Custom Class: post-landing-hero


By Maddy Frech, student body president

This year, Rowland Hall welcomed students back to school with a virtual Convocation on Friday, September 4. This year’s speakers focused on the theme Welcome Everyone—one of Rowland Hall’s core values—recognizing the power we all have in building our shared community. For Maddy Frech, 2020–2021 student body president and a Rowland Hall lifer (a student who has attended the school for 12 or more years), the event was a chance to reflect on her time at Rowland Hall and to use that experience to challenge each grade to find ways to build community and make a difference in the world. Her speech—lightly edited here for style and context—appears below.


Traditionally, a welcome can include a high five, a handshake, a hug, or a kiss on the cheek, but unfortunately these friendly gestures are no longer acceptable at the moment. We now have to depend on the sincerity of our words and honesty of our actions to convey our welcome. So, it is with heartfelt and candid excitement that I say, “Welcome, Everyone.” This year is going to be amazing!

Now, you may think, “How can we be sure that this year will be a great one when no one knows exactly what to expect?” But there are a few things that you can be assured of.

Firstly, you are at the very best school in the state of Utah. Our faculty and staff care about you and want you to succeed not only academically, but personally. Our school will adapt to these uncertain and frightening circumstances to provide you with the means to be successful and, more importantly, develop individuals who contribute to and are prepared to change the world. How do I know this? Well, this year will be my 14th year at this school. Since walking through the front doors of the Beginning School and being greeted by classmates who remain my friends to this day, I have known Rowland Hall to be welcoming. I can attest that your senior class is inspirational. They not only are talented but thoughtful. We can use the class of 2021 as a model of community spirit as we rally around the unknown.

A simple greeting to someone you don’t know can change the course of your year, or even the rest of your time at Rowland Hall.

So, how can we be welcoming and rise above the uncertainty that feeds our anxieties? Well, let’s start with our Beginning School. I challenge students in 3PreK, 4PreK, and kindergarten to meet new friends. Whether this is in the sandbox, on the playground, or in the classroom, a simple greeting to someone you don’t know can change the course of your year, or even the rest of your time at Rowland Hall. My memories of growing pumpkins, making green eggs and ham, constructing Mother’s Day hats, and learning all about the many varieties of apples are cherished, and my partners in those activities are still some of my best friends. Also, I can assure you that the entire senior class is really envious of your allotted naptime!

First graders, congratulations! You are in a different building on campus. You have a bigger playground, which at first may seem overwhelming but will be exciting as you learn to navigate a world that seems bigger. Share those monkey bars and help a friend that skins their knee. Remember that caring friends will last a lifetime.

Second graders, you will start writing your own stories. Try to write stories about friendship and making the world a better place. I wish I had written more of these instead of stories about Justin Bieber and my Bieber fever; I suspect our vice president, Cooper Davis, may have had some similar stories about the Biebs. So, focus on what you can do to be more inclusive. Your stories could teach adults how simple it truly is to be kind. Your parents may keep that story; re-read it to remind yourself who you strive to be.

Third graders, welcome to the upstairs! When you pick your biography project, I challenge you to, rather than picking a sports legend or celebrity, choose a person that actively tried to change the world. I actually chose Mother Teresa, initially not because of her amazing service, but because my teacher, whom I loved, was named Teresa, and my mom could easily convert my Princess Leia costume into a holy shroud. However, through that project, and looking back now, I am happy I chose her because I learned that she was an incredibly happy person by living a life of service.

Fourth graders, be prepared to learn about the great state of Utah! The lyrics “Utah, people working together” will soon be stuck in your parents’ heads. Even though the song is a little—no, really—incredibly annoying, it teaches you that we are a local community and everyone in that community matters and contributes to our great state.

Fifth graders, you are finally the oldest on the McCarthey Campus. When you learn about explorers, challenge yourself to think about what they could have done better. Many social problems exist because they could have explored and settled without harm to humanity. It is important to learn from the mistakes of history so we do not repeat them.

Maddy through her years at Rowland Hall

A Rowland Hall lifer, Maddy tapped into her experiences in all grade levels to share wisdom with her fellow students. Photos courtesy Maddy Frech.

Sixth graders, I am sure you are terrified…I know I was. A new campus, and all the other students look so much older. But make sure you take advantage of the sports and the arts opportunities so that you can meet those older students. You will be surprised just how much community spirit our events can foster.

Seventh graders, you will likely have your first big trip to the Tetons to do amazing science. Even if that does not happen, the brilliant faculty will figure out some way for you to learn about the beauty of nature. Take advantage of the incredible knowledge of our teachers to learn what you can do to preserve our environment.

Eighth graders, similarly we hope that a trip to Washington, DC, happens. In preparation, make sure you learn about the importance of government. Don’t just plan to visit the sites—think about what decisions are made in those buildings. The only way we can have effective change is the next generation of leaders; be that change.

Freshmen, I cannot imagine what you are feeling. Starting high school is scary enough without added uncertainties. But please know that your Student Council is here for you. Specifically, we have a website for you to ask questions and get help.

Sophomores, you made it through a very strange freshman year. Even though you did not get the joy of losing Battle of the Classes, please know that Student Council will try to make that up to you. We will plan more class competitions so that the class of 2023 can come in last place a few times (but perhaps, with enough class spirit, you might pull off a few victories).

May this year allow us to use our innovation so that each student learns not only effectively, but also in a way that grows intellect, resiliency, and spirit. May each of us use our voice and actions for positive contributions to our community.

Juniors, your symposium was canceled last year, but, fortunately, the advertising project can be done mostly virtually. This project will challenge you to think about stereotypes and the importance of positive change. Be prepared to work hard and concretely propose ideas that reduce bias. It is a hard year—power through it!

And finally, my fellow seniors, I challenge you to be leaders. Look to set an example for those younger than yourselves. What do you wish the senior class did for you? Please use the Student Council website to voice your ideas to surmount these challenging times with innovation. Please propose a community gift so we can leave an impactful legacy. The community gift is something I believe will allow us to leave our mark.

In conclusion, please know that I sincerely welcome you back to school with a virtual high five, handshake, hug, and kiss on the cheek. May this year allow us to use our innovation so that each student learns not only effectively, but also in a way that grows intellect, resiliency, and spirit. May each of us use our voice and actions for positive contributions to our community. Winged Lions, I wish you all health, safety, and comradery that can sustain you through the uncertainty. As your president, I promise you an amazing year. Thank you!


Top photo: Maddy, left, arriving on the Lincoln Street Campus on the first day of the 2020–2021 school year.

Student Voices

Welcome, Everyone, to the Best School in Utah


By Maddy Frech, student body president

This year, Rowland Hall welcomed students back to school with a virtual Convocation on Friday, September 4. This year’s speakers focused on the theme Welcome Everyone—one of Rowland Hall’s core values—recognizing the power we all have in building our shared community. For Maddy Frech, 2020–2021 student body president and a Rowland Hall lifer (a student who has attended the school for 12 or more years), the event was a chance to reflect on her time at Rowland Hall and to use that experience to challenge each grade to find ways to build community and make a difference in the world. Her speech—lightly edited here for style and context—appears below.


Traditionally, a welcome can include a high five, a handshake, a hug, or a kiss on the cheek, but unfortunately these friendly gestures are no longer acceptable at the moment. We now have to depend on the sincerity of our words and honesty of our actions to convey our welcome. So, it is with heartfelt and candid excitement that I say, “Welcome, Everyone.” This year is going to be amazing!

Now, you may think, “How can we be sure that this year will be a great one when no one knows exactly what to expect?” But there are a few things that you can be assured of.

Firstly, you are at the very best school in the state of Utah. Our faculty and staff care about you and want you to succeed not only academically, but personally. Our school will adapt to these uncertain and frightening circumstances to provide you with the means to be successful and, more importantly, develop individuals who contribute to and are prepared to change the world. How do I know this? Well, this year will be my 14th year at this school. Since walking through the front doors of the Beginning School and being greeted by classmates who remain my friends to this day, I have known Rowland Hall to be welcoming. I can attest that your senior class is inspirational. They not only are talented but thoughtful. We can use the class of 2021 as a model of community spirit as we rally around the unknown.

A simple greeting to someone you don’t know can change the course of your year, or even the rest of your time at Rowland Hall.

So, how can we be welcoming and rise above the uncertainty that feeds our anxieties? Well, let’s start with our Beginning School. I challenge students in 3PreK, 4PreK, and kindergarten to meet new friends. Whether this is in the sandbox, on the playground, or in the classroom, a simple greeting to someone you don’t know can change the course of your year, or even the rest of your time at Rowland Hall. My memories of growing pumpkins, making green eggs and ham, constructing Mother’s Day hats, and learning all about the many varieties of apples are cherished, and my partners in those activities are still some of my best friends. Also, I can assure you that the entire senior class is really envious of your allotted naptime!

First graders, congratulations! You are in a different building on campus. You have a bigger playground, which at first may seem overwhelming but will be exciting as you learn to navigate a world that seems bigger. Share those monkey bars and help a friend that skins their knee. Remember that caring friends will last a lifetime.

Second graders, you will start writing your own stories. Try to write stories about friendship and making the world a better place. I wish I had written more of these instead of stories about Justin Bieber and my Bieber fever; I suspect our vice president, Cooper Davis, may have had some similar stories about the Biebs. So, focus on what you can do to be more inclusive. Your stories could teach adults how simple it truly is to be kind. Your parents may keep that story; re-read it to remind yourself who you strive to be.

Third graders, welcome to the upstairs! When you pick your biography project, I challenge you to, rather than picking a sports legend or celebrity, choose a person that actively tried to change the world. I actually chose Mother Teresa, initially not because of her amazing service, but because my teacher, whom I loved, was named Teresa, and my mom could easily convert my Princess Leia costume into a holy shroud. However, through that project, and looking back now, I am happy I chose her because I learned that she was an incredibly happy person by living a life of service.

Fourth graders, be prepared to learn about the great state of Utah! The lyrics “Utah, people working together” will soon be stuck in your parents’ heads. Even though the song is a little—no, really—incredibly annoying, it teaches you that we are a local community and everyone in that community matters and contributes to our great state.

Fifth graders, you are finally the oldest on the McCarthey Campus. When you learn about explorers, challenge yourself to think about what they could have done better. Many social problems exist because they could have explored and settled without harm to humanity. It is important to learn from the mistakes of history so we do not repeat them.

Maddy through her years at Rowland Hall

A Rowland Hall lifer, Maddy tapped into her experiences in all grade levels to share wisdom with her fellow students. Photos courtesy Maddy Frech.

Sixth graders, I am sure you are terrified…I know I was. A new campus, and all the other students look so much older. But make sure you take advantage of the sports and the arts opportunities so that you can meet those older students. You will be surprised just how much community spirit our events can foster.

Seventh graders, you will likely have your first big trip to the Tetons to do amazing science. Even if that does not happen, the brilliant faculty will figure out some way for you to learn about the beauty of nature. Take advantage of the incredible knowledge of our teachers to learn what you can do to preserve our environment.

Eighth graders, similarly we hope that a trip to Washington, DC, happens. In preparation, make sure you learn about the importance of government. Don’t just plan to visit the sites—think about what decisions are made in those buildings. The only way we can have effective change is the next generation of leaders; be that change.

Freshmen, I cannot imagine what you are feeling. Starting high school is scary enough without added uncertainties. But please know that your Student Council is here for you. Specifically, we have a website for you to ask questions and get help.

Sophomores, you made it through a very strange freshman year. Even though you did not get the joy of losing Battle of the Classes, please know that Student Council will try to make that up to you. We will plan more class competitions so that the class of 2023 can come in last place a few times (but perhaps, with enough class spirit, you might pull off a few victories).

May this year allow us to use our innovation so that each student learns not only effectively, but also in a way that grows intellect, resiliency, and spirit. May each of us use our voice and actions for positive contributions to our community.

Juniors, your symposium was canceled last year, but, fortunately, the advertising project can be done mostly virtually. This project will challenge you to think about stereotypes and the importance of positive change. Be prepared to work hard and concretely propose ideas that reduce bias. It is a hard year—power through it!

And finally, my fellow seniors, I challenge you to be leaders. Look to set an example for those younger than yourselves. What do you wish the senior class did for you? Please use the Student Council website to voice your ideas to surmount these challenging times with innovation. Please propose a community gift so we can leave an impactful legacy. The community gift is something I believe will allow us to leave our mark.

In conclusion, please know that I sincerely welcome you back to school with a virtual high five, handshake, hug, and kiss on the cheek. May this year allow us to use our innovation so that each student learns not only effectively, but also in a way that grows intellect, resiliency, and spirit. May each of us use our voice and actions for positive contributions to our community. Winged Lions, I wish you all health, safety, and comradery that can sustain you through the uncertainty. As your president, I promise you an amazing year. Thank you!


Top photo: Maddy, left, arriving on the Lincoln Street Campus on the first day of the 2020–2021 school year.

Student Voices

Explore More Stories By Students

A Rowland Hall middle schooler on the Lincoln Street Campus in Salt Lake City, Utah.

What a year it’s been.

March 11, 2021, marked one year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and many people around the globe used the occasion to reflect on how their lives had changed over the previous 12 months.

In Rowland Hall’s Middle School, eighth-grade English teacher Chelsea Vasquez viewed the anniversary as an opportunity to help students process their COVID-19 experiences within the context of other cultural and historical factors featured in the choice novels they’re currently reading in their coming-of-age English unit.

Reading enables us to make sense of our own lived experiences.—Chelsea Vasquez, eighth-grade English teacher

“One of the ideas I'm trying to convey is the universality of themes—the fact that the things characters experience in books happen in the real world,” said Chelsea. This universality of themes extends to non-fiction texts, too, and Chelsea pointed out that guiding students toward making text-to-self and text-to-world connections within a variety of reading materials can be a valuable way to help them understand events happening to and around them.

“Reading enables us to make sense of our own lived experiences,” she explained.

As a way to practice this skill, Chelsea had students read “Coming of Age: Teens on a Year That Changed Everything,” a New York Times article published the week of the pandemic anniversary that showcased teens’ reflections on life during COVID-19. “They could see examples of things other students, some their age, had created, and then consider how these artifacts mirrored or differed from their own experiences,” Chelsea said.

After they read the article, the eighth graders reflected on a list of questions generated by The New York Timeslearning network and wrote responses. Those responses—insightful, thoughtful, and poignant—offer a valuable and touching glimpse into the pandemic experiences of some of our Rowland Hall students. With their permission, we have shared a sampling of excerpts from those reflections below. (Text has been lightly edited for clarity.)

Reflections on What the Collection Says about Coming of Age during a Pandemic

"This collection shows that everyone struggled during quarantine. It got worse before it got better. It also showed that everyone had different ways of coping. Contributor Sunnina Chen talked about how she felt like she was suffocating, but realized she was the one pulling the ‘Saran Wrap’ tighter over her head. I relate to this because, as quarantine went on, I felt like every decision I made made it harder for me to be happy and stay motivated. I, like Sunnina, realized that I was causing my own sadness and decided to let go of everything that wasn’t making me happy. With that, things started looking up again. It got better after it got worse."
—Kavitha K.

"Because we are coming of age during difficult times, we have learned to be more resilient and resourceful. We have been separated from many of those who make us happy, and that has taught us to find happiness around us and within us. I can 100% relate to feeling isolated and lonely, which has shaped me to be a (hopefully) more gracious and kind person.”
—Rebecca M.

Reflections on the Themes, Words, Images, and Ideas That Spoke to Them

"The idea that seems to cover almost every entry was loneliness. The type of loneliness felt in the pandemic was not ordinary. It required learning how to not be lonely when you don’t have social interaction. Learning how to be friends with yourself. From my perspective, when you can do that, you are never lonely, even in a pandemic. I think being friends with yourself is coming-of-age at its finest (and I think this applies to every generation, as we are constantly evolving humans).”
—Adara S.

"Two themes especially stood out to me. The first was participating in change. Whether it was fighting for racial justice or LGBTQ+ rights, many submissions showed teenagers working to change their communities for the better. The second was hardship and isolation. Many pieces illustrated self-doubt, depression, anxiety, and pure boredom. While it is true that people of all ages experienced these feelings, I think it hit teenagers especially hard. Social interaction, movement, and change are things that many teenagers cherish and—to some extent—need. The pandemic has deprived many teenagers of these things.”
—Aiden G.

Reflections on What’s Missing from the Collection

"The collection didn't address sibling bonding during COVID. I got to play with my brother more than I've done since we were toddlers. Though this started with simply having nothing else to do, I soon realized it's nice to talk to a sibling. A lot of brothers and sisters did. This collection also missed how grandparents suddenly became so important. I didn't see my paternal grandma until around summertime, as she lives in a memory care center and those were locked down."
—Sophia L.

"I feel that the collection seems to miss how masks affected us socially. Personally, I had such a difficult time with masks—facial expressions are the key to my socialization. I had to adjust with only reading the upper half of people’s faces, and it is much harder to understand body language when you're six feet apart and banned from the language of touch."
—Dylan B.

"What’s missing from this collection—or at least not strongly highlighted—are the benefits of the powerful emotions felt throughout the pandemic. These emotions were what allowed us to create some of our strongest pieces of art, poetry, or whatever we enjoy doing with a deeper sense of passion—a passion that one will still be able to feel after looking at the piece years and years later. This can help others understand and connect with you in a way that would have never been expressed through just having a conversation."
—Erika P.

Student Voices

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

High school history class Zoom with Professor David Nirenberg.

By Layla Hijjawi, Class of 2023

For summer reading, Upper School history teacher Dr. Dan Jones had his 36 sophomores in Advanced Topics (AT) European History tackle Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages by Dr. David Nirenberg, a University of Chicago history professor and Divinity School dean. Dan described the book as a “genuine academic text, like you’d read in grad school.” It was a challenge, Dan said, but the sophomores “took it head on and did their very best.” Coincidentally, a parent of one of Dan’s students has a distant connection to Professor Nirenberg and helped Dan arrange a student Zoom with the author. The rich, candid conversation that ensued September 15 covered everything from how the professor became a historian to how his book relates to the social justice issues of today. We asked sophomore Layla Hijjawi to share her reaction to this Q&A—a rare opportunity and a silver lining of hybrid and remote learning during a pandemic.


Summer homework isn’t usually something that most students especially look forward to. Furthermore, Professor David Nirenberg’s Communities of Violence, the book chosen by Dr. Jones for the tenth grade AT European History summer homework, is no easy read.

The book consists of 328 pages of intense historical analysis of medieval violence and why that violence might have occurred. Professor Nirenberg primarily focuses on studying the specific context of each moment of violence to understand how the conditions that allow such horrific events to occur come to be. 

While the book itself was academically brilliant, many students, myself included, found themselves wondering what it all meant for us...Luckily, Professor Nirenberg was able to shed some light on this matter.

While the book itself was academically brilliant, many students, myself included, found themselves wondering what it all meant for us. Medieval conflicts don’t necessarily define the lives of the average teenager in 2020. Instead, we exist in a continuous flow of fleeting stories on the news about issues centering around the pandemic, elections, and the occasional rumor of TikTok being shut down by the president. Most significantly, issues surrounding race, or more fittingly racism, have risen to people’s attention recently, particularly surrounding things like the Black Lives Matter movement. These other issues that dominate our media and lives made it difficult to understand why learning about seemingly prehistoric conflicts could be relevant in a world where something entirely new happened every day.

Luckily, Professor Nirenberg was able to shed some light on this matter. One silver lining of distance learning is the opportunity technology can provide for virtual teaching. Dr. Jones was able to put this opportunity to use and managed to organize a Q&A session between the students in his class and Professor Nirenberg, the very author we had read this summer. Now, when I imagined the person behind the pages and pages of my summer homework, I certainly didn’t think of the most friendly-looking or relatable man, and I somewhat assumed the Q&A would be dull. But upon entering the Zoom call, I was proven wrong. Professor Nirenberg was both receptive and down to earth, beginning our discussion with the bold claim that “being a historian sucks in a very profound way.” His explanation: “It takes a huge amount of work and thought to make the past relevant to the present in any way you can actually put to work…So that’s really hard: balancing, on the one hand, the feeling you have that something vital connects the past and the present, and the obligation to treat as complicated that connection and to honor the many, many differences and the many discontinuities.” 

Students wondered how his studies could connect to issues we face today, like racism, if at all. For Professor Nirenberg, his studies of religious violence are deeply intertwined, and perhaps inseparable, from studies of race.

After warming up the group, he then proceeded to address our questions. Many students wondered how his studies could connect to issues we face today, like racism, if at all. For Professor Nirenberg, his studies of religious violence are deeply intertwined, and perhaps inseparable, from studies of race. Racism is “not [about] our worst ideas but our highest ideals that produce these terrible things,” he told us, and many of these ideals stem from religious roots and scripture. He provided several examples of how ideals from all religions can be manipulated for racist purposes. Thus, the issues of today cannot just be issues of today. For us to truly understand what is wrong with our present, we must understand the fallibility of the past and how modern problems span generations, including back to the medieval times the professor focuses on. 

The intersectionality of current events and Professor Nirenberg’s work sheds some light on what is an increasingly dark issue. It is certainly easy to feel helpless and confused in a world where so much violence happens with seemingly no explanation. After all, how are we meant to fix a problem when it’s unclear why it’s happening in the first place? But with the professor’s advice in mind, I believe that many of us left that Zoom lecture with a fresh perspective on how we might begin solving some of the problems we face in our lives. How we apply the knowledge we have gained will be up to us, but Professor Nirenberg has given us the spark that may ignite our move towards change for the better.


Top: In a screen shot from the end of their Zoom Q&A session, sophomores (including article writer Layla Hijjawi, third row, first column) give the wonderful Professor Nirenberg (first row, third column) a round of applause.

student voices

Collage of Tesserae and Gazette websites on laptops.

As the pandemic plunged Rowland Hall into remote learning in spring, and as it continues to keep some students learning from home, upper schoolers in our newspaper and literary magazine classes have nimbly reimagined their printed products. Both publications have now found homes online, at least temporarily.

Read the 2020 Tesserae student literary magazine Read the Gazette student newspaper

Ben Fowler ’20 and senior Garrett Glasgow shared editor-in-chief duties to get Tesserae online—an effort that started in April and concluded this month. While the Tesserae team hopes to keep the website updated with future issues, Garrett said they’re definitely planning to bring back print for 2021:

“Due to COVID-19’s impact on the ability to create a print copy of this year's edition of Tesserae, the staff decided to shift to a digital copy of the magazine. With help from Rowland Hall's marketing team, the staff created a website with the usual collection of poems, prose, artwork, and photos created by students. In addition to the typical artforms seen in prior magazines, the digital nature of this year's edition also enabled us to include short videos. While we hope to create a print copy of the 2021 issue, the 2020 issue is widely accessible and filled with content by talented Rowland Hall students. We hope everyone takes an opportunity to look through this year's edition.”

Over at the Rowland Hall Gazette, senior and editor in chief Sophie Dau and her team look forward to posting new pieces every week or two:

“We decided to go digital this year because of the limited amount of students on campus, and we hope to incorporate outside content with more flexible publishing. We will update the website much more frequently, so keep an eye out for opinion pieces, teacher and student profiles, school news, current events, and more!”

Thanks to Ben, Garrett, Sophie, and their classmates—along with teachers Joel Long and Dr. Laura Johnson—for getting these digital publications up and running for community members near and far to enjoy. Our students’ creativity persists, even if the presses are paused.


Top: Tesserae and Gazette website collage featuring background artwork by Tesserae contributing artist Alex Armknecht ’20.

Student Publications

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