Majors: Philosophy and French
Hometown: Eagle River, Alaska
Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
I come from Alaska and am used to a smaller-town environment, so I ruled out big schools and cities and looked for a smaller community. People often ask me what I'm doing so far from home, but I have family in Massachusetts, so New England already felt like a second home to me. I also get asked if I was looking for another place with cold winters since I'm from Alaska, but that never really occurred to me. I actually don't like cold weather at all, but I guess I'm used to it!
When I visited Bowdoin, I was impressed and inspired by some students I met who were lively, interesting and intelligent. I spent the night with some first-years in Hyde Hall, a freshman dorm, and we just sat around for most of the evening and touched on one interesting topic after another. They were intellectual but fun, too. One of those girls ended up becoming one of my best friends at Bowdoin.
Why did you choose your major?
I've always loved to write, argue, explain and wonder about the "whys" of life, so philosophy was a natural choice for me. I see it as sort of a neutral plane where all kinds of people can talk on an even footing, because all that matters is how good your arguments are. As a committed Christian I have always felt it is important to know what I believe about the world and why, and what the implications of those beliefs are.
As for my other major, French, I accumulated enough courses almost without trying. With a second language, you either use it or lose it, so I found that I couldn't bear to skip a semester of French and let my speaking skills atrophy. I've always loved language and enjoy the challenge of figuring out the nuances of new words and phrases. Over time I've fallen in love with French culture with its stark contrasts to American culture. The French professors at Bowdoin are exceptional and enthusiastic, and they are always trying to deepen students' understanding of French culture in creative ways.
What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
Actually, my answer here is the same as that of a previous senior you interviewed — a favorite course was Arielle Saiber's class on Dante's Divine Comedy. I guess she communicated her incredible passion for the subject matter to more than one student! Perhaps what I most appreciated was her ability to bring out the human elements — the depths of pain and guilt and longing in the story. Prof. Saiber also has a background in philosophy, and she constantly encouraged us to look at the deeper philosophical puzzles in the text. Finally, the sheer breadth of her knowledge about the historical details referenced in the Comedy made it really come alive.
Another favorite was French Theater Production, taught by William VanderWolk and Charlotte Daniels. Class work consisted of memorizing and performing scenes from French plays of various periods. I've always been intrigued by acting but too shy to try it, so "French class" was a good excuse. Somehow getting into character seemed less intimidating when done in another language, and I gained a more than superficial exposure to several important French plays. Plus, the constant memorizing and rehearsing in French improved my speaking skills.
What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
I couldn't discuss my time here without mentioning Robbie Greenlee of the Music Department, who is beloved by generations of chamber choir singers. Robbie has introduced me to choral music of all kinds, and he is always challenging us to interpret the music creatively and expressively.
I have also sincerely appreciated the work of Scott Sehon in the Philosophy Department. Any philosophy major will attest to his efforts to improve students' clarity of writing, speech and thought. In his classes I have learned that there is such a thing as being intellectually lazy and that a thinking person worth his or her salt must do the hard work necessary to form coherent arguments and views. His ability to analyze texts and to teach students to do the same has been very valuable to me.
What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
I spent some time working for Information Technology, helping to edit content on the Bowdoin Web site. This year I am an RA, and being on the Residential Life staff gives me the chance to work with many fun people I wouldn't otherwise know.
I have really loved being in the chamber choir, with all of the varied musical experiences it has to offer.
A constant during most of my four years has been involvement in the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship, which is a close-knit group of friends who share struggles, encouragement and laughter at the end of a long Bowdoin week. I think my favorite part of BCF has been the opportunity it gives me to discuss faith and spiritual questions with people of many different backgrounds and beliefs. Most people in the group are Christians but that is not necessary in order to come and participate.
Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
Yes. I spent a semester in France with the Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris. It was a great change of pace, and living in another culture with its own social rules and system of thinking was something that has had a permanent influence on how I think and view the world. People sometimes find that their study abroad classes are easier than those at Bowdoin, but my coursework, which was all in French, sometimes gave me a run for my money.
Taking one class at one of the universities in Paris was an interesting and sometimes disorienting experience — particularly when it was shut down by nationwide student strikes over a very unpopular amendment to national employment laws for young workers. I'll never forget the day I arrived for class and found that the school's gates were locked and classroom furniture and other debris were piled in front of them so people would be sure to get the message! Class cancellations notwithstanding, I learned a lot about French history and literature that semester. I was also able to take some amazing trips to Spain and to Bruges, Belgium, a tiny town of medieval-looking buildings, narrow canals and good art museums.
What have you done during your summers?
The summer after my freshman year I stayed at here and worked for Information Technology on a project to redesign the Bowdoin Web site. I had never done anything of that nature before. Our tasks were pretty simple, but because I was trained from the ground up I found it interesting to learn a new skill. Our basic job was to take all of the content on every page of the site and format it into the site's new look. Along the way, though, I got a chance help make certain things on the site more accessible and logical by redoing the menu options, splitting up pages of content that were too long or didn't belong together, and helping to figure out how a new office's site should be organized. As a rising sophomore I learned all sorts of things about Bowdoin that I wouldn't have otherwise known as I went through the site content. I think the patient training I received from the IT staff and the opportunity to help change certain things on the site was something I might not have had at a larger school. As a big contrast to that, I spent last summer working at a camp in Missouri for kids from difficult backgrounds.
What is your best Bowdoin memory?
This isn't exactly a specific memory, but there was a certain span of a few semesters where I was part of a very close group of friends who spent most of our time together. A lot of images come back to me from that time: taking one early-morning class together and trying wake up for it all together, studying for the exams together and arguing over lecture notes and cookies, singing in choir together, bizarre incidents in the dining hall that mysteriously resulted in bent silverware, and of course, the all-important late-night discussions about everything. Basically I just enjoyed living with group of intelligent, funny, crazy people and wondering what would happen next.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I'm thinking of spending a year in northern China working for a non-profit organization that provides surgeries, teaching and foster care services to handicapped children, among other things. It is a small Christian organization that I was able to work with in the summer of 2005 when my dad and I were on a team that did a short-term medical clinic in the region.
What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
Seek out those of your classmates who are very different from you but who are worth knowing. Talk with them about their backgrounds, their favorite professors, their independent study projects, and their dreams. Ask them about how they see Bowdoin and the world. You won't regret it.
What quirky or fun thing did you wish you knew before you came to Bowdoin?
Someone once told me that the quad had severe drainage problems several decades ago and that one year it rained so much that the quad flooded and people could row across it in boats. I doubt that this is true, but I love to imagine it. Some days in March, when it's been raining for a week, I almost believe it could happen!