Fun fact: The EPA has no desire to regulate your use of the puddles in your lawn.

One of the biggest perks of interning at a government agency is walking into a big, important-looking building like you own the place.

One of the biggest perks of interning at a government agency is walking into a big, important-looking building like you own the place.

This may be old news to some of you, but because the student blogs are just starting up again, I figured it’s acceptable to draw on my experience as a summer intern for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (yes, I know most of you would know the acronym, but it’s fun for me to throw the whole title around).  I worked with the speech writing department in the Office of the Administrator, and my first day of work was the day on which EPA made the biggest announcement of the past twenty-odd years – so my first impression of my supervisor was him running out of the office, shouting expletives, on his way to the press conference.  Basically, this internship put me at only two degrees of separation from the Grand Poobah, the Chief of the Pecking Order, the Muckiest of the Mucky-Mucks, Administrator Gina McCarthy herself.  When she came to Tacoma in early August, I sent some restaurant recommendations over to her schedulers (which made me quite jealous, because I have a distinct preference for one Washington over the other).  I have no idea whether or not anyone made use of my suggestions, but don’t burst my bubble.

One of the biggest downsides at interning in one of said important-looking buildings is stairs.

One of the biggest downsides at interning in one of said important-looking buildings is the stairs.

This internship was a fantastic experience, and I learned a lot about U.S. environmental policy – and also about public perception of U.S. environmental policy.  I have a certain fondness for water and water-related issues, so one of my favorite speeches to work on was given at an agricultural conference on the subject of the Clean Water Proposal.  Not only was this a policy area in which I was particularly interested, but it was also an intriguing situation because the agriculture industry is not all that fond of EPA.  I don’t imagine that giving a speech to a hostile audience is very fun – but writing one is, especially when some (note: not all) of the arguments you’re rebutting sound like the one dismissed in the title of this blog post.

So, how does this relate to student life at Puget Sound?  Well, Puget Sound was represented in EPA’s Office of the Administrator, alongside places like Boston University, Cornell, and George Washington University, and I think that’s pretty cool.  (We’ve been represented on Capitol Hill occasionally as well.)  Also, speaking as someone who has loved UPS since I saw it for the first time the day before freshman move-in day but was somewhat concerned because no one in the DC area had heard of it, I am delighted to somewhat alleviate some of your fears: no, we does not have the name recognition factor that big public and private universities have.  But – and this is an important “but” – that’s okay; it won’t limit your options.  Because wherever you are, you’ll have to make your own opportunities, so might as well be somewhere you love.

Gotta love clichés.


Hello! My name is Casey O’Brien. I’m a freshman here at Puget Sound. I am a part of the Humanities program. I love theater, creative writing, and the outdoors, among lots of other interests! At this point, I am thinking that I will be a Sociology and Anthropology (SOAN) 1796685_10152717894357521_5398993623880789982_nmajor with a double minor in Theater and Latin American Studies.  I come from the Bay Area in California, so the lovely fog and rain in Tacoma is home to me. I grew up within ten minutes of the SF bay, so I also love being on the coast.

I am learning so much here on campus! There’s always something happening here, so there is never an opportunity to feel bored. This weekend was a special one for me, because I was a director for the Town Crier Speaks Festival, our student theater festival, which went up this weekend. Town Crier is a one act festival written, produced and directed by students—it is such a unique and wonderful venue for Puget Sound creativity. My own show, Game of Life, was a truly incredible process. My cast helped me to grow as a person and an artist, and I feel so lucky to have met them. What is so very interesting and dynamic about our campus is that people from so many different areas—ages, majors, etc—can interact and learn from one another. One of my actors is graduating this semester as a Biology major; with my interests, we might never have even met, let alone gotten to know one another, at a different school.   At a larger university, or a university that didn’t encourage students to try new things the way UPS does, a first semester freshman would never have directed a one act at all.

Town Crier opened on Thursday night and closed on Saturday, which meant that today was definitely bittersweet for me.  My parents, here visiting for Family Weekend, went home to California today, but my sadness at watching them go was matched by the contentedness of knowing that I have two homes now, one in Washington and one in NorCal. Our president, Ronald Thomas, aka RonThom, famously opens his speech at orientation by saying “Welcome Home”—and truly, we are. Puget has stolen my heart—from the moment I stepped on campus, doors have been opened for me.

This been a weekend of beginnings, endings and special moments. When my cast handed me the big bouquet of red roses they had bought for me, a handwritten card on top, I felt like crying for joy and sadness all at once—which is a good sign. Puget is a place where students will make connections, will feel deeply. Loggers are genuine, and they throw themselves in. In the spirit of the Northwest, we’ll always go on an adventure. We show up—as Town Crier’s full house and standing ovation testifies. This has been a weekend to remember…. Just as so many here are.

UPS Pancake House

I folded the pancake taco style and sunk my teeth into the soft gooey dough. It was beyond delicious. The sugar in the syrup and the slightly salty taste of the pancake complemented each other perfectly. The texture was amazing, warm and fluffy with just the right amount of moisture. My eyes rolled upward and I quickly scarfed the rest.

I had been walking down Theme Row when I heard it: “Would you like a free pancake? It’s waiting for you.” My ears pricked and I veered to towards the call. Who can say no to a free pancake? We’re college students; we practically live for free food, let alone free sugar.

There’s a house on Theme Row, the UPS Pancake House, that caters to just that need. It’s open from ten o’clock to twelve o’clock on Saturdays. They make the pancakes inside and there’s a table out front where they give them out. On occasion they add toppings, when they feel like “generous gods.” They mostly sit there yelling things like: “Free pancakes! We even have napkins if you’re feeling fancy.”

When I asked them how the process works they said: “We do a lot of shouting.” I can tell they’re glad to be there and enthusiastic about what they do. They are even making “Pancake propaganda posters.” If nothing else it’s a good alliteration. They told me that the the best part about it was: “People being happy that they’re getting free pancakes.”

So if you’re getting tired of the SUB or running low on meal points come on down there for some complementary sugar. It’s one of the tastier parts of the campus community, like they said: “We are a school of rhetoric and part of that rhetoric is that you get free pancakes.”

Landing at the Puge

I just had my first test of the school year—in Middle Eastern Foreign Policy. The Middle East is a region that can be perfectly described as “a hot mess.” Much of this hot-mess-ness is related to a long, long, long history full of people killing other people, the tons and tons and tons of oil the region is precariously perched on, a lot of tribal and religious and national sentiment, and the less-than-successful attempts of various superpowers from around the globe to “help” (at this point, I expect I have mortally offended at least 12 people, and my professor is saying “Really? Really?” in that charmingly disgusted way of his).

There is a guiding rule of thumb for policy making in the Middle East—much like every other rule of thumb, it is generally disregarded until after the fact. The rule is simple: land, or go around. If you are flying the airplane of policy-making, and you see a giant ominous cloud of something bad that just happened in front of you, there are two options. You can either land the plane, and commit to hanging in the storm for a while, or you can go far, far, far, far, far around.

But what you can’t do is sort of fly down at a diagonal angle so that only half your wingtip is getting wet from the storm, and sure your tires might be about skid a little bit but you are mostly in the clear—in other words, you have to pick something. Hemming and hawing and waffling between the choices can only result in a bad things happening.

This is a metaphor for life.

I might as well make that really obvious.

I spent a long time weighing up the pros and cons of virtually everything I did, but eventually I realized: I have to make decisions. Like: okay, I am going to be a politics major. And: okay, I am going to go play rugby, despite my complete lack of experience with sports involving throwing and catching and running. And: okay, I am going to drop that one club because of its new libertarian bent. And: okay, I will watch Parks and Rec tonight.

I was thinking about being an Official Puget Sound Blogger—daydreaming about it, because I think I am hilarious and interesting and clearly people would be hankering to read my words of wisdom—but not taking any steps towards this little idea until I sat up in bed one morning and was like, “You know what? I’m gonna do the thing.” It’s that decision: if I am going to do a thing, I am going to do an awesome job. And apparently my application was awesome enough, because now I am here and writing and who would have thought?

(Besides my mother, of course. Hi, Mom.)

Sup. I am Rachel (class of 2017), and I decided to land. I don’t know if you have noticed, but the groundskeeping is pretty great around here and it would be a shame to miss it.

Also, I would tell you all about how I knocked that test out of the water, but I am pretty sure that would jinx it.


Last night I attended my first ASUPS (Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound) Senate Meeting, and tonight I attended my second. Let me make immediately clear, our Senate is a hardworking group of dedicated individuals willing to ask the difficult questions, and challenge each other to improve the actions and hold accountable the responsibilities of ASUPS as a whole for us, the students.

I can’t speak to how the Senate has functioned in the past; at my first meeting this Senate tackled the difficult task of taking action on the compromised state of the current Fall 2014 Elections. They looked at all aspects of the topic and decided to halt the Election so the Election Process and Committee could be revised to uphold the higher standards and responsibilities we aspire our future Senators to have. They took immediate action to fix the problem willing to call an Emergency Senate to finalize the changes, by sacrificing part of their Parents & Homecoming Weekend.

Since the new elections are going to be conducted soon, I encourage all students to get involved. There are all kinds of ways to represent and participate in Senate, by running in the election, coming to the Open Forum to share ideas, issues, or information. I truly believe everyone could benefit from coming to a Senate meeting, as an active participant or passive one to personally see the good ASUPS is trying to share with us. Even check out their website ( for tons of links, updated information and ways to get involved! All the clubs and even sports fall under the jurisdiction of ASUPS and can be supported through funding, participation and insight into the development and implementation of new clubs, events and other opportunities! I wish more people could hear and know about the multitude of options that are available to make Puget Sound their own within this community.

I’m so excited to be working with ASUPS this year; it truly is an organization guided, decided and acted with the students. Yes there is a staff, faculty and Dean Representatives but tackling the issue and being a part of the solution is all with our student’s initiative and that is so powerful. Being a part of this group will truly help me manage myself better after college, working with others following the interests of the community. Even beyond the Senate, the Media Board, Programmers and Directors all have responsibilities and ways to make UPS even more so Home for everybody and find their niche, to combine intellectual interests with hobbies and participate in our democratic society.

ASUPS is awesome, come and check it out, I’m sure you’ll see how much they truly are for us students and make any idea become a reality, don’t be afraid to speak up, every individual is a part of ASUPS. I just got in on this amazingness as a sophomore, the opportunities are endless truly, and this experience makes me so proud to be a logger. #oncealogger #alwaysalogger


Happy Parents & Homecoming Weekend Everybody!


An Introduction (of sorts)

Hello Internet people!

My name is Kelly and…I am not that good at introductions. But, I thought that it might be a good idea to tell you something about myself for my first post. I am a double major in Sociology and Anthropology (SOAN) and Computer Science. A very specific major that will hopefully allow me to reach my dream of becoming Intel’s Director of Research and Experience. (My other dream is to attend the American Library Association’s Conference.) I am a sophomore. I love pie, the ocean, and fog. I think that’s good for now.

Oh, fog. How can I count the ways I love thee?

Oh, fog. How can I count the ways I love thee?

It is mid-terms week. (Or mid-terms time?) So, like my peers I have been really busy. Most of this ‘busy-ness’ is because I decided to change the topic of my research paper for my one of my SOAN classes. Originally I was going to research how globalization in the technology industry creates economic inequality. But, then I decided to focus on the manufacturing practices of companies in the Silicon Valley and how businesses incorporate corporate social responsibility into their off shore manufacturing. And, now….I might change my topic again. I am an indecisive person.

On the bright side this week has been a lot of fun. I am part of the Nerdfighters club on campus (What is a nerdfighter?). We recently had a scavenger hunt that involved activities like creating a psychological landscape, yodeling, and creating sentences of out of library books. I got to dress up as a beekeeper at one point.

I am also part of the WACM. Which is Women Association for Computer Machinery (the Computer Science club in other words). The WACM is a new addition to the general ACM this year. We have scheduled for women in technology to come and speak on campus! So excite! Much anticipation! And a few of us are going to GeekGirlCon in Seattle tomorrow. I plan on dressing up as a Gryffindor student. Or Clara from Doctor Who. Again. The indecisiveness.

For my SOAN 101 class we watched the film Slumdog Millionaire and then dissected the film through a sociological lens. Slumdog, despite its’ sadness, is one of my favorite movies of all time. It was weird to watch a movie in a room full of people. Weird in a good way. It’s just that I haven’t been in a theater for awhile and Netflix is my pal. Do you ever feel that way? As in “Wow, it’s so nice to do stuff with people”?

Maybe that just speaks to a certain part of the twenty-first century lifestyle.


This afternoon I hopped across the parking lot to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger.” I had one foot pointed forward, one foot pointed sideways, and my right hand out in front of me like I was holding an imaginary sword. This was not part of a strange cult ritual or mental breakdown. It was a fencing club exercise to help us work on our form. By the end of it my legs were burning, my hair was sweaty, and it felt amazing.

Fencing club is an on campus organization where people attack each other with swords, in a friendly way of course. We get some exercise and channel our inner medievalist. There are three types of swords in fencing, foil, saber, and epee. Everyone starts with foil, and if they like they can go on to saber (we don’t have anyone who knows epee right now). We do some drills then free fence.

Today there was a wedding in Killworth Chapel where we usually practice, so we went out into the parking lot. It was a sunny day, probably one of our last, and it felt good to get out enjoy it. We had considered fencing through the wedding reception, to give the newlyweds a show, but decided against it. Here’s how that conversation went:

“We should go fence through the wedding.”

“Yeah that would be cool. No wait. That would actually be horrible.”

“Yeah it kind of would.”

So we went outside instead. If you want to join us sometime, we practice Thursdays seven to nine in the dance studio. Hack hack, chop chop.


It’s the Friday of the first week of class, which means LogJam!, free food, and fireworks. Five of my friends and I—despite having eaten the free food—have just eaten at our favorite Japanese restaurant on Sixth Avenue (Bento Teriyaki & Sushi). Dusk has begun to mask the sky, and anticipation is in the air; the fireworks are starting soon.

“Come on,” a friend says. “We don’t want to miss the fireworks.”

“It’s not supposed to start until nine,” I say. “We have plenty of time.”

A sizzling crack splits the sky. We can see the burst of light but cannot see its fiery shower.

Everyone stares at each other. This wasn’t supposed to happen. It isn’t nine yet.

Our feet slap the pavement as we run back incautiously in the middle of the road. We split into pairs. I find myself with M. The two fastest have already crossed the street and the others seem to have resigned themselves to be together—they linger behind.

“Come on,” M says.

We run across the street and onto the grassy slope behind Weyerhaeuser. The fireworks have increased in volume. Our view of the explosions is blocked by the tower of the building.

“Hurry up!” she says. “Take pictures for me, my phone’s dead.”

It’s a command, so I whip out my phone as we scramble up the dewy hill. The explosions are louder, nearer, brighter.

We round the corner of Weyerhaeuser building, and there it is—a fountain of red. Yellow takes its place, replaced thereafter by three bursts of orange. That is the picture I capture—the only one M approves of.

We stand at the crest of the hill, the canisters shooting up out of plumes of colored smoke. We watch as the fireworks light the night.

I see the lights explode out of darkness, then trickling, fade away. I think about how fleeting the displays are.

There are moments of great beauty in life. We like to remember them, so we take pictures of them, write stories about them.

As I looked at the picture I’d taken after the stillness of the night returned, I realized that I had captured one such moment. And I realized how important it was to record those fleeting instances. So that come what may, I might always look back and know a moment’s exploding beauty.

The moment I captured.

Hit the ground running

The second-to-last semester of college begins. My schedule: two parts advanced math, one part Spanish literature, and one part digital humanities. It’s recipe that causes me to put brainpower in every assignment that I do, and one that absolutely reaffirms my choice of major. Number theory work can throw me for a loop, but I’d rather be frustrated and confused by math homework than anything else.
Coming home from study abroad, people have been asking me whether I enjoyed it, and whether I’m glad to be back. Yes, and yes! Chile was a fantastic time, and I miss lots of things: speaking Spanish on the daily, my host family, the fun of transporting to another city to go to school, living close to the beach… whenever I run into one of the UPS students who were on my program and start reminiscing, I am reminded that we had it pretty good there.
However, I don’t get nostalgic too often. This year is shaping up to be a good mixture of coming home to the same things I was doing before I left and discovering some new things. One of these special bonuses to the semester was the Race and Pedagogy National Conference, hosted by the university once every four years and taking place in September. It was great and inspiring and motivating to see the dialogue that included students, community members, and speakers and attendees who traveled from all over the country to be there. I know that I will be digesting my personal takeaways over the course of the coming months, and I hope that these issues will remain on people’s minds and as part of a positive discourse on campus. Particularly when hearing from people who live in the Tacoma area, I kept thinking how I wanted to hear these voices on campus more. Of course, this is also a prompt for me to get more involved off-campus. It is hard to fit any new stuff into my schedule at this point, but you can always squeeze in one more thing, right? I don’t really want to get into that final year conundrum of wanting to “fit it all in” without spreading oneself too thin, so I’ll just say that for now a quick pause between class and work is enough for me to stop and smell the roses, and to be thankful for the here and now.