Scott Raker '05

Scott Raker '05

Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Major: Government, with a minor in Theater

Why did you come to Bowdoin?
I knew that Brunswick was a great college town. I just really wanted to be on the East Coast and try a different place. One of the main things I remember is that [Bowdoin's] brochure said something like "We can't guarantee you're going to have a good time here." It seemed a lot more honest than other places.

How did you decide on your major?
I kind of fell into it. I have always had an interest in history and figured I would be a history major. But I started taking government courses for whatever reason, and took a comparative politics class with Professor Laurence - just an intro course - which was really interesting, and it seemed like a practical way of using history. So I kept taking classes.

What has been your favorite class at Bowdoin?
I took Japanese Politics and Society with Professor Laurence, which was a really great comparative politics course. We watched movies every week, we'd eat Japanese food sometimes, and he'd bring in a lot of great guest lecturers, really covering a huge amount of ground. It was a really intensive course, but really interesting. I'm now taking a senior seminar following up on that course and it's just as interesting.

Liberalism and Its Critics, taught by Professor Franco, made possibly dry texts on political theory really engaging and sometimes (because of Franco) hilarious. The class sparked the idea for my independent study. All government and philosophy students should take a class with Professor Franco.

Have you done any independent studies?
I've taken a bunch of independent studies. Sophomore year, I did a playwriting independent study with [Associate Professor of Theater] Davis Robinson. I used historical stories from the founding of Seattle [to create a full-length play]. Seattle basically started out as an outpost for the loggers to come in to go to brothels. It's just interesting that really loose moral standards are underlying the founding of a city. I looked at different generations of pioneers and why people would move to the West, and then tried to put it all into a full-length [play].

Then I had another theater independent study with two other students, Marcus [Pearson '05] and Brian [Laurits '04]. That was just improvisation and comedy sketches, and by the end, we came up with an hour and a half show loosely based on religious questions, the Red Sox, Christmas - it was all over the place.

This semester I have two independent studies. One is a government paper looking at different labor parties in Europe and if they're abandoning their social democratic roots and returning more to classical, liberal terms. Specifically, it's looking at the Labor Party in Britain and the Social Democrats in Germany. The last few years, they've become more about free markets and abandoned socialism to a large extent, while at the same emphasizing civil rights. So I'm seeing if that's a consolidation of the Left to its basic liberal foundations with John Locke.

And then I'm directing Waiting for Godot [as an independent study in theater]. It'll be performed [April 29-30]. Independent studies are a great way to have your own thing going on for a semester that's different from an actual structured class. You have to put your own incentive into it and you gain satisfaction from the final product.

What extracurricular activities do you participate in? Do you have an on-campus job?
I've worked in the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library since sophomore year, just sorting books and checking books out. I did that this summer actually, too. That was a lot of fun because a lot of people were having a summer job up here and it's great to see Maine in the summer.

I've done a few plays each year. That's been a lot of fun, either with student productions or faculty productions. Most recently, I was in 800 Words: The Transmigration of Philip K. Dick, with Sonja Moser, the new [theater professor]. It was a lot of fun because it was a pretty crazy play - it kind of reminded me of [the movie] Being John Malkovich. It was a good cast and Sonja was fun to work with.

Have you studied abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
My spring semester of my junior year, I was on the now-defunct CBB London program with Professor Laurence. There was a great class called Text in Performance where we got to see a lot of West End plays. We went to ten or twelve shows. The government classes were great because it was Professor Laurence - who is British - talking about British media and international finance. And I had a class studying the European Union and we got to take a trip to Brussels to see the EU Parliament.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
My independent studies, especially the comedy sketch one, were incredibly fun and rewarding, and I've enjoyed pretty much all of my classes. But my favorite memories come from the time in between all the work where you can do dumb things with friends.

I have to admit that the times that I've taken road trips, gone to parties, or procrastinated in some other way with people that I like will stick in my mind a lot longer than any paper I've written. So while I've had great classes, the people around me are more responsible for my memories at Bowdoin.

What are your plans after graduation?
I'm going to go to grad school at the Brown University/Trinity Repertory Consortium for an MFA in Acting. It's acting, but you take additional classes in playwriting and directing and you're working with a repertory theater at the same time. It's sort of weird to jump into another few years of school, but I figured if I wasn't going to pursue acting now, I'd never do it. It's always been an interest for me, so I applied to these places and got in. There are fifteen students in the program.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first year about the Bowdoin experience?
The whole idea of a liberal arts education seems to steer away from direct clear paths. So while I've been really happy with my time at Bowdoin, I can't see a through-line in the pretty much arbitrary decisions I've made that will help anyone. But I can give more specific advice about things I've enjoyed.

I lived in the Red Brick House the fall of my junior year, which is an off-campus group of apartments usually rented out to students. I liked getting the chance to live in Brunswick and feel a little more self-reliant.

Brunswick is in a great part of Maine. I've always liked getting the chance to drive out to Bailey's Island or have dinner in Portland. It's easy to get stuck on campus for a long time, but through the Outing Club (which is something I really should have taken advantage of) or on your own, there are lots of ways to see other places.

Story posted on April 08, 2005

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