If you had asked me at any point before my senior year of high school where I hoped to go to college, I never would have seen myself at a place like Northland. For as long as I can remember, it was my desire to follow in my parents’ footsteps and attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison, living in the heart of a big city, marching in the Badger Band, and doing what one does at a Big Ten school with nearly fifty thousand students. However, that all changed one day in September of my senior year when my mom got a text from my uncle asking if I had looked into Northland College as a possibility for my undergraduate studies. While I had never heard of the school, he had considered it when embarking on his college search in the 80s and, knowing my interest in the environment, thought it would be a good fit. Looking back on it now, I can honestly say that one text changed my life.
“In just one short week, I abandoned my comfort zone, formed strong friendships, and established an unbreakable connection to the Northwoods.”
From the first day on my freshman Outdoor Orientation trip, I could tell that I wasn’t going to have a “typical” college experience. I, along with nine other incoming students and two upperclassmen leaders, spent six days backpacking a section of the North Country Trail. In just one short week, I abandoned my comfort zone, formed strong friendships, and established an unbreakable connection to the Northwoods. I returned to campus at the end of the week in desperate need of a shower, but already overflowing with gratitude and anticipation for what was to come.
Northern Wisconsin is my playground. I have taken full advantage of all the opportunities that Northland has to offer: biking 26.2 miles in the dark and rain along the Whistlestop Marathon route during the Starlight Ramble, getting my hands dirty with the US Forest Service while doing trail work at local recreation areas, and embarking on a variety of weekend outings offered by our Outdoor Pursuits program. I’ve Booked Across the Bay, skied Mount Ashwabay, biked the CAMBA trails, and canoed the Namekagon. During the week, I can be found rehearsing with the band and choir, while my weekends are spent at hootenannies, dancing the night away. Each day on campus brings something new and exciting. I am proud to call myself a Northlander knowing that I would never have these experiences anywhere else.
Northland brings its own special touch to the student experience both inside and out of the classroom. Shortly after enrolling, I discovered that my combined interests in sustainability, economics, and law would not fit into a conventional major. This led me to explore Northland’s directed studies program, which allows students to craft their own major or minor, choosing classes which they believe best align with their individual interests and future career plans. I’ve blazed my own trail at Northland, creating a sustainable policy and economics major which I have paired with an environmental studies minor. This path allows me to enroll in courses that directly relate to my field of interest, such as Environmental Economics and Capitalism, Justice, and Sustainability, all while acquiring valuable perspectives from other fields through classes like Indigenous Environmental Justice. The directed studies program has given me the freedom to explore new interests and ideas without being confined within the constraints of a traditional major. Along the way, I have received enormous amounts of support from professors and faculty advisors, eager to see me succeed.
In addition to involving myself in campus activities and organizations, I have been able to form connections with the Northland community through my on-campus work study job as well. I am employed in the Office of Alumni Relations as the Don Chase alumni relations intern, a position created thanks to generous gifts from alumni and friends. From managing donor data to cutting out paper snowflakes to decorate the Ponzio, I’ve done it all. However, when I’m not frantically driving around campus in a golf cart or chasing my boss around in a dinosaur costume, my main role in the office is centered around outreach and connection through social media. The world is changing so much, and I take great pride in being able to connect with the Northland community in this way. Watching alumni reconnect and share stories about their time at school through my posts constantly reminds me why I love being a Northland student. And, after a three-year hiatus, I was finally given an even greater chance to connect with the campus community when I helped host over two hundred alumni and friends for our first on-campus reunion since 2019. Though I had never met most of these people before, spent the weekend filled with an overwhelming sense of community that can only be found at a place as special as Northland.
It truly is the little things that make the Northland experience so unique. It’s the chilly dips in Lake Superior at sunset. It’s staying up until 3 a.m. hoping to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis as it lights up the sky. It’s the sound of a cheerful “weeyoo” you hear from across the mall while on your way to class. It’s the Saturday morning walks down Chapple Avenue to stop at the Black Cat, bakery, and farmers’ market. I cannot thank my uncle enough for the text he sent that September. If it weren’t for him, I would never have found this gem of the Northwoods.
While my future is still uncertain, I can rest easy knowing that I have the support of Northland to guide me along the way. Thank you, Northland, for being the lighthouse in the middle of my Superior storm and standing with me as I find my own path at the little school on the big lake.