Tell us about your Dickinson experience.
I’ll share the story of how I ended up at Dickinson. I chose the college deliberately but learned about Dickinson by chance. I was born and raised in Oregon, and when I visited Washington, D.C., as a teenager I became enamored with its history and my perception of the hubbub of the East Coast, so I focused my college search on small East Coast schools.
My beloved high-school English teacher and mentor shared that her brother-in-law had attended Dickinson in the '60s, so I researched the college. Dickinson had everything that I wanted: a political science major, a cheerleading team, appealing service and student activities (including Greek life), a small student population and a location well east of Oregon. I applied Early Decision, and I remember reading the acceptance letter in my family’s living room. The offer included a grant for half of the first-year cost, and the path to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, came into view.
How has Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education helped you?
I met people who believed in me, even as I felt I was a little fish in a big pond. That includes Professor of Political Science Mark Ruhl ’70, whom I credit with recommending me for the Emerging Leaders Retreat. My first year at Dickinson proved formative for my lifelong friendships. Adam Knor ’02 is a gifted writer, and soon after meeting him, I sought his help in the Writing Center. Despite being a good student, my writing skills weren’t up to Dickinson standards, and it was a huge source of stress and shame for me. Adam helped me without judgement and with such kindness and belief in my ability. We are dear friends to this day. Studying abroad in Costa Rica—my first international trip—fostered my still-growing respect for diversity, history, languages and cultures.
What inspired your gift to Dickinson?
I give every year, sometimes twice a year. I can’t imagine not giving! The college gave me my best friends and a wonderful education. Dickinson’s courses and activities made me a better student, leader, and person, and its diverse community allowed me the opportunity to build lasting friendships with students from across the United States and all over the world.
I also give because the college has done more and better, year after year, during the 20 years since my graduation. I’m so proud of that path, and I will continue to do my part to make sure our historical yet modern liberal-arts institution persists, especially now, during this long, challenging period for higher education.
I hope my gift ensures scholarships for hardworking kids who need help paying for a first-class education and also supports sustainability programs like the College Farm.
Why do you feel that it is important to give back to Dickinson?
Being a donor is important because we should always give back to organizations and people that make us who we are.
What is your favorite memory from your time at Dickinson?
My environmental science and policy classes, including a class trip with Professor Michael Hyman to Niagara Falls. That's where I learned about the Love Canal superfund site and its impacts on local residents, among other important pollution issues.
I also treasure my summer of hard work amid creepy-crawly things and deer scat in the Florence Jones Reineman Wildlife Sanctuary with Environmental Studies & Biology Professor Brian Pedersen. We investigated the hypothesis that the forest wasn’t regenerating due to deer herbivory—an unchecked deer population eating all the tree seedlings before they could grow to become part of the forest canopy. Our summer research confirmed our hypothesis. I learned a lot about scientific methods, and we published our research.
What do you do outside of work—hobbies, interests, etc.?
Being a mother is the most important thing in my life—Elsa is 8 and Gwen is 5. Like my four years at Dickinson, though in a vastly different way, becoming a mother has transformed my life for the better. I’m a volunteer and donor to WestSide Baby, a phenomenal nonprofit organization that serves low-income families near Seattle to make sure children have the diapers, wipes, clothes, car seats and cribs they need to be safe, warm and dry. Many Dickinson friends donate to my Diaper Drive every summer, and I am so grateful to have the support of old friends who still live “out East.”
I’m also a student of mindfulness and Buddhism—a seed that was planted in my Yoga & Religion class, sophomore year. This personal work is a third transformational chapter of my life.
What advice would you give to today’s students?
Trust that you will find your way in college. Study abroad. Don’t worry about your major right away. I changed from psychology to environmental studies after my very first environmental studies class, and now I’ve worked in sustainability for 17 years.
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Published September 6, 2022