Saints Start Challenge Grant Recipients Selected | St. Lawrence University Sophomore Success Initiative

Saints Start Challenge Grant Recipients Selected

The Sophomore Success Initiative is delighted to announce the inaugural group of Saints Start Challenge Grant recipients.   Saints Start Challenge Grants support students’ independent research, creative, volunteer, and internship projects in the summer between sophomore and junior years; funding for this program is supported by a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation. This summer, six sophomores—Roman Bergner ’20, John Hoefler ’20, Fiona Johnson ’20, Raven Larcom ’20, Tanner McCaskie ’20, and Erica Sawyer ’20 begin interactive projects of personal exploration and discovery that promote the public good, interact with a wide range of people and environments, and address crucial questions in a broad range of disciplines.   Each grant recipient will have a mentor from the St. Lawrence community over the summer, and they will receive support from numerous community and University partners as well.

Tanner McCaskie ’20 will serve as a camp counselor for children at Project Harmony in Jerusalem.   This camp brings together children from both Arab and Israeli communities and works to promote peace from the grassroots level.   He is receiving on-going guidance for the project and instruction on the region from Dr. Ronnie Olesker, Associate Professor of Government.      

Fiona Johnson ’20 will also be working with children this summer, volunteering with three programs dedicated to the principles of personal youth development: the Peace Paper Project, which uses the art of paper-making as a form of therapy; a summer library program near Fiona’s hometown; and Camp Sunshine, which serves children with terminal illnesses.   Fiona will tie these experiences together through a series of written and reflective activities with Dr. Sarah Barber, Associate Professor of English.

Raven Larcom’s ’20 project will allow her the opportunity to combine her deep interests in natural science and the arts, as she will spend the summer analyzing the wing interference patterns of almost 400 species of Lasiopogon specimens, a common genus of robber/assassin flies.    These wing interference patterns, which Larcom describes as “really neat stable rainbow patterns in clear insect wings” can be used to “distinguish particular and identifiable patterns for each species and sex.”    Dr. Tristan McKnight, an instructor in the First Year Program, and Dr. Karl McKnight, Professor of Biology will mentor Larcom on this interdisciplinary project.

Roman Bergner ’20 will spend the summer digitizing and transcribing records from the St. Lawrence County Poorhouse, specifically those logged by a supervisor of this facility between 1895 and 1907.   Roman’s work will connect to Dr. Mindy Pitre’s on-going Death in St. Lawrence County Project; Dr. Pitre, Associate Professor of Anthropology, will serve as the faculty for this summer project.   His work will include regular collaboration with the St. Lawrence County Historical Society.   Through the project, he hopes to gain further insights into the workings of this early American social service agency and its people. 

John Hoefler’s ’20 project also contains a local theme, as he will conduct specimen collection and analysis to study the impact of mercury pollution on aquatic ecosystems, food chains, and public health in the Adirondacks.   Hoefler’s research will focus particularly on Church Pond, located in Colton township and a part of the Grasse River watershed, which has received only limited study on this topic in the past.  He will be mentored by Dr. Matt Skeels, Associate Professor of Chemistry.  

Erica Sawyer’s ’20 project will take her further afield for three months at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, where she will join a biomedical research team led by that university’s Dr. Jia Jeng.   The research they have outlined for this summer will focus on the medical benefits that can be harnessed through advantageous cell manipulation.    Outside the lab, she looks forward to being able to immerse herself in Chinese language, culture, and history; she will receive mentorship from Dr. Helen Huang, Director of Asia Programs in the Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies.

The students look forward to sharing their findings and experiences with the campus community in a number of forums next fall.