We usually think of a highway as straight. But the reality is, highways are full of twists and turns (along with the occasional bear or state trooper). My journey started with the image of a red canoe on a postcard, something rather useless in the metaphor but important in my relationship with Northland—and perhaps others’ relationships with the College. Everyone at Northland took their own highway there.
They say it’s the company you keep along the way that makes the journey worthwhile, and I’ve certainly found that to be true: There were many interesting characters on my highway to and from the College.
Dorothy Lagerroos, Grant Herman, Tom Wojciechowski, David Saetre, Kevin Schanning, and Patti Fenner-Leino—these professors and staff set down the orange construction cones that guided my focus to environmental policy, sustainable communities, civic engagement, and servant leadership. They challenged me to recognize my privileges, think differently, and motivate me to find the intersection of people, planet, and prosperity . . . all while I fell in love with Lake Superior: the G.L.O.A.T. (Greatest Lake of All Time). My involvement with the Northland College Student Association increased my interest in policy. We represented and organized our peers to improve the College’s environmental and cultural policies and practices. I fondly remember a small group of us driving to Washington, DC, (when we took a literal highway and not the metaphorical one) to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Earth Day. We stayed with an alum, Mike Fazzino ’96. He was so welcoming to us; strangers who attended the same college as he did. We returned to the College after that trip with a sense of urgency, some new ideas, and a glimpse into Northland’s strong and compassionate alumni network.
A few years later while working for Sierra Club, I attended my first reception at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, and met many binational leaders working on important efforts to protect the Great Lakes. When I got off at that exit, I was anxious. But I also remember walking in, speaking with a few folks, and then seeing the warm and welcoming smile of Northland College Trustee, Hannibal Bolton, who worked for the National Fish and Wildlife Service. We met while I was a student trustee at Northland. I remember recognizing each other at the event and immediately chatting about Northland. He also introduced me to experts and leaders who accelerated my understanding of critical issues facing the Great Lakes.
Saving the best for last, my favorite characters are my best friends, especially the Gaia and Honorary Gaia members. They’ve been in and out of my car all up and down this highway—giving me career advice, celebrating births, mourning deaths, providing direction, filling my gas tank, and recharging my batteries.
The highway out of Northland was not the same one I took to get here. This highway is amazing—full of exciting twists and turns, ever scenic, sometimes scary, and always there, sprawling before me like an adventure.