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Time Out

One term off campus can make all the difference in a college career, as these life-altering stories from alumni attest.
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Take off sophomore winter and study off campus junior fall or study abroad sophomore winter and take off junior spring?

For almost four decades that’s been the question—one of them, anyway—pondered by tens of thousands of students on the eve of the freshman spring deadline for filing what may be the College’s signature quirk: the D-Plan.

Rolled out in 1972, Dartmouth’s unique enrollment policy was conceived primarily to save on capital expenditures—dorm beds—while increasing class size with coeds. Yet the singular off-campus opportunities were an evident selling point from inception, as then-President John Kemeny pointed out: “The student who wants independence and responsibility will appreciate the freedom of this new Dartmouth plan.”

The policy’s first iteration required students to spend one summer in residence and complete 33 courses across 11 terms. Analyses of enrollment patterns—more students choose fall over winter on campus, for example—plus consideration of the effects on class unity, led to the current requirement: Students must complete 35 courses, spending sophomore summer, plus fall, winter and spring terms of freshman and senior years in residence (unless a student opts for the five-year plan, which allows for more time off campus, or requests special permission to take an off term senior year). Thanks in part to this schedule, Dartmouth students participate in more internships than students at any other Ivy school; the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings place Dartmouth third in the nation when it comes to seniors graduating with internship experience (72 percent).

Certainly the D-Plan has prevented some from considering the College. Yet for those with an eye for adventure, the D-Plan has made once-in-a-lifetime opportunities possible. Today Dartmouth students can choose from more than 50 off-campus programs in places such as China, Morocco and San Diego, and grants from College centers enable students to accept leave-term jobs in locales where mom and dad don’t foot room-and-board bills.

From studying at a Buddhist monastery to kiteboarding off North Carolina shores, 20 alumni  stories of their timeouts follow.

Andres Dandler ’97
Founder, Dandler Design LLC
Newport Coast, California

“I arranged my D-Plan so I could live in Berlin for nine months. I did the German foreign study program (FSP), then got myself a job and an apartment-share with a German student. I later volunteered at the planetarium. The best part was meeting my wife, Marlene Sheehan ’98, who was also staying in Berlin for three terms and instantly impressed me with her smarts and good looks. We had a great time dating in that vibrant city, then took a three-week camping vacation in Turkey. Fourteen years and three kids later, we look back on that time as a high point in our lives.”

Frederica (Ghesquiere) Helmiere ’04
Instructor in Environmental Writing/Communication,
University of Washington
Seattle

“We spent most of the environmental studies FSP in South Africa and Swaziland out in the veldt, hosted by local grad students who managed logistics, lectured and cooked braais (barbecue) and beer bread in cast-iron cauldrons at night. We learned how to track animals, and a memorable session on wilderness survival included a crash course in operating AK-47s. One of our leaders shot an impala in Timbavati, which we carefully dissected, feeling the grasses in different stages of digestion in its four stomach compartments. The cook made an impala stew, but hyenas made off with the leftovers before we could finish it.”

 

John Marchiony ’86
VP, Venture Development, New Enterprise Factory
Weston, Massachusetts

“I was a teaching assistant for the Siena language study abroad (LSA) and lived with a family headed by a 77-year-old widow, the vision of an Italian matriarch: broad, loud, vivacious. She never drank water, only wine and an occasional beer. Her invalid sister lived with her but said no more than 20 words in 10 weeks. My hostess and I would make bets. If I lost, I did more chores. When I won, she created perfect handmade gnocchi. I’ve had a hard time finding gnocchi that rivals hers. Her elder son—a retired teacher who spent so much time in the Enoteca (the national wine library) that they treated him, and me by extension, like staff—is central to many stories I’ve yet to tell my children.”

Anna Oppenheim ’05
Associate Attorney, Console Law Offices
Philadelphia

“I knew I wanted to spend part of college in India. Dartmouth didn’t have a program there, but I wasn’t deterred. I found one in Buddhist studies through Antioch College. Classes took place at a Burmese Buddhist monastery in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, home to the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha supposedly reached enlightenment. I interacted with monks from Myanmar, other Buddhist pilgrims and Hindus from Bodh Gaya. I was initially skeptical about meditation and constantly restless. But my skepticism gradually decreased. Only in the years since have I realized the important lessons learned there, such as attempting to stay in the present. Exploration will now always bring me joy.”

Tom Trethaway ’79
Co-Head, Humanities and Social Sciences Department, Hotchkiss School
Lakeville, Connecticut

“An alum working at The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach, Florida, had reserved jobs for Dartmouth kids. So seven of us went down there to live in the worst section of West Palm Beach you can imagine—there were mice-size cockroaches. We’d hit the beach, work evenings, then sample the nightlife. A few of my coworkers had issues with alcohol and gambling, which was eye-opening for me. As a bartender’s assistant I had to cart around huge stackable towers of bar glasses on rolling dollies. They’d dock your pay if you dumped the tower, and we lived in fear of doing just that. Three of us later became roommates, then ushers at each other’s weddings. We’re still close today.”

Justin Rudelson ’83
Instructor in Chinese, Hockaday School
Dallas

“I went to Taiwan for nine months, then Beijing with Tim Geithner ’83 and a few others. It was very fun to be an American in China then. Tim and I, especially, had a very strong slapstick sensibility that the Chinese responded to greatly. From there I went to Hong Kong. Junior fall I went to Japan. When I finally got back to campus junior winter, I saw people I hadn’t seen since my freshman spring. To some extent I was a casualty of the D-Plan. But I learned four languages and got jobs I never would have had, like interpreting for Taiwan’s Olympic track team. It’s funny, I never thought I’d return to Hanover after graduation, but I taught there from 2005 through summer 2011.”

Sarah (Jacobson) Lennon ’90
Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Energy/National
Security Administration
Fairfax, Virginia

“I worked at Action for Soviet Jewry, which helped Jews emigrate from the then-Soviet Union. We wrote letters to Congress to plead cases and made care packages for shipment through relief organizations. One of the best experiences was calling a family member to say her relative had just been allowed to emigrate after years of trying. I ended up majoring in government, minoring in Russian, which led to a career in arms control and nuclear cooperative threat reduction. I even got to use my Russian in real-world negotiations while working at the departments of defense and energy.”

Alexander Doty ’81
Self-employed in Private Equity
Houston

“I volunteered for John Connally’s presidential campaign in 1979. Many Republicans thought Connally was involved in President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, so it was often an uphill battle to improve Connally’s image. I did some public speaking, which initially went quite well. Campaign officials then asked me to debate Cissy Baker, who was to speak for her father, candidate Howard Baker. An audience member challenged me on my knowledge of Connally’s positions and I was unable to persuade him of my accuracy. Connally came in last for this straw poll. My paying job that term was driving a hearse for a funeral home and serving as a pallbearer. Cadavers seem to have been a theme.”

Karen Heighes de Pérez ’07
Global Expansion Team, Google
Ann Arbor, Michigan

“I got a Tucker fellowship to fund expenses for an internship with LifeTeen Inc. I worked in sales and marketing and learned that if you can do great marketing with a nonprofit’s budget, you can definitely do great sales and marketing with more. Learning how to do a lot with a little taught me skills that I can put to use today working for a large tech company.”

Rob Daisley ’80
Lawyer/Mediator, Daisley Mediation
Tampa, Florida

“I was a temporary messenger at the U.S. Supreme Court, making deliveries and fetching books from the library. If I recall correctly, Justice Harry Blackmun was the most frequent requester. After work the messengers played basketball on the court atop the building (the highest court in the land); Justice Byron White played with us on occasion. During oral arguments we took turns sitting behind the bench. I had the chance to see White sketch the arguing lawyers. I heard Justice Potter Stewart ask Justice Thurgood Marshall what he thought of a car purchase Stewart was contemplating. And during one riveting oral argument, Justice Rehnquist turned to me and asked, ‘So, Rob, how do you like it there at Dartmouth?’ ”

Allie Miller ’10
Account Manager, Arnold Worldwide
Boston

“I returned to L.A. to intern at NBCUniversal. I got to pitch product development ideas for The Office and traded post-it notes with Greg Daniels, the show’s creator, while I edited The Office board game! Working on the Universal Studios lot was a dream—not only did we see stars every day (Ron Howard offered me his chair), but we also regularly rode the Jurassic Park water ride during lunch breaks. I met fantastic people, honed my editing and pitching skills and, hey, even got a tan.”

Paul E. Blevins ’88
Senior VP/Counsel, Title First Agency
Columbus, Ohio

“I studied British government in London and interned for a young Labour Party MP, Tony Blair. Tony was the consummate ‘English gentleman.’ He always dressed impeccably, spoke perfect Queen’s English and had quite a dry sense of humor. He once asked me what political party I belonged to. I said Republican. ‘That’s too bad, but nobody’s perfect,’ he retorted. We worked together for three months on various research and constituent issues—a wonderful experience. From there I returned to Ohio and worked the nightshift at General Industries making fiberglass shower basins. I met a lot of great people just working to make a living, but living life positively. At the end of the shift I could point to 70 basins and know I produced something.”

Stephanie Williams ’92
Temp, Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago

“I worked in the sickle cell anemia center of Harlem Hospital in New York City. A cousin had died of sickle cell before I was born, and I’d always been curious about the illness. It didn’t hurt that the hospital was across the street from the Schomburg Center on African and African-American studies. I learned independence that term, experiencing what it’s like to be lonely.  I later got my Ph.D. in cultural sociology, with a dissertation on fine arts. Although I am unemployed, and I’d have a job if I were a physician, I don’t blame my choices. I’m happier than ever. I believe my Harlem Hospital experience made me the compassionate person I am today.”

Tim Chingos ’08
Account Manager, Google
Half Moon Bay, California

“Junior spring and summer I moved to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to work for a kiteboarding company. I’d failed miserably at the corporate recruiting thing sophomore summer and figured I’d never have another opportunity to learn to kiteboard. The company had new coaches at the time, so I became a guinea pig-student. I wrote articles for the website and did photo and video work. Clients would rent beach houses, so there were post-lesson festivities, too. The company offered me a full-time job after graduation, but for various reasons it didn’t work out. It always lingers in the back of my mind, though. I think that experience helped me figure out the speed of life I want to live.”

Thais Pardo ’90
Director, Language Arts, Interpretations and Translations
San Jose, Costa Rica

“Because I didn’t get into either of the sororities I wanted, after rushing twice, I was so sad I went on three foreign study programs as a way of escaping campus. While in Rio de Janeiro senior fall, I received a letter from Dartmouth stating I wouldn’t graduate without passing the swim test. The dean said my professor could administer the test in Brazil. I remember laughing, then feeling very concerned, then freaking out. My ‘test’ took place in the Atlantic Ocean. I remember hearing lambada music as nine classmates and I dove into the ocean from a sailboat. Everyone thought it was pretty funny. I was ready to swim freestyle, but the teacher was content knowing I could stay afloat. Thanks to my many FSPs and LSAs, I speak five languages and have my own translation/interpretation company.”

Chris McDade ’80
Director of Pre-clinical Externalization, GlaxoSmithKline
North Wales, Pennsylvania

“I worked at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover for all my leave terms. I was a laboratory technician for a project evaluating the application of human wastewater to fields. The job showed me I wanted to be the scientist, not the technician, so I got my Ph.D. in chemistry. Today I work on a unique technical team helping smaller companies advance their ideas to medicines. Working with the corps sparked my interest in practical applications of technology and was part of the reason I joined industry rather than academia.”

Marcus Weiss ’90
Performer, Le Rêve
Las Vegas

“I had come to Dartmouth from a tiny international high school where everything came very naturally to me. At Dartmouth everyone was so accomplished, I got overwhelmed. I took off part of sophomore year to work at Collis, stay with friends in New York and visit family. Some of my relatives had worked in the arts, and along the way I had this realization that I wanted to major in drama. I went back for sophomore summer and enrolled in summer repertory theater. Thanks to the flexibility of the D-Plan I figured out how to spend the rest of my life. For the last decade I’ve been a performer in Las Vegas, doing Blue Man Group and now Le Rêve at the Wynn.”

John Sirois ’91
Energy Development Specialist, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
Omak, Washington

“I interned at the attorney’s office on my native Colville Indian Reservation in Washington, gathering and organizing dockets for a fishing-rights case my tribe was involved in. Fourteen years later I returned to my tribe as the cultural preservation administrator. Part of the case I’d worked on as an intern was still being fought! I worked with our elders to strengthen evidence of our cultural connection with the fishery at stake. Ultimately, the attorneys chose me to be their final witness. When I testified in federal court 20 years after that internship, a sense of accomplishment for my people, our traditional rights and my personal journey of growth seemed to complete a circle when we won the case.”

Ann MacAffer ’82
Associate Broker, CBRE-Albany
Slingerlands, New York

“I spent sophomore fall and winter working for the 1980 Olympic committee in Lake Placid, New York. I did all kinds of office work at the headquarters, learning to run a giant copier as big as a room and using early versions of fax machines. I had access everywhere except the athletes’ village. It was an amazing way to meet people of many nationalities and to learn a little more than I wanted to know about international politics and détente.”

Ben Schwartz ’06
Past President/Cofounder and Country Director, World Partners in Education
Tema, Ghana

“I got a $3,500 grant to become a teacher in a Ghanaian community. I was the first foreigner to work at the school, which was then located in the unfinished home of the headmaster. It was an incredible experience, and while I was there a three-structure school was completed. I later learned the project received very little of the funds I’d paid to the group that had arranged my volunteer experience. Following graduation, along with other Dartmouth students, I formed a nonprofit, World Partners in Education, to get more resources directly into this town. We’ve had dozens of Dartmouth students use their D-Plan to participate in our efforts. I hope we’ll see more than 100 Dartmouth students within the next few years.”

Kristen Hinman is a journalist based in Washington, D.C.

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