Ann “Annie” Kennedy ’24 and Luis Felipe López Cruz ’24 received Hamilton’s prestigious Bristol Fellowship. The program is designed to “encourage discovery of self and the world, a greater appreciation and understanding of people and culture, and to enable individuals to act on great ideas through independent study projects.”

Kennedy, a chemistry and economics double concentrator, will travel to the Netherlands, South Africa, Indonesia, and Australia to explore her project, “The Story and Potential of Trash.” Her goal is to understand global waste management problems and solutions, and how past models of production and consumption can inspire sustainable ways of living.

López Cruz, an anthropology concentrator, plans to visit Cuba, Peru, South Africa, Costa Rica, Singapore, and Taiwan to explore “Loving Blossoms: Orchid Culture, Symbolism, Meaning, and Practice.” He said his project will “develop a new discourse focusing on what orchids mean and how they shape and reflect the identities, values, and beliefs of the people who use, grow, trade, collect, and admire them to create a more equitable dialogue on orchid cultures in the global north and academia.”

Responses have been condensed for the sake of brevity. 

What drove your interest in this project?

López Cruz: I live in Redland, Fla., just outside Homestead. Orchids are everywhere where I grew up. I never felt that they were anything special or so much as noticed them when I was young. Orchids were as much a fact of life down there as daffodils and tulips are in the spring in Clinton. You don’t notice how ubiquitous something is until it’s gone. You don’t notice how integral little things are to your environment until they’re not there anymore. 

After my first semester at Hamilton, I felt strange. Everything that I subconsciously understood as an absolute truth in my small world was changing. I noticed how weird it was that orchids up north were seen as fragile and exotic things that require special care and embody some sort of extravagance, elegance, or mystery. So, I began to notice the orchids around me back home more and more. I began to see the Vandas and the Oncidiums being sold at the flea market. I began to wonder. If orchids can exist in such different ways just within the U.S., how do orchids exist in the places that they’re native to? How are they incorporated into the environments that people culture? What is an orchid in these places and to the people who live with them? How do they contribute to the lives of the people who live with them and use them?

Annie Kennedy ’24

Majors: Chemistry and economics
Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
High school: Lane Technical High School

Kennedy: I became interested in this project after seeing the waste created from lab work. I had originally imagined my Bristol project to focus on questions of how we created the food production system that we have today because I was working in an agronomy lab to improve pennycress seed germination last summer. During that time, I would throw out all these plastic petri dishes and seeds that I spent weeks keeping alive. Although I was creating a lot of trash, it was in the name of commercializing pennycress seed in the hope that the adult plant would provide both fuel and food. I realized I was most intrigued by the very concept of waste. 

“You don’t notice how integral little things are to your environment until they’re not there anymore.” 

Did any Hamilton experiences inspire your project?

Kennedy: This project developed out of my Emerson Research with [Assistant] Professor [of History] Mackenzie Cooley. To engage in scientific storytelling, I wrote weekly essays about working in both the agronomy lab and history library. She helped me craft the application. Many times over the summer, I got writer’s block when I attempted to finalize the project proposal over the summer. In September, Professor Cooley sent me to London to attend The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries’ Collecting & Reflecting on Pharmacy History. From that experience, I wanted to continue researching abroad. It was not until late nights in the hostel lobby that the project completely came together!

Luis Felipe López Cruz ’24

Majors: Anthropology
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
High school: School for Advanced Studies (Homestead)

What do you hope to learn?

López Cruz: The reality is that I don’t want to forecast what I will or won’t find. Part of this project requires an openness to acknowledge ignorance. I certainly fantasize about the types of new things I’ll learn or the crazy concepts I might come up with, but I know that feeding into any idea that I’ll find something or make a specific connection limits the possibilities of the project. With all sincerity, I hope that I can’t even conceptualize now what I’ll learn through the project. I hope that there will be something so unexpected for me that I’ll be able to reflect on anything that I had imagined for the research and see my own ignorance.

What are you most looking forward to?

Kennedy: I will grow my understanding of how different cultures conceptualize trash. In my free time, I am looking forward to exploring each country’s culture by learning about their art, food, and music. I am most excited to meet so many people during my travels. From emails and Zoom calls to prepare for this fellowship, I have heard incredible stories for activists, artists, and scientists. I am thrilled to meet these people and many more.

López Cruz: I am paralyzed with desire and hope for my road trip through South Africa. The sheer complexity and variety of the history and practices around orchids in South Africa feels insane. To a Safa, I would probably sound insane, but that’s because orchids in South Africa are so varied and their cultures and histories are so deeply intertwined with specific places. It’s not one great big intermeshed orchid culture like Taiwan or a couple of really specific and really important isolated traits like Peru. South Africa’s relationship with orchids is different. They pop up in seemingly insignificant places and ways throughout the country. They are just under the radar enough everywhere they appear to avoid attention. I have an idea of what the other puzzles look like, I more or less know where the colors and corners go, but not with South Africa. I can’t make heads or tails of everything going on there. That’s why it’s so alluring.

Students interested in applying for next year’s Bristol Fellowship should contact Lisa Grimes, student fellowships coordinator, to discuss their project ideas.

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