Rachel Goldman '10

Rachel Goldman '10

Major: History; Minor: Art History
Hometown: Dresden, Maine

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
At first, I had a few reservations about going to a school that was only half an hour from my house. When I was young, I learned to ride a bike on the campus, a fact that was slightly off-putting while I was trying to decide whether to attend Bowdoin. But when I visited during my senior year of high school, I realized that living in Maine and experiencing Bowdoin peripherally while growing up was a completely different experience from actually being a Bowdoin student. I discovered that Bowdoin was a very self-sufficient and close-knit community, and I realized that being a Bowdoinite would be a completely separate experience from being a Mainer. Maine is a wonderful state, and going to Bowdoin has completely revitalized and reframed my love for everything it has to offer.

Why did you choose your major?
My sophomore year, I took a seminar with Professor David Hecht in the history department. The class, Activism in America, was an incredibly small seminar of only seven students. The other students were history majors preparing to dive deeply into a research project of their choice. Although I had written research papers in high school and in previous Bowdoin classes, this was my first experience writing a research paper of considerable length. Working closely with Professor Hecht and such motivated, passionate upperclassmen was very inspiring. Digging through primary sources and reworking my argument and my analysis of the material with Professor Hecht was incredibly rewarding and made me realize the intrigue of majoring in history. History majors are able to take both intermediate and advanced seminars where they have the opportunity to formulate and embark upon independent research projects. Working closely with a professor to form your own critical and analytical argument is an empowering intellectual experience. The history department pushes students beyond simply answering prompts and circling answers by encouraging us to pursue independent projects.

What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
The spring of my junior year I was able to take Photography with Visiting Professor Meggan Gould. I think that it's very easy to get wrapped up in your own stress at Bowdoin and just crank out work without pausing to think about what you're learning. However, visual arts classes give students a unique outlet to the Bowdoin academic experience, an opportunity to step back, take a breath, and rework ideas and beliefs in a new, visual way. Photography was also a very important transition for me personally and in working with Professor Gould, I realized how the camera and the photographic language it employs allowed me to engage with the world in a new way. Since that class, photography has become an integral part of my life and something that I definitely want to pursue after I graduate.

What professor or professors have inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
Following the Activism in America seminar, I continued to work very closely with Professor Hecht. Even during semesters when I was not in one of his classes, I often met with him to discuss work I was doing in other history or art history classes, seeking advice about the ways I was approaching and engaging with historical questions.

Currently, I am taking Professor Hecht's seminar titled Sex, Science and Politics, which has been another phenomenal experience. Professor Hecht is particularly inspiring in the seminar setting because of the ways he leads class discussions. Not only does he provide us with readings that spur provocative class debate, but he also phrases his questions in ways that open up the material in completely unexpected and revitalizing directions. His questions are never pointed, but rather subtly shift the discussion and inspire student responses such that discussions seem the product of the entire group. I leave every class feeling that I've gained a new understanding of the material, and that it was not handed to me, but that every student had a central role in formulating and critiquing it.

Professor Linda Docherty in the art department single-handedly inspired me to become an art history major and conceptualize the world in a much more visual and creative way. As a sophomore, I took Professor Docherty's course American Art 1620-1860 and I felt something click for me—there was a moment when I saw the ways in which politics, religion, culture, science, and philosophy are synthesized through art and how understanding art is a wonderful way to understand the world that produced it. Professor Docherty is another professor who welcomes students to meet with her during office hours, and I frequently took advantage of her invitations. Working with her one-on-one and having two-sided discussions about what we were learning and seeing in class really brought my coursework to life.

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Rachel's weekly column for The Orient, "Our Artistic Footprint."

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
Writing for the Arts and Entertainment section of our newspaper, The Bowdoin Orient, has been a big part of my Bowdoin experience. For two years I wrote for the paper as a staff writer covering campus events in the arts. It was awesome to find just how talented Bowdoin students really are and how vibrant the art scene is on campus.

This year, I decided to design and write a column for the section titled Our Artistic Footprint, reporting on alumni who were involved in the arts while at Bowdoin and who continue to engage their artistic minds in their careers today. I wanted to connect with Bowdoin alumni and explore the ways in which they have managed to keep art in their lives and forge careers and lifestyles that accommodate that passion and that talent. Speaking with alumni has been an inspiring experience—it's amazing to see the reverence and gratitude they continue to have for Bowdoin.

Playing on the women's Ultimate Frisbee team, Chaos Theory, has also been a wonderful experience for me. Despite the College's small size, I think that it can be easy to feel lost socially and not find a group of people you immediately connect with. I feel so lucky that I joined Frisbee my first year and found a group of amazing, intelligent, and diverse women who love to compete and have fun. Knowing that for two hours every afternoon you're going to be able to run around outside laughing with friends helps avoid a stressful mindset.

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Rachel and local publisher Nancy Randolph of Just Write Books working on a manuscript.

At the end of this past summer I also began working at a small independent publishing house in downtown Brunswick. Working with Nancy Randolph of Just Write Books has been a great way to contextualize my Bowdoin experience and engage with the world beyond campus. Bowdoin is such a busy place that it's easy to remain completely inside the Bowdoin bubble. I think it's important to leave and find figures in the community who can be amazing mentors, teachers, and role models.

Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
Although I did not study abroad during my junior year, during the summer after my sophomore year, I studied creative writing at the National University in Galway, Ireland, through a Faculty Scholarship. Studying in Ireland for the summer greatly improved my creative writing and also made me realize that I would love to live abroad at some point in my life. I also realized that I wanted to remain on campus during my junior year. As eye-opening and boundary-pushing as abroad experiences are, it was important for me that I got as much out of my Bowdoin experience as possible. Remaining on campus while many of my friends studied away pushed me to define myself as an individual, make new friends and decide exactly what it was I was passionate about.

What have you done during your summers?
In addition to studying abroad in Ireland, I've used summers to expand upon my academic interests and artistic passions. During the spring of my sophomore year, I approached Professor Docherty, explaining how I'd really fallen in love with art history and was wondering how I could continue to work with art history over the summer. She recommended I look into an internship at an art gallery and an art museum. Under her guidance I took two summer internships: one at a small art gallery in Wiscasset, Maine, The Wiscasset Bay Gallery, and one at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockport, Maine. Both were enriching and thought-provoking experiences that allowed me to work with beautiful pieces of art and see the way my passion for art history translated into the real world.

This past summer, I received a McKee Photography grant through the visual arts department, allowing me to write and photograph a book of five short stories titled With the Current: connected short stories drawn from the Kennebec River in image and word. Writing and photographing the book was the most unbelievable engrossing and intense experience, and also one that was completely rewarding in every way.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
One of my favorite Bowdoin memories was the opening reception for the exhibit of my McKee Photography grant project in the Fishbowl Gallery, the campus gallery that exhibits student work. Being able to share my work with my friends, family, and professors was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had at Bowdoin. It was amazing to watch others really soak in the worlds that I had created through my photographs and writing. Working on, completing, and showing my work this past summer and fall reaffirmed my passion for writing and photography and made me realize how important it is to have both of those passions in my life.

What are your plans for after graduation?
It's hard to say concretely what my plans will be post-Bowdoin, but in the broader sense I know it's important to keep the act of storytelling in my life. Being able to tell stories—whether through words or through pictures; whether mine or someone else's; whether earth-shatteringly real or utterly made up—is something that allows me to digest the world around me and interact with it in a way that brings depth, contentment and humor to each and every day. I don't know if this will result in journalism, photojournalism, or creative writing, but as of now I'm just excited to have the opportunity to whole-heartedly explore any of those pathways.

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Rachel and her Chaos Theory teammates at a competitive Frisbee tournament in Savannah, Georgia.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
Take advantage of office hours! Working one-on-one with your professors will make you a stronger critical thinker. Also, I think it's really important to try to keep a perspective and balance your workload. As important as it is to get as much out of Bowdoin academically as possible, when you look back at your Bowdoin career years from now, what you're going to remember isn't stressing for hours on a paper or problem set, but laughing so hard with friends that your stomach hurts.

What quirky or fun thing do you wish you had known before you came to Bowdoin?
Start collecting every type of crazy clothing and accessory as soon as possible and bring it all to Bowdoin! You can never have enough costumes—looking outrageous makes everything more fun.

Story posted on April 13, 2010

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