Bowdoin changed my life. While that last sentence may seem hyperbolic, I mean it quite literally. I am from a very poor family in New York City, which means that there are millions of examples of how my life could have turned out. Instead of repeating the cycle of poverty, I chose the education route and am currently pursuing my doctorate in biology. I owe much of my success to the support that I received and am still receiving from the Bowdoin community.

“President Mills helped to make the campus feel like a community.”

President Mills made a promise to my mother before I even set foot on campus, and I can proudly say that he kept it. He made this promise at a dinner for accepted students during my senior year of high school. I really wanted to come to Bowdoin, but my mom did not think that it would be a good fit. She looked at everyone else who attended the dinner and told me all of the ways that we stood out in terms of race, class, and culture. She was sure that I would never have anything in common with other Bowdoin students, and she was concerned the lack of connection would ruin me academically—a sentiment she shared aloud with the other parents. However, President Mills assured her that I would be okay. He promised her that he would look out for me. Truth be told, I was better than okay. President Mills helped to make the campus feel like a community.

He always stopped me on campus to ask how things were going. It was not uncommon to look up and see him in a dining hall or walking across the Quad. President Mills also had a visible family; I can remember seeing Karen Mills on campus and feeling really good when she greeted me by name. I still use some of the tips that she gave us during the senior etiquette dinner. Not only was President Mills visible, he was also attentive. I felt as though he went out of his way to listen to my peers and me. I can remember telling him my feelings about issues that encompassed everything from the new tables they put in Moulton light room (circa 2011—I am still a little upset) to race issues on campus. While Bowdoin was very different from the home that I grew up in, it still felt like a home away from home. For that, I will forever feel grateful. 

—La’Shaye Ervin ’13
National Science Foundation graduate research fellow, University of Utah