Hometown: Monmouth, Oregon
Major: Chemistry, with a minor in English
Why did you come to Bowdoin?
I'm really lucky because it was almost a little bit random. I knew Alissa Cordner ['04] - she went to my high school, so that's how I first heard of Bowdoin.
I wanted to get away from home, somewhat. I wanted to go somewhere new, so I thought going to the east coast would do that, and it has, although Maine and Oregon are somewhat similar. I was attracted to Bowdoin because of its reputation for really high academic standards. Also, as soon as I stepped on campus, I felt really good about coming here. I felt like it was a place where I could definitely be happy for four years.
How did you decide on your major?
When I came to Bowdoin, I wanted to be an English major, and then freshman year I had a couple chemistry classes that I really liked - I had taken chemistry in high school and liked it - and I [thought] "Well, maybe I should continue with it," and I took more classes, and eventually I signed up to be a major.
What extracurriculars do you participate in?
Well, I've been on the women's rugby team ever since freshman year. What I like about it is being a part of this huge team, and I think that women's rugby is a unique group on campus because we're such a big team, and we're also a team of incredibly diverse people. We've got to be one of the most diverse groups on campus. And we've always tried to be a team that really appreciates difference and celebrates the fact that we're all involved in a lot of things outside of rugby. We had gay pride practice this year! And we had eighties day practice - all these theme practices. I just like being a part of this team that is very welcoming, and every time someone new joins the team, we want to make [her] a part of the team, and everyone appreciates you for who your are. It's very unique among sports teams, I think.
This year I've been doing a lot more community service. I'm leading this [Alternative Spring Break] trip down to New York to work with the Children's Aid Society in Harlem. That's a weekly [commitment], getting prepared for that. And then in the spring we're going to be doing a Math Club at Harpswell Island School. It sounds super nerdy, but we just go and prepare fun math lessons for kids who are in first through fifth grade. These kids are marginally interested in math, [but] more interested in interacting with you and having fun. We do things like guessing how many M&Ms are in a jar, or doing simple addition games.
What is your best Bowdoin memory?
I have a lot of good Bowdoin memories. I would say that my interactions with my professors overall has been incredibly positive, and my interactions with other students have been really great, as well. I think that rugby also sort of put the icing on the cake in terms of having this wonderful group of people to see every day. It will always be a support group and a fun group, as well.
What has been your favorite class?
My absolute favorite class that I've taken at Bowdoin has been my Gay and Lesbian Studies class with Professor [Peter] Coviello [of the English Department]. It made me realize that a lot of things in your life that you might consider to be separate from academics are not necessarily separate. It's just using your intellect to think about your life, which I think is so interesting, because, for one thing, it's really personal, obviously, and it has a lot of potential to change the quality of our lives. That class was definitely an eye-opening experience for me.
There was a lot of talk about the history of ideas. We talked about cultural perspectives and representations of homosexuality, [and] we talked a lot about the AIDS epidemic and how representations of homosexuality changed through that. We [also] talked about how when you read literature and find what you might call "queer readings" in literature. One thing you hear people talk about is, "Oh, why does that person read this Shakespeare play and then say it's about homosexuality when it's not explicitly in the text?" The fact is that finding queer readings in a text is something that you do, but all readings are something that you do. You're always finding something in the text, so it's not really that different. And furthermore, [a queer reading is] often a much more nuanced, perceptive or sensitive reading.
Have you studied away during your time at Bowdoin?
I wanted to go to England because I wanted to go abroad, and because I don't speak any foreign language very well. I wanted to go to Cambridge because I didn't want to just have a party semester, I wanted to be challenged.
I took two English classes, which was a full course load. Each class was like an independent study on one topic of literature. The academic structure there is very self-designed - I spent only a few hours a week actually "in class"; all lectures are optional, and the core of the program was a weekly meeting with a tutor. Mostly, I would get up in the mornings and read either novels or criticism and then work on writing weekly essays. I found that although it was nice to be able to focus so much on what I'm interested in, there wasn't enough interaction with other students and professors built into the curriculum. I felt a little bit like some isolated little bookworm reading away in the library all the time.
Overall I had a good experience abroad - I feel that I grew up and became much more self-reliant. Although I didn't realize it at the time, my paper-writing abilities definitely improved after so much practice. English university students study only one subject, so I was in seminars with people who had spent three years studying nothing but English literature. I found that they had a much more broad knowledge of literature than I did, but that my Bowdoin education had prepared me to give as good of an analysis as most students.
Studying abroad was a great experience and I would recommend it to any Bowdoin student that has the means.
What are your plans after graduation?
I'm in the process now of applying to the Science Writing program at M.I.T. - the master's program. I think it's important because you hear about the gap between rich and poor diverging more and more, and one thing that goes along with that [gap] is access to technology and information about science. If you think about a lot of the political debates that are going on today about stem cell research, I honestly think that if people understood the science better, the debate would be very different. From a scientist's standpoint, the debate doesn't necessarily make sense. So if public opinion and science were a little bit more interconnected, I think our debates would be different.
If that [program] works out, then I would do that, and then hopefully get a job writing. I don't necessarily see myself doing that forever, but [I would] sort of see where it goes from there. If I don't get into that [program], I may also apply to Teach for America. I feel like I could do that for a couple of years and then figure out where to go from there. I don't have a very long-term plan, but I have some ideas.
Is there anything else about Bowdoin or your experiences here that you would like prospective students to know?
Take advantage of all the different things that are going on here. If you decide you're going to do a certain major, don't take all classes in that certain major. Try to branch out a bit. Some of my best experiences have been taking classes in different areas than my main interest. And don't wait until you're a senior to become involved in different kinds of groups. No one minds if you try something and then [find that] it's not for you. Some things you might not have predicted that you would like end up being really important to you.