Death of a College

I hoped that the winding down of the 2019 season would provide the necessary freedom to pursue all my creative desires. When one’s ambitions encompass art, writing, education, and business, there’s a substantial demand for one’s physical, mental, and emotional energy. My garden work ended two weeks ago, and only one farmers market remains, yet I feel just as frenzied and chaotic as I did a month ago.

The announcement that Marlboro College would be “merging with” (to be understood as “acquired by”) Emerson College was nothing less than heartbreaking. With its enrollment dropping to 180 during my time as a student, the college’s struggle to survive was not new information. Yet up until this news broke a week and a half ago, I had assumed that, whatever merger happened, the beloved campus would remain as it were.

There were two reasons I chose Marlboro College. The first reason was because of its beautiful surroundings. The hundreds of acres of thriving, ecological community and rolling farmlands called to me long before I knew I wanted to study agriculture, botany, or ecology. It took just one visit to fall in love with this tiny, blessed hill. The second reason I chose Marlboro was because of its high expectations and self-driven education that ended with a Plan of Concentration (our version of an undergraduate thesis). No other school stood out to me. No other school seemed to promise such an in-depth education. Certainly, no other school was worth the money (to me).

I’ll admit – I struggled with depression quite a bit at Marlboro, felt emotionally isolated almost all of the time, and considered transferring nearly every semester. I always decided to stay, however, a decision I made largely based on that patch of Claytonia virginica who sprouted up every spring around that old oak tree at the corner of Town Trail. I stayed because of the fields of Anaphalis margaritacea, an oddball dioecious member of the Asteraceae and the first Latin name I learned as a freshman. I stayed because of that group of two goats and a sheep browsing in the woods who wouldn’t stop following me on a solo snow shoe adventure. The delightfully rare Cyprepedium acaule, the Hemlock Grove where I lived in a tent for 3 1/2 months, the scraggly and dwarfed apple tree growing in the woods just northeast of the pond on Ho Chi Minh trail – a remnant from when those woods were clear cut for grazing livestock. And, of course, I stayed for the incredible education. You cannot study ecology in a city, and though we ecology students are uniquely affected by this news, I’m sure most alums would agree that any field of study wouldn’t quite be the same anywhere else.

As I continue to work through the grief of losing such an incredible school (and still cling to the hope that some mysterious donor will gift $20 million to the endowment), I feel particularly fervent about going to graduate school. More importantly, I am so grateful to be part of what will now be one of the last few graduating classes from Marlboro College (’16).

It was my intention to start writing again when the growing season ended. Though there are many things to write about, I think I’ll begin with a condensed, less-sciency regurgitation of my undergraduate thesis over the next couple of months.

Get Nerdy & Stay tuned 😉