By Hanna Schutte ’11
“Gustavus is one of those places that make you feel comfortable with yourself. It gives you a good, solid base so you can go out and explore the world,” says Stephanie Pearson, a 1992 English graduate who is now a columnist for Outside magazine. Using this strong base, Pearson has had some amazing journeys as a writer and traveler.
Pearson’s travels brought her back to campus in 2009 to talk to current Gusties about her experiences since graduation, as well as some of the aspects of Gustavus that have stuck with her for nearly 20 years.
Like many Gustavus students, Pearson tried several majors before she decided on English. Pearson has worked for a variety of publications, but has found her passion in travel writing. “I’ve always liked to travel and write, and I was curious, so it seemed to be a natural fit. I wasn’t on the paper in college, but I loved magazines like National Geographic and Travel & Leisure. I had a vision of what I wanted to do, but no clue of how I wanted to get there. I just kept trying to figure it out.” This spirit of searching for your true calling is prevalent in many ways at Gustavus.
Pearson has many good memories about her Gustavus experience. “I always had fun when I was on campus, but I remember little things like going to the library, getting a cube and just studying (that is, cramming!). I also remember when we took a geology field trip to Carlsbad, N.M. through the Geology Club. We drove from Gustavus there—it was about 20 hours—and camped. It was a lot of fun and very memorable,” she says. Pearson also studied abroad in Colombia while she was at Gustavus.
There were a number of professors who inspired Pearson. “I remember Lisa Heldke and her class on racism and sexism—that was very educational,” Pearson says. She also recalls former professors Ann Brady and Larry Owen, both in the English department, as inspiring her toward her current endeavors.
After graduation, Pearson began exploring. “I became a ski-bum. I realized I love mountains, and so I wrote a lot about that,” she says. Upon discovering what it was she was zealous about (travel and writing), she decided to combine the two and turn them into her lifelong career.
Pearson’s passion for writing and travel has taken her to locations around the world. She has visited Australia, Guatemala, Bhutan, New Zealand, Hollywood, and the Marquesas Islands, just to name a few places, and has had a variety of fascinating and one-of-a-kind experiences.
She counts her recent trip to the Falkland Islands as her favorite. She has written and edited for the magazine Outside and currently writes its “Gear Girl” column. Her next big endeavor will be a trip to Mt. Everest in the spring of 2010. To find out more about Pearson’s experiences and read some of her work, visit her blog at www.stephanieannpearson.com.
As for students who are searching for where they would like to go, or what career would suit them best, Pearson’s advice is simple. “Follow your passion,” she says. “Stay true to yourself, and you can figure out what it is you want to do.”