Seniors' plans include service, sports and ... bears?

by Jen Tutak | 6/10/01 5:00am

Though many of the graduating '01s are expecting to mosey into the corporate world or start masters programs following Commencement, another innovative group of seniors really will be roaming 'round the girdled earth to begin their careers and pursue their dreams.

The Dartmouth presents the stories of five of the College's most adventurous students from a truly remarkable senior class.

Greener fields

Brian Nickerson '00 will be one of several stellar Dartmouth athletes heading into the professional sports world as he embarks on a contract to play baseball for the Great Falls Dodgers in Montana, one of the Los Angeles Dodger's minor league farm teams.

Nickerson grew up attending baseball games at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Now, he will have the opportunity to train with the Dodgers themselves at the very stadium he once only visited as a spectator.

"For the whole month of January, I'll be working out with the players in the big leagues at Dodger Stadium," said Nickerson. "For me, that's definitely the coolest part."

From mid-June until early September, Nickerson will play approximately 75 games of baseball with numerous long bus rides in between and usually one day off a month.

"It's not a glamorous reality," he said, "But at the same time, you're getting paid to play baseball, and I can't think of anything else I'd rather do."

After the regular season ends in September, Nickerson is unsure of his plans. He may play in a fall league, but intends to stay in shape for the January workouts at Dodger Stadium and spring training. Of course, making it to the major leagues is the ultimate goal.

"I'm going to give myself a minimum of two years to play," Nickerson said. "It's been a lifelong dream to play professional baseball, and now that I've reached this point, I'm not going to give up on that unless I'm sure it's not going to happen."

Though it is difficult to make it even as far as the minor leagues, he noted the intense competition still ahead to be drafted for a major league team. Nickerson, however, is optimistic.

"I think I've got a good shot. I'd like to believe that it's up to me and how hard I work."

Into the woods

In order to accept her dream job and the chance of a lifetime, Kate Collins '01 is unfortunately missing Commencement ceremonies. As the rest of this year's graduating students celebrated Senior Week, Collins was already in Sequoia-King's Canyon National Park working as an "interpretive," or outreach and education, ranger.

"I've had an interest in outdoor education for as long as I can remember," Collins said before she left, adding that she was motivated to pursue a college degree in order to qualify for this field of work.

She flew out to her native California the first week of June and will live in a park cabin with one other ranger. "The most unusual part of living in a national park is that they have really severe bear problems," Collins said.Among her duties, Collins will be running evening programs and leading walks through the park.

With hundreds of people applying for every position available in Sequoia-King's Canyon, Collins said she was fortunate to have a friend who recommended that the job reviewers especially consider Collins's application.

However, she had plenty of other experiences that aided her application, including courses in biology and environmental studies as well as teaching experience at an outdoor science school during her junior winter.

"I can still hardly believe I've got the job, because it's really competitive, and this is such a desirable position," she said. "I think it's really worth it to take a lot of risks when looking for jobs, to go for a long shot. Once you get the job, it will be worth all the trouble."

"I'm really going to miss Dartmouth and everyone here. I'm hoping everyone will come visit me in the park this summer, I'll be in Grant Grove!"

At the edge

Back on the East coast, Washington, D.C. will become home for Eric Ogden '01 this coming fall as he spends a year in poverty working with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

Ogden's year-long program begins at the end of the summer in Washington, D.C., where he will strive to offer compassionate support to the residents of Joseph House, a shelter for homeless men with end-stage AIDS.

Ogden will be living in an apartment with several other JVC roommates. They will have a meal budget and will eat, live and interact in a family style community environment.

Each of them will also be given a monthly stipend of $80 and are not to use any other money they may have or receive during the year in order to encourage "simple living."

"I'll be able to do it, but I think it will be hard to have no money," he said, noting that $80 can be spent quickly on routine things like public transportation and hair cuts. "I'll find some other ways, but it will be challenging."

Yet for Ogden, the hardships of the year will be more than compensated by the comfort he brings to the terminally ill residents of Joseph House.

The on-site medical staff will free Ogden from the responsibilities of taking prescriptions or running check-ups so that he can concentrate on developing friendships with the men.

"The goal is to be present with people at the edge of death who have no one else," he said.

After his experience is over, Ogden already has plans to begin teaching at an elementary school in the Northeast. An english major, he also completed elementary teaching preparation at Dartmouth.

"That's what I love to do, that's my passion," he said of teaching.

Until a few weeks ago, Ogden says he was excited to be graduating, but now he is feeling nostalgic.

"I know that I'm ready to move on, but it's going to be sad. You spend four years building a life for yourself, and then you have to leave it behind."

See the world

Jennifer H. Lee '01 is thrilled to be returning to the site of her Beijing Foreign Study Program this fall to work for the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, in East Asia.

A history and Asian studies double major, Lee knew she wanted to return to Asia after having a wonderful FSP experience and taking more related coursework back at Dartmouth. During this past spring term, she finally found the means through the position UNICEF offered her.

"It's one of these things that has been so out of my hands that I attribute it to divine intervention," said Lee.

She will be a junior consultant with the non-profit organization and will primarily be researching issues of poverty incidence in children and families.

After a trip home to hike around the base of Mt. Rainer, Lee will head to Tokyo for five weeks of intensive language study in preparation for her job. She will also visit family in Korea before reaching China.

Lee is not sure what she will do following her work with UNICEF. It will depend on how her experience in Beijing turns out, she said.

"Someone recently told me that a true vocation is where your greatest passions meet the world's greatest need," said Lee. "If this is true, I'm definitely being led to study/work in issues related to East Asia, mainly on increasing culturally and historically informed foreign policies."

According to Lee, "There is life after Dartmouth. There is hope for those who look for non-traditional sort of jobs."

Coast to coast

Cross country and track and field standout Joe McKnight '01 hopes to continue running after graduation ... all the way across America, in fact.

Overwhelmed with his athletic commitments and classwork, it was difficult for McKnight to think about what corporate companies wanted and to plan for his future.

"Instead, I tried to figure out what I wanted," he said.

And that, he decided, is running.

Though McKnight has not yet found funding for his plan of running across the U.S. -- which he anticipates would take a year -- he has been working with the Tucker Foundation and Career Services to help prepare a budget proposal and expedite the reality of his project.

Already accustomed to running 70 miles a week, McKnight anticipated he would run about that much each week on his trip across the country. He would like to set off from the Northeast January 2, 2002 and be back home to Connecticut by the Christmas holidays.

Ideally, McKnight would like to have a cause to champion and on which he could give presentations in the towns he traverses.

"The only goal I have next year is to avoid committing to anything that is not a dream of mine," he explained. "This is the most freedom I'll ever be allowed, and I need to take advantage of that."

McKnight began running in eighth grade, after watching his older siblings compete in the sport. A psychology major, he came to Dartmouth for distance running. He could only describe competing on the College's acclaimed cross-country team as "an honor."

"[Cross Country] was an opportunity to do what I love at a competitive level. I don't know what I would have done without it," said McKnight. "I will always be a runner."