Simon Winchell-Manning gravitated toward GMC quite naturally. Attending college at a place where folks were passionate about the environment wasn’t too different than what he had been used to his entire life. “I grew up in a household that’s pretty environmentally aware. I live just about a mile as the crow flies from Walden Pond in a pretty pristine setting. The land’s been in our family for about ninety years so I’ve always had pretty strong connection to the land there,” he says.
Over the years, Simon began to appreciate the natural intricacies that were occurring within his environment—the changes in landscape, the formation of the beaver dam near his house—and spent much of his free time canoeing and exploring the surrounding woods. In turn, his views on the environment began to develop and were further defined by his exposure to less serene locales.
“Part of what’s contributed to my own environmental concern is growing up near Boston and seeing a lot of urban sprawl. It made me realize that I was fortunate enough to live in a kind-of oasis that existed near the metro west.”
As lush and welcoming as his home may be, Simon’s not opposed to getting away every now and then. Despite three major ACL replacement surgeries, Simon remains an avid outdoor hobbyist. Before coming to GMC, he took some time off to hike the Pacific Crest trail with a childhood friend—a 2,663 mile hike that stretches from Mexico to Canada.“I came to GMC with the intention of majoring in adventure/rec, but I’ve never taken an adventure/rec course,” Simon laughs. “Part of it was physical, because of the injuries, but I think it’s also because of how important academic stimulation is for me.”
Simon double-majored in English and history. “I’ve always been a pretty big reader,” Simon says. “I think that’s how I learn best. Growing up reading a lot of historical fiction really led me to consider what my life was in comparison to other human experiences. That’s really what I’m interested in—the human experience.”
At GMC, Simon’s felt encouraged to engage what historical events interest him the most, which, for Simon, would mean taking a closer look at popular protests and resistances to the Industrial Revolution. “GMC is a lot more about teaching you to be able to develop your own ideas and present them clearly and convincingly. It’s a less about following certain rubrics to get a good grade and more about pursuing your own interests. There’s a lot of intellectual freedom.”
Simon finished his history thesis wherein he researched the poorhouses (government-initiated labor houses) of Washington County, N.Y. He’s also exercised his intellectual freedom by participating in some memorable independent studies at GMC that have specialized in advanced literary criticism and theory. Simon says that these small, often one-on-one meetings have been some of his favorite educational experiences here.
Looking ahead, Simon hopes to follow up with an internship opportunity in publishing, which would situate him in mid-town New York working with W.W. Norton & Company. But he has larger aspirations outside of the publishing industry, where he hopes to attend graduate school and continue to his interdisciplinary studies within the fields that he’s truly passionate about—something GMC has helped instill in him.
“I think I had an attitude of self-criticism before I came here and GMC has really helped me consider who I am outside of how much money I’ll make or how prestigious my position will be. Even if it doesn’t leave me with as clear of a path, it will inspire me to do what I actually care about.”