A golf ball hit her on the head


via Gunter Kleist

Sarah Thornton is the director of student activities and community service.

What got you interested in being a part of the first year experience?
I’ve been a part of First Year Experience since I started in higher ed. It’s a really great opportunity to get to know our incoming students and their families. Also, orientation, everybody’s so excited. The energy’s really high. And it’s also a great way to encourage our students to participate in events and activities early on. So if we can get them to attend events during orientation, we can set the tone for the rest of the year. As the person who’s responsible for events and activities on campus, that’s a big motivation for me. I just really love seeing how excited people are to move on campus. There’s that little bit of nervous energy when it comes to moving away from home for the first time. I just love being there and supporting students. It’s very fun.

What’s one piece of advice that you would give to students that are coming to Johnson for the first time?
Use the library! Not only for study spaces, but use the Interlibrary Loan, use reserves, take advantage of these services that are available to you as a student. That’s what I always tell people. I used to work for a library. There’s just so many things that people don’t know about.

So what brought you to Johnson?
Well, I grew up in Troy, New York. It’s about an hour from Bennington, New York, and I always wanted to live in Vermont. So in 2020, my partner had just finished his PhD and we were looking to live in the mountains and work at a small liberal arts college. So when the position for Director of Student Activities and Community Service was advertised, I was just super psyched at the thought of living and working in this beautiful, natural setting in Vermont. And it doesn’t disappoint. My office faces the mountains. I feel very spoiled.

What is your favorite way to eat pasta?
My favorite pasta is- and I only get it on special occasions- is Fettuccine Alfredo. For a previous position that I had, I used to have to travel, and it was very weird travel. I would only be gone for 24 hours. And as a result of not getting enough sleep, I was like, ‘You’re going to treat yourself to some Fettuccine Alfredo.’ Also, it’s never as good when you make it at home, for some reason. So that is my favorite. But like, I could eat any and all pasta: ravioli, lasagna, spaghetti. So yeah, that’s my treat

What’s one thing that you think everyone should do if they could at some point in their life?
I guess everyone should live in a place for a year that you probably know you won’t live in for the rest of your life. I went to graduate school in Nashville, Tennessee, and I’m from New York state. So when I lived there, it was glaringly obvious that I wasn’t a Southerner. I melted in the heat, and when it snowed, I was like, ‘Yes! This is the best!” But it was so much fun. I got to eat a lot of delicious food and go see a lot of amazing concerts, knowing full well that I wasn’t going to stay there other than my two year program. So whenever I’m talking to students and they’re thinking about graduate programs, I like to encourage them to really think about where they would want to be for a year or two that’s kind of different than what they’re used to. Because for me, that was such a fun and different experience. And I’m so glad that I did it. The woman who was showing me apartments said, ‘It’s nothing to write home about.’ And she was right. But it was so much fun. It was my first taste of true independence. I’d go eat barbecue and go to a concert, and I was just broke but living the life. I was very specific about what I spent my money on. Just concerts and barbeque.

What three people that are alive would you most like to have over for dinner and why?
First of all, Jimmy Carter, just because I think he has a breadth of experience that I would love to learn more about. I want someone in a musical genre. Probably Lady Gaga, just because I just think she’s really cool. She has an amazing voice and she’s super creative. Oh my gosh, this is so hard. Derek Jeter, because I’m a New York Yankees fan and I just would want to hear his stories. We would be such an eclectic bunch talking about all sorts of stuff. The conversation wouldn’t be boring. Am I gonna make a lot of non-friends by saying I’m a New York Yankees fan on the back of this newspaper? Oh actually, can I change Lady Gaga? I desperately want to talk to Mariah Carey. She is the reason why I can hike mountains in Vermont. I just listen to her on repeat. I just want to hear about all of her musical experiences. Yes, Jimmy Carter, Mariah Carey and Derek Jeter.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Yes, and you know what? I’m not even guilty about it. I love playing Stardew Valley on my Nintendo Switch. If you’re this type of personality where you’re very organized and you like getting things done, Stardew Valley is for you. I wake up, I tend to my farm, I go and fight some slimes in the cave, and then I go to sleep. I play a lot of Stardew Valley particularly during mud season.

What would your tombstone read?
For some reason, in fourth grade, they had us write what would be written on our tombstone. I still remember it because I turned it into a poem. So can I tell you my poem from fourth grade? ‘Here lies Sarah Thornton/Some people thought she was important/And then she walked outside the door/She heard someone scream FOUR/a golf ball hit her on the head/A few minutes later, she was dead.’ So that’s what would be on my tombstone.

What Disney character do you relate to the most and why?
I relate to so many Disney characters at all times. I most relate to Riley from Inside Out. That whole movie really resonated with me, like her journey to really being able to express her feelings and not try and please everyone all the time. I thought that was really moving. And as someone who can be super outgoing and really wants to make everyone happy, to be able to take that time and space to speak to your feelings and talk about how sometimes you’re not feeling great. That one really resonated with me. I don’t play hockey or anything but I just I really enjoy your character. If I want a good cry, I just watch Inside Out. It’s also such a big message to young girls. You don’t need to be perfect, feel those feels.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
I tend to be a perfectionist at all times and can really get in my own head about what’s happening. Ever since I was a little kid, my mom has always said, ‘Do your best. It’s all you can ask for.’ And so whenever things are particularly hard or stressful, I always remember I’ve tried my best. There’s nothing else that I can do. And yeah, do your best. I tell all my students that, just try your best. Everything else you can’t control.

What is the worst advice you’ve ever received?
It was directly out of graduate school. I started my first job and I worked for a woman who had a very specific way of managing. I remember one of my colleagues at one point said, ‘This person really likes it if you pretend you don’t know what you’re talking about, and she likes to be able to tell you what to do.’ And I remember thinking, ‘You want me to diminish my intelligence? Oh, I’m not going to do this.’ And I remember looking at her and being like, ‘I don’t want to I don’t want to diminish my intelligence to make someone else feel better.’ So yeah, someone telling me to essentially pretend that I don’t know something, especially in a professional setting, was the worst advice I ever received. And I did not take that advice. And it was really helpful for me going forward to get an understanding of who I wanted to work for, as well. I don’t want people to dull my shine.

What is your biggest pet peeve?
Oh my gosh, I have so many. My biggest pet peeve is when somebody cuts a donut in half in an office. Just eat the whole doughnut. Nothing upsets me more than when I go to a box of doughnuts and there’s only a half, because you know the part that’s been cut is going to be all stale. Just eat the whole doughnut, people. Just do it. Number one pet peeve. And if you can’t decide between two, just eat two doughnuts. I’ll go off the rails if I see a doughnuts cut in half.

What is your favorite dog breed?
Basset hound. I just think they’re so cute. They’re low maintenance, they don’t require a lot of exercise, and you can just cuddle them. I just think they’re so cute. One time I was walking through a mall and I saw a basset hound puppy and it was truly the cutest puppy I had ever seen. So if I ever get a dog, it’s going to be a basset hound.

What is one thing that you cannot live without?
Probably books. I really enjoy reading. And I’m not reading the great American novel or anything, they’re pretty ridiculous books. But it’s a really great escape for my brain. When I was in graduate school, I got really into reading fantasy because I went to school for history, and I was reading all of these dense texts. My brain was exhausted, and I knew I needed to flex that muscle still, but in a fun way. And so I’ve really kept going with that. So I could not live without reading fantasy series or YA. I read just about anything. If I find an author I like, I’ll read everything by them. Also, whatever is available at a free little library. I do judge a book by its cover. I don’t care who knows it. Everybody does. So I just take whatever looks great.

If you have a bad day, what’s the first thing that you do when you get home?
I get take out. I when I have a bad day, I do not feel bad for saying I eat my feels. And around here, it’ll be chicken tenders and French fries from Moog’s. They have this delicious honey mustard sauce and I just treat myself.

What is the single thing you are the most passionate about?
Student experience and engagement. So really creating opportunities for students to feel engaged on campus, whether that’s events, which is the majority of my wheelhouse, or just one-on-one meetings and interactions. I like really creating opportunities for students to feel like they belong on their college campus. That’s definitely what I’m most passionate about.