Alumni News

on 29 March 2015.

Sayre Weir '11: Anything but Ordinary

Ask Sayre Weir, ’11 what her most memorable moment has been her past 4 years at Middlebury College and it might surprise you to hear… silence. Finally! A question that stopped her cold and made her dig deep to find an answer. But once she starts answering, the familiar Sayre quickly surfaces and all sorts of interesting things pop out. Things you might not typically hear from ordinary 21-year-olds. But then again, Sayre is anything but ordinary.

She begins with her most recent internship as an interpreter for a clinic in Middlebury, Vermont. She tells how it really opened her eyes. “The Middlebury bubble is real,” admits Sayre. “Once you step off campus — outside its immediate 5-mile radius — you see people living in barns … on top of cows! They milk these same cows with their hands for 12 hours a day.”

Sayre worked as an interpreter for these clinics helping bridge the language barrier. “It actually prompted me to investigate furthering my education in Public Health,” says Sayre. “I had a real connection to what I was doing there.” As part of her senior project, she helped compile an illustrated book of 15 stories that will be used as a tool to help these migrant workers deal with loneliness and depression. “It might surprise you to learn that this is the number one reason for most of their visits to the clinic — their loneliness,” says Sayre. The book is set to be published in about a year’s time.

If you spend just a short amount of time with Sayre, you’ll quickly see a pattern evolve: she’s interested in all sorts of ways to help others — everything from starting the yoga club at Middlebury (she’s the president) to putting on a large event addressing the concerns of body image. “It’s important to me to make a difference,” says Sayre. “I wanted to accomplish something significant outside of the classroom (while at Middlebury).” Sayre was also responsible for bringing author Rosie Molinary (of Davidson) to campus to talk about self-acceptance. “The college told me I could do it if I could raise the funds and so I raised about $8,000,” says Sayre. “Three hundred people turned out for the event and it was a really big deal to me!”

Sayre will begin her transition from college life into the working world in a couple of months. “Davidson will sort of be my home base for awhile as I travel.” She talks about her connection to Davidson and how “it’s freeing to be able to pick up and go.” She catches herself with that last statement and begins to laugh, “I know! I know! I used to be so uptight! No wonder my brothers didn’t like me!” She credits her semester study abroad in Argentina with transforming what she self-decribes as “uptight Sayre” into “relaxed Sayre”. “That’s when the shift happened for me,” she admits. “I’d show up for a scheduled meeting and about an hour later, everyone else would show up! Argentinians were not very punctual and they were perfectly content with that. It’s where I learned to relax.”

Sayre is set to graduate May 24th from Middlebury College with a BA in Latin American Studies. She is quick to point out that she will miss her college friendships and being able “to make anything happen” but that she also is ready for the next phase. “I want to be somewhere new doing something different,” says Sayre. “I’ve gotten myself to this place and I feel equipped.” With several options in the works, she adds, “My three priorities are: 1) to be in a multicultural environment, 2) be speaking Spanish, and 3) be working with students and kids. I’m confident something will work.”

Favorite Woodlawn Memory: Walking into Woods Hall the first day of 9th grade and knowing that it was the beginning of a new era because I was in high school and it was the first day that Woods Hall was ever in use for classes!

Best Thing Woodlawn Taught You: Woodlawn taught me innumerable lessons, most important of which is to be myself, be confident, and stand up for what I believe in.

Happy Place: Sitting around the dinner table with good food and family and friends.

Favorite Book (of the moment): Down the Mean Streets by Piri Thomas

Favorite Movie: Pretty Woman

Favorite Pastime: Yoga

Best Lesson Learned: “They’re two!,” she laughs. You pick your friends (in college) and you design how to spend your time. Second: Prioritize sleep! You cannot function without it. Wait… isn’t that three?

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.”

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."

Alumni Day 2013