at Brown has definitely had its share of awkwardness and complication.  I have also found that the conversation that follows is usually interesting and personal.  In my willingness to discuss an instance where my original plans were not realized, others seem to find this same willingness, and I hear stories that I might not have heard otherwise.

So, when you get asked what class you were in at Brown, say that .5 proudly.  We are members of the class of 2011.5 and our time at Brown may not have gone exactly as we had planned, but we’ve embraced that and we can be proud of it.  We have learned a great deal inside these classrooms, and we have learned outside of them as well.  We have buried our heads in textbooks and journals, we have made peace with ourselves and the unknown, and we have laughed as our plans were altered for bigger and better things.  This amazing education and these incredible skills will stay with us for as long as we live; a lesson I have had the pleasure of learning from my parents, both of whom are Brown .5’ers as well.

Brown has inspired me to learn here on campus, and has also pushed me to take chances and pursue opportunities outside of its walls, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

Thank you all and congratulations again to everyone.

Indep. Study Info Session & 1st IS DUG Dinner — October 4th

September 26, 2011

IS Info Session & DUG Dinner

Careers in the Common Good: Fall 2011 events

September 22, 2011

CCG Calendar Fall 2011 (1)

Apply to Theories in Action 2012!

August 18, 2011

Applications to this year’s Theories in Action conference are now available online. Submit yours here. Or, take a look at the application before submitting your responses online by downloading the pdf version. Learn more at the TIA blog.

Software Engineering Internship in the Executive Office of the President (Deadline: August 12, 2011)

August 2, 2011

New Software engineering internship in the Executive Office of the President!
“We are looking for the nation’s best and brightest software engineering students to intern on the newly formed SoftWare Automation and Technology (SWAT) Team.”
Deadline to apply is 11:59pm EST August 12, 2011.


 Executive Office of the President

Office of Administration


Software Engineer Internship

September 9, 2011 –December 16, 2011

The Office of Administration Unpaid Student Internship Program is recruiting the nation’s best and brightest software engineering students to the Executive Office of the President, Office of Administration. Software Engineer Interns (SEIs) will work with the newly created Software Automation and Technology (SWAT) Team which is revolutionizing computer usage and business processes in the Executive Office of the President, including the White House. SWAT Team interns have a tremendous impact throughout the organization by providing expert software development and business process engineering services. It has been shown that relatively little software development upfront can save many task hours in the future, while also increasing accuracy and reducing errors in data. Many repetitive and time-consuming tasks can often be automated. Software engineers are able to create data design and formatting solutions to handle future needs and ever changing goals. The SWAT Team lends their expertise to Executive Office of the President offices and helps them automate tasks, streamline business processes, and optimally format data for future use.


  • US citizen
  • Enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a degree-seeking student for the semester that includes or immediately follows the internship, taking at least a half-time academic course load in an accredited program
  • Software development experience
  • Following are a plus:
      • Experience developing QuickBase applications
      •  Experience developing Microsoft Office (particularly Excel and Word) macros.
      • Experience creating Microsoft Access databases and interfaces.
      • Experience with SQL and database design.
      • Experience with any of the following languages/APIs.
            • § JavaScript, PHP, C#, .NET Framework, ASP.NET, C/C++, Java
      • Experience writing COM add-ins (particularly for MS Office).
      • Experience administering Apache, IIS, MySQL, and MS SQL.
      • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
      • Project management experience.
      • Technical documentation/writing experience.

Application Instructions:

Deadline to apply is 11:59pm EST August 12, 2011.

Apply on.

1.      Attach a copy of your resume

2.      Attach a copy of your unofficial transcript

3.      Include a description (250 words max) of the software development project you are most proud of and what your role was in the development.

4.      Have a maximum of  two recommendations sent to

Please contact 202-395-1088 or with questions.