The summer before junior year, recalls Eashaa Jampala ’17, when I would take AP English Language and Composition, Ms. Rossuck told us that we would get extra credit for attending Neri Oxman’s talk at Randolph. Mr. Townsend had told me about how interesting and unique her work was, since he had already heard her speak at a conference.
When Ms. Oxman spoke about her experimental design in synthetic biology, she quoted from Frankenstein, which I had read at Duke TIP over the summer, in a class about monster culture.
After Ms. Oxman's talk, Mrs. Elliott and I began discussing her Frankenstein reference. We didn’t originally plan to do anything big with our ideas, but the conversation unexpectedly grew into a topic that combined Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s essay “Monster Culture: Seven Theses,” on how to recognize a monster, with ethics, philosophy (Slavoj Zizek and Nick Bostrum in particular), and the work of Robert Oppenheimer on the creation of the atomic bomb.
We decided to focus on “Seven Theses” as a template and worked on a presentation for her 10th grade class, then reading Frankenstein, to which we invited Mr. Cobbs, Mr. Hillinck and Grace LaFrentz ’17.
This year, I am taking an independent study with Ms. Lawson on sociology, focused on intersectionality and identity politics. Intersectionality is how different parts of your identity inform how (and what parts of yourself) you present to others, as well as how the interconnected nature of those social categorizations (such as race, class, and gender) create overlapping systems of discrimination or disadvantage. I have surveyed all of the history classes on language and labels to see which words and situations connote racism. As a follow-up, I am writing up a summary paper and beginning to focus on gender.
I think the most important thing Randolph has done for me is give me access to teachers who have encouraged me to want to pursue ideas for the sake of knowledge.
Zoe Pitsinos '18 created a portrait of Eashaa for an editorial photography assignment in Mr. Townsend's Advanced Photography class. Here is what Zoe had to say:
As we sit on the old cushy couch in the dressing room of the Thurber Arts Center, I bypass further formalities to ask, “What did the project mean to you, or how did it affect you?”
Eashaa had a fascinating answer: “It meant a lot to me not because I already had an interest in it, but because I developed an interest in it.” This did not necessarily tell me what kind of imagery to use, but it did tell me the kind of person I was dealing with.
She did not go to Ms. Elliott because she was stuck on a project, she went because she wanted knowledge. Wanted information. She is a true student in pretty much every sense of the word.
“Almost anything can be a monster,” Eashaa confided, “if you look at it through a certain lens, and the multitude of your experiences will compound into something that you don’t expect.”
Immediately a realm of potential options sprung into my head. Those two sentences opened up so many doors. What can I turn into a monster that most people do not expect to be one? Can I turn Eashaa into a monster? Should I make the lighting green to give an overall creepy vibe? Can Eashaa be seeing something that the audience does not? Can the audience see something is a monster that Eashaa does not?
This story is from a series of thumbnail portraits in the forthcoming Spring 2017 Randolph Magazine, in a feature titled “Learning in the Community: Transformative Experiences.”