Student News

Telling True Stories — Miami Day 1

Michael Schloat – February 3, 2018

Jose Boyer & Connor Finemore

This morning Avery, Connor, Pat and I had the amazing opportunity to visit the FBI field office in Miami. This experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity. We all had practiced interviewing people; however, this was the first time we were doing so in the “real world”. Connor and I had a few questions prepared, but we quickly realized we needed to actually have a conversation with our interviewee instead of just reading off of a script. In addition, we learned asking questions will not only help you gather information but it also shows the interviewee that you are actively involved in the conversation and not just nodding your head. The jumping off point was certainly a general “So what do you do?” From there, we were introduced into the world of healthcare and insurance fraud, fraudulent ‘sober homes’, houses that abuse drug addicts’ addictions to fill up insurance bills, and how those addicted to legal pain medications transfer to more dangerous street drugs. After, a brief chat about what it’s like working for the FBI generally and how to possibly get an internship there in the future, we were given a tour of all of the gear and vehicles the FBI and SWAT teams have access to, followed by an example raid with a 20,000 lb bearcat and a couple flashbangs. All in all, the generosity of a Deerfield alumni allowed us a valuable resource for our projects and a once in a lifetime look into the inside of the FBI.

Inho Choi & Nick Osarenren
No matter what age, ethnicity, or gender, a common interest can bring people together. Saying this, mine and Nick’s interest for sneakers made it really easy to be comfortable with the subjects which we were interviewing. While learning the important information that we needed, we were really able to connect with the workers at the stores, with them telling us many interesting stories as well. While talking to the sneaker expert at Kith, he told us many stories about celebrities coming to the store, some unannounced. Hearing him casually speak of meeting celebrities really illustrated to me how big streetwear is amongst stars. The same stars that set fashion trends around the world. Speaking more on the influence of celebrities, the workers were quick to point that celebrities would wear the most outrageous clothing, but people will be quick to follow like a clone, or even add their own twist.
As Inho previously stated, our common interests in fashion and sneakers made the conversations with the people we met very rich. While in Shoe Gallery, a family owned store that has been running since 1979, this guy who we had never met prior to entering the store gave us the full rundown on how to make it in this business. Breaking down the minor details on how to secure a retail contract and maintain it. This was fascinating for us as we had no prior knowledge of what it took to be in good favor with a huge company like Nike in order for them to send shipments of their shoe. For example, the man at Shoe Gallery informed us that it took about ten years of selling other brands in a startup store for Nike to officially recognize their store as someone fit to sell their sneakers to the masses.

Christophe Coté, Eric Kim, Tierney Roche
Our first day in Miami started pretty hectic. We woke up tired from the long travel, and headed out of our hotel to our first interview with artist Luis Valle, only to find ourselves at the wrong address. We had a miscommunication about his location. As a result, we Ubered early to our next interview with street artist Douglas Hoekzema (known as “Hoxxoh”) at a studio, which was a great experience. We learned about the importance of first-person connections. We found many difficulties setting up meetings through e-mail, which caused our mix-up with Valle, leaving us with dead time in our itinerary. However, we secured a meetup with well-known Wynwood artist Abstract by asking Hoxxoh for possible interviews (this took 5 minutes!).
During our interview with Douglas Hoekzema, we learned the importance of balancing listening while asking questions that lead the interview. Hoxxoh was really passionate about his work, and gave us really detailed explanations about his inventions and techniques. However, sometimes there were some tangents that ate into our interview time, and we could have brought the topics back on track to make the best use of our meeting time. Luckily, since we missed our meeting with Valle in the morning, we have ample time to go over everything we needed with Doug (and we ended up meeting Valle later in the day). It was a great day overall.

Karen Trovamala & Colman Shea
Colman and I are researching specific topics related to the Cuban population in Miami. For our project, it was essential to get in contact and schedule meetings with as many people as possible. Although we initially struggled to get replies from our sources, we eventually scheduled two meetings for today. In the morning, we spoke to a journalist, David Goodhue, who was not particularly informed on the specific topics we are researching, but who eventually turned out to be really useful in terms of directing us towards other sources to talk to. In the afternoon, we had a long face-to-face meeting with Dr. Duany, the Director of the Cuban Research Institute at FIU. We knew he was going to be one of our most informed sources, so we really tried to get the best out of the interview. We asked a lot of questions and let him talk about events and people that were not necessarily linked to our specific topics, as that helped us getting an overall view on the general subject we are researching. We managed to keep the conversation flowing really well. Having two people asking questions on two slightly different but still related topics was also helpful, as it gave us time to think about more questions while our partner was discussing his/her topic. What we definitely learned is not to be afraid to go back to a previous question if the answer you got is not satisfying as well as not to lose time on a source that simply does not know enough about what you are interested in.

Pat Logan & Avery Reed
Today, Avery Reed and I visited the FBI complex in Miramar, Florida. When we arrived, we were whirled through security screenings in order to validate our legitimacy in meeting Special Agent Geoffrey Swinerton, FBI. The experience was extremely rewarding for us due to the openness of Special Agent Swinerton and his staff. We were very lucky to be able to meet with him through our alumni network. I would also say we were lucky that Special Agent Swinerton and his staff were so honest and open with us. We did not have to ask many questions; Agent Swinerton and his co-workers provided much information on their own volition. We acknowledge that this is an uncommon case; with most other people, we would have to pry more information out of them. However, in today’s case, we did our best to mix the questions in with Special Agent Swinerton’s prolonged dialogue. We imagine that because this was our first meeting, we did not do much talking because a lot of new information was being relayed in a short amount of time. In our next interview, over the phone, Avery and I had to talk a lot more because Mr. Perez was not as talkative as Special Agent Swinerton. We learned to be prepared with questions and that sometimes we have to lead the direction of the conversation in order to obtain the information we need.