This Year's Daniels Fellowships Include Team Project for the First Time

November 10, 2014
9 Daniels Fellows sit together in Provost's office

On a balmy spring day nearly 15 years ago, Pamela Daniels ’59, a Wellesley class dean from 1981 to 2000, declared to a sea of seniors, “At such a moment, we who are further along in our lives search for some wisdom, some safeguarding words, that will, like an amulet, protect you from life’s dangers, soften the vicissitudes of circumstance and guarantee your safe passage through the years ahead. But, of course, there is no amulet except the power within each of you to imagine and claim for herself a meaningful life.”

This particular commencement marked the release of the new millennium’s first crop of starry-eyed seniors. It also marked Dean Daniels’ retirement. Her former students, colleagues, friends, and family endowed the Pamela Daniels Fellowship as a way to recognize and cultivate the essence of a spirit Daniels so strongly advocated: maverick scholarship. The fellowship allows a senior to envision and facilitate an original piece of work with hopes that the experience will fortify and affirm identity. Dean Daniels further explained in her commencement address, “The established professions and careers matter, and many of you will find meaningful, innovative lifework there. Yet, there are so many things to do in this world. So many ways to make a difference.”

This fall, the Pamela Daniels Fellowship of $3,500 per recipient was awarded to four senior projects, each project exemplifying passionate engagement with a compelling intellectual subject. Meet the award recipients and their dream projects below.

Claire Whitman (Architecture)

Whitman’s joy in working with multidimensional artistic materials was kindled in her high school sculpture classes. She postponed pursuing this passion to follow traditional life and job interests that were “applicable,” such as architecture and environmental studies. After taking Spatial Investigations with Visiting Lecturer in Art Andrew Mowbray and Advanced Sculpture with Professor of Art Carlos Dorrien, Whitman reconnected with a natural inclination toward using her hands as facilitators of artistic media.  

Guided by Professor Dorrien, she will use the Pamela Daniels Fellowship to support a yearlong independent study employing marble and bronze manipulated with the lost wax process to create large-scale facial features, a continuation of a self-portrait she began in Dorrien’s class last spring. Whitman states, “Examining and interpreting the human body in varying scales is something I have wanted to investigate since beginning my architecture major, and creating this sculptural collection is a wonderful culmination to my studies in architecture and three-dimensional design.”

Ayana Aaron (CAMS), Katie Barsottie (CAMS), Adrienne Ogle (CAMS), Gladys Raygoza (CAMS), Lilly Tyson (CAMS), Abra White (CAMS, Media arts and Sciences)

In the past, the Pamela Daniels Fellowship has been allocated to individual recipients. This year an ambitious six-student joint proposal was submitted as an opportunity to go beyond the achievement of self-directed endeavors and explore the capabilities of creative spirit inherent in collaboration. The group gravitated toward each other when they participated in Jay Craven’s Movies from Marlboro program in Vermont. The idea of constructing a series of professional-caliber short films came into fruition while the six Wellesley students were on set in Nantucket.

They plan to rotate positions from film to film in order to maximize experience with various roles. The group hopes to push past horizons of convention, both in the content and the execution of these films. Ogle speaks on behalf of the group, “The fellowship enables us to not only continue working collaboratively with one another but also gives us more resources in order to achieve our dream project. It increases the professionalism of the environment we create on set… building our own camera dolly to enhance the cinematography… [and our] ability to enhance the art direction on our films, something that has previously been difficult to do on student budgets.”

Michaela Fendrock (Geosciences & Astronomy)

Fendrock grew up hiking and playing in the woods. This intimate contact with nature developed her love for the Earth and a passion for studying it. Her advisor, Professor Emerita of Geosciences Margaret Thompson, studies the part of an ancient magmatic system on the North Shore called the Cape Ann pluton. Salem Neck, a region of this system, is “grossly oversimplified” on prevailing maps. In her project, Fendrock will construct detailed mapping and incorporate improved dating methods that will lay the groundwork for a better understanding of the area.

She explains, “Geologic maps are the basis for so many geologic investigations, and it's such an incredible opportunity to be funded to contribute to something so fundamental to my field. Maps are really a symbol of discovery, and if there's a blank on a map the spirit of exploration drives us to fill in that blank. Salem Neck is right now a geologic blank on a map, and it's a privilege to be able to help fill it in.”

Audrey Tran (Biochemistry & Music)

Music has always captivated Audrey Tran, but she explains that, at Wellesley, “I refused to let music be defined as anything more than my “unpractical” hobby. I wanted my life and career to be nobly useful, which I interpreted to mean I needed to have an undergraduate education dedicated to biochemistry and a resume tailored to a career in medicine.” And yet, while working toward obtaining her biochemistry degree, Tran managed to keep her songwriting alive. She applied for the Pamela Daniels Fellowship with hopes of expanding her gift for music beyond intimate gigs in Harvard Square.

She will use this opportunity to create an album of songs chronicling her four formative years at Wellesley College through a series of auditory vignettes. She feels that this fellowship is not merely an award but rather a promising beginning. No longer can she “cower behind the pretext of being too busy or lacking resources, or even that toxic, self-defeating feeling that my music wasn't ‘technically good enough’ to be recorded or shared. Now, however, I have every reason to follow through with this long-term dream of mine!”

—Jocelyn Wong ’15