Heidi Wendt Featured in Spring 2011 Edition of Brown Bear Magazine
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Former Brown University women's water polo player Heidi Wendt '04 has a feature article in the Spring 2011 edition of Brown Bear Magazine.
The recipient of the 2011–2012 Rome Prize, currently in its 115 year and presented to approximately 30 individuals each year, Wendt will begin a fellowship that includes a stipend and room and board for six months to up two years in Rome, Italy.
Currently studying Roman history in the Department of Religious Studies at Brown, particularly the relationships between Roman and provincial religions, she recently reflected on her experiences as a student-athlete in the Brown Bear Magazine.
My experience as a water polo athlete at Brown shaped nearly all others in my undergraduate time, including academic motivations.
Since we were a new varsity program, our coach, Todd Clapper, had only launched recruiting efforts the year before my own class entered, in 2000. To the extent that the women's program was not yet fully established within the University, its members had been accepted to Brown largely on their own merits and pursued ambitious curricular and abroad opportunities once there. We were fortunate to play for a coach who encouraged academic excellence, travel, and challenging course loads, emphases that engendered a stimulating, multi-dimensional culture for all of us.
Following the precedents of other women on my team, I explored diverse areas of study and eagerly sought direction from the professors with whom I worked. One especially formative faculty relationship was with Ross Kraemer, a professor in the department of Religious Studies, whose dynamism as a lecturer was equally inspiring and intimidating. When I informed her after class one day of a forthcoming absence to compete in the Eastern Championships, she scolded me for not having disclosed this information sooner, as she and her husband were always looking for things to do. The following weekend they traveled to Princeton from Philadelphia, where his legal practice was then based, to watch our team compete.
Dr. Kraemer's investment in both my intellectual development and athletic commitments affirmed the student-athlete balance that had drawn me to Brown in the first place. As our collaboration persisted, the prospect of pursuing a career in academia grew increasingly appealing. While my particular intellectual interests were clarified by work in the field of religious studies, the mentorship that I enjoyed from Brown faculty members offered more fundamental incentive for my developing career interests.
Upon graduation I entered a masters program at Harvard and began to supplement my primary interests in religion with coursework in classics and the art and archaeology of the Roman Empire. The latter led me into the field, where I was trained in excavation techniques at sites in Italy, including Pompeii and Ravenna. During the two years I spent at Harvard I returned to Brown often for academic advice and encouragement from former professors like Ross and Susan Harvey, another influential figure in my academic development.
While returning to one's undergraduate institution for doctoral work is often discouraged, when it came time for me to apply to PhD programs Brown's already stellar curricular strengths and resources had expanded in tandem with my own interests. After investigating objectively a number of interdisciplinary ancient studies programs, Brown's flexibility and interdisciplinary energies were most apparent. It was with great enthusiasm that I was accepted into a doctoral program in Religious Studies, which has entailed further training in the department of Classics, as well as the University's newly reconstituted Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World.
Beyond its unparalleled support for interdisciplinary study relevant to my field, the greatest benefit of returning to Brown as a doctoral student has been developing my skills as an educator by working with Brown undergraduates (who, as we all suspect but I have now observed, are substantively different from Harvard undergraduates!). While the students are exceptional in and of themselves, my particular investments in them hearken back to the similarities they bear to past experiences, and even, to specific friends from my undergraduate years.
Perhaps the most rewarding convergence of past and present is the relationship I maintain with the present team, especially through my role as a mentor to a present athlete, Rita Bullwinkel '11, who is likewise a religion concentrator with interests in archaeology. Together we have discussed her developing thesis, have successfully brainstormed field opportunities, and share experiences about teams and athletes past and present. Though the balance I once struck between water polo and intellectual pursuits has shifted decisively in the direction of the latter, returning to Brown has provided an invaluable pretext for contributing however possible to the unique culture of which I am a product.
Heidi Wendt '04 was a member of the Water Polo team from 2000-04.