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Essay contest winners connect with Bloomberg Distinguished Professors

Posted March 20, 2018
  • Fourth-year Bloomberg Scholar Sashini Godage, left, enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture with Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor Vesla Weaver, center.

  • First-year Bloomberg Scholar Deborah Weidman, right, discussed biology, space exploration, and Star Trek during her dinner with Bloomberg Distinguished Professor Sabine Stanley, left, at Gertrude's Restaurant in the Baltimore Museum of Art.

During a reception last fall linking Hopkins' Bloomberg Distinguished Professors and undergraduate Bloomberg Scholars, Sashini Godage found herself drawn to one particular faculty member. Vesla Weaver, a Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor of political science and sociology, spoke about her Portals Project, which allows citizens separated by hundreds of miles to engage in conversations about policing in their communities.

"What I liked most about the [Portals] project was its focus on personal narrative," says Godage, a fourth-year student who saw parallels to her own research on Sri Lanka's Kandyan dance tradition. "This gives people the opportunity to speak for themselves."

When Godage learned about the first Bloomberg Scholars essay contest's grand prize — dinner and an excursion with the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of your choice — she decided to pen an entry about Weaver. She and first-year Bloomberg Scholar Deborah Weidman, who wrote about Bloomberg Distinguished Professor Sabine Stanley, earned the contest's top honors.

Read Sashini Godage's essay

Read Deborah Weidman's essay

Weidman and Stanley, who is jointly appointed in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Applied Physics Laboratory, share a love of Star Trek that dates to their respective childhoods and fuels their passion for science and space. The duo planned to visit the Morris W. Offitt Telescope in the Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy on the Homewood campus, but cloudy weather intervened. Instead, the two had extra time to speak over dinner at Gertrude's Restaurant, when Weidman shared with Stanley her desire to pursue a career that blends her studies in biomedical engineering with her affinity for space.

"She's very strong in understanding where her interests lie and fearless in her willingness to pursue research in areas that aren't well defined," says Stanley, who brought up various projects at APL and NASA that may be available to Weidman.

"She said I'm always welcome to reach out if I think she can help me in any way, and I feel like that was really above and beyond," Weidman says.

Weaver and Godage's outing began at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture in downtown Baltimore. The pair enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour with one of the museum's curators and saw new artifacts not yet on display, such as a uniform from one of the first black regiments in World War I. Afterward, they had dinner at the Loch Bar seafood restaurant in Baltimore's Harbor East neighborhood.

"So much of our daily lives as faculty are about one-way learning transactions, where we teach and students are supposed to absorb what you have to say," Weaver says. "Sometimes it's nice to interact with students when the goal is not gaining or transporting knowledge. Some of those chance encounters in my career, when I engaged with professors outside the context of the classroom, were incredibly important for my development as a person and a scholar."