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Cristina Bain ’08

Cristina Bain '08 is an active leader in so many facets of campus life that it's almost unbelievable. She serves as editor-in-chief of both Crux, the campus literary magazine, and martini, an alternative student publication. Bain interns with the Office of Admissions and the Center for Global Education, where she serves on the editorial board of Aleph, a journal of global perspectives. Her writing has also been featured in the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Public Affairs Journal, and her photographs have been shown as part of the Global Visions Gallery. A senior member of the Glassblowing Club, Bain is active in the Progressive Student Union and serves as the house manager for Writer's House. Her academic interests include sociology, public policy and political science—and she's majoring in all three. She also spent the fall 2006 semester studying in Vietnam.

Why Vietnam?

Initially I chose to do a semester abroad in Vietnam because I was looking to experience something way outside of my experiences so far.  I grew up in a tiny town in central Vermont, and there weren’t a lot of opportunities to experience a culture different from my own.  As corny as it sounds, the Global Education department talked about stepping a bit outside of your ‘comfort zone’ and I really took that to heart.  I guess I felt like I would learn a lot more about myself if I was in a completely new situation. In addition, I’d been taking development sociology classes for a few semesters and my advisor recommended the Vietnam program as a fabulous place to do honors research in my field.  I applied to more than one program because the school has several programs that interested me, but ultimately I decided that Vietnam was the one.  I was looking for an experience that would push me to examine every assumption I’d made, that would alter the way I look at the world even after I came back to the States. It did just that; though to be fair; I didn’t know signing up that I’d end up making it my academic focus and continuing that on even after I left HWS. It all really fit together perfectly, funny how that happens.

What are your plans after graduation?

 I honestly don’t know yet.  I decided against applying directly to graduate school because I’m not completely sure what I’d like to focus on.  The one certainty I have at the moment is that my focus will be related to gender and development issues, whether from a social research or a policy perspective, it is yet to be decided. The day I flew back to the US from Vietnam I knew that I needed to go back, and a year later that feeling is even stronger.  I’ve been taking Vietnamese since I returned, and I’ll be using it soon I hope. I’ve applied for several grants that would make such a thing possible, whether to continue my language study (Blakemore) or for development research (Fulbright). These are awarded in the spring, so for now it’s lots of finger crossing and mentally picking apart my resume for the hundredth time. Ultimately I’d like to get a Masters in Vietnamese from the national university in Hanoi before returning to the US to get my PhD.  After that, it’s all just vague ideas of what I’d enjoy.  Research is one of the most exciting things I’ve done yet, but after having an inspirational sociology professor or two I could see doing that as well.  Direct involvement with development NGO’s would also be exciting, so for now I’m happy with the options in front of me.

Why William Smith? 

When I was applying to colleges, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to major in.  I loved environmental studies, philosophy, writing, political science, sociology and studio art.  A liberal arts education was definitely appropriate for me, because I’ve taken classes in all of these departments (and more).  The size of the campus was perfect for me, I liked that it wasn’t in the middle of a city, and I’d heard that there were many more study abroad choices than one would expect for a school of our size.  The more I found out about it, the better it sounded.  My visit to campus, however, made the decision for me.  Aesthetically, I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful school, but the campus felt –from the day I took a tour – like a community, not just a random collection of students.  It’s a bit difficult for me to describe, but I felt at home walking around even before I was enrolled.  I’m a pretty decisive person; I don’t spend much time contemplating any decision, and this one was very much the same.  I knew where I’d be going in the fall.

Has the coordinate system had an impact on your education?

Yes.  Last year I was accepted into Hai Timiai, the senior honor society of William Smith. My association with Hai Timiai has brought my focus much more onto William Smith students.  Each of the two schools has a unique identity as well as the shared one, and because of that we get the best of both worlds.  William Smith students get to celebrate our own traditions while still taking classes, socializing and participating in clubs with Hobart students.

Has William Smith College shaped your idea of leadership?

I wasn’t much of a ‘leader’ when I arrived as a first-year.  The most important things I’ve realized in my four years (in regards to leadership) are that the best leaders prepare and help others learn to lead, and tend not to be those spending too much time talking about their leadership.  We have so many women here who are leaders in some aspect of their lives and operate pretty much under the radar of anyone not directly connected with them.  Its how I’ve operated for a few years, and I’ve found there was less pressure about being out in front and more of a chance to really focus on whatever it is I was leading. 

What are you currently reading?

I’m in the writing process of my Honors project, an examination of gender identity construction in revolutionary movements, specifically those in Vietnam.  Right now, therefore, I’m reading “Radicalism and the Origins of the Vietnamese Revolution.”  It is a well written but dense account of the anti-colonialism movement in Vietnam before Marist-Leninist communism became the vehicle of the revolution.  On the lighter side, however, I’ve been embedded in short stories, poetry and plays written by students of HWS that have been submitted to Crux, the literary arts magazine on campus because I’m the editor-in-chief and we’re starting make our selections.

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