Mark Wiens (2004) – Arizona State, BA
“Those of us who knew and taught Mark during his eight years at Rosslyn are incredibly proud of him – not just because of his obvious success, but because he found his gifts and passion and is doing amazing things through them. He is, in an unconventional sense, a great example of our mission statement.” Dr. Philip Dow, Mark’s Senior Seminar Teacher and Rosslyn's current Superintendent
Mark Wiens (2004) is widely recognized as the world’s most influential travel-food blogger. His passion for life, travel, and food (and his ability to communicate these passions with humble enthusiasm) has ignited a global following. As of 2019, Mark’s Youtube channel had over five million subscribers, his travel-food videos had over one billion views, and he was regularly found at the top of lists for the world’s best food bloggers.
By his own account, there have been a number of significant influences on Mark’s life including his parents and his multi-cultural upbringing. But his experience at Rosslyn was also important. “Although I wasn’t a huge fan of school at the time,” Mark writes, “I wouldn’t change the experience of attending Rosslyn for anything. The friends I had (and have to this day), the teachers, the quality of education… (are all treasured).” The international diversity at Rosslyn made a lasting impression on Mark. As he noted in a recent interview, “People at my school were from all over the world, and I would have friends who would bring in Korean or Ethiopian or Chilean food. That might have been a reason why I was so interested experiencing food from different countries.”
Mark’s work is not explicitly Christian, and yet Mark is very open about his faith and the impact it has on his life. On his travel-food website, Migrationology.com, Mark puts it this way, “First off, I’m a Christian and give God the glory in everything I do.” For those who have seen his travel-food blogs, it is clear these are not idle words. Mark’s work, his love for diverse peoples and cultures, his humility and his joy, all provide a compelling testimony of the impact of his faith on his life.
For an example of his work and for more on Mark:
Hiyabel Tewoldemedhin (2007) – Stanford, MBA
What have you been up to since graduating from Rosslyn in 2007?
I left to study at Stanford, and graduated with a BA in Economics and International Relations. Worked in strategy consulting for tech-driven companies in Chicago for the next three years, after which I moved back home to Nairobi to join a vibrant startup – EatOut Kenya – as its General Manager. I then returned to Stanford to complete an MBA and accepted a role in Global Strategy and Product Planning with General Motors in Detroit.
What did you love most about Rosslyn?
The people. Some of my closest friends and favorite teachers of all time are, to this day, ones I met at Rosslyn. I was encouraged to challenge myself in ways I wouldn’t have with lesser teachers.
How did Rosslyn have an influence on your life?
The incredibly diverse community, especially culturally, has since made me genuinely comfortable around people different from me. There’s something unique about the Rosslyn experience – a very small community, with graduates who take different paths but who still understand that they shared something rare at Rosslyn.
Nard Choi (2007) – Cambridge University, ph.d
Nard, since graduating from Rosslyn in 2007, what have you been up to?
In 2011, I finished my undergraduate degree in English and Latin at Calvin College and then returned to Arusha, Tanzania to reconnect with my parents at home and to start a library at a local primary school. After 10 years of living away from my parents, I decided I needed to spend some quality time with them. As a librarian and second grade teacher, I loved introducing the world of books to all my students and learning more about the Tanzanian education system through them. In October of 2013, thanks to a full-tuition scholarship from the Cambridge Overseas Trust, I started a master’s program in Education and Children’s Literature at the University of Cambridge to research the new perspectives and questions I developed during my time in Tanzania. This has since led to me pursing a Ph.D at Cambridge that I am close to completing.
What is the most interesting experience you have had since graduating from Rosslyn?
All throughout college, I had my goals set on going to graduate school straight after Calvin. However, when I talked to my mentors and professors, they unanimously advised me to steer clear from academics for a while. "Get out of the classroom, Nard," they all said. "You’ve been in school for almost 20 years. It’s time to get out." So I did and I don’t know why I ever doubted my professors because it has been one whirlwind of an experience.
In the two years since I’ve left school, I’ve biked, hitchhiked, and backpacked alone through Europe, started a library, climbed volcanoes, read voraciously, driven through East Africa with my dad, and so much more. Looking back, I’m immensely grateful for my teachers’ wise words and for all the unexpected ways I’ve been challenged in what I thought I knew about the world and myself.
Which teacher(s) had the greatest influence on you at Rosslyn (how did they inspire you or help you grow into who you are today)?
Although I have always loved reading, it was not until Mr. Enns and his English classes that I was properly introduced to the discipline of studying literature. Whether it was Shakespeare’s plays or modern American short stories, Mr. Enns’ classes pushed me to start probing for the hard questions weaved throughout the characters and narratives. Until then, I had always wanted the assurance of answers, preferably in black and white. But in the way he taught literature and as a mentor, Mr. Enns was one of the first people who showed me that it is not always the most important thing to arrive at clear answers, because most of the time there are none. It’s easy now to feel slightly embarrassed at the many dilemmas that my conversations with Mr. Enns revolved around, but Mr. Enns never downplayed my anxieties, never dismissed them. He never gave me the easy answers either. Instead, he taught me to appreciate the gray areas in life where there is frustration and doubt but also much beauty and growth. And he also taught me a great deal about kindness, vulnerability, and perseverance.
What did you appreciate most about Rosslyn?
As a student who came to Rosslyn for just the last two years of high school, I really appreciated how quickly I was welcomed into the tight-knit community. I still remember how I had only been there for a few months and already my classmates were starting conversations with, Hey Nard, remember in seventh grade when? Of course, we all complained about the bubble when we were in it, but a community like Rosslyn is really hard to come by after you leave. Six years on, I still consider my graduating class my family; they are the ones I can count on no matter where I am. Life changes quickly for many of us; we always seem to be moving to new places and making new friends. It’s daunting to not always know where I’m headed next, but knowing that a Rosslyn friend is never too far away makes every transition a little bit easier.
Michael Gardner (2005) – UC Davis, ph.d
Michael, could you fill us in on what you have been up to after graduating from Rosslyn?
After graduating, I went to Westmont College in Santa Barbara. While there, I double majored in Physics and Computer Science and minored in Mathematics. I also played on the Westmont Rugby Team and met and began dating Emily. During two summers I did Nuclear Physics research with Dr. Warren Rogers, a Physics Professor at Westmont. The research was part of the MoNA (modular neutron array) Collaboration at the NSCL (National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory) at MSU (Michigan State University), and was focused on the study of the decay of super proton heavy nuclei. After those summers, I became interested in Physics research, and applied for Graduate School. Due to my experience in Nuclear Physics research, UC Davis accepted me into their Ph.D program, and I joined the Heavy Ion Group there (Heavy Ion physics is an area of physics fitting between Nuclear Physics and High Energy Particle Physics). The Heavy Ion group at UC Davis does research with both the LHC (Large Hadron collider) at CERN (Center for Nuclear Research), and RHIC (Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider) at Brookhaven Laboratory. So, I decided to participate in the LHC project, at CERN as part of my Ph.D work.
What specifically is your Ph.D on?
My research is, in a sentence, studying and measuring signatures of the Quark-Gluon-Plasma formed in Heavy Ion collisions at CMS.
Could you explain that for the lay person?
Sure. Just as when you take ice, and heat it up and apply added pressure, it will go from a solid to a liquid, to a gas, and then at some point to plasma, you can change the state of matter at the nuclear level. When you take lead particles, accelerate them to extremely high speeds/energies, and crash them together, the extremely high energy and density in the center of the collision forms a new state of matter called the Quark-Gluon Plasma and can be thought of as a soup of quarks and gluons (usually quarks and gluons are only found bound together inside of a nucleus or a type of particle called a meson). This state of matter is the state of the universe at 10 seconds after the Big Bang. So, I’m studying the signatures for the formation of this new state of matter, which allows us to determine at what point this new state of matter is formed, as well as allowing us to measure properties of this state of matter.
What are a few things that you appreciated most about Rosslyn?
Athletics: I was above average in sports, but I wasn’t great at any sport. I feel that the size of the school and the variety of sports available allowed me to play and participate on a great team (due to great coaches) in a sport where I never would be able to at a bigger school. This is where a lot of friendships were made, and where I learned a lot about discipline.
CFS: Freshman year, by the spring I still didn’t feel like I had any friends. During CFS our group had a lot of time to get to know each other, and helped me to feel like I belonged. The next 3 years, my CFS experience was a great opportunity to experience Kenya in a way I wasn’t able to otherwise. It helped give me an idea of life outside of Nairobi. Unique and completely unrepeatable experience.
Variety of Electives: I took Art, Singing, Hand Bells, Journalism, French. Art, Singing and Hand Bells showed me I wasn’t as terrible at creating or being artistic as I thought. Journalism taught me a lot about questioning sources (which is really important in Physics research), as well as learning about intellectual curiosity and honesty.
AP Classes: First of all, the AP classes at Rosslyn are comparable in difficulty to my college classes. The work I put in for these classes taught me how to study, how to stay organized and how to work hard. Second, our classes had a crazy success rate (number of 4s and 5s on the tests), which allowed me to get credit for college classes, and gave me huge flexibility to take the classes that I wanted in College.
What teacher(s) had the greatest influence on you and why?
Mr. Unger: I have so many positive memories of Mr. Unger, and I had him for 2 classes. He pushed all of his students to work hard, and was very good at explaining things. It was clear that he cared a great deal about his students, as he was constantly changing things up based on his students needs.
Mr. Wes Loewer: He was only at Rosslyn for my final year, but I probably would not be doing my Ph.D. in Physics if it weren’t for Mr. Loewer. For my AP Physics class, we were constantly leaving class for labs, measuring coefficient of friction on slides, angular velocity on merry-go-rounds and pendulum periods in the gym. It was an intense class, and Mr. Loewer held extra classes on a few Saturdays, and had his classes over for lunch at his house once or twice. His class prepared me well for doing Physics in college.
Mr. Flosi: The previous two teachers taught in subjects I was very strong in (Physics and Math), and Mr. Flosi taught English. I loved his classes, and thought for a bit that maybe I wanted to go into something English related. I found out I wasn’t great in the subject, but since Mr. Flosi was such a great teacher, I really enjoyed the class. I also had him as my soccer coach for 2 years, and learned a lot about what it meant to be a leader.
Mr. Leonard: He was my basketball coach Sophomore year, taught me a lot about balance between school and sports, and about working hard no matter what you’re doing.
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