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Glittering trays of chicken nuggets, steaming hot waffles fresh off the press and ice cream — so much ice cream — await behind the doors to Foco. At the start of your freshman fall, I’m sure you’ll eat one, two, three or maybe four meals a day in Dartmouth’s only all-you-can-eat dining location.
Freshman orientation: For most, it’s a time of awkward introductions, forced smiles, getting lost and, if you’re lucky, the feeling that you might just have met someone who could be your new best friend. It’s also a time when it seems like your entire life has burst open with the opportunity to become a new person, develop new skills or concentrate on an interest that you haven’t yet had the time or courage to put out there. And so it was for me for a few glorious days of freshman fall — that is, until I was struck down by what I like to call the Freshman Plague.
As a new freshman class arrives to campus every year, students come bearing differing academic visions for their next four years at Dartmouth: some pre-med, some engineering, some humanities, others perhaps more focused on languages or social sciences. However, many — like me — come to Dartmouth their freshman fall knowing next to nothing about what to pursue academically or professionally. This can make choosing one’s first term of classes quite an endeavor.
Once upon a time, some Dartmouth fraternity brothers playing table tennis rested their mugs of beer on the table while they played. A few stray ping pong balls landed in the cups by divine accident, until someone proposed that it was more fun to aim for the mugs of beer themselves.
The painter. The poet. The nerd who owns it. The swimmer. The hiker. The party-all-nighter. The baker. The maker. The family caretaker. The bundle-of-nerves-for-this-term-long-icebreaker. You all have unique experiences that have shaped your identities coming into college. Every Dartmouth student — from those who come from “Just Outside Boston” to those who come from Rwanda — has their own world of memories and skills to share with the Dartmouth community. You are all so different, yet you all ended up here, in middle-of-nowhere New Hampshire, for the most transformative years of your lives.
Academia has historically been a white and male sphere. According to the National Center for Education, in 2016, 53 percent of full time professors were white males, while another 27 percent were white females. Despite an increasingly diverse student body, Dartmouth’s own campus reflects these national trends. According to the Office of Institutional Research, 80 percent of the 316 tenured professors at the College in 2018 were white and 62 percent were men. By contrast, nearly half of the newly-admitted Class of 2023 are Americans of color and 12 percent are international citizens, according to the College Admissions Office.
Dartmouth has long been known for its small-town charm and picturesque New England campus. As the smallest university in the Ivy League, the College appeals to students who appreciate its quaint setting coupled with the academic rigor common among its peer institutions. But of all the charming towns scattered in the Northeast, why was Dartmouth founded in Hanover, and how does the College’s relationship with the town stand today?
Hanover has committed to becoming 100 percent dependent on renewably generated electricity by 2030, and renewably generated transportation and heating fuel by 2050. This decision, which the town has been working toward since 2017, came as a part of the Ready for 100 program designed by the Sierra Club in order to move towns and cities to transition to sustainable energy practices.
In April, Luke Cuomo ’20 and Ariela Kovary ’20 were elected as Student Assembly president and vice president, respectively. They ran on a campaign that advocated for the creation of a unified sexual misconduct policy, subsidized bus tickets for the Dartmouth Coach, and increasing the value of Dartmouth Dining Services’ meal swipes. They said that this summer they have begun laying the groundwork for creating a central network for class syllabi and organizing an orientation session for incoming freshmen to learn more about how to get involved in Student Assembly.
As we look forward to the 2019-2020 school year, new changes — from new meal plans to a new feature of the GET Funds app that would allow students to place food orders ahead of time — will affect students’ interactions with food on campus.
The “Dartmouth bubble” is a term heard frequently around campus among students who feel shut-in by the College’s close-knit community. For many, Dartmouth can seem like a world unto itself, disconnected from the usual distractions and connections that living in society entail.
New Hampshire is neither red nor blue. While the state’s representation in Congress is entirely Democratic, a Republican, Chris Sununu, has been governor since 2017. Although Dartmouth remains majority liberal, the range of ideologies among campus political groups reflects the swing-state nature of New Hampshire.
Looking back now, I have very few regrets from my first year of college. After all, freshman year is meant to be a time of trial and error. From randomly choosing a dance partner for the “Salty Dog Rag” (a First-Year Trips tradition) to painstakingly selecting courses for the fall, Dartmouth freshmen are presented with a multitude of choices right off the bat that often define their first term.
I spent the summer before Dartmouth in a constant state of buoyancy. I was finally done with high school, which meant I was finally free to do whatever I wanted in college. The possibilities felt endless. I told myself, as Carey Mulligan did in “An Education”: “I’m going to read what I want and listen to what I want, and I’m going to look at paintings and watch French films and I’m going to talk to people who know lots about lots.” Early on, I set my heart on economics and comparative literature double-majors and a minor in music with the kind of confidence of someone who knew nothing. The D-Plan, with all its touted flexibility, seemed like the perfect vehicle for my academic plans. And as someone who wanted as much range in her studies as possible, I thought the combination I had chosen was perfect.
When I first stepped off the Dartmouth Coach in early September to begin my freshman year at Dartmouth, I thought that I was dreaming. It was the kind of afternoon that those of us familiar with northern New England’s erratic climate hope to experience once or twice a season. With golden sunshine reflecting off of the rooftops, brightly colored autumn leaves and a bright blue sky set against the silhouette of Baker-Berry Library, Dartmouth’s beauty enchanted me the second I laid eyes on campus. Heaven, I thought, could not be more wonderful than my beautiful new school.
Welcome to Dartmouth — a place of self-discovery, creativity and humility. Perhaps it was the very subtlety of students and professors’ intelligence that drew you to the school — it certainly was at the top of my pros and cons list a year ago. The College is composed of devoted intellectuals who prefer to walk the walk over talking the talk. But while humility is a uniting thread throughout Dartmouth — professors and students rarely share their accomplishments— I encourage you to be bold, brave and confident as you take on freshman year.
Two hundred and fifty years is a long time. For two and a half centuries, every class at Dartmouth has left its mark on the College — it’s hard to imagine that one class can stand out. But after seeing the Class of 2019’s commitment to making Dartmouth more inclusive and safe for all students, we know they are leaving the College a better place than it was four years ago. As rising juniors, we are grateful to have learned from the ’19s, and we are excited to keep improving Dartmouth in their legacy.
Most of my favorite evenings have ended the same way, talking to friends. These days, that’s sitting in the kitchen at the Sustainable Living Center, where waffles are usually present. But freshman year, that was right outside of my room on the first floor of Berry Hall in the McLaughlin cluster. A few of my newest college friends and I, sitting on the carpeted floor, backs up against the wall.
“I could’ve done better.” For a long time, that thought has been nestled comfortably into my headspace, surfacing with frustrating regularity. It’s what I told myself after every high school debate tournament in which I couldn’t conquer my anxieties, after every column I’ve written for The Dartmouth that didn’t convey the eloquence I wish I had, after every exam, every race, every interview. Recently, it’s a conclusion to which I’ve returned repeatedly when reflecting on my Dartmouth experience.