The SLC Vanguard Shows Off

At Sarah Lawrence, our work is personal. Every year, we embark on individualized conference projects that lead to unexpected conclusions, hours of time with Esther Raushenbush, and mainlining Pub coffee. We’re not working for grades or teammates, just excellence. And when a semester ends, sometimes the greatest satisfaction we get is simply standing over the printer as the pages push out, inwardly yelling with joy and relief. There is no prize or pat on the back. The science kids get a fair, but where is everyone else’s work?

Rob Winslow (‘12) and Sean McIntyre (‘12) are presenting an answer: the SLC Vanguard, a yearly publication featuring exemplary conference work. Along with an editorial staff of 10, the pair are also aiming to publish several mini-publications grown from student-run workshops. Last week, I met up with Rob and Sean in the illustrious North Room for a talk on post-humanism, passion and why SLC kids need more confidence.

Ella Riley-Adams (ERA): First, can you guys each talk about who you are. What you study here, where you’re from, and what brought you to the SLC Vanguard.

Rob Winslow (RW): Well, my name is Rob Winslow, I’m a senior. When I first got here freshman year I was very involved with Solidarity Club and SLC Worker Justice, got to be the chair and the unofficial chair of both of those. So I was always very involved with student activist community, Common Ground community, and various issues, contentions around campus. Things are changing here really fast. I study political economy and metaphysics.

ERA: What is metaphysics?

RW: So there’s physics, which is like matter, material in the world. But inside and behind each and all of these things are motivating forces. Tracking those motivating forces and being able to see a sort of a qualitative ecology of spirit that is the world, that’s what metaphysics is.

Sean McIntyre (SM): I’m Sean McIntyre, I’m also a senior. I had a background in visual art before I came here but I always, outside of school, was really interested in post-humanities. When I came here freshman year, I took a class with Geoff Derven, who ran Vanguard and founded Vanguard. [It was a class with] Eric Parens, the post -humanities class. Since then I’ve kind of studied everything, except for math and science. In a weird way, I feel like I do have a concentration even though I definitely don’t in terms of credit distribution.

I’m always doing work involving post-humanities, cultural studies, gender studies, like the whole mixing between critical theory and the way culture is changing in the contemporary world. And then everything I do in art, which usually kind of cross-pollinates quite a bit.

ERA: What do you mean by post-humanities?

SM: What is post-humanities? Well, there’s post-humanism and there’s trans-humanism. Trans-humanism is this crazy cult of technopheliacs who think that humanity is ethically inclined, maybe required, to just take technology and start replacing body parts right now. Post-humanism touches on trans-humanism, but it’s more academic and it involves cultural and gender studies and all kinds of things. Post-humanism will look at the way pharmaceuticals are being distributed in society, it will look at things like people trying to experiment with the idea of identity, people who cross all kinds of boundaries, people who play with technology and try and come up with new ways to alter society. It’s really almost anything in that entire playground.

ERA: So it sounds like humanities in the context of the ever-growing technology that today’s world has to offer.

SM: It’s sort of humanities plus technology, philosophy out of technology.

ERA: Can one of you give me a brief description of what SLC Vanguard is?

SM: Let’s do history first. So Geoff actually had a really similar study track to the one I have. He made the Vanguard because he felt like there was absolutely—and I think he’s right—no outlet on campus for non-fiction work of the academic or scholarly variety. And he was concerned with both aesthetics and politics, with a little splash of what’s cutting edge, or what’s contemporary, or what’s relevant in recent history or in the future. He studied a lot of post modern, continental philosophy; stuff like that, so it always kind of had that tinge to it.

He made it, and the publication itself essentially was a platform for students to get their conference work published, so that it would be something more than just a file on your hard drive or a something that your professor reads. Something that you poured an innumerable number of hours into, and it’s gone from your life.

He made it with the vision in mind that we have, which is to bring conference work to a point where it’s something more social. It seems absurd on this campus that we all put so much effort into individualized, self-motivated work—a lot of the work that I’ve read from friends of mine is easily graduate level work—and it’s almost as if it never existed.

So Vanguard’s primary goal is really focused on making it so that has visibility, and to facilitate the development of people academically, with whatever they’re studying, with a high emphasis on being interdisciplinary.

RW: See, I would change that and be like, it’s over and above graduate level work. Like the kinds of things that are done here are unheard of, anywhere. And the seriousness and creativity that is done for original writing and original research is really phenomenal. And even the comparative studies by students; all of the work done by students. Especially when it gets to this theoretical plane, we think it stands with any other body of discourse, locus of discourse, period. Why is it that the intellectual life of the college and the social life of the college are so distantly separated?

So our idea this year is to take what Jeff started–we’re treating it as a legacy, so that comes with “The Vanguard.” They did a really good job at leaving it with this tone of seriousness; there could be a very professional, respectable enterprise in doing this. We have our budget hearing tomorrow, and we want to be talking to the deans and as many of the faculty groups as possible.

The skills that are built, as far as genuine analysis, problem solving, research ability, writing ability…as far as building those skills and having that kind of education in the pedagogy here, totally. But we don’t have the confidence. We don’t know this about ourselves. [Vanguard] is targeting those issues: isolation of students, or the atomization that conference work tends to represent. One-on-one doesn’t always work in our favor.

SM: I really think that is the missing element to conference work. And I think that if we can actually fulfill that in the way that we would like to, conference work will become everything it’s advertised to be, and everything the school is trying to do by standing out from other schools.

ERA: Yeah. Our power is in our work. What other things will the SLC Vanguard be involved with, aside from the publication?

SM: I’m definitely interested in having events that would obviously be open to everybody, but I think might target freshmen and sophomores more. I’m thinking of modeling it after speed dating. Don’t really know yet, but the idea is that it’s a way for them to not let conference work become a really big deal in the way it shouldn’t be. Get it going, and realize it’s actually quite easy, it’s just putting the work into something you’re already passionate about and talking to people about it and getting the writing going. And making it more organic for them that early on–both in their career at the school and early in the semester–would radically change the academic environment.

ERA: Totally, because conference work can be such a lonely thing. And it doesn’t have to be.

RW: And they say the same thing about master’s, and the same thing about doctorate’s. Why are we doing that now? That’s the thing I like to say about Sarah Lawrence; we do master’s theses as undergraduates.

And just to say, if you can’t tell, we’re doing this on behalf of Sarah Lawrence at large. It’s just something that needs to be done, and this is the perfect vehicle for us to do it. We want to work with everybody.

SM: My ideal for Vanguard is that it becomes synonymous with conference work.

If you’re interested in submitting work or getting involved with SLC Vanguard, contact slcvanguard@gmail.com for more information, and follow their thoughts on Twitter @SLCVanguard.

Ella Riley-Adams (Founder, Editor-in-chief) comes from a small town in Southern Oregon. She enjoys champagne, soccer and swimming in ponds. When not immersed in Sarah Lawrence affairs, Ella works for NYC marketing and tech blog The New York Egotist and The Faster Times. Follow her on twitter @ellarileyadams.

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