For many students at the University, college is a time to hone in on a particular area of study, learn as much as they can about it, and prepare for a relevant career. But Savannah Russo ’23 has had the opposite experience. She has done it all: learning from the school’s diverse offerings, getting involved with a plethora of intellectual and extracurricular opportunities on campus, and finding joy in spontaneity. We sat down with Russo to talk about the many facets of her Wesleyan experience, from rowing on the crew team to studying abroad, and how through her many commitments, she maintains her infectiously positive perspective on college and life.
The Argus: Why do you think you were nominated for WesCeleb?
Savannah Russo: Do you know Oliver Cope [’23]? He told me this was going to be one of the questions you were going to ask me. I’m a very friendly person. I’m involved with a lot of random things around campus. I love saying hi to people. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. I’m a huge people-watcher, and that involves a lot of saying hi to people.
A: What are you studying and what drew you to those majors or minors?
SR: I am an [Earth & Environmental Sciences] and studio art double major with a minor in East Asian Studies. I always thought I was gonna do more East Asian Studies because I’ve taken Chinese ever since I was little. It’s just kind of been a huge part of my life. But then I fell in love with environmental science. And so I went down that route. And then through East Asian Studies, I took a printmaking class and fell in love with printmaking and art. I’d literally never taken an art class before in my life. I just became really close to my teacher. And so that’s how I became a studio [art] major.
A: What a range! A lot of people might see this course of study as haphazard or random. How do you see your various majors as being connected?
SR: In my mind, art and science are inherently connected. Like the Fibonacci sequence: It’s mathematical, but it also can be translated into art. And the golden ratio and others. I just find science very beautiful, and I find nature very beautiful. Obviously, there are natural landscapes in art. That’s a more traditional way in which science and art have been combined. I just finished up my environmental science capstone where I did research with oysters. And for my thesis for studio art, I’m doing all my artwork based off of the research we just completed.
A: Wow, that is incredible. With all your many intellectual interests, have there been any professors or academic experiences that have really impacted your time here?
SR: An intro class I took freshman year was called “Life in the Oceans.” And that was with [Harold T. Stearns Professor Emerita of Integrative Sciences] Ellen Thomas, who unfortunately just retired, but it was an awesome class. It also influenced why I chose art and science. We talked about silly little creatures that lived at the bottom of the ocean. And that in itself was really crazy. But then at the end of each class, we took 10 minutes to talk about artists who painted fish or did artwork based on the environment or environmental justice. That was really cool, and it opened up my mind to the connection between science and art. It was just a very Wesleyan class.
A: Yeah, that is so Wes.
SR: Real. Another really incredible experience I had through Wesleyan was studying abroad. I wanted to go to Australia or New Zealand. Then the borders closed. I randomly saw on the study abroad website the Copenhagen program. There is a lot of traveling involved through the curriculum, which really drew me to it. The way it works is you take four or five classes, but one of them is your core course. Through that class, you go on a big trip. [For my] polar biology class we got to go and do research in Iceland [for a week]. I [also] signed up for a different class, [called] “Disaster Management,” [and] we got to go to Lisbon.
A: That’s so cool.
SR: Yeah! Definitely weird coming back from being abroad and going from “City!” to “Oh, Middletown…”
A: I can imagine. When you are in Middletown, how do you keep yourself entertained? What are you involved with outside of class?
SR: So that’s funny because I recently quit like everything I was doing.
A: Good for you. Well, okay, so imagine yourself two months ago. What are you involved with on campus, outside of class spaces?
SR: I walked onto the crew team. But I quit at the end of last semester because I realized that even though this is my senior year, it’s my first full year on a college campus. With crew in the spring, the season is really intense, and you are gone most weekends, and that didn’t work with my thesis. And I wanted to be able to have free time on campus and the ability to enjoy my last semester. I also was in Ono[matopoeia], the a cappella group, for a hot stint. I also dabble in Throw Culture and am currently working in [Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences] Raquel Bryant’s lab.
A: Very cool. What drew you to crew after you matriculated?
SR: I have played sports my whole life; I’ve swam [ever] since I was little. But [at the end of high school], I was like, “I’m going to college, I’m not doing that anymore. No sports. I’m gonna be ‘artsy.’” But more than that, sports are just such a time-suck and inevitably become the one thing you can do. And then I randomly met someone [who changed my mind]. I lived in [the Butterfields] freshman year, and one of my friends who lived [there] was recruited to the team. She was like, “Yo, you play sports. You used to swim. You should join the crew team.” With crew, you just need bodies to fill the boat. So they make it as easy as possible to join; if you want to walk on, you get like a two-week trial period to see if you like it. I tried it out and I just really loved it. I think it’s really important for me to go outside for, at minimum, an hour a day without my phone—to just get fresh air and vitamin D. Be with myself. And [crew] was just a really wonderful way to just get out on the river for two hours and turn my brain off.
A: I don’t love this question, but I am going to ask it anyway. Do you know what your plans are beyond Wesleyan?
SR: No. And I say that joyfully.
A: That is refreshing. Great to hear. A lot of the time, I do these interviews and it seems like every senior at Wesleyan has their whole life put together. It is definitely nice to hear something different.
SR: In the same light, there is so much pressure [here] for everyone to know exactly what they want to do. Because, at the end of the day, this is such an incredible institution. But it’s also totally okay if you don’t [know]. And something good will hopefully come along.
A: As you near the end of your time here, do you have any advice for current or prospective students from your many experiences at Wesleyan?
SR: I feel like because it’s a small campus, you can get so bogged down with tiny little dramas and things that aren’t even things that people think are things. Just chill out. Good vibes only. It’s gonna be okay. We’re at a wonderful school with wonderful people. Yeah, some moments are stressful, but at the end of the day, it’ll be over soon. Just breathe. Go outside. Treat yourself [to] a little sweet treat. It’ll be okay. And don’t feel pressure to go to Sci Li with people. If you actually need to get work done, it’ll be okay. Go to Olin.
A: Amazing. Is there one word that you think sums up your time at the University?
A: Real. Finally, if you had to listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
SR: I’ve been listening to “Amie” by Pure Prairie League almost every morning. Just for good vibes. So I guess that, right now.
A: I’ve never heard that song in my life. But I will listen to it tonight.
SR: You better. Also, I am going to say hi to you every time I see you and if you don’t say hi back, I’ll make a big scene and yell at you. So say hi to me! Good vibes!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Akhil Joondeph can be reached at email@example.com.