The Colgate Scene
July 2004

People on the go

Courtney Hostetler '04 steps forward to accept the 1819 Award at the awards convocation in April.
[Photos by Timothy D. Sofranko]

When she was in seventh grade, Courtney Hostetler '04 learned about Stephen Biko, the political activist whose death in 1977 from injuries suffered in police custody made him an international symbol of South African black nationalism.

Hostetler wasn't satisfied with what she learned in class. She remembers going to the library to learn more about Biko, looking up articles he had written, some of which were written under the pseudonym Frank Talk.

Fast-forward to Colgate University.

Hostetler is spending the summer of 2003 as an intern at South Africa's University of Cape Town (Colgate Scene, September 2003). She e-mails Nancy Ries, director of the univer-sity's peace studies program, about her thesis, which was in its early stages. Hostetler had some ideas on how to broaden her work.

"In a period of two months, this thesis went from 35 or so pages to 113. When Courtney sets her mind on doing something, you don't have to do anything; it happens by itself. It is a phenomenal piece of work. She could get a master's with this," said Ries, who served as her adviser this past year. Hostetler's thesis was an examination of how two alternative newspapers covered apartheid and the role they played in creating social change in South Africa.

"I'm interested in the way that people can change things, what makes them want to change things, and how they change things. I just think it's fascinating that a group of people can go against something that seems so powerful," said Hostetler, a native of Providence, R.I.

From her early school years through college, Hostetler's intellectual curiosity and unquenchable thirst for knowledge drove her. She always read voraciously. Her father, Dean Hostetler, says she read A Tale of Two Cities before age 10. She developed an interest in social justice, and her keen intellect coupled with boundless energy created a potent mixture. Potent enough for Hostetler to win this year's 1819 Award.

Hostetler, who graduated summa cum laude with a double major in English and peace studies, was involved in Students for Social Justice, Exploring Spirituality (a discussion group she started), and numerous other organizations at Colgate. She was a member of the women's soccer team and was most recently active in Konosioni, the Madison Tutoring Club, and the Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education.

She also founded the Sign Language Club, volunteered for the Office of Admission, and was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies, an Alumni Memorial Scholar, a George Cobb Fellow, and a Charles A. Dana Scholar.

Besides the 1819 Award, Hostetler also received high honors in peace studies, distinction in the liberal arts core curriculum, the Sterling Prize from the peace studies program, and the John T. (Jack) Mitchell Memorial Award from the athletics department.

Despite the honors she's garnered, Hostetler rarely mentions the accolades.

"She doesn't talk about herself; she's not fixated on this ego thing. It's a sign of her enormous maturity, I think, that she's already really looking at the world," said Ries.

This summer, Hostetler is looking at Uganda. She is going there to work as an unpaid intern for the Organization of Child Support in the Mbale District, an impoverished rural area in the eastern part of the country.

Hostetler will be trying to keep youngsters in school and reduce the high dropout rate. This year, the organization is intent on getting 21 children through school, helping them with tuition and tutoring.

"I'll be spending the first few weeks with my boss, trying to hatch some fundraising ideas to help make the organization self-sufficient," said Hostetler. "I'll also be speaking with people in the community about what they want in terms of AIDS education and healthcare as a whole."

Upon returning to the United States, Hostetler will begin researching graduate schools, most likely programs in development studies and international relations. Ultimately, Hostetler says she would like to become a journalist and write about foreign affairs.

Her appetite for foreign travel was whetted during her time at Colgate. As an Alumni Memorial Scholar, Hostetler used her grant money to travel throughout Ireland with fellow student Karin Oman '04. She spent last summer in South Africa, and she also spent time in Canada examining its foreign policies during an alternative spring break program.

While she was growing up, she heard about faraway places from her father. He worked for about 10 years as captain of an ocean-going supply ship, and shared with her numerous stories about Angola and the other nations he visited.

Another aspect of Hostetler's early years that carried over to Colgate is her love of soccer. She played on the varsity team each of her four years here, although she was injured for most of this past season.

Dean Hostetler remembers his daughter "constantly pounding the ball" against the side of their house in Portsmouth, R.I.

"She just worked real hard at it; she couldn't get enough of it," he said.

That statement could fit for a lot of things that Courtney Hostetler tackled during her four years at Colgate. — Tim O'Keeffe

Matt Pysher '04

Matt Pysher '04 is not one to let an opportunity slip through his fingers. From optical physics to independent rock, the Linesville, Pa. native has found ways to make the most of his time at Colgate.

Pysher spent three years working alongside physics and astronomy professor Enrique "Kiko" Galvez, researching a new geometric phase in optics, an interest he plans to pursue in graduate school, as he works toward a doctorate in physics at the University of Virginia. He graduated from Colgate magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with high honors in physics.

"As a freshman, I went to one of the Tuesday afternoon physics symposiums and was interested in the research [Galvez] was working on," said Pysher. "I started working with him the summer of that year and have been researching with him ever since."

Pysher has worked primarily on taking seminal quantum mechanics experiments using single photons -- work previously done at only a few major research universities -- and adapting them so that they could be performed at the undergraduate level. He recently submitted a paper detailing the photon experiments to the American Journal of Physics.

"Matt is the ideal liberal-arts physics major," said Galvez. "He is an example of how far a motivated, hard-working student gets at Colgate."

A paper summarizing research he and other students performed with Galvez was selected as the cover story for the May 23, 2003, issue of Physical Review Letters and also was named one of the top physics stories of 2003 by the American Physical Society -- a high honor for any researcher and a rare opportunity for an undergraduate.

He also was invited to discuss his research at a National Science Foundation conference in April, where he spoke to more than 400 leading innovators in science education.

"At a bigger school, I may have done research for a semester or even a year, but I probably would have been working with graduate students," said Pysher, who received the university's Physics and Astronomy Alumni Award. "Here, I'm working directly with a professor -- it's a great opportunity."

Not one professor but two, actually. Pysher has also worked with Anthony Aveni, Russell B. Colgate Professor of astronomy and anthropology, on using the Mayan eclipse tables to predict the appearance of Venus.

"Matt's quantitative skills are outstanding, which is very helpful when researching the Mayans, who were very strong in mathematics," said Aveni. The project Pysher worked on was actually the reverse of work Aveni did in 1992, when he used the appearance of Venus to predict the eclipses.

When not in the lab, Pysher kept himself busy with extracurricular activities, including serving as chair of the Colgate Activities Board's lecture series and general manager of WRCU.

"He is involved in many of the activities that Colgate has to offer, and yet finds the time and discipline to excel in classes, scientific research, and in making contributions to the community," said Galvez.

"With CAB, as long as you could show why the speaker would be of interest and make a strong proposal, funding was available," said Pysher. During his tenure, the group brought social commentator Michael Moore and satirist Mo Rocca to campus.

As a disc jockey and general manager at WRCU, Pysher was able to let his passion for independent music shine through.

"Having a radio show exposed me to a lot of different types of music," said Pysher, who also applied for, and received, funding to bring independent bands to campus.

In his time at Colgate, Pysher found that resources -- whether they are for lectures, performances or research -- are available as long as you can articulate why the event or initiative is important and do the work to make it effective. He's confident that such skills will serve him well beyond Colgate.

"What I've enjoyed most about my time here were the opportunities," said Pysher. "I was able to explore a variety of things because of Colgate's size." -- Charlie Melichar

Bev Villegas '04

Bev Villegas '04 carried a piece of her heritage with her to Colgate.

Her parents -- first generation immigrants from Mexico -- learned English on their own, and advised Villegas to learn both English and Spanish, with the intent of teaching English to Latino families to ease their assimilation into the United States.

The Albuquerque native has now structured her post-Colgate plans upon just that.

Villegas, who majored in Latin American studies and sociology, will spend next year working with non-English-speaking populations, as well applying for law school, hoping to complete a dual degree in law and Latin American studies.

Her interest in combining law and Latin American studies resulted in part from her family heritage, but also from various courses she took at Colgate, as well as her experience in the San Francisco off-campus study group last fall.

A course taught by geography professor Ellen Kraly, International Migration, U.S. Immigration, and Immigrants, "was a turning point," Villegas said.

"That class turned me on to working with the impoverished Spanish-speaking population," she said. "I want to work in immigration law, and help [immigrants] get the necessary documentation so they can get the resources they need."

Villegas was so taken by the course that she capitalized on her Latino community service interests in San Francisco. She worked more than 10 hours per week at Dolores Street Community Services, a resource center for homeless men from Spanish-speaking countries, which also specializes in AIDS/HIV education.

"It was a little bit intimidating. I'm a lot younger than the other volunteers and the [patrons], and I'm female. I was working mostly with men," she said. "I was working in a culture that doesn't talk about sex, and then to have a girl demonstrate how to put a condom on was funny, but intimidating."

"But you become close to them. You find a connection," she said. "You get creative on how many ways you can help."

Homosexuality is frowned upon in Latino cultures, Villegas said. Consequently, many gay Latinos experience depression as a result of being ostracized from their families and friends. Through her educational and service efforts, Villegas hopes to help tear down those cultural barriers.

Villegas fell in love with San Francisco, its colorful multicultural-ism, abundant opportunities for community service, and its sizeable Latino population.

"[San Francisco] triggered where I want to go with my life," she said. "I saw the intersection with the legal and community service avenues. I knew it was what I wanted to do."

If she doesn't practice immigration law, Villegas would like to practice family law for Spanish-speaking families. At some point, she also wants to work with the gay, Latino, and Spanish-speaking communities on AIDS/HIV prevention education.

Villegas' interest in this field was inspired both by her work at Dolores Street, and also by psychology professor Jun Yoshino's scientific perspectives course Critical Analysis of AIDS.

She has applied for various jobs for the fall, including legal assistant positions, and teaching an English as a second language class for adults. She will still continue to volunteer at Dolores Street.

Villegas entered Colgate convinced she would become an international relations major. She dabbled in sociology and Latin American studies courses, and was hooked.

"I ended up finding my niche in those majors. I've realized that the classes I took here were about other Latin American countries I knew nothing about. It made me realize that I really want to work with people from that background, especially non-English speakers," she said. "That's a population that's growing in this country. You learn the social issues evolving in those countries in these classes."

Her double major, she said, has buttressed her community service efforts and her plans for next year.

"I've learned to analyze the things that are going on in our social world. It's given me the tools to criticize and analyze," said Villegas, who graduated with high honors in Latin American studies. "[Colgate] has been an environment where I could cultivate my interests."

But whether she is effecting legislative changes, educating gay Latino men, or teaching English, her interests are strung along a common thread of helping the Spanish-speaking population integrate into American culture more easily, keeping true to her family's wishes and advice. — Jess Buchsbaum '03

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