Student Profiles

Luke Mondello '10

Luke Mondello

Luke Mondello '10

Major: Neuroscience; minor: Religion
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
In my daily commute to high school, I would see upwards of 10,000 strangers and maybe 40 trees. When it came to choosing a college, I was looking for a change. During my overnight stay at Bowdoin, I was blown away by the pine trees and foliage, and by the way students genuinely cared about each other. My overnight host and his roommates answered my questions, showed me around the campus, and played pool with me in Smith Union. They even found me an open bed so I didn't have to sleep on the floor. Every student I interacted with went out of their way to make sure I had the best possible experience, which made it clear to me that Bowdoin is the kind of place where students are really invested in each other, no matter how busy they get.

I also visited the biology class Plant Physiology taught by Professor Barry Logan. After watching Professor Logan rave about tank-forming bromiads and admiringly describe epiphytes and hemiepiphytes (with a little help from a dramatic David Attenborough clip), I was completely obsessed with plants. When I arrived at Bowdoin, one of my top priorities was taking Plant Physiology—I did and it was well worth it.

Why did you choose your major?
After really enjoying both Plant Physiology and Neurobiology, I couldn't decide whether environmental studies or neuroscience was the way to go, especially since I didn't plan to work in science after graduation. I met with Professor Hadley Horch to discuss if neuroscience made sense given that I wanted to work in higher education or the non-profit sector. Instead of giving me a speech about the academic legitimacy of her field, Professor Horch described science as a way of seeing the world: a mindset that allows you to take in information, use it to creatively answer a question, and challenge yourself to look beyond your conclusion and ask what questions remain. From her description, it was clear that studying neuroscience would teach me to think and think well, and that was all I needed to hear.

What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
As a student of the natural sciences, I don't often get to flex my creative muscles, which was why taking the English class, Creative Nonfiction Writing with writer-in-residence Jane Brox, was a unique and amazing experience. I took some personal essay courses in high school, but did little to no creative writing in college due to my busy life at Bowdoin. This class gave me the chance to reflect on my personal experiences, hear the amazing stories of my classmates, and improve the littlest details of my writing—from word choice to meter and rhythm within sentences. The feedback and encouragement I got from Jane inspired me to appreciate creative writing and the thinking it requires; thanks to Jane and her class, I journal and write whenever possible.

What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
After taking The Hebrew Bible in Its World with Professor Jorunn Buckley, I couldn't get enough of the religion department. Professor Buckley is a pretty engaging and interesting person: she is over six feet tall, Norwegian, sports shin-high boots, is a specialist in Mandaeism, and has a very dry sense of humor. She challenges her students to examine the true context of traditions and what's really going on between the lines. Her Hebrew Bible class allowed me to examine religious texts in a whole new light, motivating me to take Comparative Mystical Traditions the following semester. After discussing feminine power and its link to chaos in Bacchic Cults and exploring the sexual impetus behind Kabbalah, I decided to minor in religion.

Although he is new to the department, Professor Robert Morrison somehow managed to intensify my interest in religion. Whether we're discussing the Qur'an's stance on adultery and its implications in modern Islamic societies or the religiosity of Battlestar Galactica and Peter Pan, Professor Morrison energetically drives home the point that religion is everywhere and touches all aspects of life.

Singing "Fly Me to the Moon" on the Meddies' annual spring tour.

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
The Meddiebempsters—my a cappella group—has been one of the biggest parts of my Bowdoin experience. Through the Meddies I've made some of my best friends, improved immensely as a singer, and performed all over the country; we've sung for a sorority in North Carolina, for a German Nobel Prize winner, and for retirees right here in Brunswick. I've also made a rare connection with Bowdoin's history because of the Meddies. Last year at the group's 70th anniversary concert, I came close to tears (I'm not ashamed of this) while watching Meddie alums from the 1940s sing Bowdoin fight songs and barbershop classics.

I also sing in the Bowdoin Chamber Choir. I joined my freshman year with no singing experience, and have learned so much about music and my own voice thanks to Professor Robbie Greenlee's brilliant and eccentric instruction. I never thought being told to sound like a "Cherokee tip-toeing through the forest" or "a slab of granite floating on a river" would make me sing better...but it works. It really, really works.

Hanging siding with fellow Alternative Spring Break participants in Pontotoc, Mississippi.

I've also been involved in the Alternative Spring Break program all four years at Bowdoin. As a first year, I went to Pontotoc, Mississippi, to build a house with Habitat for Humanity and learn about affordable housing in America. I was so inspired by the community of Pontotoc and the program that I led the trip the following year. As a junior and now as a senior, I'm the program coordinator; I lead the trip leaders by designing and facilitating a semester-long leadership training seminar. My involvement has given me endless opportunities to think about service and the common good, hone my teaching skills, and reshape the program.

I currently have several campus jobs, though I started in Moulton dining hall my first week of Bowdoin as the work-study portion of my financial aid award. When I was assigned to dining service, I thought, "Okay, it's a job—it won't be too bad and I'll make some money." I never suspected that working in the dining hall would be a big part of my college career. Moulton's staff are some of the most down-to-earth and good-natured people I've ever met; they keep me grounded in the real world even when I'm too wrapped up in Bowdoin to read a newspaper.

I've also worked as a Writing Assistant in the Center for Learning and Teaching. Helping my peers tackle papers in every discipline has made my own writing infinitely stronger, and given me an enviable glimpse at the wide range of topics Bowdoin students study. Thanks to the Writing Project, I could give an hour-long lecture about the architecture of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, tell you about the crustacean X organ and sinus glands, or even describe the tribal influences of traditional Caribbean music.

Through Bowdoin's Residential Life program, I've been a first-year proctor for two years and am currently an RA in Coles Tower. As a proctor, I was able to connect with my first years as a resource, a confidante, a referee, a mediator and—more than anything—a friend. Hanging out in the hallway until 2 a.m., talking through homesickness, break-ups, the first big paper, and being able to make my first-years feel like part of the Bowdoin community has been one of the highlights of my college career. Being on Res Life has also given me a behind-the-scenes look at what makes Bowdoin work. Not only do I hear about the College's plans and the thought process behind them, I get to be a part of the process by giving feedback and advice. One of Bowdoin's biggest strengths is that the administration consults students about practically every decision; it feels great to know my school is listening to me and my fellow students.

Luke and others receiving a statewide service award from Maine Campus Compact. Bowdoin President Barry Mills stands behind Luke (far left).

What have you done during your summers?
Following my junior year, I interned in the Sustainable Bowdoin Office under Keisha Payson. As the Sustainable Bowdoin intern, I coordinated with essentially every office on campus, whether it was designing a logo for the Bowdoin magazine, chatting with Director of Security Randy Nichols about a carpooling system for faculty and staff, or reviving the communal bike-sharing club with the help of Nancy Grant from Information Technology. Not only did I get to meet the amazing staff of this school and work on some very cool sustainable initiatives, I also enjoyed sharpening my graphic design skills by designing logos, Web pages, and the quarterly newsletter. To top it all off, Keisha even took me strawberry picking in the middle of a workday. What more could you ask from a summer job?

This past summer, I worked for the Admissions Office interviewing prospective students. The opportunity to represent Bowdoin and be part of the admissions process was a huge honor, as was meeting and talking with some truly amazing high school students. As much as I enjoyed talking about my time at Bowdoin, one of the biggest pluses was hanging out with our hilarious and charismatic admissions staff. Over the summer I got to watch Kirk Daulerio play with his adorable daughters, perfect the group information session with Whitney Soule, and pick up some critical fashion pointers from Elmer Moore and Rhoan Garnett.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
This past summer some friends and I went down to the Bowdoin Sailing Team docks and made a bonfire. We cooked lobsters tails—left over from a neuroscience lab where one of us was working—over the fire, swam in the ocean as the sun set, and talked until it got too dark to see. Not only was this one of the most Maine evenings of my college career, I think it was Maine in a very Bowdoin way. As a side note, lobster with pesto is delicious; I definitely recommend it.

Luke leading a training session at the Alternative Spring Break leader retreat.

What are your plans for after graduation?
I initially assumed that after studying science I would attend medical school, because what else do science majors do? But after working for almost every administrative office on campus and spending a good deal of time thinking about the common good and how Bowdoin helps its students towards this goal, I'm heavily considering working for a non-profit or as an administrator at a liberal arts college. I've come to believe in the kind of growth and social change schools like Bowdoin can inspire in their students. I'd love to challenge students of my own to become leaders on their campus and beyond.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
I've noticed something about this school over the past three years: the only people who aren't "cool" at Bowdoin are those who think they're "too cool" for other people. Everyone's a nerd about something: whether you're researching parasitic plants or the perfect workout regimen; whether you carry your constitutional law book everywhere or your long-board; whether you to go to every a cappella concert or every guest lecturer. Bowdoin students are only as "cool" as they are committed to what they love and to one another.

What quirky or fun thing do you wish you had known before you came to Bowdoin?
I wish I had known how amazing Bowdoin's housekeepers are. On a particularly hot day last summer, my housekeeper Merry showed up at the Admissions Office with a platter of fruit because she thought it would help me and my fellow interviewers cool down. A quick chat with Merry, a glance at Joyce (my housekeeper for three years) roller skating, or Steve (housekeeper for the McKeen Center) playing badminton during his lunch break, always makes my day.

Story posted on October 19, 2009

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