Luke Herzog '24 - Introduction

Old Herzog Headshot

Hello, hello, hello! My name is Luke, and I’m a sophomore at Amherst College. I hail from the other side of the continent, a small town called Pacific Grove on the central coast of California. At Amherst, I am a prospective English major with interests in theater, American history, and creative writing. Excited to have this opportunity to share my summer experience with any readers out there!

On campus, (if I’m not giving a tour) you might find me reading a book in one of the Adirondack chairs on the Main Quad, slathering meals in hot sauce at Valentine Dining Hall, or watching a movie on a projector with a few of my friends. 

Some Amherst extracurriculars I’ve been involved with include…

  • The Green Room, an independent student theater group that produces and performs several shows each semester -- ranging from funny parodies to Shakespeare to (more recently) inventive Zoom plays. 
  • Mr. Gad’s House of Improv, the best (and only) improvisational comedy group on campus. Also known simply as “Gad’s,” we goof around and make stuff up off the top of our heads every Monday evening in the Friedmann Room of the Keefe Campus Center.
  • The Dialectic, a semesterly academic journal with a special focus on politics and history. 

When the COVID pandemic broke out, I actually made the difficult decision to take a gap year -- much like Prince, I am now “The Student Formerly Known as Class of ‘23.” A friend recently called me a super-sophomore, and that has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Being away for a year certainly helped crystallize what makes Amherst so special, and now I am especially jazzed to finally return to campus this summer! Looking forward to bringing you along with me.

If you have any questions (or if you just want to chat) please feel free to email me at lherzog23@amherst.edu! I’ll be sure to respond right away.



Meet and Eat

Hello reader!

Today was one of the tastier weeks that I have experienced here in the Pioneer Valley. Allow me to share my foodsperiences with you.

Earlier this week, I ordered in from Oriental Flavor, my favorite Chinese restaurant in the town of Amherst. Delivered right outside the door of my residence hall, I took a night in, enjoying the Sichuan style chicken from the comfort of my dorm room. Leftovers? No problem! Every room now comes equipped with a brand-new mini-fridge! I took advantage and snacked on the takeout for the next couple of days. 

Flayvors On hot Amherst summer days, nothing hits the spot quite like ice cream. To celebrate our first full week of in-person tours, we tour guides embarked on the ten-minute journey to Flayvors. A dessert staple around these parts, Flayvors is both a working dairy farm (Cook farm) and a quality ice cream shop. I purchased two scoops -- one of pistachio, the other of vanilla and chocolate fudge. DELICIOUS! The dairy is so fresh, you can enjoy a scoop while looking the cow who produced the milk right in the eye… Maybe don’t do that, actually. 

Yesterday, a friend and I ventured into the town of Amherst. Every Saturday morning, a farmer’s market appears and we had a wonderful time exploring the different stands and vendors. For lunch, we ate at a place I had never tried before -- Fresh Side Eatery, a local Asian fusion restaurant. After enjoying some fried rice, the heat once again convinced us to search out something cold and tasty. It was only a minute-long walk to GoBerry, a local frozen yogurt destination and student favorite. It’s nestled right beside Amherst Cinema, where we scanned the films “coming soon” while we ate. Froyo

One of my favorite aspects of town-life here at Amherst has always been the food. With UMASS Amherst located so 
close by, the town is built to support a larger college community. As a result, the options are plentiful and the atmosphere is vibrant -- everything from Indian to Italian, bubble tea to burgers, sushi to smoothies can be found if you take the time to look around!



Goodbye, For Now

Hello (for the final time???) from the Pioneer Valley!

The final week has arrived. The summer has truly flown by, and I’ve certainly gotten my steps in while leading daily tours! Now I set my sights on the next phase of my summer, Orientation Week and my new gig as an OL (Orientation Leader). I’m excited for the opportunity to welcome the Class of 2025 to Amherst College, armed with a new wealth of knowledge about the school from my tour guide experience. 

During Orientation Week, the new class is divided into various groups or “squads” of about fifteen students or so, each led by an Orientation Leader. What I love most about Amherst’s Orientation program is that those fourteen other students in your squad actually become your classmates in your first-year seminar! The first-year seminars are a group of 30+ classes designed specifically for new students -- they tend to be broader, introductory courses that prepare students for the rigors of a college education. Newly-admitted students rank their top seven choices, and then Amherst assigns them to one of those seminars.

We tour guides always use a class called “Liquid Gold” as an example -- that course, taught by a chemistry professor, delved into the composition, economics, and history of olive oil. My first-year seminar was far less specific -- it was called “Progress?” In that interdisciplinary course, we read everyone from Freud to Marx to Darwin in a quest to attempt to answer the question of whether society has progressed in the last century. Answers were… inconclusive. But, once again, the beauty of the Amherst system was that, when I walked into class for my very first day as a college student, I was already acquainted with all of my classmates!

As we begin the slow process of approaching normalcy as this pandemic wears on, I’m hopeful that the Class of 2025 will experience an Orientation Week that looks something similar to my own. It’s been a blast serving as a tour guide this summer, and I hope some prospective students out there found these blogs helpful! 

                                       Tour guides on quad



"Where are you from?"

Hello from the Pioneer Valley!

It’s hard for me to believe, but my summer tour guide gig is quickly coming to a close. This week marks our second-to-last week on the job.

                                         Tour Guides

It’s been a blast showing families around this summer, and that is in no small part because it’s allowed me to interact and introduce myself to so many wonderful prospective students. I’ve also gained an incredible perspective of the geographic diversity of those prospective students. Before each tour, I like to ask visitors where they’re coming from and I always get exciting answers -- Chattanooga and Juneau, Turkey and Chile, as near as Framingham and as far as Hamburg.

Interest in Amherst extends nationally, and, indeed, internationally -- and this is reflected in the makeup of the college’s student body. According to the Amherst Diversity Outreach Program, “Our students come from 48 states, plus Washington D.C, Puerto Rico and 54 countries around the world. Approximately 10% of our students are international students with non-U.S. citizenship. Another 5% hold dual citizenship with the U.S. and another country and have lived or studied outside the U.S.”

Statistics like that make me reflect on my own path to Amherst. How did a guy from a small town on the central coast of California wind up in a liberal arts school all the way on the other side of the country? I think part of it is that I’m a bit of a contrarian; most friends stayed very local which was perfectly understandable, but I wanted to “get out there,” to experience a new environment. I had a feeling New England was the place for me. I wanted to experience seasons for once -- orange fall foliage and heavy winter snowfalls. I think, in order to grow, it can be important to put a little distance between yourself and where you come from.



The 5 Best Places to Read at Amherst College: A Definitive Ranking

If you’re an Amherst student, especially someone more humanities-focused like me, you’ll be spending a lot of your time out of class reading -- often for hours a day. That campus has plenty of nice spaces to engage in said reading. Here are just a few of my favorite spots!

5) A quiet table in the corner of Valentine Dining Hall. 

It’s not an uncommon practice to get some reading or work in during your meal -- there’s even a name for the practice, “Val sitting.” Grab a book, and a table tucked away in a corner where you won’t be bothered and get started. A steady stream of snacks to fuel your progress doesn’t hurt either!

4) A couch in the Science Center.

With construction completed as recently as 2018, our Science Center is brand-new! Not only are most STEM classes taught within, the building itself is also a popular student hub with several study spaces and a cafe. I especially like reading in the Science Center in the winter, because (with its open plan and large glass windows) you can watch the snow fall with an impressive panoramic view. 

3) A reading nook in Robert Frost Library.

An obvious option, Frost Library is of course an excellent space to read! There are several little desks hidden away in the stacks on multiple levels. In addition, Frost Library has a “silent” floor where students gather when they really need to hunker down and finish some reading, writing, or research. 

2) A cozy common room.

Every floor of every residence hall has its own common room! I know that during my first year especially, I took advantage of the common room on the third floor of Williston Hall almost every day. It’s a convenient spot for when you need a change of scene but don’t want to venture too far from your dorm room. 

1) An Adirondack chair on the Main Quad.

My favorite option of them all -- you can’t go wrong with an Adirondack. The comfortable green chairs are scattered across campus, and they are especially common on the Main Quadrangle. The trees create some natural shade and the view from Memorial Hill is unparalleled. The quad is a nice spot for frisbee, spike ball, gathering with your friends to picnic or hang out… and of course, it’s a wonderful place to read. 

Werewolves, Kings, and The Lord of the Rings

Salutations from Amherst College!

This past week has been especially rainy, but the weather hasn’t stopped us from enjoying life out here this summer. Recently, I’ve been an audience member for several different nearby shows and performances.

First, a few friends and I bought tickets to a showing of the movie Werewolves Within (a comedy-horror-whodunnit) at Amherst Cinema, the local movie theater. It’s a nice, nonprofit theater located within walking distance of the college, and a popular weekend activity for students. It should be noted that there is also a movie theater on the campus itself -- the theater in the basement of the Keefe Campus Center also features themed films for students throughout the academic year. 

A few days ago, the college hosted a talent show for those 350 students or so currently on campus. It was a fun, casual event hosted outside the Science Center, which was emceed by my good friend Matt. It was an incredible showcase of the abilities of just a small selection of students -- powerful singers, dynamic dancers, skilled musicians, etc. The show reminded me of Coffee Haus, the annual open mic night held in Marsh Arts House during the school year.

This weekend, I went on a daytrip with a few theater pals to see a production of King Lear in Lenox, Massachusetts. The play was performed in an outdoor theater by Shakespeare & Company, and the titular character was portrayed by the actor Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown from Back to the Future). The students with whom I watched the play were no strangers to Shakespeare -- the Green Room (Amherst’s student theater club) has put on multiple Shakespeare productions in the past, as well as a student-written Shakespeare parody.

                                       Shakespeare
Speaking of the Green Room, I am currently one of the writers of our upcoming annual student-parody. As a club, we’ve parodied everything from Star Wars to Harry Potter to Disney. This year, we chose a trilogy close to my heart: The Lord of the Rings. Now I’m just hoping we can find realistic hobbit feet for our actors! For those prospective Amherst students out there, the parodies are open to all students and often serve as a wonderful introduction to Amherst theater for first-years. Many of my current friends were involved with the Disney parody my freshman year.

A Gad's Retrospective

Hello from the Pioneer Valley!

I am a part of Amherst College’s best (and only) improvisational comedy group, Mr. Gad’s House of Improv. Under normal circumstances, we perform every Monday night in the Friedmann Room of the Keefe Campus Center, making things up off the top of our heads.

If you know a thing or two about improv, you’ve probably at least heard of the notion of “Yes, and” -- it ensures that an idea is never shot down, only built upon. The “yes” is affirmation. The “and” is contribution. I love improv because it necessitates collaboration and supporting one another on stage. You have no script or safety net, which means you have to rely on your scene partners to have your back. And, due to the unusual circumstances of this past pandemic academic year, we especially had to have each other’s backs when it came to the difficult transition to virtual shows. 

                                        Gads Group Pic 2021

Gad’s did it’s best to adapt to the times, migrating to Zoom so the performers from all four corners of the country could continue goofing around together every Monday night. It was different, of course. Timing hinged on a good Wi-Fi connection. Physical comedy was limited to what could be accomplished in a Zoom box. The audience was muted, so we couldn’t hear any laughter. Usually most cameras were turned off as well, so sometimes it felt like we were performing in a void. 

But we managed it, and the shows kept us connected and entertained through a year plagued by isolation and uncertainty. As is the nature of improv, some scenes were duds… but others were memorable and hilarious (at least to us, and that’s usually all that matters). The pandemic forced us to get inventive, and we made the most of the situation by taking advantage of Zoom filters and poking fun at audio delays. I think we came out stronger as a result, and we’re VERY excited at the prospect of Mr. Gad’s returning for in-person shows this fall.



My View

Hello world! Greenway Night

Now that a few weeks have passed, I’ve settled nicely into Amherst summer life. Approximately 350 students reside on
campus this summer -- immersed in everything from thesis work to faculty internships to research programs (like
SURF and Schupf and Gregory S. Call) to on-campus jobs. One of my friends, an English/Spanish double major, is writing a thesis that reimagines Don Quixote as a wayward woman in the 1970s American South. Another friend is working under 
  a geology professor, collecting soil samples and crushing rocks to collect data for his research. Still another friend is finding creative ways to combine computer science and theater. Yesterday I asked him what was the latest, and he explained that he currently had an A.I. program running on his computer that was actively absorbing and learning the Bard’s works in order to pump out some never-before-seen computer-generated Shakespeare.

The majority of us are currently housed in the Greenway Residence Halls, a complex of upperclassmen dormitories constructed only a few years ago. “Greenway” is no misnomer -- these buildings are sleek and sustainable with a rainwater harvesting system, low-flow fixtures, and high-efficiency appliances. The buildings also come equipped with tables for pool and ping-pong, event spaces and meeting rooms for student clubs, large televisions, as well as several convenient kitchenettes. While many have also been taking advantage of the nearby volleyball and basketball courts, I’m a big fan of the giant scrabble board that’s built into the wall of my building (incidentally, “Greenway” is 15 points).

My view My favorite part of my summer housing? The view. Nestled in an ideal location on the southern side of campus, the Greenways get a picture-perfect look at the Pioneer Valley. I mean, it looks like a computer screensaver in real life! Not to brag or anything, but being all the way up on the sixth floor of Ford Hall, I might have the best view of all… It's the same view of the mountains that I glimpsed when I first drove into Amherst with my dad during our 2018 New England college search. Even then, I had a feeling that Amherst would be the place I would spend the next four years of my life.

 

(Look at that! I can spot my friend Matt from across the Greenway courtyard!) 

Matt



On the Art of Naming Classes

Salutations from the Pioneer Valley!

Summertime means it’s time for my semi-annual clean-up -- an opportunity to organize my desktop and delete buried emails. Sifting through old back-and-forths with profs and sorting essays into neat folders, I reflected on the eclectic and intriguing classes that I’ve taken thus far as an Amherst student. Specifically, I thought about the class names

I should explain. One underappreciated perk of Amherst’s open curriculum is that, because they cannot rely on general ed requirements to shuttle students into their classrooms, professors are incentivized to teach well, to offer lessons on compelling topics, and to actively sell students on their courses. When you’re skimming through any given semester’s course list, this can translate into (relatively superficial but fun) eye-catching class names. Trust me, these hooks will lead you down some fascinating academic rabbit holes (speaking of, EDUC 182: Constructing Childhood examines how youth are represented through Alice in Wonderland).

Some professors adorn their courses with punctuation marks. The joke with my first-year seminar, for example, was that you had to say it with an upward inflection. After all, it was called FYSE 101: Progress? In small class sections, we probed the concept of progress from almost every angle -- anthropological, historical, psychological, socio-political. Is the world a better place than it was 50 years ago? What is “better”? Maybe it was a little goofy, but that question mark did some heavy lifting. It emphasized the undercurrent of the entire class -- the notion that progress itself is an open question.

Similarly, the title of my Renaissance literature class implies it should be shouted out at the top of your lungs: ENGL 370: Witch Hunt! Reading Shakespeare and Marlowe, reviewing Greek mythology and Puritanism, exploring familiars and hexes and deals with the devil, Professor Bosman took us on a literary journey with witchcraft as the throughline. The class name (including the hyperbolic punctuation) was a tongue-in-cheek reference to a certain commander-in-chief’s tweets.

If you glance at my transcript, you might suspect I’m preparing for a storied career as an international superspy. In ENGL 172: Detective Fiction, we read stories like The Maltese Falcon and Sherlock Holmes, actually employing the detective’s analytical process in crafting our essays. Hardly elementary. Although the class didn’t quite leave me a master manipulator, PSYC 239: Psychology of Persuasion imparted a better understanding of how to deliver a message that really sticks. I eagerly await EUST 235: Imposters this fall, an interdisciplinary course that touches on everything from supernatural seances to plastic surgery to ventriloquism in an effort to examine the theme of masquerading as something you are not. Look... if I’m not James Bond by the time I graduate, something seriously went wrong.

The open curriculum was one of the main reasons I chose Amherst, and that’s not an uncommon sentiment among the student body. I was looking for a college that maximized flexibility and trusted their students to design their own destinies… And if cool class names were part of the equation, that didn’t hurt either!