- Class: Alum
- Major: Chinese Studies
- Gender: F
- High School: Developing Virtue Girls' School
- Transfer Student: N
Reed sits on 116 acres in SE Portland - a beautiful residential neighborhood with nearby boutiques, a Trader Joe's, coffee shops, movie and concert theaters, a rhododendron garden, bike trails, and waterfalls. The feeling is small-town, safe, friendly, and eco- and health-conscious. Downtown Portland is readily accessible in about 20 minutes by bus, or a little longer or a little shorter by bike. Within the Reed campus, 100s of species and ~1400 students coexist peacefully amongst the library ("Hauser Fun Dome"), Commons, the Chinese House, and Reed Canyon (which spans the campus from east to west and cradles woods and a small lake). For me, the Reed Canyon is Reed's most endearing trait. In the spring, yellow touch-me-nots flood the floor of the canyon, curbed by only the eddying streams of criss-crossing water. Alders, huge-leafed maples, and demure oak trees stand quiet witness in the golden afternoon light. The large green stilted theater perches over the stream as you walk in its shadow and feel the coolness flowing from the cavern it creates over the water. This was my trail home to the Chinese House every afternoon in my sophomore year. I took a leave of absence from Reed after my sophomore year so that I could teach English in China and learn more about the country I was making such a large part of my life. What I left just in time to miss was a massive, although important, construction plan to develop "my side" of the Reed campus. The plan involves adding 4 more much-needed dormitories (on top of what used to be Reed's age-old community garden, the communal patch of which is where I fed myself on many a late evening), a new coffee shop, relocating the quaint and verdant Chinese House to join the other language houses, and building a suspension bridge right above the trail I took through the Canyon. Alas for me, growth is an inherent and inevitable part of this type of society we call capitalist, and as with most human growth, little pieces of nature like "my" piece of the Reed Canyon tend to go by the wayside. In the Reed College administration's defense, however, the buildings are being built with "the environment" in mind. From the Reed magazine, "the projectÕs 'green' features included landscaping that filters storm water runoff into a natural spring, and ventilation stacks built to resemble chimneys that will cool the buildings naturally, in addition to an array of environmentally sensitive materials such as flooring, window glass, and roof tiles." And construction of the new foot-bridge "is being planned to minimize environmental impact on the canyon below: its piers will sit on opposite edges of the canyon, and its curves will skirt most mature trees in its path." The buildings will qualify for LEED (I think "silver") certification. Hopefully those Reedies of future generations will find the Reed Canyon as pristine and magical a place as I did.
Reedies start their college education with Reed's famous Humanities 110: Intro to Greece and Rome course. The course is based on the classical foundations of Western society and is lectured by many professors and absorbed through student-group discussion in Reed's hallmark conference-style class. My prof/conference leader, Dr. Pancho Savery, is one of very few (if any other) black American profs at Reed. His lecture for the course, "Does Your Blonde Hair Have Black Roots?" is a stirring and somewhat controversial look at Ancient Egypt and its contributions to Greek, Roman, and contemporary Western societies. His lecture, ignored by the administration and faculty but ovated by the student body for as long as he has been giving it, hits on the biggest beauty or flaw (depending on opinion) of Reed's academic philosophy. That is, Reed education is old-fashioned. By old-fashioned, I mean conservative, impractical, Ivory Tower programs that strive for the perfection of "learning for the sake of knowledge" in the pure, armchair, dead white guy use of the phrase. The college persists in turning every Reed student into a scholar of his or her archaic discipline (classics, Latin, Chinese, physics, religion...) and produces a singularly competent academician, but rarely ever (and even more rarely without graduate school) someone capable of having a lovable, practical career doing anything but sitting at a big desk and reading or writing essays. My archaic discipline, when I stumbled in to find no Education, no Child Development, no Environmental Studies, and no International Relations, was Chinese Language and Literature. This meant a 3-year career (after the freshie first year) of intense language, history, anthropology, religion, and literature studies which I loved with a fierce passion that can only come of doing something entirely selfish and short-sighted. My department was irresistibly small - 4 during my sophomore year - with 3 fantastically great professors (Hyong Rhew, Korean; Alexei Ditter, European-American; and Jing Jiang, Chinese) with a great love and fascination for the classes they taught. My favorite class at Reed was an independent study, with Prof. Rhew and one other fellow Chinese major, of Tang poetry, in which I read, studied, memorized and wrote classical Tang poetry in Chinese. The end of my Reed career came when I realized I could no more make a lucrative and satisfying career with a BA in Chinese literature in this increasingly unstable society than I could eating dirt and living rent-free. My solution was to do something I considered much more practical and rewarding and to transfer schools, change majors, and enter the much more affordable California state school system by being an Environmental Resources Engineer at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. This, I thought, would help me personally (even if I didn't make any money, I could learn to make food out of dirt) and help the communities I care about at the same time. (As a water engineering specialist, I would be able to help not only preserve the water at my California home of Harbin Hot Springs, but also potentially improve the water condition of one or several communities in China and other parts of Asia as well.) So go to Reed only once prepared for a classical, conservative, and expensive education with amazing professors, probably to fuel only your own interests and probably get you a lot of grant money to go to grad school and do something really practical.
I would like to say that Reed students are diverse, original, colorful, creative, interesting. I would like to say that Reed students are politically active, internationally aware, environmentally friendly. And, for the most part, those things would be true. The Reed student body is made up of an eclectic mix of unique individuals, each with their own call to learning and passion for life. I have met the best artists of any art I've ever seen, the most dedicated and knowledgeable political activists, the most life-experienced, the most poetic, the most graceful, the most travelled, the most comfortable-with-who-they-are, and the most honest and honorable people I have ever met amongst Reed students. I have fallen in love with girls, dorm mates, house advisers, and drug addicts, none of whom I ever kissed or who even ever knew I loved them. I think the pure, unadulterated spirit of Reed comes alive when a student or group of students lets go, smiles at people, takes their clothes off and/or costumes ridiculously, climbs to the top of Eliot Circle in front of the library, plays, sings, or performs loud music and dances around, vocalizing. If you can't see yourself fitting into this, you will feel uncomfortable at times, and possibly never feel like a true Reedie. Reedies also have a committed dedication to that O Holiest of All Things that Come on a Golden Tripod, Time, with an accent above the e. That is to say, Greek honor. Reed has an Honor Council, a Judicial Board, and honest peers. When you take a test, even a final exam, there is no professorial supervision, no qualifier of Non-Cheater, not even a ceiling-installed surveillance camera. You are an adult, and you are honorable. If you take a test on which it is not honorable to read from a book or look over your friend's shoulder, you will not. The same is true for any act of honor or dishonor, and periodic discussion groups appear across campus at which such acts are defined in a student's moral code of judgement. These codes and abilities of discernment, if not already pre-instilled, will progress with the Reed student beyond his or her years at Reed, out past the bubble, and into the "real world" (where, sometimes, things happen that are a little less than honorable).
The Best Things
everything else (education style, student body, events, campus...)
The Worst Things
the old-fashioned curriculum, and the cost