When Ryan Lizanecz ’20 first came to Bates, “I was anxious, I was curious, I was scared,” he says. “Literally every feeling I could possibly feel at the same time.”

Lizanecz is from Portland, Maine, and he is the first in his family to go to college. Maine as a whole and Bates are similar, he says, in that both are “small communities where people know each other and people are friendly.”

Nevertheless, arriving on campus was an “information overload.” Lizanecz had lived in the same house all his life and never been away from his family for more than a week.

At night early in his Bates career, he says, he often dreamed of home.


Video by Theophil Syslo

“Thankfully,” he says, “Bobcat First! was my foothold.” The four-year program designed to foster belonging among first-generation-to-college students “provided me with everything I needed to succeed in the first year–plus of my college experience. They were really a family to me.”

With that support, Lizanecz flourished. A politics major, he has delved into the ways that structures of power shape the world.

“Bates does a very good job, especially in the liberal arts, of teaching you about how all these different moving parts of the world are interconnected, and how that impacts how the world works,” he says.

At Opening Convocation on Sept. 3, Ryan Lizanecz ’20 (center) sits between keynote speaker and honorand Dolores Huerta and Phillips Professor of Economics Michael Murray. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

At Opening Convocation on Sept. 3, Ryan Lizanecz ’20 (center) sits between keynote speaker and honorand Dolores Huerta and Phillips Professor of Economics Michael Murray. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Lizanecz has sung with the Deansmen, the oldest of Bates a cappella ensembles, throughout college. He is also the president of student government this year; in that role, at Opening Convocation, he told the incoming first-year students that their Bates experience will be what they make of it.

Now, when he spends the night at home in Portland, Lizanecz dreams of Bates.

“Bates is my home,” he says. “This is where my friends are. This is where I have the most fun. This is where I learn things that I care about. I think that that’s what Bates has become to me.”

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