Anton, Steinbrecher alumni share experiences at April 24 panel

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Former recipients of Anton and Steinbrecher fellowships returned to campus April 24 to celebrate the creation of the Steinbrecher and Anton Fellows Society. Pictured are (l. to r.) Harrison Mackler ’07, Amy Levine ’09, Anna Zonderman ’10, Yeshemebet Legesse ’03, Brooks Marmon ’07, Trista Myers ’10, Stephen Steinbrecher ’55, Michael Staton ’02, Barbara Anton ’56, Sean Hurley ’06, Courtney Croteau ’07, Rebecca Dezan ’06 and President David Angel.

When he was a student at Clark University, Dr. Harrison Mackler ’07 was awarded a Steinbrecher Fellowship to experiment with synthetic alternatives to grafts for the repair of bone damaged by injury or disease.

On April 24, Mackler was delighted to report to an audience in Dana Commons that the knowledge accrued from that Steinbrecher research, followed by his years of work and study at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, have borne fruit. Mackler, a periodontics resident at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Dentistry, related that a day earlier he’d completed his first solo surgery, rebuilding a man’s jaw.

His story was one of seven shared by former recipients of Anton and Steinbrecher fellowships who participated in a panel discussion to help celebrate the creation of the Steinbrecher and Anton Fellows Society. More past Anton and Steinbrecher fellows were in the audience, and they were joined by the current crop of Clark students who are receiving fellowships to conduct research and complete projects across the globe.

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Stephen Steinbrecher ’55 addresses the audience.

President David Angel welcomed the Anton and Steinbrecher fellows back to campus, noting that they have supplied inspiration for Clark’s recent direction with its undergraduate program, which has culminated in the Liberal Education and Effective Practice model. “You were the original LEEP pioneers,” he said. In this context, Angel said he was particularly interested in hearing about the career and life paths the alumni had chosen.

The panelists were asked a series of questions by Sharon Krefetz, the Andrea
B. and Peter D. Klein ’64 Distinguished Professor and director of the Steinbrecher Fellowship Program, about their experiences as fellows, and about their post-Clark paths.

Michael Staton ’02 connected his Anton Fellowship, in which he studied the rise of punk rock in China, to his position as CEO of Inigral, a social media networking company in San Francisco that works with colleges and universities to build communities to improve student success. He said the company serves half a million students at 150 colleges and universities and is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Staton’s route to success, he noted, was “nonlinear,” and included several years as a high school teacher where he “threw out the curriculum and reinvented it from scratch.” That same passion for innovation drew him to the world of venture capital, where, as cofounder of LearnCapital, he funds entrepreneurs developing new ways to use technology to improve learning. The key, he said, is to be able to “present your idea in a coherent fashion” as “you march down that pathway of inquiry.”

‘Once you learn how to understand, you can deal with it.’

~ Yeshemebet Legesse ’03

Yeshemebet Legesse ’03 conducted her Anton Fellowship in Tanzania, providing AIDS/HIV awareness and prevention education. Today she works at the Nationalities Service Center in Philadelphia, where she counsels immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, including torture survivors. She advised current students to “milk everything from your experience at Clark.” Her greatest gift from the University, Legesse said, was learning how to listen — to everything from the personal histories of fellow students to conversations in the cafeteria. “[By listening] you understand the victims of war and genocide.”

Brooks Marmon ’07 combined a passion for history and an interest in social justice when he traveled to Ghana to volunteer with two youth organizations in the Buduburam refugee camp, while also researching his honors thesis on E. Franklin Frazier and pan-Africanism. Today, he works at the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C., managing the USAID and State Department programs for global partnerships between U.S. educational institutions and similar institutions around the world to find solutions to problems facing developing countries.

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Amy Levine ’09 recalls her Steinbrecher project in Ireland.

With fiddle in hand, Amy Levine ’09 traveled across Ireland to understand how Irish musical traditions evolved and influenced the kind of bluegrass music that she grew up playing. Her project not only involved recording music in Irish pubs, but also taking the stage to play alongside those welcoming musicians. When she returned, she formed a band, The Great Whiskey Rebellion, which plays at venues around Worcester and Boston. “My fellowship inspired me to travel and take an ethnographic approach to music,” she said. “It was my hidden passport to learn about another culture.”

Anna Zonderman ’10 parlayed her Steinbrecher Fellowship project designing and launching a pilot program for New Haven, Conn., teens with asthma into an educational opportunity at Yale University. She earned a master of public health degree in social and behavioral sciences at Yale, and is currently completing a two-year postgraduate fellowship in International Early Childhood Development Programs and policies at the Yale Child Study Center.

Trista Myers ’10 traveled to Bath, England, for her Steinbrecher Fellowship project, helping to organize conferences focused on the future of Web applications, Web design and mobile platforms. Today she works as a corporate event planner for AOL.

Asked what advice they would give to current Clark students, Levine urged students to take advantage of every available resource. “There are so many resources and passionate people at your fingertips. Talk to your professors, do research, and explore your ideas.”

Marmon said he embraced the liberal arts while at Clark, which has been vital even as his current job involves a good deal of financial and legal work. His education has paid “tangible dividends,” he said.

“If you’re doing great work, then your work will speak for you,” Myers said. “Apply yourself; go after the things you want. Getting a Steinbrecher helped me find my internship. It will open doors you didn’t know were there.”

In the current economy, Staton said, “the best jobs are not offered; you have to create them. You need to convince an organization that you’re the most valuable thing they can invest in.” He also suggested that computer technology should be a core component of the liberal arts curriculum.

Following the panel discussion, Stephen Steinbrecher ’55 recalled how he and his wife, the late Phyllis Steinbrecher, were looking for a way to honor their son, David ’81, who had passed away. They appreciated what Tom and Barbara Anton, both Class of 1956, had done in 2000 to create a fellowship that gave students an opportunity for independent study. As funding for the Anton Fellowship was winding down, the Steinbrecher family created the Steinbrecher Fellowship in 2005 as the ideal way to keep their son’s memory alive.

“David was everything all you Clarkies are,” Stephen Steinbrecher told the fellows in attendance. He described his feelings on the occasion with the Yiddish word “kvell.”

“It’s an old expression,” he said with a smile, “and it means ‘bursting with joy.’”