Evan Kohn '06

Evan Kohn

Evan Kohn '06

Hometown: Highland Park, Illinois
Major: Government and Legal Studies

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
I had done my fair share of college visits, and despite the cold wind and sideways rain the day my dad and I visited, everything seemed to add up here. I knew I wanted to study political science, so both the Government Department and the college's outstanding academic reputation influenced my decision to come here more than anything else. Additionally, the dorms looked comfortable, the food was surprisingly great, the admissions staff articulated Bowdoin's strengths very well, and the students seemed smart and interesting. I had lived in Illinois my whole life and wanted to live and explore somewhere new. Brunswick, with the coast and Portland nearby, seemed like it would offer a stimulating setting for a college student. I was blessed to have my parents' support and encouragement to get the best undergraduate education possible - and Bowdoin has offered just that.

Why did you choose your major?
Politics has interested me ever since Rotary sent me to Northern Ireland during a part of my junior year of high school to study political conflict resolution. Speaking face to face with leaders in Belfast inspired me to get to know politics back home and follow the news more regularly. Since my first semester, the Government Department has offered more classes that have interested me than any other and I've ended up taking several more classes than the major requires. Meanwhile, I've tried to take the liberal arts approach as much as possible in taking classes in a variety of disciplines - from anthropology to French to archaeology to economics to Asian studies to drawing to Spanish.

What has been your favorite course at Bowdoin?
I'm particularly enjoying two of my current courses. The first is "Advanced Seminar in Democracy and Development in Asia" with [Associate] Professor Henry Laurence of the Government [and Asian Studies] departments. The class is small and discussion and writing based. We've explored relationships between economic growth, democracy, and human rights, all while discussing the moral and cultural impacts and effects on each. Professor Laurence does an outstanding job in promoting independent thought, moderating honest discussions, and offering constructive criticism. His sense of humor certainly adds a nice touch as well, especially during intense class discussions or debates.

The other class I'm enjoying right now is "Coastal Marine Life" with [Adjunct Assistant] Professor Marney Pratt of the Biology Department. Though it is lecture-based, Professor Pratt's passion and enthusiasm about subjects like sea squirts or mollusks brings the material to life. The class recently went on a Saturday field trip to nearby Bailey Island, where we explored tide pools and got to observe, handle, and collect data on the very creatures we had been studying in class like starfish, sea urchins, and predatory snails.

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
I've worked for The Bowdoin Orient, the oldest continuously published college weekly in the United States, since my first week here. This year, I've had the opportunity to serve as Editor-in-Chief. We have an incredible editorial staff of over 20, and dozens of talented writers, all working 24 weeks of the academic year to put out issues. The reward of seeing members of the College community read the paper every Friday morning makes all the planning, writing, editing, and late nights worth it. And seeing the editorials written by our editorial board influence change on campus has also made all our discussions, debates, and multiple drafts particularly meaningful. Since the paper covers such a wide array of issues relevant to the school and community, there is a lot of room for creativity. I've been able to speak with and interview political figures like democratic presidential candidates in New Hampshire and even the governor a few weeks ago.

I've also been a member and leader in the Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC). I have led two pre-orientation trips for first-years to Isle au Haut, participated in leadership training, and have led weekend trips hiking on the coast or up Mt. Katahdin. The Outing Club is a special gem for Bowdoin; it offers students a countless number of opportunities to explore the great state of Maine from rafting to hiking to sea kayaking to snowshoeing and much more.

Finally, I volunteered a lot during my freshman and sophomore years at the Coastal Humane Society in Brunswick. Along with a friend I organized some of their volunteer efforts. I got to work with formerly-abused or abandoned dogs and met some friendly and caring people there. I miss my dog, too, so going to the shelter and walking dogs through the nearby pine forests has served as a good cure for that.

Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
I spent the spring semester of my junior year in Geneva, Switzerland, and had an outstanding experience. I took five classes in international economics and government, and lived with a non-English-speaking woman in a wonderful apartment downtown by the lake. I did two internships in Geneva, one with an international law institute and a longer one with a human rights law non-governmental organization (NGO). In the first internship, I researched and compiled reports on humanitarian law under the president and head professor of the institute. For the second, I followed the U.N. Commission on Human Rights every morning from the chamber floor sitting beside ambassadors from countries around the world. Each day, I'd brief the NGO's legal advisors on the previous day's happenings before discussing resolutions and mandates. I had the opportunity to meet political leaders and legal experts from around the world, and gained professional experience that I will be able to use in the future. Moreover, my program went on many field trips relevant to our studies to places like the U.S. Mission to Geneva, the Turkish Mission, the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, the Swiss Parliament in Bern, and the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. Through my home stay, I got to practice French and Spanish with my host lady every day. I also had the privilege of finding time to travel on my own by train to places I never thought I'd see, like Slovenia, Sweden, and Hungary.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
It's impossible to narrow it down to just one since there have been so many. A few in particular do come to mind. After finals freshman year my BOC leadership training class went on a whitewater canoeing trip for our final expedition on the east branch of the Penobscot River. It started near the northern part of Baxter State Park and finished outside of East Millinocket. We had a blast, the river was incredible, and being out in the quiet, untouched wilderness offered a perfect setting in which to reflect on my first year at Bowdoin.

Another highlight was meeting Christopher Hill '74 three years ago when he came here to accept Bowdoin's Preservation of Freedom Award. He was then-Ambassador to Poland and is now the country's Chief Negotiator in North Korea. His admirable contributions to diplomacy in the Balkans and Eastern Europe were evident in his acceptance speech as he recounted all he had done abroad. He spoke in one of my government classes as well, and after class told me about his old room in Coles Tower.

Also, just a few weeks ago I spent the afternoon taking pictures around campus. Photography is one of my passions and with all the fall colors I couldn't take enough pictures. Taking time to really enjoy the quad makes you appreciate how quintessential Bowdoin's campus really is.

What are your plans for after graduation?
I plan on attending law school in a year or in a few years, but until then I'd love to work in politics - whether it's starting on a campaign this summer or working as a legislative staffer for a politician. I interned with a senator this past summer on the Hill and found the environment to be both engaging and very exciting. I'm also interested in consulting or business, and am exploring my options regarding those fields right now as well. I hope to contribute my legal knowledge to the world of politics again after law school, but right now I'm taking it one step at a time.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
One of Bowdoin's best characteristics is that it encourages students to think independently. Any prospective or first-year student should think introspectively and decide what he or she wants out of a college education because it is what you make of it; college is the time of your life to explore and find out what inspires you (cliché, but very true).

While Bowdoin offers one of the best environments possible in which to do such exploring, it will only take you so far. You have to actively use it. Take advantage of Bowdoin's small size. President Mills often and with good reason encourages students to take advantage of all the leadership opportunities available here. Use Bowdoin's location to explore Maine, and meet as many Mainers as you can because they're some of the most down-to-earth people in the country. Use Bowdoin's diverse student body to meet people from Boston to L.A. to Burma. Get to really know a few professors - the faculty is the engine that keeps Bowdoin's spirit alive and all are among the most knowledgeable and gifted in their fields. Lastly, find a way to give back to the College or Brunswick in some capacity - whether it's through community service or tutoring a local student. You'll feel like a more integral part of the community.

Bowdoin is a truly special place. Take time to appreciate and recognize the College's countless attributes. In doing so, you will likely get the most out of the incredible opportunity that is a Bowdoin education.

Story posted on November 11, 2005

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