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Club scene What do students do when they’re not in class or holed up in the library?
Inspiring young artists Tang Museum workshops engage the minds and hands of local kids
Housing plan New digs for students will offer perks to compete with off-campus living

 

Clubbing
Photos by Gary Gold

Skiddies have been banding together for sports and hobbies ever since 1903. Today’s student organizations (a recent count totaled 101) range from the venerable Sonneteers, with its roots in Skidmore’s earliest singing traditions, to the brand-new men’s cycling club, which made its debut last year by upsetting several top college teams in the Boston Bean Pot race.


Prevailing


Founded just last year, and with twenty-five current members, Skidmore’s debate team jumped immediately into varsity competition, often against Ivy League squads. At a recent weekend-long multicollege tournament at Vassar, the Skidmore club finished second in the novice division, and club president Matt Cronin took fourth place overall for speaking skills.

“The competition is intense,” says Cronin. “It forces you to be fast on your feet, even beyond what you think you’re capable of doing.” Danny Shatz agrees that’s the best part, and the hardest part, of debating: “the rush I feel from having to come up with a really good argument on the spot. Generating brilliant ideas on the fly is certainly not easy, but when you succeed, it feels wonderful.” Shatz also finds debating a good way “for students who aren’t willing to physically drain themselves (as they would in a varsity sport) to compete and bond as a team.” Alex Hanson adds: “It’s fun because it’s an exchange of ideas in a competitive setting, but when the debate is over, everyone is still friends.” —SR


Vegging


The seven residents of the Scribner Village Organic House, founded about three years ago, belong to Skidmore’s Natural Food Co-op, which includes a bulk buying club. Once a month they invite the campus community to enjoy an organic dinner they’ve prepared (turnout is typically forty-plus). “The house is a family,” says Frances Mitchell. “We each do our part to educate the Skidmore community about buying and eating organic”—with sometimes mind-boggling results: “Last year we dried and sold organic fruit, but the demand grossly outdistanced our capacity,” says Liz Brier-Rosenfield.

Alex Smith grew up on an organic farm but admits she lived on “Ramen noodles and Easy Mac” her freshman year. “Pretty unhealthy.” But her Scribner housemates keep the kitchen stocked with more substantive staples: “brown rice, rice noodles, peppers, onions, garlic, and hot sauce.” They often cook together, which Smith deems “a win-win situation—it’s a bonding experience and you satisfy your tastebuds in the process.” Adds vegetarian Jason Hou: “I like to eat right. As Albert Einstein said, •Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.’” —MTS


Whirling



Although “Wombats” never stuck as a varsity team name, the Ultimate Frisbee players embraced it—and made it a proud Skidmore tradition. The Wombats began back in 1980 and today have about twenty members who practice and compete regularly. Last fall, they won all four games in a series against the likes of Binghamton and Colgate.

Each year they host two tournaments that often include fifteen or twenty die-hard Wombat alumni. “Some of them plan their annual vacation around the alumni games,” says John Byers, the club’s president. “When I first saw how many alumni came back to play and have fun with the team, I realized what a huge impact this team has had and continues to have on its members.” Those reunions also keep alive another proud tradition: coed naked Frisbee, eagerly indulged in for the final point of each alumni game.

Says Byers, “The group is tightly knit, but also accepting, laid-back, and fun-loving.” The only difficulty, says Kasha Rybczyk, is “wanting to spend more time with the team but also focus on academics. Now I use the tournaments and events as motivation for getting my work done.” —SR


Jigging



A championship-level Irish step dancer founded Skidmore Irish Dancers in 2001. But most of the group’s twenty-five or so members start off knowing little, if anything, about the form—and there are no auditions, so anyone can join. That means “instead of competition between dancers, there’s camaraderie,” according to co-president Kaitlin Morton-Ranney (who says she was recruited for the club “because I have red hair”). Irish dance can be picked up readily, and “it’s good exercise,” she adds.

Finding out that Skidmore had an Irish dance club “made me really want to come here,” says Sally Blanchard, who’s fascinated with Irish culture in general. “I love learning the steps.” Co-president Kristie Weibust admits, “It takes a lot of time and energy to teach the basics as well as choreography. But when we put on a show, the outcome is amazing.” Plus, their performance attire has taken a turn for the better: “When the club was new, we had very little money. For black skirts, we bought men’s boxers, cut out the centers, and sewed the edges back up. Hideous, but hilarious.” —MTS


Rambling



The Skidmore Outing Club has been going strong since 1929 and today has more than 100 students on its e-mail list. Eight or ten VPs coordinate group trips for kayaking, camping, skiing, rock-climbing, and more. Club president Jarek Bell says, “Last year I offered a spelunking trip that had to be broken into three groups because so many signed up.” He oversees a budget that covers training seminars for trip leaders and, for most trips, provides all equipment and expenses for each participant.

“Playing with friends in the woods is every kid’s dream,” says Doug Morin. The only hitch? “How to get a college kid up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning to start a trip.” A winter climb up Mt. Washington, the tallest peak in the Northeast, was “the most physically challenging” outing for Mike Seeger, who “chose Skidmore partly for its proximity to great recreation and wilderness areas.” For Dyani Johns, last winter’s rock-climbing trip to Texas was “definitely the highlight. And I’m a much stronger climber now, so I’m psyched to get out there on the rock again!” Meantime, she scored wins in two rock-climbing tourneys hosted at Skidmore. —SR


Hamming


The Ad-Liberal Artists, an improv group founded about fifteen years ago, are key players in the annual sketch-comedy festival hosted by Skidmore in February. And the group’s seven members keep their funny bones in shape by putting on shows every couple of weeks—on and off campus. President Joshua Cristantiello confesses, “I'm a big dork, so for me improv comedy is really a life philosophy: to take what reality presents and turn it into something that works. At school, you're always on the spot—in social relationships, in the classroom. If you have a plan and just stick to it, you're gonna fail. Improv helps.”

When Sarah Stevens first saw the Ad-Libs perform, “it looked amazingly fun,” she says. But “being funny is a challenge,” she found out—“especially when you have to be. You get the urge to just use the easy joke for the laugh, but it's so much more complicated than that.” What Cary James appreciates about the Ad-Libs is “the trust between us—knowing you have support from everyone, onstage and off.” Recalling an improv workshop at Brown University, where the group realized “it's possible to suck the fun out of improv,” David Kantrowitz says, “We had a moment where the Ad-Libs just looked at each other and realized how happy we are together as a group.” —MTS