Meet the 2024 Recipients of the Seniors-to-Seniors Scholarship

by Susan Phillips


On the afternoon of Friday, April 5th, this year’s recipients of the Dean Stuart Stritzler-Levine Seniors-to-Seniors Scholarship shared information and answered questions about their senior projects in front of a small, but enthusiastic audience of LLI members. The occasion was the annual Seniors-to-Seniors Scholarship Recognition Tea, held in the Lázló Z. Bitó auditorium. The scholarships, which are funded by LLI, were created to support Bard senior students with costs related to their senior projects. This year, there were originally five recipients. One student graciously returned her scholarship funds when she found she did not need the financial assistance to complete her project. We heard from the remaining four, including one via a prepared video as he was out of the country. David Shein, Dean of Studies and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, proudly introduced each student.

Dean Stuart Stritzler-Levine, 1932-2020

Ray Smith

When I Stop That’s the End

Ray’s project explores gender identity questions, specifically ones about herself. She talked about how she loved to be photographed when she was a child in all kinds of costumes and the accompanying memories of creative freedom. In her project, she wanted to create a photographic exhibition, showing how her body has changed as she has grown up and the ways that the world “allows her,” and how she “allows herself,” to exist. Ray says that her project has been therapeutic, allowing her to work through the rules of youth while feeling like an outsider.

Danielle Dean

Thy New World: Thy Trials of Thy Fae

Danielle has written a fantasy world novel based on New York City in the 1970s for her senior project. This required extensive research on indigenous traditions, early Dutch colonization, and the social and political world of the 1970s. The story, set in the Americas, is one where “the displacement of Africa and colonization never happened.” Themes in the book include trials of the fae (fairies), hoodoo vs. Christianity, indigenous wars in the Americas, fairies vs. humans, queer vs. normal, and elements of ancient Egyptian, Nubian, South American, and Caribbean mythology. In her book, Danielle has created a colorful world of fantasy meant to be a “mirror of contemporary” life. For Danielle, it is also “a love letter to myself and my culture.”

Nine Reed-Mera

The Potential of Integron 1 Integrase Inhibition to Halt Gene Cassette Dissemination and Integration in Multidrug-Resistant Pathogenic E. coli

Nine was born in Los Angeles to a Spanish mom and an American dad. She grew up living in Los Angeles, Houston, Spain, and Columbia. When she was still in high school, she learned of the prediction that an imminent threat to humans is the “continuous increase in antibiotic-resistant infections,” which are estimated in the not-that-distant future to cause more deaths than many other major causes of death combined. Nine arrived at Bard College with a “seek-and-destroy mindset” and well aware that the increase of antibiotic resistance bacteria is one of the most serious global health threats facing humanity.

Much of the current antibiotic research is based on targeting and destroying vital bacterial systems, which causes “massive cell death and, consequently, the fast evolutionary selection towards antibiotic resistance.” Nine, with the help of her senior project advisor, Bard associate biology professor Brooke Jude, adjusted her approach to think differently. She modified her approach to “target resistance from a very different perspective, focusing on the gene knockout of a single component of a bacterial system that allows for the spread of resistance.” Instead of choosing the “kill switch” approach, she would work on targeting what would stop the expression of resistance.

Nine terms the specific description of her project as “very science-languagey” and understands the challenge for the nonscientific mind to take in what she is doing. However, she comes into the lab each day with excitement and the feeling that it is “really the best thing in the world to be able to study the intricacy of life, find patterns, and imagine how separate systems could be paired together.” She says that she “fell in love with the microbes” she was studying, with their “diversity, resilience, and adaptability.” And she has also accumulated an “entire notebook of research ideas!”

Nine found the enormous amount of effort and research to be challenging for her project. She reports that she had to redo experiments “an embarrassing amount of times” but learned to use new software and other helpful tools. She is still working on her project and hopes to complete her paper with the results soon.

Josh Guerrero

“Entre cerros ciudades” (“The In-Between, of Mountains and Cities”)

Josh, a music major, graduated from Bard in December of 2023 and was in Bogata, Columbia, on the day of the Tea so we heard about his project via a video. Josh’s project is a series of field recordings intended to connect Josh to the land at Bard through sound and “capture the natural and urban environments” of the college by creating a ”sound map” of recordings. He did recordings at Bard and around the Hudson Valley, creating an “aural record of these environments, showing how they interact with one another and how much human influence and interference occurs in the recorded spaces.” Josh’s ultimate goal in doing these recordings was to find “harmony.”

Always an Eye-Opener

Each year, it is wonderfully surprising to hear from Bard seniors about their senior projects. This year’s scholarship recipients are no exception. Every senior needs to complete a senior project to graduate. The projects tend to be intensely personal, highly innovative, and incredibly diverse. Hopefully, many LLI members will attend next year’s Seniors-to-Seniors Tea to hear about the students we are helping out as they finish up their time at Bard. Look for an invite and see you there in the spring of 2025.