It was spring of 1996 on the Berkeley campus. After my English discussion class on ‘The Bible as Literature,’ I was looking forward to a nap at home in the afternoon sun. When I arrived, I sorted through the mail to discover a thin #10 envelope from the Forestry Department. I knew my chances for getting into the coveted ten-week summer program in Stanislaus National Forest were slim, but maybe even acceptances came in a simple form letter.
Rejection. There were only 30 slots for the competitive program and too many qualified candidates. It was Very Sincerely signed Professor Wensel.
My nap would have to wait. I retrieved my navy blue Jansport and U-turned not only back to campus, but to Mulford—the Environmental Science & Policy Management building on the far Northwest corner. I’d had a good day and wasn’t about to let a rejection get in the way of my unusually happy spirits.
Back on academic terrain, I knocked on Professor Wensel’s wooden doorframe. A scruffy-bearded man with thick spectacles looked up from his dusty, overloaded desk.
“Hi Professor, I’m Catherine. I nervously tugged on the bottom of the yellow sixties dress I was wearing to smooth out the wrinkles. “I got this in the mail today.” I unfolded the letter for the old man to see. “I know you don’t have very many slots in the program, but I know I can do the work and I was really hoping to benefit from the summer classes. I’m a Biology major and I’m working on a minor in Entomology. I was hoping this summer would boost my chances for an environmental career after I graduate next year.” I said my peace and looked down on the hardwood floor.
He looked at me. “You know who goes to our summer camp program? Students like you. I admire you coming in here asking for another chance. You’re in.”
“Really? Really? Ohhh Professor Wensel, you won’t be disappointed. Thank you so much!” I gave him a big hippy chick hug.