What Scholars Faculty & Staff Did on Their Spring Break

At the start of the 2018–2019 academic year, we ran a story on some of the interesting things Scholars students and alumni did during their summer break. But students aren’t the only ones in Scholars who pursue other adventures when class isn’t in session. We caught up with some of our Scholars faculty and staff to see how they spent the most recent winter and spring breaks.


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Jane Polcen

Role in Scholars: Graduate assistant, Justice and Legal Thought

Winter break activity: Hockey at Capital One Arena, home of the Washington Capitals

I did a lot of hockey over winter break. Once or twice a year, the Washington Capitals invite members of my USA Warriors ice hockey team, which is composed of disabled veterans, to have a shoot-out during intermission of one of their games. I am one of only two women on the team. [Polcen served as an active duty judge advocate—a lawyer—in the U.S. Army before coming to the University of Maryland.]

The Caps also routinely have a veteran go on the ice for the National Anthem, and I got the opportunity to do so one evening. It was pretty awe-inspiring to have tens of thousands of Caps fans honoring me for my service. And, I got a fist bump from TJ Oshie!


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Pat O’Brien

Role in Scholars: Associate director, International Studies

Winter break activity: Navy Reserve stint in Colorado

During winter break, I was on Navy Reserve orders to an Air Force base in Colorado, where I completed a month-long course on military space fundamentals. I designed hypothetical satellite systems, tested a nanosat in a lab and learned about the myriad ways all branches of the military—not to mention the general public—rely on military and civilian satellites. My weekend activities included snowshoeing and watching a rodeo with my cousin. [O’Brien was on Navy Reserve orders again during spring break, this time supporting a multinational exercise in Nebraska.]


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Erica Smith

Role in Scholars: Associate Director, Justice and Legal Thought

Winter break activity: New Year’s Eve dance event

I attended a dance event called Spotlight New Year’s Celebration in Ypsilanti, Mich. I have been on staff at the event for the past 8 or so years. [In addition to being a lawyer, Smith is a professional dancer.] I teach dance workshops, judge competitions and compete. It is my favorite way to bring in the New Year. This photo is from the Champions-level contest—for dancers that qualify at or above “All Star” level as recognized by the World Swing Dance Council—during the evening. For the contest, we enter as individuals and dance with a randomly chosen partner. The DJ picks the music.


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Jess Krenek

Role in Scholars: Administrative coordinator, Scholars Central staff

Spring break activity: Panelist at Society for Media and Cinema Studies annual conference in Seattle

I kicked off spring break a little early by heading to Seattle for the Society for Media and Cinema Studies annual conference. This was my first conference since earning my Ph.D. [in theatre history and performance studies], and what better way to jump back into conference-going than to surround myself with media scholars talking about everything from horror movies to “The Americans” to digital pedagogy! Though I was expecting rain and chill, I instead found beautiful weather to go with the fresh seafood and incredible coffee, which helped fuel me for my panel presentation on the Netflix show, “GLOW.”

The presentation was a success: Each of the panelists presented on a different aspect of the show, from the ways in which the show operates as a nostalgic look back at the 1980s to the ways in which the stories privilege white female perspectives. I used my dissertation research to talk about wrestling fandom culture and the ways in which season two of “GLOW” explores that from the wrestlers’ perspective. [Krenek’s dissertation was an ethnographic project focused on female fans of professional wrestling as an examination of women’s experiences in traditionally male-dominated spaces.]


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Jess Wilke (left) and Ben Parks

Roles in Scholars: Assistant director, Life Sciences (Wilke); Assistant director, Scholars Central staff (Parks)

Spring break activity: 12-day trip across Italy

PARKS: The trip was to celebrate 15 years of friendship: We met in undergrad, went to the same grad school and have stayed friends all these years. We also wanted to check Italy off of both of our bucket lists. The best parts were the hike along the coast near the villages of Cinque Terre, the overwhelming history of Rome and the food. Oh, the food… seafood pasta, pizza, gelato…

WILKE: All the food. I would also mention as highlights wandering the windy canals of Venice and exploring the colorful houses on the island of Burano, and taking in all things lemon and luxury on the Amalfi Coast. There were lemon leaves on the mozzarella we ate, lemon wedges with the fresh seafood, lemon cake, lemon chocolate… so much limone!


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Harold Burgess

Role in Scholars: Program director, Arts

Spring break activity: Completed production of “Dinner With Friends” with Everyman Theatre

Just prior to spring break, I completed my third production—“Dinner With Friends”—in the past five months with Everyman Theatre, in Baltimore, Md. I’ve designed lighting for a number of plays there during the past 10 years. [Burgess is a professional lighting designer and has worked at numerous regional theatres in that capacity.] Everyman features a professional resident company of actors and resident designers and stage managers. I was recently invited by Everyman’s artistic director to join the company as its new resident lighting designer! In this capacity, I will collaborate more frequently with the company as a freelance designer while contributing to the growth of its prestige in the Baltimore region.


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Beth Parent

Role in Scholars: Program director, Life Sciences

Spring break activity: 9-day trip to Costa Rica

For a milestone birthday of mine, a group of girlfriends and I traveled to Costa Rica. We walked hanging bridges through a rain forest in Arenal Volcano National Park, where saw wildlife such as frogs and coati, hiked to a waterfall, and plunged into the hot springs. In Monteverde, which is a cloud forest, we saw more amazing birds and snakes, many of which are unique to Costa Rica. Since zip lining was supposedly invented in Monteverde, we had to do it! Finally, we went to the beach town outside of Manuel Antonio National Forest. This is also rain forest, and we came across sloth, two species of monkeys, iguana, hummingbirds and agouti. We loved the great food and wonderful attitude of the Ticos, whose motto is Pura Vida ("pure life")!

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