GUEST COLUMN BY ALMNUS Mark wolfe ’96, FOR THE ALUMNI ENEWSLETTER
Before the Internet, email, smart devices, and Twitter took over the universe, Northland College was a conduit for bringing vastly different worlds together.
In summer of 1992, after receiving my K-12 public education within a single school district in West Virginia, my love of adventure and exploring nature led me 1,700 miles northwest to rural northern Wisconsin. I remember looking forward to the challenge of being immersed in a vastly different place and culture from that of my experience, and isolated from the safety net of a quick trip home. I wondered how I’d deal with it.
Debbie Brooks ’98, on the other hand, had moved numerous times between her dad’s duty stations in several different states and South Korea, and had already volunteered for an Earthwatch trip to Chile before she headed to Northland from suburban Georgia in 1994. Given her general aversion to the cold and dark of winter and to my smell after an extended trip in the woods, I’m still not really sure why she went or stayed there.
To an outside observer, I’m sure we would have seemed an unlikely couple, yet it happened. Ironically, we met briefly within minutes of her getting off the shuttle from the Duluth airport, but would not have a real conversation for several months.
There are those who like to say that cliques don’t exist at Northland, and I mostly agree. I will say, however, that there are always going to be “crowds” as long as there are people. As an outdoor education major, I regularly mixed with the Adventurers, and because of my home address I was automatically included with the East Coasters and the Country Boys and Girls. After 3 p.m., with a roll of quarters in hand, I also enjoyed associating with the Old Airport crowd.
Debbie’s multi-ethnic background and globe-trotting formative years allowed her access to a vast array of crowds, including Scientists, Writers and Interested Males. Her extracurricular pursuits were somewhat limited, however, with a general lack of interest in anything that happened after 10 p.m. Through the matrix of social interactions, campus events, and the magic of Townhouse gatherings, we became “an item” in the winter of 1996. I graduated that spring, and Debbie carried the torch for two more years.
Our relationship, both the Northland years and those since, has been the most real example of what Northland means to us. The academic piece is extremely important and lasting, but the most useful parts of our college experience have been the lessons gained through the broader experiences: The best way to gain a new perspective is by talking with people different from yourself. When it’s time to make an important decision, gain perspective as well as information then make the decision and stick to it. If it seems risky to do the thing that will fulfill you, don’t worry, it’s worth it.
Mark and Debbie currently reside in the metro Atlanta area with their two sons and dogs. Mark is currently working as a production manager for Gibbs Landscape and Debbie is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom. Both Mark and Debbie run a garden blog, The Prudent Garden. They also freelance write for online publications such as HGTVGardens, Made+Remade, Sheknows.com and Worx.