This week, The Mac Weekly sat down with seniors Christelle Cayton ’18, Miranda Harris ’18 and Kassina Kim-Hayes ’18. Friends since before they sent in their deposits, and now housemates, the trio have all studied the sciences at Macalester and worked in the arts.
The Mac Weekly: I go into this interview with the knowledge that you met at the spring sampler in spring 2014, and hit it off and have been friends ever since. All of you lived together for the past two years and Christelle and Miranda have lived together for all four years. Do you remember how you all met?
Christelle Cayton: [Miranda] was actually sitting on those chairs over there, and I had just gotten here for the spring sampler. And the only open spot was next to Miranda. I was like, “Hey, is this seat open?” and she was like “Yeah! Go ahead.”
Miranda Harris: I was so excited.
CC: She was like, “So what are you thinking for your major?” and I was like, “Oh, biology.”
MH: I was thinking neuroscience, which was funny, because now she’s neuroscience and I’m actually bio.
CC: And then they were like, “All right, it’s time to go to whatever.” And so we were like, yeah, let’s walk over together. And then we just got each other’s numbers and whenever there were activities we just would be like, “Hey, I’m going to this, do you want to go together?”
Kassina Kim-Hayes: Spring sampler day two or day three, one of you was living in the C-House, and I was also in the C-House, but me and Miranda hadn’t really met. And Christelle asked if I was Filipina, which I’m not [laughter]. I think we were all in a big group at first, but towards the end of the sampler, it just kind of became us three.
MH: For a lot of students of color, I don’t know if they’ve changed this policy, but they don’t even tell you that the Students of Color Sampler is for students of color. So we were chilling with all these people for the first two days, and then on day three everyone leaves. We were in the extended sampler, and the spring sampler is just two days, whereas the extended sampler is four days.
KK: Which is for domestic students of color. So we were now all included in that. And we were like, “Where did everyone go?”
CC: They just told us it was the extended sampler, but we didn’t know what that meant until we all showed up at the DML. And you look around the room and you’re like, “Oh, OK, that’s why we’re here.”
MH: But that was another point of connection for us. Then I think we just stayed in contact throughout the summer, kind of texting.
CC: I think we were all still deciding whether we wanted to go to Mac, and we were like, “Yeah, let’s just text each other.” Miranda and I actually ended up in the same first year course. It was also residential, [so] we knew that we would be living in the same dorm. So then we just requested to room with each other.
KK: Actually, after sampler me and Christelle decided we wanted to be roommates.
MH: Which I’m kind of mad about, ‘cause they didn’t tell me that till two years later. I was like, “Okay!” [laughter]
KK: But then, last-minute, I heard all these horror stories about how you can ruin friendships by living with a friend, and I wanted to be friends with you guys, so I decided to choose a random roommate instead. And it worked out because I wasn’t even in the same first-year course.
MH: I’m salty on that.
TMW: Any big projects you’re proud of?
KK: I spent a summer in Oregon working on olfactory localization in mice, and my mentor left after, like, three weeks, and so I spent the entire summer basically writing this project on my own. And a lot of it was just troubleshooting Python code, and I’d only taken comp sci, so I was proud of that.
CC: I established the optogenetics module in the neuroscience lab here, but it involved working with flies so I had to breed flies. It’s a very tedious process, ‘cause you have to collect virgin flies to cross over with certain lines of male flies. But the problem is, there’s a one-day window where you can catch them. So you have to go in at this time, otherwise they’re gonna start mating with each other, and you have to wait for another two weeks for the next round of virgin flies to come in.
KK: One time we were trying to go to a birthday party and we were already late, and Christelle was like, “We need to stop at OLRI so I can breed my flies.”
CC: We would have missed that window! We would have had to wait another two weeks for the larvae to come out.
KK: We were in there at like 10 p.m., just trying to go to the birthday party.
MH: I’ve done research with Marcos Ortega, who’s a biochemistry professor here, but then I transitioned to the social sciences as well. I’ve been doing research on local perceptions of mosquito-borne disease in Ecuador, which is where my family is from. So I’m going to publish a paper on those findings. It’s medical geography, which is funny because I have no training in medical geography. But I’m pretty proud of it too, because having a different lens in the biological sciences is, I think, very relevant, and there’s a lot of value in interdisciplinary work these days, so I’m pretty proud I did that. It’s my claim to fame.
Can we talk about our artistic accomplishments? Or our athletic accomplishments? Can we name each other’s?
CC: Kassina is a gymnast; she does club gymnastics at the U of M. By the way, she’s like the best one on that team. I watch her videos and she just puts such a unique twist to all her routines. You should watch them sometime, it’s great. She’ll literally twerk on the beam.
KK: No I won’t [laughter].
CC: You don’t see that at the Olympics, but Kassina will do that and I feel like she’d be a really fun teammate to have. She’s very talented as a gymnast honestly, but she injures herself a lot [gestures to Kim-Hayes’ foot brace]. She’s also very good at dancing. She’s on Bodacious. She’s a great actress, once you cut out the right parts [laughter].
KK: I just acted in one of Christelle’s films.
CC: I made a short film for class [“Anywhere”], and I’m actually submitting it to some film festivals right now. Everyone in our class thought that Kassina and Collin [Brantner, ’18] are such great actors. But in reality, we had, like, two hours of footage that we spent so long trying to cut out the not-awkward parts to piece it together and make this realistic love story come to life.
KK: Well, Miranda’s main thing is dance. She’s done some modern pieces, but also she used to do hip-hop. Miranda was on the Bodacious dance team before there was this whole transition. She was co-captain of the dance team the year before she went abroad and she did a lot to help the team, so that was really cool. Just this past winter break she went to Texas; she made this documentary about artists on the Mexico-U.S. border [“En La Frontera del Arte,” with Mike Curran ’18].
MH: What I love about Christelle is that she is so artistic, I feel like she doesn’t even know it. Christelle has an incredible eye for film and for images in general. We just went to Punta Cana for spring break, and she just knew, “Okay, we’ve got to pose here, here’s the lighting, stand here,” just all these intimate details about photography that, honestly, I don’t even know how you learn. It’s intuitive for her; she’s only taken one film class, right? And that film class was super successful for her. She’s made a couple, and now she just got to be in this Sundance-supported pilot project.
CC: So it’s with this independent filmmakers’ group here, they’re called FilmNorth. So FilmNorth is starting a narrative shorts lab, and is supporting local artists so they can create short films that will go to Sundance and South by Southwest. The goal is to make sure that this film is on track and that these films are top-quality because they want a future of more local Minnesota filmmakers.
TMW: Is there any advice you want to impart to Macalester students?
MH: It’s important to support each other at Macalester; not getting it the first time when struggling in courses isn’t even discussed. It’s important to support each other so that we can all get it together, right? Recognizing those moments among your friends can be really helpful throughout this whole Mac experience.
KK: Less deep than that, dye your hair purple and cut it all off before you have to do job interviews, because you might not get to do that for the next, like, ten years before you’re secure in your job.
CC: College is a really awesome time but it’s also really stressful at times, and you need to take care of yourself, just breathe. And self-love. That’s something I think I’ve learned. You’re gonna do bad on a test, don’t beat yourself up for it.