WC Moves Up in Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education Rankings


Following a trajectory it has been traveling in similar higher education statistics, Washington College has elevated three points in the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education college rankings for 2018. The latest rankings, which compare the college alongside all other universities and colleges in the country, list the College at 205, compared with 208 in last year’s ranking. Among liberal arts colleges in the survey, Washington College ranked 75th in the country.

“Moving up at all in these rankings is a difficult task; moving up three points is a terrific achievement,” says Washington College President Kurt Landgraf. “What’s especially gratifying about our performance in this Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education list is that when you break out only liberal arts colleges, we are ranked 75th in the country. That’s an excellent standing, particularly for this survey which relies on real data and student input. We should be extremely proud of what this says about Washington College.”

The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education rankings make an effort to quantify how colleges and universities provide a powerful learning environment to students, putting the emphasis on student success. One of the ranking’s most valuable tools is a survey of more than 100,000 current students that examines their opinions on their interaction with teachers, satisfaction with their education, and how engaging their academics and studies are.

Among the survey’s questions were whether students would choose Washington College again, if the College provides an environment where they feel surrounded by exceptional students who inspire and motivate them, and if the College is effective in helping them obtain valuable internships that help them on a career path. On a scale of 0 to 10, 10 representing strongest agreement, students answered between 7.7 and 8.1 for each of these questions.

In specific categories, Washington College ranked 149th in “resources,” which addresses variables including how much the College spends on students and student-to-faculty ratio, and 200th in “outcomes,”which takes into account statistics including graduation rate, salary after graduation, average debt, and the default rate.

“The ranking includes clear performance indicators designed to answer the questions that matter most to students and their families when making one of the most important decisions of their lives—who to trust with their education,” the authors said in describing the survey’s methodology. “These questions include: does the college have sufficient resources to teach me properly? Will I be engaged and challenged by my teacher and classmates? Does the college have a good academic reputation? What type of campus community is there? How likely am I to graduate, pay off my loans and get a good job?”

Washington College’s elevation in the 2018 rankings jibes with its steady climb in other well-known annual examinations of higher education performance. In U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges rankings for 2018, WC is listed 96th among liberal arts colleges across the nation in the 2018 report, up from 99th in 2017, 100th in 2016, and 105th in 2015. And in 2016, for the first time, the College was included in the annual Top 300 Best College Values by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, ranking 232nd among the top 300 institutions out of 1,200 surveyed and 91st among the top 100 liberal arts colleges nationally.

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

Writer Kim Zarins at the Rose O’Neill Literary House Feb. 6


Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales may make some people yawn, but not the way writer Kim Zarins tells the story. Zarins, a professor of medieval and children’s literature and author of the novel Sometimes We Tell the Truth, retells the tale from the point of view of modern teens, who change things up in unpredictable, entertaining, sympathetic ways.

Zarins will read from her work at the Rose O’Neill Literary House on February 6. The event, which is part of the Sophie Kerr Lecture Series, starts at 4:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Zarins has a Ph.D. in English from Cornell University and teaches at Sacramento State University. Her debut novel, Sometimes We Tell the Truth (Simon and Schuster, 2016), retells Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with modern teens, transforming the 14th-century collection into contemporary genres and tackling issues relevant for today’s teens. On the long bus ride to Washington, D.C., a group of seniors each tell a story—some fantastical, some realistic, some downright scandalous—in a competition for the ultimate prize: a perfect grade. Whether zombie war epic, love story between an angel and a devil, tale of interracial adoption, eulogy for a lost sibling, or Harry Potter fan fiction, the tales entertain and invite empathy. In this contemporary young adult adaptation of The Canterbury Tales, students wrestle with issues of class and wealth, fears of going off to college, moral reckoning with the cost of cheating, and LGBTQIA identity.

In addition to Sometimes We Tell the Truth, Zarins has published two picture books for very young children, The Helpful Puppy (Holiday House, 2012) and The Playful Bunny (Cartwheel Books, 2006). When Zarins isn’t reading, writing, or teaching, she hangs out with her family in Davis, California, and coaxes a scrub jay named Joe to take peanuts from her hand.

For more information on this and other English Department and Sophie Kerr events, visit the website at www.washcoll.edu/departments/english/events.php, or view our annual Literary Events Calendar brochure here: www.washcoll.edu/live/files/7406-2017-2018.

WC Students Help Kent County High School Students Learn About Green Chemistry


Gathered around a lab station in a Kent County High School classroom, Washington College senior Alex Riedel and three high school students are busying themselves with an experiment while discussing the future. One of the students says she wants to be a nurse practitioner, and Riedel, a biology major who’s pre-med and taking her MCATs in a month, is telling her about her experience shadowing a nurse who specializes in geriatrics.

“I love her patients!” Riedel says. “But I’m interested in pediatrics too.” While they talk, Riedel helps the students attach small glittery dots to a paper surface until they have completed what is roughly a diamond-shaped pattern. “Are you guys ready to move on?” she says finally, bringing the focus fully back to the reason they’re there—a green chemistry experiment crafted and led by Anne Marteel-Parrish, Professor of Chemistry and Co-Chair of the College’s Department of Chemistry, and six of her students. “OK, next we have to test the different surfaces.”

Anne Marteel-Parrish (right) helps a Kent County High School student set up the experiment.

What they’re testing is how well their creation—a coarse model of a material called Sharklet film—can hold onto a Post-It note as small binder clips are attached to it. The broader technology they are learning about—Sharklet—is a product that mimics on a molecular level the skin of a shark, enabling it to easily repel germs and bacteria from surfaces without the use of chemicals. In this lab, it’s giving Marteel-Parrish and her students a chance to introduce the Kent County students to several concepts related to her fundamental expertise and passion: green chemistry and engineering.

“Green chemistry is all about trying to prevent pollution before it’s formed,” Marteel-Parrish explains to the students during her introduction. While using chemical-based cleaners may purge a surface of germs or bacteria, those chemicals enter humans and the environment, causing all sorts of unintended consequences. Through green chemistry, she says, “We are trying to design everyday products so they don’t harm the environment or people.”

Sharklet technology is an example of biomimicry, Marteel-Parrish explains—when scientists mimic something that occurs in nature. In this case, the inventor realized that the skin of sharks, comprised of denticles in a distinct diamond-shaped pattern, acts as a natural repellent. Sharklet film is now used on all kinds of surfaces, from medical devices to furniture, to repel germs and bacteria. “Nature is a model and mentor to solve human problems,” Marteel-Parrish says.

(L to R) WC senior Simon Belcher oversees Vince Wilson, Matthew Mernaugh, and Jakob Watt in the lab experiment.

Marteel-Parrish, since 2011 the College’s Frank J. Creegan Chair in Green Chemistry, is also the author of Green Chemistry and Engineering: A Pathway to Sustainability (2013, Wiley and Sons). Among many other awards, in 2011 she won the American Chemical Society-Committee on Environmental Improvement (ACS-CEI) Award for Incorporating Sustainability into Chemistry.

She’s also a mother of two students in Kent County’s public schools, and while she had devised a variety of special projects for at the elementary school level, she’d never focused on high school students. Last year, she approached the science teachers about introducing their students to green chemistry through a series of four experiments, which she and her undergraduates would present. They gave her an enthusiastic thumbs-up to the idea, and she worked with them to develop four experiments that complemented what their students were already learning.

“I can teach the same concepts they are talking about, but from the perspective of green chemistry,” she says. “We’re trying to incorporate experiments that fit into their curriculum. I’m not here to tell them what to do, I just want to share my passion.”

But it’s clear that the collaboration is doing more than introducing local high school students to green chemistry concepts. It’s a fun, no-pressure opportunity for them to ask the WC students what college is like and what their future might hold, and for Marteel-Parrish’s students to impart some hard-earned advice, and encouragement.

“You guys did awesome!” Riedel says, as she helps her lab students finish up their work. “It was so fun getting to know you!”

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

WC’s Spring 2018 Concert Series Begins February 2, Offers Four Performances


Washington College’s Spring 2018 Concert Series begins on February 2 and will include genres from chamber music to spirituals.

Each performance will be in Hotchkiss Recital Hall and begin at 7:30 p.m., except for the free concert on February 2, which will be held at noon. Tickets for all other performances are $20 (adults), $15 (non-WC College students/seniors over age 65/WC faculty and staff), and $12 (1782 Member). WC students and youth 18 and under are free.

Trio Simpatico

On February 2, The Concert Series welcomes Trio Simpatico, which performs eclectic chamber music with an orchestral bent. Simpatico’s unusual instrumentation of clarinet, horn, and piano borrows from orchestral timbres. Audiences have remarked, that the trio “sounds like a whole orchestra.”

Simpatico’s members are Phyllis Crossen-Richardson (clarinet), Heidi Brown (French Horn), and Matthew Bachman (piano). All three are active performers and teachers in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore metropolitan area and have collaborated on many projects for the past six years.

Lori Kesner, Dan Shomper, Woobin Park

On February 8, The Concert Series presents The Evolution of Negro Spirituals, a performance by lyric-dramatic baritone, Thomas Beard, accompanied by Julia Morris-Myers and dancer Leandria Gilliam. Beard is originally from Fayetteville, North Carolina. In 2003 he became the first African-American male singer to be chosen by tenor Placido Domingo to be a part of Washington National Opera’s Placido Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, working directly under the maestro’s tutelage. Beard has performed for U.S. senators, governors, and ambassadors in concerts at embassies and concert halls across the country. He was also invited to perform as special guest soloist by former First Lady Laura Bush at an invitation-only event at the White House.

There will be a reception after the concert.

On February 15, Washington College presents Lori Kesner (flute), Dan Shomper (cello), and Woobin Park (piano), performing works by George Crumb, Carl Maria von Weber, Bohuslav Martinu, and Astor Piazzolla. All three performers currently teach at Washington College.

An award-winning musician and scholar, Kesner enjoys a distinguished and active career as both a performing flutist and world music lecturer. As an experienced and actively sought orchestral flutist, she performs regularly with the Annapolis Symphony, Annapolis Opera, and Mid-Atlantic Symphony in Maryland. Shomper is a performer and teacher in the Washington DC/Baltimore/Annapolis area. The Baltimore Sun praised his virtuoso playing, masterful performance, and lyrical expression. Noted for her commanding stage presence and elegant musicianship, Park has appeared throughout the United States and South Korea with various types of solo and chamber recitals as well as collaboration with renowned orchestras.

On March 29, The Concert Series presents John Thomas (saxophone) and Teodora Adzharova (piano), performing a mixture of classical chamber works and jazz standards. John Thomas spans the chasm between the concert and jazz saxophone worlds. He is currently a lecturer in music at Washington College, teaching applied clarinet and saxophone as well as leading the Woodwind and Jazz ensembles at the college. Teodora Adzharova was born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and began piano study at age 7.  By the time she graduated from high school, she had won national and international competitions in Bulgaria, France, Germany, Macedonia, and the Czech Republic. She is currently the Peabody Accompanying Coordinator, and teaches piano at the Conservatory.

Individual tickets for these events can be purchased online with a credit card via EventBrite on the Concert Series website (http://washcoll.edu/concert), or with cash or check at the door.  Inquiries and ticket holds can be sent to Debbie Reed at 410-778-7839 or concertseries@washcoll.edu.

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

Exhibit on the Ongoing Impact of Islamic Art at WC’s Kohl Gallery


In its first show of 2018, Washington College’s Kohl Gallery is presenting “Geometric Aljamía: A Cultural Transliteration,” an exhibition revisiting the ongoing impact of Islamic art, science, and philosophy throughout the world today. The show runs from Jan. 25 through March 6, and an opening reception, free and open to the public, will be Jan. 25 starting at 5 p.m.

“Geometric Aljamía: A Cultural Transliteration” is a group exhibition of American and Middle Eastern artists who consider two-dimensional geometry in art, showing hybrid connections between Europe, the Mediterranean basin, and the Middle East. Geometric ornamentation and diverse ethnic patterns from the Islamic world are incorporated into works of art.

The six artists first met during the 2013 Tasmeem Conference in Doha, Qatar: Tamin Sahebzada, Mohammed Saleh Amin, Reni Gower, Hanane Korchi, Sahebzada, Jorge Benitez, and Julia Townsend. The exhibition examines an extended cross-cultural integration of the arts into life.

On Feb. 1, Benjamin Tilghman, assistant professor of art and art history, will give a talk in the gallery delving into the exhibition. The talk runs from 4:30 and is free and open to the public.

Partial funding is provided by Virginia Commonwealth University, VCUarts, and the VCU Printing and Printmaking Department.

Kohl Gallery at Washington College’s Gibson Center for the Arts is open Wednesday to Friday, 1-6p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 11-4p.m.

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

The Legacy of Fireworks at Washington College


An artist’s rendering of “Radiant Echo,” the light sculpture to be installed  at Washington College as seen from the green

Former Washington College President Joseph McLain is remembered for many things – but his most enduring legacy may well be the tradition of fireworks displays at the college.

Joseph McLain shares a laugh with students

McLain, a chemistry professor with a lifelong interest in pyrotechnics, attended Washington College as an undergraduate. After college, he served in the World War II chemical corps, working on such projects as an improved hand grenade fuse and underwater cutting torches. After the war, he earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at Johns Hopkins, then returned to Washington College to teach. Over the course of his career, he made the college a center for the study of fireworks, both in the academic community and in the commercial fireworks industry. His work focused, among other things, on improving fireworks ignition systems so as to avoid timing errors, which can be dangerous as well as spoiling the artistic effect of a display. He became the 22nd president of the college in 1973 and served until his death in 1981 — the only alumnus ever to fill the position. McLain was also responsible for establishing the annual Fourth of July fireworks show in Chestertown, which he staged on the Washington College campus.

John Conkling

In 1969, McLain hired one of his former students – John Conkling, also a Hopkins Ph.D. – to join the chemistry faculty at the college. McLain steered Conkling toward the study of pyrotechnics, which resulted in the first federal safety standards for fireworks, jointly created by the two and enacted in 1976 by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. In 1985, Conkling resigned his full-time teaching position to become Executive Director of the American Pyrotechnics Association– a position he held until 1998. He continued to teach adjunct courses without taking a salary, and hosted the annual Summer Pyrotechnics Seminars at Washington College.

Largely because of the legacy of McLain and Conkling, fireworks displays have become a tradition at Washington College, welcoming students back to campus in the fall and celebrating graduation and other occasions such as the inauguration of current president Kurt Landgraf. Residents near the college often come out to see the shows, which are visible and audible from a wide area of the town.

Chestertown also had a history of fireworks before McLain, most notably with the Kent Manufacturing plant, which, beginning in 1941, produced defense materiel for World War II and then added fireworks to its line after the war. After his return to Chestertown, McLain became a partner in the business, along with founder Tony Fabrizi, whom he had met during his time in the service. That venture came to an end when a fire and explosion destroyed the plant in 1954. But McLain continued to work with the pyrotechnics industry, with a special interest in safety standards.

Now, to create a more permanent monument to McLain, Conkling and their pyrotechnics work, McLain’s daughter Lynn McLain, is raising funds for “Radiant  Echo,” an innovative art installation planned for the atrium of the Toll Science Center at the college. Intended to serve as an enduring art piece for the college and the town of Chestertown, “Radant Echo,” designed by Flux Studio of Baltimore, will be a three- dimensional grid of LED fixtures suspended in the 3-story atrium. The fixtures, which will hang to within 14 feet of the floor, will flash and flicker in emulation of a fireworks display, with chrome spheres suspended within the field to reflect and amplify the lights. According to a prospectus for the program, “As with fireworks, spectators will know that something will happen, but they won’t know exactly what, or exactly when.”

An artist’s rendering of”Radiant Echo” as seen from inside the atrium

The prospectus adds, “The choreography of the sculpture will draw from both the chemical behavior of fireworks and the phenomenal experience of observing them, contrasting familiar aerial exploding with inward collapsing at the atomic scale.” It will be programmed to operate in two states, depending on the time of day. Its default, resting state will feature short bursts of light at the outer edges of the sculpture, a “momentary flickering at the corner of one’s eye that vanishes almost as soon as it appears.” In its nighttime, or active, state, the tentative flickerings will “crescendo and then explode, piercing the darkness and dissolving into a cascading shower of light. At times the whole sculpture will erupt in a cacophony of explosions, recalling the grand finale of a fireworks show.” The displays will be visible from the campus green outside Toll Science Center and from Washington Avenue.as well as to those inside the building.

“Radiant Echo” will also have an educational function. Glenn Shrum, who designed the sculpture, plans to teach an interdisciplinary workshop while the piece is being installed. Also, college faculty will be able to use the sculpture in their classes on physics, chemistry, psychology, computer programming, and art. And as part of its installation, there will be a symposium on fireworks drawing on many different disciplines. There will also be a public honoring of Dr. Conkling and his wife Sandy.

Lynn McLain said on Jan. 7 that she hopes fundraising for the project will be completed within the year. Installation of the project is expected to take 14 to 16 months, she said. The final contacts for the construction of the project are in process.

To help promote the project, Lynn McLain has written an illustrated coffee-table book, For the Love of Fireworks, published in 2017. Proceeds from the book will help to fund the creation of “Radiant Echo.” The book is full of fascinating detail and would make a great gift. The book explores the history and cultural associations of fireworks, and includes a series of trivia questions such as when fireworks were invented, where the largest fireworks display on record took place, components used in their manufacture, and so forth. For the Love of Fireworks is available online at $56.99 from Amazon and other online booksellers.  Or buy the book, hard or softcover, directly from author McLain at http://www.loveoffireworks.com .   The price is the same and a direct purchase, McLain said, will result in a larger contribution to the project.

Fundraising is underway to cover the estimated $250,000 cost of building and installing “Raidant Echo.” McLain said on Jan. 7 that the campaign had raised just over $100,000. To contribute to the effort, contact Lynn McLain at 410-778-4515 or lmclain@ubalt.edu.  You can also contribute through the Washington College Office of Advancement at 410-778-7801. Checks can be made out to the Washington College Office of Advancement, with “Atrium Sculpture Project” in the memo line. The address is Washington College Office of Advancement,  300 Washington Ave.,  Chestertown, MD 21620.

And then look forward to fabulous firework displays on Washington College campus, both real and simulated via “Radiant Echo.”




Need a New Year’s Resolution? Sign Up for Lifelong Learning at Washington College


Make a New Year’s resolution to rediscover the joy of learning with Washington College Academy of Lifelong Learning’s exciting Spring Semester course line-up! There will be no quizzes, papers, or final exams – just learning for the joy of it. Plan to attend Spring Showcase on Thursday, January 11 at 4:00 pm in Hotchkiss Recital Hall on the Washington College Campus to meet teachers, enjoy refreshments and conversation, and learn about the 22 afternoon classes being offered between January 28 and April 27, 2018.

There are classes for every interest and passion.  Highlights of Session 1 (January 28-March 9) include “Sunday at the Movies: A Foreign Touch” with Nancy Hartman, featuring movies from 6 different countries. “From Fake News to Facebook” by Patrick McNabb will explore the new science of media psychology and offer ways to keep up with the breakneck changes in modern mass media and discern fact from fiction. “Technology in Kent County” with Dick Swanson will host a representative from a different local company each week to talk about their business and how technology is used as a key component in bringing their products to market. Health and wellness, astronomy, history, philosophy, and current topics in literature round out the offerings for the first session.

Session 2 (March 18-April 27) has more for literature lovers with “American Immigrant Literature” by Jean Austin and a reading of John Barth’s Eastern Shore historical satire, The Sot-Weed Factor with Jim Block. Cinema offerings will continue with “Latin American Film” by George Shivers, “Silent Cinema: An Introduction” by John Wieczoreck, and another round of “Sunday at the Movies” featuring Asian films. Nautical enthusiasts will enjoy “They Call It a Ditch” about the history and commerce of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway by Jack Shaum and the “History of Yacht Design” by Hanson Robbins. Great Decisions, 21st century international art, how to write an op-ed piece for publication, and many more courses on topics of high interest will also be offered.

Ready to learn? WC-ALL is the place for you! You can check out the full course catalog at http://www.washcoll.edu/offices/wc-all/what-were-studying.php/. Sign up for classes at Showcase, on-line, or by mail by Tuesday, January 16. For more information call the WC-ALL office at 410-778-7221.

Really Good Stuff: Washington College, Faculty and Staff Donates $28,000 to Local United Way


Washington College is donating $28,000 to United Way of Kent County, after 82 faculty and staff responded to President Kurt Landgraf’s pledge to match whatever they contributed.

“I am just so proud of the Washington College community, and I appreciate the generosity and caring of this faculty and staff,” Landgraf says. “This United Way campaign result is yet another indication that we take our mission seriously—they’re not just words on a document, but a living action statement to support our community.”

In late fall, Landgraf asked College employees to consider signing up for a payroll deduction to United Way of Kent County, pledging that he would match whatever they raised. Last year, eight employees gave through the payroll deduction for a total of $1,248. As of December 14, 82 employees had signed up for a total donation of $13,944. Landgraf matched this with $14,000.

“Many members of our Washington College community, including students, staff, and faculty, have had close associations with United Way agencies in a number of capacities,” says Sarah Feyerherm, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, and a member of United Way of Kent County’s Board of Directors. “But this recent financial commitment is emblematic of a recognition that we are all partners in improving the lives of Kent County residents. Kurt’s leadership and generosity was just contagious, and the response from our employees was heartwarming. My hope is that this is just the start of a sustained partnership between the College and the United Way of Kent County.”

United Way of Kent County raises and distributes funding to multiple organizations, with a focus on improving the health, education, and financial stability of Kent County residents. In addition to the College’s donations through the workplace campaign, the College has directly supported or provided resources for many United Way member organizations including Character Counts! Kent County, the Kent Center, St. Martin’s Ministries, the Community Food Pantry, Camp Fairlee/Easter Seals, Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties, Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay Council, Kent Forward, For All Seasons, Echo Hill Outdoor School, and the Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence.

Early in his tenure as Washington College President, Landgraf made United Way of Kent County a priority as a way for the College to do more to support the surrounding community.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but I grew up an orphan. I know what it’s like to seriously need the help of others,” Landgraf says. “This is one of the reasons that I have always been a big supporter of the United Way, and why, as soon as I came to Washington College, I got involved in United Way of Kent County. I know how much good this organization can do. And I want to make sure that everybody at our College knows how much good it can do, how it can lift up whole segments of our community’s population that need help the most.”

Washington College Students Bring Food, Fellowship to Community Table


Margot Patois (foreground, left) and other WC students serve local residents who are attending the Community Table dinner.

In the kitchen of the First United Methodist Church in Chestertown, excitement comes on a Monday evening in the form of enormous tin trays, as Washington College students Rose Adelizzi, Felicia Attor, and Lizzie Massey uncover them one at a time.

“Oh, that looks yummy!” says Cheryl Hoopes, a neighbor and volunteer at the Community Table, a dinner that happens every Monday night in the church’s fellowship hall. “Oh, my goodness, it’s still coming, guys! Turkey!” She helps the students and other volunteers uncover the dishes one by one—rice, some kind of mushroom and pasta casserole, roasted veggies—prepping them to go out onto three long tables that will serve as the buffet line once dinner begins. “We love it when the students come,” Hoopes says. “They’re just wonderful. It’s like Christmas every week for us.”

The students are members of Washington College’s Student Environmental Alliance (SEA) and its Food Recovery Network (FRN) chapter. Every Monday evening, they show up with leftover food from the College’s dining hall and contribute it to other food prepared for the Community Table, a weekly gathering that draws a wide range of local residents to share a meal together. The students help set up, serve, and dine with those who have come to dinner. Sometimes only a few are able to come; tonight, nearly a dozen students are helping.

Melia Greene, Felicia Attor, and Rose Adelizzi deliver food to the kitchen of the First United Methodist Church.

“We usually sit down and eat with them, get to know them, and it’s fun when you go into town and someone says, ‘Oh, you served food at the dinner!’ It’s nice to be connected to the town in that way,’’ says sophomore Gillian Heckert-Mitchell, an anthropology major who is now in her second semester of participating in the FRN. “It’s by far my favorite thing of the week. It gets you off the campus, and I just like to serve and meet the community.”

Like many other clubs on campus, the Student Environmental Alliance wanted to become more directly involved with something that served the larger community, says junior Samantha Trikeriotis, a psychology major and the current head of the FRN. Last year, several students worked to create a local chapter of the FRN, a national organization that mobilizes students on college campuses to prevent food waste by donating food that would not otherwise be used.

Don Stanwick, Director of Dining Services, helped the students get organized. The program is now in its third semester, going strong, and he’s encouraging the students to expand it. Stanwick says that Dining Services tries to forecast its menu for the day, estimating how much of a particular dish it will need for the College. Much of the time, leftover food goes into another meal for students, especially soups, he says. But if there’s a large portion that can’t, for whatever reason, be used in time or for another meal, Stanwick says that becomes food for the FRN.

“In the past, it got tossed, and it was just a waste,” he says. “This allows us to give food to somebody who needs food, and that’s why we like the program and we like to support it. It helps out. It’s one of those things that everyone can be involved in. You just have to give a little bit of your time.”

As of November 20, students had recovered 1,207 pounds of food during the fall semester, Trikeriotis says. They head to the dining hall at about 4 p.m. in the afternoon on Mondays and get trays of food, already heated and in a rolling food insulator that the students then drive down to the church. Working with other volunteers from the community, they set up and serve soup, salad, fresh veggies, and multiple entrees. A new addition this year is composting; the students have expanded the College’s composting program to include as much as possible from the Community Table dinner.

“It’s just another way to close the gap on food waste,” says sophomore Melia Greene, who heads up the SEA’s composting program. “It’s fun to teach people about it. Instead of wasting so much, we can teach them to give back.”

Students serving soup and salad wear their FRN ballcaps.

Pastor David Ryan says the Community Table typically draws 100 to 125 people each week. Some of them depend on the meal financially, and for others, it’s a way to connect to their community. People of all ages and backgrounds attend. About six volunteer cooks join up to 10 other volunteers who team up with the College students to provide the food, set up, serve, and clean up.

“It’s for everyone to participate,” Ryan says. “What’s wonderful to me is that people talk about diversity, but here they sit together and stand in line together. There are older people who are fine financially, but they don’t want to eat alone. We really try to serve everyone… being together is part of why we are doing this.”

Chestertown resident Pat Pardee attends nearly every Monday with her husband, Alvin. “It’s always very good,” she says. “You get all kinds of people. No matter who you are, you’re welcome. And it’s nice they have so many College students helping.”

Like many of the students, Trikeriotis says she’d never done anything like this before, and now, it’s something she looks forward to every week.

“Everyone here is really friendly,” she says. “Everyone is really kind, and they’re excited to see all the Washington College students.”