Two Williams College Seniors Awarded Chandler Memorial Fellowships

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, executive assistant; tele: 413-597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., May 7, 2018—Williams College seniors Daniel Kirsch ’18 and Catherine Tan ’18 have been awarded Class of 1945 Florence Chandler Memorial Fellowships, which provide a $30,000 grant to support a year of purposeful, independent study outside the United States.

Kirsch, a biology and anthropology major from Berkeley, Calif., has had a lifelong fascination with human-animal interactions, especially at zoos. From a young age, he loved to read and learn about animal life cycles and behaviors. As he got older, he began thinking more critically about zoos and the consequences of animal captivity and display for human benefit. As a double major in the sciences and humanities, he has been able to explore the social and natural worlds throughout his time at Williams.

Kirsch’s Chandler project, “A Comparative Evaluation of Multispecies Interaction at Zoos,” will take him to England, Denmark, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, and Switzerland, where he will investigate zoos and their role in conservation and education. Using skills gained in his biology and ethnography courses, he will engage in direct observation of daily zoo operations and interview zoo employees to provide him with first-hand insight and new perspectives.

“I am incredibly excited and honored to have received the Chandler Fellowship. Zoos have mattered deeply to me for my entire life; they fostered my love for animals, the environment, and made me more aware of conservation issues,” Kirsch said. “Zoos achieve their goals of both entertaining and educating guests through allowing connections between people and animals to be created. I cannot wait to begin this opportunity of a lifetime to push myself out of my comfort zone so that I can see on a global scale how zoos form these connections and their impact those connections have on the public. I wouldn’t have been able to pursue this project without my parents, Paul Kirsch and Paula Chertok. They helped cultivate my passion for zoos and provided support and assistance throughout every step of this process.”

Tan, a history and religion major from Concord, Mass., will examine how music, song, and dance are used in Deaf performance groups. After a bike accident when she was 14, years old, Tan lost her ability to speak coherently, and she began learning American Sign Language (ASL). During the years of her recovery, ASL allowed her to communicate and even contributed to healing her brain injury. Now fully recovered, she maintains her passion for ASL, serving as the vice president and president of Williams’ ASL club and interpreting for the Williams Gospel Choir. In addition, she has achieved fluency in Italian and Spanish sign language.

Tan’s project, “Music in Silence: Performance in the Deaf World,” will take her to Scotland, Israel, China, and Australia. Each of these countries has an active Deaf community. Performance and art have emerged as a powerful form of communication in the Deaf world, used to bring together the global Deaf community and to bridge historical divides between Deaf and Hearing communities. Tan will study the interplay between music, language, activism, and Deafness. She hopes to end her Chandler year with a deeper understanding of the intersections of Deafness: how Deaf groups communicate their own sense of cultural and national belonging, and how Hearing and Deaf groups connect, communicate, and share art, expression and meaning.

“I am excited to learn about communities that have historically been looked down upon because of ‘disability,’ and eager to see how each uses art for self-expression and connection,” Tan said. “This project is not just an investigation into Deaf life, but also an investigation of a part of myself that has shaped me, driven me, and made my current achievement possible. When I was a teenager, signing saved me. It grounded me in language and communication, and the joy of signing, and interpreting musical lyrics into ASL will stay with me forever. Now, I hope to expand beyond the Sign Language that helped me grow and to explore the diverse, global world of Sign and the communities it touches.”


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.