Nat Herz '09

Nat Herz '09

Major: History-Environmental Studies
Hometown: Hallowell, Maine

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
When I visited Bowdoin as a senior in high school, I went to a class taught by Professor Jean Yarbrough. I really enjoyed the intimate environment of the classroom, and I thought that Professor Yarbrough was passionate and enthusiastic about the material she was teaching. Ironically, I've not taken a class with her while studying at Bowdoin, although that was one of the things that swayed me in my decision.

I also spent the night at Bowdoin with the nordic ski team, and one of the upperclassmen on the team took me on a whirlwind tour of campus during the evening, which was quite fun. I remember in particular playing pool in the Union and then watching a debate on the Bowdoin Cable Network.

Why did you choose your major?
I came to Bowdoin with no idea of what my major would be, aside from knowing that it wouldn't be math. I was initially interested in economics, history, and biology. After taking introductory biology and economics classes I could tell that while the subjects were interesting, there were certain aspects of them (quantitative analysis in economics, and the molecular side of biology) that weren't for me, so I ended up in history. I did end up taking a few more biology and economics classes, eventually settling on a history-environmental studies coordinate major.

What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
The Films of John Ford was a senior seminar that I took last fall with Professor Tricia Welsch in the film department. I wasn't at all interested in Westerns going into the class, but I really liked Professor Welsch and the class seemed worth taking a chance on. Every week we watched one or two Ford films, then read about them and discussed them in class. It was fascinating to follow the arc of Ford's entire career, and learn about the ways in which the history depicted in his films was linked to and influenced by historical events occurring during his own life. Also, watching movies with the same group of eight people every week was a nice communal academic experience.

If you haven't seen any Ford films before, you should. They're awesome.

What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
Professor Matthew Klingle—my advisor—has, through his teaching, encouraged me to reconsider many of my beliefs and assumptions about nature and the environment, which, when I arrived at Bowdoin, were very strong. I took two classes with Professor Klingle during my time here—a lecture course on the environmental history of North America, and a senior seminar on the way that nature relates to consumption. Professor Klingle is probably the best lecturer I've had at Bowdoin, though he is also skilled at directing discussion to get at the center of problems.

I've also taken a few classes with Professor Nat Wheelwright, and one with Professor Phil Camill, and I've been struck by their enthusiasm and excitement for the material they teach, as well as their dedication to making sure their students understand it.

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Nat racing in an Eastern Intercollegiate Skiing Association event.

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
I've been on the nordic ski team for four years and that has been fantastic. For six weeks every winter, I get to travel to some of the most beautiful places in New England to compete. During most of the rest of the year, I spend time outside with some of my favorite people training for one of my favorite things.

I've also worked as an editor and reporter at the Bowdoin Orient, which has been a lot of fun, as well as a good way to meet cool and interesting people in town and around campus. I've learned a lot about how the College and town function, and I've also gotten some good work experience. Serving as news editor my sophomore year involved organizing, editing, and laying out that section of the paper every week; it was a demanding yet also rewarding experience. We would rarely finish laying out the paper before four or five o'clock on Friday mornings—I don't think I've stayed up that late since then.

Nat_Canoeing.jpg
Nat "shredding the gnar" on the Rapid River with Julie Endrizzi '09.

I've been a Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC) leader since my first year, and I've done a lot of whitewater canoeing and hiking with the group. One highlight was helping lead the BOC leadership training expedition last spring, which was a whitewater canoeing trip on the St. John River in northern Maine.

Finally, with a few of my friends I helped awaken the Bowdoin Cycling Club from its dormant state. We've done a lot of riding around here, as well as raced in Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference races for the past three years.

Nat_Cycle.jpg
Nat and Morgan MacLeod '09 advertise for the Bowdoin Cycling Club at the student activities fair.

Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
No. My philosophy about studying abroad was that if there was a place I absolutely wanted to go, I would go, but otherwise I wasn't going to leave Bowdoin. When the time came to make a decision, I was happy to stay here.

What have you done during your summers?
I've spent all three summers at Bowdoin, which I'd highly recommend to everyone. The first summer I was a freelance journalist for The Times Record, and I got to write stories about Bowdoin and a few other things.

The second summer I was a research assistant to Professor Zorina Khan, helping her with a project looking at the relationship between systems of intellectual property rights in different countries and the way that they encouraged or discouraged innovation and invention. I read a whole lot of biographies of inventors and gathered all kinds of information about them.

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Nat on the job during his summer 2008 Psi Upsilon fellowship with the Town of Topsham.

This past summer I was a Psi Upsilon fellow at the Department of Planning and Development in Topsham, the town right across the river. I worked with the natural resource planner cataloging the town's land holdings, trying to figure out if certain parcels could or should be conserved. I also surveyed some of the streams and rivers in Topsham, and created an online guide to paddling them. Additionally, I did some work for Professor Angus King's wind power firm, which is trying to develop a site near Rumford in western Maine.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
There are many, but one of the best was an April day during my sophomore year when we got an unexpected snowstorm. School was canceled for the first time in decades, and I spent two or three hours playing on the Quad, making a snow fort and messing around with my friends. I also threw a snowball at Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols, and I hit him—I swear.

What are your plans for after graduation?
I've been offered a job working as a reporter for a cross-country skiing Web site, fasterskier.com. Since it's a Web site, I'll probably be working in Maine or New England during the summer. But I'm planning on heading out this fall to Vancouver, Canada, to report on all the excitement leading up to and including the 2012 Winter Olympics, which are happening there next February. It should be a great way to both have fun and get some good journalism experience. Getting to these Olympics has been a dream of mine for the last few years, so it's a really exciting opportunity.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
One thing I've discovered is that while it's always good to consult with parents and friends, a lot of college is learning to ignore other people and make your own decisions. That way, even if they're not the best ones, you can learn from them.

What quirky or fun thing did you wish you knew before you came to Bowdoin?
You can get orange Creamsicles for 30 cents from the convenience store. Also, getting an interlibrary loan is very, very easy to do-it usually only takes two clicks, and typing in your name and ID number.

Story posted on May 21, 2009

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