Alumni News

on 04 January 2015.

Bowman '11 Gets Published, Prepares for Life after College

Back in the day it wasn’t unusual to see this alum skipping through Woods Hall humming some made-up tune about Sissy Jupe in Dickens’ Hard Times while wearing a bright red t-shirt with the phrase, “It’s Gonna Be Fantastic!” written across the chest. Four years later Sawyer Bowman ’11 still has plenty to skip and hum about. With graduation from Bowdoin College just a semester off, he recently received word that a research paper he co-authored with a Bowdoin professor has been published in the technical journal Big Data and Society. “It’s not something people typically associate with a small liberal arts school like Bowdoin,” Sawyer admits. “We’re not a research school, and we’re not even really known for Computer Science (his declared major).” But in the spring of his sophomore year, a sociology professor approached him and asked if he’d be interested in a research fellowship in the “Social Innovation” lab. His job would be to bring big data-ready technology to fields that normally don’t use technology. “The professor leading the research was interested in behaviors of people online (such as users of Facebook and Twitter),” explains Sawyer. “There’s so much data out there, and it can be very difficult for people (like sociologists) to manage it and draw conclusions from it.” Sawyer, along with two other research fellows, built a system to capture five million tweets a day, equivalent to one percent of the complete Twitter feed. “The part of the paper/research that is revolutionary is that we demonstrated to non-tech fields that "big data" is feasible for their research purposes and can be used to gain meaningful insights,” explains Bowman. “This is the future!” Bowman has another paper pending publication as well. “The paper in review is more of an empirical study whereas the one already published is a methods paper.”

So what’s life like for a college senior with just a semester left? Any room for a senior slide? “I’m actually finishing stronger than I started,” says Bowman. “I’m ready to go do something different, but at the same time, I’m still very excited about what I’m learning.” Sawyer also spends his time at Bowdoin giving admission tours and working as a TA in the computer science department. “On top of that, I had this crazy idea with my roommate to bypass cross country season this fall and train for a marathon. I needed a switch-up and thought ‘Why not race 26.2 miles?’”, says Bowman. Little did he take into account that he’d be training the long miles through the winter… in Maine… where it gets dark at four in the afternoon…and it’s freezing cold. “I didn’t plan that one out too well,” Bowman laughs. “Terrible idea! We ran the LL Bean Challenge for an 18-miler one day in late November,” he says with a hint on anguish on his face. “It was great coming into the town of Freeport on foot vs. a car but then Henry (his roommate) and I looked at each other and said, 'We have to go all the way back!' Around mile 15 we fell apart."

Future plans? Sawyer recently accepted a position with Epic Systems in Madison, Wisconsin where he will be a software engineer. “I started my job hunt early and just went a little bit crazy,” admits Sawyer. “I did not want to be that guy in the career video who said ‘he was still looking.’” After a few intense months of interviews and ‘coding challenges’, he decided to sign on with Epic. “I wasn’t exactly looking to move to Wisconsin — I mean, is anyone?” laughs Bowman. “But Epic is a pretty cool place, and I was put on the mobile team which means I will be developing software for the devices people carry around everyday. I really like that.” Bowman also credits Epic’s wide reach as a major factor in his decision to accept this job offer. “They reach about 50% of the population with their healthcare software,” says Bowman.

But before joining the workforce: Graduation! Sawyer will leave Bowdoin with a double major in Computer Science and Spanish along with a minor in Chemistry this May. He smiles and says, “Yeah, I get that look (raised eyebrows) all the time. That’s the benefit of liberal arts—you get to be creative in a very technical field. I would not have been able to do this at a technical school. It's made me much more well-rounded.”

When asked if it’s time to replace his “It’s Gonna be Fantastic!” t-shirt with “It’s Gonna be Epic!” he nods with a grin and says, “Yeah, that might be fitting.”

Favorite Woodlawn Memory: Running Stonehaven repeats with the East Trail deer.

Most Important Thing Woodlawn Taught You: To learn independently. I’ve done a lot of learning in and out of my field on my own. Woodlawn taught me that very early.

Best Lesson Learned: Start early, sleep often. Start late, never sleep at all.

Favorite Book: Life of Pi, Yann Martel.

Favorite Movie: The Truman Show.

Favorite Past Time: Running, Coding.

Happy Place: Asleep in bed.

on 19 December 2014.

Alumni Day 2014 Draws 33 Alums!

Over thirty alumni returned to campus for Alumni Day 2014 on Dec. 18. Every class (from 2010 to 2014) was well-represented, and everyone was able to catch up with classmates over a pizza lunch, volleyball game in the Barn, and a barbecue dinner. Alums also spent time sharing experiences with current upper schoolers and 8th graders, as well as answering questions from parents and students at a panel discussion after dinner. As one alum said, "I feel so lucky to be a part of such a unique community. The fact that alums continue to come back and enjoy returning is a testament to how special of a place Woodlawn is.”

on 21 September 2014.

Zach Lingle '12 Digs Crete

Zach Lingle '12 is currently a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill, majoring in chemistry with a minor in archeology. He spent most of the summer of 2014 far away from the Carolinas - at an archeological dig on the island of Crete with one of his professors and a group of about 75 students.

Zach and his classmates spent 8 weeks working on the Azoria Project, an excavation of an Early Iron Age and Archaic site (ca. 1200-500 B.C.) on Crete. The goals of the project are to document the form of an early Greek city, with a view to understanding the sociopolitical and economic structure, and processes of urbanization.

"I was on the trucks up to the site by 6:30 every morning and was done around 2:30," said Zach. "Most of my time at the dig was spent with a pickaxe or sweeping the trench to make it look good for photos. After the dig and on the weekends I got to spend time at the beach, hiking, playing soccer with the workmen, or traveling around Crete. In my trench we found a couple almost complete Lekanis (ancient Greek pottery bowl), but the find of the season was a whole bronze dagger from one of the other trenches."

One of the highlights of the trip was meeting up with his parents on Crete for his mom's birthday! Zach was happy to stay at their hotel and have a hot shower. (The “dorm” where he was staying had only solar-powered hot water which ran out pretty fast.)

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on 23 June 2014.

Kathleen Elkins '10 Blazes New Trail

It seems like just yesterday when a small-framed, shy, freckle-faced girl named Kathleen Elkins showed up on Woodlawn's campus. That was in the early days of Woodlawn, two thousand and three to be exact. The school was in just its second year, and Kathleen was in the sixth grade. It wasn't long before she began to make a name for herself here at Woodlawn and beyond. A nationally ranked tennis player (then and now), you could also find Kathleen in true Trailblazer form on the cross-country trails and eventually on the track (she still holds the girls cross country 5k school record). She excelled in both athletics and academics, graduating from Woodlawn with summa cum laude honors in 2010. It was a significant moment in the history of Woodlawn—she and Chad Raines (St. Johns, '14) would forever be remembered as the two who blazed the trail for all future Woodlawn grads. “I had an incredible experience as a middle schooler, and I could not imagine going to school anywhere else for the next four years — I thrived in the small classroom environment where creativity and curiosity were encouraged,” explains Kathleen on her choice to stay through high school. “Looking back (and I did not realize this at the time), Woodlawn truly shaped me into who I am today — much of my personality and who I grew to be can be credited to Woodlawn.”

"When I tell my friends in college that I graduated with one other person, they get all excited and say things like 'No Way!' and 'Is it a homeschool?' and I explain to them that, no, it's not a homeschool and it sits on something like 60 acres and all, and then they grab their phones and start to google Woodlawn to make sure I am not kidding," jokes Kathleen. "It's a great conversation starter for sure.”

Fast forward four years later to present day, and you'll now find her still a small-framed nationally ranked tennis star, but with a sort of confidence and excitement that comes with the type of recognition she's earned. A 2014 graduate of Williams College with quite a few accolades to her name, she still is mostly smiles and laughs, and she's filled with happy anticipation of what's yet to come, just like she was way back when she left Woodlawn in 2010. "I grew up in Davidson and I went to a small liberal arts school in Williamstown," says Kathleen. "Now I am moving to Boston! I'll be living in a city with tons of things to do." Kathleen has signed on with Tenacity, a nonprofit that works with inner city youth. A one-year stint called "Coach Across America" involves working in the classroom and the tennis court with middle and high school kids. "It's really a perfect fit for me," says Kathleen. "I will get coaching certified in the process of this one-year program which is really cool."

on 07 April 2014.

Sophia Spach '11: Photog, student, gospel singer, world traveler

A mile-wide smile spreads across her face as soon as she’s asked about her study abroad. It’s something Sophia Spach, class of 2011, knows a bit about. Her sophomore year took her on a whirlwind back-to-back, semester-to-semester adventure, circling the globe from India to Costa Rica in the span of nine months. As she talks at 90 miles per hour about exciting cultural differences, the ancient sights she visited, and the exotic food she sampled, one recurring theme keeps coming up: People!  It’s clear Sophia enjoys the people most of all. Her enthusiastic voice and smiling face seem like the perfect combination while she describes, as she says, “living and learning in communities of people so different from me.”

Traveling to India and Costa Rica not only confirmed her love for people, but it also gave her deep perspective on her own life in the United States. “I traveled to India during winter term with the intention of studying Religion Caste and Gender in Contemporary South India,” says Sophia. “I loved everything about it! The people, the colors, the spices, the food! And it was really interesting to see the levels of wealth—basically rich people and extreme poverty surrounding those upper classes.”

Alumni Day 2013