Scholarships in Action: Zachary Donovan
Zachary Donovan ’10 has had an eclectic career so far at SLC. The recipient of the Helen Lynd Scholarship, his studies have ranged from robotics to creative writing to international law. Outside of class, his activities are just as varied: he co-chairs Midnight Cabaret, the unconventional performance ensemble, and is the chair of the student body committee on the Student Senate.
To top it all off, Donovan works three jobs on campus. He’s a resident adviser in the dorms, a lab assistant for a computer science faculty member, and a tour guide for the admission office. Last summer he worked as a research assistant, helping a mathematics faculty member find short stories that deal with mathematical concepts. We asked Donovan a few questions about what he's learned while working on campus.
Who’s your don?
Dan King (Mathematics). He’s a passionate, silly man who engages his students like few others can – he has a knack for imparting the fascinating, mind-boggling aspects of mathematics, while simultaneously rendering them relatively understandable.
What’s your favorite class so far at SLC?
That’s an impossible question to answer. It’s a dead heat between my first-year studies class – Athens at the Dawn of Democracy – and Concepts of International Law and Human Rights, a current year-long seminar. They both blend history, philosophy, and politics, and have truly challenged my conception of the natural order of things.
What’s the title of the best conference project you’ve done?
“Ire, Envy, and Despair: Classical Echoes in John Milton’s Paradise Lost.” I compared Satan in Paradise Lost to Achilles in The Iliad, using some of the motifs of ancient Greek epics to explain some of the conflicts inherent in Milton’s epic.
What’s your favorite study break?
A quick game of pool in The Black Squirrel; there’s nothing quite like whacking some balls around a table to relieve the cabin fever of reading a book for a few hours.
What’s the strangest fact you give out on campus tours?
Maybe not the strangest, but one of my favorites: The door to Common Ground is the door to one of the old sculpture studios, but when they renovated the building they scratched off the “S” and the “P,” so now it’s a “culture studio.”
Walking backwards is a key skill for a campus tour guide What’s your best tip?
Confidence. That’s really all there is to it. That and constantly glancing over one’s shoulder. Also, trusting in the people in your tour to tell you if you’re about to die.
Best movie involving computers?
- War Games
- The Net
- The Matrix
I have to say The Matrix. I’m a sucker for A) awesome action sequences, B) hero stories, C) artificial intelligence stories, and D) stories about the fallibility of the human mind. In The Matrix a hero engages in some awesome action sequences while fighting artificially intelligent life-forms, and ultimately discovers that the world he lives in is actually a program tricking his brain. How can you go wrong?
What’s the hardest part about being an RA?
Seeing kids having trouble adapting, or even leaving. While one can often offer support and friendship, it’s almost impossible for a lone individual to turn someone’s life around and make the experience bearable.
What’s your favorite snack that can be made in a dorm room?
I love to take a rice cake, put a slice of sharp Cheddar cheese, and a slice of deli turkey on top. It’s satisfying and hearty, and works kinda like an open-faced sandwich.
What’s the coolest short story you found about a math concept?
Without a doubt Stanislaw Lem’s “The Extroardinary Hotel.” It’s the story of a hotel with an infinite number of rooms, which, as the story goes on, hosts a series of more and more improbable events, such as an intergalactic philatelists’ conference with, guess what, an infinite number of attendees. The story is a brilliant exposition of the concept of infinity, and a hilarious read at the same time.