NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Norwich University’s College of Graduate and Continuing Studies (CGCS) hosted its annual Residency Conference June 18 through 22, 2018. The week represents the culmination of CGCS students’ experiences in online learning, with over 505 individuals gathering on the Northfield, Vt., campus to partake in presentations, academic conferences, networking events and commencement exercises.
The theme of this year’s residency conference, “Build on the Past; Lead into the Future,” served as a complement to the university’s Year of Legacy—a celebration highlighting Norwich’s history of innovation and achievement as its 2019 bicentennial approaches. In keeping with these themes, the residency conference will feature a number of programmatic and interdisciplinary sessions, as well as experiential learning activities, the likes of which typify Norwich’s commitment to exploring new frontiers.
Students in the business administration program will have the opportunity to apply concepts derived from coursework to hands-on experience working with Vermont Village, a quickly-expanding local cannery that specializes in Vermont grown, organic products such as vinegars, sauces and butters. Students will concentrate on areas such as project and resource management, marketing, leadership, operations and finance as they help Vermont Village identify obstacles to operational growth and prosperity. Additional exercises in forensics and cyber security will allow students in public administration, criminal justice, and information security and assurance to test their knowledge in real-world scenarios.
The 2018 Residency Conference will also feature the 6th Annual Leadership Summit, offered by the Norwich University Leadership and Change Institute (LCI). The Leadership Summit empowers multi-disciplinary groups of students to help organizations address internal leadership challenges. Similar events include the Cyber Security Summit—which brings together luminaries in the fields of business, information security and assurance, and public administration to discuss the challenges relative to the rapid evolution of cyber security—and the ALARA World Congress. ALARA—the Action Learning, Action Research Association—is a global organization committed to the principles of collaborative learning and transformational leadership in service to a more equitable international society.
In disciplines such as international relations, history, civil engineering, diplomacy and nursing, students will present research and capstone projects that demonstrate the apogee of their academic experiences at Norwich; students in diplomacy and international relations also participate in comprehensive case studies relevant to their fields.
Entrepreneur, magician and motivational speaker Vinh Giang will deliver the keynote presentation. Giang’s presentations combine cutting-edge business insight with dazzling displays of magic to create his signature brand of performance-enhanced communication—a valuable tool that has helped thousands transform their personal and professional lives.
Giang will deliver his address Tuesday, June 19, at 7 p.m. in Plumley Armory on the Norwich campus as part of Norwich’s Todd Lecture Series, a program that brings distinguished speakers to campus to participate in rigorous philosophic and academic dialogue with the community. This event is free and open to the public, and will be livestreamed on the Todd Lecture Series website.
While Norwich’s Year of Legacy serves as a celebration of the university’s traditions and successes, the theme carries special significance for the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies—now in its 20th year of operation. Having endured significant technological changes and shifts in academic thought and practice, CGCS is proud to bring Captain Alden Partridge’s pioneering spirit and vision for service-driven leadership to cyberspace in order to reach a broader audience of adult learners. The 2018 Residency Conference boasts some impressive figures:
Comprised of working professionals from all walks of life and myriad industries, the 2018 graduating class will become part of a legacy of leadership, service and experiential learning that has lasted nearly 200 years. The Class of 2018 graduates include active duty and veteran military personnel, CEOs, healthcare professionals, law enforcement officers and special agents, entrepreneurs, and educators.
Norwich University is a nationally recognized leader in online graduate and undergraduate education. Often touted by CGCS graduates as a highlight of their Norwich experience, the Residency Conference is unique among online programs for creating esprit de corps amongst students while allowing them to fully synthesize the knowledge gained during their education.
Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation's six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). www.norwich.edu
Norwich University will celebrate its bicentennial in 2019. In fulfillment of Norwich’s mission to train and educate today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders and captains of industry, Norwich launched the Forging the Future campaign in 2014. The five-year campaign, which is timed to culminate in 2019, is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities and is designed to enhance the university’s strong position as it steps into its third century of service to the nation.
Norwich University’s College of Graduate and Continuing Studies (CGCS) builds upon the institution’s 199-year academic heritage with innovative online programs. CGCS offers master’s degrees in a variety of areas; bachelor’s degree completion programs; a certificate in teaching and learning and continuing education opportunities. The programs are recognized throughout the industry for their rigor, small class size, high student satisfaction and retention. online.norwich.edu
About Norwich University
Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation's six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).
Norwich will celebrate its bicentennial in 2019. In fulfillment of Norwich’s mission to train and educate today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders, Norwich launched the Forging the Future campaign in 2014. The five-year campaign, which is timed to culminate in 2019, is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities and is designed to enhance the university’s strong position as it steps into its third century of service to the nation.
Daphne E. Larkin M’17
Director of Media Relations & Community Affairs
Office: 1 (802) 485-2886
Mobile: 1 (802) 595-3613
What the radical shifts in higher education and online learning mean for Norwich’s College of Graduate and Continuing Studies.
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY SEAN MARKEY
Norwich and Apple share an anniversary. Twenty years ago, both launched radical new tech products. For Norwich, it was a degree-granting online distance learning program. For Apple, it was the iMac, a personal desktop computer about the size of a small microwave. The iMac combined a tower and screen into a single cartoony wedge-shaped monitor. Encased in fruity shades of translucent plastic, it signaled the coming Apple i-revolution, from iPhones to iTunes.
Back in 1998, NU’s first online students likely logged onto the internet via phone-line dialup on 56kbps modems. Some may have even used iMacs. Classes followed a basic read, write, discuss model—a typical campus course minus the lecture. Twenty years on, the underlying technology and market for CGCS programs have changed entirely.
Today CGCS is a vital virtual campus with over 1,600 students in 6 undergraduate degree-completion and 13 master’s programs. It graduates as many or more students each year than NU’s nearly two-century-old traditional campus and does so at a modest pro t. The college has contributed $38 million to the university’s bottom line in the last 15 years.
CGCS courses are not the product of a single PhD but a team of subject-matter experts and instructional designers who combine academic content, user-centric platform architecture, and insights from the latest brain science on learning to tailor courses for online success. Data analytics to grade the efficacy of individual lessons are now in reach, as is a near-future when virtual reality and AI will likely play a role in the online campus experience.
Pointing out that Norwich and Apple share a product anniversary is not to equate the university with a tech pioneer whose current $992 billion market valuation makes it the most valuable public company in the world. Rather, it is to highlight how profoundly technology and the market have changed for both since CGCS and the iMac debuted.
Norwich was an early adopter when its first online program went live. Today, the online higher-ed market is beyond saturated. “The question isn’t who has an online MBA today,” says Megan Liptak, a CGCS residency coordinator. “The question is, who doesn’t?” Depending on who you talk to, the changes of the past two decades for CGCS and its peers will pale in comparison to what lies ahead.
For much of its history, William Clements has led CGCS. The long-serving vice president and dean began his Norwich career on the traditional campus faculty. Fresh from his PhD studies, the young professor coded HTML web pages to share criminal justice course information with his students. Speaking in his office late in the day on a Friday afternoon in March, it’s clear that Clements is a forward-looking thinker and entrepreneur, one more inclined to take his bearings from the writings of Harvard Business School faculty, Silicon Valley, private equity researchers, and his own deep reading and networking than the sleepier corners of academia. His wall bears a certificate from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government for a short executive seminar on homeland security.
Which is to say that when Clements references the powerful market forces upending traditional and online higher education today, he speaks from experience and with insight. The administrator describes a landscape of tectonic shifts driven by new competition, declining enrollments, transforming technology, and the growing student debt crisis.
Clements traces the roots of many of these changes back to the early 2000s. For the first time, the rising cost of a college education outstripped the ability of an average family to pay for it. In the years since, the gap has only grown wider. So wide that colleges facing cuts from other funding sources, such as federal grant funding and state subsidies, can no longer simply raise tuition to cover their own growing expenses. “What is most clear is the business model is broken,” Clements says. “What is less clear is the exact pathway forward.” Seeing opportunity in the demand for new skills in today’s knowledge economy, private equity is investing billions in companies and startups focused on higher education. Investment has also owed in the opposite direction, albeit against the prevailing current. Purdue University, the flagship campus of the Indiana state university system, recently purchased Kaplan, the for-profit company known for its test prep, tutoring centers, and 32,000-student online university from its former Washington Post parent company. And then there is New York. Last year, its public college system began offering free tuition to state residents, provided they stick around after graduation to work for a while.
One change that vexes Clements more than most relates to the increasing modularization of higher ed. In the same way that food giants such as Sodexo have taken over campus dining facilities, large publishers have encroached on what was once the exclusive domain of faculty, offering ready-made courses and programs practically off the shelf to any university willing to partner and pay up. Clements points to the example of cybersecurity. Not too long ago, he says, he ran across yet another college, this one in West Virginia, offering a new cybersecurity program taught to Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency national standards.
For Clements, the salient point is less about who than how and what that means. For-profit publishers such as Pearson have effectively moved out of the textbook business and into the knowledge business, he says. They have developed not only textbooks but also lesson plans, curricula, and interactive-learning environments. To offer a new course or even an academic program, universities don’t have to hire a raft of new faculty with hard-won expertise. “That barrier is gone...eroded by innovation in the private sector,” Clements says. In his view, the shift is a profound one. “No longer does the university have monopoly on knowledge.” “That is what makes this fundamentally different than simply the introduction of the internet. The whole business model is changing,” he says. In his mind, that raises central questions. “What then, as a university, is your role? Where’s your value, and how do you prove it?”
For answers, it helps to examine some bodies. Specifically, the dead ones that Rosemarie Pelletier, PhD, has kept in her basement for a while now. You may (or may not) expect as much from a former lobbyist and self-described “Sicilian from Brooklyn,” let alone one who keeps a baseball bat in her office. The bodies aren’t real, of course. They’re fakes. The kind made of rubbery plastic ordered from, where else, Amazon. But more on the stiffs in a bit.
Pelletier is a CGCS professor and program director in both the Master of Public Administration program and the Master of Science in Information Security and Assurance, aka cybersecurity. A sharp, no-nonsense sweetheart who favors pinks and purples, Pelletier has lobbied on Capitol Hill and in Richmond, served on technology advisory boards for two Virginia governors, and built a private consulting business that oversaw a $350 million highway project in Northern Virginia. When it comes to working her Rolodex, Pelletier is clearly a killer. In her five years at CGCS, she has assembled two first-rate advisory boards, recruiting cybersecurity, technology and government experts from NBC Universal, Akamai, General Motors, and local government in the red-hot northern Virginia suburbs. Guided by their insights, Pelletier and her CGCS colleagues have steered academic programming in new directions, rolling out new concentrations in nonprofit management, municipal governance, vulnerability management, and public administration leadership and crisis management. Next year, advisory board members will conduct mock job interviews with graduates and offer resume critiques during Residency Conference.
As for the bodies, they doubled as victims of a fake murder spree staged during Residency, a culminating five-day symposium for CGCS graduates capped by commencement ceremonies. The mock crime was planned for the benefit of students concentrating in digital forensics. Working as a group, students applied their new professional skills in a hands-on workshop to solve the case, hacking digital devices, preserving and gathering additional physical evidence, and analyzing the lot. This year, the mock murders continue. Archer Mayor, the best-selling crime novelist, former cop, and a Vermont State death investigator, wrote the backstory. Northfield police, Vermont State Police, and Vermont Attorney General staff will also participate, lending verisimilitude to the experience.
George Silowash M’07, a CGCS instructor and associate director of the college’s cybersecurity master’s program, has been deeply involved in both exercises. Silowash, who also serves as NU’s chief information security officer, is also a CGCS alum. Like many, Silowash entered the MS in information security and assurance program after experiencing a familiar epiphany. “I was sitting at my desk” at a health insurance company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, “and realized I didn’t want to do this anymore.” Silowash saw an online ad for what was then called the School of Graduate Studies and applied.
Silowash jokes that his Amazon order history related to the Residency workshops—bleach, latex gloves, plastic baggies, etc.—may one day catch up with him. “I keep expecting that knock on the door.”
Joshing aside, the culminating projects are, in the end, serious endeavors designed to provide graduates door-opening professional experience. MBA candidates, for example, produce case studies for businesses, some in the Fortune 500. (Non-disclosure agreements prevent staff from discussing them in detail.)
Last year, in the wake of reported widespread Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, Pelletier and Silowash designed a Residency project for cybersecurity majors to test and exploit the cyber vulnerabilities of voting machines.
The pair bought three used Diebold machines on eBay for $50 each. (Which they later learned were put up for sale by a Virginia county.) The exercise didn’t last long. “It took about three minutes to hack the machines,” Silowash says. “They were full of voter data.” Silowash immediately shut down the exercise.
His own classes seem equally engaging. Earlier this semester, students in his 11-week computer forensic investigations class used software to probe an ersatz corporate data breach and intellectual property theft at a fictional company called MegaDeal. In another exercise, students reconstructed the virtual trail of a ring of criminals trading in illicit rhinoceros photos.
Given all that, it seems fair to argue that the bodies, which until recently were sitting in Rosemarie Pelletier’s basement, spark a broader story about the value and quality of CGCS as a whole.
One of the business thinkers that CGCS Dean Clements reads is Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor and author. In the late ’90s, Christensen introduced his theory of “disruptive innovation” to describe how dominant industries can be upstaged by newcomers. These upstarts produce cheaper, novel versions of established products that, while initially inferior, reach new markets of previously untapped consumers. Over time, the upstarts continue to innovate until the quality of their own products eclipse those of their once-dominant competitors.
Christensen applied his model to industries such as auto manufacturing and steel to explain how leading companies in those fields were at first dismissive then outfoxed by new entrants. Consider Detroit’s Big Three and upstart Japanese car maker Toyota in the 1960s and ’70s. Eventually, Christensen applied his theory of disruptive innovation to his own industry, higher education. Among his work on the subject is the 2008 book The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out, published with coauthor Henry J. Eyring.
In his manifesto, Christensen makes two key points relevant to this story. First, as a result of the disruptive innovation in higher education, “focus shifts from a teacher’s credentials or an institution’s prestige to what students actually learn.” He also notes that there are two distinct groups of students: your typical carefree 18- to 22-year-olds and students with jobs and families. This second group, he writes, doesn’t “want to spend time on campus to earn a degree. They want to learn when they have time to learn—often after work, when their children are asleep. New entrants to higher education that focus on these potential students are indeed classic disruptors.”
Norwich was prescient to launch its own disruptive innovator in CGCS. The challenge before the university today is to continue to innovate. “The question is not, should the university expand its vision of what learning is and how it meets its constituents needs,” Clements says. “[It’s] how are we going to do it?”
The dean and his CGCS colleagues have no shortage of ideas. Striving to make CGCS programming more flexible and affordable, the college has expanded beyond traditional degree tracks—launching a host of new programs. Many span an array of professional fields and can be completed in a matter of months, weeks, or even days. They range from 40-hour, postgraduate cybersecurity professional certificates that are standard requirements in the industry, to a drone-pilot-license program for first-responder search-and rescue-operators, to a planned three-week leadership program in international business based in Chengdu, China, as well as current partnerships with the U.S. Army National Guard and Marine Corps to provide mission-specific training for military personnel.
In the future, CGCS will be challenged to take on an even larger role for the university, as Norwich looks to expand its reach, serve more students, and raise revenue to drive further innovation and serve the NU mission. A new 17-year strategic plan, Norwich After Next, envisions new satellite campuses for the university anchored by CGCS programming.
Amid all the Sturm und Drang around the role and influence of online higher education, it can be easy to lose sight of who it’s for and the impact that a college like CGCS has had on the lives and careers of its 8,000 alumni.
The CGCS graduating Class of 2018 includes Olivia Parker, a high school English teacher and track-and-field coach from Seymour, Tenn., who earned a master’s degree in history; Nicole Petker, an environmental engineer at the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona in Phoenix, who earned a master’s degree in civil engineering; and Brad Hanson from Milton, Vt., who completed a bachelor degree in criminal justice and is now a cold case investigator with the Vermont State Police.
And then there’s Andrew Duncklee, who began his college career as a Norwich cadet, but dropped out after his sophomore year because he wasn’t quite ready for college. Working in industry for a while, Duncklee earned an associate degree from a New Hampshire community college. He was challenged by his mentor there—Henry Collier, an Army reservist who now leads the undergraduate degree-completion program in cybersecurity at CGCS—to complete his bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. While still a student at CGCS, Duncklee was hired as an IT security engineer by Dartmouth College. “When I think of success,” Collier says, “I think of Andrew.”
That the list of CGCS graduates is long and growing overall bodes well for the college and for Norwich. “We always like to say the world needs more Norwich graduates,” Clements says.
“The core of the university is our 200-year history as a senior military college. We don’t want to ever lose sight of that contribution,” he says. “We just need to redefine it for the next century, for the next iteration of Norwich.”
A globe-trotting former U.S. Senate staffer turns cyber wonk.
By Jane Dunbar
The Norwich Record | Summer 2018
Alycia Farrell M’17 isn't an engineer. But with her growing expertise in cyber warfare, she is uniquely poised to advise experts in a range of professions—as well as the governments for whom they work. Her professional experience spans an uncommon Venn diagram: international relations theory, missile defense system architecture, and cybersecurity.
Farrell came into the NU College of Graduate and Continuing Studies with 15 years of experience as an appropriator, working on funding and policy for strategic and missile defense programs. She first heard the term “cyber” while serving as an analyst on former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens’ Department of Defense subcommittee, but only began to understand the significance of cybersecurity for weapons systems when analyzing how the U.S. would deploy them overseas.
“The nature of the weapon acquisition process and the constantly evolving threat we were trying to mitigate left little time for Congress to really consider the security vulnerabilities of the system.” And, while she was tasked with making decisions on funding and policy for such systems, she had no real technical appreciation of how the vulnerabilities worked.
“That was my inspiration and purpose for pursuing my master’s at Norwich, to get that technical training while advancing my understanding of international relations.” During her course of study, Farrell developed the technical acumen to identify and exploit critical exposures, while honing the specialized knowledge to craft policies and procedures to prevent them.
Farrell—who grew up in Anderson, Alaska (population: 246)—recently married a Canadian military airman. They live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she is on the hunt for her next professional adventure. Much as she has since first entering college to study music, switching midstream to history, and graduating (two transfers and four schools later) with an international relations degree, Farrell is keeping an open mind and training as a cybersecurity professional—ready to answer the door when the right opportunity knocks.
Alycia Farrell M’17 visited the South Pole as a function of her job as an analyst for former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens’ Department of Defense subcommittee. Photo courtesy Alycia Farrell M’17
By Bill Walsh ’77
The Norwich Record | Summer 2018
Some people leave indelible marks on our souls. They enter our thoughts for no apparent reason, and we wonder why, then return to what we’re doing and move on. Sometimes, we stop and pay attention. That’s the way it’s been with Pete Jaskilka.
On the Friday morning of the 2017 Homecoming weekend—my 40th class reunion—I was anxious to visit Major Pete Jaskilka’s grave. A USAF pilot and NU civil engineer, he will always be a friend, a rook buddy, a rugby teammate, a fellow senior honor committee member, a major in the Corps of Cadets who led by example, and the first person to be buried at the Norwich University Cemetery on Dole Farm. For this visit, my wife, Diane, and I joined a small group for a cemetery tour.
The NU Cemetery is holy ground in an awe-inspiring setting, a peaceful and solemn place beautifully cared for by the NU Cemetery Association. After visiting Pete’s grave, I told the following story, one that will be forever etched in my mind.
In early September 1988, Dave Whaley ’76 called me from the Alumni Office to tell me that Pete had passed away at 33. The news shook me to the core. For if a person were to live forever based on attitude, selflessness, and caring, it would be Pete. He possessed the rare ability to live each day to its fullest. He wore a smile that radiated his zest for life. His laugh was contagious, and he might have been the happiest guy in our class, especially after falling in love with and marrying Sue Hay VC’78, now Sue Staretorp. They made a handsome couple.
After Pete’s funeral at White Chapel, the procession slowly navigated uphill to the NU Cemetery. As the minister read from scripture, we could hear slow flying jets above the clouds. When the service ended, an Air Force officer announced that the clouds were too low for the scheduled flyby. We were terribly disappointed.
Just before we dispersed, however, Steve Svrcek ’77, a pilot and rook buddy, calmly said, “Here it comes—down the ski slope.” Ever so close to the treetops, a lone F-16 Fighting Falcon screamed down Paine Mountain. Stunned, we watched the jet disappear into the valley for a few seconds. When it reappeared, the fighter was pointing directly at us: vulnerable souls watching in astonishment. As the plane’s belly became visible, its afterburners howled as red and orange flames spewed from its exhaust. The fighter’s roar was deafening. We stretched our necks as it shot straight up and over us. After two slow barrel rolls, it disappeared into the clouds and flew off—just as Pete had done only a few days earlier. We stood, shocked into stillness, our mouths half-open. None of us spoke as we listened to the jet’s engine grow dim. For what could be said about this spectacular tribute and final salute to a forever smiling Pete, one of NU’s finest.
About the Author
Bill Walsh ’77 majored in business administration and minored in philosophy and English at Norwich University. He received an MA in theology from the University of Notre Dame and served as a vice president with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. He lives with his wife of 37 years, Diane, in Barre Town, Vt.
(Above): Pete Jaskilka ’77 as a senior cadet with his future wife, Sue Hay VC’78. Pete’s father-in-law, Gordon Hay ’49, who died in 2016, paid him the ultimate compliment by requesting that he be buried next to his son-in-law at the NU Cemetery (see “In Memoriam,” Norwich Record, winter 2017). Photo courtesy Bill Walsh ’77
Blood Mountain, Georgia, is where 70 percent of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers give up. It’s also where at this time last year, just weeks after his Norwich graduation, Tomas Maciel ’17 took stock. With 55 pounds on his back, he had hiked the first 100 miles of the storied wilderness path from Georgia to Maine. He still had 2,090 miles to go.
In the early days of his journey, the trail had a touristy vibe, teeming with day hikers out to enjoy the weather. As his feet carried him north, the crowds thinned, and Maciel began to encounter more serious travelers. He also encountered bears, more poisonous snakes than he could count, moose, porcupines, and wild ponies. He walked through wilderness areas 47 miles removed from the next shelter, along highways, down the main streets of towns. He swam every day, bathing in streams and ponds. Strangers helped him. He helped strangers.
He pulls back his sleeve to reveal a scar. “Slipped on a bridge, caught a bolt to my forearm.” Superglue in his first-aid kit sealed the wound. He pressed on. In New Jersey, he caught poison sumac. In New York, with only half a jar of peanut butter left, Maciel ran out of money—miscalculating the debit card transfers he used to cover basic expenses. “It was pretty scary. I never made the mistake again of not packing enough food.” In September, he became violently ill after drinking contaminated water, dropping 12 pounds in two weeks. Finishing the trail became a sheer test of will. By the time he reached New England, he was covering over 20 miles a day. “It got to the point where I was not really stopping, not really looking at anything. I stopped taking photos.”
On October 6, 2017, a 25-degree day with low clouds and whipping wind, he raised his Norwich ag on the peak of Mount Katahdin—officially the end point, but not for Maciel. On good advice, he had skipped ahead to climb Maine’s highest peak before the trail closed for the winter, then returned to Vermont to complete the hike, ending at the Massachusetts-Connecticut border.
Tomas Maciel walked for five months. During that time, his youngest brother graduated from high school and entered boot camp at Parris Island. His middle brother, also a Marine, deployed to Korea. Meanwhile, he lost 72 pounds and two inches, shrinking from 6'5" to 6'3". A vein in his leg collapsed during the hike. He learned that his beard was red and that the violent illness he’d contracted from tainted water was giardia, a parasite. And, while he met people and made friends along the way, mostly he traveled by himself.
Today, Maciel is still 6'3" and doesn’t throw food away, “ever.” His thru-hike diet of mostly ramen noodles, instant potatoes, and peanut butter has left his stomach shrunken. His body will be slow to readjust to certain foods. He picks up a lot more trash.
Asked what he learned about himself on the Appalachian Trail, Maciel disappears into his thoughts. Returning to the present, he replies, “That I can be alone.”
The Norwich Record | Summer 2018