A Modern Day Conquistador
Reflecting on his many adventures, Oz Skinner notes that his journey to GMC could be described as “anything but a straight line.” Looking to get away from his landlocked home in Iowa, Skinner originally pursued musical theatre at a community college in Tucson, Arizona, after graduating from high school in 2000. After a couple years, he decided, with the advice of his parents, to join AmeriCorps—a community service organization that promotes public education and environmental awareness. “It’s like the Peace Corps but domestic,” says Oz.
AmeriCorps gave Oz the chance to travel all around the country with a tight-knit group of people. In addition to the volunteer work, it gave the young nomad a unique skill set. “I was trained on how to do all kinds of crazy things—from firefighting, to using a chainsaw, trail-maintenance—and all that jazz,” says Oz. “That was supposed to be my ‘figure it out year,’ and by the end of that year I realized I hadn’t figured anything out yet.”
This led Oz to continue his work with AmeriCorps in New York City. “I thought New York was awesome; I saw it as really big, but also really cool and edgy,” he says. Eventually, Oz thought he might stick with AmeriCorps through a full-time position but found that getting a full-time job was difficult without a college degree—prompting him to return to school.
Oz applied for, and received, an interesting scholarship: the Jerry Seinfeld Scholarship for undergraduates—which awards $10,000 per year to undergrads seeking a four-year degree. “[This scholarship] made it financially possible for me to go to school… I found Green Mountain College—applied, got accepted—all before ever visiting the campus,” says Oz. What attracted Oz to a remote liberal arts college? “I wanted something completely different from New York,” he says.
Oz , a sociology major, wasted no time becoming an active member in various campus initiatives and clubs. “For one, I really want my opinion to be heard so I get involved in a lot of things,” he says. The first club Oz joined was P.A.N.T.S (People Are Not Their Sex). “I’m really big on direct action; I thought it was really cool that people were expressing gender identity and sexual orientation in a free and open way,” he says.
Additionally, he began to write for The Mountaineer, through which he shared the variety of perspectives he accumulated during his frequent travels. “The first article that I wrote was after I had attended the Republican and Democratic national conventions,” he says. This gave Oz the opportunity to write about a national event for the GMC community. He also published his photographs, yet another one of the senior’s many hobbies.
So how does he find time to do it all? “It’s a self-defeatist attitude to let things get in the way,” says Oz. “If you want to hit a home run you have to learn how to swing the bat.”
Swinging the bat could mean hitchhiking his way to the conventions or applying for work at the Sundance Film Festival. “I really wanted [to do those things]—so nothing was going to stand in my way—not money, not people, not distance. I was going to figure it out… Maybe I’m really lucky or maybe I’m like MacGyver when I go out on the open road,” Oz jokes.
Oz – who graduates in May with a degree in sociology - argues that sociology underlies a lot of what interests him about photography, art, or anything else for that matter. Anxious to move on and pursue graduate studies in photography, Oz made it clear that “GMC will always have a place in [his] heart because of its nurturing environment.”
While he had no definite plans, it just wouldn’t be Oz if he did. “I thought that college was one of my last great adventures—that I would settle down with a job and family after I was through. The more I think about it, I realize that my whole life will be one adventure after another… I’m an adventurer; I’m a conquistador,” he says. And for anyone looking to get away, Oz issues an adventurer’s call to arms: “Anytime I set out on an adventure there are open invitations.” Soon after graduating, Oz is headed out west – be sure to let him know if you’re down for an adventure.
By Chad Skiles '12