Shelley Barron '09
Shelley Barron '09
Hometown: Newton, Massachusetts
Major: Religion; Minor: Environmental Studies
Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
Truthfully, I chose to attend Bowdoin on something of a whim, since I was abroad in Israel for my last term of high school. One day in April, after too many wait-listings, my parents called from the States to let me know Bowdoin had accepted me. I knew Bowdoin was a great academic opportunity, so while I wasn't entirely sold on it socially, I decided to give it a shot.
Why did you choose your major? ?
I came to Bowdoin thinking I would major in the humanities or social sciences—calculus and chemistry weren't really my cup of tea. So, my first three semesters, I tried a bit of everything: English, government, theater, anthropology, gender studies, environmental studies (E.S.), and religion. I stuck with religion because I found it the most compelling; I could study cultures and texts from all over the world through this discipline. At the same time, religion at Bowdoin has exposed me, I think, to a healthy amount of critical inquiry and academic theory.
As for E.S., I began in 101 my first semester because I believed it would fulfill a science distribution requirement. Professor Larry Simon pointed out in our first session that it in fact did not, but I was intrigued by the material—from climate change to environmental ethics—and stuck with it. I am now, over three years later, strongly considering Environmental Law and Policy work as an option after Bowdoin.
What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin? ?
Marxism and Religion with Professor Elizabeth Pritchard and Modernism/Modernity with Professor Marilyn Reizbaum were two of the best courses I've taken at Bowdoin—very liberal arts, in the best possible way: reading Marx, Joyce, Woolf, Gutierrez, Cornel West and J.M. Coetzee...it was all fantastic stuff.
Professor Reizbaum led fascinating discussions on our modernist texts, ranging from the dislocation of the modern era to psychoanalysis, the challenge of the nuclear age to Ezra Pound's instruction to "make it new." We looked at novels, short stories, visual art, poetry, and critical essays, to examine the evolution of the era and the literary-cultural movement.
Shelley in Rio while studying abroad in Brazil.
In Marxism and Religion, we began with a close reading of many great works by Marx: On the Jewish Question, The Economic Manuscripts and Philosophical Manuscripts, The Communist Manifesto, Capital. In the next section we explored Liberation Theology, a progressive Catholic movement that emerged out of Latin America. We spent the last part of the course reading and discussing many of the critical theorists who came out of the Frankfurt School—Adorno, Benjamin, Marcuse, Habermas. It was a small group of students, about 15 of us, and I looked forward to every discussion we had. I was so intrigued by Liberation Theology, especially the movement in Brazil, it moved me to study abroad there the summer after my junior year. I have continued my research on the progressive Church through my honors project this year, which examines the role that the religion has played in the movement for Brazilian land reform.
For environmental policy issues, former-professor Schneider's Environmental Law class (it was certainly worth the Monday/Wednesday 8:00 a.m. trek to Chase Barn). We covered how different environmental issues—from pollution concerns to climate change to public health—can be addressed by the judicial system, from the Clean Air and Water acts to Tort Law to the Public Trust Doctrine. At the end of the semester, the class participated in a mock hearing of a case that was being considered by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection about water quality issues on the Androscoggin River. I acted as one of the attorneys for the Natural Resource Defense Council of Maine, and delivered the closing remarks; it was a really exciting experience!
What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
Professor Elizabeth Pritchard in religion: she's brilliant, approachable, and asks the most dynamic questions, facilitating great discussions in my prior courses; I'm now working on my honors project with her. My project, "Out of the Earth: Religiosity and the Movement for Brazilian Land Reform," examines the role that religion has played in the movement for land reform in Brazil, particularly throughout the Amazon. It has been a great way to explore the intersection of my two main academic interests, religion and environmental studies.
Professor Joe Bandy in sociology: his passion for class, labor, and justice issues in and out of the classroom is inspiring.
Also, Professor Jorunn Buckley (religion) for being wonderfully quirky, John Bisbee (visual arts) for his endless creativity, Professor Guy Mark Foster (English) for his insights, and Professor Steve Cerf (German) for his amiability.
What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
This could take a while, so I'll try to keep it short and sweet: Hillel, student activism (DemLeft), tutoring Hebrew, Special Olympics, theater, Mac House, WBOR, the Food Co-op and Ultimate Frisbee for the most part.
I came to Bowdoin from a very Jewish background, having attending day school my entire life, K-12. My first few months at Bowdoin were really quite a challenge; I think I was the most observant Jewish student on campus my freshman year (at the very least, it felt like it). While I didn't expect to become a Jewish leader on campus, I was invited to join the Hillel Board towards the end of fall semester of my first year. I joined, along with Ben Freedman, that year, and we are currently co-presidents of the organization together. There have been challenges along the way, certainly, but it has been a great experience to be part of a club with such a diverse group of members. Hillel has grown in remarkable ways over my years here, and we now offer programming ranging from religious to cultural to service oriented.
Student activism was quite a different story for me—I came to Bowdoin eager to join any student activist movement. My first year, I organized with the Young Democratic Socialists, the Bowdoin Students for Peace, the Bowdoin Women's Association, Sustainable Bowdoin, and volunteered with the "No on 1" campaign, working to defend housing and employment rights for the LGBTQ community in Maine—I wasn't getting too much sleep on top of my course work, ultimate Frisbee, acting, and the weekend social scene. So, I narrowed down my commitments, becoming the co-leader of the Democratic Left (formerly the Democratic Socialists). The DemLeft has focused on class, trade, and labor issues, bringing speakers, organizing teach-ins, film screenings, information campaigns, and petition work. During my time as a co-leader, we focused especially on sweat-free and fair-trade work on campus.
I am currently the campus organizer for the Special Olympics, and I was a volunteer for the event for two years prior. We have our swim meet coming up soon, so I am busy organizing volunteers for the event.
Shelley hiking Mount Katahdin with her friend, Aliya Subharwal '09.
The Food Co-op has been one of my favorite things at Bowdoin. Founded before my time, we are a student-run food cooperative; we cook and eat dinner weekly, Thursday nights at Ladd House. In our cooking, we make a commitment to preparing food that is local, organic and fair-trade. We buy in bulk and build relationships with farmers in the area. It's been wonderful to be a part of this community at Bowdoin. I invite anyone to come check us out sometime!
I also started working at the Pierce Art Library and the Smith Union Café this year, to save up money for after G-Day this May.
There are remarkable extra-curricular opportunities at Bowdoin; seize them!
Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin? ?
I didn't spend a conventional semester abroad, but interned in Tel-Aviv the summer after my sophomore year with the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, and attended a summer study abroad program through Living Routes at UMass–Amherst, on Permaculture and Sustainability, in Brazil the summer after my junior year. Staying at Bowdoin all eight semesters, though not my original plan, was certainly the right choice for me.
What have you done during your summers?
Worked at an "Arts and Science" summer camp in Boston after my first year. Then, see above.
Shelley and friends enjoying the sunrise at Popham Beach.
What is your best Bowdoin memory? ?
Hard to pick...
Sophomore fall in Mac House, a few friends and I pulled all-nighters writing final papers, then went to Fort Popham to watch the sun rise, followed by breakfast at the Brunswick Diner. It was epic.
• Living in the Coleman basement before the renovations. It was smelly, sure, but in a sort of character-building way—we loved it, and my entire floor has remained close since (most of us still live together off-campus).
• The Day Jobs (RIP). Comprising some friends from the class of 2008, the Day Jobs were the best campus band at Bowdoin. Ever.
• Polarbearing (in December especially). For those unaware, polarbearing consists of running into the ocean, usually naked.
• My Alternative Spring Break trips, Katrina Relief and Organic Farming.
• Ground-shaking dance parties with the Frisbee team.
And the past two years I've been living off-campus with a bunch of friends, most of whom have been with me since first-year in Coleman, and it has been pretty fantastic.
Shelley on an Alternative Spring Break service trip after Hurricane Katrina, rebuilding homes in Biloxi, Mississippi.
What are your plans for after graduation?
Good question. I'm thinking about law school, for public interest, sustainable development and environmental justice issues, in a year or two. Until then, work, travel, volunteer, live on a kibbutz, WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), and maybe an Americorps-type program.
What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
Enjoy the Pines and the Commons—I didn't really start to until junior year, and they are a beautiful break from the rush of campus.
And stay for "Senior Week" before senior year. Work reunion or mooch off friends who are here for the summer. Bowdoin in May is gorgeous, and you get to enjoy friends much, much more without the stress of classes.
What quirky or fun thing do you wish you knew before you came to Bowdoin?
I used to say Grand Variety, but...I've really loved the Brunswick Farmer's Market on the mall in town.
Also, there's a mini-golf place in Cook's Corner, 10 minutes from campus (!).
Story posted on April 11, 2009
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