The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Gray Purcell: Finding Your Niche(s) at Colgate

Printed with permission of Gray Purcell

Originally from Baltimore, Md., senior Gray Purcell is an environmental studies major and sociology minor who participates in a diverse portfolio of activities and organizations on campus. She has ingrained herself into the Colgate University community by fostering connections with her peers. Purcell founded the club swim team and has served as its president for two years. Additionally, she was a member of Link Staff, is actively involved in Greek life as a member of Gamma Phi Beta, holds a position as one of the 13 Presidential Ambassadors and is currently a member of the Tredecim Honor Society. Further, Purcell has also served time as an Ambassador in Colgate’s Office of Admission.

While these involvements are certainly highlights of her time at Colgate, Purcell has found that there is more she will take away from her college experience than she can put on a resume. Coming into Colgate during the COVID-19 pandemic, Purcell learned to value the bonding experiences she had with her classmates and friends as they tried to navigate a new environment under such unique circumstances.

“This community is full of people who are incredibly driven, passionate, intelligent, kind and caring,” Purcell said. “I have had the pleasure of learning from the most amazing professors, working alongside fabulous faculty and making lifelong friends. I will miss being surrounded by so many wonderful people all the time.

Purcell explained how her time in Hamilton, N.Y.,  provided her with some of her most outstanding achievements and most notable memories, whether it was sledding with her friends after the first big snowstorm or spending summer and spring days on her front porch laughing for hours with her roommates.

As for her academic life, Purcell noted that she chose to study environmental studies because of her deep love for our planet. She shared that she hopes to turn this passion into a career where she can work in environmental justice and battle climate change through nonprofit work, public policy or community-based organizing.

Purcell explained how her past adventures developed her passion for the field. 

“I studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, for two months when I was 16 years old,” Purcell said. “While I was there, they were in the middle of the major 2018 water crisis. I was so amazed to see an entire community — and nation — rally around a complex and incredibly dangerous environmental threat, come up with unique solutions and find support in one another during a difficult time.”

After graduation, Purcell will begin to realize this dream by relocating to Reykjavik, Iceland, for three months to work as a project management intern at an environmental nonprofit. She shared that she hopes this internship will help her gain more experience in this area so she can one day attend graduate school and earn a degree in an environmental-related field.

When asked about advice for incoming first-year students, Purcell emphasized the transformative power of immersing oneself in different communities at Colgate, a principle she embodied through her vast repertoire of experiences. 

“Use your resources and lean into your community as much as you can,” Purcell said. “The more you put in, the more you get out. Colgate has so much to offer, which allows you to tailor the college experience to your own interests. Find your niche and make the most of it.”

From her active involvement in campus organizations to her profound appreciation for the friendships forged during the past four years, Purcell’s journey at Colgate has been characterized by a deep sense of connection and purpose. As she moves on to the next chapter, Purcell will continue to positively impact any organization or community she chooses to participate in. For now, she hopes to hold onto these last few weeks in Hamilton and spend time with the people who have made this place her home. 

“Time flies fast. One day, you are moving into your [first-year] dorm, and the next, you are jumping into Taylor Lake as a senior,” Purcell said. “Enjoy every second while you have it, and remember to tell the people around you that you love them.”

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