Ask A Senior: Web Exclusive, the Full Text

Bowdoin President Barry Mills

The Class of 2005 holds a certain place in history—they were the first class to sign in under the gaze of new president Barry Mills; their first weeks away at college were dramatized by the attack of 9/11; and during their years here they have voted in their first presidential election, and witnessed both the end of the Curse of the Bambino and the end of a 26-year papacy. We asked a few to talk about it all.

What is your most memorable moment from your four years at Bowdoin?

Ellis Pepper: While 9/11 and the Red Sox win are the events I remember most vividly, my favorite moments at Bowdoin have just been spending time with the people here. Everyone at Bowdoin has so much to offer and it is through getting to know them, that I have really grown as a person. If I had to pick one memory, it would be eating lunch on the quad with my friends in the fall. All the leaves are turning but it's still warm enough to be outside.

candlelight vigil

Alison Flint: 9/11 only about two weeks into my time here at Bowdoin is something I will never forget... and the irrational and deeply misguided policies upon which our country has since embarked.

M. Jackson Wilkinson: That would definitely be September 11th. I had been in my Chinese class when the first building was hit, and found out from a voicemail left on my phone. For the rest of the day, most of the people on my floor were in my room watching the coverage on MSNBC (I had the biggest television). Brady Kirchberg's mom was even in my room watching, having traveled up for the day from Washington. With people on my floor who had parents who worked in the buildings, and with the feeling that the entire world had come to a halt, it was a surreal experience.

Genevieve Creedon: Sitting in the living room of 7 Boody St. my sophomore year with a few friends, after reaching complete saturation writing papers. I had just found out that a final assignment that I hadn't expected to be writing-intensive was, indeed, an assignment to write a paper. I almost cried right there, and then my friends started joking that I should draw pictures and forget the writing--which I actually did. And got an A on the assignment!

Fred Fedynyshyn: There are far too many to even begin to rank them. The times that end up the most memorable tend to be the times that start off so mundane. Any number of the countless times when I've gone with friends on random trips to Wal-Mart at 11:30 at night to make an impulsive purchase and screw around with it until late in the night fit this description, and generally they end up memorable solely because of my friends. So long as my friends are around, a moment will end up memorable.

Claire Discenza: That's pretty impossible to answer, because I don't have one. But several of my most memorable include: big sports meets, nights out with all of my friends, study abroad (many moments there!) and the poker tournament.

Jessica Koski: Freshman year-Halloween Night. I was feeling homesick and a little out of place, but my newfound best friend, John, new precisely the right prescription. A night on the quad fraught with hearty laughs and sleeping bag worm races and an early morning run to L.L. Bean, just in time to see the sun rise. We're best friends still today, and never shy away form a midnight Bean run when either of us needs a quick pick me up.

What has changed the most about you since you arrived on campus four years ago?

Ellis Pepper: I've definitely changed a lot while at Bowdoin, but I think the biggest change has been in my appreciation for community. I have never felt such a strong attachment to a place as I do to this Bowdoin, which makes it extremely hard when I realize that I am leaving this year. I love that you can walk around Bowdoin and feel totally at home and know most every face you see.

Alison Flint: Probably me.
M. Jackson Wilkinson: The campus is so much more active and diverse than it was in 2001. Classes are now, more than ever, a place where you learn as much from those around you as you do from the professors. With perspectives from different racial, geographical, socioeconomic, and family backgrounds, Bowdoin has become a stronger place to learn over the last four years.

Gen Creedon: Before coming to Bowdoin, I wasn't comfortable speaking--about virtually anything. I could write about anything for anyone, but I never wanted to actually say things. I am now much more capable and willing to speak my thoughts and feelings and take greater risks in speech.

Fred Fedynyshyn: I am more in awe of Bowdoin students yet more comfortable around them with every passing day. People here are all incredible at something, and usually at many things, but they're still regular, down-to-earth people.

Claire Discenza: I now have a passion for neuroscience and somewhat of a goal for life, which is more than I expected to have at this point,

What advice would you give to an entering student today?

Ellis Pepper: Do what makes you happy. Everyone at Bowdoin has a different schedule and agenda- some people push themselves to participate in everything and some concentrate on a few select things. This is good because different people have different levels of stress they can handle and different perceptions of what is too much. I think a lot of people at Bowdoin drive themselves too hard and miss out on some things so I would say do what is right for you, not what is right for everybody else.

Alison Flint: Don't immediately get sucked into the drunken social scene... there are so many fascinating people and wonderful experiences, and you won't find most of them at a campus wide or playing beer pong.

M. Jackson Wilkinson: Stay loose and open-minded. Take classes outside of your major and outside of your comfort zone, and make sure not to worry so much about grades. Bowdoin is a place to learn because you love to learn, and not a place to simply satisfy faculty or your statistics.

Gen Creedon: Bowdoin is really what you make of it. I almost transferred after my first year here, because I didn't like social life here or "the Bowdoin culture," but I stayed, and I've definitely been able to build the life that I want here. The resources are available, and the people here are wonderful, so if you have a will, you will find what you want here. You just have to make it happen.

Fred Fedynyshyn: Spend your first month involved in every club that you find remotely interesting. This will give you a taste of all that Bowdoin has to offer and give you a good idea of how you want to spend your next four years. Also, it's a great way to meet other first-years and upperclassmen with similar interests. Then, once schoolwork gets substantial and you start getting pressed for time, start winnowing down your commitments.

Claire Discenza: Take your non-Eurocentric credits early, pay more attention to which professors you have than the classes you are taking, try completely new hobbies and clubs, if you are not happy with your rooming situation -- change it (that goes for anything, actually,)

Jessica Koski: Don't be afraid to question. Question everything. Everything you thought you knew about the world, everything you thought you knew about yourself. This is a time of growth.

What was your biggest mistake during your college years?

Ellis Pepper: There are some things I did in high school such as dance and music that I didn't continue at Bowdoin because I thought I would not have enough time for them. Although I probably wouldn't have, in retrospect, I still regret that I did not continue these activities.

Alison Flint: Getting too absorbed in just my sport and not reaching out into other social circles early on.

Gen Creedon: I don't really think of things in terms of "mistakes," per se. One thing I realized after-the-fact was that there are very good reasons for which students usually study abroad junior year--you really need to get out of here by then. I didn't do it junior year, but then did go fall of my senior year.

Fred Fedynyshyn: My first instinct was to say that there are classes I should have taken or activities I should have gotten involved in. However, there are so many options here that you can't regret any choices you've made or you'll go crazy. I've only taken one English class while here and often wonder if I should have taken more, but then I think, "What course would I have dropped to make room for English?" One of my good friends and I went out for the rugby team the first weeks of school but had to give it up for various reasons and we were talking the other day about how different we might have been had we stuck with it, but we realized that if we had we would have had to drop something else. I guess my biggest mistake was bothering to sleep.

Claire Discenza: not moving out of my freshmen rooming situation.

What was your biggest adventure?

Ellis Pepper: freshman year—everything about it.

Alison Flint: Going abroad! Everyone should consider it because it will add so much to your four years of college.

M. Jackson Wilkinson: My four years in the Meddiebempsters was far and away my biggest adventure. From spending weeks on tour with ten guys in the closest of quarters to spending weekends at women's colleges with nothing more than the shirt on my back and a twenty in my pocket, I've had more unforgettable experiences with this group of guys than I've had in any other single aspect of my life.

Gen Creedon: Editing Professor Kristen Ghodsee's book <emSun, Sand and Socialism. It was really cool to be on the "inside" of someone else's writing process, but it was weeks of daily reading and exchange, and it was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.

Fred Fedynyshyn: I'd say that living in a social house for two years was one big adventure. A lot of strange things happen when you live in a social house.

Claire Discenza: hmmm... applying to grad school. But also: moving into the tower with lots of friends, and embarking on my honors project.

What meal at Bowdoin will you miss the most?

Ellis Pepper: chicken tortilla soup

Alison Flint: Hungarian Mushroom Soup

M. Jackson Wilkinson: There were obviously a lot of great meals at Bowdoin, but I think that I won't be the only one to say that many students looked forward to
Parents Weekend for reasons besides seeing the family.

Gen Creedon: I haven't been on a meal plan for two years, but I'd say dinner at the pub, usually--when it's quiet.

Fred Fedynyshyn: This year, Moulton has been doing a combined chicken parm and shrimp and pasta in a creamy red pepper sauce meal that has been stellar. Also, after a two-year hiatus, Thorne has recently reintroduced one of my freshman year favorites: London broil and cheese tortellini in al fredo sauce (the marinara sauce is solid but just doesn't get it done like the al fredo does).

Claire Discenza: The luau. I also will miss breakfasts (I didn't have many,) and supersnacks! Thorne in general -- I will cry without their honey wheat bread and endless supply of whipped cream. sigh.

Jessica Koski: No doubt about it, Thanksgiving dinner. Each year, my room always got dressed up and attended together. It was family time. The orange rolls are delicious and the pumpkin bisque to die for. Although, I must admit, sundae bar is a close runner up.

What faculty member will you miss the most?

Ellis Pepper: I have taken four classes with Professor Springer and loved each one. He knows every detail of every law case and describes them in a way that makes you feel like you are actually in the courtroom. Not only is his energy and knowledge impressive, but also he is one of the most kind and helpful professors I've had. Before I took a Springer class I was terrified of him because of his reputation of being difficult. Now, after spending half my semesters in his classes, I consider him not just a teacher, but also a friend.

Alison Flint: All of those faculty members who say hello on the quad or in the dining hall and make Bowdoin feel like a real community.

Gen Creedon: Hmmm. Unfair question. There are a lot: Liz Muther, Kathleen O'Connor, Mary Agnes Edsall. Those are the top three if I had to pick.

Fred Fedynyshyn: I'll miss the entire Government department. They never failed to push me or make me look at things in a new way.

Claire Discenza: my advisor, and the other profs of the neuroscience program. I love those guys!

Which faculty (or staff) member has inspired you the most? How?

Ellis Pepper: DeWitt John has been very inspirational in my Environmental Studies work. Not only is he very knowledgeable and experienced in the field, but he also has a way about him that allows you to say what is on your mind. He is very encouraging and tries to accommodate his students so that they can do things not possible in other departments. For example, this year when I wanted to do an internship with a local environmental newspaper, he helped me turn it into an independent study. It ended up being one of the most valuable academic experiences I've had.

Alison Flint: Connie Chiang and Matthew KIingle... they are an inspiring pair of professors who drew me into their subject matter and made sure that I knew how to write before I left Bowdoin.

M. Jackson Wilkinson: I've had a number of really great professors, so that makes this question tough, but I would have to say that I was most engaged and energized by Nancy Jennings in the Education Department. She brought a lot of heartfelt dedication and fire to her teaching in an understated way, and her classes were sure to feature an intelligent and active discussion.

Gen Creedon: Probably Liz Muther. She's a pretty intoxicating force in the classroom, but I've also gotten to know her well outside of the classroom, and she's gotten on the inside of my struggles with writing, seeing me through a lot and helping me grow through the process.

Fred Fedynyshyn: Again, I can't choose one above the others. Every faculty member here has inspired me in some way, academic or otherwise.

Claire Discenza: Um.. another hard question. I have to say Mark Wethli (art) inspired me by showing me how he looked at the world, and also my advisor for teaching me about science.

Where were you when the Red Sox won the World Series?

Red Sox sign

Ellis Pepper: 8 Potter Street watching the game with my friends. Then we went out to the quad to see the bonfires.

Alison Flint: In 12B with plenty of Honey Brown and good friends.

M. Jackson Wilkinson: Sitting in my room with some friends watching the game, hating the fact that my friend and fellow Meddie Charlie Ashley was actually at the game and I wasn't.

Gen Creedon: Sleeping in Cape Town, South Africa.

Fred Fedynyshyn: The World Series story is kind of anticlimactic, so I'll tell you the ALCS story instead. After the Game 3 debacle, I decided to just watch the game at my Pine St. apartment while doing some reading. Well, we pulled out Game 4 in spectacular fashion so, being a rational, intellectual Bowdoin student, I deduced that my presence on my couch in my apartment was the key to the Sox victory. I watched the rest of the series there and, after the Game 7 victory, I sprinted outside along with everyone else at Pine St. and we were all flipping out and hugging each other and recounting pitch by pitch the entire series. I'm friendly with all these kids, granted, but there were plenty that I don't know all that well or haven't been good friends with since freshman year, but we were all best friends that night.

Claire Discenza: Watching the game in the tower with all of my friends, knitting. I messed up on a row during an intense moment in the game, and now the scarf has special significance! Then we all ran out onto the quad. Good times, good times.

What is your favorite thing about Maine?

Ellis Pepper: I grew up in Maine, so I have always been very attached to the state. My favorite thing about it is that you can do almost any outdoor activity you can imagine and you can almost always get to the ocean.

Alison Flint: The changes of the season and the mix of mountains and coastline. The ability to get to Boston or the mountains in two hours.

M. Jackson Wilkinson: While I can't hope to speak of Maine as a whole, my experience of Maine has been one of balance. Portland is a great and hip small city, the coast is amazing, the mountains are gorgeous, and the people are proud and friendly. There are so many unique aspects of Maine that one doesn't imagine when coming from "away" that it's refreshing and enlightening to even just learn that there is indeed weather here besides snow!

Gen Creedon: The laid back, casual culture--and the ocean.

picture of Pope John Paul II

Fred Fedynyshyn: When spring finally comes after the five months of winter it's the greatest thing in the world. On the first nice weekend everyone is outside in shorts playing Frisbee or softball or reading on the quad and just hanging out. No one ever gets any work done over the first nice weekend.

Claire Discenza: Bowdoin College!

Where was your favorite place to study?

Ellis Pepper: 2nd floor of the library

Alison Flint: My room... libraries don't do it for me.

M. Jackson Wilkinson: When I wanted a relaxing and laid back place, I usually was at my desk in the music library. It's a great little community of people there, and we have a good time trying to get work done. When deep concentration and relative silence was required, Hatch became the destination of choice.

Gen Creedon: Different places, different years. I spend large chunks of time in the library, but for writing usually, freshman year, I studied in the atrium in Druckenmiller, in the art library and the Hubbard stacks. Sophomore year in the Women's Resource Center. Junior year in the Women's Resource Center and in Massachusetts Hall, and senior year in Mass Hall mostly.

Fred Fedynyshyn: I've always liked to study in my room, and if you leave your door open you can look like you're studying but still end up socializing with whoever walks by. That's the best way to study.

Claire Discenza: The room immediately inside the music building, by far. Its magical in there, and just a perfect balance of quiet and haunting music. I've been the most productive there.

How many times did you actually go to LL Bean?

Ellis Pepper: a lot

Alison Flint: Lots of times!... at least 4 every year.

M. Jackson Wilkinson: MAYBE three times. The 3am run my freshman year was a novelty, and I've gone in a couple of times while shopping in Freeport.

Gen Creedon: Maybe twenty.

Fred Fedynyshyn: Let's see, I went every Parents Weekend and every winter break (both coming and going), so that's twelve, plus a few random ones thrown in for miscellaneous items...I'd put myself at around twenty. I never did get down there at 4 am, though, but there are still a few weeks to take care of that.

Claire Discenza: 3. Perhaps 4. But I never bought anything there.

Jessica Koski: More than I can count!!