The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Rocky and Me: Anna Ellis '19 Senior Reflection

Anna Ellis, Class of 2019, will spend the next two years in Colorado Springs, Colorado working with Teach for America.

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In the Rocky & Me series, Seniors reflect on their experiences during their time at Dartmouth.

I came to Dartmouth on a whim. Before college, I wanted to become a mountain guide. During my senior year of high school, I practically committed to Colorado College to study outdoor recreation. Almost all of my friends from my outdoors communities in high school were already in Colorado, hiking, skiing, climbing, and earning college credit for it. To me, this sounded like the ideal experience!

Then I got accepted to Dartmouth. I was grateful, excited, and honestly pretty surprised. Five minutes after opening my acceptance letter, I called the Admissions Office, just to make sure there hadn’t been a mistake. They reassured me that “no, everyone who gets accepted to Dartmouth has been chosen for a reason.” As corny as it sounds, this conservation stuck with me. What was my reason? What potential had the admissions team seen in my application? What could I possibly contribute to the Dartmouth community in the next four years?

Part of the answer to this question was found at the Rockefeller Center. I stumbled across the Rockefeller Center during my sophomore year of college, after a freshman year full of ups and downs. Being a freshman at Dartmouth can only be compared to riding a roller coaster-the highs are tremendous, but the lows are very real and incredibly challenging. During my freshman year, I got rejected from a handful of extracirriculars, got accepted into a few clubs, found the beginning of my peer group, and tried desperately to keep my head above water academically. 

As a sophomore, I was ready to carve out my niche at Dartmouth. Instead of just participating in classes and clubs, I wanted to actively contribute to knowledge and leadership in these spheres. I didn’t want to keep treading water, trying to maintain a minimal level of engagement and commitment. I knew I wanted to step up and lead, but I had no idea how to achieve that. 

This is where the Rockefeller Center came in. On the recommendation of an upperclassmen mentor, who was my freshman UGA and who remained a close friend during my sophomore year, I applied for MLDP, the Management, Leadership, and Development Program here at Rocky. I didn’t know what to expect. I had never taken a course in Government or Public Policy, and with my interests being concentrated in food systems, environmental action, and mountaineering, I didn’t know whether or not Rocky would be a good fit. I certainly wasn’t the typical Rocky student, right?

Luckily, I quickly discovered that the perfect Rocky student was a figment of my imagination. Though some of the students participating in MLDP were government majors or public policy minors, the cohort was diverse, insightful, genuine, and kind. I was shocked at how easy it was to form friendships with people I had never crossed paths with on campus before. 

I also was able to actively engage with the program. From writing a professional email to public speaking, from networking with alumni to negotiating with peers, MLDP gave me the skills I had never been able to learn in the classroom. MLDP also reshaped my notion of the professional world. I began to realize that professionalism was not just reserved for corporate greed, that networking was not a dirty word, and that, if I was going to enact change in my communities, I needed tangible management and leadership skills to do so.

MLDP left me with skills and knowledge that informed the rest of my time at Dartmouth. I was fortunate enough to come back to the program as a Student Assistant, to hopefully give back to one of the most important communities in my underclassmen experience. 

Now, coming into my Senior Spring, I remain grateful for my experiences with the Rockefeller Center, and I continue to use the lessons from MLDP to guide my exploration of a professional future. I am headed to Teach for America in Colorado Springs, Colorado for the next two years, which offers me a way to return to my favorite mountain community, with an emphasis on professional development. Perhaps I don’t want to spend my entire life working as a mountain guide, but I’m still invested in the union of community development, environmentalism, and outdoor education. 

Going forward, I hope to return to Hanover after Teach for America, to study at the Tuck School of Business. I want to obtain an MBA and use this degree to work towards positive environmental change and corporate social responsibility, in conjunction with large outdoor retailers and lifestyle brands. As MLDP taught me, I can simultaneously remain true to myself and my goals, while carving out a niche as a young professional. 

I am truly thankful for all of my time at the Rockefeller Center. The staff mentorship, the peer connections, and the alumni outreach has been invaluable. I look forward to remaining connected to the Center and its resources as I navigate the professional world!

Written by Anna Ellis ’19, Rockefeller Center Student Programming Assistant for MLDP 

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences