On April 25, the 2016 John Near and Mitra Family scholars were honored at a special reception in the Nichols Hall auditorium. Established in 2009 and 2011, respectively, The John Near Excellence in History Education Endowment Fund and the Mitra Excellence in Humanities Endowment have allowed students to pursue research on a wide variety of topics.
Donna Gilbert, history and social science chair, opened the event with remarks about each of the grant programs. She remembered beloved history teacher John Near, who passed away in 2009, saying, “He inspired in his students a love for the excitement of historical exploration, which lives on in this special program.” Gilbert also had kind words for the Mitra family, “whose vision and kindness extended the scholars program to allow students opportunities to study topics in the broader disciplines of the humanities and social sciences.”
This year’s John Near scholars are seniors Jasmine Liu (“A House Divided: Residential Segregation in Santa Clara County”), Sadhika Malladi (“Graphic Soldiers: Popular Sentiment as Reflected in Captain America and Spider-Man”), Zarek Drozda (“Learned Lessons: Financial Innovation and the Panic of 1873”) and Sahana Narayanan (“’Bee-Boppa-Doe’: The Sounds of Musical Revolution”).
The 2016 Mitra scholars are seniors Elisabeth Siegel (“Ideology Through Subliminal Propaganda: A Critique of Portrayals of Palestine and Palestinians in Israeli and Western Online News Media during Operation Protective Edge”), Kaitlyn Gee (“Pretty in Punk: An Examination of European Female Punk Rock of the 70s and 80s Through a Feminist Lens”), Natalie Simonian (“Whispers in Russia: The Influence of the Rumors Surrounding Empress Alexandra Feodorovna on the Russian Revolution and Their Role in the German Effort to Overthrow the Tsarist Regime”) and Kavya Ramakrishnan (“The Eggleston Effect: Color Photography as Fine Art”).
“These eight seniors conducted “hundreds of hours of research that led … to scholarly analysis of musical scores, journals, maps, images, song lyrics, interviews and on and on,” said library director Sue Smith.
All of the scholars took the stage to share their thoughts on their research and thank their mentors for their invaluable guidance. Malladi, who shared heartfelt thanks to mentors Katy Rees, upper school history teacher, and upper school librarian Lauri Vaughan, also thanked her parents “for almost believing me when I said I was reading comic books for research.
“Being a Near scholar has been an incredible experience,” she continued. Although she found the research initially “more passive” than the kind of work she had become accustomed to, “I realized it was my responsibility to think critically about what I read.”
Gee also had kind words for her mentors, upper school English teacher Ruth Meyer (who wore Doc Martens in keeping with the theme of Gee’s work) and Sue Smith: “Their encouraging, patient and accommodating nature is beyond compare.”
She also expressed her gratitude to Harker “for providing me with 13 years of outstanding education.” A video of the entire reception is now available for viewing.