Tuition, Financial Aid, & Scholarships
Investing in your student's education is a gift that lasts a lifetime, and a foundation for their future success and happiness. Rowland Hall is committed to making exceptional education affordable for every family.
Our students enjoy small classes and forge meaningful relationships with creative, highly trained teachers. Social-emotional development is nurtured in a supportive environment, while athletic and artistic opportunities abound. As students strive to reach their potential, we help them explore their roles as ethical members of a multicultural world.
Rowland Hall values socioeconomic diversity and is dedicated to building an inclusive school community. Below is a chart of our full tuition rates, but our need-based financial aid program is designed to consider every family’s unique circumstances and identify a realistic tuition contribution that matches their financial means. Currently, 21% of K–12 students receive financial aid. These awards are grants, not loans, and don't have to be repaid. Awards range from 10% to 99% of total tuition cost. View the eligibility section of our financial aid page to see what your family may pay, based on your household income.
Our Admission Team is here to answer all your questions and to help every step of the way.
|3PreK, Three Full Days*||$12,700|
|3PreK, Three Half Days*||$6,900|
|3PreK and 4PreK, Full Days*||$20,900|
|3PreK and 4PreK, Half Days*||$11,400|
Director of Financial Aid Mary Anne Wetzel ’01 on our kind, thoughtful, and transparent process: “A truly equitable financial aid program benefits all who demonstrate even partial need.”
Thank you for your interest in Rowland Hall. I’m proud to be part of a community that cares so deeply about making a difference in students’ lives and creating a welcoming learning atmosphere for all.
For the 2022-2023 school year, we’ve exceeded $2.8 million in financial aid awards and scholarships for families that demonstrate financial need. That number grows each year, as does the scope of our financial aid program to cover expenses beyond tuition. Our program is not only sound—it’s increasingly robust. As its director, part of my mission is to educate families about the wide range of people it’s designed to benefit.
As an alum, I’m deeply familiar with the joys and rewards of a Rowland Hall education. But valuing an exceptional early education is not the same as affording it, and many families simply don’t have the means to pay full tuition. Our need-based financial aid program is highly personalized and designed to consider every family’s unique circumstances to identify a realistic tuition contribution that is well-aligned with their financial means.
I can honestly say that our process is thoughtful, human, and kind. Award decisions are made in a room of caring professionals and educators and the results are presented with transparency and clarity.
A truly equitable financial aid program benefits all who demonstrate even partial need. In fact, all of our financial aid recipients fall somewhere between full-pay and no-pay, meaning families from a wide range of income levels pay anywhere from zero to 99% of full tuition depending on their level of need. If any family feels that the cost of full tuition at Rowland Hall is beyond reach, I always encourage them to explore this as an option.
I also encourage families to apply as early as possible. We have limited financial aid to distribute each year, and demand typically exceeds our budgeted funds. The best way for us to meet your family’s needs is to complete your application before the February deadline.
I can honestly say that our process is thoughtful, human, and kind. I personally collaborate with every applicant family to ensure we understand their whole financial picture before the application is reviewed. Award decisions are made in a room of caring professionals and educators and the results are presented with transparency and clarity.
Ultimately, this is about placing your child in an environment that will allow them to become lifelong learners who will make a difference in the world. If that environment is right for your child, I believe the cost should be within your family’s means. I invite you to take some time to read through our philosophy, policies, and steps to apply. I’m always available to discuss your situation in greater detail and to answer any questions. I look forward to it!
Mary Anne Wetzel ’01
Director of Financial Aid
Recent Graduate Daisy Innis ’23 Receives New York Times Honorable Mention for Essay on AI, ChatGPT, and the (Mis)Use of Information
Author's note: Daisy's pronouns are she/they and have been used interchangeably throughout this article. Learn more.
Staring at her phone, Daisy Innis ’23 almost couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
It was a June morning, and Daisy was busy at her summer job as a camp counselor. Just moments before, while preparing to wrangle a group of children and their gear onto a bus for that day’s field trip, Daisy had seen a notification from The New York Times Learning Network in their inbox. The winners of the 2023 Student Editorial Contest, to which Daisy had entered an original essay (shared at the end of this story), had been announced.
This year, students from around the world submitted 12,592 essays to the New York Times Learning Network’s annual competition, and only 151 were chosen for recognition.
Part of Daisy’s mind remained on their inbox as she got campers seated and ready for the drive. When that task was accomplished, Daisy settled into a seat, clicked the announcement, and began scrolling. Suddenly, their heart gave a leap of recognition: her own name was among the contest’s 33 honorable mentions. She almost couldn’t believe it. “I was a little bit in shock,” she remembered.
That emotion was understandable. This year, students from around the world submitted 12,592 essays to the New York Times Learning Network’s annual competition, and only 151 were chosen for recognition: 11 top winners, 12 runners-up, 33 honorable mentions, and 95 round-four finalists. Daisy was also the only student from Utah to be recognized in this year’s contest.
For Daisy, the recognition was huge, not only because so few entries could be honored, but because the moment marked an important milestone in a months-long process of reflection and healing.
Daisy’s journey to New York Times recognition kicked off in a somewhat unexpected way: with a trip to Utah’s Capitol Hill.
On January 24, 2023, Daisy attended a House Health and Human Services Standing Committee meeting for House Bill 132 (later Senate Bill 16) during the Utah State Legislature’s 2023 General Session. As an experienced peer educator for Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, a lobbyist during this year’s session, and a devoted community advocate, Daisy had a clear understanding of the impact that this bill, designed to prevent all gender-affirming care for minors, would have on young Utahns.
“This sort of legislature affects so many people in the state of Utah, in a way that is overall life-changing,” she explained.
As she sat in the meeting, Daisy watched, frustrated, as the bill’s sponsor introduced witnesses who argued against gender-affirming care but were unable to provide evidence of their claims. This was a high-stakes legislative session, Daisy thought, and would affect people’s lives. How could it be that students like her were held to far higher standards in the classroom than legislative witnesses were in committee meetings? “I have been taught that you need to have sources, evidence—you need to back it up, you need to list your sources,” said Daisy.
This lack of sources made the passage of the bill three days later especially upsetting for Daisy. “I was so angry,” they remembered, and that anger, as well as the fear Daisy felt for those affected by the bill, stayed with them. Come spring, said Daisy, they still found themself reflecting on the experience. The anger hadn’t dimmed.
It was at this time that Daisy’s AP Literature teacher, Dr. Carolyn Hickman, introduced a unit titled What Makes Us Human?, an opportunity for students to read works such as Ted Chiang’s Exhalation, Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existentialism Is a Humanism,” and Megan Garber’s “We’re Already Living in the Metaverse” while collectively trying to process broader hot-topic conversations around generative AI and ChatGPT, which had been picking up in earnest since OpenAI launched their chatbot in November 2022. Dr. Hickman asked students to reflect on these in-class conversations, then find ways to share their own commentary with real-world audiences. As she reflected, Daisy kept thinking back to the misinformation leading states, including Utah, to pass bills limiting or blocking transgender youth health care—and realized she wasn't as worried about AI and ChatGPT as others. What she was actually afraid of were politicians who share propaganda and misinformation that impact human lives.
“What I was afraid of was the legislation being passed. To me, it feels more tangible,” Daisy explained. “At least if you use ChatGPT you can ask it to give you sources.”
Daisy decided to tackle this topic, choosing for their real-world audience The New York Times Learning Network, which had recently opened its 2023 Student Editorial Contest, an annual opportunity for middle and high school students between the ages of 13 and 19 to share original opinion pieces on the issues that matter to them. Student writers are asked to use at least one source published in the Times and at least one source from outside the Times, and to limit arguments to 450 words, with winners chosen from those who “not only ground their claims in strong evidence, but also engage [the judges] with voice and style.”
Once she had picked her topic, Daisy remembers sitting down in English class, putting on her headphones, and letting the words flow onto the page. It was as though all she had been ruminating on had been ready to come out, and she remembers the writing process as cathartic and healing. “It was an honest expression of what I’d been reflecting on for months, and probably a good exercise in writing for me,” Daisy remembered. The process also helped Daisy feel renewed passion for the often exhausting work of community advocacy, as well as helped her better understand, learn from, and harness the anger she’d been feeling.
Daisy's opinion piece asked readers to focus not on how the writing is produced, but instead on all the ways we fail to hold others accountable for the information they disseminate.—Dr. Carolyn Hickman, AP English teacher and Upper School English Department chair
“This was a reminder of the passion piece of advocacy—I was so angry, and being able to channel that anger into this piece helped me to think through it and reflect on it, and also to sort of share that anger, because it can be hard to be angry by yourself,” said Daisy.
Importantly, sharing that anger also helped Daisy realize she wasn’t alone. The New York Times recognition showed her that her perspective had struck a chord, providing a necessary perspective in ongoing conversations about not only AI but human-generated misinformation.
“Daisy's opinion piece asked readers to focus not on how the writing is produced, but instead on all the ways we fail to hold others accountable for the information they disseminate,” said Dr. Hickman. “It doesn't matter if it's generated by AI or simply fabricated out of thin air, she challenged, if we don't insist on careful sourcing of facts, data, and opinions as others wield information in ways that affect us all.”
Daisy said their New York Times recognition has given them more confidence in their writing—and that being recognized by a national paper of record isn’t too shabby, either. “It’s pretty cool to be picked out of 12,000 entries, and it’s also really cool that my name is in the New York Times, especially as an avid New York Times reader and crossword-doer,” she said.
Daisy is currently attending the University of Puget Sound, where she’s planning to pursue a degree in the school’s Science, Technology, Health & Society program, with a minor in bioethics, and is contemplating later earning a master of public health. As a Matelich Scholar, Daisy is also working to build community on the Puget Sound campus and said they’ll continue to draw on this experience to stay passionate about this important work.
“I intend to continue working in the same vein that I have been doing,” said Daisy, “and it’s really important to me to remember my values, and my anger, because that is really going to fuel me, that passion and anger and desire, but also the joy that I feel doing work in the community. Finding that balance, but also remembering the fact that I feel emotions about it, whether good or bad, is the best motivator.”
We invite the Rowland Hall community to enjoy Daisy’s essay, shared below.
When It Comes to Secondary Education, Are We Fearing the Right Things?
By Daisy Innis, Class of 2023
In the wake of ChatGPT’s release, I cannot quite find it in myself to care as much as my parents and teachers. My mother says I’m a fatalist, and my teachers want to know why. But my question is: is generative AI and ChatGPT the right thing to fear?
Much like Mr. Aumann, a professor interviewed for the New York Times’ reflection on ChatGPT and education, my teachers are considering methods to discourage use of this technology. They’ve considered hand-written assessments and detection programs. They have, like many, spent a significant amount of time trying to outwit AI. For them, the possibility of AI-generated student writing is one of their biggest educational concerns.
But it isn’t mine. It is difficult for me to be concerned about the possibility of academic dishonesty in classrooms when I see much more pressing issues within the (mis)use of information. As a student in Utah, I have watched state legislators—in my state and others—be held to a lower academic standard and pass legislation with disastrous consequences.
As a high school student, had I submitted a paper without sources, or even used an AI tool, I would have been failed, and further disciplined in the case of the latter. That disciplinary action would likely follow me for the rest of my education.
During this year’s legislative session, S.B. 16, a bill preventing all gender-affirming care for minors, became law. I attended the committee meeting of a prior iteration of the bill, H.B. 132. I watched Representative Shipp introduce witnesses who spoke without regard for the desires of trans kids and without clear evidence for their claims. Most memorably, when asked for his sources, Dr. David Boettger replied that he didn’t remember, and that he didn’t have them with him.
As a high school student, had I submitted a paper without sources, or even used an AI tool, I would have been failed, and further disciplined in the case of the latter. That disciplinary action would likely follow me for the rest of my education. Dr. Boettger’s testimony was accepted without consideration of his sources, and used to later pass S.B. 16. His choices won’t follow him. This bill, backed by unnamed sources, endangers the lives of trans kids across the entire state of Utah—a state which already boasts a consistently higher suicide rate among the LGBTQ+ community than the national rate. This bill, which has been held to a lower standard of research than a high school English paper, deprives people I love of care crucial to their livelihood and survival.
So no, I am not terrified about the use of generative AI in classrooms. I am no more afraid of plagiarism than before. I am terrified of the world we live in, where I have been held to a higher standard of academic honesty than my legislators. I am terrified for those who are going to die because of the choices they have made.
Huang, Kalley. “Alarmed by A.I. Chatbots, Universities Start Revamping How They Teach.” New York Times. January 16, 2023. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/16/technology/chatgpt-artificial-intelligence-universities.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share&referringSource=articleShare.
“LDS Church and Suicide Prevention.” PFLAG. https://pflag.org/resource/lds-church-and-suicide-prevention/.
“Minutes of the House Health and Human Services Committee.” Utah Legislature. January 24, 2023. https://le.utah.gov/interim/2023/html/00000887.htm.
Schott, Brian. “Blocking Gender-Affirming Care in Utah Could Be Found Unconstitutional, a Legal Review Found.” Salt Lake Tribune. January 26, 2023. https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2023/01/26/breaking-bill-blocking-gender/.
Wen, Anne. “ChatGPT and Plagiarism: Student Cheating Concerns May Be Overblown.” Teen Vogue. February 13, 2023. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/chatgpt-plagiarism-cheating-students.
Finding a Home in the Arts: How Alum Chloe Jones ’11 Has Designed a Career Around the Community of Art
Chloe Jones ’11 is back on familiar ground. As the new executive director of UtahPresents, and the assistant dean for art and creative engagement for the College of Fine Arts at the University of Utah, her home base is now Kingsbury Hall.
“I took my first dance class at Tanner Dance when I was two,” Chloe said. “I have vivid memories of being in Kingsbury Hall growing up. It’s surreal to be back on campus in this new capacity.”
I am very committed to continuing our mission of bringing diverse artistic and cultural experiences here to
Salt Lake.—Chloe Jones ’11
While Chloe’s office may be in Kingsbury Hall, the mission of UtahPresents reaches well beyond the grand staircase that leads to the theater. The organization stages performances and cultural experiences across Salt Lake County with the help of several partner organizations. It is also instrumental in arts education, with programs spanning from kindergarten through high school, and into colleges and universities.
“I was drawn to UtahPresents because of the organization’s strong foundation, and I’m excited to continue building on the successes they have had in the past,” Chloe said. “I am very committed to continuing our mission of bringing diverse artistic and cultural experiences here to Salt Lake.”
Chloe is one of the hundreds of thousands of people who make art possible in communities around the world, but she’s not who you might think of when you think of someone who works in the arts. You may picture an actor or prima ballerina, or an up-and-coming sculptor with a hot new show, and while those people are important, they aren’t all the arts have to offer—and are actually a very small part of the overall puzzle.
“A career in the arts is not only about being a performer,” said Sofia Gorder, Rowland Hall’s arts chair of dance education and Chloe’s former dance teacher. “The way we frame a career in the arts has to really shift and change and recognize that it is part of a larger whole, rather than an isolated marginalized space where very few succeed.”
The opportunity to explore different facets of the arts is one of the reasons Chloe is now with UtahPresents. In her new role, she said she is asking what is possible within the arts, and how to tap into the sense of curiosity that brings people to the spaces where art occurs. “Often younger individuals’ relationship to art is through their own practice of art or through consumption of art,” she said. “There are infinite ways to be an artist or an arts worker. That's the beauty of the arts—the space for imagination, creativity, and innovation is vast.”
And those active in the arts will tell you that art should not be centered around a person or persons in the spotlight, but instead involve entire communities. The more voices and contributions to the process, the richer and more profound it becomes. That is the power of art, and its presence enriches the lives of everyone it touches. This is why schools, including Rowland Hall, so strongly emphasize the importance of arts education.
“Art turns up the volume on our nerves so we confront the world in a way that is more human. It allows us to see the world and feel the world, perceive that world that is richer because of the lenses that art gives us,” said Chloe’s former English teacher Joel Long, who teaches Upper School English and creative writing at Rowland Hall today. “All those things heighten our ability and our vulnerability and allow us to enter the world more fully.”
Chloe also knows it isn’t just how art connects us to the world, but also how it connects us to each other and spurs us to action, making us brave in the times when we are most fearful. “I think the arts give us inroads to understand different social issues,” said Chloe. “They are a critical way of convening and building community around those issues. I feel very strongly we need the arts to inspire us.”
Chloe’s education at Rowland Hall laid the groundwork of her arts-filled career. She was a Lifer, or a student who attended the school for 12 or more years. She described the school as her community growing up, and said she is especially thankful she was chosen as a Cumming Scholar in ninth grade. During high school she was a member of the dance company and the co-editor-in-chief of the literary magazine, Tesserae. But it was the more intangible skills she gained that proved to be the most useful.
Rowland Hall made me a critical and curious thinker, and reinforced my love of questions and helped me become more creative and strategic in trying to answer those questions. It was such a nurturing and academically challenging environment, and that combination made me more resilient—and you need to be resilient to pursue a career in the arts.—Chloe Jones ’11
“Rowland Hall made me a critical and curious thinker, and reinforced my love of questions and helped me become more creative and strategic in trying to answer those questions,” she said. “It was such a nurturing and academically challenging environment, and that combination made me more resilient—and you need to be resilient to pursue a career in the arts.”
After Rowland Hall, Chloe attended and graduated from Wesleyan University, and began her career working at the Wesleyan Center for the Arts. From there she went to The Yard, a residency supporting performers and creators on Martha’s Vineyard, where she worked as director of development and associate producer before becoming executive director. Moving through the organization helped her develop skills in fundraising, nonprofit management, curation, and programming. “It was a unique opportunity to invest in the creative process by supporting new work development, while also investing in public programs that build community through the arts,” Chloe said.
“I’m super proud of her. She has done amazing things,” said Joel of Chloe’s work in the arts. He’s also excited about how these skills promise to now make an impact on Chloe’s hometown. “I am thrilled that she is doing something that will matter to her and could matter to others in relation to the arts,” he said
Now back in Utah, Chloe is certainly applying these early career experiences to her new role. UtahPresents engages more than 45,000 people throughout the Salt Lake Valley in the arts every year through performances, education, and outreach, and Chloe hopes to see those numbers grow and to see experiences diversified. Currently, they are looking at more off-site performances and opportunities like the “Stagedoor” series, where the audience enters from backstage and then sits on the stage to watch the performance.
“It's been energizing to rejoin a campus community at the University of Utah and tap into the sense of curiosity that exists in that environment,” Chloe said. “It is helping me ask the question of what else is possible within the arts. This job really is a homecoming of my dreams.”
It’s a dream homecoming for Salt Lake and the extended community as well. Chloe is set to open doors to a whole new generation of artists, arts sector professionals, and patrons of the arts. Because of her work more people will know what’s possible, and it all started with a Rowland Hall education that never discounted the power of the arts.
Dr. Sophie Janes ’12 remembers when she first realized she could have a career in STEM.
“I was in Mr. Hayes’ ninth-grade biology class and it just clicked for me,” she said. “I realized I really liked science.”
Dr. Janes is now an OB/GYN resident at the University of Utah, and she returned to Rowland Hall’s Lincoln Street Campus on March 17 to talk to current students about how they, too, can find a place in science, tech, engineering, and math—or STEM.
We want students to see themselves reflected in different role models and in different fields. We want them to know they can successfully navigate career pathways they are passionate about.—Dr. Chandani Patel, director of equity and inclusion
Dr. Janes, a representative from the medical field, was one of the speakers who attended the school’s first annual The Future of STEM: A Symposium with Local Innovators event, a program held in honor of Women’s History Month. She was joined by physician Dr. Tricia Petzold (medicine) and mathematics professor Dr. Priyam Patel (math), as well as teachers Ben Smith ’89 (computer science), Dr. Padmashree Rida (biology), and Christian Waters (technology); Great Salt Lake Institute Coordinator Carly Biedul (environmental science) was also scheduled to attend, though she had to cancel due to illness. The event was set up so students could meet with women currently working in STEM, learn about various career paths, and find out how to get started on their own pathways to STEM careers, while also supporting peers along the way. The event’s keynote speaker, tech CEO and incoming Rowland Hall Board Chair Sarah Lehman, advised the group to “get comfortable with the uncomfortable,” to not be afraid to stake their claims in fields that interest them, and, when faced with challenges, to "focus on what is important to you and let other things roll off."
The symposium included a goal of encouraging historically underrepresented individuals to pursue their interests in STEM fields, including seeking out mentors who are doing work that is exciting to them. One of the sessions was on how women can navigate these fields, while another explored how to be an ally and make STEM more inclusive to a variety of people. “We want students to see themselves reflected in different role models and in different fields,” said Dr. Chandani Patel, director of equity and inclusion. “We want them to know they can successfully navigate career pathways they are passionate about.”
Dr. Patel said the STEM symposium was only the first of what she hopes will be many events aimed at bringing community leaders and professionals to the school to share with students career options and opportunities the students may not have even considered. Events like these underscore the importance of building strong partnerships to create learning opportunities, both in and out of the classroom.
“I am so glad to be able to help show them what’s possible and what steps they need to take,” said Dr. Janes. “I want them to be brave and make the most of the opportunities available to them.”
Max Smart ’22 and Science Teacher Dr. Padmashree Rida Published in International Journal of Molecular Sciences
Rowland Hall equips students with the skills and experiences they need to thrive in a dynamic world. We believe education is active, and that deep, authentic learning experiences engage students in powerful ways, enabling them to view themselves as innovators and creators. Our new vision and strategic priorities are helping to center and formalize this work, but it’s long been a part of the Rowland Hall experience, inspiring generations of students to pursue, create, and share knowledge both in and outside the classroom. In the past year alone, we’ve watched many of our young scientists and engineers, fueled by their personal passions, tackle real-world problems and offer innovative solutions designed to better our shared world. This fall, we’re spotlighting some of their stories. (Be sure to also check out "Ruchi Agarwal Named Runner-up in National Stockholm Junior Water Prize Competition," "Three Rowland Hall Students Place Fourth at International Science and Engineering Fair for Aviation Engine Design," and "Research Science: Taking Classroom Discoveries to the International Level.")
The below text is an abridged version of this story for Fine Print. If you would like to learn more about the science behind the academic paper highlighted in this story, we invite you to view the full version.
With more than 20 years of experience as a molecular and cell biologist—including over a decade as a breast cancer researcher, with a particular interest in racial disparity among breast cancer outcomes in the United States—Upper School science teacher Dr. Padmashree Rida has had plenty of opportunities to support other scientists.
Prior to joining Rowland Hall in 2021, Dr. Rida worked as a university research scientist, a role that offered her regular opportunities to advise graduate students working on original research and academic papers. A natural-born mentor, Dr. Rida has always enjoyed opportunities to help others blossom in their careers. But she’s also seen how disheartening it can be for scientists who, years into their professional journeys, realize that academic research—a field rife with opportunities for failure in everything from choosing the right hypothesis, to uncovering negative or inconclusive results, to the struggle of getting top-notch journals to publish work, to securing grants—isn’t for them. “There are no guaranteed returns in research; it’s always a gamble,” she said. “You can put in so many years to discover you were barking up the wrong tree.”
When Dr. Rida was invited to contribute to a special issue of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, she saw an opportunity for a teaching experiment. What if she were to invite one of her Rowland Hall students to assist her? She thought it may be an ideal way to challenge a promising young scientist, exposing them not only to the processes, skills, and risks of real-world research, but also to the nature of scientific collaboration.
So in April, when Dr. Rida was invited to contribute to a special issue of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences (IJMS) focusing on hypoxia, a state of oxygen insufficiency in the body, she saw an opportunity for a teaching experiment. What if she were to invite one of her Rowland Hall students to assist her? She thought it may be an ideal way to challenge a promising young scientist, exposing them not only to the processes, skills, and risks of real-world research, but also to the nature of scientific collaboration, as Dr. Rida would be working closely with one of her long-standing collaborators, Dr. Nikita Jinna, and a group of Dr. Jinna’s colleagues from the City of Hope cancer treatment and research center to write the article. She thought the opportunity could be similar to an internship, allowing a student to try out a career option, risk-free, to get a sense of fit. “They could get their feet wet and ask if it’s for them,” she said.
For the student to do well in this project, though, they would have to have a certain set of skills: a strong biology background, of course, as well as the ability to critically read and write, as they would be reviewing dense academic materials, drawing conclusions, distilling insights, and synthesizing information. Dr. Rida saw these traits in Max Smart, then a senior in her Advanced Topics in Biology class.
“Dr. Rida recognized a project like this was perfect for me,” said Max, a Rowland Hall Lifer whose love of the natural world has driven his lifelong interest in the sciences, and who also loves to write. And Max recognized how valuable the experience could be. “I could tell this was a phenomenal opportunity,” he remembered. He said yes and, after completing finals in May, began assisting Dr. Rida, first by helping her and Dr. Jinna look into the role hypoxia may play in patient resistance to androgen receptor inhibition, a treatment option for a subset of patients with a particularly lethal type of cancer: triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). “We knew these treatments often work successfully for a short period, but most patients eventually develop resistance,” explained Dr. Rida. “Consequently, their disease relapses or progresses, and when this happens, we don't have good next-line treatment options for such patients.”
With several lines of evidence supporting their suspicions on hypoxia’s role in therapeutic resistance, the team focused their IJMS article on the topic, hoping their research would help shed light on how and why existing treatments fail, offer a broad view of study results on treatment options, and, because such therapeutic resistance is a problem for some other androgen-signaling-dependent cancers, make progress that could potentially have wide benefits. And though early evidence indicated a promising direction, as they began writing, Dr. Rida, heeding her own experience, made sure to set Max’s expectations. “There’s no guarantee we’ll find anything,” she remembered telling him, “but that’s the gamble with science.”
That gamble didn’t deter Max, though, who jumped enthusiastically into the project, even, he said, as he faced a series of steep learning curves—beginning with getting acquainted with science writing. After Dr. Rida taught him how to use PubMed, a biomedical literature database, to search for primary literature with clinical trial data, Max remembered initially feeling overwhelmed as he worked to make sense of the jargon, acronyms, and medical terminology within these studies. “These are serious medical publications; it’s no joke,” he said. “It was like hitting a brick wall right out the gate—every sentence is riddled with words that mean nothing to you.” But after Dr. Rida recommended that Max make lists of unfamiliar words, terms, or methods so they could discuss them together, he got better at understanding the complex material. “With Dr. Rida's help, it became second nature,” he remembered. “Her mentorship broke down that brick wall.”
That mentorship continued as Max was challenged in other ways. He had to learn, for instance, how to pull from hundreds of pages of information the hard data that can benefit cancer researchers, and leaned on Dr. Rida’s advice to give himself space to process complicated material before looking for gaps or clarity within it. He also learned from Dr. Rida the importance of reading the literature critically, as well as broadly, to avoid scientific siloing. “Reading broadly allows ideas from different domains to network in ways that allow us to see things anew or from different vantage points,” explained Dr. Rida. So, in addition to reviewing studies on androgen-dependent TNBC, Max looked at studies on androgen-dependent prostate cancer, which behaves similarly to androgen-dependent TNBC and, because it has been researched for longer, offers an array of data on drug options and combinations that might be able to help researchers find what he called the “golden treatment” for TNBC patients.
Getting Max on board with this collaboration taught him team science—and all good science these days is team science.—Dr. Padmashree Rida, science teacher
Additionally, Max learned firsthand the essential, though often tedious, nature of academic collaboration: how a group of researchers narrows a paper’s focus, finds consensus, reviews drafts prior to submission to a journal for peer review, and revises a manuscript to address reviewers’ feedback and concerns. By letting Max participate in the full process, Dr. Rida was helping to prepare him for success in a world in which the best scientists, no matter their fields or roles, need to be able to go beyond the scope of their individual disciplines to solve problems or create change collaboratively. “We teach science in class, but we don’t talk much about how science is really done, how science is disseminated, and the community behind it,” she said. “Getting Max on board with this collaboration taught him team science—and all good science these days is team science.”
It also taught him the joy of team success. After more than two months of collaborative researching, drafting, peer reviewing, revising, and waiting, “Adaptation to Hypoxia May Promote Therapeutic Resistance to Androgen Receptor Inhibition in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer” was published in IJMS on August 9. When asked what it felt like to see his name listed in an international science journal alongside his mentor’s and five City of Hope researchers only two months out of high school, Max said it was gratifying—but was quick to point out that that gratification went far beyond his personal benefits.
“I hope it’s going to play some small role in this field of research so we can get better treatments for people suffering from cancer,” he said. “If we helped just a tiny bit, that’s really gratifying.”
For Max, who will start at Middlebury College in January after taking a gap semester, it’s clear the experience will drive his professional decisions. Though he’s still deciding what he wants to study, working on this paper taught him how much he values using his passion for science and his love of writing—skills he worked on during his time at Rowland Hall—to help people. “I really appreciated being able to put knowledge and skills I’ve spent my entire academic career honing toward something that is actually going to, hopefully, play one tiny, small part in benefiting people who need good treatment,” said Max. “That was a pretty unique and awesome feeling.”
I really appreciated being able to put knowledge and skills I’ve spent my entire academic career honing toward something that is actually going to, hopefully, play one tiny, small part in benefiting people who need good treatment.—Max Smart ’22
For Dr. Rida, her self-described teaching experiment was also gratifying. Even before the rollout of Rowland Hall’s strategic priorities, she had been thinking about how she can harness her experience, resources, and background to give Upper School students opportunities to help find solutions to real-world problems and to participate in the construction of new knowledge. With this project under her belt, she’s even more aware of how she can best support them. “I learned so much about how to teach about clinical issues, to mentor, how students learn, what misconceptions they may have, and how to explain things,” she said of her time working with Max. She also learned how inspiring it can be to watch a high school student step up to a new challenge. “Max was willing to put in hours and hours of reading and writing, painstakingly plowing through literature,” she said. “Not once did he say, ‘I’m done.’”
And while she knows future experiences might not always be such a good fit, seeing how Max blossomed over their months together—his openness to new ideas, willingness to take risks, ability to successfully take feedback, and determination—showed her that offering them is worth the risk. Moreover, she knows such authentic learning experiences can impact young scientists’ identities, sense of belonging, and understanding of science. Thanks to this opportunity, Max took away an essential life lesson he’s grateful for—and one that will continue to give back to him, whether or not he becomes a researcher himself.
“I certainly got a taste of how some research can end up leaving you with very little to show. It can be discouraging. But then again, what isn't discouraging from time to time?” said Max. “It was an experience that helped teach me that anything you invest time and energy into can end up disappointing when it doesn't always pan out how you want. But when you hit those junctures, you just have to keep persevering.”