My Whitman Journey: Year 2

In the second installment of a five-year series, Whitman Magazine checks in on five students who are on the sophomores leg of their journey through college. Read the March 2013 installment of My Whitman Journey here »

Making Connections

Everett Wild ’16

Everett Wild '16Major: Environmental studies-politics
Hometown: Oak Grove, Ore.
Favorite extracurricular activity: “Participating in local politics.”
Plans after college: Graduate school and law school

Everett Wild ’16 recently stayed home to make caramel apples.

This might seem like an odd way for an environmental science-politics major, who also holds the title of Shodan (black belt) in the Japanese martial art of Aikido, to spend the evening. However, the second-year student lives in the Community Service House.

“I have more house responsibilities than living in the dorm. But it’s fun. I enjoy the programs we’ve done as a house. We sold the caramel apples to raise money for Friends of Children of Walla Walla.”

Fundraising for the nonprofit organization that finds mentors for youths is only part of Wild’s volunteer work. He has, along with other members of the Community Service House, made dog treats for the Humane Society and worked with the YMCA on youth fitness programs. This volunteerism is teaching him the skills he needs to start his own nonprofit.

“I can use this article as a shameless plug,” Wild said. “My nonprofit is called The Partner’s Network.”

The idea behind The Partner’s Network is to set up an online meeting space for members of the business community, government representatives and nonprofits. For example, a company can donate surplus inventory to a nonprofit rather than discarding it.

“Improving the world one partnership at a time,” Wild said.

Taking the lead

Gillian Friedman ’16

Gillian Friedman '16Major: Undeclared (leaning toward race and ethnic studies.
Hometown: Seattle
Favorite extracurricular activity: “Whitman Salsa Club!”
Plans after college: “To be determined. I plan to take a few years off to travel and study dance in many different countries around the world, and eventually hope to attend graduate school to study law or politics.”

Gillian Friedman ’16 is teaching men how to lead.

The precocious second-year student started a Salsa Club on campus, but her dance partner has since left, leaving Friedman alone to teach the class. As a woman, she grew up learning how to follow, but must now teach both roles to her students, who range from “big, bulky basketball and rugby players” to staff and faculty members.

“Some students are learning salsa for their wedding dance,” Friedman said. “I have to be able to teach both the men and women. Teaching men how to lead is empowering. It’s given me independence.”

Having taught more than 300 students since starting the Salsa Club last year, Friedman is using this newly developed sense of empowerment to help herself navigate what has been a challenging second year, one in which she’s seen her favorite teacher and mentor leave the college. She has also struggled to choose a major.

“Your first year at Whitman is difficult, but you can give yourself a break, because you’re new, trying to figure out who you are. Sophomore year rolls around, and you’re expected to know where you’re going. I didn’t. I was freaking out.”

Friedman decided not to major in history, film or politics, all subjects she enjoyed. She did, however, notice a theme common to these three disciplines. She likes movies, historical stories and political ideas that center on race and ethnicity.

“A major in race and ethnic studies is about critical analysis. What’s wrong with the world? Why is it wrong? And let’s fix it.”

Friedman plans to get a first-hand look at how race and ethnicity affect a society by studying in Israel next year, taking advantage of Whitman’s Off-Campus Studies Program. Feeling that her second year is moving too quickly, she knows next year will fly by.

“There’s so much I want to try while at Whitman, but I’m learning there’s not enough time to do it all in a meaningful way because of my other entrenched commitments,” Friedman said.

“Maybe that’s the sophomore challenge.”

Setting the stage

Kevin Gardner ’16

Kevin Gardner '16Major: Geology
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Favorite extracurricular activity: “The theater. I’ve auditioned for almost every show and finally got into ‘My Chernobyl,’ where I played an upright bass and a ukulele.”
Plans after college: Graduate school

Kevin Gardner ’16 came to Whitman certain about where he wanted his career path to lead him once he graduated: a lab job at DuPont. Now, halfway through his second year of college, he has no idea what he wants to do.

Isn’t college supposed to bring clarity to a student’s life?

“I wanted to study chemistry, but I enjoy the outdoors so much I didn’t want to work in a lab. Geology is now my major. As much as I love the other sciences, geology is about the Earth and climate. I want the opportunity to be outside,” Gardner said.

Gardner is one of the many students who choose Whitman not only because of its stellar academic reputation, but also because of its close proximity to nature. In fact, the geology major, a former volunteer EMT in Washington, D.C., decided on Whitman when, as a freshman in high school, he went on a whitewater rafting trip on the Salmon River in Idaho and met Brien Sheedy, Whitman’s outdoor program director.

Gardner couldn’t be happier about his choice. He’s able to spend time in the mountains while becoming more confident intellectually. For him, the thrill of Whitman has not diminished.

“I still love it. When I come back to Whitman after a break, it feels as if I’m coming home. Plus, I’m thinking more critically than I was my first year, so I have more confidence to engage with my professors.”

As for those after-college plans? Perhaps, he’ll become a cave dweller.

“I’ll probably go to graduate school in geology and study caves. I’m fascinated by caves.”

Globetrotter

Emma McCullough-Stearns ’15

Emma McCullough-Stearns '15Major: Anthropology with a minor in Chinese
Hometown: Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands. For those who haven’t heard of it, Saipan is a tiny island (15 miles by 3 miles) near Guam.
Favorite extracurricular activity: “Anything involving the beach, volleyball, swimming/scuba diving and baking!”
Plans after college: “After college, I definitely would like to travel for a bit. In terms of a career, I have no idea! But something that incorporates traveling with the opportunity to speak Chinese.”

What can a student majoring in anthropology and minoring in Chinese do for a living after graduating from a liberal arts college?

“I’d like to join the CIA,” Emma McCullough-Stearns ’15 said. “It’d be pretty cool to be a spy and sit in the situation room with the president.”

However, McCullough-Stearns said she’s more likely to end up working for the State Department, because it would mean a career of travel and interactions with different cultures.

Originally from the island paradise of Saipan, McCullough-Stearns started her college career at Mount Holyoke College before coming to Whitman last year. She feels more at home with the current second-year class than with her fellow juniors.

But, she said, “at a smaller school, you get to know more people, because you overlap with them in classes. You mix with a lot of different people.”

A member of Kappa Alpha Theta, the transfer student hangs out with her sorority sisters, especially when they serve the community. Theta’s principal charity is Court Appointed Special Advocates, which deals with foster children in Walla Walla. When not fundraising or promoting CASA, McCullough-Stearns and her sorority sisters volunteer at the Humane Society and even went “Trick or Canning” over Halloween.

“Instead of going to houses asking for candy, we went asking for canned foods, which we later donated.”

One of her favorite aspects of Whitman is that she has the opportunity to take advantage of the many programs offered by the college. Last year, she spent six weeks in Yunnan Province, China, as part of the Whitman Summer Studies in China program. And this June, McCullough-Stearns will excavate a tomb in Jordan, as she works with Associate Professor of Anthropology Gary Rollefson.

“We’ll be in the middle of the desert for four weeks. Two hours away from civilization,” she said.

Shaking things up

Shireen Nori ’16

Shireen Nori '16Major: Undeclared (leaning toward race and ethnic studies)
Hometown: Fremont, Calif.
Favorite extracurricular activity: “My a cappella group.”
Plans after college: She wants to combine social justice with education and public health.

Shireen Nori ’16 has a window in her closet.

“It doesn’t open anymore. The rumor is that it was used to air out suits in the early 1900s,” Nori said.

The sociology major is happy to be out of the dorms and living in the Global Awareness House with all the eccentricities of an old house. Living in Whitman’s Interest House Community has enabled Nori to focus on social change, but she laments that Whitman is no longer new to her.

“It doesn’t have the charm of my freshmen year. But it’s wonderful and different in its own way,” she said.

Nori continues her busy campus life. She’s still in the a cappella group. She’s president of the Slam Poetry Club. She sits on the executive council of ASWC. She even brought Jackson Katz to campus. Katz is a nationally renowned expert on gender violence prevention who delivered a lecture last winter.

“I had to hustle to get him here,” Nori said.

During the rest of her Whitman career, Nori plans to look for ways to “shake things up” at Whitman. She’s planning more events that deal with discussions of race, gender violence and sexuality. In fact, with the help of Nori, ASWC put on the Power and Privilege Symposium in February.

“I’m trying to engage more communities within Whitman to come together and talk about the issues that I find important.”

Whitman, interrupted

Noah Lee ’16

Noah Lee '16Major: Psychology or economics
Hometown: Forestville, Calif.
Favorite extracurricular activity: Varsity tennis
Plans after college: Pursue tennis or find a job in the field of psychology.

After a year at Whitman, Noah Lee ’16 transferred to Santa Rosa Junior College, and is currently living at home in Forestville, Calif. When asked why he transferred, Lee said that it was down to tennis.

“In the long run, tennis just wasn’t a good fit for me at Whitman,” Lee said.

Nursing a knee injured by patella tendinitis, Lee has stayed away from the court, but hopes to resume his tennis career when he transfers to Sonoma State University, if accepted.

He’s taking a load of classes that will lead him toward a psychology degree. However, Lee said he misses Whitman.

“It’s weird to be back at home after living away from home for awhile. I miss the social connections I made at Whitman. It was a friendly environment and everyone wants to get to know you. At the J.C. there is none of that,” he said.



Editor’s Note: Before we launched this story series, we tried to anticipate any obstacles in documenting the college experiences of our six students. We decided that if a student were to leave Whitman, we’d write about that, as well. Not every student finishes at the place where he or she starts, and some students won’t finish at all. This is a reality of higher education. We thought we might be facing this reality a little farther down the line, however. Whitman has among the best freshmen retention rates in the country (93.5 percent) and six-year graduation rates (87 percent). Lee was gracious enough to speak with us about his experience and his decision to leave. It’s all part of the journey.