Sepehr Gharavi ‘16 wasn’t expecting to be asked to help with a Middle School art class. But when the call came, he was ready.
RPS Middle School Art Teacher Susan McCloskey took in an exhibit at the Met a few years ago that included some incredibly beautiful bowls from ancient Persia, dating all the way back to the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries.
The bowls were primarily white, and in many cases the decorative element on each was created through a calligraphic inscription. After seeing the exhibit, Ms. McCloskey wanted to find a way to invite her students into that spirit of inspiration. And she remembered having a conversation with one of her students whose family origins were Persian.
When she reached out to Setareh Gharavi ‘22, the RPS sixth grader in turn recommended that the teacher reach out to her older brother, Sepehr (“Seps”) Gharavi ‘16. When Seps learned of the possible project he was immediately interested in helping. “I know how to write in Farsi, so I thought I could maybe help students develop their own designs.” Seps went to the eighth grade class and essentially took over, teaching them about Farsi, serving as a scribe, transcribing students’ names for them, and helping to translate quotes into Persian. The students then studied examples from history and created their own pieces of pottery, which were carefully kiln-fired here on campus.
“This was a cool opportunity to express part of my culture to other people, and it also gave me a chance to realize how long its been since I really used my “Persian” muscle,” Seps reflected. “In some ways it was a warning for me that I need to look for more ways to keep my Persian up to date! And then of course it was great to see the finished products and feel like I was a part of making them possible.”
Art gives us a window into lives long since past, and transports us to parts of the world that we may never visit in person. Throughout our own history, art has been a vital part of the Rutgers Prep curriculum, and sometimes, art becomes a bridge within our own community… in this case, between a classroom full of eighth-graders on the cusp of becoming Upper Schoolers, and an Upper Schooler who is himself about to move on to the next stage of his journey as a life-long learner.
Rutgers Prep Upper School faculty members have an even clearer idea of how to help our students stand out in the competitive college admissions landscape thanks to a presentation which featured Admissions Officers from The George Washington University, the University of Pennsylvania, & Princeton University. The Admissions Officers “pulled back the curtain” from their long years of experience, and candidly shared with faculty members in an on campus workshop. The program included analysis of anonymized letters from past admissions cycles – of both the very helpful and less helpful varieties – which were distributed and discussed.
After the workshop, our Dean of Faculty shared, “I loved the session! I have been a teacher long enough that I think knew many of the things that they talked about, but I still liked being reminded. I really appreciated the advice that the counselors had to give, and just being face-to-face with the very people who read every word (apparently) of what we so painstakingly write was a very helpful thing. So this big bad thing called college admissions that we always talk about became more humane, more plausible, and ultimately more do-able. It was also empowering to know how much the admissions people rely on our knowledge of our students in making their decisions. I think I will see the face of each one of those people in my mind the next time I start writing a recommendation letter.“
The members of the Rutgers Prep faculty are proud to support and facilitate the development of our students as life-long learners, and welcome the opportunity to share their insight as a part of the college process. Workshops like this one provide our faculty with powerful and specific tools to compose compelling communications. These tools also help us ensure that admissions representatives are able to translate our unique perspectives into an appreciation of what each of our students will bring to their next learning community.
According to the M3’s website, this year’s students “used publicly available information and data on consumer driving habits and emerging automotive industry technologies to build mathematical models categorizing the car usage habits of drivers in the US. They then used their models to evaluate car-sharing business options, taking into account new technologies that are close to entering the mainstream including self-driving cars and vehicles that run entirely on alternative fuel or renewable energy, and then predicted which option would garner the most participation in a given city.”
Students who commit to participating in the M3 Challenge have often heard stories from teams that have gone before. “Moody’s Mega Math Challenge was perfect to bring us as students into the world of Applied Math. We used all the skills we’ve learned in school to solve problems in the real physical world,” said Ty Gardner ‘16 (Princeton ‘20). Rithvik Kondai ‘16 (WashU ‘20) added, “Yes, I was finally able to use a lot of the knowledge that I have gained through my years in high school math and apply it to a real world example!” Janvi Shukla ‘17 shared, “It was really interesting to have to create our own functions in this challenge.”
Math Department Chair Jalaj Desai believes that students should definitely seize opportunities to apply their knowledge in preparation for real life. “I have observed that students who are exposed to the interesting and practical applications of mathematics used in the M3 challenge often find a new interest in a subject that they may previously have seen as more abstract,” Desai shared.
Moody’s Mega Math challenge is the brainchild of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), which serves and advances the disciplines of applied mathematics and computational science by publishing a variety of books and peer-reviewed research journals, by conducting conferences, and by hosting activity groups in various areas of mathematics.
This summer SIAM and the Moody’s Foundation plan to launch a mathematical modeling video series on the seven steps to modeling, an instructional treatment of their math modeling handbook. When Math Department Chair Jalaj Desai spoke with Moody’s representatives about his goal of opening up these opportunities to more and more students, they were immediately interested. When 97 Rutgers Prep students signed up for a Saturday morning math modeling pilot, Moody’s Problem Development Committee decided to put Rutgers Prep students at the heart of their planned video series.
The RPS Mathematics Department’s vision is to see more students taking interest in applied mathematics; similarly, M3 Challenge’s mission is also to increase the presence of mathematical modeling in education. So a joint effort between the two programs is integral to actualizing both communities’ goals. The first tangible outcome of this planning is a trailer for the video series; we think that the video producers and our students did a terrific job.
We look forward to continuing to partner with the Moody’s Foundation and SIAM as we work towards the common goal of greater access to these exciting and applicable math opportunities.