A Passion for Learning

by Mary Shipp Bartlett

The only thing Erin Fry doesn’t like about Scripps is that she can’t get mail on Saturdays. (The mailroom’s closed.)

Other than that, the effervescent senior has been bragging about Scripps for more than four years straight.

Her praise began when, as a high school senior, she was on a guided tour at Yale, one of her top choices. “I’d already been to Scripps, but my mind wasn’t made up. I’m from Fullerton, CA, so I really was set on going east,” said Erin. On the Yale tour, Fry began to tell the other high school women about Scripps—stressing the personal attention and the academic environment.” I told them about the passion and the sparkle at Scripps—that the people were really exciting to be around.” It dawned on her that she had already made her choice.

Now, having been a tour guide herself (as well as peer mentor, student representative on the Board of Trustees Buildings and Grounds Committee, overnight host coordinator for the Admission Office, and one of the chairs of the Senior Class Gift effort), Erin is still enthusiastically pro-Scripps.Why, she even loved the Core right off the bat.

“I was one of those nerdy kids. Core gave me a self worth in the world of evaluation,” she said. “I thought, maybe my perspective matters as much as others’—even the great sages of philosophy and literature.”

Erin found that Scripps is a safe place to admit you don’t know something.”There’s no intellectual snobbery here,” she believes. Erin describes how students edit each other’s papers for Core (often sitting together in the hallway of their residence hall) or share notes when someone misses a class. “It’s a supportive female environment where I’m respected. And no one’s trying to be better than others.They don’t need to be.”

Even without the snobbery, she admits that Scripps is definitely a place for intellectuals. “There’s no stigma about a passion for learning. We’re comfortable being smart and acknowledging it.”

Not one to limit her friendships or her experiences, Erin entered Scripps wanting to major in “everything.” In order to sort things out, she sat down with Kathleen Wicker to talk about one of her strong interests, religion.Wicker (the former Mary W. Johnson and J. Stanley Johnson Chair in the Humanities and professor of religious studies who retired in 2003) suggested that Erin take the College catalog and highlight every class she wanted to take. Then, she suggested Erin search for themes.

“I came up with bioethics” said Erin. She wanted to look at medicine from an ethical perspective—to find problems and then help solve them.This led to a self-designed major through the Philosophy Department.

Her sophomore year, Erin was influenced by the Humanities Institute’s focus on “Disease, Ethics, and Activism” and became interested in abstinence-only education and how this contributed to the AIDS epidemic. Her senior thesis became the ethics of mandatory partner notification of HIV/AIDS in the United States.

Her work with the Humanities Institute led to an internship with AIDS Project Los Angeles in the Government Affairs Division, doing research on the Ryan White CARE Act and making policy recommendations to members of Congress in Los Angeles County. Erin admitted that “I felt awfully young to be doing that.” But, with typical spunk, she added:”You just have to be confident!”

This fall Erin will enter the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services on a scholarship, towards an MPH in policy. Erin chose George Washington over Yale, Columbia, Boston, and Emory Universities—after being accepted by literally every university she applied to. Her faculty adviser at George Washington will be Bill Clinton’s former director of AIDS policy.

“You know,” mused Erin, “one of my concerns when I was deciding on undergraduate colleges was whether or not Scripps was a big enough name compared to Yale. Look what happened: I didn’t need the Ivy League title on my résumé. Scripps got me where I needed to be.”

She was further vindicated when, on her last visit to Yale, applying to their graduate program, one of the Yale professors told her:”I know the type of education you got at Scripps; you’d do fine here.”