How I Spent my Summer Vacation:
Albright Students Tackle Research, Creative Projects During Time Off
July 25, 2013
a complete list of summer 2013 ACRE projects, visit www.albright.edu/elcdc/el/ACRE/recipients.html
Pa. – Susie Benitez will never look at wool the same way again.
The Albright College costume design major is accustomed to
working with the fiber, especially for crafting period pieces and turning store-bought
yarn into hats and scarves. But like many consumers, Benitez didn’t “really
think about how [wool] is made or how it started.”
That’s all changed, thanks to her participation in an
Albright Creative Research Experience (ACRE) project this summer, which saw the
rising junior from Philadelphia leave her city ways for farm life in Utah.
There, she is researching the wool industry and traditional hand-spinning
techniques, speaking to shepherds and weavers, and learning firsthand how to
spin shorn fleece into yarn.
“This is something I probably would have never of done if we
didn’t have this program,” said Benitez, when reached by phone from Utah. “I
don’t have the means to go out and spin for a summer. I don’t even own a
The ACRE program is a multi-disciplinary initiative that
affords students the opportunity to conduct research or pursue creative
endeavors during their summer vacations or January Interim sessions. Working
with faculty mentors, they can choose topics from various disciplines.
“It’s like a sabbatical for students,” said Kim Justeson, director
of experiential learning in the College’s Experiential Learning and Career Development Center, which oversees the
program. “They focus on something they really want to delve
into and find out more about.”
This summer, 13 students are participating in the program,
working in such fields as anthropology, biology, biochemistry, economics and
fashion. Their topics range from the evolution of moral opinion to economic
development in Sub-Saharan Africa to the catalytic activity of aluminum amidate
Anthropology major Rhiannon Hansing is spending her summer
researching genocide, exploring the conditions that give rise to such
atrocities and how this scholarship can lead to future prevention, and
developing a more comprehensive legal and moral definition of genocide than
those presently used. For her work, Hansing is analyzing ethnographies,
conducting interviews, and surveying Berks County residents to gauge their
awareness of genocide.
Through ACRE, she is able to utilize Albright’s library and
Holocaust Resource Center and tap into software on Albright computers to
analyze her data. Weekly ACRE luncheons on campus, during which students
provide status updates on their work, is offering her invaluable faculty
“[The ACRE] is a really good opportunity,” said Hansing.
Typically students work on ACRE projects on campus; Benitez
is a rare exception. The College covers room and board and provides stipends.
The ACRE program also exposes students to real-world,
workplace dynamics, said Paula Trimpey, assistant professor of theatre and
fashion design and a longtime faculty adviser for ACRE. She is working with
Benitez this summer.
“It’s a different teacher-student relationship. It’s
one-on-one, more like a senior and junior colleague relationship,” said
Trimpey, who accompanied Benitez to Utah. “And you’re both making discoveries
at the same time.”
Students give an informal presentation on their research
during the summer and a full presentation in the fall. ACRE students often go
on to present their findings at regional or national conferences or use it as a
springboard for further study.
Albright is a nationally ranked, private college with a rigorous liberal arts curriculum with an interdisciplinary focus. The College’s hallmarks are connecting fields of learning, collaborative teaching and learning, and a flexible curriculum that allows students to create an individualized education. Albright College enrolls 1,650 undergraduates in traditional programs, and another 600 adult students in accelerated degree and graduate programs.