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Photo by Matt D’Annunzio

Alex Walker ’12


Hometown: Sebastopol, California

Who I was when I got to Reed: A homeschooler who had just gone to high school for a year in France.

How Reed changed me: I’ve become more self-confident in some ways and more self-critical in others. Fortunately the self-confidence is mostly limited to social situations (where it is more important), while the self-criticism is mostly in academics (where it is very valuable).

Influential book: Richard Walker’s The Country in the City is a fantastic history of how environmental activism shaped the San Francisco Bay Area.

Favorite spot: For study breaks I took my iPod to the front lawn and listened to music while swinging on the swing set.

Random thoughts: I’ve learned a ton in terms of pure information, but also how to find and organize new information.  

Cool stuff I did: I learned to direct crazy performances with lots of hum jokes in the Hum Play. Edited the Quest. Enjoyed living in the French house.

Scholarships, awards, financial aid: I received the Mary Barnard scholarship for two years, which makes me feel very honored. Mary Barnard ’32 was a famous poet, known for her translation of Sappho.

Advisers: Prof. Tamara Venit-Shelton [environmental studies 2008–] and Prof. Michael Breen [history 2000–]

Thesis: Suburban Paradise or “Sprawlville, Washington”?: The Growth of the Vancouver, Washington Area, 1970–1994

What it’s about: How local residents and their governments reacted to and managed the explosive population growth and sprawling development in Vancouver, Washington, in the 1970s and 1980s, while Portland and its Oregon suburbs were cracking down on sprawl.

What it’s really about: Local-scale environmental activism, and why it does and doesn’t happen.

What’s next: Working for a nonprofit in the energy industry. Eventually law school. I’m interested in land use because it’s a really important area of environmental law.