Empowering

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Upper School: Grades 9–12

Welcome to Rowland Hall's independent private high school, where we encourage students to choose their challenges and become their best selves.

I am honored to be a member of Rowland Hall’s administrative team, as well as a parent of two students. You will discover here, as I have, a supportive community that balances academic excellence with whole-child development and a commitment to inclusion, sustainability, and civic engagement.

Rowland Hall’s outstanding faculty engages students in myriad authentic learning experiences every day. There are many opportunities for individual growth, in-depth study, and learning beyond the classroom through our rigorous, college preparatory curriculum, dynamic electives, and extensive co-curricular offerings. I look forward to working with you and your student to chart an engaging course and a challenging process of personal development, enrichment, and achievement. I invite you to join us today.

Sincerely, 

Ingrid Gustavson signature

Ingrid Gustavson 
Upper School Principal

High school student and teacher in robotics at Rowland Hall, an independent private school in Salt Lake City.
High school teacher with students during a physics lesson at Rowland Hall, an independent private school in Salt Lake City.
High school girls soccer players at Rowland Hall, an independent private school in Salt Lake City.

Upper School Stories in Fine Print Magazine

Rowland Hall biology teacher Rob Wilson watches his tank of jellyfish.

Teachers have many strategies to help build students’ excitement around science. If you ask Rowland Hall biology teacher Rob Wilson for one of his, he’ll say to give them access to living organisms.

“Over the years, I've become more and more focused on providing students access to the living organism,” he said. “I want my students to have a really sensory perception and experience of living things.”

Over the years, I've become more and more focused on providing students access to the living organism. I want my students to have a really sensory perception and experience of living things.—Rob Wilson, biology teacher

To do this, Rob is always on the lookout for organisms that can help simplify or solidify the concepts he teaches to middle and upper schoolers. In a state like Utah, his students have access to a range of these resources, and Rob’s led them in conducting experiments on everything from birds to flower bulbs. But, Rob said, the state does have limitations.

“We don't have access to the ocean,” he said.

So Rob found a way to bring the ocean to Rowland Hall: in early February, he introduced three jellyfish, known as moon jellies, to his climate science and ninth-grade biology students. These small organisms—only about an inch in diameter across their upper bells—live in a two-gallon tank on Rob’s desk, where they’re serving as a powerful learning resource.

“My objective was to have a dynamic system that we could take care of, study, and use as a model for how larger systems work,” said Rob.

And for such a simple organism, the jellyfish are able to connect to loads of concepts around the life sciences. Since their arrival, Rob has led discussions around their tank environment, which lends itself well to topics like ocean currents and climate systems, and the jellyfish themselves, whose simple anatomy is easy for students to study. For example, said Rob, when the jellyfish arrived, his biology class was studying the respiratory system—how the body obtains oxygen and releases carbon dioxide—and the jellyfish provided an additional way for them to observe how other living creatures’ bodies process these gasses. They watched, amazed, as the jellies contracted their bodies to take in oxygen-rich water and then stretched to release carbon dioxide, causing a pulse that moves gases, nutrients, and waste through its tissues.

The tank’s neon lights help observers see details of the jellyfish anatomy. The mushroom-like bell is made of two tissue layers, between which are horseshoe-shaped gonads—the only part of the jellyfish that's not transparent—that produce egg cells in females and sperm cells in males. Adjacent to the gonads are the stomachs, which can be seen filled with brine shrimp larvae after a feeding. Radiating from the edges of the bell are tentacles, used to trap the food that the oral arms, which extend from the bottom of the bell, shuttle to the mouth at the bottom of the bell. A nervous system network can also be seen within the bell, which connects to poppy-seed-like eyes at the bell’s edges. “Symmetry, nerve networks, and multiple tissue layers are elements of jellyfish anatomy that provide evidence of shared common ancestry between jellyfish and other animals, including human beings,” said Rob.

In Rob’s climate science class, older students further benefit by helping to care for the jellyfish. “I wanted something that required us to monitor and maintain conditions within the system,” said Rob. “I've made sure that each class takes responsibility for it because it's way more valuable to them if they're participating.”

Students assist Rob with feeding the jellyfish brine shrimp larvae (hatched in a maze-like bowl referred to as the brine shrimp nursery) and monitoring water temperature and pH levels, which change as the jellyfish digest the shrimp larvae and produce ammonia, a toxin that builds up quickly in a two-gallon tank. “We want to make sure it's within a suitable range of pH and the metabolic products of the jellyfish,” said Rob.

Taking care of the jellyfish has put into perspective the actual scale and impact of climate change within our oceans. It only takes us one day of missing our chemical testing or transitioning water incorrectly to affect the mini-ecosystem in our classroom.—Katie Moore, class of 2021

At least once a week, students use a water-testing kit to examine ammonia levels, then condition the tank with a mixture of bacteria—one type consumes the ammonia and produces nitrite, a less toxic compound that a second bacteria then consumes, producing even a less toxic waste in the water called nitrates. Students help track these levels on a shared spreadsheet, an activity that’s helping them think about how variations in the environment can have far-reaching repercussions.

“Temperature, pH, nitrogen compounds—they fluctuate,” explained Rob. “Depending on what you add or take out, it'll push it in one direction or another. I use that as an analogy to better understand that the earth system works in similar ways. It builds the students’ ability to understand the flow of material through a system, and then how the balance of material in any one place affects how the system behaves.”

It’s clear when talking to students that these concepts are sticking. Senior Katie Moore, a climate science student, noted, “Taking care of the jellyfish has put into perspective the actual scale and impact of climate change within our oceans. It only takes us one day of missing our chemical testing or transitioning water incorrectly to affect the mini-ecosystem in our classroom. Now think about our ocean. How many days have we ignored the changes we've observed but not documented? How many days have our actions impacted the lives of ocean inhabitants with, or without, our noticing?”

It’s a significant way to think about the interconnectedness of all living organisms that share the planet, and a lovely reminder that those connections we share can bind us closer. Rob noted people only need a moment of observation before they start to feel a fondness for the jellies, and that many of his colleagues, as well as students who are no longer in his classes, like to stop by to enjoy them. “As soon as anyone comes in, I'll just sit back quietly and let them watch for a while,” he said with a smile.

Close-up of Rob Wilson's moon jellies, which he uses in his climate science and biology classes.

The jellyfish have charmed Rob Wilson’s students, who have even named them. In senior Katie Moore’s climate science class, the largest jellyfish (who, Katie said, has only three stomachs instead of the usual four) is known as Big Bertha, the medium-sized jellyfish is Gerald, and the smallest jellyfish is Bob.​​​​

It's fun to invite that kind of close observation—to go beyond glancing at something to taking a really close look.—Rob Wilson

“We are very concerned about their well-being. We absolutely love them like children and love to talk about their endeavors,” added Katie, who noted that the students, after many weeks of observation, can tell the difference between the jellyfish, have named them, and worry about their survival. “We have a full-fledged conspiracy theory about how they keep dying and Mr. Wilson keeps replacing them hoping we will not notice.”

Luckily, moon jellies can live up to three years if well cared for, and Rob and students are committed to making sure that’s the case at Rowland Hall. Rob even comes in on weekends and breaks to keep them alive, and he has designated a space in his home for them to live in during summer break, as he’s planning on bringing them back to school in the fall to continue to enhance lessons—and to inspire the kind of wonder that access to living creatures offers.

“It's fun to invite that kind of close observation—to go beyond glancing at something to taking a really close look,” he said. “There's so much to learn from watching the simple organism.”

STEM

Ski racer Mary Bocock, who competes with Utah's Rowmark Ski Academy, has been nominated for the 2021–22 US Alpine Ski Team

Since the age of six, Rowland Hall junior—and passionate ski racer—Mary Bocock has had a big goal: to join the US Ski Team. That dream just came true.

I’ve wanted to be on the team ever since I started racing, so getting the call felt like I was achieving a goal I’d had for over 10 years.—Mary Bocock, class of 2022

On May 3, US Ski & Snowboard announced that 44 top national athletes, including Mary, have been nominated for the US Alpine Ski Team for the 2021–2022 competition season (athletes qualify based on published selection criteria in the prior season). Mary is one of only three new members of the women’s Development Team, also known as the D-Team; she’s also the youngest addition to that team and the only new member hailing from the state of Utah.

“When I got the call from [US Ski Team Coach] Chip Knight congratulating me on my nomination to the D-Team, I was overwhelmed with excitement,” said Mary. “I’ve wanted to be on the team ever since I started racing, so getting the call felt like I was achieving a goal I’d had for over 10 years. I am looking forward to skiing with a group of girls who push me and who know what it takes to be the best.”

Mary had a sensational 2020–2021 race season, which included a November 2020 US Nationals performance with Rowmark Ski Academy that earned her an invitation to compete with the US Ski Team in Europe. After placing in several races in Cortina, Italy, and Garmisch, Germany, in early 2021, Mary returned to the United States to finish the season: at the FIS Elite Races at Sugar Bowl Resort and Squaw Valley, California, she took 10th place overall (second for U19s) in giant slalom, and 11th place overall (fourth for U19s) in slalom. At the FIS Spring Series in Breckenridge, Colorado, she won the giant slalom race—a win that currently ranks her second in the nation and sixth in the world in giant slalom for her age, as well as first and ninth in the world in super-G. Finally, she ended the season with a 12th-place finish in super-G at the US National Championships in Aspen, Colorado.

Mary's fierce competitive nature is among the best in the world and I'm confident that she will take advantage of this opportunity.—Graham Flinn, head FIS coach

“Mary has worked incredibly hard day in, day out, not only this season but for many years in order to put herself in a position to accomplish the goal of being named to the US Ski Team,” said Graham Flinn, head FIS coach for Rowmark Ski Academy. “I'm very proud of the way she carried herself throughout this past year's successes and challenges. She continues to impress with her drive and ability to be a student of the sport. Her fierce competitive nature is among the best in the world and I'm confident that she will take advantage of this opportunity.”

The US Ski Team’s alpine athletes have already kicked off pre-season camps, and the official team will be announced this fall once nominees complete required physical fitness testing and US Ski & Snowboard medical department clearance. We will continue to update the Rowland Hall community on Mary’s progress in this exciting new chapter in her ski-racing career—which she’ll balance alongside her senior year at Rowland Hall—through the fall and winter.

Congratulations, Mary!


The below video, first shared with the Rowland Hall community in April 2021, features Mary's reflections on competing in Europe earlier this year.

Rowmark

Rowland Hall senior Jack Lange.

By Jack Lange, Class of 2021

My dream schools are meant to be the most stressful places on Earth.

We wear military uniforms to class (and each day requires a different uniform). We must scream when we talk to seniors (called first classmen). We sit on the first two inches of our chairs when we eat food (called chow). We memorize a book of rules (called Reef Points). We are organized into companies and squads. Walls are bulkheads, shirts are blouses, doors are hatches, beds are racks, windows are portholes, the floor is the deck. My dream school is nothing near the conventional idea of a fun college experience. My dream school is a United States service academy. 

A service academy is a four-year college that admits a select number of qualified candidates in order to train capable officers in the United States military.

A service academy is a four-year college that admits a select number of qualified candidates in order to train capable officers in the United States military. Attendance at a service academy is free, but graduates are required to serve a minimum of five years in the branch of their academy. There are five service academies: the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), the United States Naval Academy (USNA), the United States Military Academy (USMA, also called West Point), the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), and the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA). 

I applied to three service academies: USAFA, USNA, and USMA. Each school has its own application and prerequisites. “The admissions process is incredibly involved,” said Mark Petersen, my USNA regional liaison. “Even though all the academies require the same materials, they all use different applications just to make it difficult for candidates to apply. They want to test commitment.”

The academies are highly selective, with the highest admittance rate belonging to USAFA, at 13%. Each academy’s application requires an initial letter of qualification, a nomination from a member of Congress (one’s own congressional representative and/or senator) or the vice president, an interview with a representative from the academy, a physical readiness test, and a formal application with essays.

“The nominations are like ‘government letters of approval,’” said Shaun Greene, my USMA Field Force representative. “They’ve always been a necessary part of the application process, and I am excited that you were able to get nominations from both Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, not to mention your congressman’s nominations.” 

Everything in the application is failable: your nomination could be given to someone else, you could fail the physical test, you could be found morally unfit, you could have tattoos in the wrong places. If even your liaison officer just happens to not like you, your journey to a service academy is over.

Since the application process is so involved, why is it that anyone, including myself, would want to attend such an institution? That is the question that I have had to confront at every turn. Why do I want to go through the pain and suffering of plebe summer, the arduous first step of the military indoctrination process? Why would I attend an institution where students forgo traditional college festivities in favor of military discipline, sacrifice socializing for an extra 30 minutes of studying, learn to put their lives on the line in times of war, and are even trained to kill when necessary? There is no definitive answer. In reality, there are a number of reasons why I want to follow this path, all of which are difficult to explain.

First, my family’s history of military service is one of length and distinction, and that culture has trickled down through the generations. My uncle, for instance, attended the Naval Academy, went to war, and died for his country, and I pray that I can be given the same opportunity to train at an elite level and then apply that training to defend our republic. 

Second, I love challenges. I have been told at every turn that I was not good enough to be given an appointment, that I was inadequate due to my ADHD, that I should give up, because I just could not hack cadet life. Everyone who gets an appointment to an academy has a high level of resilience, and I will be proud to work alongside such like-minded people. 

Third, an academy affords people the opportunity to travel the world, both in their military careers and as cadets or midshipmen, something that I have always wanted to do. During each summer, cadets and midshipmen are required to participate in summer training, often taking them across the globe. Moreover, during one’s required service after graduation, it is incredibly likely that the newly commissioned second lieutenant or ensign will be deployed overseas (when possible, to the country of their choice). 

Much like training for the Olympics, it takes an unparalleled level of training and self-discipline to achieve this goal, and working toward it can bring a lot of meaning and purpose to your life.—Jack Lange

I would love to say that it’s all of those aspects combined that have driven me down this path, but that would not be wholly truthful. I would love to say that only steadfast allegiance to this country (which is undoubtedly the prevailing direction of my moral compass) is driving me towards military service, but that would be a lie. In truth, I mainly want to do the things that other people look at and say, “That's freaking awesome.” 

No place on Earth other than these service academies can so effectively train me for my goal of performing extraordinary military feats. I want to be the Navy SEAL who gets to kick down the door at the start of a high-value raid. I want to be the pilot in the jet who is going three times the speed of sound. I want to be the captain who guides his platoon through dangerous situations. I want to do the stuff that directors make movies about (without the glamour). Much like training for the Olympics, it takes an unparalleled level of training and self-discipline to achieve this goal, and working toward it can bring a lot of meaning and purpose to your life. I understand that there are other, less painful ways to go about earning a commission as an officer, but the allure of the cadet life is incredibly powerful. The officers who come out of academies go on to become generals, astronauts, presidents, and everything in between. 

Of course I want to serve my country—there is no greater honor than to do so—but it is not my chief reason for wanting to attend a service academy. Words are far too inadequate to explain why I am drawn to such a masochistic college life, but I am, and I cannot wait to get started. I will see you on the yard, shipmate.

Student Voices

Rowland Hall's robotics team.

Rowland Hall’s young women in computer science have continued their outstanding track record of earning accolades from the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing (AiC) annual awards program.

This year, six Winged Lions earned awards from our regional Northern Utah NCWIT Affiliate: senior Maddy Eatchel and junior Irenka Saffarian secured wins; sophomore Ane Hernandez and freshman Sophie Zheng earned honorable mentions; and junior Tianyi Su and freshman Claire Wang were named rising stars.

Our students’ AiC success is due in part to the efforts of computer science (CS) teacher Ben Smith ’89, himself a past winner of two educator honors at the affiliate level. Ben always encourages promising CS students to apply for the awards; this year, he’s glad that many still did, despite the challenges of the pandemic. “It’s really a testament to the school's dedication to make computer science, robotics, and technology an accessible and exciting option for all students,” the teacher said.

Senior Maddy Eatchel, an affiliate AiC winner, is now captain of our robotics team after helping to start the team last year. She wants to study CS in college, and is working on a research project applying machine learning to data in order to find new compounds for batteries.

This year’s recognized group from Rowland Hall skews younger than usual, and that bodes well for our CS program’s future, Ben said: students who receive higher levels of recognition typically apply for the awards two or more years in a row. For lone senior Maddy, a 2020 honorable mention recipient, this year’s win is a natural progression: she’s now captain of Rowland Hall’s robotics team after helping to start the team last year. She wants to study CS in college, and is currently working on a research project applying machine learning to data in order to find new compounds for batteries.

"Maddy took my intro to Java course on a whim as a sophomore, with very little interest other than the need to fill a class period," Ben said. "She has gone on to take my AP Java class, and to be an integral member of the new school robotics team, leading the team in a very challenging year."

Rowland Hall students will attend the regional affiliate’s virtual award ceremony on March 20. In addition to recognizing awardees, the ceremony will include a panel of college students and networking opportunities with women in the tech industry.

Ben started encouraging his students to enter the AiC awards back in 2014. Since then, 19 Winged Lions have earned a collective 25 awards, including one win and two honorable mentions at the national level. Under Ben’s leadership, Rowland Hall has been committed to ensuring all students—especially young women, who are underrepresented in computing careers—feel welcomed and supported in CS.

stem


Top image: The Rowland Hall robotics team at the Freedom Prep Academy FIRST Tech Challenge state qualifier in Provo, Utah, on March 13. From left to right: senior Yuchen Yang, sophomore Jordyn VanOrman, freshman Gabe Andrus, freshman Adam Saidykhan, senior captain and regional AiC winner Maddy Eatchel, senior Daniel Carlebach, and freshman Joey Lieskovan (cut off on the right edge).

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