Mike Wood '06

Mike Wood

Mike Wood '06

Hometown: Hampden, Maine
Major: French and English-Theater Coordinate

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
As a native Mainer I always knew what a fantastic school Bowdoin is and I also had many friends and teachers who were students or alumni. When searching for schools I was unsure as to what I wanted to pursue and so wanted a school with a wide spectrum of possibilities for someone like me to explore, and Bowdoin most definitely provides that spectrum. When I visited, I loved the physical beauty of the campus, the welcoming people and Bowdoin's charming sense of history. The campus was also in the perfect spot since it was five minutes from the ocean, a half hour from Portland and two hours from Boston. With all of that, plus top-notch academics and number one-ranked dining, it was an amazing match for me!

Why did you choose you major?
I have loved French since my first day in high school French I, so I always knew I wanted to continue learning the language. French is the only field in which I have studied each of my Bowdoin semesters, so it made sense for me to do the major. As for the English and Theater major, that took a bit longer to figure out. I have always been passionate about theater but never studied it in an academic situation. Eventually, I really learned to love how well this interdisciplinary major linked the literary aspects of drama as well as the more hands-on side of theater. The departments which house my respective majors are full of incredibly warm, caring, and welcoming professors, which made choosing my major much easier.

What has been your favorite course at Bowdoin?
My favorite course was in the fall of my senior year. Professor David Collings of the English department taught Intro to Gay and Lesbian Studies, which turned out to be the most amazing intellectual experience I have had at Bowdoin. Professor Collings is truly gifted at listening to his students and working everyone's ideas into class discussion. It was one of those courses where we studied everything from the biology of animal homosexuality to the abstract theories of Michel Foucault. Every day I walked out of class in a daze because there were a million and one new questions in my head that weren't there an hour and a half earlier! It was what any Bowdoin course should strive to be: intimate, engaging, scary, welcoming, and at times utterly baffling!

Have you engaged in any independent research while at Bowdoin?
During my senior spring semester I did an independent study in directing with the theater department. I directed The Laramie Project, which is a play about the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard who was a gay college student at the University of Wyoming. It was a story that horrified and fascinated me since sophomore year when I read the play for Acting I. From that point on I thought about the play every day, imagining new ideas daily for how to direct the show. Eventually I directed a portion of it for a directing course and then researched the real story behind the play in my Gay and Lesbian Studies course and decided that I had to direct it!

After prepping for over two years, rehearsing and producing Laramie proved to be one of the most exciting learning experiences of my life! It is the project that I am most proud of artistically and academically. The performances were better than I could have ever dreamt and we had a packed house each night. And in an amazing coincidence, Judy Shepard — Matthew Shepard's mother — came to campus, spoke, and met with me and the Laramie cast the day before opening night. It was almost surreal. It was a moment in my life that I'll always carry around with me in my pocket no matter where I go.

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
Performing at Bowdoin has always taken up the majority of my free time. I have been in many plays, both departmental and student-directed. I also sing and dance so have been in many of the departmental dance shows, and was in an a cappella group during my sophomore year. I was also in an improv comedy group for a while.

I also worked for the Office of Residential Life as a Proctor. This has been one of the most important parts of my Bowdoin experience. Unlike other schools that focus too much on disciplinary measures, Bowdoin's Res Life Office focuses on community and creating supportive networks for students. I love living and working with the first-year students in my building, especially as a senior, because they are so energetic and eager to start college. The Res Life staff is also just a huge family full of love and hugs, so basically it's my home away from home on campus.

Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
I spent my entire junior year in Paris with the Hamilton College Junior Year in France program. This was one of the best decisions I've made during my four years at Bowdoin. It was also one of the hardest. Right at the moment when I felt the happiest and most comfortable at Bowdoin I decided to spend a year abroad, but it was definitely worth it. I was able to improve my language skills in a way I never could have had I stayed at Bowdoin. Additionally, it was a chance to live in a city, which is something I'd never done. My hometown has 6,000 citizens and Brunswick has 22,000, so it was my first time to really experience a metropolitan setting. It had such a great effect on me that I'm going back next year.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
One of my best Bowdoin memories is from sophomore year. I was with my two closest friends and we were driving back to campus, and it started raining harder than I have ever seen! It was some heavy water falling. We didn't have umbrellas or rain jackets. Once we parked the car, we paused to figure out what to do next. And without even saying a word the three of us just busted out of the car and ran around campus screaming, splashing in puddles, tearing across the quad trying to get as wet and muddy as possible! The spontaneity of it was what made it so fantastic. It was also great when we arrived at the dining hall where there was a group of trustees hiding out in the lobby, taking shelter from the rain, when all of a sudden the three of us bust in running through them, laughing, and absolutely soaking wet!

What are your plans for after graduation?
I was recently accepted into l'École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris for next year. It's a school for theater with a heavy focus on the body and how the movement of the body functions in acting and performance. Actually, two of my Bowdoin theater professors were students there, and currently some Bowdoin students are attending the school as well. It's a two-year program, and I'll be heading over in early October to start my classes.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
When you come to college get involved in two ways. Number one: join a group, get a job, or whatever it may be that incorporates a passion of yours from home and share it with the Bowdoin community. But then, number two: make sure you get involved with another club, job, sport, or organization that is totally new and foreign and learn from the experiences that others are bringing from their respective backgrounds. Sometimes there's a tendency to think that once you get to Bowdoin everything changes, and that you have to try every new opportunity possible. Although trying new things is a huge part of Bowdoin, what makes this place special is what the students bring from their homes and from their local culture. Without this importation of fresh ideas and experiences, the source of variety and diversity on campus would run dry. So, try all the new things you want, but make sure to bring those special parts of yourself to Bowdoin and share them with the community.

Story posted on September 04, 2006

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