by Nate Silver, Class of 2010
I came to Vassar planning to double-major in drama and political science, take the LSAT during my senior year, head to law school next fall and be a practicing attorney by the time I was 25. Along the way the poli-sci major fizzled to a passionless correlate (culminating in its complete dissolution courtesy of the Registrar’s office last week), I took no LSATS, applied to no law schools, and am graduating with a bachelor’s degree in drama with no real life plan other than financial instability and artistic uncertainty. And I couldn’t be happier.
Such is the beauty of my Vassar education. I have been taught that what’s most important is for me to be able to look into the mirror each morning-at my bald head, grizzly beard, and (very, very cute) dimples-and be proud of the choices I have made. I have been taught to value passion over wealth and, as difficult as it might be to cope with the thought that I will never own a penthouse in lower-Manhattan, I’ve been sure to befriend a few econ majors along the way.
At Vassar I’ve had the opportunity to try many things: student government, carnival rides, star-gazing, math classes, dancing, writing long papers, Jesus’s chili, to name several. I’ve realized that, though I like to do many things, there are only two things in the world that I love: food and theater. From winning the Big Sauce Challenge freshman year (and the odd combination of pride and embarrassment that came with seeing “Nate Silver Sauce” as a special in the Retreat), to chairing the Food Committee and helping the Aramark’s Chinese guest chefs make noodles my sophomore year, to writing a weekly food column for The Miscellany News and launching my very own catering company this fall, my College experience was fundamental in harnessing my passion for cooking.
Falling in love with theater was unexpected, or at least, the extent to which I have made it a part of my life is. I came to theater relatively late in life, not having been in a play until I was 16, and though finding a college with a great theater program was part of my college search, it was not the most important factor. Twelve plays later I must say that theater has defined my college experience. I was told I had limited space for this retrospective, so after contemplating how I could say all the things I want to say to the Vassar Drama Department in this column (my idea to write this whole thing in size 7.5 font didn’t fly), let me just say this: I have never worked harder, failed more miserably, been more proud or strived to be a better person more than I have under your guidance. I am grateful for every second I have spent in the Center for Drama and Film, and though I will miss Sunset Lake, the Library lawn and the outdoor amphitheater, it is on the floor of the drama building that my feet will have the hardest time getting used to not being.
Sentimentality aside, what Vassar has truly prepared me for is to begin a life beyond its walls. I have been given the tools I need, an unbreakable support structure if I fail, and a beautiful community of intellectuals to return to when I’m ready. Though the future remains delightfully uncertain, my Vassar education is my empowerment and, at least for now, when I look into the mirror each morning, I am proud of the man this college has made me.
by Liza Darwin, Class of 2010
I’m sitting at the long center table on the right side of the Library in the middle of finals week. Within the past two days here, I’ve witnessed stress and exhaustion-induced craziness ranging from Red Bull chugging contests to a capella concerts, with a little bit of studying squeezed in between. I could recite all of the selling points of this space that I’ve ingrained into my memory from years as a tour guide, such as the Gothic-style architecture, the Flemish tapestries or the stained glass portrait of Lady Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia. However, these facts definitely don’t convey to prospective students the atmosphere in the Library during finals, just like it’s impossible to truly know Vassar until you get here and experience it for yourself.
As the first person from my high school to attend Vassar in several years, I had no idea what to expect. I’d already mentally prepared myself for the frigid winters and had decided early that I would use my Southern charm to make new friends, since I knew absolutely nobody. Although I had told everyone in Nashville that I couldn’t wait for a “fresh start,” I worried, as move-in day crept closer, that I had gone a little too far with this decision.
Four years later, I couldn’t be happier. I honestly believe that my “why not?” attitude from freshman year has shaped my Vassar experience in the best ways possible. I remember impulsively deciding to run for freshman class secretary within the first weeks of school for the sole reason of meeting new people. When I won, I had unknowingly discovered an activity that would follow me throughout most of my Vassar career. The Vassar Student Association (VSA) was the ideal outlet for someone like me who wanted to be involved in every part of campus life. Whether it’s the Committee on College Life, Drug and Alcohol Education Committee or the Judicial Board, if you have an opinion here, there are plenty of outlets to make yourself heard.
I remember at the end of freshman year (clearly still riding high from first-year-of-college enthusiasm) Selina, Lucy and I decided to start a style magazine at Vassar in hopes of celebrating the cool, eclectic and creative students here. We clearly had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, having no magazine experience whatsoever and even less authority on “style.” I just remember standing in front of the VSA budget meeting, as a meek little freshmen, telling the Executive Board that we needed a budget of “approximately $30,000″ in order to start our magazine. We could hear the group laughing at us before we even shut the door to the meeting room. Despite minor setbacks such as this one, my “why not?” attitude from freshman year is still going strong.
After eight semesters here, I’ve found that this mentality is inherent in every Vassar student and has seeped into almost every aspect of life here. Whether it’s taking 100 level art history classes your senior year, exchanging your Thursday Dutch routine for Late Night at the Loeb or taking a day to check out the Dia Beacon, exploration and experimentation are defining factors at Vassar. Sometimes it takes stepping outside of the College’s gates to really appreciate the value of the Vassar experience.
In my TH, we have a poster hanging in our kitchen that says, “Nobody wishes they got more sleep in college.” While this may sound crazy-who at Vassar consistently feels well-rested, anyway?-it really does ring true. Looking back on my college experience, it’s the nighttime chats with friends, the hours-long procrastination sessions at the ACDC, and the random daily occurrences that shape a college experience. Although the classroom lectures and discussions are great for intellectual development, four years at Vassar constitutes much more than that. So even though everyone sitting in the Library with me has tons of work to do, I’m glad we are all able to take a little break and appreciate the Redbull contests and musical entertainment that I know we’ll miss very soon.
by Hannah Erdheim, Class of 2010, and Allison Smith, Class of 2010.
To meet us now, you’d never guess that we have only known each other for two years. We are the two graduating seniors from Iced Brew, Vassar’s synchronized skating team, and being on the team has brought us really close together. The team has been a large part of our college experience.
Hannah: Recently I realized that I made good on a promise. On the supplement to my Vassar application, I responded to the question “what will you contribute to the Vassar community?” with a lengthy explanation about my ambition to start a synchronized skating team at Vassar. I skated on a team for nine years prior to coming to Vassar and hoped to continue to skate in college. Even though there are many other schools around the country with established teams, I was drawn to Vassar for its academics and atypical student body over my desire to skate. Therefore, I decided to try and have the best of both worlds and start a team at Vassar. When I arrived on campus freshman year and met my fellow classmates, it seemed like this would be a quirky enough thing that students would be interested in it. Thus, in my sophomore year, Iced Brew was born. It’s been a challenging, yet incredibly rewarding three years. I may have had to build everything up from scratch, including many of the members who had never skated before, but I’ve loved every minute of it. To me, being the founder and president of Iced Brew is the greatest accomplishment of my college career.
Allison: The last thing that I expected to do in college was join a synchronized skating team. I was a singles skater for many years, but quit long before coming to Vassar. Instead, I did a little tutoring at Poughkeepsie Middle School and joined the student committee at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. In fact, when I first saw the posters recruiting members for Iced Brew, I didn’t even consider joining. My hallmates spent an entire year encouraging me to sign up, and during the fall of junior year I finally joined the team. Not only did joining Iced Brew bring me back into a rink, it has also led me to experience more aspects of life at Vassar than I knew possible. The members of the team have majors in every subject, and participate in a variety of other activities on campus. This year Hannah and I live together in the South Commons, and we spend tons of time figuring out how to keep the team fun and focused. This season I became captain of the team, and have enjoyed my position as co-troubleshooter and team cheerleader. This experience has brought me close to students of all years, backgrounds and interests, as well as rekindled my passion for skating.
Hannah & Allison: Together we have won gold medals at two local competitions, performed exhibitions for our peers, and baked tons and tons of cookies for fundraising bake sales. The team has grown tremendously (from six to 24 skaters in three years), and we’re both really proud of our role in Iced Brew’s development. We’re completely student-run, and as a result, we’ve had a lot of freedom, but also a lot of responsibility. Iced Brew will be our legacy at Vassar and will provide students in future classes an opportunity to be a part of this unique community. Iced Brew has enriched our college experiences greatly and we hope it will do the same for others for years to come.