Mike Dooley '10
Hometown: Garden City, New York
Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
During my college search, I was fortunate enough to have a clear picture of what I wanted in a school after observing my older brother's search. I wanted to attend a small school where I could work closely with both professors and fellow students. After visiting many schools including Bowdoin, I just knew that Bowdoin was the place for me. I was attracted to the wide range of academic concentrations, engaged and active student body, and professors who genuinely cared about the success of their students. Plus, the ability to study for four years in such a beautiful locale was definitely a motivating factor.
Why did you choose your major?
I originally came to Bowdoin intending to major in neuroscience, but by the time sophomore year arrived, I knew that this wasn't the best choice for me. At the time I had to choose a major, I was taking Elementary Latin with Professor Barbara Boyd. After some careful thought, I decided to continue in the classics department based on how much I was enjoying Latin. Since then, I have had nothing but awesome experiences with the professors, classes, and other students in the department. I have taken classes on everything from Vergil's Aeneid to the dichotomy of Roman rural and urban life. Classical Studies has allowed me to gain a broad knowledge of the ancient world and also focus on certain areas that I find fascinating; I could not have chosen a better major. When I graduate, I will not only have a solid understanding of the ancient world, but also the tools and skills necessary to continue as a lifelong learner, which I consider the greatest assets of a Bowdoin education.
What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
During my junior year I began studying Arabic under the direction of Professor Russell Hopley. Bowdoin had not previously offered Arabic, so I was fortunate to have the opportunity to begin studying the language. My second-year Arabic class is composed of about 12 dedicated students, which ensures a great classroom environment. Professor Hopley teaches Arabic in a comprehensive manner so that we not only understand grammar and syntax in oral and written situations, but also the cultural nuances of Middle Eastern and North African societies. The class is challenging and fascinating, and I aim to continue studying Arabic after graduation.
What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
Professor Robert Sobak, my advisor, has been instrumental in my Bowdoin education. I have taken classes in Latin, Greek history, and Roman history with him. Professor Sobak is also advising me in my research on Roman asymmetric warfare and its ties to modern counterinsurgency operations. Professor Sobak helped codify my ideas into a research proposal for this past summer, a project that has continued into the first semester of my senior year. He constantly challenges my ideas and helps me form new viewpoints, which is crucial to creating a solid thesis. Sobak's accessibility is a testament to Bowdoin's strengths as a small college.
I have also been inspired by Professor Ryan Ricciardi, another member of the classics department. Although I began my major with no knowledge of archaeology, Professor Ricciardi helped me build a sound base of knowledge in Roman archaeology. Last year, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City over a break with my family, and found myself able to identify and tell my family about many pieces in the classical gallery!
Additionally, last year I was lucky enough to study ancient Latin texts with Visiting Professor Michael Nerdahl. After spending a year working from a Latin textbook, the ability to do this was amazing. I left class each day thinking how neat it is that we were reading and understanding Cicero's orations in their original form. Professor Nerdahl was devoted to teaching and making sure we understood the text in a way that has inspired me to continue with my study of the Latin language past the level required for my major.
What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
As far as extracurriculars go, I have been highly involved with Bowdoin Student Government (BSG). During my first year, I was appointed to be an at-large representative on BSG. Sophomore and junior year, I was elected to serve as the vice president of facilities. In this position I was responsible for serving as a liaison between students and the resources of the College, such as Dining Service, Information Technology, Security, and Residential Life. I also managed several student services such as the shuttle program that transports students to Freeport and Portland on the weekends and the Collegiate Readership Program that provides free newspapers in the dining halls and student union. This year, I was fortunate enough to be elected BSG president. My responsibility is to ensure that BSG is functioning properly as well as to generally lead the body. I'm looking forward to a great year of serving my fellow students and couldn't be more excited about this opportunity.
For the past three years, I have worked at the David Saul Smith Union information desk assisting students, distributing event tickets, and helping visitors with their questions about the College. In addition, beginning in my junior year, I began working as the public address announcer at football and hockey games. I love the job because I have the chance to watch my peers compete while helping to inform spectators. Observing games in a more official capacity and working with Sports Information Director Jim Caton has given me a new perspective on Bowdoin athletics. Finally, I am one of four students who answer questions via e-mail from prospective students for the Ask A Student program, helping them with their college search in a personal way.
What have you done during your summers?
During the summer after my first year, I worked for the Garden City Department of Public Works doing landscaping work during the day, and bussing tables at a local restaurant several nights a week. After my sophomore year, I spent the first half of my summer working for the Department of Public Works again. During the months of July and August, I attended the first portion of United States Marine Corps Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia. The purpose of Officer Candidates School (OCS) is to train, screen, and evaluate candidates for service as company grade officers in the Marine Corps. To test the leadership abilities of each candidate, OCS creates a stressful environment: there was a good deal of screaming and yelling from our instructors, sleep deprivation, and physical challenges in order to accomplish this goal. At OCS, we spent time in the classroom learning everything from Marine Corps history to tactics. In addition, much of our training period was spent in the field putting our classroom knowledge to work while leading our peers. Although my time there was extremely challenging, I know now that I am capable of much more than I ever had thought. Those weeks in Quantico certainly help put stressful days at Bowdoin in perspective.
This past summer, I returned to OCS for the first half of summer and successfully graduated. I then returned to Bowdoin in mid-July, for I received a Surdna Foundation Undergraduate Research Fellowship to study asymmetric Roman warfare with Professor Sobak. I read many pieces on the ways that the Roman military fought against smaller, unconventional groups, which was particularly relevant given present American engagements in the Middle East and Central Asia. Having the time to read, write, and think about such a focused topic allowed me to pinpoint the direction for my senior thesis on this subject.
What is your favorite Bowdoin memory?
The Bowdoin summer experience is unparalleled. I was able to complete my studies in Roman history and still have time to explore the great state of Maine. Two friends and I summitted Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, something we had wanted to do for years. The view from the top was certainly worth the mad scramble upward! Also, I had time to train for, and compete in, a CrossFit fitness competition in Massachusetts at the very end of summer with another good friend. After finishing the last workout and waiting to hear where I had placed in the standings, I felt that being at Bowdoin had been the best way to finish out my final summer before graduating.
What are your plans for after graduation?
Although I am seriously considering positions in the federal government and Foreign Service, I am leaning towards commissioning as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. I am still exploring other options for my post-Bowdoin plans, as there is some time to make a final decision.
What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
Branch out! Bowdoin is small and it's oftentimes all too easy to end up in the same routine everyday. To get the most from your Bowdoin years, try new things and meet new people. Even if your stint as a neuroscience major doesn't work out as planned (as mine did), you will be glad that you had those experiences and the courage to branch out.
What quirky or fun thing do you wish you had known before you came to Bowdoin?
I wish I had known about the prospect of the new fitness center! The Buck Center is an amazing new facility for student fitness and health, featuring an enormous free-weights floor in the basement and wellness classes. I look forward to making the most of it this year.