Mateo Kaiser

Mateo, in gray pants and a blue collared shirt, crouching on the ground in front of trees and nex...

Pronouns

he/him

Degree and Class Year

BA ’23

Hometown

Mountain View, California

Major

History and international affairs (double)

Minor

Political economy

Extracurriculars

Students Engaged in Eco-Defense (SEED) Club, Garden Club, College Democrats, German Club, Model United Nations, Student Philanthropy Council

Overseas study

Munich, Germany

What three words would you use to describe L&C?

Quirky, Idyllic, Curious

What’s your favorite class? How has it expanded your knowledge?

Ancient Cities with Assistant Professor of History Joel Sweek. The class was demanding, but Professor Sweek is a true expert in his field. The class had the kind of academic rigor and seriousness that I’d hoped to find in college. Professor Sweek’s lectures were brilliantly engaging and pushed me to think like a historian. The class left me in awe of the ancient world and inspired me to fully commit to pursuing a history major at L&C.

Who is your mentor on campus? Why do you consider this person your mentor?

An important academic mentor for me has been Associate Professor of International Affairs Elizabeth Bennett, who encouraged me to push myself intellectually. In her International Political Economy class, Professor Bennett inculcated a strong culture of rigorous study and intellectual discussion, which made studying that subject all the more rewarding. The combination of excellence and kindness that Professor Bennett brought to the classroom encouraged me to talk to her about potentially trying to pursue a double major in history and international affairs, with a political economy minor. Her advice, teaching, and personal devotion to her subject have all been instrumental in guiding my academic trajectory at L&C.

What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

I chose to come to Lewis & Clark for the small classes, the level of academic rigor, and the opportunity to go on a year-long study abroad program. I knew that I learn best in discussion-based settings, so I wanted to go to a school where I’d have fruitful academic discussions with my professors and fellow students. I was also inspired by the beauty of the campus and, after visiting, felt like I was at home.

How do you describe the liberal arts?

For me, gaining a liberal arts education has allowed me to build a versatile and robust toolkit that I’m confident will help me navigate today’s rapidly evolving and interconnected world. In my classes, I get to study incredibly interesting topics while also learning how to process information, form cogent arguments, and gain critical-thinking skills. The liberal arts forces you to see interdisciplinary connections. It’s been incredibly rewarding to stumble upon connections between my various classes in different subjects. For me specifically, studying humanities in a liberal arts setting has meant a lot of reading, writing, discussing, and debating. This not only helps me engage with the material I’m learning, but also shapes how I engage with the world around me.

Which residence halls have you lived in? How would you describe the hall’s personality? What is/was the best thing about living on campus?

As a first-year student, I lived on the ground floor of Howard. My dorm was nicer than I expected, and I enjoyed the quiet nature of living in that hall. Although Howard sometimes felt a bit isolated and overly quiet, I enjoyed having a peaceful environment in which I could adjust to dorm life.

This year, I live in Harzfeld with two of my good friends. Harzfeld—or “Harzie”—is a complex of four smaller buildings, each with its own community of students. With only around 20 people living in our entire building, it’s easy to get to know your neighbors and feel at home. Having a private bathroom and vanity has also been a really great feature to have.

Where do you find community on campus?

I find community on campus through my involvement in a handful of clubs that closely align with my various interests. My spare time is filled with meetings and events for Garden Club, Students Engaged in Eco-Defense (SEED) Club, College Democrats, and German Club. Garden Club and SEED give me a chance to plan and participate in hands-on projects, like starting a beehive or replanting the garden. Through College Democrats, I was able to experience the rigors of political organizing amid the 2020 election, as we wrote letters, made phone calls, and sent texts on behalf of Democratic candidates nationwide. Each club offers a unique and niche community on campus, and they collectively enrich my L&C experience.

If you went on a New Student Trip with College Outdoors, how did it shape your experience as an incoming student?

I went on the Opal Creek New Student Trip where we hiked in the hills around an abandoned mining town. After a week of hiking through the old-growth forest, I got to know the other students, and it was a relief to see those familiar faces again around campus during orientation.

If you have studied or will study overseas while at Lewis & Clark, how did you choose your program? What did your overseas study add to your L&C experience so far?

I am planning to study abroad in Munich for my entire junior year. I chose to come to L&C in part because of that program. Unlike many study-abroad programs, Munich is a year long, which means we will be fully immersed in the culture as we live and learn alongside German students at the Ludwig Maximilian University. As a child of Swiss immigrants, I’ve grown up speaking Swiss German at home and surrounded by Swiss culture, so studying in Munich will be both foreign and familiar. I’m really looking forward to being near my family in Switzerland while getting to live in a German-speaking country.

Tell us about this cool apiary project! What prompted you to bring this to campus?

I really enjoy starting new hobbies, especially if they’re outdoors and allow for a lot of hands-on learning. I had been thinking about getting into beekeeping for a while before I started college. When I first got to L&C, I heard from a friend that SEED was in the early stages of planning a pollinator project. I joined the club and I got to lead and work alongside other SEED members on a plan to bring beehives to campus. We spent the fall semester learning everything we could about beekeeping and figuring out how much funding we would need. We worked with Facilities and the Office of Sustainability to put together a plan, and get approval for the site. The ASLC Finance Committee awarded us a grant, and we were ready to break ground on our apiary at the beginning of spring 2021. Right as the bees were supposed to arrive, we were sent home due to COVID-19, so we had to quickly find someone who would be staying in Portland and could take care of the bees. I spent the summer under lockdown in California, learning everything I could about beekeeping. I was lucky enough to be able to catch a swarm of bees at home so that I had a hive to learn on during quarantine. After getting back to campus in the fall, we started working to get as many people involved in the project as possible. I ordered additional bee suits and started taking students on socially distanced beehive inspections. Our inspections offered incredible insight into the wondrous—but ever so tiny!—–world of bees. We were able to see the queen lay eggs and for those eggs to hatch into baby bees. We also got to watch the bees collect pollen and make honey. As winter set in and it became too cold to open the hive, we began making plans to expand our apiary into a more permanent pollinator garden. We were able to secure funding for two additional hives, a fence, and native pollinator plants. This spring, students from SEED and Garden Club came out to design and build our apiary, braving the Portland weather and continuing to make progress on our pollinator garden despite rain, hail, and mud. As the weather improves, I’ve been visiting the garden after class a couple of times a week, and it’s been immensely rewarding to see our beehives thrive. Our plants are growing, and wildflowers and bulbs are beginning to emerge. While there is still much to be done, I hope that the garden will continue to grow into an educational space where students can learn about beekeeping and pollinator ecology more broadly.

What got you interested in beekeeping?

I got interested in beekeeping after seeing a Kickstarter campaign for an innovative new beehive design meant to make beekeeping more accessible for beginners. Seeing this design got me thinking about how amazing it would be to have a beehive of my own if the opportunity arose. Part of what drew me to beekeeping is how hands on it is, and how much there is to learn about the intricate lives of honeybees.

Do you have a hive at home?

I was super lucky to be able to catch a swarm of bees and start a hive of my own when I got home from college last year. With all the free time that I had because of the COVID-19 lockdown, I was able to thoroughly research beekeeping. I spent hours observing the bees as they streamed in and out of the hive to collect honey and pollen. Our bees, with their constant industrious energy, have quickly become a much-loved part of our garden.

What unexpected bright spots have you encountered?

I’m extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to study in person at Lewis & Clark this semester. A lot of people worked really hard to make it possible for my friends and I to come back to campus in the midst of a pandemic. I feel incredibly lucky to be back enjoying the beautiful surroundings and the company of my peers and my professors.

Did you visit campus before deciding to come to L&C? How did your visit influence your decision to attend?

I visited campus on a hastily arranged overnight visit. I was having a really hard time deciding on a college, so I was extremely grateful for the Admissions Office’s efforts to accommodate me. No overnight hosts were available, so they found a student on the swim team who was willing to host me. I was astounded by the peacefulness and lush beauty of the campus, and left feeling like L&C could be a place where I feel at home.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

Visit campus! I had a really hard time deciding on a college, but visiting L&C helped me to feel good about committing. The campus is incredibly beautiful, and although that shouldn’t be your only reason for saying yes, there is something to be said for studying in a place that lifts your spirits and inspires you every time you step outside.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

My favorite spot on campus has to be the Bee Garden on South Campus because I love going down there to watch the bees flying around the hives. Seeing the garden always fills me with pride, knowing that I was a part of bringing this project to fruition.