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Anatomy of Success at Reed: Conversations with Reedies Past and Present

Lydia Kerns, class of 2016

             Reedies: Intellectuals in a purified form, dedicated to study and learning for its own internal value, blissfully segregating education from career, and proud to scoff when asked to justify their investment in learning with some claim to its practical application. For four years, Reedies live in a sanctuary where the transcendent value from sharing of ideas is reward enough, and any mundane outcome of education beyond the pleasure of pursuing knowledge is of secondary importance. That’s the stereotype, at least.

            The question, often posed by parents, “But what are you going to DO with that major?” may be met by a shrug or a sigh, but the undertones of the question carry the notes of a larger question, one that lives in the minds of Reedies and uncertain friends and family alike: How are you going to be successful?

           The question is complex and subjective but also universal, held by a majority of Reedies and associated parties. What does it mean to be a successful Reedie? How can we make the most of our scholarship at Reed, staying true to our love of “learning for the sake of learning,” while also growing into individuals who can consider ourselves successful in the world beyond Reed?

A Conversation with Erik Speckman '91: Mentorship and Alumni Engagement

BH: Erik, you’ve been in the trenches as an alumnus for a long time, trying to come up with great ways to facilitate alumni engagement with students. How do you think we’re doing today?

EAS: It has been about a decade since my own engagement with the alumni association moved beyond organizing chapter social events and my class reunion. That shift was motivated by a personal interest in helping students and alumni with what we’ve come to call “Life Beyond Reed.” Even then, I wasn’t alone in my interest, there were other people, on and off the alumni board, who had their own take on the topic.

Meet Derek Owen '97

Derek, can you give a bit of background about your Reed experience?

I got interested in physics in high school, and the decision to major in it at Reed was a bit arbitrary. At Reed, I was drawn to music, and spent a lot of energy there. After graduation, I spent a lot of time doing music, played in bands, worked hard to establish a career and finally decided that music wasn’t a life that I imagined being able to sustain. During the time doing music, I was in NYC, working a job I hated, playing music. The joints in my fingers swelled and I couldn't move them. I had a two-week period where I couldn't play. I decided to leave New York and headed to Los Angeles.

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