Incoming students bring diverse experiences to Hopkins The World Before, And Behind, Them Mike Field and Leslie Rice Special to The Gazette Finally, after three months of summer quiet, Homewood's freshman quadrangle has leaped back to life. With the arrival of 880 students Sept. 2, the quad now brims with stereos blaring music from open windows, errant Frisbees flying past bewildered and hopelessly lost students searching for Mergenthaler Hall, and new friends eating lunch in the sun while observing all the activity. The Class of '99 is statistically the brightest class to enter Hopkins since 1987 and the second smartest since 1982. Even before the national re-centering of SAT tests, the class's average combined SAT score of 1301 was 16 points higher than that of last year's class. Equally important, says Paul White, director of undergraduate admissions, this is a class of "doers"--students who are involved in their communities and have a variety of interests. The story is the same at the university's other campuses; bright, ambitious, involved students preparing to enrich the Hopkins and Baltimore communities while drawing from their respective schools every bit of knowledge and opportunity they can. They come from just about every corner of the globe, many already accomplished musicians, writers, activists and athletes. They all have a story to share. Leslie Rice, of the Office of Homewood News and Information, and Gazette staff writer Mike Field caught up with a few of them. Nathan Garn Football season began last Friday when the Blue Jays played Farleigh Dickinson University. One freshman observed each play with more than a passing interest. Except for a shoulder injury that is keeping him out of the first few games, Nathan Garn is ready to begin his college football career. It's hard to say who is more excited for his first game, Garn or his coaches. "I really hope his shoulder heals quickly so people get a chance to see what an incredible athlete Nathan is," says assistant football coach Ritchie Shell. "On our first day of practice all the coaches watched him play and we just sort of looked at each other with these expressions of amazement." Nathan Garn, the 5-foot-11-inch, 172-pound running back from Idaho Falls, Idaho, was named his state's Football Player of the Year last year, the Idaho Conference Player of the Year for the last two years and was considered a key reason Hillcrest High School was a conference champ in baseball, basketball and football. He also graduated in the top 10 percent of his class. To meet a high school football star, one would expect to confront an ego rather than the quiet young man who tugs down his baseball cap and stares at the floor uncomfortably when asked about high school accomplishments. He was accepted in several large state schools with Division I football, and he was offered five baseball scholarships. He chose, instead, to come to Hopkins, with its Division III football program and no athletic scholarship to offer. To be here, Garn spent the entire summer doing road work to pay for what financial aid didn't. For the next four years, Garn intends to shoulder his own college financial responsibility. "I'm just going to take it year by year, or semester by semester," explains Garn, a computer science major who plans also to complete pre-med requirements. "I'm going to try not to stress out about the money too much. It's all worth it to me, I really wanted to go to a school that was known for its academics. I know the next four years will be a lot of hard work in order to stay on top academically, but I'm going to do the best I can." Garn credits his healthy perspective on life with his Mormon faith and living in a state where he can hunt, fish and ski in some of the most beautiful vistas in the country. "I miss the wide-open feel of home," he admits. "The neighborhoods here are so condensed, and the yards are so tiny." He also misses his girlfriend and family, but he likes his teammates and new friends at Hopkins. His roommate, Jacob Sorenson, from Utah, also plays football and is a Mormon. "We're kind of the odd ones out around here," Garn admits. "I'll be in a crowd of people, and we'll be going through that 'Where are you from?' stuff, and it'll be 'south Jersey,' 'Jersey,' 'upper east Jersey,' 'Jersey,' and 'Idaho.' Then everyone stares at you. Hopefully, people will get used to me." Avni Amin When Avni Amin was working on her master's degree in the state of Gujarat in India, she came to realize there were certain essentials in life that may not be so essential after all. "I was working on reproductive health and AIDS research projects in a remote rural area of Gujarat," says the 24-year-old doctoral candidate at the School of Public Health. Although Amin is a native of Bombay, she can trace her family ancestry to Gujarat, located some 10 hours' train ride to the north. "I'm used to the city," Amin says of her time spent working within a community where the chief occupations were farming and forestry. "I had no telephone, the electricity would sometimes go out for hours at a time and the life there was much quieter. But I think this focused me. It was a part of India where the struggle for survival is so much greater than what we experience. It gives you a better balance and a sense of perspective. In that context it is ridiculous to worry about the CD you want to buy or the things you don't own." Amin, who was in India working on her master's in epidemiology from Yale, went to Mount Holyoke College as an undergraduate. Her sister is a student there now, although the rest of her family continues to live in India. She plans to return to India at the conclusion of her education where she hopes to work on a project establishing international HIV "net sites" for future vaccine trials. "In order to test a vaccine you have to select a cohort and then follow them for a number of years to understand transmission rates," she says. "HIV is projected to have a 'silent explosion' in India within the next few years. I want to work against that." In the meantime, she has begun to settle down in her new home in Baltimore. "I've gotten to know Charles Village and the Inner Harbor," she says. "In the next six quarters I'll get to know the city better." One thing she'll be on the lookout for is good Indian cooking. Amin spent four years eating "American dorm food" at Mount Holyoke, and for her, enough was enough. She greatly prefers--and often misses--the cuisine of her native land. Still, there are a couple of elements of American cuisine that have met with her approval. "I like french fries," she says with a laugh. "And Subway sandwiches. I like them as well." Albert Sun The one thing freshman Albert Sun likes more than skiing is to teach other people how to ski. Last winter, the Roxbury High graduate from Morris County, N.J., carried out a long-held wish to become a professional ski instructor. On the nights and weekends he did not practice for the school choir or the a cappella group in which he participates, Sun and one of his best friends would drive an hour to Camelback Ski Resort in the Poconos to report for work. "It was a lot of fun, we worked with people at all levels, from the fearless 4-year-old who takes up the sport right away to the adult who is completely afraid," says Sun, a pre-med student. "It's amazing what a one-hour lesson can do." Sun recalls his toughest pupil, a 12-year-old boy he won't soon forget. The boy had multiple sclerosis, a short attention span and wouldn't listen to anything Sun told him. "He suddenly decided he didn't want to learn how to ski and just plopped down on the snow and pouted," says Sun. "At first I was at wits' ends. But I took him over to the cabin to play some games and get him pumped up to ski. About a half hour later I had him back on the snow, and we worked on it all day. I even went down the slopes hugging him in front of me so he wouldn't get scared--I never normally do that--and we did that over and over again until gradually he began to gain some confidence. "Finally, at the end of the day his mother came by and he said 'Look Mom, look,' and he skied down the slope. You should have seen her face. You should have seen my face." It's the day Sun leaves Morris County for Hopkins. He's staring at the boxes in his living room. In a few hours he'll be a student at the one college he has wanted to attend since he was in seventh grade. "I've never wanted to go anywhere else but Johns Hopkins," says Sun. "When I was a kid, I attended Hopkins' Center for Talented Youth summer program, and I remember looking at the students, faculty and the campus with total awe. I just decided then that I would come back to the campus one day as a college student." Kevin Courtemanche A couple of days ago, when newly arrived Peabody students were just getting themselves oriented, 32-year-old entering student Kevin Courtemanche approached Dean Emily Frank in the hall. "This afternoon there's one meeting for the students and another for the parents," he announces with just a hint of irony in his voice. "Which do you want me to go to?" In fact, Courtemanche is not a parent at all, but compared with many of his classmates--who typically enter Peabody at age 17 or even younger--well, he almost could be. "I went to Columbia where I was a PoliSci major, and then I spent one disastrous year in law school," says Courtemanche of his round-about entrance to the world of serious music. "After that I moved to New York, where I worked as a paralegal for awhile." In his spare time, Courtemanche went to both NYC operas, but in particular, he went to the Met. "I sat in the audience and thought not only I could do that, but I should do that," he recalls of those evenings in the opera house. "I realized I was going to be 30, and if I didn't do it now I'd kick myself when I turned 40." So Courtemanche set out to find a suitable coach for his lyric tenor voice, eventually auditioning for and studying with Will Crutchfield in Manhattan. It was Crutchfield who convinced his student that he would need to go back to school. "I especially need to work on music theory, on ear training and on my keyboard abilities," Courtemanche says of the years ahead. Although music has always been a part of his life_both his mother and grandmother were devoted amateur singers_he has had, until now, little in the way of formal musical education. "A school environment is exactly what I need at this time," he says. And the age difference? "Singers are lucky because the human voice continues to mature past age 20, especially among men," he says. "For instrument players you really need to start very young--often age 5 or 6--and if they haven't done it by age 19 or 20 then they probably never will. Voices mature later, so there's some additional time. And since I've arrived, I've been paling around with master's students who tend to be closer to my age, especially if they're studying voice." Michelle Tarver "I was faced with a difficult choice," says entering M.D./Ph.D. student Michelle Tarver, who found herself in the enviable position of being accepted to every medical school to which she applied. Her winnowing process included turning down invitations to attend Harvard and Yale, as well as several other top-flight medical schools. In the end, it was the quality of the programs offered at Hopkins--together with the school's innovative new curriculum-- that brought the 21-year-old daughter of military parents to Baltimore. Much of her earlier life was spent moving "every three years" as she puts it, so her undergraduate years at Spellman College were especially precious to her. "I really came to love Atlanta," Tarver says, "and I'd always heard how intensely competitive the Hopkins atmosphere is, so I wasn't too sure about coming here." Still, the Hopkins reputation for research persuaded her she should at least take a look. "I knew I wanted a balance between the clinical and research aspects of medicine, and based on the journals I'd read I was familiar with Hopkins' outstanding reputation," Tarver recalls. "What surprised me when I came to visit was how warm and friendly the people were. Everyone from admissions and financial aid to the people I met in the halls seemed really anxious to help. It made Hopkins seem less impersonal than some of the other institutions I visited." After a little more than a month in town she still finds Baltimore "kind of northern" in its attitudes and atmosphere, but she senses there will be close bonds forged with her fellow classmates. "Right now we're all just getting acquainted, but I have the feeling we'll all be pretty close before this is over. Unlike larger medical schools there's only 120 of us and we're always together. They kind of force you to bond." Not that there will be any shortage of work at hand. The M.D./Ph.D. program follows the regular medical school track for two years, then puts its students in an intensive research atmosphere for another two. It is in research that Tarver ultimately is hoping to make a difference. "I love teaching and I really want to be able to devote some time to it someday," she says. "But as an African American woman I can't help but note there are discrepancies in research. There are some cancers, for instance, of which women or African Americans or both are the primary victims. Not enough work is being done. I'm not yet sure in what capacity, but I want to devote my efforts to addressing these issues in the future." Julie Macphee Currently, Julie Macphee's ice skates are sitting on a shelf in her new apartment. The 26-year-old first-year nursing student, who arrives from Chelmsford, Mass., with a background in fitness therapy and a love of ice hockey, wonders if she'll ever get to play again. "It's my one regret about coming to Baltimore," says the former defensive player on the Assabet Valley women's ice hockey team. Last year, the team placed third in an international competition hosted in Brampton, Canada. With a degree in exercise physiology from Springfield College, Macphee worked for the past two and a half years as a fitness director at a wellness center in Chelmsford. "But I always had an interest in the medical field," she says. "I have a cousin who is now a medical student here, and when I started talking about going to nursing school he said 'If you're going to do it, why not go to the best?' So that's what brought me to Hopkins." After a week in town she has seen little more than the Inner Harbor and "everything inside the boundaries of the medical campus." But Macphee is optimistic about the program in which she's enrolled. "My classmates all seem pretty nice and they're an incredibly diverse bunch," she says. "The age range is 19 to 55, some with degrees, some with no degrees, some who've already been to graduate school. It looks like an interesting group." As Macphee settles down to classes and study there will be certain adjustments she's figured out she'll just have to make. The lack of a car--for the first time in many years--is one. The absence of snow--real snow that lays two feet deep on the ground and stays there for months--is another. But it may be the hockey she'll miss most of all. "Did you know that women's ice hockey will be an Olympic sport in 1998?" she asks. "Only six teams will be invited to Japan for the competition." She pauses for a moment, as if to say 'And I won't be one of them.' "Oh well," she says. "In ice hockey I'm past my prime. My career will now be nursing." Tameika Lunn Tameika Lunn could light a town with her energy. Undaunted by the 26 1/2 credits she has signed up for this semester as a double major at Hopkins and Peabody Institute, she ticks off all the choral groups, musicals and student organizations she wants to join. "I was like this in high school," admits the freshman Hodson Scholar. "I don't think I'm happy unless I'm working on a million things at once. And I love to sing. It doesn't seem like work really." Lunn has a rich, clear voice that can in a moment go from alto to soprano, nailing every note in between. Add poise and heart to such skill and she can reduce a roomful of students to tears as she sings, "It's Always Hard to Say Goodbye." "I'm a little torn between wanting a performing career and also wanting to become a lawyer," she says. "I haven't really figured how this is all going to play out in the end. I'm sort of hoping to do both." If anyone can, it's Lunn. At Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, she played volleyball, basketball and badminton, was involved in the school glee club, school plays and a cappella groups, was president of the student council, held a job at St. James Episcopal Church downtown as a soloist and all the while maintained top grades and a full scholarship. Even though her parents were teenagers when Lunn was born--her mother was 14 and her father was 16--Lunn credits her family with teaching her lessons in determination and a love for learning. After Lunn was born, her mother obtained her high school equivalency and an associates degree at Essex Community College and Morgan State University. "When I was little she would drag me to classes with her because she couldn't afford a sitter," recalls Lunn. "I would sit in those classes, bored out of my mind, watching my mother do her thing. All the students and teachers knew me though, so that was kind of fun." From her father she says she gets bravery. Earlier this summer, while Tameika attended Hopkins' Summer Scholar program, her father was shot three times while standing outside a basketball court at 27th and St. Paul Streets. He had gone there to confront three 16-year-old boys who had stolen Lunn's brother's bicycle. He was shot in the groin, the abdomen and a lung. "It was very emotional for my mom and my brother and me," says Lunn. "But when I was able to visit him in Shock Trauma, something told me that he was going to be OK. I just knew in my heart that he would get through this. And in a way it brought us all together. It ended up sorting out some family issues. He's fine now and as a family, we're much closer." From her grandmother, Tameika admits she gained self-confidence. "She was a strong woman and made me feel I was special," Lunn says. "She loved my singing and she was impressed with every little thing I did. When you have a person in your life who is always telling you how smart you are and how you can do anything you set your mind to, you begin to believe that you cannot fail."
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