EBOLA AT EMORY HOSPITAL

In case you missed the recent frenzy of news trucks crowding Woodruff Circle, Emory University Hospital has been treating two American health care workers who contracted the Ebola virus in Liberia. Kudos if you snagged a selfie with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

EXTENDED THANKSGIVING BREAK

Thinking about skipping class the Wednesday before Thanksgiving? Now you don’t have to. The Emory calendar now declares that Wednesday off for College and Oxford students (the Business School will follow suit but have not made an official announcement), which means a five-day weekend for the holiday.

PASTA JOHN’S NOW IN COX

If you couldn’t get enough of Pasta John’s infectious attitude and impromptu singing, be sure to stop by his new storefront in Cox Hall. The made-to-order pasta will satisfy the appetites of vegetarians and carnivores alike.

WOODRUFF LIBRARY RENOVATIONS

The second floor of Woodruff Library is now more mobile friendly. Over the summer, the space was renovated to include more electrical outlets to accommodate for personal laptops, as well as wheely tables and chairs to make it easier to study in groups. MARBL is also undergoing renovations this year. Since it’s now on the 7th floor, you won’t be able to get to the 10th floor for manuscripts, archives, rare books and a beautiful view of Atlanta.

THE MAIL ROOM

Check out the brand new mail center in the bottom floor of the DUC, which features a streamlined pickup process and the elimination of mailboxes in favor of mail folders sorted by last name.

RAOUL HALL

Raoul Hall is the newest addition to Emory’s luxury real estate for freshmen (also known as the freshman housing master plan). The residence hall will be home to more than 330 freshmen, resident advisors and sophomore advisors.

EAGLE ROW PAVING

In addition to the newly-built Raoul Hall, Eagle Row got a facelift. Whether you’re zooming to Zaya’s or running the row, thanks to this summer’s repaving, it’ll be smooth sailing.

DEAN JAMES

On July 15, Erika Hayes James became the new dean of the Goizueta Business School. She is also the first black woman to lead a top-25 business school.

FRAT HOUSE SWAPPING

Brush up on your Greek alphabet! Pi Kappa Alpha (Pike) has moved into the old Sigma Nu house, Chi Phi has moved into the old Pike house and Xi Kappa is living in the old Chi Phi house.

NEW THEOLOGY BUILDING

This fall marks the opening of the new Candler Theology Library, a beautiful new building with large windows, classrooms and over 610,000 volumes.

— By Harmeet Kaur, Multimedia Editor, and Stephen Fowler, Asst. News Editor

Dooley

Dooley, Lord of Misrule, first appeared on the Emory scene in an essay in the school’s literary journal The Emory Phoenix. He began his tenure as Emory’s resident skeleton hanging in a biology classroom, giving him plenty of time to observe the strange and foolish ways of Emory students that he discussed in his essay “Reflections of the Skeleton.” But this was all a ruse, as a 1909 issue of Phoenix featured “Dooley’s Letter—By Way of Introduction,” which contended that the author of “Reflections” was an imposter and that the author of the “Letter” was the genuine Lord Dooley. For the next 30 years, Dooley contributed to campus publications, but it was in 1941 that he made his first appearance on campus at the school’s first dance. Since then, Dooley has remained to wreck a little playful havoc, most notably during Dooley’s Week, when the mischievous Lord patrols campus with his guard and releases classes. Dooley reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. — Rhett Henry, Editorials Editor

Swoop

Powerful, playful and at times a little sassy, Swoop is the much-beloved face of the Emory Eagles. But this was not always the case. Once upon a time, Emory’s athletic teams had no nickname. In the distant past, our sports teams had been unofficially called, at one time or another, the Hillbillies, the Gentlemen and even the Teasippers, but by 1960, we were just Emory. The Wheel’s Sports Editor at the time, an intrepid young man named David Kross, decided that this situation just would not do and on Oct. 27, 1960, he unilaterally declared from the bully pulpit of the Sports section that Emory’s sports teams would henceforth and forever more (unless people disagreed) be called the Eagles. The name stuck.

July 4, 1986 was not only the 210th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence — it was also Swoop’s birthday. Ever since then, he has been representing Emory both on and off the court/field. In addition to leading the cheering section at Emory sporting events, Swoop is also active in the Atlanta community, helping charities raise money for a plethora of good causes. In his spare time, Swoop enjoys listening to the music of the Eagles and watching old basketball games on ESPN Classic, especially those involving Larry Bird. – Bennett Ostdiek, Editor-at-Large.

Dooley’s Week

Dooley’s Week is the biggest spirit week on campus. There’s free food, free concerts, free shirts – plus, there’s that whole thing where Dooley walks around Emory and lets students out of class if their professors can’t answer an obscure question about Emory’s history. There also have been some great acts brought
onto Emory’s campus. Last year, Chance The Rapper was the performer and, two years ago, it was Kendrick Lamar. There’s also Dooley’s Ball, which is more of an electronic, glow-stick scene but equally exciting and well-attended. If you’re not one for big crowds and loud noises, there are other (calmer) events like trivia for students. This week is one of your few weeks that have concentrated celebrations of Emory pride, so take advantage of it — and
make sure you fight tooth-and-nail for a free Dooley’s Week shirt.

Homecoming Week

Most schools base their Homecoming Week around a football game, but Emory and SPC (Student Programming Council) have made sure “Swoop’s Week” will be an oasis from students’ studies and alums’ day-to-day lives at gridiron-less Emory.
Homecoming promises something for everyone, from those looking to reunite with old friends, to former student athletes, to scholars, to music buffs. Students will begin celebrating when they take a break from class with their weekly walk through Wonderful Wednesday on Sept. 17. The next day, the Candler School of Theology will host a lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, journalist and historian Dr. Garry Wills on the “Life and Teachings of Jesus and Their Impact on Culture.” The Laney Graduate School will offer a “Conversation with the Deans” on hot topics. Oxford College will also hold its Alumni Awards Banquet. On Friday, award ceremonies and class reunions will take place, along with the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing’s “The Journey to Leadership” Class. Saturday will be Spirit Day, beginning with a Residence Hall Reunion and fraternity and sorority open houses. At 1 p.m., the Women’s Soccer team, which made the Division III Tournament last season, will take on Berry College at the WoodPEC. The Homecoming Parade will take place at 12:30 p.m., ending at 2:00 for the Homecoming Ball on McDonough Field, featuring performances by Cash Cash and Sugar Ray. – Zak Hudak, Sports Editor

Other Campus Traditions

Emory’s best-known tradition is our unofficial mascot, Dooley, Lord of Misrule, and the week of spring semester that we dedicate to his antics and fun-loving spirit. His face (or, rather, his cranium) appears on all manner of Emory swag and there will, undoubtedly, be a number of students lucky enough to have him dismiss their classes. But Emory is a university that loves its traditions – these are a few more that make the rest of the school year more exciting:

Wonderful Wednesday: There was a time, early in Emory’s history, when Wednesdays were dedicated to rest and relaxation, not class and consternation. Although we have to go to class, Emory strives to maintain this spirit of fun by putting on a street fair in Asbury Circle every Wednesday afternoon.
Sophomore Pinning: Among other reasons, Emory is unique because students are considered alumni after two consecutive semesters. Why? Back in the day – before you needed a college degree to run a company – Robert Woodruff left Emory after just two semesters to run the Coca-Cola Company. The Student Alumni Association (SAA) remembers this quirk by bestowing alumni pins on rising sophomores in a lovely pinning ceremony.
Coke Toast: In another nod to Emory’s long history with the Coca-Cola Company, every first-year student and every graduating senior participates in a “coke toast” to commemorate the commencement and conclusion of their Emory careers. Drink up! – Nick Bradley, Associate Editor

Emory Sports

In such a college-sports crazed state, it’s easy to overlook Emory Athletics for the lack of any Division I teams (or any sort of football team) to speak of. What the University lacks in big-name sports and tailgate scenes, however, it makes up for by essentially being the best athletic school in Division III. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not a big one — just last year, the Eagles won five conference titles and finished in the top 15 nationally in nine sports, including a pair of national titles in women’s swimming and diving and women’s tennis. Emory clocked in at sixth in the Director’s Cup standings, which measure athletic success across the board, and Emory Athletics Director Tim Downes was named the Division III Athletic Director of the Year.

A bit of background: each of Emory’s 18 varsity sports play in the University Athletic Association (UAA for short), an eight-team league consisting of other D-III academic and athletic powerhouses like Washington University in St. Louis and New York University. They’ve won a combined 17 national titles, a staggering number that will likely increase once the 2014-15 seasons are in the books. – Ryan Smith, Associate Editor

Sophomores

The Sophomore Slump. It’s the sinking feeling you obtain when you realize midway through the semester that the entire year may not live up to the same expectations you had freshman year.

The biggest thing you can do to avoid the wretched Sophomore Slump is to not let yourself start the Pity Party. Instead of getting upset that you aren’t getting the grades you wanted, work through it and change your routines to better match your tough classes. If you start to feel overloaded, maybe you don’t take that extra sixth class next semester. In the end, sophomore year is about living life to the fullest, solidifying your friendships, advocating for change and making tough decisions.

Go out of your way to sit in your professor’s office hours and make an impact. You’ll be grateful that you did at the end of your college years when you get great recommendations and lasting relationships with your professors.

Advocate for all the causes you believe in. Sophomore year is the year to discover what you’re passionate about and to solidify what you truly believe in. Make an impact on campus, because outside of college, who knows when you’ll get the chance to do so again?

Freshman year might feel like it’s about fitting in, but sophomore year is about being unique, embracing yourself, making an impact and creating lasting relationships. Don’t squander it by feeling sorry for yourself; instead, embrace the multitude of opportunities Emory has to offer.

— By Ashley Bianco, Features Editor

 

Juniors

Hey, juniors! You’re halfway done with college. It may seem like you just got here, but you’ll be graduating before you know it.

Junior year can be a scary time, but it’s also exciting. Many juniors have transformational experiences while studying abroad. You (hopefully) have gotten some introductory classes out of the way and now have the opportunity to take classes that truly interest you. Student clubs and organizations often look to their upperclassmen participants to fill leadership roles. Also, since juniors are no longer required to live on campus and may bring cars to school, this is the time to get out and explore more of Atlanta.

This year is brimming with opportunities, but with the “real-world” lurking in the not-too-far distance, it’s also time to get serious. Here are a few tips to help make your junior year a success:

Take classes that interest you. Even if they’re outside your major. If you can’t spare the credit hours, try to branch out within your major by enrolling in classes outside of your concentration.

Continue to make new friends. It’s easy to settle into a friend group and stop meeting new people. However, studying abroad can leave many friend groups split up for a semester or even a year. Whether you’re abroad or at Emory, don’t be afraid to branch out.

Prioritize. We’ve all been there — it’s the first week of freshman year, and everyone is looking to find their place to fit in on campus. Naturally, you sign up for 50 clubs. Junior year is the time to figure out which ones are truly important to you. Better yet, pursue a leadership role that you find meaningful.

Plan ahead. Start thinking early about senior year and beyond. Do you want to graduate early? Is there a job or internship you are particularly interested in? The sooner you start preparing for these types of things, the better.

— By Elizabeth Howell, Managing Editor

 

Seniors

I’m 20 years old, it’s August and I’m absolutely terrified.

It didn’t hit me until midsummer that I was going to be a senior. Three years in University really does go by quicker than you’d think. All of this pressure — from my parents, brother, extended family, friends — is kind of getting to me. I have ideas, goals and plans. I have started applications, and I have finished applications, but I can’t see my future right now.

But I’m happy. I’m happy and full of fear.

That’s just it: the fear of not really knowing where you’re going to end up, the fear of failing and disappointing all of those who bet on you, the fear of realizing that every- thing you worked for got you to the other side of where you wanted to be.

But I love the fear because it motivates me. The fear keeps me staring at my ceiling, thinking and thinking all night. The fear allows me to separate what’s real and what’s bullshit, because this is rational fear, and it keeps me alert.

I thrive on the fear because if I don’t succeed, at least I know that I tried, and that sentiment is enough to make me try again.

Life’s a gamble; life’s a risk. Life’s full of opportunity costs and the unknown, of beautiful people and horrendous people. Sometimes, it sucks, and you will fall flat on your face. You can plan and plan, have plan A, B, C, etc. and work your ass off to ensure at least one of these plans happen, but sometimes things just don’t work out, and that’s just a part of the game.

College has and will continue to be a embracement of this fear. So for all the rising seniors: let’s play cards.

— By Priyanka Krishnamurthy, Editor in Chief

Best “First Year” Event: SONGFEST

Let’s be honest: it’s a little irritating when your way-too-energetic SA drags you out of your room (multiple times) to practice dance moves in a parking lot. But at some point between tripping over your hallmates and learning more lyrical variations to “Beat It” than you ever knew could exist, it stops being a burden and actually starts being fun. I won’t pretend to know how running around frantically in front of thousands of newly-indoctrinated Emory students does the trick, but it does. And you’ll find yourself returning to the WoodPEC every year after to cheer on your former place of residence.

Best Arts Event: BEST IN SHOW

This might be kind of a cop-out, but Best in Show never fails to impress. I’m 90 percent sure it was created as a way to prove to parents that we really do more than study in this place, but there’s no better way to see all the awesome things your fellow Emoryians are getting up to in one shot. Take a seat on McDonough and enjoy the amazingness of the a cappella groups, student-run dance teams and any other performing group you can think of. Best in Show usually takes place during the first few weeks of school, so it’s a great chance to see all the arts groups in action before auditions.

Best overall event: DRAG SHOW

Yes, it’s true: I cried during the 2011 drag show. (They couldn’t stop the beat!) This annual event is a great way to check out a variety of on-campus clubs, from the OMPS office to EmRock to the rugby team, and most importantly — to check them out lip-syncing and grooving to any rockin’ song they choose. And it’s for a good cause: all proceeds benefit Day League, formerly known as the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center. It’s an amazing occasion when the whole campus comes together to celebrate diversity and LGBTQ pride, show our support for one another and sing and dance along the way.

— By Emelia Fredlick, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Best during-the-day dining: HIGHLAND BAKERY

When the Einstein’s by the B-school closed down, chaos ensued. What could possibly replace the beloved bagel/coffee locale? Well, as it turns out, Highland Bakery certainly could. It’s perfect for grabbing a coffee and muffin for the road; it’s perfect for sitting with a traditional southern breakfast and finishing up your homework before class; it’s perfect for grabbing a fresh salad or sandwich and enjoying lunch with a friend. The rest of Emory is equally as excited about the bakery, so the lines tend to be long, but fear not — they move surprisingly fast.

Best study spot: THE BIO LIBS

Best place to study on campus: “The Bio Libs” aka the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library. During finals time, the Woodruff Library is anything but conducive to studying. If you’re lucky enough to even find a seat, the collective panic creates waaay too much tension, and it’s impossible to actually focus your attention on, like, a textbook (I actually had security come yell at a study room one time for being too loud).

Enter the solution: the Health Sciences Library. In the Bio building en route to the Woodruff dorms, you’ll find this lovely hidden gem of a study spot. There are big, comfy chairs. There’s historic-feeling architecture. There’s always a free table. Perhaps most importantly, there’s silence.

Best bathroom on campus: FIRST FLOOR CANDLER

Unless you’re a Classics major, you probably won’t be spending a whole lot of time on the ground floor of Candler. But that’s why the bathroom you’ll find there is so awesome. It’s a personal bathroom, in a super-silent and calming area, so you can do your business in peace. There’s never a line. It’s in a primarily faculty-used area, so it’s a little nicer. And it’s clean.

Best on-campus late-night dining: ZAYA AT DOOLEY’S DEN

There’s been a lot of over-the-summer buzz about the revamps coming to Cox this fall, but until we have definitive proof of their improvements, I’ll always be a Zaya girl. It’s open over fall break, when everything else is closed, and it’s great for when you’re looking for somewhere to use your Dooley Dollars. It’s open at one in the morning, when you’re lugging an over-served friend back to the dorms, and you’re both really craving some pancakes. It offers falafel, gyros and other traditional Greek fare, along with all the basic chicken tenders and burger options. Plus, where else on campus can you grab a pint of ice cream to go?

— By Emelia Fredlick, Arts & Entertainment Editor

DRUID HILLS

Our beloved University is situated in a heavily residential, wealthy area known as Druid Hills. While Emory might have an Atlanta postal address, we’re actually outside the city limits of Atlanta in unincorporated DeKalb County — also known as the quasi-suburbs (seriously, Druid Hills was historically Atlanta’s second established suburb). While we live in a pretty quiet area, take advantage of Druid Hills’ gems.

Beautiful greenspaces, like the on-campus Lullwater Park and the forested Olmsted Linear Parks near Ponce de Leon Ave.
Award-winning dining, like the General Muir, a Jewish deli-style restaurant in the newly minted (and upscale) Emory Point, or Rise-N-Dine and Falafel King, every college student’s favorite hangout in Emory Village.
Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Seriously. Go. It’s cool.

DECATUR

O Decatur, the perfectly-planned city alternative to the urban planning nightmare that is Atlanta. Located a few miles east of Atlanta city limits, Decatur’s a neighborhood very close to Emory and was also a suburb that’s undergone heavy gentrification in the past decades. Now, it’s home to some of the best dining and drinking options in Atlanta.

Check out:
Victory Sandwich Bar. With $4 gourmet sandwiches and a cocktail menu to knock your socks off (see the famous Jack & Coke slushie), what other place could you take your late-night cravings?
Java Monkey. Along with Dancing Goats, Java Monkey represents the best coffee that Decatur has to offer (although the wi-fi could use some help). Stop by to get some reading done in a laid-back atmosphere — especially on Sunday nights, where some of the best slam-poetry in the city happens.
Decatur CD. Crotchety old men sell you an awesome collection of new and used CDs and records. Can’t beat that.
Most every other restaurant and bar. Chai Pani, Brick Store, Leon’s Full Service, Cakes & Ale — you really can’t go wrong when it comes to eating out in Decatur. Just check the menu before you go out if you’re looking to save money, since they be a bit pricey (see: gentrification).

LITTLE FIVE POINTS

The mini-version of the “big” Five Points in Downtown, Little Five is close to Emory — especially via Marta — and one of the weirdest, coolest neighborhoods in Atlanta. Booming with 1960s and 70s counterculture (if you look closely, you’ll still see some hippies), Little Five is brimming with locals and some of the best bars and food around. It’s strange and homey, and you may want to become a neighborhood regular.

The Best of Little Five:
BEER. The Porter Beer Bar has a menu with more beer than you could ever try, and Wrecking Bar Brewpub has some of Atlanta’s best beer — brewed in-house. Both have food to die for. If you’re looking for a grungier experience, try Star Bar (which has local music most nights) or Elmyr, everyone’s favorite Mexican dive bar with great food and cheap liquor. (Pro-tip: if you want more weird, dive bar excellence, check out East Atlanta Village).
COFFEE AND PIZZA. One of the oldest coffee shops in town, Aurora Coffee has great coffee, good music, and a nice patio. You can get all different types of iced and chocolatey stuff you want (even fresh coconuts), and if you’re hungry, just go next door to Savage Pizza.
MUSIC. Criminal Records is your go-to stop for records. They’ve got a huge selection of vinyl and CDs (and comics!), great recommendations, and they host a number of *free* in-store performance (Chvrches came a few months ago). For even more music, you can head over to Wax N’ Fax just next door.

VIRGINIA HIGHLANDS
By far one of Emory’s most popular neighborhoods for nightlife, VaHi (or “the Highlands”) has got a pub-crawl sort of charm, and it’s full of young professionals and new families. It’s very walkable and, like Druid Hills, it has a lot of old houses. Other than that, it’s kind of a peaceful, reliably decent area of town with a couple of good spots:

Blind Willie’s. It’s Atlanta’s best blues bar, and it’s a great alternative to EDM/sweat-filled clubs. Come for the drinks, stay for the always soulful live music.
Atlanta Cupcake Factory and Alon’s Bakery. The first offers gourmet cupcakes with flavors like Butterfinger and chocolate salted caramel, and Alon’s provides the best fresh breads and pies around.
The plethora of pretty good bars like Hand in Hand and Dark Horse Tavern, but Manuel’s Tavern is probably the best of the bunch, with a history of being a Georgia Democrat leader hangout and a local favorite.

BUCKHEAD

Okay, if you want to go to Buckhead, just know that it’s pretty widely regarded as the most ritzy, pretentious area of town. It’s Atlanta’s financial district, and apparently Justin Bieber lives there now. That’s all I’m saying. A begrudging list of the few things that are “ok” or at least have some vestige of character in Buckhead:

Because You’re Fancy:
Prohibition. Once rated as one of Atlanta’s douchiest bars (not kidding), Prohibition is a speakeasy-style establishment where you technically have to give a password to get in. It’s trying to replicate the exclusivity (and elitism) of the 1920s with fancy cocktails and cigars. Ugh.
Anis Cafe & Bistro. Located in a cute house, it serves a blend of French and Mediterranean cuisine on a peaceful patio.

MIDTOWN

One of three city centers in Atlanta (between Downtown and Buckhead), Midtown has lots of tall buildings, 9-to-5 white-collar workers, and young people, often from the nearby Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech).

Go See:
Piedmont Park is one of the most iconic, beautiful parts of the city. Atlanta’s answer to Central Park (both were actually designed by the same person), Piedmont is huge and great for running, walking your dog, or just having a picnic and reading with a friend. Check out the nearby Midtown Art Cinema if you want to catch a flick afterward.
Flying Biscuit Cafe. It may not necessarily be the best breakfast in Atlanta, but you’ve got to go at least once. The original Flying Biscuit is in Candler Park (close to Emory), but the Midtown location has the best people-watching. Both have mouth- wateringly good biscuits and that sweet, sweet strawberry jam.
The culture. The High Museum, Atlanta’s biggest art museum with some good college nights, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra are both located in Midtown’s Woodruff Art Center. Additionally, the Alliance Theatre and the Fox Theatre are nearby for stage performances. And if you like clubbing, Ponce’s MJQ offers the best Wednesday night out.

DOWNTOWN

Atlanta’s Downtown is in the midst of change. While parts have been often vacant after work hours are over, the heart of the city is being swept with new life as affordable housing crops up and as Georgia State University, the city’s biggest university located in the “concrete campus” of Downtown, keeps growing.

Places to Go While You’re There:
The Mammal Gallery. It’s a new, community-oriented performance space that hosts some killer (and cheap) live shows, as well as open mic nights, game nights, and art-focused events that welcome all types of people.
Anatolia Café & Hookah Lounge. Into hookah? Not? Doesn’t matter — Anatolia has both great Mediterranean food and good drinks and hookah, and it’s usually filled with other college students from around Atlanta. Meet people!
Downtown’s surrounding neighborhoods. They’re not on this list but, every neighborhood in Atlanta has something to offer. Like bars? Edgewood Avenue is probably the bar district in the city. Into coffee? Check out Condesa Coffee off of Boulevard Drive. Love nature? The Southwest Atlanta Beltline makes you forget you’re in a city with its hiking trails and urban forest.

— By Sonam Vashi, Executive Editor

Photo by Jenna Kingsley College senior Christal Wang (left) and Georgia Institute of Technology sophomore Kush Patel (right) worked on   their app, PhotoSinc, Saturday night at the Emory Hackathon.

Photo by Jenna Kingsley
College senior Christal Wang (left) and Georgia Institute of Technology sophomore Kush Patel (right) worked on
their app, PhotoSinc, Saturday night at the Emory Hackathon.

It’s 11 p.m. in the Math and Science building’s biggest lecture hall. But instead of the silent, deserted place it is most Saturday nights, the room is alive with a quiet energy. Students working in hushed tones are scattered all about the giant space.

In the middle of the room, three young men type furiously on their keyboards, surrounded by a mountain of empty water bottles and Coke cans. In the front of the room, someone laughs as a fellow group member writes an equation on an already-crowded whiteboard. In the corner, a student bangs his hands on his laptop and consults his team with frustration.

“You see?” he says. “It works when I move my hand over the sensor. But on the monitor, it’s reverse! Did you see that?”

The focus, laughter and frustration all are directed at one event: Emory Hackathon 2014, a 32 hour competition to build an app, or hack, with a team and showcase the creation to win a multitude of prizes. This year’s hackathon was hosted throughout the Math and Science building from April 12 at 10 a.m. until April 13 at 5 p.m. The event was co-hosted by Microsoft, who offered over $5000 in prizes for skilled coders and beginners and boasted more than 200 in total attendance.

But what is a hackathon? And what is it that’s being hacked?

At events like Emory Hackathon, there’s no actual “hacking” in the mainstream sense of the word. The goal is never to hack into another account or get through the firewall of a government database. Rather, a hackathon is an event where computer programmers come together to work intensively on software products and programs. It’s a combination of the words “hack” and “marathon,” hence the need for computer prowess and coding stamina.

College hackathons started gaining popularity in the spring of 2009, when a hackathon at the University of Pennsylvania, PennApps, was born. Since then, hackathons have grown in quantity and attendance on campuses around the nation.

Many hackathons offer big prizes for the most innovative creations. PennApps has since grown to host over 2500 hackers and offer upwards of $30,000 in rewards. Emory Hackathon, only in its second year, cannot yet boast those types of numbers. But it is growing, and quickly.

Last year, Emory Hackathon was a small event with around 50 participants. This year, over 200 students participated. While some participants were Emory students, many came from neighboring schools like Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) or Georgia State University. Hackers came from five different states, and their education backgrounds ranged from high school to medical school.

“Hackathons are the biggest thing to happen to CS (computer science) in a long time,” College senior and lead organizer for the event Tom Mou said.

Mou, along with many others from the Emory Robotics and Computer Engineering Club, dedicated many months to planning this year’s event. The team spent much of their time obtaining sponsors, planning logistics and even hosted coding workshops for beginners in preparation for the competition.

Mou stressed the importance of gaining sponsors for events like this on campus.

“80 percent of our budget doesn’t come from Emory,” he said. “That’s why we turn to sponsors.”

Microsoft co-sponsored the event, in addition to other companies like Google, United Way, Uber, Zipcar, Wolfram, MailChimp, Mandril, Twilio and many others. The hackathon was also sponsored in part by Emory’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Department of Chemistry, Laney Graduate School, College Council and Robotics and Engineering Club.

Sponsors helped provide food, prizes and speakers at the event. The prizes ranged from a Microsoft Surface 2 tablet for each team member, $500 in cash and one year WolframAlpha Pro/Mathematica passes for the Grand Prize winner to Startup Chowdown tickets at Atlanta Tech Village for the best startup-friendly hack. The best novice team received a $250 team cash prize and 6 month Code School passes.

With prizes for novice teams and support available from experienced hackers, the event was open to all skill levels.

“It’s really all about learning,” Mou said. “We wanted to focus on that aspect, not the prizes. We’re doing this for the Atlanta community.”

The Atlanta community came out bright and early. Check-in started at 8:30 a.m., followed by a kickoff ceremony, tech talks and then lunch, which served as a meet and greet for the participants. Then, things got quiet and the hacking commenced.

Food kept many hackers going throughout the event. Participants ploughed through five meals, 12 pounds of ground coffee, 150 bottles of Starbucks iced coffee and, of course, pieces upon pieces of pizza.

“It’s not a hackathon without midnight pizza,” Mou laughed.

Just before the midnight pizza, work began getting more intense all over the Math and Science building. Each team, consisting of a maximum of four members, only had 32 hours to complete their hacks. While some Emory students decided to go back to their rooms for the night, many of the hackers worked into the early hours of the morning, taking turns napping in various designated sections in the building.

While teams were scattered across different rooms, the hub seemed to be room 208, the giant lecture hall. The room was quiet, but there seemed to be a charge to the air, like a sort of silent frenzy.

“It’s usually even crazier than this,” College senior Christal Wang said. “I think some people went back to their dorms.”

Wang was on a team with her brother, Christopher Wang, and her brother’s friend, Kush Patel, both sophomores at Georgia Tech. Christal and Patel, both novices, teamed up with Christopher, an experienced programmer, for the weekend.

“We’re just here to learn,” Christal said, shaking her head with a smile. “This is Christopher’s thing. This is what he does on the weekends.”

The trio’s app, named PhotoSinc, was a picture service that took photos from a phone, uploaded and tagged them on the cloud, and then sent them individually to the tagged person. Essentially, the app allows people to share photos but bypasses social media.

“It grew out of being more private,” Patel said. “Chris and I aren’t fans of public social media.”

Another team, consisting of Trevor Goodyear, Gene Chorba, William Wood and Gabriel Siewe, all CS majors from Georgia State University, created an app called Shelter, which provides a portal for homeless shelters to maintain databases of the homeless with pictures and information related to each individual.

Though they are both experienced coders, it was Goodyear and Siewe’s first hackathon.

“We tried to ask to be in the novice category,” Goodyear joked.

“They said no,” Chorba said with a grin.

It ended up only being fair; Shelter won three prizes at the event, including Second Place overall, the United Way Hack for the Homeless Prize for the best hack that addressed an issue regarding homelessness and Best Use of Twilio application programming interface (API).

The grand prize went to College senior Neil Sethi and his team members Angie Palm, Brendan Isham and Shivani Negi, all students at Georgia Tech. Their hack, called Musiqu.es, was a sound sampling web application that allows users to act as a DJ on the go.

Third place went to Parachute, an app that delivers ice cream directly to the consumer by quadricopter. The creators, all Georgia Tech students, are now talking to King of Pops about the opportunity to deliver popsicles to customers by dropping them in tiny parachutes.

The high school team from Milton, Georgia took home the top new hacker prize.

All hacks were due at 3 p.m., when each team was given three minutes to demo their app to the judges. Then, judges deliberated and awarded prizes at the closing ceremony. Closing ceremony speakers included Protip Biswas, vice president of homelessness at United Way of Atlanta, Devin Rader, developer evangelist at Twilio and Brian Easter, CEO of Nebo Agency.

“Overall, the event was overwhelmingly successful,” Mou said. “We had people who knew nothing about coding make fully functional apps after learning basic platforms. The group of medical school students from Emory created a text-alert system that automatically alerts the authority in the event of a serious collision between bikes, motorcycles or cars. And yes, they knew nothing about coding before this.”

But learning wasn’t the only thing happening at the event; participants also made sure to make time to have some fun.

“Microsoft came out with a 3D printer for the first time and made stuff for people for free,” Mou said. “They also brought out 2 Xbox Ones.”

However, despite all of Hackathon’s success, Mou believes there is still room for improvement. He hopes that each year’s success will build upon the next. The only place to go, it seems, is up.

“We are already starting to work on next spring’s edition of the event, which will be much bigger,” he said. “More prizes, more participants, bigger venue.  And bringing in people from across the South to make it the biggest hackathon for the South by the South.”

— By Jenna Kingsley

Courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema | Flickr Director and producer David Gordon Green, known for comedies such as “Pineapple Express,” spoke to Emory students last week.

Courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema | Flickr
Director and producer David Gordon Green, known for comedies such as “Pineapple Express,” spoke to Emory students last week.

David Gordon Green is a writer, director and producer best known for studio comedies “Pineapple Express” and “The Sitter,” as well as independent feature films including “All the Real Girls” and “Prince Avalanche.” Before premiering his 10th feature film “Joe” at the 2014 Atlanta Film Festival, Green paid a visit to Emory University to deliver a talk to the student body. The Wheel had the opportunity to sit down with Green and learn about his experiences as a filmmaker.

Where are you from, what sparked your interest in film and what was your college education like?

I was born in Little Rock, Ark., but I grew up in Dallas, and I always loved going to the movies. I would go with my dad a lot. I always had a bit more than an entertainment interest in movies; I really just took them seriously. I loved absorbing anything I could get my hands on behind the scenes, or if I could find a script that I could read or movie magazines I’d subscribe to. I started really exploring what it took to make movies from a young age. I was always really drawn to the concept of movie-making.

My mother told me there was a great arts program at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. It was just a campus of musicians, dancers and artists of various types and a brand new film school. So I went to school there. It wasn’t full of people with a ton of cash or networking. It was filled with people like me that loved watching movies and thought about making movies. I worked in the film archive, and that’s where I met most of the guys I make movies with. We went to school for a few years and started playing with equipment, talking about stories and things we’d like to make and our influences. We got out of school, saved up our money and started making movies. We just finished our 10th movie together, and we’ve done a ton of TV shows and commercials. It’s an interesting collective. Danny McBride and Jodi Hill lived down the hall from me in college, and now we own a company together!

You met a lot of professionals who work with you on your movies in college, like Tim Orr, your cinematographer and David Wingo, your composer. What do you feel the importance is of forming these creative partnerships?

You find people that are excellent at what they do, and some of your best friends maybe aren’t the best for the job. It’s about surrounding yourself with a group of people you’re inspired by. I want to work with people where, when we have a great success, we’re there to celebrate together, and when we have a great failure, we’re there to lift each other back up and get to work and not really be bound by the perception of traditional Hollywood observers.

You mentioned that you went into college without a connection in Hollywood. How did you overcome that networking obstacle?

We never asked for a connection in Hollywood. We just started saving our money and spending our money. We didn’t ask people for the keys to the Porsche; we just started driving the Jalopy. Eventually, people starting catching on and started paying us to do it. We turned a pastime into a career, which is the coolest thing you can do. It’s also kind of confusing sometimes because I don’t know how to take a vacation. If I have a few days off, I’m thinking about the next films I’m going to do, which isn’t much of a vacation.

In 2013, you directed both “Prince Avalanche” and “Joe.” What was it like directing two feature films in that short span of time?

It’s fun. There’s a lot of directors whose instincts are in perfection, but my processes are drawn more to the efforts of momentum, uncertainty and exploration. Just trying things. Not that we don’t have a massive amount of preparation for our projects, but there’s a lived-in, breezy quality to what we do because it’s loose and less stressful. We don’t necessarily have a concept of what we’re doing before we do it. We have a blueprint architecture for something that we want to accomplish, vaguely. We just try this, try that, improve through it and always have the script to fall back on if we need it, but for the most part, it’s just trying to find a fresh way to look at a story.

What are the roles of a director and a producer?

It’s different on a lot of projects. A lot of filmmakers like to have the “A Film By” credit because they’re the only guy that made it: they did write it, and direct it, and produce it and score the music for it. And then there’s other people that differentiate a little bit in that someone who would do the screenwriting would be different to the guy communicating with the actors and structuring the tech and artistic elements of the production, as well as the art direction and the costume design and the shots. I’ve had producers on my movies that I’ve never even met or heard of, but I always assume they’ve contributed something of importance to the film. Other times there are producers on set every day, asking you questions, helping you develop a script. A director is there to communicate between the various departments. In a healthy circumstance, everybody comes to him, and he’s giving the actors motivation and insight on how to interpret the screenplay. He’s talking to the producer about what they need to achieve within the set construction and talking to the cinematographer about ideas and concepts about how to shoot the film.

What difficulties arise in having a film that you wrote and produced?

The big question is this: where does the money come from? Sometimes money can come from a major corporation and a big movie studio. There are a lot of people that are savvy independent film investors. I’ve invested in a few movies when friends of mine are directing, whether it’s giving them money to get a project started or financing the completion. You become a participant in the potential profit of a movie. There’s a lot of risk involved because the idea of being a film producer or investing in film can be a romantic notion, but then the reality of having to hit certain deadlines with certain dollar amounts can be daunting, especially when the possibility of recoupment is questionable. There’s a lot of people that change their mind after realizing the depth of the investment. There’s always the danger, particularly in independent financing of money falling through.

One of your most recent films, “Prince Avalanche,” was shot in Bastrop, Texas, a pretty remote location. Did you personally scout out the location for the film?

“Prince Avalanche” is an example of a movie where the location was there before the script. It was a location that I had stumbled upon. Chris Hrasky, the drummer for Explosions in the Sky, the band that did the music for the movie, had told me to check out Bastrop State Park and that I should make a movie there. I watched this Icelandic film called “Either Way,” and I decided to remake the movie in that location. I do love the production value of a kick-ass location. It’s kind of cool to find a place that tells its own story and has a significance in terms of a backdrop, with cool characters in the foreground.

Where and when did you shoot “George Washington?”

“George Washington” was my first feature film. I shot it not while I was enrolled in school but where I went to school in North Carolina. I had made a short film in college called “Pleasant Grove,” which was the seed to the idea in “George Washington.” I made another movie called “Physical Pinball,” where I met a young actress Candice Evanofski, who starred in the movie. I decided I wanted to make a movie with her, so I wrote a role for her in “George Washington.” A year after I graduated, I went back to my friends and asked them to hold onto their lease. I just rented a big old house, got a bunch of used mattresses and threw them on the floor and had like 17 people living in a four-bedroom house and made a movie.

Have you had to work any odd jobs to finance any of your films

In Asheville, N.C., I had no money and I was picking up odd jobs when I could. I was working at a doorknob factory, dunking chrome doorknobs with bronze coatings into acid. I was working that job in anticipation of my next movie happening. I’ve had a lot of snaky jobs.

What kind of education did you have in film school?

It was technical and project-based. There were boundaries and limitations. We would have a concept for our project and get our hands on cameras and editing equipment. I tried to learn everything. When I realized what I excelled in or what I was confident in or what I was interested in, then I’d try to find the support of people who were better at what I lacked, like better editors and better cinematographers.

The Emory Film Program is, for the most part, history and theory-based. What kind of advantages do you feel there are to a strong academic background in film?

It depends on the person. Some people are more academic and intellectual about their exposure to film. Some people are more hands-on and in the field. Some people like to be in nice lighting and air conditioning, and some people like to be in the sweat and swamp of it all. For me, it’s both. Sometimes I like to sit back and read and reflect, and other times I like to take a big bite out of the dirt and learn a machine I’m not familiar with. In terms of a film school, the school I went to really worked for me. The curriculum was made by the student body, the kids I went to school with. We all have these long-shot ideals of what we want to be doing when we graduate. It’s nice to have people with a practical goal and a realistic means of achieving that.

What is the advice that you have for the future filmmakers of Emory University?

Surround yourself with people you trust. People that know how to challenge you and not just kiss your ass, and people that know how to support you, but not just ignorantly so. Assemble an A-Team. Find a lot of specialists that you have a good time working with. Figure out where your strengths are, and spend money and time responsibly. There are a lot people that I know who are really talented and great artists, but they’re crappy business people. Or they’re people that are great businessmen that are really smart with economics, but they don’t have anything creative about them. You need to find the balance between finance and creativity.

What is it like to direct two very different films, such as a studio film like “The Sitter,” or a personal independent film, like “Prince Avalanche”?

I like to challenge myself in different ways. “The Sitter” was a movie with a healthy budget, and we lived in New York City with the best of the technicians and a really talented cast. It’s nice when you have all of these resources at your fingertips and the support of a studio like 20th Century Fox. The film’s genetics are engineered to make it a hit commercial Hollywood film. From the beginning stages, you’re making a film that you know people will respond to and a film that will make its money back. It’s a really satisfying thing as a director when you see long lines for these films at the movie.

Right after I had done that, I wanted to switch gears. Jump into something more raw, personal, intimate and immediate. If it’s a big studio movie, there are lot of people asking you why you are doing what you are doing, with opinions on what makes a successful film. I wanted an opportunity to explore a performance piece with a couple of actors. I stripped away the excess baggage. There were no toys. There were no lights — we couldn’t even shoot at night. We didn’t even have trucks for the equipment. We rolled up in vans. The actors didn’t even have trailers; we set them up in log cabins in the park down the street. But the obstacles became opportunities for us. It was also a movie that I found very funny, and it didn’t need to appeal to millions of dollars’ worth of people. It needed to entertain thousands of dollars’ worth of people, which makes a big difference in your engineering of the film. It’s fun to let your imagination go wild. It’s fun to get in your own head and in your own passion about something.

Paul Rudd is a great comedic actor. Emile Hirsch is a great dramatic actor. What was it like putting them together?

In a lot of ways, flipping the stereotypes, it was fun seeing a comedic side of Emile come out, or a more dramatic side of Paul. I was trying to engineer a movie that had two of my friends that I could trust who would be down for a nitty-gritty movie like this. I had to narrow down the actors who would be up for a movie like this. The idea of a Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch movie made me laugh, because they would just never be in a movie together. We had no idea what the chemistry would be like, but we just did it. It was pretty clear from the first read through that we knew it was going to be a very funny dynamic, and it’s very similar off-screen as it was on-screen, which was very entertaining for me.

Television has acquired both narrative complexity and a cinematic aesthetic over the past few years. Do you foresee yourself directing and producing more in television?

I’ve done four seasons of “Eastbound & Down,” and I plan on doing a TV pilot and a show for HBO next year. We’ve got a lot of exciting things in development. Television has taken on a cinematic quality of excellence that it used to not have. But now it’s at a point of genuine substance, and the acclaim it’s getting and the viewership it’s getting is really deserved. It’s taken a bite out of the movie business, but it’s fun, lucrative and you can explore more complicated themes that don’t necessarily have to be so high-concept or star-driven; they don’t have to be dependent on the opening weekend box office. They can live and breathe, and people can think about them. They can infiltrate culture for a little bit before somebody tags them as a success or failure. 

Is there any genre that you want to tap into?

I want to do horror. I want to do a classy, elegant horror movie. Like a Polanski movie, or something that has an artistic ambition to it. Or “The Shining,” which scares the crap out of people generation after generation because they’re made with substance.

- Interview conducted by Casey Horowitz

In recent years Emory has become a force to be reckoned with in terms of college rankings, as it has maintained its status as one of U.S. News and World Report’s top 20 universities. In August, Forbes Magazine decided to drop Emory from its list of top universities as a consequence of last summer’s revelation that Emory had been intentionally misreporting admissions test scores. Although Emory has succeeded in maintaining its standing, it faces a new challenge: as of Aug. 22, President Barack Obama has changed the face of college rankings.

As high school seniors struggle to decide where they’ll be spending their college career, publicized rankings have become an increasingly important factor in their decision. The college ranking system has traditionally been dependent upon factors such as academic resources, selectivity and SAT/ACT scores. However, according to a recent New York Times article, Obama is planning to change these factors. According to the Office of the Press Secretary, the new college ranking system will place an increased focus on financial aid, scholarships and job placement after college, while also striving to lower the cost of a college education.

Although there are those at Emory who fear that Obama’s new ranking system will overlook some of the more unique aspects of the university, Charlie Harman, vice president of government and community affairs at Emory, firmly believes that with the university focused on excellence and education, there shouldn’t be a need to worry.

“It is premature to assess any of the concepts [Obama] introduced because the Administration, much less Congress, has not developed specifics around the broad proposals he has put forward including his scorecard,” Harman said.

Harman also said he believed that Emory would always be recognized as a leader amongst universities because, as he put it, “we put the horse before the cart.”

The president’s new system plans to focus on workforce success and rank colleges based on the number of graduates that obtain and keep jobs. With the new rankings recently released by the U.S. News and World Report, more emphasis has already been placed on graduation rates. Emory University President James W. Wagner said that this proposal is a demonstration of our country working towards improving its system of higher education. Although the new system still presents itself with several flaws, students would benefit greatly from this information.

In an email to the Wheel, Paul Fowler, executive director of Emory’s career center, said that Emory guarantees a “return on investment” for its education. A recent survey done in 2013 by the career center on five-year post-grad resolutions for Emory college graduates showed that over 73 percent of graduates are seeking out graduate or professional school, employment and internships after graduation.

The new ranking system also intends to create incentives for universities to work on accessibility and affordability. Dean Bentley, Emory’s director of financial aid, said that this proposal would set ranking standards and link the standards back to a university’s financial aid.

Yet there are those, especially on Emory Secrets, who complain that Emory’s financial aid fails to measure up to its reputation.

However, Bentley said the average undergraduate need-based scholarship or grant is approximately $33,833 and in 2012, Kiplinger rated Emory as one of the best valued-private colleges.

However, this new plan also seems to have a dark side as other private universities like the College of William and Mary have voiced a possibility of a ‘shame list.’

They fear that perverse incentives will force universities to reject ‘at-risk’ students and ‘dumb’ down various standards in order to obtain higher rankings.

Wagner said that it would be unwise to say that this won’t affect Emory.

“A lot of academic leadership are provided by schools like Emory, it would be wrong for us to say that this really isn’t going to rock our boat so we aren’t going to take a position, that’s why I say with concern that no I don’t think this will pervert what Emory does,” Wagner said.

But as a higher institution it is Emory’s duty to not sit back and watch as other Universities succumb to such incentives.

With this said, Wagner states that Emory will voice its opinion should the time come when we start to see such effects hurting this ranking system.

“[Emory has] a responsibility, as part of the American university system to not sit on the sidelines, just because we might not be directly affected [by these perverse incentives]” Wagner said.

—By Ashley Bianco 

If the price of an Emory education was not approximately $200,000, but rather the cost was running away from your family, embarking on a treacherous hike through the Himalayas and braving numerous encounters with Chinese and Nepalese police, it’s hard to imagine many students would pay the price. This is not the case for Tibetan Buddhist monk Sonam Choephel.

Sonam is one of the six Tenzin Gyatso Science Scholars beginning his studies at Emory University as part of the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative.

After completing work in various scientific courses, Sonam and his fellow monks will return to India to further the Tibetan Buddhist community’s understanding of modern science.

Slight of stature, Sonam speaks slowly and deliberately. He has a shaved head, as is customary for Tibetan Buddhist monks, and wears the traditional deep-red colored robes.

The prevalent stereotype of severe, strict monks and nuns quickly fades away as soon as Sonam begins to speak. He makes jokes and laughs easily and frequently.

Sonam was born in a small village in eastern Tibet called Wri. One of seven children, he spent his days leisurely.

“My childhood was not very interesting,” he said. “I just spent the whole time in that small village just doing nothing at all … just playing with my friends. No schooling or education.”

As an adult, Sonam understands that the Chinese government’s control of Tibet led to the oppression of his family.

But as a young boy, he was less aware of Tibet’s political situation. He recalls that his parents did have a photograph of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, but that it was hidden away.

Less concerned with politics, Soman longed for an education; he was 14 and illiterate.

“At that time we had many people leaving for India,” Sonam said. “We had heard that the Dalai Lama was in India and that there was education there.”

Sonam’s uncle Yonten, to whom Sonam felt very close, was a monk in a local monastery.

Although the monastery provided some education — in the form of Buddhist prayers and teachings — neither Sonam’s parents nor Yonten advocated that he join.

“My uncle sometimes used to tell me that it is good to join a monastery in India because they have these education systems,” Sonam explained.

The only way to receive a decent education, Sonam decided, was to travel to India and join a monastery.

One fateful day in 1992 Soman was visiting his uncle Yonten at the local monastery when Yonten had to leave unexpectedly.

“I don’t remember where he was,” Sonam said. “[But] I was alone in his monastic house.”

At that moment, Sonam and his friend decided they should leave for India immediately.

“My friend who was running away [with] me could write a little bit in Tibetan,” he said. “So when we left, I left a short note for my parents that I was leaving … and then I ran away.”

Sonam and his friend embarked on what would become a treacherous journey to India.

First stop: Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

The trip to Lhasa was made primarily by bus and sometimes walking, Sonam said.

Once they arrived, the two spent a couple months roaming around. When Sonam’s parents discovered he was in Lhasa, they sent a letter asking him to come home.

“My father wrote in the … letter, if you don’t come back to home mother is very worried,” he said. “And she has already fallen sick worrying about you.”

Although Sonam felt conflicted and saddened by this news, he was determined to find a way to India.

Fortunately, the tide turned in his favor when his father sent a second letter.

Not only was Sonam’s mother feeling better, but she and his father had also found a guide to assist Sonam on his journey to India.

“So my father sent some money with [the guide] and also a letter saying I should go to India with him,” Sonam said. “I wanted to see His Holiness, I wanted to join a monastery [to] get some education.”

Sonam and a group of 20 Tibetans began their journey by each paying the guide 500 Chinese dollars and boarding a bus to Shigatse.

After six long hours, the group arrived in the city and spent the night. The next morning, they hopped into the back of a truck, which took them to a large forest.

“It was still day time, so we stayed in the forest waiting for it to get dark,” Sonam said. “When it was dark we started our long journey walking.”

The trek from the forest, through the Himalayas, to Katmandu, Nepal, took about a month on foot, Sonam said.

And as they approached the border between China and Nepal, almost free, Sonam heard the sound of gunshots and dogs barking.

The Chinese military personnel — security guards — had spotted them and were pursuing them with guns and dogs.

Frightened, the group ran as fast as they could, hoping to escape.

Luckily, the security guards were not as determined as the group.

“We just ran and ran and finally got away,” Sonam said. “It was very scary.”

This was not the last of the group’s run-ins with military officials.

Once they arrived in Katmandu, the group came across a Tibetan monastery on the outskirts of the city.

“We reached there in the morning and the monks were very helpful,” Sonam said. “We were tired and hungry. They cooked us food and gave us some fresh new clothes.”

A few nights later, Sonam and his traveling companions were dining in a very small town in a dark restaurant when of group of five to six men in uniforms appeared.

The men said they were Nepal police and had come to send the group back to China.

“[I was] very scared,” Sonam said.

The police started to converse with each other, arguing between themselves about what to do with the Tibetan refugees.

Sonam’s guide noticed that the men did not carry guns – a clear signal that these men were not police, but instead charlatans looking to be bought off.

While the fake police were speaking amongst themselves, Sonam’s guide gathered his group to explain his realization.

“Now get ready,” the guide said. “When I say run, everyone should run.”

One of the Nepalese men approached the group of Tibetans, saying that he took pity on them. If they paid the police, he would let them go.

“Run!” the guide cried, and Sonam and his friends scattered.

“We kind of shouted at these people [and ran],” Sonam explained. “They were just hoping to get some money.”

However, the last time Sonam was stopped, he was not so lucky.

“The third time we were … caught by real Nepal police,” Sonam said.

Sonam and his friends were walking on a small road along the bank of a river. The river was on one side and a large rock wall on the other. When the police came upon the group, there was nowhere to run.

“They had their guns and actually showed us their badges,” he said. “They were real.”

Sonam laughed and said, “That time we had to pay them.”

The Nepal police took what little money Sonam and his friends had, as well as their watches and some nice jackets.

“Luckily, some money we hid in our shoes, so they didn’t find it,” Sonam explained. “Somehow they let us go.”

It was not long after that Sonam arrived at the Tibetan reception center in Nepal. He was soon on his way to Delhi, India, where freedom was waiting.

Immediately upon his arrival, Sonam traveled to Drepung Loseling Monastery in southern India, where he took his vows to become a monk and began his life-long pursuit of education.

“My grandparents really wanted me to join a monastery,” he said. “My uncle, he had much influence on me I think. I just wanted to become a monk. So I did it.”

In the monastery, Sonam learned to read and write. He also became interested in science, participating in two science programs (Science Meets Dharma and Science for Monks), which prepared him for Emory.

Many monks in Sonam’s monastery, and other monasteries across India, were eager to attend Emory as part of the University’s Emory-Tibet Partnership. Sonam was one of six selected.

“I’m not sure how I was chosen,” he said. “I just got lucky.”

Since arriving at Emory, Sonam has expanded his scientific knowledge, as well as his understanding of American culture.

“Here people keep a planner,” he said. “This is really interesting for me. We don’t do that. Personally I don’t have this habit to keep a planner or, you know, do things on time. So this is really very helpful.”

There are many differences between Tibetan Buddhism and modern science, Sonam maintains, but also many similarities.

“In one of the scriptures the Buddha said his followers shouldn’t just follow his concepts just because he is Buddha, because he is the teacher,” Sonam said. “His followers should analyze and examine his concepts. So this is, I think, a big similarity, which I find interesting.”

In the next few years, Sonam and his fellow monks will continue studying modern science, examining the intersection of eastern and western thought.

Although Emory’s environment is very different than what Sonam is used to, he is excited to delve more deeply and continue his education.

“We are busy, but in a good way,” he said. “We are learning science.”

— By Arianna Skibell

Photo courtesy of Sonam Choephel

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