Last year, Kate Shelton ’14 was a bit flustered when she approached her mentor, Jennifer Fluri. Shelton needed work for the summer.
“Professor Fluri asked me, ‘Well, what are you most interested in?’ ” says Shelton, who sports short hair with a purple streak. “I told her it was women, fitness, and health.”
“I have the perfect contact for you,” Fluri told her.
Fluri, the chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, told Shelton to get in touch with one of Fluri’s former students, Christina Stoltz ’06, MA ’07. Stoltz founded and runs a nonprofit movement arts organization, REQ. 1, and a for-profit fitness boutique, Ploome, in Philadelphia.
Both REQ.1 and Ploome aim to celebrate body diversity and promote social responsibility through fitness. Stoltz created REQ.1 in 2010 to facilitate healing for survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault through physical activity, creative writing, and experiential art. Ploome was designed to support REQ.1 in achieving these goals by providing the organization with direct programming and financial support.
Shelton thought the mission of REQ.1 and Ploome would be a perfect match for her interests, and after a phone interview with Stoltz, she was hired as a summer intern.
“I really gained insight into what it means to understand how to run a business and a nonprofit,” says Shelton, a psychology and women’s and gender studies double major. “I learned a lot about gender-based violence, and how to work with that community as an outsider.”
“Christina pretty much gave me the wheel,” says the Scottsdale, Ariz., native. It was a valuable experience, Shelton says, and it helped influence her desire to undertake a senior thesis project studying the fitness culture on college campuses, and how it affects female students.
Shelton, who says many colleges have cultures of “binge exercising,” hopes her thesis will help identify ways for women to reject societal expectations and make fitness more inclusive. The subject is one close to her heart, as Shelton herself has overcome an eating disorder.
For her thesis, Shelton will interview a wide range of Dartmouth students. She plans to talk to students of many races and backgrounds, and athletes and non-athletes alike. “I want to see how the fitness industry affects a range of college-age women,” she says.
She says Dartmouth’s diversity has been a great asset.
“Coming to Dartmouth gave me access to different communities that I never had before,” says Shelton, who hopes to return to work for REQ.1 and Ploome before enrolling in graduate school. She is eager to share the results of her thesis research with Stoltz and try to incorporate it into the programming at Ploome and REQ.1.
“Fitness can be very healing or very hurtful,” says Shelton. “I want to make fitness all about healing.”
She certainly did that this summer.
“Kate’s spirit and tenacity breathed new life into both REQ.1 and Ploome,” says Stoltz. “Seeing REQ.1 and Ploome through her eyes reminded me of how blessed I am to live my dream every day and how grateful I am to Dartmouth for the strength, conviction, and ingenuity it has cultivated in me.”