First-years make their mark before life on the Hill
Every fall a fresh group of first-year students arrive on the Hill, eager not only to begin their college experience but also to start making their mark on the world. While each student brings a unique background to the academic body, there are two members of the class of 2014 who have already had distinctive experiences that set them apart from their peers. Ty Steinhauser '14 and Grace O'Connor '14 come to the College with impressive backgrounds that display what the newest class on campus has already been able to accomplish.
Steinhauser, a native of New York City, has parents who work in the advertising industry. As a result, he's accrued extensive experiences in the business himself. He's had the opportunity to work as a production assistant on several of his parents shoots, with his most notable job taking place last November in South Africa.
While many students on the Hill might watch Man vs. Wild from the comfort of their own dorm rooms, Steinhauser was fortunate enough to work with the star of the show, Bear Grylls, on a commercial in Cape Town.
The commercial, which was for Trail Mix Crunch cereal, featured Grylls and several wild animals that Steinhauser was delegated to work with firsthand. The lion used on set was wild, and Steinhauser frequently had to work in close proximity of the animal. The advertisement also featured a cheetah that was tame and thus much less stressful.
"The cheetah was completely tame and I got to walk it and pet and play with it," Steinhauser said. "Having a cheetah lick you like a little cat is a bit overwhelming, though."
Besides the incredible job experience that he gained, the first-year also got to spend his free time off-set with Grylls.
"Getting to know Bear was really cool, he's a very interesting and crazy guy. The same camera guy that always shoots Bear was used for the commercial to make it authentic, and I got to know them very well and hung out with them afterwards at night," Steinhauser said. "Bear Grylls likes to party hard, which is good to know."
He has worked as a PA on several other commercials that his parents have been involved with as well. His father is also the founder of a wildlife organization that featured Kate Hudson at its launch party; as a result Steinhauser was able to meet the celebrity firsthand.
Also, don't be surprised if you think that you recognize this new face from somewhere. His resume also includes a brief cameo in a very popular romantic comedy.
"My very good friend's father was the writer and director of Definitely, Maybe," Steinhauser said. "She called me up like a day before and asked me if I would like to be in the movie, so I went to the set one day and got to meet Ryan Reynolds, who is really cool."
Steinhauser appears in the opening scene of the movie. When the camera pans through a street, his face is visible on screen for several seconds. While he loved having the opportunity to be in a movie, he confessed that his appearance "creeped out" friends who weren't aware of it beforehand.
While he is grateful for the opportunities he has had, Steinhauser does not plan to pursue a career in film or advertisement. He is currently planning on majoring in government at the College, and is very interested in getting involved in politics.
"It's been a lot of fun," Steinhauser said of his brushes with fame. "It's made me feel comfortable with a larger group of people and has helped me to not become so starstruck when the opportunity arises.
"Except for the time I met Barack Obama at a rally," he quickly added. "There were no words."
O'Connor's pre-Colby accomplishments have been a bit more below the surface, literally. The first-year student from Westport, Connecticut is a certified underwater photographer who has been able to mix her passions for marine biology and photography into an incredible past time.
A class trip to Honduras in ninth grade sparked O'Connor's interest in marine biology. The trip involved scuba diving, but students did not have to be certified to attend.
"I decided to go with [the class], I'd never done anything like that before but I'd always been interested in marine biology," she said.
After obtaining her scuba diving certification in Honduras, and quickly realizing that she could mix her love of photography with diving, she went on to get certified in underwater photography. She has even gone through multiple rounds of certifications to become a rescue diver, which is the highest non-professional level of diving in existence.
Since her initial trip to Honduras, O'Connor has completed 125 dives. "Every summer I've done a two- or three-week scubadiving trip around the world," she said. Her dives have brought her to the Dutch Caribbean (St. Barts, St. Vincent, St. Martin) and Cozumel, Tulum and Centoes, all located in Mexico. Her most recent dive took place this summer in Fiji and the Solomon Islands.
O'Connor is intensely interested in micro marine biology, that is, the study of coral and the fish that are on the coral because it is much easier to snap a high-quality image when examining objects up close.
"I've always been really interested in marine biology. I did camps when I was younger and looked at tide pools and stuff, so it's always been in the back of my mind," O'Connor said. "So when I had the opportunity to start diving and do something completely hands-on it definitely interested me."
Here on the Hill O'Connor plans to pursue a degree in marine biology, and was initially attracted to the College because of its biology department. Next summer she plans to continue diving and to get her diving instructor certification so that she can teach others how to scuba dive as well.