Story posted February 23, 2012
If you were charting a student’s progress through Bowdoin, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a straight line. The gift of a liberal arts education is that freedom to zig and to zag, to explore many possibilities of self, knowledge and community.
Last week, more than 40 first-year students got firsthand advice on ways to connect the dots to maximize the impact of their Bowdoin education.
The so-called “myJourney” luncheon” brought first years to the table with a group of nine student facilitators, many of them upperclassmen, who shared their personal stories of negotiating a pathway through Bowdoin.
Sitting with them were staff members from Bowdoin's co-curricular offices and academic departments who had helped guide them toward programs, grants and other experiential opportunties.
Several of those offices — Student Fellowships and Research, Off-Campus Study and Health Professions Advising — are now located in a single suite of offices at Kanbar Hall, making it easier for students to explore a more integrated approach to their activities.
The idea for the office consolidation and for the luncheon, said Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd, "is to create a kind of one-stop shopping to help students find interesting ways of navigating their co-curricular interests and opportunities."
"We want to create a cohesive community that opens up more possibilities for students early on in their Bowdoin journeys," she said.
The first years paid close attention as student facilitators shared their stories. There were tales of off-campus study that paved the way for independent study and paid fellowships. There were some stories of floundering, students who initially felt overwhelmed by the number of classes and extra-curricular activities available. Most described the snowballing effect as interests developed from classes to community work to internships and research.
One student facilitator, Nina Scheepers ’14, recounted how she had received a McKeen Center Global Citizens Grant to work as a mentor and teacher in South Africa for the summer after her very first year at Bowdoin. "It was absolutely amazing and life changing," said Scheepers.
Sam Frizell ’12 described his circuitous, and ultimately fortuitous, path after an injury temporarily sidelined him from the track team. The German major studied away in Morrocco and Berlin, became associate editor of The Bowdoin Orient, and was a two-time Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholar.
"Sam was telling us, ‘It’s okay if your path changes and you don’t know where you’re going. Try new things,’ "noted participant Courtney Chuang ’15, who sat at Frizell’s table. "We talk about our paths and interests a lot, but it’s not always clear how our interests can be connected outside of academics. It was great to hear from an upperclassman."
Madalena Rizzo ’14 said she went to the luncheon because "there is so much more to Bowdoin than I know about. I look around and there are so many people doing so many diverse things. Unlike high school, in college there is no list, no prescribed set of things you should be doing."
Rizzo said the myJourney luncheon got her thinking: "I hadn’t realized they gave grants to go to different countries to volunteer. Whenever I heard the term 'grant,' I thought it was for seniors. When Nina [Scheepers] told us how she applied for a grant and went to South Africa after her first year, it was like, wow! This is actually attainable."
Director of Health Profession Advising Seth Ramus said that her story isn’t that unusual, noting that many Bowdoin students "end up with these wonderful narratives. But we thought it would be nice to encourage them to be a little more intentional in their path at Bowdoin. Everything they do can be extended through other offices and linked back to previous experiences, to think more broadly and take them to the next step."
The myJourney luncheon was sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs. Participating programs included Environmental Studies, Education Department, Health Professions Advising, Special Academic Programs, The McKeen Center for the Common Good, Off-Campus Study and Student Fellowships and Research.
Student facilitators were: Caroline Bartlett ’14, Andrew Cushing ’12, Sam Frizell ’12, Chelsea Noble ’12, Amar Patel ’13, Kristin Rogers ’12, Nina Scheepers ’14, Nadja Shaw ’12, Anirudh Sreekrishnan ’12.