Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Major: Self-designed, combining Environmental Studies, Biology, and Photography
To visit Drew's photo gallery click here.
Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
After growing up in Orlando, Florida and attending the same school for most of my life, I was looking for something new and completely different. After visiting several schools in the northeast and consequently experiencing my first heavy snowfall, I felt Bowdoin would be full of new experiences. Although I had always believed that my college experience would depend more on what I put into it rather than what the particular school had to offer, Bowdoin had a lot that appealed to me. Bowdoin had a strong core of sciences, didn't require Drawing I as a prerequisite for their Photo classes, and was near the coast, something that was important to me having grown up spending every free weekend on the water. It was these little things that made the difference and by December I had decided Bowdoin was my top choice and I applied for the second round of Early Decision.
Why did you choose your major?
When I arrived at Bowdoin I had no idea what I wanted to major in. I did some exploring and after my first year at Bowdoin I had taken full advantage of the Liberal Arts concept, taking eight classes in eight departments. By the fall of my sophomore year I was no closer to choosing a major. My passion is nature photography, particularly bird photography, and beyond my three photo classes I felt a bit lost as to which additional classes I wanted to take. Several majors had caught my eye but all of them had a significant portion of required course work that I simply had no interest in taking. My advisor suggested looking at the student designed major option and I haven't looked back. My major combines my passions, photography and biology, under the larger ideas of environmental studies. I was able to choose my own curriculum for my remaining years at Bowdoin and it enabled me to pursue the fields that really excite me.
What has been your favorite course at Bowdoin?
Selecting a single course is difficult as I have been engaged by most of my courses. However, this past semester I took Behavioral Ecology and Population Biology, with Professor Nathaniel Wheelright, and it hooked me. Understanding the behavior and interaction of individual plants and animals has informed my understanding of the natural world. In addition to this class, I am looking forward to taking Ornithology, also with Professor Wheelright, this spring as I have been waiting to take it since first learning about the class during my first year.
Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
In line with my nontraditional major, my junior spring "abroad" was rather nontraditional as well. Instead of finding a program to attend overseas, I created my own experience. I took a leave of absence during my junior spring and moved to the Florida Everglades. I spent the semester living in a travel trailer in the community of Flamingo, inside Everglades National Park. I spent every day for five and a half months photographing the unique ecosystem of the Florida Everglades. During this time, I took over 20,000 images, about 5,000 of which I have kept and cataloged.
These six months were an amazing experience that I will never forget. I lived alone in a remote area (it was over 100 miles round trip just to go to the grocery store or get gas for my car) doing exactly what I am passionate about every single day for almost six months. I was able to shadow scientists as they studied nesting wading birds, participate in conducting surveys of an endangered sparrow, and fly alongside a researcher who was tracking Florida Panthers by airplane. I spent several mornings photographing with a photographer who has worked for National Geographic and I also had the chance to guide a visitor from Belgium on a tour of the Everglades region. These experiences are something that I could not have had anywhere else and even though they did not happen in a classroom, they are integral to my education at Bowdoin.
For more information about my experience during my semester in the Everglades and a sample of the photographs I took, please see my website and the weblog I maintained during the semester, http://www.evergladesimagery.com. Also, I will have an exhibit of over 100 of my photographs in the Visual Arts Center from February 4 through February 16, 2006.
Have you engaged in any independent research while at Bowdoin?
The semester in the Everglades was only the first part of my research on the Everglades. After returning to Bowdoin for my senior year, I began working on my Honors Project. Based on my knowledge and experience in the Everglades, I am writing a series of essays that, combined with my photographs, will take the form of a book on the Florida Everglades. My goal is to bring light to the subtle complexities of the Everglades ecosystem.
What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
As with most of my other pursuits, my work and extracurricular experiences are centered on photography. I have worked in the darkroom as a chem tech and TA for several semesters. Being able to help other photographers and to see their work and excitement has been extremely satisfying. This fall I began working for The Bowdoin Orient as the paper's photo editor. This was my first taste of editorial photography and I have definitely enjoyed the process, especially photographing Bowdoin sports. This job has required me to attend a number of events that I normally would not attend and I feel much more involved with the Bowdoin community than I have been in years past.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I currently have applied for a Watson Fellowship that would allow me to spend a year in Australia. The Australian continent has over 700 species of birds that are regularly seen and about 325 of those are endemic, meaning they are found nowhere else. If I receive the Watson I will be traveling the country seeking and photographing as many of these endemic species as possible, while experiencing another country and its culture.
What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
Bowdoin can provide you with opportunities that are available nowhere else if you are willing to take advantage of them. The people who make up the Bowdoin community, whether professors, students, deans, or staff, are genuinely committed to helping you succeed in whatever it is you want do. Many of my greatest learning experiences occurred outside of the classroom, whether over lunch with a professor or in the swamps of the Florida Everglades. Discover your passion, whatever it may be, find a way to pursue what you love and you can't go wrong. It may sound cliché, but I have found it to hold true.