Student Profiles

Becca Spiro '09

Becca Spiro '09

Hometown: Brookline, Massachusetts
Major: Art History and Visual Arts, with a Spanish minor

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
What really stood out about Bowdoin was the sense of community I immediately felt upon setting foot on campus. Unlike other close-knit college communities, which seemed insular and exclusive, Bowdoin's outreach programs and community service opportunities amazed me. At some schools students appeared stressed out and focused solely on academics, while at Bowdoin I got the sense that students were happy and actively involved in campus life. In fact, finding the right balance between academics and extracurricular activities proved one of the most challenging aspects of freshman year.

Why did you choose your major?
As a first-year I limited myself to government, environmental studies and Spanish classes, with the intention of attending law school after Bowdoin. However, at the end of the year, I knew that I was not pursuing what I was really passionate about: art. Since both the visual arts and art history departments are so small, I realized that I would rarely have problems getting into classes and that I would receive a lot of personal attention from my professors. I have explored oil painting, printmaking, drawing and sculpture, in visual arts courses taught by challenging yet inspiring professors. Bowdoin's visual arts department is outstanding because of the flexibility within the program. Students with no prior background in visual arts are welcomed into the department, and professors are always encouraging. There is also the opportunity to have a more unstructured experience, in either an advanced or independent study course.

The art history department is equally impressive, although classes in this department are more formal and attended mostly by art history majors. Art history majors choose from an exciting range of classes, encompassing different styles, cultures and time periods. In my studies at Bowdoin, I have examined Eastern, American, and European art. I am particularly drawn to American artists John Sloan, Winslow Homer, John Singleton Copley, and Marsden Hartley. Fueling this interest is the current display in the American gallery at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, which features these artists and provides a terrific excuse to visit the museum on a regular basis. Graduating with an interdisciplinary major in art history and visual arts, I am extremely happy with my academic trajectory.

What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
Art and Life with Professor Linda Docherty was undoubtedly the most unusual, unforgettable, and enjoyable class I took at Bowdoin. Over the course of the semester, we researched documentary photography and work by Winslow Homer and John Sloan. Our classroom was in the museum, and since our class began while the museum was being renovated, we were granted special permission to enter every week. By the end of the semester I learned how to write catalogue entries and labels, curate a multimedia show and publicize an exhibition opening. Overall, it was an incredible learning experience and a great accomplishment for the entire class.

What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
Linda Docherty, who taught Art and Life, is a role model and an inspiration to me. It was only after taking her art history class that I became so fascinated by the subject. She is dynamic, extremely knowledgeable, and eager to help students flourish. Professor Jim Mullen, Professor John Bisbee, Professor Mark Wethli, and Professor Anna Hepler have all been incredibly supportive; their classes allowed me to venture into uncharted territory and continue experimenting as an artist.

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
Because Bowdoin has so many extracurricular and work opportunities, I found it difficult to choose which activities to participate in. I have five jobs and two volunteer positions, on top of four academic classes. I work as a first-year residence proctor, a senior interviewer in the admissions office, a visual resources assistant for the art history department, a bartender at the Bowdoin Pub and an art teacher for a seven-year-old girl. I volunteer as a docent at the Bowdoin Museum of Art and intern at the June Fitzpatrick Gallery in Portland, Maine. Gallery sitting exposed me to a world which I knew nothing about prior to this year. I discovered a thriving art scene in Portland and I have really enjoyed participating in events like "First Friday" (which happens on the first Friday of every month, and involves multiple gallery openings in downtown Portland). Meeting artists and discussing artwork with visitors or potential customers is rewarding and fascinating, and has provided a splendid opportunity to get off campus.

I also enjoy serving as a proctor, because I meet so many gregarious people in that capacity. The residential life staff is incredibly supportive and diverse; the freshmen I met this year restored my faith in the future of Bowdoin. Anytime I feel inspired to organize a program, whether it is educational or recreational, I can count on the other proctors in my residence hall to help me, and I can expect participation from at least a few of my proctees. Serving on the residential life staff has been a breath of fresh air and a wonderful way to get more involved in my last year at Bowdoin.

What have you done during your summers?
Every summer since matriculating at Bowdoin I have worked for Overland summer camp, based in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Through this company I have led biking and hiking trips in the Cape and Islands, Vermont/Montreal, Colorado and the Swiss Alps. This upcoming summer I am leading a backpacking and mountaineering trip in the Sierras. Although Overland heavily recruits Bowdoin students to lead their trips, I was always paired with students from other colleges. During my summers working for Overland, I led trips with students from Bates, Trinity, and Williams colleges. Although I get paid to lead these trips, I feel blessed because I am getting paid to do something I love. Additionally, while out in the woods, there are limited options for spending money, so I can save whatever I earn. I can't think of a better way to spend the summer.

Becca leading a fall break trip to the Presidential Range.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
One of my favorite Bowdoin memories is taking the Leadership Training course at the Outing Club during my first year. The friendships that developed through this experience and the bonding that occurred during our final expedition in Maine was incredible. The semester-long course was quite informative and we learned an array of valuable skills: map and compass reading, outdoor cooking, camping procedures, knot tying, and expedition planning. During our Wilderness First Responder Course, we learned first-aid protocol for wilderness emergency situations. Our instructors taught everything from how to deal with dislocations to child-delivery to broken femurs, and we practiced our skills by simulating real-life emergencies. I am still very good friends with everyone who completed the course with me, and the outdoors continues to be one of my greatest passions. I will always be grateful to the Outing Club for being the first place at Bowdoin where I truly felt at home.

What are your plans for after graduation?
I am still unsure about my plans after graduation. I am looking into art- and education-related jobs, and I would like to pursue a career that would combine these two interests, such as museum education. With the economy looking so bad, I am not sure where I will end up, so I will just have to wait and see!

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
I always tell my proctees that they shouldn't be afraid to try new things. After college, they might never have the opportunity to learn how to throw clay pots, dance ballet, speak Russian, or join a debate team. There is tons of enthusiasm on this campus, and it is so easy to get involved. When I was a first-year, I continuously sought out new experiences. Although the meditation club was hidden away in the basement of the counseling center, I went out of my way to make it to the first meeting with my roommate, and we both continued to attend every week.

Despite the fact that before I came to Bowdoin I knew very little about how the United States government functioned, as a first year I took Intro to International Relations and Quantitative Analysis in Political Science. These classes were incredibly challenging for me, but I have never regretted taking them. If I hadn't challenged myself in this manner, I would never have experienced all that Bowdoin has to offer.

What quirky or fun thing did you wish you knew before you came to Bowdoin?
I never knew about Bowdoin's dedicated staff until I actually came to the College as a first year. Housekeeping and the Dining Service have especially enhanced my experience over the past several years; always smiling and friendly, they help create a welcoming environment and ultimately make this college a happier and healthier place.

Story posted on January 27, 2009

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