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Alumni Spotlight: Eliza Goodpasture (’14)

December 17, 2017 / Catherine Nicholas / Blog

How do MLWGS students choose where to apply to college and ultimately where to attend? How do they handle the transition from high school to college? Our youngest alumni have the freshest perspectives on college applications, admissions, and selection.  Eliza Goodpasture (’14) is a student at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME.

As a student at Maggie Walker, Eliza particularly enjoyed her American history classes.  “They gave me a foundation of intellectual curiosity that has transferred across many disciplines,” she says.  “It was especially fun to learn about Richmond history—I remember Mr. Wilkes talking about John Marshall, whose house was just six blocks away. and thinking that was the coolest thing.”  She was also a member of the track team.  “I loved having that team to structure my social life and daily routine. Running gave me a lot of confidence and has made me constantly eager for a challenge.”

When it came time to start thinking about college, she knew she wanted to go out-of-state.  During her college visits, Bowdoin left a very good impression on her.  “The people were kind, and the campus was cozy and beautiful,” she says.  Reflecting on her decision to go to college far from home, she says, “It was wonderfully liberating to go to a place where no one at all knew me – I could be whoever I wanted to be.”

She has also had the opportunity to meet people she never would have otherwise.  “I have loved going to school outside of Virginia, particularly at a school where most people are from outside of New England, too. My friends are from all over the place, and they bring so many new ideas and experiences into my life. Plus, it’s pretty great to go visit them.”

One unexpected experience that has deeply shaped Eliza’s college experience was rowing crew for her first three years at Bowdoin.  “I had never learned a sport from scratch before, and I bonded with everyone on the team as we struggled to figure out how to row,” she explains.  “The friends I made my first year on the team are still my best friends, even though some of us have stopped rowing. Rowing also got me outside on the Maine coast every single morning (at 5am!).  Sometimes we saw seals, and the sunrise was always spectacular.”

Of the academics at Bowdoin, Eliza says, “I love being in a community where everyone around me loves to learn as much as I do. As a senior this year, I’ve been reflecting on how I have changed as a student and the way my ability to learn and think about things has grown over my four years here.”

Eliza is majoring in art history and minoring in gender, sexuality, and women’s studies.  “I wasn’t planning on either of those majors for myself when I was in high school, but I found them both quickly at Bowdoin, and they feel like obvious choices for me now,” she explains.  “I’ve enjoyed progressing from intro classes to independent research, and getting to know my professors really well. I’m interested in working in the museum world after graduation, and the art history community at Bowdoin has helped me find internships and meet fascinating people. Last summer I worked at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and learned a ton.”

One particularly interesting class she took was called “Spirit Come Down,” which was about African American women in the church, mostly in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. “It was the most fascinating class, and even though it was on a very specific topic, I felt like the things I learned were fundamental truths – I kept finding ways to apply them to my other classes, and seeing them in current events. This class taught me the power of academic research to speak to themes and problems much greater than the subject of the research itself.”

Of the professors who have influenced her, she especially notes her art history research advisor.  “She is an absolute inspiration,” Eliza says.  “She really single-handedly inspired me to want to work in the field of art history, and has been a role model for me during my four years here. Last week we spent 30 minutes talking about the trials of gluten-free and kosher Thanksgiving food. I’m never happier than when I am discussing stuffing with my professors.”

What advice would she give to current Maggie Walker students about college admissions and picking a college?  “Expect what you want from a college to change a lot over the course of your college career,” Eliza says.  “I chose Bowdoin for reasons that aren’t very important to me now, but I have still loved every minute of my time here. Pick a college that you can see yourself at, and then go be the person you imagine.”

She adds, “Also, listen to advice from people who know you and love you. My parents knew long before I did that Bowdoin was the best school for me, and honestly, they often know me better than I know myself.  Don’t decide not to apply to a school because it’s expensive – you have nothing to lose from applying, and you never know what kind of scholarships and financial aid you might be offered. “

Ultimately, she says, ““Bowdoin has brought me people who are at once so much like me and so different. They are incredible, and are definitely the most important part of my college experience.” After spending the last three years there, she says, “It still feels warm and homey, but now I appreciate Bowdoin for more substantive reasons. I love how engaged Bowdoin students are.  They are constantly working to make our campus community better. I am always inspired by the people around me. I also love how small the school is, and I love seeing friendly faces everywhere I go. Bowdoin is in many ways the quintessential New England liberal arts college that I imagined, and the traditions and rhythm of life associated with that always feel a little bit timeless.”

Eliza is currently looking forward to a good Maine snowfall.  “There is an ice skating rink on the quad in the center of campus in the winter, and I can’t wait to do fun winter activities.”

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