You Can Do This For a Living
“If you have a passion for a field, use your time in college to pursue that, whether or not you think you’re going to get a job in it,” said Katie Marsh ’12.
Through their time at Bennington, Katie and her husband, fellow alum Webster Marsh ’11, both found the value of diving into their interests—and staying open the possibility of discovering new ones.
Currently, the Marshes live in Wenham, MA, where Katie is the bookmobile librarian for Beverly Public Library, and Webster works for HLB Lighting Design, an architectural lighting firm based in Boston’s North End. Though theatre was a focus in both of their Plans—Katie’s also included Conflict Resolution, and Webster’s included Psychology—their paths have led them to related fields.
Katie discovered a love of Library Science through her on-campus jobs at Bennington. During her second year, she worked in the Jennings Music Library under the direction of Susan Reiss, and she later took a summer position at Crossett Library.
“At the time, working in the library was just a thing I enjoyed doing; I didn’t consider it a career move,” said Katie. “But as I talked with the librarians at Crossett, I started asking about their careers. Joe [Tucker] encouraged me to apply to the library science program at Simmons University, where he went to grad school. Everyone took me under their wing and gave me an inside view into what it’s like to be a professional librarian. They were so supportive and encouraging that I decided to completely switch gears.”
For Webster, the choice to pursue lighting design was also unexpected.
“I never expected to make a living by being a lighting designer, though I really enjoyed it,” said Webster. “When I first filled out my courses for Bennington, I felt like I had to be an adult and take classes that would help me in a career.”
In that vein, Webster signed up for English Literature, but finding it an ill fit, he only attended one class before transferring out.
“I had a gap in my schedule and worried that I didn’t have other options,” said Webster. “But I enjoyed lighting design in high school, so I decided to try a course.”
Webster immediately clicked with Michael Giannitti, who gave Webster the opportunity to design the lights for a faculty show in his second term.
“Michael is dedicated to his students and willing to give them reins to see where they go. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am,” said Webster. “The ‘risk-it’ mentality of Bennington is critical for those people who want control and can handle the responsibility. Other colleges make you climb the ladder before you can do the meaty stuff. But at Bennington, you’re allowed to go as far and fast as you want. The school is there to support you, and if you crash, you learn.”
This process of exploring, trying, failing, trying again, and learning builds a resilient mentality that carries into adult life.
I came out of Bennington and knew what kind of person I wanted to be.
Katie Marsh '12
“After college, graduate school, or whatever becomes your academic peak, you’re the one left to make decisions,” said Webster. “You don’t have to sign up for a certain number of credits to graduate life.”
While at Bennington, Field Work Term provided Katie and Webster with the opportunity to test out potential careers.
“I had this pipe dream of becoming an EMT,” said Webster. “I took a first responder course with Bennington Rescue Squad. For one of my Field Work Terms, I took their EMT class and did emergency medicine.”
“During my second Field Work Term, I was an assistant stage manager for a production at The Public Theatre in Lewiston, ME,” said Katie. “I got to work around professional actors, stage managers, designers, and directors, but I also saw what the schedule was during a production. I came out of that experience going, ‘Huh. I’m studying theatre, but I don’t think I want to do this as a career.’”
Katie’s favorite Field Work Term was spent at Champlain College in Burlington, VT, which at the time offered a masters in Mediation & Applied Conflict Studies. As an administrative intern for the program, she was also given the opportunity to take graduate-level conflict resolution courses at Champlain.
“It’s incredible to get that real-world experience,” said Katie, whose conflict resolution studies at Bennington also allowed her to co-mediate cases in small-claims court. “But I realized I didn’t have the life experience to be helpful in the field. Conflict resolution, I felt, was something I stumbled on too early in life, but I may return to it someday.”
However, the passion for social justice Katie developed at Bennington now directly serves her work as a bookmobile librarian.
“Libraries play a huge role in promoting equity by helping people earn their GED, find a job, or get their US citizenship,” said Katie. “The bookmobile is perfect for me because it’s specifically geared toward improving access for people who would otherwise struggle to get to libraries, including those with mobility issues, low income, or young children.”
Even when Field Work Term reveals career paths best not taken, the experience itself provides an invaluable crash course on adult living.
“If you don’t pursue what you studied, Field Work Term still teaches you skills you need: putting together a cover letter and resume, interviewing, asking for references, dressing appropriately, arriving on time, managing a budget, finding housing, and getting along with your roommate,” said Katie.
“Networks also open up because of Field Work Term,” said Webster. “It was always fascinating to come back to campus and hear stories from friends about the places they worked. I had a friend who worked for MythBusters. Others worked in theatres.”
“Our friend Jama McMahon’ 11 worked in the props department on the set of Dexter,” added Katie. “She brought back a hand.”
For many students transitioning from a traditional high school, Bennington’s exploratory, self-directed approach to education is a new experience. Webster encourages students to lean into the questions and challenges that arise.
“Bennington’s staff and faculty are supportive and will teach you that failure isn’t bad, it just means you have more to learn,” said Webster. “David Anderegg, who was my advisor, was the best at helping me apply those lessons. Don’t be afraid to try. Even if you aren’t good at something, you can get better, and it can become something you’re passionate about.”
“Don’t be afraid to fail, either,” said Katie. “I came out of Bennington and knew what kind of person I wanted to be, the impact I wanted to have in the world, and how I wanted to move through life. That education is worth more than the paper it’s written on.”
By Natalie Redmond, Associate Writer