Commencement and Reunion Guide
A look back at three undergraduates' College years
In its September-October 1996 issue, Harvard Magazine published "The Millenial Class," a selection of admissions essays submitted by six successful applicants to the Harvard College class of 2000. The editors' judgment was doubly flawed--this year, we subsequently learned, is not really the turning of the millennium; and the word is spelled with two "n's"--but the writing samples of the Harvardians-to-be were not. With Commencement approaching, we asked the magazine's Berta Greenwald Ledecky Undergraduate Fellows, Geoffrey Fowler '00 and Caille Millner '01, to contact the students for follow-up interviews about their Cambridge experiences and future plans. Three of them consented. ~The Editors
Unlike many of her peers, Jacqlynn Duquette won't be working next year as a consultant or an investment banker. She won't be in graduate school, or on a fellowship.
She'll be on a ship.
"I don't know where I'll be yet," she says calmly, accepting this variable in her postgraduate life. "The only thing I know is that I'll be on a ship."
|Jacqlynn Duquette navigated early and often from Eliot House to the MIT campus for ROTC training.|
|Photo by Rose Lincoln|
Duquette, an Eliot House resident, is a navy cadet. As a senior in high school, she applied for the ROTC program--which provides a substantial college scholarship in return for four years of ROTC training and four years of service after graduation--with apprehension. "I had a fear of military things and military people," she says. "But when I actually began training, I realized it's just like everything else you'd do in college, except there's a lot more responsibility involved."
Getting up at 5 a.m. for the past four years for demanding physical training at MIT was, unfortunately, part of that responsibility. Another demand, she adds, was patience with other people's reactions. "When I'm in uniform, I get mock salutes from people on the street, usually old men who've probably served themselves," she says with a laugh. "And twice I've been mistaken for a meter maid."
Duquette looks forward to next year and is happy about the financial independence the ROTC program offers her, but she does wonder at times what she would be doing if the next four years of her life weren't committed to military service. "There are things I would have liked to do," the Russian studies concentrator says, "go to graduate school for Russian literature or join Teach for America, for example, that I won't have the opportunity to do now."
Although ROTC has been central to her life as an undergraduate, Duquette calls her tutoring work with the Earthen Vessels Program, a project of the Catholic Student Center, "one of the most important things I've ever done." For four years she has tutored children from the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston; she has also served as a counselor at the program's summer camp in Granville, Vermont. "It's amazing to see the transformation in these children," she says. Her tutoring also helped Duquette, who is from Honolulu, grow accustomed to Boston's racial situation. "Hawaii has many different ethnic groups, but there isn't the same focus on racial tensions that there is here in Boston," she notes. "There isn't division along the same lines."
That's one reason Duquette hopes to return to Hawaii some day. "It's a great place to raise children," she says. "The culture is so laid back." She listed Hawaii on her "dream sheet" for her navy assignment next year--but for now, all she knows is that her future is at sea. ~C.M.
After four years as a Harvard undergraduate, Michael Jacobsohn has two words of advice to all those who will come after him: Stop complaining.
|Michael Jacobsohn, taking a break in the Quad, found what he wanted by risking a new course of study.|
|Photo by Rose Lincoln|
"Most of the angst that we complain about"--common criticisms include aca-demic pressures, the difficulty of finding an adequate social scene, and finding a niche--"is ungrounded," the Cabot House resident declares. "And much of it we bring on ourselves."
Of course, Jacobsohn speaks from an accomplished position. He has deferred entering Harvard Law School for two years in order to attend Oxford as a Marshall Scholar; he is planning to focus on Soviet and Russian law.
As a Slavic languages and literatures concentrator, he made the small size of that department work for him by obtaining extensive personal advising. "My department is fantastic," he says. "I haven't found Harvard to be impersonal at all."
He's also found his niche with a group of close friends. "I didn't feel the need to associate with everyone," he says. "Just with a small group of people whom I've become close to."
But it wasn't always so easy, Jacobsohn admits. As a first-year from Charlotte, North Carolina, he had a difficult time adjusting to Harvard. "I think most people find what I found when I got here--that it's a struggle to find your place in both an academic and personal way," he says. "Most people end up having either an academic or a personal life, not both."
In time Jacobsohn found his way by indulging interests he had not had the opportunity to explore before. A self-described "math and science guy" in high school, he broke out of that track in favor of languages. "When I came, I decided I wanted to try something new," he says. "I took Russian and loved it so much that I decided to make it the focal point of my career here."
He also abandoned football, which he played in high school, and did not pursue his interest in musical theater. "New things kept cropping up," he explains with a shrug. In fact, he says, "It's a good thing I didn't have any future plans for college while I was in high school, or I wouldn't have taken as many risks here as I did. I just did what felt right for me personally, like concentrating in something a little bit offbeat and trying out things I had never done before."
So mostly his Harvard life has been a charmed life? "There have been plenty of times that I felt despondent about one thing or another at Harvard," he says. He hesitates, and adds: "And I still complain a lot." ~C.M.
Centering on Women
J. Orchid Pusey's last name may say "Harvard," but her T-shirts unabashedly proclaim "Radcliffe." Just as her grandfather, Harvard president Nathan M. Pusey '28, Ph.D. '37, LL.D. '72, worked to incorporate women more fully into the University community during Radcliffe merger negotiations in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the younger Pusey, of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and Quincy House, has worked to move women's issues from the sidelines to the center of present-day campus politics.
|Orchid Pusey, at the Radcliffe Institute's Schlesinger Library, wants to work on women's issues "forever."|
|Photo by Rose Lincoln|
She helped staff Radcliffe's Lyman Common Room (LCR) during her junior year--Radcliffe's last as a separate college. "Lyman was as close to a women's resource space as we've ever had," she says. The room provided undergraduates with information about women's issues, health, externships, internships, and events. "I remember the first time I walked to Radcliffe Yard this fall, knowing that the LCR as a resource space was shut down," Pusey says. "I felt really frustrated and discouraged--the meaning of the loss of Radcliffe has not been adequately considered and articulated."
Now she's on the planning committee of Take Back the Night and on the board of the undergraduate Coalition Against Sexual Violence, which works with the College administration and students to raise awareness about rape and sexual assault on campus. "We've been trying to get issues of power and gender discussed--to make it part of the silently prioritized education here, because right now it's not," she explains. "Generally speaking, the campus is very hesitant to use the word 'feminist' or to discuss the possibility that, even though we are all enrolled here, the 'community of equals' that we know doesn't exist outside of the Yard doesn't exist within it, either."
Although the coalition's demands for a new women's resource center have not been met, the College did agree last spring to improve Sexual Assault Sexual Harassment (SASH) tutor training and to make reforms in the first-year orientation program in order to promote awareness about sexual assault and rape. "People get defensive," says Pusey, "because they think that we make a deal out of nothing. But this is the sort of problem that is really hard to get statistics about. To think all these things don't happen at Harvard is a dream."
Not that Pusey is a one-issue student. As a freshman, she signed onto the mailing lists for everything from the Chinese Student Association to the Caribbean Club before she finally settled on working with prisoner education, deaf education, and Students for Operation Smile, the nonprofit group that provides free reconstructive facial surgery for children around the world. She has also played the viola with the Bach Society Orchestra, and sung with Kuumba.
For the future, Pusey looks forward to being in the real world beyond campus. At Harvard, she says, the connection between academic studies and real-life activism often gets put aside. But her concentration, social anthropology, has allowed her to focus on women while keeping up her Chinese and adding Russian. And studying anthropology has deepened her understanding of feminism. "I'm totally confused now," she says. "But I'm grateful for that. I'm certainly not about to march off somewhere to be a culturally blind, 'I know better than you,' jump-the-gun kind of do-gooder." She hopes to merge her concerns post-graduation, perhaps by working in nongovernmental programs in America, China, or Russia. "This is what I want to do forever," she says, "work with women's issues." ~G.F