You’re a Graduated Boettcher Scholar. Now What?

By Noah Hirshorn, 2016 Boettcher Scholar and 2020 Colorado College Graduate

How did you hear the news that you won the Boettcher? It seems that this question is the quintessential icebreaker when meeting a new Boettcher Scholar. Stories may involve waiting for the mail to come every single day after the interview. Others reflect on coming home to their parents who handed them a letter that had visibly been resealed. I received a call one morning, toothbrush in mouth, and still answered because I thought it was spam. Spoiler alert, it was not spam.

We reflect on this moment as the start of our journey as Boettcher Scholars. Yes, being a Boettcher is a lifelong honor and commitment; however, it can’t be understated that earning an undergraduate degree closes the chapter on the time we spend as Boettcher Scholars. Simultaneously, the door opens to the Boettcher Alumni Community. But doors don’t open on their own. In other words, transitioning to post-college life is difficult and requires work. Whether it is determining what do after college, figuring out where to live, or reconciling what it means to be a life-long Boettcher there is a lot to think about when graduating. Today, I want to shine some light on what it was like for a recent Boettcher scholar to make that transition and step through the door to alumni life.

“Hey Noah, what are you doing after college?” – Literally Everyone

I constantly questioned what type of career I wanted to pursue while at Colorado College. Lawyer, doctor, professional hiker, and anything in between were all viable options. Because I enjoyed being outside and found science interesting, I decided to major in environmental science with a concentration in chemistry. Say that five times fast. More specifically, I thought that something in the realm of atmospheric sciences would be an interesting path to pursue. Taking an atmospheric thermodynamics course affirmed this hunch and encouraged me to pursue opportunities in graduate school. I liked atmospheric science and many jobs in the field require courses only available to graduate students. During my senior year, I applied and decided to attend the University of Utah for my degree in atmospheric sciences.

The Boettcher Foundation’s unwavering support made attending graduate school an easy decision because I felt that I was making the Foundation proud. To all you who are reading this out there, please know that you have made the Foundation proud throughout your pursuits. One thing I have learned is that the Foundation will always support the Boettcher Scholar community. All they ask for in return is that we stay in touch, live our lives with a purpose, and maybe connect with a few Boettcher Scholars here and there. I know I am looking forward to a day when a current Boettcher Scholar comes to me for advice.

“We need Colorado’s most dynamic thinkers, doers, and difference makers to stay in Colorado so they can positively impact communities across our state” – Boettcher Foundation

One of the primary goals of the foundation is to keep Colorado’s best and brightest in Colorado, at least for college. Afterwards, there is no contract keeping us tied to Colorado. It still felt weird to leave Colorado after attending college on a scholarship meant to keep us in the state. Becoming an out of state Boettcher alumni was one of the aspects of transitioning to post-college life that challenged me to think about my role as a Coloradan.

To reconcile with this thought, I reflected on what it truly means to have an impact on Colorado. In today’s world where everything is a click away and an airplane can get us anywhere in a matter of hours, it is evident that residing in Colorado is not required to impact the state. For example, yes, I live in Utah. Yes, I hope Utah wins against CU in football this fall. But attending the University of Utah presents unique opportunities to focus my research on Colorado.

I work in a team of scientists that is focused on understanding atmospheric chemistry in the western US. The primary research facility I utilize is Storm Peak Laboratory on top of Steamboat Springs Ski Resort where I aim to understand how emissions from the forests on the mountain impact the formation of atmospheric particles. Out of all the schools I applied to, this was the best opportunity to focus my research on Colorado. It is fulfilling to have a continuous impact on Colorado even though it was best for me to move to Utah. As a Boettcher Scholar, you do have to attend school in Colorado. As a Boettcher Alumni, you have full autonomy to decide what path you want to take and how you continue to impact Colorado. It is important to consider how you can remain connected to Colorado regardless of where you call home.

“I know that I do not know” – Socrates

 Just because I graduated does not mean I have figured everything out. Will I end up pursuing a master’s or Ph.D.? What is the next step after graduate school? What will I have for dinner tonight (seriously, please send suggestions)? I have come to accept that it is completely okay to not know exactly what the future holds. It is not my job to have everything entirely figured out. As a Boettcher, my job is to always be the best I can be and to look for ways to give back to the community around me. That is the essence of being not just a Boettcher Scholar, but also a Boettcher Alum.

If you ask a Boettcher Scholar the story of how they started their lives post-college, I guarantee that you will hear a different story each time. Today, you read my story of graduating and moving on to the next pursuit. I hope that by reading this you were able to reflect on what it was like for you to take your first steps after graduation. It is an honor to be a part of the Boettcher community and I hope that we may meet at events in the future.

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