“I can still look back to Bowdoin and that interview with Barry as a reminder that it’s not just okay but most often the right thing to ask questions of people in positions of power.”
The first business feature story I ever wrote was for The Bowdoin Orient on the College’s plan to examine whether it should divest from Darfur. At the time I wasn’t sure I knew exactly what divestment meant and, if I’m honest with myself, the same goes for the endowment. In other words, I had no idea what I was doing.
I was a shy and nervous student, one who didn’t like to talk in class and wasn't inclined to ask questions of authority figures. But I managed to get up the courage to set up a meeting with Barry Mills. Despite my worst fears of looking foolish—and maybe I did, but Barry was kind enough to pretend otherwise—the meeting went fine. We met for an hour or two and Barry let me ask as many questions as I needed.
There’s no dramatic end to this story, other than to say that nothing bad happened. It might seem like a minor point, but it was a crucially important lesson for me to learn early on. Fast forward nearly ten years, and some days I spend a lot of my time calling people who would rather not talk to me and asking questions they would rather not answer. I can still look back to Bowdoin and that interview with Barry as a reminder that it’s not just okay but most often the right thing to ask questions of people in positions of power.
After I graduated I went to journalism school, but it was at the College where I really learned how to be a journalist. I often think that writing a story is a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. After you’re done with your reporting, you dump out all of the pieces on the table and figure out how to put them together. Bowdoin taught me how to do that—how to think through a problem, how to organize my thoughts in a logical way, and how to get those ideas across to a reader. But most of all, Bowdoin taught me how to ask questions, even when it’s the hard thing to do.
—Beth Kowitt ’07
Senior Writer, Fortune Magazine