Alumni Column – Making the Most of Colgate

Kara Leene '08

We’ve all heard it a hundred times, “Capitalize on the opportunities Colgate has to offer.” In fact, I am pretty sure it’s on Dean Low’s annual list of advice for the incoming first-years. As the first female hockey player to receive a full athletic scholarship, I came to Colgate thinking hockey would be a very important part of my time and soon realized it would be the most time consuming. I was fortunate enough to have a driven senior teammate whispering in my ear “Do something else, get involved both in and out of the classroom.”

As a recent graduate, I cannot claim to have a vast amount of expertise to share, but I can share with you my experience since graduation and how my activities at Colgate have benefitted my post-college life. I am currently a Staff Assistant for United States Senator Patrick Leahy in his Burlington, VT Office.

In the beginning of my academic career at Colgate, I was uncertain of what major to choose, so I took everything from Psychology and Environmental Geography, to Basic Acting, and Cryptology before settling on Sociology and Anthropology. As I filled my requirements, I slowly started taking challenging classes outside of my comfort zone. This was one of the single best decisions I could have made at Colgate. For example, I took Philosophy of Law with Professor Balmuth as well as Constitutional Law with Professor Brubaker. One of my favorite courses was through the Upstate Institute where I worked with a pro-bono lawyer on gaining Social Security Benefits for a disabled minor. Although these courses were not easy, I realized I wanted to pursue a career in law and politics and perhaps consider law school. Further, as a result of a stellar performance in Logic, I ended up missing Magma Cum Laude by one-hundredth of a point. At the time it seemed devastating, I now realize the opportunity of helping a fifteen year old boy gain necessary SSI benefits is more important.

During my interview with Senator Leahy’s Office, they asked me to demonstrate my passion for politics. It just so happened that I wrote my senior thesis on the political awareness on college campus. I also discussed the political ramifications and legal principles behind Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. After the interview, I thought of writing thank you notes to my professors. I had remembered the material post-exam. I remembered it because it was not something I crammed the night before, but something that was of interest to me. It was the first time I had taken courses where I sincerely wanted to read the next chapter and thus was able to recite accurate facts under pressure. Thank you, Professor Balmuth.

At Colgate I was also involved in many different activities. I was a captain of the women’s ice hockey team, a member of Link Staff, a Senior Admission Intern and a Side Kick. My time as a Senior Admission Intern allowed me to find common ground with some prospective students and made me a better listener. No good would come from a conversation if I didn’t address the student’s interests and how they would be met at Colgate. Working with Gary Ross made me a better conversationalist: he remembers everything! This skill has been very helpful today when fielding calls from constituent concerning a variety of issues from the economic stimulus to home foreclosures. You don’t have to interview frightened high school seniors to learn this skill, you can just as easily participate in the many networking sessions Colgate offers. While in D.C. for Senate Training, I found myself at a staffer’s birthday party luncheon. After participating in the discussion of the recent Red Sox win over the Cardinals, I was invited to join the Vermont Delegation’s softball game vs. the HOMERUN Security (Homeland Security) where more contacts were made and many more wings were shared.

Parting message: Please don’t be too focused on any one activity at Colgate. It’s a leading liberal arts college for a reason — it provides you with unique opportunities to try new things. So put yourself out there and you can learn a great deal from going out of your comfort zone. Seniors, I know you’re probably thinking, well it’s too late for me. I’m out of here. However, you have three months to do something new. Through each experience you may become a step closer to figuring out what you want to do, or equally important, what you don’t want to do after May 17. Worst case scenario — you miss Magma Cum Laude but instead gain useful logical knowledge that will serve you for a lifetime. But seriously, please take advantage of Colgate. You only get four years, so make the best of them.