Sofiya Stasiv: Learning to Become a Model in New York City

 

I imagined my journey to New York to become a model for MONTHS. I was inspired by some bold friends who had been “discovered” in New York. I mainly chose to venture to New York because of their validating words claiming that I had the right “look” to be a model.

Prior to arrival, I dedicated much time to collecting addresses, finding contact information, sending emails, and filling out modeling applications. Anxiously, I was ready to be brave and see if this Arkansas girl had the potential to be noticed.

Needless to say, the premeditated scenarios I had created in my head were nothing like the reality of the city of Manhattan, where all of the modeling agencies are located. Manhattan overwhelmed me. I became nervous, questioning every aspect of myself, wondering if I was worthy of grabbing the attention of these well-known agencies. The fear was building up rapidly. I felt as if I was over my head trying to make my far-fetched dream come true.

My adventures began with attending my first open model call.  After searching Google maps for the location, I noticed a mysterious door that had no label. I opened the door to a single hallway with two elevators. Luckily, there was a little bulletin board that displayed the studios within the building and my modeling agency was on the 4th floor. Entering the agency, I was shocked. The room was the size of the Honors College Forum (a little bigger than a standard classroom), but split into three sections. A studio, a conference room, and a miscellaneous room made up this entire space. All the rooms were about the size of your average honors dorm room.

Next came the open call. First, models of different shapes, sizes, genders, and ages took turns being interviewed in front of everyone. Then, standard full length, waist up, and side profile photos were taken of each model. And lastly, models would then get silently graded on their modeling talents based on the portfolio photos that they would present to the casting director. The casting director was full of energy and seemed interested in what everyone had to share, but in the end, he was very stern in terms of how we would be contacted if we sparked an interest. He put emphasis on not calling the agency. No call back meant we hadn’t made it, with no explanation why. I went through this whole process twice more with other agencies. Sadly, I did not get any callbacks. I wish I had been able to attend more open calls, but many agencies do not host open calls because so many people want to become models in New York.

The rest of my days consisted of entering over 12 different modeling agencies to gain additional information about becoming a model. I had hoped by entering unannounced I’d grab somebody’s attention. However, I was never able to get past reception. Some of the receptionists were very kind and took pictures of me, asked me to write down my information on a post-it note, told me agents would call if interested, then would give me a list of other agencies to go see in the city. Other receptionists were very straight with me. Needless to say, I was discouraged.

The trip to New York taught me to persevere in my actions. I learned that having connections in New York is everything. I learned that rejection is part of life. Nothing in life happens by only trying once, but for some reason, I thought it would for me. I learned about the person I can be when outside of my comfort zone. I learned that the city is not for the weak. I learned that time and patience is everything. I was disappointed that things did not go my way while in the massive city, but, honestly, what was I expecting? I will continue to find inspiration within myself as far as where I wish to get with my modeling career. Until then I will be flashing my face in your local Arkansas magazines, commercials, and Instagram feed.

Sophia Ordaz: Summer in the City – Exploring Publishing and Testing My Limits in the Big Apple

After hearing all my life that a liberal arts education is wholly un-lucrative, I felt pretty dubious about majoring in English in my freshman year. My father, an electrical engineer, had tried persuading me on countless occasions to pursue a STEM profession—which is only natural, I think, because as a parent, and especially as an immigrant who traversed miles and borders in search of greater opportunity, you want your child to prosper as much as, if not more, than you.

My attitude shifted after I got involved with student media and interned at the Oxford American, a national literary magazine based in Little Rock. The skills I was developing as an English major—the writing, the reading, the editing—were essential to a multitude of careers in journalism, publishing, communications, nonprofit work, and academia. Instead of feeling stranded when faced with my career prospects, I was overwhelmed with all the possibilities, and because of that, I felt compelled to explore as many of those possibilities as I can through internships and opportunities on campus.

In August 2017, I set my sights on an internship at the Feminist Press, an activist-minded indie publisher with a backlist of books that resonated strongly with me. My plan was laid early on: First, apply for an ELF (Experiential Learning Fund) grant to help fund the expense of living in New York City as an unpaid intern, and second, get the internship, somehow. The stars were aligned for me because everything fell into place, and thank goodness for that.

As much as I tried to suppress it, the idea of abandoning my family and friends to live in a place where I knew virtually no one scared me out of my mind. There were the more practical obstacles—like learning how to ride the subway—but also the more high-stakes trepidations: Would being so alone make me unbearably lonely? Looking back on my apprehensions, I can readily discern how dramatically the summer has developed my character, in the enthusiasm I feel when I meet new people, in the liberating effortlessness of being alone with myself, in the unearthing of a level of confidence I never knew I possessed.

Throughout the summer, I worked closely with the small FP staff, which gave me invaluable insight into the management of nonprofit work and independent publishing. Some of my responsibilities included proofreading forthcoming titles and grant applications, drafting metadata, live-Tweeting FP events, evaluating agented and unsolicited manuscript subscriptions, volunteering at the Harlem Book Fair, and mailing out orders and review copies. That’s not to mention some of the perks of interning, which included meeting FP authors, free tickets to an off-Broadway show, and, to my great pleasure, a lot of books.

I’m coming away from this experience with the knowledge that I could thrive in a publishing career. But I’m also keeping in mind a piece of advice from the executive director and publisher Jamia Wilson. Over tea in her office, she told me that if I’m feeling like I’m being pulled in multiple directions when it comes to a career path, to keep doing what I love and keep doing it well. It’s okay to not have honed in on a single vocation and to expand the experiences you undertake. In my free time, I’ve been giving my all to writing album reviews, and if next summer I have the opportunity to explore that further, I will gladly take it.

Reflecting on this past summer, a huge part of why it is so unforgettable is just the fact that I got to live in New York City. I met some of the most imaginative and driven individuals there, and it felt like I got to reinvent myself because I was in a setting where no one knew me. At the risk of adding to the endless romanticization of NYC, getting to live in Lower Manhattan made me feel as if anything were possible in the city: live music on street corners, rap cyphers in parks, break dancing on subway trains—being surrounded by that kind of purposeful, creative life constantly energized me. Before I left for NYC, I was so scared of leaving my friends and family. I’m stronger now, because I realized that in order to grow, I have to keep putting myself in situations that make me uncomfortable.

Carla Archer: Making Magic for the Mouse

Walt Disney once said, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Since my first visit to Walt Disney World at five years old, I have dreamt of being a Disney cast member. I discovered the Disney College Program on a social media site when I was in high school, and I knew I would have to apply when the time came. To be eligible, you only need to have one semester of college completed, but I waited until the fall of my sophomore year to apply for the first time. I made it all the way to the last round of interviews, when I informed the recruiter that I had recently made my college dance team and would not be able to attend in the spring. I applied a second time that spring for a fall program, and I was never asked for an initial interview. I even went to a character performer audition in Dallas and got cut during the first round. I learned a lot about dealing with rejection and the importance of perseverance. I guess the third time really is the charm because within a week of applying in the fall of my junior year, I was accepted into the program as a merchandise cast member for the spring semester!

I put my scholarships and basically my whole life on hold and packed my bags for a four month stay in Orlando, Florida. The first week there, everyone had to attend Traditions, which is the orientation for working at Disney. They taught us about the four keys by which Walt Disney wanted the company to operate: safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. No matter your role at the park, those are the priorities, in that order. In my work location, we were constantly encouraged to practice these keys. The Traditions teachers showed us several videos of guests having their vacations greatly impacted by cast members, effectively brainwashing us to strive to be dedicated to creating happiness and making magic (and of course, money). We got to explore the tunnels under Magic Kingdom. This is where cast members take breaks and how they get around without entering a land that does not match the theming of their costumes. It is also the reason Magic Kingdom is not overflowing with trash. The coolest part of Traditions was getting our official cast member nametags from our new boss, Mickey Mouse.

The first couple of days of training for merchandise college program participants were at Disney University. We practiced using the registers, which was helpful for someone like me who had never worked in retail. We learned how to count change back to guests the “Disney way.” We also learned about “merchantainment,” which is essentially playing with the merchandise to entertain the guests and to sell more product. My home park was Hollywood Studios, so my first day of on location training was called “On with the Show.” I got paid to go on a tour of my favorite park and learn fun facts about its history and future. I could hardly believe it.

I worked in the Theater District, which includes Star Wars, Muppets, Indiana Jones, Frozen, and Christmas themed shops. I spent most of my time in Tatooine Traders, which is where hundreds of people dump out every few minutes from riding Star Tours. My favorite assignment was walking guests step-by-step through building custom lightsabers. No other merchandise location on property had anything that interactive, so it was perfect for me as a future elementary teacher. The best day in Tatooine was when I got to give Magical Moment certificates to two young sisters named Lucy and Grace. They came back to visit me during my last shift, and I cried tears of joy.

Even at the most magical place on earth, working an average of forty hours a week is exhausting and not always easy. To break up the monotony, I traded to work in other locations. I ended up working in every park at least once. Some nights I did not get off work until after two o’clock in the morning. Sometimes guests would yell at me for ruining their vacations because I asked to see their annual passes in order to give them a discount. One woman told my manager I needed to take more “earning my ears” classes and that I should just sell balloons on the street to children. My manager told me I was doing the right thing, and we smiled and told the guest to have a magical day, as is custom. The biggest, but most rewarding, challenge was learning to communicate with people despite language barriers. Guests and cast members come from all over the world, and it is so beautiful to see the diversity, especially in Epcot’s World Showcase, featuring food, entertainment, and cast members from eleven countries.

Overall, the Disney College Program was the greatest opportunity of my life thus far. I gained independence and valuable life skills. I had a blast riding rides, watching shows, meeting characters, and eating sweets. I already miss living minutes from Cinderella’s castle and saying, “May the force be with you,” but Mickey said he’ll see me real soon.

Ashley Barto: Chicago Botanic Garden Echinacea Project

I traveled to the Chicago Botanic Garden to continue my research project I started during my summer internship with the Echinacea Project. Echinacea Project scientists study tallgrass prairie fragmentation and the consequences that deterioration has on prairie plants and insects. While working at the Chicago Botanic Garden, I was able to continue my own project, which helps explain the effects of pollen-stressed conditions on Echinacea pollination and seed development. My experience at the Chicago Botanic Garden allowed me to lean useful research techniques and network with other plant scientists.
When I worked in the field this summer, I pollinated 1980 Echinacea florets to control for floret age and position in addition to the number of florets receiving pollen on the plant that day. At the end of the field season, I collected the plants, so I could examine their seeds later. When I went to the Chicago Botanic Garden, I worked in the population and reproductive biology laboratories to identify how my treatments affected the seed set of Echinacea. On my first day at the garden, I learned the ropes of the lab, and I began dissecting my plants. At first, this task took about an hour per plant, and I had 21 plants I needed to get through while at the garden. With each plant, I worked more efficiently, and eventually, I was able to dissect a plant in just over 30 minutes. As I dissected the plants, I met graduate students and volunteers who chatted with me about their research or hobbies.
After I had dissected all of my plants, I used the garden’s seed x-ray to identify how many healthy seeds the plants produced. Learning the technique for using the x-ray was challenging, as I had to work quickly not to overexpose the x-ray film and accurately to capture all of the seeds on each x-ray sheet. Although learning the dissecting and x-raying techniques took a couple of practice rounds, I learned what I needed to do to have good, usable data, and I got it done in my few days at the Garden.
While I got a lot of work done, I also spent time with some of my friends in the Chicago area and visited some of the major attractions. During my weekend in Chicago, I rode the L to meet my friends and visit the Field Museum, the Art Institute, and Millennium Park. The Field Museum was favorite place I visited. When there, I saw exhibits on global conservation efforts, the ancient Americas, and the diversity of plants. These exhibits were captivating to me because they laid the foundation upon which my research had meaning. In particular, the global conservation exhibit highlighted many ecosystems like prairies ant the importance of prairie restoration and research.
My experience in Chicago allowed me to study my research topic and question, but even more, I learned about the importance of my questions in the context of conservation. While I learned about prairie research from working in the lab and visiting the Museums, my favorite experience was networking and visiting with my friends and mentors. I was able to talk about graduate school, environmental justice, and my other research projects, and often, I received feedback just through friendly conversation. On my last night in Chicago, my mentor at the Chicago Botanic Garden invited me, the lab intern, and his graduate students to dinner. While I spent most of my time at the garden dissecting the Echinacea plants and x-raying their seeds in the lab, I was reminded that scientists also need to be able to discuss their research ideas.

Maddie Tucker: Fresh Start in Florence

Upon deciding to take this trip, I had just undergone many big changes in my life. I had just completed my first year of nursing school and I was in love with the work I was doing, no matter how difficult it was. I love helping people and trying to understand their hurts, both physical and emotional. Going on this trip really helped my cultural awareness in a way that I know will help my nursing practice. My mind was opened to a different communication style, new lifestyle, and health management.

The people were quite different from those in America. There was a collective sense of being in Florence. The people were more openly kind and helpful to one another. I hope to bring this sense of community into my nursing practice with not only my patients, but also my co-workers.

Another huge part of the trip that affected me was the nature. We hiked in Cinque Terre, on the Mediterranean and the views were incredible. I pushed my body past limits I thought I had. We hiked for 7-8 hours each day through stunning vineyards and mountains overlooking the beautiful blue water. I couldn’t help but absorb the pure, raw beauty. It was so perfect and untouched by luxury. The buildings were colorful, simple and without too much flare. They were so old and the residents had been there for years and years with their families. It was a small village, everyone-is-friends mentality.

The next big hiking endeavor was in Bolzano, in the Alps. The mountains were stunning, like giants looming over the picture-perfect Alpine meadows. There were beautiful wildflowers of orange, purple, pink, blue, and yellow. They danced in the soft breeze and I couldn’t help but run through the field with the new best friends I made on the trip.

I highly suggest exposing oneself to the beauty of Italy. I love that we not only got to experience historic, artistic Florence, but we also got to explore many other Tuscan hill-towns via train. The small towns had stunning cathedrals and history and small shops, whose shopkeepers were captivating in their knowledge of Italy. The churches were moving both in their immense size and in the spiritual wholesomeness they exuded. Upon entering the churches, one could feel the history and the reason so many people clung to their faith a long time ago. The statues, murals, and altarpieces were so detailed and intricate.

This trip was full of history, art, architecture, cultural comparisons, and natural beauty. Nothing was overly modernized with technology the way things are in America. If you have the opportunity to expand your mind and cultural awareness, take it. Too many people never get the chance to see what is out there. More people need to in order to be more compassionate and open-minded in today’s ever-changing world.

Morgan Sweere: Mobile Clinic in Succotz, Belize

The crazy thing about going on a service trip to another country is when you get home. Everything is the same – same people, same places, same smells. Yet, everything is different. I realized that what had changed was me. I learned about medicine while I was there, and we helped people as much as we could during the time we were there. However, the biggest help we gave to the local people wasn’t healthcare at all – it was love. Building relationships and sharing stories with the people, showing that we cared, and playing with the children with all the time we had seemed to mean the most to them. The people were so grateful for anything we had to offer, and they were so kind and content.

The culture was very different from anything here in the United States. The children were especially well behaved and grateful for receiving even one McDonalds toy, as it was the only toy they had.  We spent the first day in-country visiting local orphanages. We prepared for the King’s Children’s Home first, where we saw about sixty children in the afternoon. Our group gave out gift bags to each of the children in the home, which contained pencils and notebooks (they need school supplies badly), as well as sunglasses to protect from the rampant sun damage and a toy. We also visited Marla’s House of Hope, which was in a secret location because it housed girls who were victims of sex trafficking originally and many of their children as well. After each girl had a visit with one of the doctors, we gave out vitamins and flip flops, as many of them didn’t have shoes, which caused them to contract pinworms from walking around in the dirt.

It is difficult to explain the gratitude each of the children in these orphanages showed on their faces. They looked forward each year to the week when our group came, as it was their only “gift” of the year and their only medical visit. The next three days were spent working in the “clinic” we had set up, which consisted of trash bag room dividers and a suitcase pharmacy in the local Nazarene church. We got help from local people, who we paid $25/day to translate for the people who didn’t speak English (mostly elderly). When we arrived at the clinic the first day to set up, there was a line of people stretching down the street who were waiting to been seen by a doctor. Many of these people sent one person from each home to wait in line to be seen, depending on who might need medical attention the most. When the patient was “triaged,” we got information on how many people were living in their home so that we could better determine how many vitamins to provide for their family.

I was so surprised at the condition of the homes in the villages we visited (one room huts made of trash and sheet metal). Each of these contained around 15-20 people.

My primary job during the clinic was to work at the glasses station, which I found to be the most rewarding experience of the entire trip. Some of these people who came to our clinic were in their sixties and had never had glasses before. A local Conway opthamologist had donated five hundred pairs of glasses to our trip, although we didn’t know what prescriptions they were, as they were used. It was kind of difficult at first to help people find the glasses that might work best for them because of this, since we had to just keep trying them on until we found a pair they liked. However, we eventually found ways that worked best for us at our station and attempted to sort them by their strength.

The coolest part of the entire trip was seeing elderly patients who finally put on that “perfect” pair of glasses. Their faces lit up immediately, and that’s how we knew we had found the pair that fit them. It is amazing how these people were so resilient; they had gone their entire lives without being able to see and had successfully held jobs and raised families.

I was also lucky enough to get to observe our two physicians, Dr. Andrew Cole, OBGYN, and Dr. Tom Roberts, orthopedic surgeon, as they did some of their patient care. The medical problems we have here are very different from the medical problems there, because there is so little health care available to the people. Dr. Cole removed several warts and growths from people’s’ skin (we joked that he was the new dermatologist). Because of the high carb diet (beans, rice, tortillas), the people often had hypertension, diabetes, and obesity as diseases, but it wasn’t very well controlled, so we gave out as many glucometers as we could. I met four year old Aliyah during the last day of clinic, as I talked with her while her mom was seen by the doctor. She ended up stealing my pen and writing her name on my thigh so I “wouldn’t forget her,” but I knew that I never would. She had the most innocent and real smile I’d ever seen.

In the clinic, we saw 492 families, treated 1387 people, filled 2603 prescriptions, and gave out 500 glasses. The last day, we spent visiting the school another group had built in a previous year. I was walking around the school when Aliyah came up and jumped on me. She showed me her classroom and we spent a little while building blocks before we had to leave. She hugged me and said that she would miss me and hoped that I would come back next year. I will.

Kane York: First Conference Experience

I attended the Southwestern Psychological Association (SWPA) conference in San Antonio, Texas between March 31st and April 2nd. Before the conference enjoyed research; however, it seemed as if I was working in a vacuum. The only people I could discuss my findings with were my professor and a select few people in the department. This changed when I was able to attend SWPA. Walking into the poster room blew me away. I expected there to be a good amount of people in attendance, but witnessing the amount of posters and people discussing the subjects made it all the more real. This became even more poignant when I stepped back and thought of the amount of work each project took. Each poster or presentation was the result of hours of data collection, critical thought, and analysis.

Each day consisted of a myriad of talks and poster sessions. The first day I attended a talk discussing the manner in which we value human lives in and out of war. The speaker drew upon themes in psychology, economics, and philosophy to enlighten the discussion. We addressed questions regarding donations made to nonprofit organizations, how we as a developed country form our views of people in war torn countries, and how we allow the state to place value on certain lives. This talk impressed me because of how the speaker and the audience drew upon different disciplines. It displayed that psychology is a field that draws from many sources.

In the latter portion of that day, I observed a symposium with Cognitive Psychology as a focus of the talks. I was excited to hear this presentation since the content differed from the social psychology presentations I had already heard. A common theme through all of the speakers was studying the visual system using visual search tasks. In short, this is a task in which a participant needs to “search” for a target object among other objects known as distractors. This tasks allows the experimenter to manipulate the stimuli that appear on the screen and draw conclusions from the participants input. From this we can make inferences about unobservable mental processes. This provided me with more reference material for a project I plan to work on next semester, one that studies ensemble processing—the ability of humans to make quick judgments when presented with large amounts of visual stimuli. It brought me joy to see that my area of study was alive and well.

During the second day I attended another talk that was about how teachers can approach learning differently. The speaker quoted a number of studies in discussing how professors and students need to stop thinking of lectures as a transferring of knowledge from one container to the next. He claimed that it was an active process on both parts. His presentation gave me new insights to learning and was able to dispel some myths. The amount of false assumptions I had was a bit surprising. One interesting takeaway from his lecture was that students are responsible for 50% of their learning. This puts a number of student problems into perspective. Later, it was time for my poster presentation. What I figured was going to be an event full of anxiety turned out to quite enjoyable. What I expected was to be rigorously questioned by professors and academics, but this did not happen. People expressed a genuine interest in my research and asked understandable questions.

This was a fantastic first conference experience. To see the amount of and how diverse the people in attendance brought me much joy. Seeing so many studying in my field gives me confidence that I am choosing a worthwhile degree.

Russell Jeffrey: Rwanda

You Need a Friend

Mr. Gaby was the first person we met in Rwanda, and without him we would have been completely lost. His head, shorn like the heads of most Rwandan men, balanced on his body more than six feet in the air – inches above the tallest in our group. Gaby seemed to know his way around everywhere, and he could bargain, discuss, argue and talk his way around until he got what he had come for. We were naturally curious when we discovered that he could speak seven languages. He advised us that the first word to learn in any language is “thank you,” or, in Kinyarwanda, “moracoze.” After that, it is up to you.

The second person we met on our trip was Gaspar, the bus driver who drove us all across the country. He was a very shy, humble person who was probably the best bus driver in Rwanda. Gaby knew that Gaspar was excellent, and the bus company knew that Gaspar was Gaby’s first, second, and third choice if he needed transportation for a group like us. We soon learned that Gaspar could squeeze the bus through gaps in the rush-hour streets of Kigali as smoothly as he could cruise through the hills, and because of our trust in Gaspar’s skill, the bus became a safe place for us throughout our trip.

We spent our first week in the capital, Kigali, at a guesthouse called Kings. As such, we became familiar with the staff members, Justine, Augustine, and Celestia, and the owner, Mr. Amos. Justine could not stand idly by as the white, American students struggled to do the most rudimentary household chores. She often had to show us the proper ways of doing things like washing clothes and peeling potatoes after she had a good chuckle. Augustine was a cheery fellow who always greeted us with a smile, but we were never quite sure exactly how much English he understood. He always smiled and nodded politely when we asked him questions, but we found that some conversations required much more pointing and gesturing than others. Luckily, he was quite familiar with the English phrases, “There is no hot water,” and “There is no Wi-Fi.”

I met another person in the village of Kanembwe. At the time that we visited, there was some confusion about the ownership of the land we were working on, so while Gaby was off talking his way through a Rwandan police force, an electric company, and a village of several thousand people to sort things out, we were left with little more than hand gestures and the Kinyarwanda words for “yes”, “no”, “thank you”, and “white person”. The guy I met seemed to be about my age or a bit younger, and he was one of the only people we met in the village who spoke a lick of English. He wore a red snapback cap turned around backwards, and he called himself Jumeve. (Pronounced with a soft “J”, Ju-may-vay is my best attempt at spelling the name from I-don’t-know-what-language that I only saw written as “JMV”).

Over the course of the two days we spent in Kanembwe, there were many occasions that sent me in search of Jumeve to make sense of the ideas that the people were trying to communicate to us. I was told that I could be cut by sharp minerals if I touched the cement, I was told that it was considered a “blessing” to get peed on by a baby, and I declined the requests of several men who thought it was my job to marry off the ladies in our group. None of these messages were understood without the help of Jumeve. At the end of our stay in Kanembwe, I briefly got to say goodbye to him. His grin, which I had always received when I smiled at him in passing, fell away when he understood that we were leaving. He gave me his WhatsApp number and asked for something to remember me by. I thought frantically: Shoes? I need those; Notebook? Tattered; Money? Impersonal; Tape measure? Cheap. Then it struck me: Pocket knife. I unclipped it from my belt and handed it to him. He nodded, we exchanged mournful smiles, and I went on my way to join the others for the ride back to our hotel.

On the morning of our trip home, Gaby arrived with a different bus driver (Gaspar had a scheduling conflict) and took us to the airport. I was comfortable letting everyone else take pictures that would be shared after the trip, but my biggest regret about the trip is that I failed to capture Gaby. There are very few pictures of him in our shared folder for, I suspect, the same reason that there are not many pictures of Gaspar’s bus. In the rush and jumble of our first few days, Gaby and Gaspar quickly became the secure foundation from which we operated – the giants whose shoulders we stood on to see Rwanda. I only have one recording of Gaby speaking. In the recording he says one word, “Nzagukumbura,” which is the Kinyarwanda word for, “I will miss you.” I miss him, too. Because, although I have returned from Rwanda, I left a little piece of me behind. I left it on purpose, and maybe someday I will go back to look for it.

Radishes, Swiss Chard, and Kale, Oh my! by Tessa Wolff

Many students are unaware that UCA has its own organic garden on campus. It’s called the Dee Brown Memorial Garden and it’s named after Dorris Alexander “Dee” Brown. Dee Brown attended Arkansas State Teacher’s College (now known as UCA) from 1928 to 1931. He is well-known for his influential book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” which chronicles the history of Native Americans in the early western U.S.

​This semester, my classmates and I had the opportunity to learn about the impact and history of gardening in our world today by attempting to grow our own organic garden. “Organic” horticulture incorporates sustainable, environmentally friendly methods of gardening by eliminating synthetic pest and weed controls, chemical fertilizers, and GMO seed varieties. In contrast to today’s industrial agricultural habit of monoculture, organic horticulture attempts to mimic the natural world by promoting the integration of various types of plants and animals into a single garden ecosystem. It also requires a lot of work, which my classmates and I were soon to realize. We started out with thirteen empty garden beds, from which (we hoped) would soon flourish many fall crops. To prepare the beds, we added compost from our campus compost pile which provided a foundational amount of nutrients for our baby plants. Then, we took to our hands and knees and began to plant seeds and seedlings in the fresh Earth. We planted Swiss Chard, Cabbage, Lettuce, Radishes, Broccoli, Kale, Spinach, Carrots, and my favorite, “Baby Bear” Pumpkins (which, unfortunately did not do well this season). We added Pansies and Marigolds to attract pollinators and add to the beauty of the garden.

Many hours were spent watering, weeding, amending the soil with extra compost, and inspecting for insects, all in an attempt to make sure our harvest came to fruition. Additionally, we planted three beds with peas to prepare them for the next growing season. Peas are nitrogen fixers; they take nitrogen from the air and return it back to the soil. This is an important step in preparing beds for future vegetables that require high amounts of nitrogen, such as tomatoes or squash. Over time, our baby plants grew into mature plants and finally started producing vegetables! The leaves of Swiss Chard and Kale can be harvested as they grow and the plant will continue producing leaves for further harvest. The broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, and pumpkins take a bit longer to produce fruit, but patience is a virtue! As we wait for the rest of our veggies to grow, we continue to learn about the benefits of organic horticulture to humanity and the environment. We’ve learned that agricultural costs aren’t strictly limited to monetary ones. By not using synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, organic gardeners and farmers are reducing agriculture’s harmful impact on the Earth. For example, synthetics can cause soil depletion, increased insect resistance, pollution, and may even have long term, detrimental health effects on humans. By gardening organically and selling locally, farmers reduce the use of oil in transportation and preservatives in shipping. They also promote the growing of fruits and vegetables during their proper growing season and preserve the important heritage of heirloom seeds, which are natural, non-genetically modified seeds that have been preserved over generations.

​I came into this class with what I thought was a pretty good amount of gardening experience and knowledge. The first day of class, we were told to rate ourselves on a scale of 1 to 10; 10 meaning “gardening genius” and 1 meaning “clueless.” I rated myself a 5. The fact was, I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did and I have certainly had a bit of a wakeup call when it comes to the astonishingly far reaching effects that food production has on our world. My classmates and I are proud of our little garden, knowing that our hard work paid off and that we did our own small part in treating the Earth respectfully.

Scotty McKay: The Life of a Protein

I worked in Dr. Marian’s lab for three semesters. During this time, I learned to culture cells, determine the protein concentration of a solution, perform immunoprecipitations, perform immunofluorescent microscopy, SDS PAGE, as well as western blotting. I was also able to present my work at three different conferences and wrote my honor’s thesis titled “Cadherin 18 Localization and Interacting Partners” over this project. I got into this research because I wanted to explore whether research was something that I would want to pursue after graduation, but also because I saw potential for this work to have a real, positive impact on people’s lives.

The goal of this project was to learn more about a protein that is found naturally in human cells called cadherin 18. This is a type 2 cadherin that very little is known about, which to me is one of the most fascinating things about this project. Knowing throughout your research that something you notice could be the first time that anyone has ever made that observation is an awesome feeling. For this project, we had two main goals. These goals were to find out where cadherin 18 is localized within cells as well as determine what proteins cadherin 18 interacts with. By knowing where it is located and what proteins it interacts with, we will have a much better idea of what it does in the cell. Gaining a greater understanding of cadherin 18 is important because by learning more about cadherin 18, we will have a better understanding of any bodily process or disease that cadherin 18 is found to be involved in.

In order to see where the cadherin 18 is located in cells, we used immunofluorescence. Immunofluorescence makes use of antibodies as well as fluorophores (light emitting organic molecule) to locate a particular antigen. In our case, we bound a primary antibody that specifically binds cadherin 18 to cadherin 18. We then bound a secondary antibody to the primary antibody. This secondary antibody had an attached fluorophore that emitted light when it was exposed to a certain wavelength of light. Using this method, we were able to take pictures of our cells that highlighted where cadherin 18 is located.

We then used immunoprecipitation to determine what proteins cadherin 18 interacts with. Immunoprecipitation uses the same antibodies as immunofluorescence that are specified to cadherin 18. In this case though, the antibodies are bound to agarose beads. After the cell’s proteins are extracted, all the cellular proteins are allowed to interact with the antibodies. Only the cadherin 18 should bind to the antibody, and any protein that interacts with cadherin 18 should bind to cadherin 18. After performing washes and centrifugations, we should be left just with the beads, antibodies, cadherin 18, and possible interacting partners of cadherin 18. An elution buffer was then used to remove the proteins from the antibodies, and the proteins were subjected to an SDS PAGE to help determine what the interacting proteins are. During SDS PAGE, the eluted proteins are mixed with a dye and then pipetted into the wells of a precast gel. This gel is then put into a tank of SDS buffer which denatures the proteins and gives them a negative charge. When this gel is subjected to electrophoresis, the proteins are pulled toward the positive electrode. The gel that the proteins move through is very porous which allows small proteins to move more quickly through it. The end result is a gel with multiple bands of proteins separated based off molecular weight.

The end result of my work on this project is that we believe, based on our fluorescent images, that cadherin 18 is located throughout the cytoplasm of cells. We also were able to see multiple distinguishable bands on our SDS PAGE which we believe are possible interacting partners of cadherin 18. This project will be taken over by another student next semester who will help verify and expand upon these results. I am very happy that I was given the opportunity to assist with this project and am extremely pleased with the results we were able to get in such a short amount of time. I highly recommend that other students get involved in some research project of their own. This was an experience that not only taught me useful skills, but also an experience that greatly developed my critical thinking, problem solving, and presentation skills which will be invaluable in the future.