With just one class who experienced a pre-pandemic Bowdoin remaining on campus, it is easy to take for granted some of the newer cultural changes on Bowdoin’s campus. Often, older students might regularly complain about the “good old days”—literally just Ivies—but it is important to understand that these post-pandemic changes have ushered in the normalization of a new type of Bowdoin student: those on a non-traditional collegiate path. From students who took a semester off due to Covid-19, mental health, familial or financial needs or even to just pursue a passion project to veterans and community college transferees, the once-normalized four-year graduation path is becoming less and less traditional.
Prior to Covid, it was rare to hear about a student taking a leave of absence. The pandemic introduced a multitude of reasons to take a pause. We learned that online learning is hard, that school during a global pandemic is stressful and that college in and of itself, or life circumstances completely outside of it, can be reason enough to need a break. With this newfound perspective on the growth that comes from taking time away from the College’s campus, we now have a deeper appreciation for the knowledge our peers are bringing to the table.
This change in flexibility is a welcome one that many students take advantage of. Suddenly, the traditional four-year track looks different and personalized to each individual.
The community college transfer program and Service to School Program welcomes a few new students to the Bowdoin campus each year. Bowdoin’s new community college transfer program has taken steps to expand the student body to include students of different educational backgrounds and experiences. We credit Bowdoin for taking steps to acknowledge its role as an elite institution by widening the parameters of who can receive a Bowdoin education and expanding the meaning for what preparation for Bowdoin entails.
Even within this category of “non-traditional students,” the paths are varied and the transitions are not always easy. While these are additive to the College’s intellectual community, they don’t necessarily guarantee the full acceptance we all deserve as members of our community.
Changing the College’s culture involves all of us. All students deserve every chance to become involved with the academic community of Bowdoin, and that begins with the environment that we create.
This change starts with respecting the stories of non-traditional students—whether they’re student veterans, transfer students or those who have taken personal leaves of absence. The reasons as to why they’ve taken non-traditional paths are stories that they alone are allowed to share. In fact, there is no longer a “traditional” path. Together, we define what a “traditional” Bowdoin education and experience means.
This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, which is comprised of Sophie Burchell, Lucas Dufalla, Michael Gordon, Katie King, Sam Pausman, Maile Winterbottom, Halina Bennet and Seamus Frey.