Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Story of self

My name is Conlan and I'm a junior in Winthrop House (although I just transferred to Kirkland for next year!). I'm a leader for the First-Year Outdoor Program (FOP) and was on the FOP Steering Committee last year. In many ways, FOP has been the defining part of my college experience. My FOP trip in the Mahoosuc range of Maine and New Hampshire was my first experience in the Harvard community. I decided to apply to be a FOP leader during my first year and after a training trip on the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, I found myself leading a trip with my co leader in the fall of my sophomore year. I decided to be on the 2019 FOP Steering Committee (SC) to give back to the community and help FOP grow to be even more. These days, I'm a washed-up former SC member and I no longer have formal responsibilities, but I still really value reuniting with my trip, helping to train new FOP leaders, and being part of the FOP community.
My interest in the outdoors started when my family took a month long road trip across the Western US, camping, hiking, and rock climbing along the way. I discovered that living in the outdoors almost eliminated the symptoms of my obsessive-compulsive disorder and was a bonding experience for my family. After high school, I decided to take a year off from school and work on trail crews in Colorado. I slept outside for a lot of that year, living constantly in tents and vans with my crew of 10, and was again convinced of the ability of the outdoors to provide deep meaning and bring people together.
At Harvard, my view of what college looks like has changed dramatically, in many ways shaped by FOP. While my goals to begin with were focused on academics and the vaguely Puritanical value of working hard in classes, I've since come to understand what Dean Khurana means when he talks about transformational experiences. My extracurriculars, especially FOP, have taught me that college, for me, is about change: students changing the university, students growing as individuals, students, faculty, and administrators learning from each other and changing to better live their values.
In addition to FOP, I'm on the lightweight rowing team (in which, incidentally, I've found another avenue for personal development and group bonding), and the climbing club. I study math and computer science and sporadically work on research projects in physics and computer science. As I approach my senior year, in whatever form school might take in light of the coronavirus pandemic, I'm simultaneously apprehensive and excited about the prospect of even more change.

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