Two Dancers Win CBL Math Scholarship


Lauren Vogelstein (left) and Amy Barker (right) are the recipients of the Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship. (Sara Azoulay/The Observer)

Published: April 20, 2011

Two sophomores from Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) were awarded the Clare Boothe Luce scholarship for math. Amy Barker and Lauren Vogelstein, both dancers, will have their tuition and room and board paid for during their next two years of college.

According to Leonard Nissim, assistant professor of mathematics, 19 sophomores from FCLC were invited to apply for the scholarship this year, and since 2003, three have received it. While he doesn’t propose students every year for the award, he recommended Barker and Vogelstein this year because he said they are both “very bright and work very hard.” He also felt their unique dance backgrounds gave them the sort of discipline the committee awarding the scholarship were looking for.

Clare Boothe Luce, whom the scholarship is named after, determined that the funds be given only to women studying math, science, or engineering at four-year universities and that half the scholarships be awarded to students attending Roman Catholic universities, according to the foundation’s website.

Amy Barker, FCLC ’13, a recipient of the scholarship, left her family in Philadelphia and moved to NYC when she was 15 to study dance at the Professional Children’s School and at the American School of Ballet.

At 18, she was one of six chosen from the American School of Ballet to continue with the NYC Ballet Company. She studied there for two years while attending Fordham College of Liberal Studies part-time. Eventually however, she decided to focus primarily on academics and in July 2010, she put away her ballet shoes.

“I quit dancing professionally because I really missed school. I felt like I was kind of missing out on being a college student and I missed the academic stimulation,” Barker said.

Now she’s considered a first semester sophomore and is enrolled full time at FCLC.

Barker had always been interested in math and said it had been her favorite subject growing up.

“In ballet, in all the arts, there is so much gray area; it’s all up to interpretation,” Barker said. “In math, it’s really satisfying to arrive at an answer that’s absolute.”

After hearing about the Clare Boothe Luce (CBL) scholarship from the Office of Prestigious Fellowships, Barker decided to apply. She sent the organization her application, personal essay, letters of recommendation, transcript and then interviewed with them. On April 6, she found out she had been chosen to receive the scholarship.

While Barker still continues to dance to keep in shape, she doesn’t perform any more—something she said she’s OK with.

“I don’t miss feeling bad about my body or the need to be physically perfect,” Barker said. “I don’t miss being scrutinized for things unrelated to my dancing.”

Dancing is still very much part of the other CBL recipient, Lauren Vogelstein’s, life. Vogelstein, FCLC ’13, is currently a student in the Fordham/Ailey B.F.A. Program in Dance and is one of the few dancers who take on a double major while at FCLC.

Although Vogelstein has been dancing since she was three, she still considers herself a “math nerd.”

“I think I would be really upset if I weren’t doing math and dance,” Vogelstein said. “I’ve always been a huge math geek, but dance is my passion. I can’t imagine my life without either one.”

At her public high school in Chicago, Vogelstein took extra dance classes all the time.

“When I was little I just loved being on the stage—lights on me and showing people what I was capable of,” Vogelstein said. “I was just good at it and I wanted to do more of it. Now, dance is just who I am.”

Personal research on the scholarship and a recommendation from Nissim prompted Vogelstein to apply for the CBL scholarship. Ten days after her interview, she received an email saying she had won it.

“I was so happy,” Vogelstein said. “I bought the song ‘Don’t Tell Me’ by Florence and the Machine and I screamed it on top of my lungs.”

Vogelstein said she sees many parallels between dance and math, noting that many people don’t recognize the overlap between the two, especially when it comes to shapes and patterns. Her freshman year at Fordham, she even choreographed a routine based on this connection.

“They are both so different and I like looking at how they influence each other,” Vogelstein said.

For Barker, the scholarship came at a perfect time, reminding her how important academics are. She said she sees the scholarship as an encouragement.

“It just reminded me that I can succeed outside of ballet,” Barker said. “And it’s nice not to have to worry about money at such a young age. “

Vogelstein considers the scholarship a confidence booster.

“At the end of the day, I know I’m not just a dancer, I’m also good at math,” Vogelstein said. “If I’m having a bad dance day, I’m like, ‘I can solve a proof that no one else here can understand.’”

Barker and Vogelstein are both working towards their B.A. in mathematics, but they have different plans for their futures. Barker is primarily focused on her math major now, but is looking to participate in the Columbia 3-2 program for engineering after completing her math courses.

Vogelstein wants to first focus on a professional dance career. After that, she sees herself choreographing dances while doing math research or teaching as a professor.