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Nurturing ‘the Next Generation of Women-of-Color Leaders’

Inside SisterMentors, a nonprofit group that mentors girls from low-income families and helps women complete their dissertations.

Shireen K. Lewis is dedicated to increasing the number of minority women who have earned Ph.D.s. As founder of the nonprofit SisterMentors, Ms. Lewis takes a holistic approach, helping minority girls realize and develop their talents. The organization supports these young students from elementary school through college via a robust network of women who know the ins and outs of applying to, getting into, and completing college. Many of the girls are the first generation in their families to pursue higher education. Often they are poor.

Since its founding, in 1997, SisterMentors has helped 62 women in the Washington, D.C., region earn their doctorates, and more than 40 girls go to college. Ms. Lewis, who is also executive director of the umbrella nonprofit EduSeed, is gearing up for SisterMentors’ 20th anniversary, in 2017 — and for helping new generations of girls realize their educational dreams.

Dreamers in Jeopardy

Immigrant students share what college means to them, and their fears as they wait for Donald J. Trump and his administration to take office.

One of the women came to the United States on her own when she was 15; others came as children, brought to this country by their parents. They are known as Dreamers, so-called because they meet the requirements of the Dream Act, which was established to help immigrants taken to this country illegally as children. They have grown up thinking of America as home, but all are concerned about their future following the election of Donald J. Trump as president.

In 2012 the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy gave young immigrants of their status the ability to get driver’s licenses, work legally, and attend college. President-elect Trump said on the campaign trail that he would overturn all of President Obama’s executive actions, and deport all people in the country illegally.

The five women interviewed here all know that Trinity Washington University and TheDream.US scholarship fund will continue to support them. They share their thoughts as they wait to see what the new administration will do.

Lots and Lots and Lots of Rain

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I had great plans for photographing spring migration, but I had more rain-outs than I can count. It was always worth the adventure – just to be out. Seeing firsthand the relationship between the migrating Red Knots and the spawning Horseshoe Crabs was fascinating (This is currently the front slide show).

We had probably the best year of warbler sightings in our northern Virginia yard, but with the exception of the yellow-rumped pictured below and a friendly common yellow throat, everyone else stayed at canopy level. Well it’s still only the end of May so there is more shooting to be done!

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Spring Semester’s Work for The Chronicle

Now that graduations are in full swing and summer is upon us, I have a couple minutes to catch-up and reflect on my work form the past five months. First it was an amazing honor to have ‘Ask Me’ be a finalist for a Webby Award. As you can see were were in good company.

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I also published three video stories that took me to Florida to profile an undocumented student named Eli Garcia, to southwest Virginia to take a look at Hollins University and then finally to Asheville, North Carolina to experience Warren Willson College – one of only seven work colleges in the country. All were wonderful experiences. You can check them out here:

Eli Garcia

Bernarda Elizabet (Eli) Garcia, a junior at the University of Central Florida, balances coursework and political activism. Recently Ms. Garcia, an undocumented student, was awarded the Mario Savio Lecture Fund’s Young Activist Award for her work fighting for immigrant rights. The once-shy young woman, working at the Hope CommUnity Center, in Apopka, Fla., has successfully advocated for scholarships for undocumented students. Twenty such awards are now available at Seminole State College of Florida. Her goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work in 2017 and to continue to work with her community on improving the quality of life through immigration reform and education.

How One Student’s Fight for Scholarships and Immigration Rights Made Her a Community Touchstone from Chronicle of Higher Education on Vimeo.

Hollins University

year ago, when Virginia’s Sweet Briar College was enduring a life-and-death struggle, another women’s college nearby was flourishing, despite the challenges that have become common to many single-sex institutions.

“Ninety-eight out of 100 young women taking the SAT nowadays will tell you that they’re not interested in considering a women’s college,” says David W. Strauss, a principal with the Art & Science Group, a consulting firm. “Those that thrive have had to do very specific things and do them at a strategic level in order to thrive.”

Hollins University, in Roanoke, is the oldest undergraduate women’s college in the state and has offered coed graduate programs for more than 50 years. Even though it’s little more than an hour from Sweet Briar, the two institutions are miles apart in many ways. Nancy Oliver Gray, who has been at Hollins’s helm for 11 years, put her university on firm financial ground and believes it’s in a position to succeed in a tough climate.

As Neighboring Campus Faced Death, Hollins U. Set Itself Apart from Chronicle of Higher Education on Vimeo.

Here is a temporary link to the Warren Wilson project that is part of our subscription package.

 

 

How The CBC Can Help Save Birds in Cuba

Janice Lloyd wrote a nice Q & A off of our Cuba Trip. From what i have read it sounds like we beat the rush! Cuba is well worth the adventure. Let’s just hope they keep seeing preserving their natural resources as a priority.

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A week in Cuba – Starting and Ending in Old Havana.

Our trip to Cuba was not to take photographs, it was to help with the Christmas Bird Count, but Cuba is a photographers dream. I had to take a few snaps. In our free time Janice and I did as much wandering as we could. Our routine went something like this – gather at 6:00 am for coffee and some sort of bread and ham breakfast, travel or bird for the morning, do a group lunch and then explore in the afternoon and gather again at dinner time. We hit three main regions – Havana, Viñales to the west and down the the swamps around Playa Larga and The Bay of Pigs. If you are an easy traveller – one who does not mind fixing toilets and the possibility of not having hot water, get to Cuba! As far as the Christmas Bird Count goes, hopefully our work annually documenting birds in designated regions will help with conservation efforts and encourage additional tourism and money for their parks.

This post contains images from Havana – yes, the cars are really everywhere. The following posts includes a little of what we saw on the way to and at Viñales, the area around the Zapata Swamp and the Bay of Pigs and our last excursion to the National Botanical Garden outside of Havana. I did not shoot images everyday since I wanted to focus on the count, but these posts include a few of the more than 120 species we saw.

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To Viñales and West of Havana

I was the most excited about heading two hours west of Havana to the rural are of Viñales, known for limestone hills called Mogotes. The Hotel Jasmine did not disappoint with its spectacular views of the valley. Birding in this region included navigating many pigs who were always more curious than threatening. Birds in this region included the Cuban Tody, Cuban Pygmy Owl, Cuban Trogon, Great Lizard Cuckoo, Yellow Headed Warbler and the Olive Capped Warbler.

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Down to The Coast to The Bay of Pigs and The Zapata Swamp

The second region we travelled to was Playa Larga, using the Hotel Playa Larga as our base – one of the hotel’s cinderblock chalets is pictured below.   We saw the smallest bird in the world – the Bee Hummingbird while birding at Bermeja. On a sunset dash out to find Cuban Parakeets, I got some of my favorite photographs of farmers gathering their animals at the end of the day.  During this leg of the trip was also visited Las Salinas where I was hoping for close-ups of Flamingoes, but you can’t control where nature is going to hang out. I am always happy to see a spoonbill.

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First Bird Count in Cuba’s National Botanic Garden

On our last full day in Cuba we conducted the first Winter Bird Count at the National Botanical Garden just outside of Havana. Built during the Soviet era, the Garden at one point was a real gem. Without funding the grounds and features are in disrepair, but the mature trees and plants make for excellent birding. We came across this pair of Kestrels. The double-dark variant is a rare find. I saw my first Limpkin. Also spotted were more Emerald Hummingbirds, Cuban Green Woodpeckers and lots of Meadowlarks.

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Ask Me

While researching issues for transgender college students, I had the opportunity to spend a few day at Campus Pride’s summer leadership camp for LGBTQ student leaders. I wanted to make sure I knew the issues so I pitched doing an interview video. All but two of the interviews for ‘Ask Me’ were shot in a college dorm lounge after a full day of camp activities.

The federal law known as Title IX is meant to protect students from discrimination based on their gender identity. But many gay, lesbian, and transgender students say they face an array of challenges and safety issues on their campuses. The Chronicle interviewed more than a dozen of them to hear more about what keeps them from thriving in college. chronicle.com/article/Ask-Me-What-LGBTQ/232797/

Last days of summer

As we are seeing summer leave all too quickly and schools star to welcome students, I thought I would dedicate the opening slideshow to some of my favorite Maine memories. It’s time to get fresh lobsters, walk on the beach, and listen to the waves. New video projects will roll out in September and October, but until then I am taking one more break to unplug and read at the beach.

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ASME Finalist

We were in good company this year when one of our Chronicle Review covers was a finalist in the ASME Brainiest cover category. First place went to Bloomberg Businessweek and the other finalist was Wired magazine. As Ron Coddington confesses in the entry, it was a very close to deadline shoot that he and Scott Seymour thought-up and I jumped in the help them execute. We made deadline with two hours to spare.
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Sweet Briar’s Unexpected Announcement

On March 3rd the president of Sweet Briar college, a women’s college in rural Virginia, announced the school would close. Shocking students, faculty and alums there is now a court battle going on over the institution’s fate. I went down and produced this voice from Sweet Briar video. The opening slideshow is from the tilt-shift image I took during the visit. It was striking to me how beautiful the campus is in the springtime and how heartbroken the students and faculty are.

The Science of Giving

We recently redesigned our sister publication, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and I have been fortunate to shoot the second cover for the April issue. I played around with a few different looks, going old school “painting with light” for the blue image we used with the electric streaks I used an off camera flash with a blue gel and then I “painted” the head with a red gel I held over my iPhone light. No two images turned out the same.
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These are some of the early versions.
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An Inside Look at How Trinity Washington University Found Its Mission

I first started going to Trinity College in Washington, D.C. when I would bring my mother over to visit one of her childhood friends, Sister Anne Cecelia. I love old buildings and wanted to know more about the old Main Hall and its resident nuns. After visiting with the archivist, Sister Mary Hayes, it quickly became apparent that while the nuns are a part of the story, they are only one chapter. As I spent time at Trinity I realized that so many people and groups could be their own story: President Pat McGuire who has run the institution for 26 years, the diverse student body made up of primarily of African-american women from DC, the 20 undocumented Latinas who are starting their first year on scholarship and the nine remaining nuns who bring their work ethic and humor to every meeting. Trinity became a labor of Love and a special video for me.
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Some Green To Get Through The Winter

As I’m watching a nasty wintery-mix come down in Northern Virginia, I decided that now would be a good time to add some greenery to my site from a recent trip to Costa Rica. Enjoy this break from academia while I work on my next project. In the front slideshow I have added photos of  a scintillant hummingbird feeding her young, a female resplendent quetzal giving me the eye in her private cloud forest, a violet-eared hummingbird dancing and a ferocious flowerpiercer striking a pose. Our trip included visiting Savegre Lodge and a rain forest experience at Selve Verde Lodge

Salva Verde Lodge, CR

Salva Verde Lodge, CR


The daily rain at Selva Verde Lodge.

The daily rain at Selva Verde Lodge.


Lushness at Selva Verde

Lushness at Selva Verde


Violet-eared hummer.

Violet-eared hummer.

A Different Kind of Industry

I’m Shmacked. Blacked Out Media. Red Cup Nation. Three companies that share one business plan: to sponsor college parties, film them, and sell the vision that this is what campus life is all about.  This video is part of the Chronicle’s A River of Booze Special Report.

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Why You’re Going to Keep Hearing More About Adjuncts

In Academe, the Future Is Part-Time
Reporters at The Chronicle share the trends they see as the growth of the work force transforms the professoriate.

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Presiding Over a College’s Final Days

The president of Saint Paul’s College, Millard (Pete) Stith, has the unusual mandate of selling his institution. He took over management after the historically black college was unable to pay its debts, lost its accreditation, and closed in 2013. Along with a staff of 22, he maintains the campus in hopes that another college will purchase it.

Trumps Unveil Their Plans for the Old Post Office

Real estate developer Donald Trump speaks during a television interview following a news conference at the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. Trump announced the signing of an agreement with the U.S. government to turn the historic building into a $200 million luxury hotel, according to the Washington Post. Photographer: Julia Schmalz/Bloomberg

Real estate developer Donald Trump speaks during a television interview following a news conference at the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. Trump announced the signing of an agreement with the U.S. government to turn the historic building into a $200 million luxury hotel. Photographer: Julia Schmalz/Bloomberg

Real estate developer Donald Trump, center, his daughter Ivanka Trump, executive vice president of development and acquisitions at Trump Organization LLC, and his son Donald Trump Jr., left, walk outside the Old Post Office Pavilion following a news conference in Washington, D.C. Photographer: Julia Schmalz/Bloomberg

Real estate developer Donald Trump, center, his daughter Ivanka Trump, executive vice president of development and acquisitions at Trump Organization LLC, and his son Donald Trump Jr., left, walk outside the Old Post Office Pavilion following a news conference in Washington, D.C. Photographer: Julia Schmalz/Bloomberg

Real estate developer Donald Trump announced the signing of an agreement with the U.S. government to turn the Old Post Office in Washington, D.C. into a $200 million luxury hotel. Photographer: Julia Schmalz/Bloomberg

Real estate developer Donald Trump announced the signing of an agreement with the U.S. government to turn the Old Post Office in Washington, D.C. into a $200 million luxury hotel. Photographer: Julia Schmalz/Bloomberg

I visited the Old Post Office when we were working on our profile of General Services Administrator Dan Tangherlini. One of my interests is historic preservation and I love that the GSA is leasing properties instead of tearing them down. The Old Post Office is a gem. I think most people envision its sparsely populated food court when asked, but see outstanding woodwork and a building rich with history. I pitched it as a story pegged to the Trumps plan to turn the historic Pennsylvania Ave. building into a luxury hotel.

The photos of the Trumps have gotten the most play, but I wanted to show some of the rich details. These images can be liscensed through Bloomberg Photo Service or Getty Images.

Peter Cook had an exclusive interview with Donald Trump for Bloomberg Television. If they stay true to the design the building’s best features will be preserved.