Winter 2020 / Around the Green

Students Dig Local History

By Courtney Gotham ’12 •

Wilson classics lecturer Bonnie Rock-McCutcheon’s interest was piqued when Trinity Episcopal Church in Chambersburg reached out to local historians, looking for someone to research and unearth the church’s history. Not only was uncovering local history a perfect project for her archaeology students, but it also struck her as auspicious that both the church and the College were celebrating their 150th anniversaries in 2020.

“Students like to do things that are real,” Rock-McCutcheon said. Her students were learning about the archaeological process through reading case studies. This would be their chance to put what they had learned into practice with a hands-in-the-dirt dig.

The students visited the site—designated “Lot 100” when Chambersburg was first settled—where the parish house stands today and where a section of floorboards had been removed in the basement, exposing the dirt floor below. They talked with church staff and learned the basement was originally the kitchen. They identified the outline of a large fireplace and a well that had been sealed shut.

Intriguingly, in the adjacent room there was an arched, red-brick tunnel leading away from the building. According to the church staff, local lore held that this was part of the Underground Railroad—a network of routes and safe houses that were used to help escaping slaves as they fled north to freedom. It had been bricked up about 10 feet in, but students wondered if they could find out more about it.

The students’ plan for the site included two connected elements: The first was to dig up the dirt floor in the kitchen, catalog any artifacts unearthed and determine their origin and use. The second was to research the history of Lot 100 and find out if it and/or the church was part of the Underground Railroad.


Students erected a rectangular excavation grid around the exposed dirt floor, then further divided it into quadrants. A team of diggers removed the soil and placed it into buckets. Another team sifted the soil in large wooden frames with metal mesh that allowed the fine sediment to pass through.

Once the dirt had been sifted out, they removed any artifacts, cataloged and bagged them, and passed them to the cleaning crew for preservation and research. Items discovered included: animal bones, a tooth (DNA testing will be required to determine if it’s human or animal), nut shells, fragments of glass, pottery shards, rocks with components of chalk and coal, and lots of oyster shells.

Through research, students learned that in the 17th and 18th centuries, oyster shells were used in foundation mixes to make them stronger. The shells were also used to make an early form of concrete known as tabby. They hypothesized that this was why they found so many in the basement and not because the original inhabitants ate vast quantities of shellfish.

With one team focused on the dig, another team tried to explore the arched tunnel. They bored holes through the masonry small enough to let a flexible camera pass through. Unfortunately, the camera was blocked by more material on the other side of the bricks. Exploring the tunnel further would be a much larger project and they had to put it on hold for now.

In addition to the dig, students recorded oral histories by interviewing church parishioners. Some of the interviewees remembered exploring the basement tunnel as children and that there were many similar tunnels in the town. “When people can connect to history as a story, they begin to see why it’s so important,” Rock-McCutcheon said.

Oral histories also teach students how to actively listen. “Through listening we develop empathy,” Rock-McCutcheon said. “That’s how we see each other as humans and start to connect instead of yelling over each other.”

Through their research, students found that Lot 100 was originally a blacksmith shop owned and operated by Dan Oyler. Samuel Siebert later acquired the property, where he lived and operated a carpentry shop. Siebert’s home is the parish house today. In the mid-1800s, the church sold the property to pay off debts and was able to reacquire the property in 1871.

Students also learned that the congregation believes that the church played a role in the Underground Railroad, but they haven’t found corroborating documentation yet. They did find evidence of a network of tunnels stretching throughout Franklin County—for safety reasons, the tunnels were sealed off years ago.

The dig and research is far from over. Rock-McCutcheon intends to return in the fall 2020 semester and is creating a curriculum around a semester-long dig at Trinity. “I think that we construct knowledge,” she said. “This history is concrete, it’s real. They can reach out and touch it.”

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Lights, Sound, Action!

How many nerds does it take to change a light bulb?
By Cathy Mentzer

On campus, if you needed professional lighting to enhance a performance or wanted someone to set up and fine-tune a sound system, there used be no one to help you. Enter the Nerd Crew, a self-named band of students who provide audiovisual support on a volunteer basis.

Demand for the crew’s services has grown steadily since it helped Orchesis with lighting for the dance ensemble’s fall 2018 performance. Since then, the group has helped with lighting and/or sound design for a variety of events, including the annual Muhibbah Club performance, Common Hour events, Poetry Night, concerts, dances and other performances on campus. One crew member even designed the lighting for last year’s Cumberland Valley School of Music performance of the play Annie Jr.

James Pasaribu ’22, left, and other Nerd Crew members set up lighting in Sarah’s Coffeehouse

“They have filled a niche that no one knew needed to be filled and they’ve claimed it as their own,” said Wilson Chaplain Derek Wadlington, who was instrumental in forming the Nerd Crew. Wadlington, who has a background in theatrical lighting and sound design, encouraged a few students to take on audiovisual support for campus events. It grew from there.

The group’s work has added a professional touch and flair to campus events. “They’re a tremendous help and really enhance the performing arts here at Wilson,” said Assistant Professor of Dance Megan Mizanty. “Since the Nerd Crew started collaborating with Orchesis, they’ve transformed the appearance of the stage. Having lighting design incorporated into each dance creates much more nuance and changes the way the dance appears completely.”

The Nerd Crew has fun with its name, which its members proudly chose for themselves. “I identify as a nerd,” said crew member James Pasaribu ’22. “It really is like a badge of honor. We’ve been thinking about getting T-shirts.”

“We didn’t want to be called the Wilson College AV Club,” added Sarah Schaffner, one of the two original crew members, along with Adrianna Broome ’21. “I think part of the fun of being called Nerd Crew is that Derek has to go to meetings and actually say the words ‘nerd crew.’”

Schaffner and Pasaribu are Curran Scholars, for whom helping others is part of a volunteer requirement for their scholarship. But the students say that’s not why they do it.

“I really like it as something different from what I usually do,” said Schaffner, who is majoring in animal studies and enjoys being part of the creative process behind the shows she’s worked on. “Since my major is science-based, it’s an opportunity for me to experience the humanities side of Wilson College.”

An international student from Indonesia, Pasaribu happened to be in Wadlington’s office when the chaplain had to rush off to meet with Schaffner and Broome to set up lights for Orchesis. “Derek said, ‘Do you have the next two hours free?’ He asked if I could help him bring cables over,” Pasaribu said. “I learned to set up lighting that day. It was all spontaneous and that’s what I like about it.”

Pasaribu is most attracted to the technical aspects of the work, but also likes collaborating with fellow students and others to add a new dimension to their projects. “It’s challenging and rewarding at the same time,” said Pasaribu, who is majoring in psychology.

Broome, a graphic design major, says being in the Nerd Crew lets her keep a low profile while still being an active participant in campus life. “I like the idea of stage crew more than being a performer,” she said. “It allows me to be involved in these events, which I really like, and it’s another creative outlet, which I also enjoy.”

The Nerd Crew’s projects require considerable commitment because of the time it takes to plan, set up and then operate lights during an event. When the crew lights an Orchesis performance, for example, members meet with student choreographers to talk about their vision for the piece and then work together to develop a lighting scheme.

“The first question we ask the choreographers is if they have any ideas for the lights. We always ask them for suggestions first,” said Broome, who this year is helping an Orchesis member whose senior capstone project involves taking photographs of dancers. Broome is contributing by working with the student to creatively light the photos.

This year, the Nerd Crew has become part of Wilson’s drama club, the Kittochtinny Players—a move that makes it eligible for funding from the Wilson College Government Association, according to Wadlington, who advises the club.

Crew members, as well as Wadlington, say although new lighting was purchased for the recently renovated Sarah’s Coffeehouse, the College’s biggest performance space—Laird Hall—is in need of new equipment and they hope to get the College or a donor to invest in upgrades.

“It’s not like my legacy, per se, but I would really like to see Laird’s lights upgraded before I leave,” said Parasibu, adding with a grin, “That means I have two and a half years.”

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Farm Fresh

The Farm Stand Sells Produce Year-round
By Evan Hoke ’19

The scent of onions, peppers, tomatoes and radishes complements the aroma of fresh soil and compost as student workers organize and stack vegetables for the Wilson College farm stand, which serves the campus and the local community by providing fresh produce grown at the Fulton Farm.

The stand has changed since its inception in 2011, including switching locations. “We were down at the North Square Farmers Market in town for many years before our farm stand,” said Chris Mayer, director of the Fulton Center for Sustainability Studies. “We did a good job serving the community down there, but we weren’t serving our campus that well. We started looking for ways to meet the needs of both the students and the outside community, and creating a farm stand on campus was an easy way to do that.”

Starting in February, the College began participating in a new winter, indoor farmers market held inside the Coyle Public Library in downtown Chambersburg. The venture, an initiative of the North Square Farmers Market, is open from 9 a.m. to noon on the first and third Saturdays of every month through April.

For the first time, the campus stand— which operates from 3 to 5 p.m. in front of or inside (in winter) Lenfest Commons—will stay open through most of the year, according to Mayer. “We have the ability to grow food year-round here,” she said.

With the help of student volunteers, college farmer Daniel Emig can grow rows of kale, chard, lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets and turnips in large, temperature-controlled greenhouse tunnels through most of the winter. He also grows storage crops like potatoes, garlic, sun chokes and onions in order to provide produce during the colder months. “We can’t grow all of our produce each season, but it is my hope to have a selection of fresh produce at all times,” Emig said.

The change to year-round service has had an impact on both the campus and the community. “It’s really convenient that we don’t have to travel far for fresh produce, especially since it’s open almost every week,” said Jillian Hubert ’21, a regular customer at the stand. Linda Boeckman, director of career development and another regular at the stand, also believes that this change is important for the College. “I think encouraging healthy eating can only have a positive effect on our campus,” she said. “In addition, the stand brings so many people from the outside community here, some even as far as Hagerstown [Md.]. It’s nice that the stand is touching not only our college, but others outside of the College as well.”

Student workers at the stand also feel as though they’ve had an effect on the campus. “I work at the farm stand to get to know others interested in local agriculture in the community,” said Ethan Kron ’20. “The farm stand here is great because it serves as a hub for our community, but also an outlet for produce that some people might not have access to. It’s cool to be so connected to so many different people.”

The stand is organized into sections, with everything arranged in order to catch people’s eyes, according to Mayer. “When I go, I always think that the layout and presentation is nice,” Boeckman said. “There’s such diversity in what we can buy, and we can really see that with the way the produce is displayed.”

The farm supplies both the stand and the Jensen Dining Hall with produce, as well as Sarah’s Cupboard, the campus food bank. In addition, students experiencing food insecurity or who may not have enough money to purchase fresh produce otherwise, are able to use their balance from Sarah’s Cupboard at the stand directly. All they have to do is present their college ID; then choose the produce that best suits their needs and tastes.

The stand has been averaging about 20 patrons a week and offering about 25 different kinds of produce, Mayer said. “From my point of view, it’s all about educating people who visit us,” she said. “Even if they come and don’t buy anything, at least if they stop by, we can talk to them and try to educate them on how important it can be to buy fresh, local produce. We’re working hard, so it’s great when we can see how much we’re impacting everyone.”

Learn more about the farm at

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Sports Wrap – Winter 2020

Softball team receiving their championship jackets.

The 2019-20 winter season came to a close with the men’s basketball team earning a spot in the postseason. Women’s basketball narrowly missed a return trip to the Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC) tournament. Spring sports got underway but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the NCAA suspended all winter and spring sports championships. While baseball and men’s volleyball were able to play a handful of games before the cancellation, the softball team and men’s golf were able to practice but did not get an opportunity to compete.

MEN’S BASKETBALL finished the season 10-16 overall, posting a 7-7 record in conference play while claiming the fourth seed in the tournament. The Phoenix fell to top-seeded Centenary University 76-67 in the CSAC championships. Sophomore Adrian Thomas was named First Team All-CSAC while head coach Brian Zoeller was named the CSAC Coach of the Year. Senior Rashaan Bean earned Second Team honors while also becoming just the second player in program history to score 1,000 points over his career.

Coach Matt Allen

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL finished the season with a 5-20 record, including a 3-15 mark in CSAC play. Head coach Matt Allen earned his 100th career victory this year as the Phoenix defeated Cairn University in a thrilling 70-69 contest. Senior Jordyn Day, who surpassed the 1,000- point career mark last season, became the program’s all-time leader in three-point field goals made, with 283. Freshman Samira Murphy was named Honor Mention All-CSAC.

MEN’S VOLLEYBALL played an abbreviated season due to the NCAA suspension of play due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The team managed a 2-6 record and notched its first win 3-0 over Pratt Institute. This marks the team’s first year under the direction of head coach Katie Pennewill.

After posting a perfect 14-0 record in conference play last season and making an appearance in the NCAA tournament, the Wilson College SOFTBALL team was scheduled to open its season in Myrtle Beach at the Fastpitch Dreams Spring Classic. However, due to the NCAA suspending spring sports championships because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the team did not get a chance to compete.

The BASEBALL team managed to play 10 games before the suspension of its season and had achieved a record of 7-3, which included a seven-game winning streak. Sophomore pitcher Kevin Ehrman earned CSAC Pitcher of the Week honors for his performance in a complete-game victory over Marywood University.

The MEN’S GOLF season was canceled because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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