Many parents make plans for their child to attend Harvard from the time they enter preschool. This was not the case for Scott and Janine Baughman, whose son, Liam, is now a sophomore at Harvard.
“When I was young, my parents and I never talked about Harvard as a goal for me academically. In fact, when it came time for me to apply for college, I applied to both Ivy and non-Ivy colleges. Even being the class valedictorian with all sorts of outside interests did not assure me of a place in Ivy League colleges. Many of these colleges did not accept me. Each school is looking for something different, and the element of luck is certainly involved,” said Baughman.
Baughman said that, from his interviews, what attracted Harvard to him was his passion for writing and how he was able to move people with his words. “One of my essays for Harvard was of a personal nature and the other question I chose to answer had to do with the place in my life where I go when I need to find contentment. For this essay I rewrote a piece I had already worked on about the metaphorical aspect of the sunrise on my life. I think it showed indirectly my philosophy of life and how I was processing my learning.”
With only 5% of students who apply to Harvard gaining acceptance, Baughman feels fortunate to be there.
“What makes Harvard so special for me are the amazing opportunities that are offered to all students. The caliber of the professors and speakers that come to campus, the networking with alumni, the extensive opportunities to travel and learn, the unique programs that are offered in every possible arena, and the ability to individualize programs for students and bring out the best in them is phenomenal.”
Baughman is part of a class of 1,600 students. They come from diverse backgrounds but all seem to have a quest for knowledge and know how to productively use this knowledge.
“I expected the classes to be more competitive than they are,” said Baughman. “I think because we are all so different and work so collaboratively on various projects, we grow to respect each other for our differences and talents, yet ultimately focus on our own goals.”
As a sophomore, Baughman will declare his major, as his experiential year is over. He wants to work in the area of applied math so that he can connect math with economics, the law, politics, the environment, or other areas.
“I am already involved in the Policies Club, where I do research for Massachusetts legislative bodies on various economic issues. I have been able to see my research utilized in new policies and found this very satisfying. So far I have worked on legislation dealing with private contractors and looking at taxation for cars by mileage usage.”
Harvard is also very supportive of service projects that can help the local community and encourages students to start their own programs. This year Baughman is thinking of bringing a Ridgefield project very close to his heart to the Cambridge community.
“I have been working with Tim Boylan’s Role Models program for a while and believe it could be replicated in the Cambridge community.”
The program trains high school students to be mentors for younger children and can make a difference for students who need a friend, a role model or a tutor. Last summer Baughman trained high school students in the Ridgefield area to be mentors, in hope of gaining more experience so that he can enlarge upon the concept.
When asked if Ridgefield High School prepared him well for Harvard, Baughman most heartily agreed that it did.
“Since there are two sophomores from RHS at Harvard this year, the answer would have to be yes. However, in addition to the actual academic work, the classes at Ridgefield High School taught me about time management, organization, prioritization, and community service. I am proud to have come from Ridgefield High School.”
For his sophomore year, Baughman is excited about living in Cabot House on the old Radcliffe campus. “When we are named to one of 12 houses at the end of our freshman year, it is a huge occasion. There is all sorts of pomp and circumstance that goes with this naming. It is an unforgettable experience. Harvard is big on traditions.”
Now that Baughman knows his major and housing for the next three years, he will keep his mind open to the development of new and current interests and ventures that might come about through attending Harvard. Baughman is not overly obsessed with getting a degree from Harvard; he is looking more to continue to learn and solve problems in a venue where there is a community or global need. Baughman appears to be at Harvard for all the right reasons.
Much of his philosophy of life is embedded in these lines from his Class of 2014 valedictory speech. “I hope we never stop speaking our first sentences, never stop being willing to fall off some thoughts and climb back up again. I hope we still play in the rain and laugh in the snow and roll in the autumn leaves. I hope, like children, we stay unafraid to know the things we know innately. I hope our minds grow and our hearts grow larger. I hope we choose to do what is right instead of what isn’t wrong. I hope we fill our lives with small joys and big laughs, never losing a child’s willingness to face the universe as it is, who we are, with everything we’ve learned. And after all this, I hope we plant our memories in a special place and harvest from them every day.”