Skip to main content

Professor reconnects seniors with their first-year selves

In 13 homes across the country last week, ILR School seniors received letters they wrote to their future selves nearly four years ago as students in Associate Professor Adam Seth Litwin’s Freshman Colloquium cohort.

Usually, Litwin hands the letters to graduates at Commencement. This year, of course, he couldn’t.

Louisa Heywood ’20 shows her letter after opening it at her home in Seattle.

“When I conceived of the assignment, I could not have imagined that we would be living amidst a once-a-century pandemic by the time these letters ‘ripened,’” Litwin said. “In this context, when the entire world has been shaken to its core, it’s especially important that we remember who or what most matters to us in life.

“Students wrote about people who have influenced them, intellectual or even professional pursuits – all aspects of life that drove them before they were firmly ensconced in the ‘Big Red Bubble,’ let alone ordered to shelter-in-place by COVID-19,” he said. “So, reading the letters in this current context should reground them and reorient just at a time when we could all use it.”

Josh Yarnis ’20 received his letter at his home in Morristown, New Jersey.

“It was definitely a little bittersweet reading the letter,” he said. “It has been an amazing four years full of highs and lows and everything in between and although it is not ending the way anyone could have imagined, I’m just happy to have been able to have the experiences that I’ve been fortunate enough to have.”

In assigning the “Letter to Yourself,” Litwin prompted students with this: “At that same point in my own life, I felt so lucky and privileged to be attending college and being committed to squeezing every last bit of juice out of my undergraduate experience. But, thinking back, I really wish I had put those thoughts in writing to myself – a note written in the most familiar voice, reminding me how I once looked at the world and challenging me to either recalibrate or to consider how my life and worldview had evolved.”

Louisa Heywood ’20 opened her letter in Seattle. It “created a moment of levity and joy in the middle of exams and the end of classes,” she said. “It was thoughtful of Professor Litwin to create the exercise in 2016 and to carry it out over long distances in 2020, and I remain grateful to have a friend and mentor like him.”

A version of this story appears on the ILR School website.

Grace Traore ’20 was a student writer for ILR Communications.

Media Contact

Abby Butler