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H is For Hampshire College: To Know is Not Enough, A to Z Challenge 2013

Margaret with Hampshire Degree
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Margaret Almon with Hampshire Degree, 1990.

H is for Hampshire College, Amherst, MA.  In 1987, I transferred from community college, mostly prompted by hearing a woman in an airport in Michigan, on my way home from the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, telling someone that Hampshire was the only school she could imagine attending.  I went to the library, and read about Hampshire in the Peterson’s Guide(print of course), and learned I could design my own major, and there were narrative evaluations rather than letter grades.

I loved the creative concept, the interdisciplinary mash-up.  The reality was harder to love.  I was lonely.  I was a work study student in the college post office(and still remember the box numbers), and was baffled by the student who carried his books in a paper bag, but drove a Mercedes, or the students whose parents could pay the tuition in full.  I graduated with student loan debt, and a degree that looked like a mandala. There is a niche market in framing them with round mattes.

Hampshire Mod 13 1992
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My room in Hampshire Mod 13, 1990. Photo by Margaret Almon, probably standing in the hallway to get enough distance.

I lived in Greenwich Mod 13, which was named for one of the towns that disappeared under the the Quabbin Reservoir.  My room was pie shaped.  In honor of today being Orange Tuesday, I have included a photo of my chair, which came with the room.

Greenwich House Donut #2, Mod 13 Hampshire College, 1990. Photograph by Margaret Almon, as she packed up her grandparents’ van with her worldly belongings.

Memorable aspects of Hampshire:

  • The Hampshire College motto is Non Satis Scire: To Know is Not Enough.
  • The only sports team I recall was Ultimate Frisbee
  • Hampshire was created by leaders of the other five schools in the region and I took classes at all of them except Amherst, including a poetry workshop with taught by a classmate of Sylvia Plath at Smith College.
  • The college had a working farm with sheep.
  • The array of alumni who have gone on to do interesting things from film maker Ken Burns, songwriter Elliott Smith, director Liev Schrieber, and writers Leah Hager Cohen, Jon Krakauer,  and comedian Eugene Mirman.

More images on my A to Z Challenge 2013 Pinterest Board.

A to Z Blogging Challenge April 2013

 

8 comments

  1. Jocelyn Rish says:

    That’s so random that you discovered your college by overhearing about it at an airport. Sounds like it was an interesting start to an interesting journey. I think I would have liked some aspects of it, but I’m a pretty traditional gal, so I mostly enjoyed by time at my more traditional college.

  2. Next week I will be in Northampton. What synchronicity. Have we talked about my daughter going to Smith College in the past? I am going to visit her and also do my usual things like paying homage to Emily Dickinson and I’m going to walk the Robert Frost trail in Amherst and do some schlepping to see the Harriet Beecher Stowe house in Hartford. I almost went to UC Santa Cruz, which had, at the time, a very similar philosophy as Hampshire. The young woman who showed me around the Margaret Fuller House in Cambridge was also a Hampshire graduate. You are VERY cool people, obviously. LOL. Hope all is well! Happy A to Zing!!

  3. Marie says:

    I love the look at your college days, although I’m sorry the college didn’t live up to your expectations. I don’t know if you knew this, but I’ve worked in higher ed marketing for my day-job for 12 years now. I loved my own big “land-grant” university experience and I worked there for 10 years. Now I’m with a small private college and the recruiting methods are so different. I never tire of hearing about how people select their colleges. It is also interesting to hear how the perception and the reality can be drastically different.

    • Marie, how interesting that you work in higher ed marketing! In some ways, I can’t imagine going anywhere else than Hampshire, in spite of the stresses, which is the conundrum I have when describing my undergrad experience. As a post office work study student, I dreaded the Admissions office pick-up, because they had bins and bins of packets to send to prospective students, and they were heavy. Some of my disillusionment probably came from the disconnect between the energy put into recruiting students vs. day to day life of current students.

  4. Jocelyn – One of the best things about Hampshire was being able to take classes at other campuses in the Five College Consortium. I really enjoyed the ones I took at U/Mass, a more traditional school.

    Moondust – Thanks for the kind words about my art! I will have to check out your Emily Dickinson post.

    Snowcatcher – I think you would’ve enjoyed Hampshire, with all the forms your creativity takes, and your love of the outdoors.

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