Desneige Hallbert '05

Desneige Hallbert '05

Hometown: Belfast, Maine
Major: Gender and Women's Studies with a minor in Theater

Why did you come to Bowdoin?
Well, first of all, two very influential people in my life both went here: my soccer coach and my senior year English teacher. I also didn't do very [well] on my SATs and Bowdoin didn't [require] SATs, which I thought was great. [The school] really took the person into account. Also, [the College] had a Maine Day, where my best friend from high school and I got to come down here to look at Bowdoin and it was a beautiful day. It was gorgeous. I loved the campus, I liked our tour. Everything about it seemed really nice. My mother and I think that I probably compared every other campus I looked at to Bowdoin.

How did you decide on your major?
Women's Studies - I had never studied anything like that before. I always knew I was kind of prone to feminism, just because, growing up, I always wanted to compete with the boys. I didn't think it was fair to just have to compete with the girls in sports.

But I never thought there was a study of it. When I came here I thought, "Come on, Women's Studies? What? That's weird." It never occurred to me to take a course until I [performed in] The Vagina Monologues my freshman year. I was having a tough time here - I wasn't sure where I wanted to go or what I was doing, and I felt a little scatterbrained. Then I did the show and felt really connected to the people. And at the end of the show, when you're supposed to stand up if you have ever been or know someone who has been sexually assaulted, and over half the audience stood up, it affected me. Here I was, in this play, and I just made contact with all these people about such a pressing issue. So then in the fall, I petitioned to get into Feminist Theory and Methodology. You're supposed to take that class after Women's Studies 101, but they didn't offer Women's Studies 101 in the fall, and I really wanted to find out if Women's Studies was what I wanted to do. I ended up really liking the course. It really just made sense to me. Ever since, I've been doing Women's Studies.

I always liked theater in high school, so I came here and took theater courses. My proctor freshman year always said that you should take three academic courses and then one that's a dance course or a painting course - one that uses the other side of your brain because you'll be much less stressed that way. I've really taken that to heart, and theater was that outlet for me.

What has been your favorite class?
My Women's Studies 101 course was really fun. I remember jaw-dropping lectures, where I thought, "Oh my god, that's so true!" I really liked my Gender, Film, and Consumer Culture course. I actually didn't buy a single article of clothing for that entire semester because it got me thinking. I've also liked many of my theater courses. [I] did this collaborative one called Ensemble Performance, which was really cool.

Have you studied away during your time at Bowdoin?
Yes. I studied in Kingston, Jamaica. I was feeling that, because I hadn't taken any of my major courses freshman year, I probably needed to catch up, so going on a program that was specifically about gender and women's studies was appropriate. It was definitely an enlightening experience. I liked [staying in] the rural village the best. I got really close to my Jamaican mother there. There were just so many things concerning gender that I learned that I just [thought], "Wow, where do we begin?"

I did a research project on gender socialization in the rural village in Jamaica. One of the things that was difficult about being there was that I never really felt like I could do anything or help. If I was having a really bad day, I always remembered that I could go back home, but that Jamaica was their reality. [I said], "My reality isn't this - I'm very lucky."

I'm still in touch with my mother there, too.

What extracurricular activities do you participate in? Do you have an on-campus job?
Well, I've had many on-campus jobs. I've been a librarian, I've worked at the dining hall in the dishroom. I was also a teaching assistant at one point for psychology.

Mostly I've been working at the Women's Resource Center, monitoring at night, and lately I've been helping the director [of the WRC]. I just love that space. I've been [studying] a bit of the history of it. In 1972, Bowdoin became co-ed, and for about ten years, it was hard [for women] because Bowdoin was still dominated by the fraternities. It was still male-dominated, and women didn't even have a gynecologist on campus. [Some women at Bowdoin] fought really hard to get one, and now we have five, which is kind of funny. But in 1980, two years after the Bowdoin Women's Association was formed, they got the Women's Resource Center. Now the WRC is a great place to gather for groups. There's so much history in there - I like that.

My extracurriculars have mostly revolved around women's issues. I've participated in the Bowdoin Women's Association since sophomore year and now I'm one of the five heads. I've been very involved with VDay - directing VDay and The Vagina Monologues my sophomore year, and also co-directing the show this year.

I've never had to experience some of the realities that we hear about in The Vagina Monologues, but for some reason I still have this passion. I want to use the talents that I do have to make others aware. That kind of experience - being raped - I can only imagine is horrific, and many times people are just so scared that they can't tell [anyone about] it, and sometimes I feel like I'm able to be that voice in a way. I've come to think that that's why I'm here - because I'm able to reach out. VDay's major goal is to end violence against women and girls. It's very important to me to reach out to people about these issues and make sure that that people continue to fight for a safe world.

I'm on the Safe Space hotline. Safe Space is the sexual assault hotline on campus that involves a 30-hour training with Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine. Basically, on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, we offer an open hotline for people to call if something happens and they need someone to talk to.

I'm big into dance here. I've tried quite a few dance groups - the hip-hop group, VAGUE, the Indian dance group, and I'm doing belly dancing now. I've done Irish step dancing. It's one of my passions.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
This is silly, but it was spring of freshman year. It was the first time I finally felt at home at Bowdoin. I was with a bunch of girls that I really enjoyed being with. I loved going on the Quad with sleeping bags and blankets and hanging out. Ivies Weekend was fun because we had this big concert outside and it was just fun getting to know so many people. I liked that.

Something that's [also] a fond memory is going to the March for Women's Lives. That was really awesome to go with a bunch of Bowdoin women and march on campus and down in D.C. For the March for Women's Lives, over a million people marched on Washington to proclaim that the choice to have an abortion should be a legal right for all women. We actually got 80 Bowdoin women to go down. That was a really big event, taking a bus all night, getting there that day, marching, and then leaving that night.

And there was a puppet that a friend and I made. It actually came to me in a dream - a huge uterus puppet with fallopian tubes and maraca ovaries. The uterus said, "My Body, My Choice." People said it looked like a lobster, and I [said], "Well, I guess that's what uteruses in Maine look like!"

What are your plans after graduation?
I do have a job. It kind of fell in my lap. I was sitting down for a meeting with my professor and she said, "You're applying for the PIRGs right?" And I said, "Well, I don't know, I don't really have time," and she said, "Go over there right now and give them your resume." So I ran over to submit my resume and the next day, I had an interview. Then [my interviewer] invited me to the second interview in Boston [the following weekend]. So at six o'clock in the morning, three other students and I drove down to Boston and spent nine o'clock until five-thirty at the PIRG office. They called me up four days latter to offer me a job.

PIRG [stands for] Public Interest Research Groups - they have them all over the country. Mostly it's about environmental issues, hunger issues, and public health. There were two opportunities - the campus organizer or the fellowship. I wanted to [be a] campus organizer because I really like to organize and I wouldn't mind being on a college campus again. I think college students are an untapped resource sometimes. A lot of times we get caught up in our work and our futures and we forget that we're a part of a greater picture. PIRG is one [organization] that tries to mobilize students and teaches them to be informed citizens. It's a great program. It's going to teach me a lot about organizing with the media and organizing events, not just at the college level.

Is there anything else about Bowdoin or your experiences here that you would like prospective students to know?
Always remember that you're at college - if you want to start something, you really can. But also, don't get too caught up in your studies. I mean, you should, but don't let it rule your life, because you'll forget about the good stuff that's here, and that's meeting people and trying new things that you haven't done before. One way to do that is to take three academic courses and then take something that makes your mind work in a different way. You'll be so much happier for that. It's the chance for you to relax and de-stress a little bit.

Story posted on March 18, 2005

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