Immersive Experience Leads to Master’s at Brandeis
Following a 30 day NOLS sailing course in the Bahamas, Alex Curtiss wanted to give school another shot. He visited CMC, then decided to move to Glenwood Springs to pursue his education. He came late to college, focusing his time instead on civic engagement and community involvement. “Academia was never my thing,” he says.
Prior to CMC, Alex spent two years doing service work with AmeriCorps in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He connected with experiential learning and outdoor education, leading him to CMC. Small class sizes and individual attention from professors were key factors in his decision to enroll in one of the first graduating classes of the sustainability program at Spring Valley.
Alex jumped head first into the community as resident advisor – a role he held for most of his time at CMC. Recognizing the unique barriers that first-generation students face, one year Alex turned his entire programming budget into a scholarship contest. When the event concluded a $500 scholarship was awarded to a first-generation student who needed the money to help finance her education.
Alex credits CMC for teaching him how to be a student and how to learn in the way that worked best for him. “You can find your own path and fully dive in. It is an immersive experience.” The CMC community provided Alex with a way to truly connect with people. He explains that there is a transformational attitude among students, faculty and staff to “share this experience together” that makes the college unique. Curtiss notes that several faculty members were critical as his mentors including Sandra Jackson, Adrian Fielder and Johann Aberger, each helping him find his way to tell his story, develop his sense of community and prepare him for the next steps in his education and career.
As Alex looked towards life after graduation, he decided he wanted to delve more into academics. He was accepted to all five graduate programs he applied to, including the prestigious Heller School at Brandeis University, a program he considered a reach based on his academic history. The Top 10 school for social policy accepts around 20 individuals worldwide out of an applicant pool of over 1,000. Alex was more than thrilled to be accepted and he is currently in his second year as a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in sustainable international development. Following his six-month field practicum in Sri Lanka, Alex looks to continue his career with work involving civic engagement, NGOs, corporate partnerships and foundations.
“I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for my experience at the Spring Valley campus,” he says.