In the summer of 1963, after finishing classes at the University of Tuebingen in Germany, I headed off to Austria for a co-op job. I had lined up a position at the Biologische Station Wilhelminenberg, which stood high in the hills above Vienna and looked down upon the spire of Saint Stephan’s Cathedral that pierced the sky above the old city. The station was located in an abandoned World War II anti-aircraft gun emplacement that had been transformed into a biological lab after the war by Otto and Lilli Koenig who were squatters on the property. Old barracks were repurposed as conference rooms, film processing and scientific laboratories, and housing for an interesting collection of staff and animals. The actual concrete gun emplacements were flooded and made perfect ponds for aquatic wildlife.
The atmosphere at the biological station was very different from the formal academic world of the university. Most of the staff were not university trained, but all were impressive naturalists, photographers, editors, or animal caregivers. Almost all had come to work there from some unusual background. One of my coworkers had been a tank commander at the age of 17 towards the end of WWII and had been blown out of the top of his tank when it was hit by allied forces’ explosives. Another was a single mother who had been abandoned by her family for having a child out of wedlock. I was the “visiting foreign student.” Somehow all of these interesting people, many of whom were in some way rejected by society, found their way to the Koenigs’ biological station.
Lilli and Otto Koenig were known for their research as well as for producing popular nature films and photography. They used their films for a well-known nationwide natural history television show. At that time, Austrian TV operated live in the zoo behind the Schoenbrunn Palace and had only a couple of government-run channels, so the Koenigs’ regularly scheduled nature program was enjoyed by nearly every Austrian who owned a television. One evening I was recruited to be on the show as the visiting American student to talk about North American wildlife. I was to join Noble Prize recipient and Otto Koenig’s mentor, Dr. Konrad Lorenz.
Needless to say, the main feature of the program was the world-famous Dr. Lorenz. He appeared to me to be a grumpy elderly fellow who expected everyone to defer to him, making the Austrian television program director very nervous. In addition, the director was worried about how I, the young foreigner, would perform on live television. Much to my satisfaction, my performance went over smoothly, but the TV staff was disappointed with that of the featured guest whom they assumed would be comfortable on a televised program. After that experience, I briefly became somewhat of a local celebrity because all of the locals I encountered in shops and restaurants had seen me on national TV talking about American chipmunks and woodchucks!
Photo credit: https://www.travelandleisure.com
Glen Helen operates the area’s only raptor rehabilitation center. The goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to release healthy animals back into the wild. Injured birds are brought in by caring people from all over the community and are given a new chance at life. The Raptor Center provides around-the-clock care to ensure the best chance of release for these animals. On top of the care required, the employees also make it a priority to educate the public about the importance of raptors. If a bird cannot be released due to injuries, it may become an ambassador bird. These birds reside in the front enclosures that are open to the public and may also travel with employees as they inform the public about them.
My co-op working at the Raptor Center has taught me so much about myself and the wildlife I work with, in addition to opening to door for me in regard to future opportunities in conservation. I serve as the data analyst for the center and work on-site at least once a week to gain hands-on experience with the birds. This is at odds with most people who have co-oped here, who typically stick with physical work, which consists of cleaning the enclosures, feeding the birds, and even handling and bird training. However, even with the limited time I have spent with the animals, I find interactions with them extremely rewarding and have learned to be calm and respectful even in situations where you may feel uncertain or uncomfortable.
Most of my work is comprised of organizing raw data collected at the center over the past fifty years. I scan each binder of data so that I have all of the documents in a PDF before manually entering each piece of information into a spreadsheet. The purpose of this is to provide the center with valuable statistics that are easily accessible. Some of these numbers include the average time birds spend here and
the leading causes of injured raptors. This job is important because it is preserving paper records that might otherwise get damaged or destroyed, and because data entry takes an incredible amount of time that the full-time employees caring for raptors do not have.
My time here exceeded my expectations and I plan to continue volunteering at the Raptor Center and working on this data project until I graduate in the spring.
This spring, my weekdays consist of rising at 6 a.m., working until 3:15, and usually class or rehearsal, while my weekends are full of dance or song practices and performances—a pretty packed term, I would say! Nevertheless, change is inevitable; sometimes our plates are full and, as long as what you’re spending time on is nutritious, time is never wasted.
For my first co-op, I have been working at CareSource, a nonprofit that provides public healthcare programs in Ohio, while also continuing my work as an artist and becoming a part of a Black farming project. As part of my farming work, I have been attending one class a week at the Edgemont Incubator Farm Program, which teaches me how to care for and prepare the soil, about different types of pests and weeds, time management, and introduces us to marketing outlets that will allow us to sell our very own produce. Every Wednesday, I feel so drained when I get off work so the thought of class from 5:30 to 8:30 just seems like so much, but I’ve made the effort to make it to every class no matter what, and, without fail, I am reenergized as soon as we begin.
My partner, Reggie, my friend, Dionte, and my father are also a part of my journey to become a Black Millennial farmer! It’s exciting venturing out onto our plots of land to see what hard work and dedication look like. I’ll give you a visual—it looks like bushels of healthy red kale that were transplanted a few weeks ago, sprouting onions and scallions (or seeds still germinating below the surface), other members’ tomatoes, and a groundhog wobbling away with its stomach full of our lettuce. This is a thrilling adventure I am embarking on! Grateful to have this opportunity in my hometown!
Throughout my past co-op, I have experienced many interesting things, not only through my current position as an Executive Assistant with the Delaware Department of Labor but also with my experience with the U.S.-Mexico immigration process.
Last year, I submitted a post to Antioch Engaged about the tremendous pain that I felt both emotionally and physically when my sister and I went to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in order to attain our permanent residency in the United States. Although it ended with a positive result, there were so many unexpected twists and turns that were often difficult to swallow. If you would like to hear more about that journey, you can read my post here.
This year, I was lucky enough to return to Ciudad Juarez and watch my sister receive her permanent residency. Surprisingly, it was an experience full of hope, excitement, research, and development. It was the first time that I was able to see the city as a beautiful metropolis of cultural expression, likely due to the fact that I was no longer afraid of never returning to the U.S. and that the fear associated with the immigration process during Donald Trump’s presidency has eased with the inauguration of Joseph Biden. I was able to actually talk to others about their process, where they came from, where they are going, and what they are expecting to do for the country once they return to the United States.
I will be presenting more about my experience, including my interviews and findings about the immigration process, during my spring 2022 Spanish Colloquia Presentation.
The same questions that I would present to others while in Mexico would linger in my mind even after I returned to the States. I was reflecting on what I have done to better my community and, to be honest, at the time I didn’t know what to say besides that I am a college student who will someday be someone, but that wasn’t enough for me. This inner turmoil prompted me to look into what I could do while in Delaware for the rest of my co-op, which led to me applying for and later receiving a position at the Department of Labor in Delaware.
In the beginning, my title was a Claimant Relations Assistant, which essentially boiled down to responding to emails. I would read people’s personal stories about how they haven’t received benefits in months and how they were going to lose their homes, only to have to later email them back saying, “Due to the global pandemic, we have a 135+ day backlog for deputy assignments to cases. Please continue to file weekly benefits until a deputy has reached out to you … Best, Ulises.” This made me reflect on the true reality of the pandemic and how I felt I needed to do more for these claimants. I began asking questions about the programs for claimants and how decisions were made, which gave the executives and esquires I worked with faith that I could learn how to process claims and release payments. I can’t express in words how it felt to release payments to someone who had been waiting for benefits since 2020. Calling them and hearing their relief and appreciation made my job so much more fulfilling.
As I continued to climb the ladder within the Department of Labor and was eventually promoted to Executive Assistant, I was given more responsibilities, including making case decisions like a deputy, running business inquiries for the executive I worked for, and having conversations with State Representatives about unemployment insurance. This position allowed me to learn more about the unemployment process on a state level, while also analyzing the processes in other states. I have never had an experience where I was able to do so much in such a small amount of time. It is a true blessing to have been able to do this for my co-op.
The only downside to working in this type of environment is seeing the way in which states have failed people by having pieces missing from their policy puzzle. What I mean by this is that the average person’s life is worse because the government never implemented a plan B in case a pandemic struck the world and no one was able to work. Furthermore, it’s difficult to know that some states support their unemployed citizens through an employer tax while some states are still taxing employees instead. There are so many ways in which the government could run more effectively and communicate more efficiently that would improve our country, which is part of the reason why I feel so blessed to be able to help people on a daily basis and work with people who devote their lives to giving back to the community.
Photo credit: https://52perfectdays.com/
Sitting outside watching groups of people walk past me is a particularly calming activity. Some stop to take pictures of the massive archway that marks the next part of Old Town, some slow down, and point. Others stop and look at the café menu across the street from me. The plat au jour is galettes with a choice of a hot or cold drink and a pastry. My cold hands are currently wrapped around a warm mug of coffee because I was certain of the vocabulary needed to order it. I have been sitting at this table for about two hours just watching people, eavesdropping on conversations, slowly eating my way through the pastry case inside the café.
It’s not until I hear people complaining about the Pass Sanitaire, or the French Health Pass necessary to gain access to locales, that I feel myself coming back to the present situation and my place in the world. I am three weeks into my French language co-op in France during a pandemic. Language Capstone Co-ops are meant to allow students the opportunity to work and live in a place where they speak their target language for the majority of their day and interactions. After spending three years, or six classes, studying the language, culture, and history of a certain language, students are then supposed to go on the adventure of living in a different country. Some students do have the option to stay in the United States for such co-ops, but it was important to me to go to France.
For my first two weeks, I went to museums and cafés in new cities every day, taking a massive amount of pictures. I scheduled my days around when the pharmacies were open to ensure I got tested for Covid at least every three days for my safety and for others. The next six weeks I stayed with a family of five—two parents, their six-month-old twins, and their two-year-old child. There I read books, drew, and played with the children, as well as cooked for them. With the exception of meal times where their parents and I would speak in French about the day and certain housekeeping responsibilities, I spoke entirely in English around them in order to expand their language abilities.
I was usually in charge of buying vegetables from a local farm and getting bread from town when the parents were not working. Standing shivering in a long line to enter a boulangerie, I enjoyed watching people walk through the outdoor market to buy their fruits and veggies. There is an old lady with a rolling cart for all of her groceries in front of me. Just behind me is a priest in full robes on his phone and behind him is a mom with her child in a stroller. We are all wearing masks as we wait for our turn to enter the bakery. In the distance, I hear the sound of drums and the tin of a man saying something into a microphone. My French is best in small groups and so I don’t try to decipher what this far-off voice is saying. A few moments later a group of about forty people turns the corner with signs and drums. Their chants are not muffled as almost none of them wear masks.
This is an anti-Pass Sanitaire protest, much like the ones I have been reading about in the news. They are opposing the controversial health pass used for long-distance trains and buses, museums, restaurants, cafés, and other public spaces that are inside and have more than ten people. One gets a pass by either having a negative Covid test from the past three days or showing proof of vaccination. This is the reality for all people traveling in E.U. countries right now. Personally, I find comfort and security in the heightened precautions.
During my time in France, I stayed with two different host families. After my first, I had about two weeks of traveling before I went to my next family. The first family was energetic and demanding so I was ready for new experiences. Coming to France for my Language Capstone made me feel a whirlwind of emotions. I was always just outside of the comfort zone of my language speaking abilities, feeling like I understood what was going on but having some difficulties joining in on conversations. However, this changed by the time I went on my two weeks of traveling. I went to Annecy and Geneva and was surprised by how much more I was able to understand in passing interactions at cafés and grocery stores. It had been hard for me to gauge my language progression previously, especially in an immersive environment where the goal is not to be perfect but to be understood, but I had a moment on a boat tour in Annecy where I realized that I had understood most of what the guide had said in French before the English translation was given. Small moments like this grew my confidence in situations where I would normally have felt out of my depth.
Of course, we all need a reality check. After spending six hours getting on and off trains, the travel gunk and wish to stop moving would be normal for most people, me included. Two heavy bags weighed down my back as I shuffled off the stopped train into the cold wind. The train station was typical for small towns such as this one, only having two benches and a post in the middle with information about the coming and going trains. The squeak of the train leaving was the only sound that broke the silence as nobody else got off at this stop. I walked to the parking lot across the tracks as a car pulled up. A little girl in a purple and pink tutu dress hopped out and begins to speak quickly in French as though she could never run out of breath. Right behind her is her older brother who starts asking me questions and pointing in the direction of the train stop as she continues to talk. My weary brain is slowly piecing together the string of questions when another girl around the age of 12 exits the car and begins poking my bags. One can truly say they are fluent in a language when they are able to talk to children.
This was my second host family, with the parents and their three kids (ages 5, 9, and 12). They loved going for hikes, spending afternoons at the library, and generally existing together. I helped cook, clean, and assisted the eldest daughter with her communication challenges. I was welcomed into their family with open arms and I learned the most French with them by far, simply because three kids who always have a million things to say and a hundred ways of saying the same thing will do that to you.
This co-op was special, not only because I had the time to work on my language skills, but because it was my last one. While I am excited to graduate from Antioch, I will miss the mini lives I got to try out every year. All of my co-ops, especially this one, let me observe the world from different hilltops, so that after I graduate I will have a better idea of which hill I want to move on to.
When I submitted my proposal for my self-designed co-op over the winter quarter, the project I had in mind looked very different than what it has evolved into. Initially, I was hoping to spend the entirety of my time immersed in a creative project. My original idea was to write a new piece of flash fiction every day of the week from the start of the term to the end, resulting in 75 works that I would self-publish. While I am still undertaking this project, it is now only adjacent to my co-op.
Upon receiving my co-op fellowship letter, I discovered that there was no mention of my creative project, the focus of my proposal. Instead, my passing mention of potentially offering tutoring help in the Writing Institute was latched onto with the determination of a tick. My ESL qualifications in conjuncture with my willingness to offer tutelage morphed my desired co-op into the position of the ESL Services Coordinator at Antioch College.
While I am not frustrated with my co-op experience so far, it would be disingenuous to express a lack of frustration overall.
Currently, I spend most of my week in the writing institute, with open office hours available for any student who needs writing tutoring. A good deal of my time is spent detailing how Antioch can assist students who are English language learners. My first project was writing a recommendation for admission policy in regards to English language proficiency in applicants who are learning English. I also recently began to develop a low resource support plan that the college can implement in its current mainstream classrooms with minimal difficulty.
Outside of writing policy recommendations, I have gathered resources so that the Writing Institute can better assist English language learners. As of right now, the existing resources are all materials offered free online; however, there are select resources that ought to be purchased that I have identified. Unfortunately, I was not given a budget allotment and I am unable to purchase them.
For more updates on my work, please visit my website here.
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience such a beautiful term. It has been incredibly eye-opening and inspirational to be around so many wonderful people who are so dedicated to their work. I was given the special offer of being able to take two co-ops at once, and I simply could not refuse the offer; I have had the pleasure of working at both Heartbeat Learning Gardens and the Glen Helen Raptor Center.
Heartbeat Learning Gardens is a non-profit organization that revolves around farm work. For eleven weeks, I lived in a small room in a farmhouse there, sharing the kitchen with two other people who lived in separate trailers, while I worked with the land. Pulling weeds, planting, and preparing beds were my main responsibilities, and I loved every minute of it. In fact, after the first few weeks, I began to love it so much that I developed a deep attachment to the land and the success of the plants. I found myself actually worried when the weather was suboptimal for growing conditions, and I crossed my fingers when temperatures abruptly dipped so low that they could’ve potentially killed off the crops we planted.
My passion for the work is only amplified by the fact that it’s all done for the sake of improving people’s living circumstances—none of the food we grow is for profit! Nearly all of the crops are donated to families in need. The social justice aspect of the work really gave me a sense of pride on harvest day, knowing that what I was doing was going to help improve the lives of hundreds of people.
The Glen Helen Raptor Center was a very different experience, as the work I was doing revolved around birds. The Raptor Center is a rescue center that takes in injured raptors and nurses them back to health before releasing them into the wild. We take in around 200 birds a year and successfully release a majority of them. My job mostly consisted of caring for the birds by feeding them, cleaning up after them, and even handling some of them. I have developed a bond with each and every bird I’ve worked with and I see them as the most beautiful creatures.
These places have given me so much, not only in terms of appreciation for the respective work I engaged in while being a part of each organization but also life skills and an ability to build and be a part of a community of people who can rely on each other and work together. As my co-op starts to wind down, I have been thinking back to all the great times I’ve had and all the life-long friendships I’ve made, and even all of the lessons I’ve learned during my time at both places. It fills me with so much joy to think about how I’ve grown and all the challenges I overcame in order to become a more mature person overall this term.
The Antioch College Board of Trustees announced the selection of Dr. Jane Fernandes as the third president. Fernandes — most recently president of Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina — will join Antioch College on August 16. She will be the second female (and first deaf) president of the College and the third president since its relaunch as an independent institution in 2010.
The search for a new president began in early 2021 after Dr. Tom Manley announced his departure from Antioch in 2020 with a Search Committee composed of Antioch College trustees, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and Yellow Springs community members.
“Dr. Jane Fernandes brings broad academic experience, scholarship, and a solid record of active engagement in social justice and diversity,” said Board of Trustees Chair Maureen Lynch. “Her appreciation for shared governance and cooperative education are additional valuable assets. Given the challenges faced by small institutions of higher education across the country, and by Antioch College specifically, we are acutely aware of the need to move boldly and with purpose into this next chapter. We firmly believe that Jane Fernandes is the leader the College needs at this moment.”
“Dr. Fernandes possesses the entrepreneurial savvy as well as the administrative expertise necessary to augment and enhance Antioch’s fiscal and human capital,” said search chair Ro Nita Hawes Saunders. “She understands that leadership is not the prerogative to command and control but an opportunity to enlighten and empower Antiochians with the skill and the will to realize the vision and achieve the mission of the College.”
“I am excited to be joining Antioch College,” she said. “This is an especially important time in the history of the College. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working with the dedicated and talented faculty, staff, trustees, students, and alumni, as well as reaching out to community members and businesses. As we continue to assess what the higher education landscape will look like following the pandemic, this is our opportunity to create together a bright future and build on the creation of a new Antioch College that is already underway.”
See Dr. Fernandes’ message to the Antioch College community here.
Photo credit: https://www.diverseeducation.com
For this winter co-op, I was able to continue with a small but significant part of my life goals. I came to Mexico City—and traveled to other parts of Mexico—to work on a documentary discussing Mexica dances and their part in war.
This film will show just a part of the full scope of purposes that pre-Hispanic dances have. They are used to heal people, to exercise, to celebrate, to bless the land, to ask for permission to do certain things like engaging in war, etc. These dances can be found all over the central and southern parts of Mexico and were crucial to many cultures, such as the Mayans and Mixtecas.
This is a personal project for me and therefore I am in charge of how I spend my time, which has given me the opportunity of exploring and traveling whenever I need in order to learn more about my culture. On a usual day, I investigate where I can find information about these dances, whether that be in museums, with friends and family, or with inhabitants of central Mexico. Then, whenever I have time, I cut and edit the videos I have taken of dancers, seeing in what ways I can make it look more interesting for everyone.
When I am done with my documentary in the spring, I plan to show it on campus and make it public on social media and YouTube so that everyone can enjoy seeing some fragments of my culture. This has been a really rich and liberating experience for me that will help me move towards my goal of making a career out of filming movies and series about my culture, history, and the arts. Though this was not the perfect co-op and was just the beginning of a long journey to fulfill my dream, all great things start from something so small and humble.
My co-op story started with one passion in mind: media production and the arts.
Of course, that wasn’t the only deciding factor in my decision. I knew going into the spring term that I didn’t feel comfortable traveling, but also needed a place to stay. Antioch College is my only home at the moment, so I needed to find a co-op that would help me cover my room and board payment. It was a very scary and stressful situation for me. I wasn’t exactly sure where I’d go from here if I couldn’t find a place to live that I could afford and, unfortunately, due to differences in beliefs, I wasn’t welcome back with family. Thankfully, my co-op advisor, Luisa Bieri, found the perfect job opportunity that relieved my biggest fear just in time. I give her my sincerest thank you!
Right now, I am working with James Lippincott and Anna Robinson in video post-production. Our main goal is to produce video content for both the main Antioch YouTube and Vimeo channels, as well as the Antioch alumni YouTube channel. I’m currently working on a few projects, including a video highlighting actor John Lithgow’s moments at the Antioch Under the Stars Virtual Gala event. Additionally, I have been editing a series of short videos of students thanking staff, alumni, and other people in their lives, which is being dubbed the “Thank-A-Thon Event.”
For anyone interested in viewing a video I have completed, check out the one down below, which is of Antioch College’s 2020 Reunion’s Open Mic Event! It was a really fun video to edit, and one of the first I got to work on.
Working on video post-production has been an incredibly exciting opportunity for me. Media, and art in general, has been a big passion of mine ever since I was young. I remember waking up every morning to watch cartoons, then heading to school and drawing those exact same characters on my homework just a few moments later. My introduction to animation opened up a rabbit hole that has led to who I am today, and has introduced me to other means of media production such as music and video!
Overall, I don’t have any words other than that co-op has been great, and I thank everyone who has allowed me this opportunity!