College is all about broadening your horizons. Perhaps a good example of this would be applying your major studies to the observation of slave-making ants while casually catching up on James Joyce’s Ulysses.
An English and biology double major, junior Vincent Uddhava Stowell spends his time at Geneseo living in the moment, something he attributes to his childhood spent in Ganeshpuri, India, a small ashram community 90 minutes northwest of Mumbai.
The ashram was mostly comprised of Americans who were seeking enlightenment. From a young age, Stowell said that he felt “no dogma.”
“I definitely formed the foundations of my beliefs there ... to not really be invested in the future and not to worry about it,” he said.
Stowell said the residents of the ashram were very accepting and loving, instilling him with a sense of community.
“I always had so much support from the fact that there was a whole village of adults who were so open … I felt like the only child of a lot of people,” he said.
Living in a community with few children was difficult at times, however. Stowell recalled many hours spent playing alone - aptly - with ants.
At the age of 8, his family moved back to America, settling into an ashram in Fishkill, N.Y.
“We moved back to America to get an American education and to see outside that [ashram] in Ganeshpuri where we had to go to Mumbai to use a telephone,” he said.
Eventually, Stowell, at the age of 12, and his family moved outside of the ashram, though still remaining in Fishkill. As Ganeshpuri became a distant memory, Stowell sought the sense of community he had felt as a child.
Coming to Geneseo, Stowell said he hoped to find a similar environment.
Stowell said his first-year experience living in Onondaga Hall allowed him to meet an accepting group of friends who made him feel comfortable. Stowell added that he often reminisces upon weeknights spent with his peers in the Spencer J. Roemer Arboretum.
Stowell immersed himself in academics, too, through dabbling in subjects like psychology and philosophy.
“My academic experiences in Geneseo have been a positive affirmation of community. The fact that it’s so small … makes professors open to things,” he said.
When he approached assistant professor of biology Jennifer Apple with an interest in ants that they had discussed in his sophomore ecology class, Stowell said she was very open to the idea.
Soon after, Stowell was absorbed in stacks of reading on the subject of the parasitic relationship between the slave-making ants and their host colonies.
That spring, Stowell took a directed study with Apple to prepare for the Follett summer fellowship research grant he was awarded by the Geneseo Foundation to study ant species in the Arboretum.
He is currently preparing to present his and Apple’s findings at G.R.E.A.T. Day and at the Northeast Natural History Conference.
Ultimately, Stowell said his research was critical in orienting him in the Geneseo community. Though he does not plan to pursue ecology research, he hopes to use this fulfillment as a template for future endeavors in graduate work in medicine or English.
In his spare time, Stowell muses over post-modern literature alongside a cup of French press coffee and prepares cage-free eggs and toast for himself, his housemates and his cat Mimi, all of whom celebrate Stowell’s live-for-now lifestyle in their own Geneseo ashram.