Rowan Buchanan, CC ’12, started working on an Ovid-inspired painting without any intention of submitting it for the second annual Core Scholars Program.
“I just really, really like Ovid,” she said. “I was doing them, and at some point somebody told me about the Core Scholar thing, and I said, ‘Oh, I guess this really fits.’”
This weekend, Buchanan and three other students—Marian Guerra, CC ’14, Gabriela Pelsinger, CC ’15, and Anneke Solomon, CC ’15—were named winners of the Core Scholars Program, a distinction that comes with a $200 cash prize. Each of them submitted a “Core Reflection” that expressed, questioned, or analyzed an idea presented in a Core class.
The competition was open to all students who have taken a Core class. Ovid also inspired Solomon to enter, albeit spontaneously, she said.
“I had actually written a poem that was loosely based on the Daedalus story, but I didn’t want to submit just one poem,” she said. “I went back through what we were reading for Lit Hum and found the characters that I found most fascinating and began to play with them.”
Solomon’s poem, “Departure—In Four Parts,” is a response to the stories of four Literature Humanities characters: Daedalus, Dante, Daphne, and Dido. The alliteration of the characters’ names was unintentional, but it became a way to unite the poem, Solomon said.
Pelsinger won for a spoken-word poem in which she responds to Eve’s story in Genesis. Guerra, a Spectator news writer, won for a painting of Sonya reading the story of Lazarus in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.”
“I created the piece last year as a final project for Lit Hum—our teacher basically wanted something very similar to what the Core Scholars Program wanted,” she said. “I thought that a painting would be most fitting since I wanted an excuse to allocate more time to painting.”
Guerra said that while she used to paint daily during high school, she had struggled to find the time for it at Columbia.
“I hadn’t painted in a long time, but having this opportunity to use my time to actively engage with a text that I really liked was a good thing,” she said. “There was nothing to lose when applying.”
Raphael Peterson, GS ’12, and Lesley Thulin, CC ’14 and a Spectator A&E associate editor, earned honorable mentions. Peterson said that it felt good to be recognized as a “creative person.”
“I feel like there’s so much to get out of all the texts,” he said. “They almost require that you respond in this way to engage in that dialogue.”
Thulin made a sculpture in response to a scene in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” in which a flood annihilates the “corrupt majority.” Peterson composed a piece of experimental music that responds to the process of self-discovery in Plato’s “Symposium” and “Republic.”
“I am a musician, so music is definitely my primary mode of expression,” he said. “That’s more or less it—I started working on that piece and then decided that it represented a lot of things I thought about throughout the Core Curriculum.”
Peterson said that focusing on a specific idea or passage was difficult for him.
“It’s challenging to figure out how to create something in response to these texts,” he said. “How do you absorb all of these ideas?”
For Buchanan, a senior, the Core Scholars Programs offered a chance for her to reflect on all the time she had spent in Core classes.
“It was a nice way to look back and think about things I hadn’t consciously thought about,” she said. “It helped me to look at the Core more as a whole than just as a, ‘This is your reading for the week, do it.’”
Solomon felt that writing her poem helped her to connect with the Lit Hum texts on a different level than most students do.
“I didn’t look at them so rationally,” she said. “When I’m in class, I feel like I have to think about it in a certain way, but here I got to see the texts from a more emotional standpoint and connect with them personally.”
An earlier version of this article identified Gabriela Pelsinger as a sophomore instead of a first-year. Spectator regrets the error.