Susan Buhr

Susan Buhr

Why did you come to Bowdoin?
Maine is my parentsí favorite place on earth, so we always came here for family vacations, which instilled much the same love in me; one of my earliest memories is being three years old and eating pie on the art museum steps at the Maine Festival, which used to be held on Bowdoinís quad. My parents made me do a visit to Bowdoin, about a week after my college visit, and I knew that this was the place I wanted to be (donít you just hate it when it turns out your parents were right?).


Why did you decide on that major?
Sometimes I get overwhelmed by how many things there are to know in the world, and the Greeks and Romans were the first ones (that we know of) that really did try to know everything. I took Latin and Greek in high school, but I came to Bowdoin thinking I wanted to major in Art History. I have ended up taking a lot of Art History courses, but when it came time to decide my major, I knew that what I really wanted to study was Classical culture and the ways that it has been used by later cultures throughout history. Also, Iíve wanted my name on those plaques in Sills since I was nine years old.

Itís sort of lonely actually; Iím the only Classics major in my year. Because of that though, Iím often in classes of 2-4 students, Iíve come to know my professors very well, and I am able to pursue the scholarship that interests me, rather than getting lost in the crowd of a larger class.

What's the best class you've ever taken at Bowdoin, and why?
Iíve got two: Greek 204: Homeric Greek with Professor Irene Polinskaya, and Biology 258: Ornithology with Professor Nat Wheelwright.

Homeric Greek, which I took Spring of my sophomore year, really cemented my love of Classics; there were only two students in the class, and we met in Ireneís office. Because the class was so small, we could do everything at our own pace, and based on what we really wanted to learn. For instance, the other student and I were fascinated by poetic meter in Greek epics, particularly the initial digamma, and the professor was able to take the time to find articles and projects for us relating to this topic, while still keeping on schedule with what she had planned for the class. This was also my first experience writing a philological paper: Who knew it would actually be really fun to write a 15 page paper on the Greek conception and mythology of cicadas, and how their song can be described as ďlily-likeĒ? Oh thatís right, Iím the only one that finds that cool, so weíll move on.

Ornithology (birds) was the most challenging class I have taken at Bowdoin. We were expected to know all the birds of Maine to species, all the birds of North America to family, and all the birds of the world to order. I counted, skinned, listened to, observed, read about, and talked about birds with an inspiring, enormously educated, and fun professor and group of students for a semester, and I would recommend this class to anyone with any interest in the natural world.

What extracurricular activities do you participate in?
Due to the fact that I am a senior and need $$$ for rent next year, Iíve had to downgrade my participation in campus activities to the things I care the most about (which I guess is the way it should be anyway).

Iíve been on crew teams since my sophomore year of high school, both as a rower and a coxswain, and Iíve continued to take part in that here at Bowdoin. Iím not a particularly competitive person, so what I enjoy most about crew is teaching novices to row. I coxed the novice men my sophomore year, and this past fall had a novice womenís boat.

I joined the campus sexual assault awareness and support group, Safe Space, fall of my sophomore year, and have been a co-coordinator for the group since spring of my junior year. Weíre currently trying to revamp the group to make it more accessible to the campus community, and one way in which weíve done that is to launch an anonymous hotline this fall. This group has led me to work with school administration, Residential Life staff, other students, and Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine, for whom I am a peer educator in local middle and high schools.

A friend of mine founded a knitting club my sophomore year, which meets once a week at the Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center. This is a great weekly de-stress for me, someone usually bakes something, and everyone sits around and gossips and talks about their knitting projects. My first knitting project was a pair of mittens in fifth grade (that I still wear), but I was sort of on knitting hiatus until college, and Iím so glad I found it again.

What's your best Bowdoin memory?
My best Bowdoin memories are probably things Iíve done in Maine itself with classes and clubs; I went to Acadia National Park with Geology 100, Kent Island (quite possibly the only place on earth where magic still exists) with Ornithology,, and numerous trips to Popham and Reid Beaches and the Coastal Studies Center for Environmental Studies classes. I try to do a lot of snow shoeing in the winter with the Outing Club, and during crew season, Iím just outside on the water every day, looking at trees and the sky (hey, Iím a coxswain, I just sit in the boat, I donít actually do anything). As I said before, Bowdoinís location was a big plus for me, and the moments Iíll remember the best after I graduate will be of my time spent outside on beautiful days in Maine.

What's your strangest or funniest experience while at Bowdoin?
I once went to Helmreich House sophomore year and there was a (fake) sheep tied to the banister. There may have been a good reason for this, but I really didnít ask.

Have you done any independent study/honors projects?
The spring of my junior year I did an independent study in Art History with Professor Susan Wegner on the Grand Tour. Thatís when all the British people decided they had to go see all the Classical sites they were so obsessed with reading about. I did a slide lecture for the public entitled ďNot Your Average Pub Crawl: The Grand Tour through Italy in the 18th CenturyĒ and wrote a paper on Classical education in English universities.

Iím expanding part of that study into an honors project with Professor Barbara Boyd of the Classics department now; I donít really have a thesis yet, but I have been looking primarily at Dr. Richard Bentley, a 17th and 18th century Classical philologist and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and how he changed the ideas of what education and scholarship should be. If it wasnít for him, colleges wouldnít have chemistry labs, and ALL of you would be Classics majors.

Have you studied away during your time at Bowdoin?
I studied away the fall of my sophomore year at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome. There are basically two Classics study abroad programs, one in Rome and one in Greece, and I picked Rome. It was an exhausting and intense semester; at the time Iím not so sure I enjoyed it, but looking back I learned an incredible amount, and the week in Sicily was one of the most amazing travel experiences I have ever had. It was also kind of nice to be surrounded by people that laugh at Classics jokes, not because theyíre funny, but because you get them.

What are your plans for after graduation?
UmÖ Iím moving to Liverpool, wanna come with? No, seriously, I donít have anyone to move with.

I want to take a couple years and do whatever for a while; eventually, Iíd like to get a PhD in Classics and be an archival librarian, but not just yet. Liverpool has the highest concentration of new millionaires in Britain though, so maybe Iíll just marry someone rich and run a knitting shop.

Is there anything else about Bowdoin or your experiences here that you would want prospective students to know?
I would urge prospective students to milk whatever college they choose for everything itís got; go to your professorís office hours, listen to college radio, go to lectures and concerts and films and tournaments, meet people at parties, learn your library well, and, above all, try to talk and listen to as many people as possible; someone is paying lots of money for your education, and itís not just about the books you read for your courses.

Story posted on November 09, 2003

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