Building community has been a major topic of discussion on campus, as students consider the best way to encourage dialogue around challenging issues. Dear Bowdoin Human speaks to just these issues. The anonymous pen pal program for Bowdoin students was founded by Talia Cowen ’16 at the start of last summer.

“I really think the heart of this program is just about facilitating discussion, but I think one of its strengths is that it defies definitions, so people use it how they need too,” she said.

Cowen’s inspiration came from a Dear Oxford Human program she observed while abroad.  
“As a person who felt sort of isolated in the community at Oxford, I liked what Dear Oxford Human was doing,” she said. “I realized Bowdoin didn’t have anything like that and that it was such a powerful force in people’s lives there that I really wanted to bring it back.”  

Dear Bowdoin Human works in tandem with The Undiscussed, another student-run organization that works to break barriers and enable change through dialogue. Students who sign up for Dear Bowdoin Human are assigned partners to write letters based on topics chosen by Cowen.

“You can write about anything but I also give prompts. Sometimes the letters are funny with questions like ‘What’s your favorite kind of bread?’ and other times they aren’t, when students write things like ‘I’ve been struggling with depression for the last few months, what have you been struggling with?’” she said. “I think people take it how they need to take it.”

 All the letters are anonymous, addressed “Dear Bowdoin Human” and signed “Another Bowdoin Human.”

“If they want me to read the letters they put a star on the letters so it’s really cool to feel part of it by observation,” said Cowen. “I also post some of the starred ones to the Dear Bowdoin Human blog for everyone to read.”

The blog shows examples of anonymous letters students have written and shared with consent. It aims to make public the inner feelings and struggles of fellow Bowdoin students and provides a space for solidarity, companionship and community-building. 

Cowen hopes Dear Bowdoin Human will promote campus dialogue in a more meaningful way than forums like Yik Yak.

“I had a friend describe it to me as a kind of anti-Yik Yak, because it allows you to relieve stress and talk about issues but also go in-depth into things you are thinking about and really reflect on your own experiences,” she said. “I always feel like I want to hear people's views and ideas on different topics, but the constraints of Yik Yak sort of make that difficult.”

Cowen emphasized that through Dear Bowdoin Human, students can embrace anonymity, rather than exploiting it as some Yik Yak users do.

“It’s like using the ‘it could be anyone’ idea in positive way,” she said. “It’s community that’s not necessarily defined and I think that’s good.”

Students are encouraged to sign up at, while anonymous student-submitted letters can be viewed at