This story is one of a series of profiles of 2012 graduates. See all senior profiles for this year here.
Asked how she would describe herself, Maddie Provo turned to her friends for help. She received answers ranging from “weird,” to “sings a lot,” to “the Ruth Bader Ginsburg of making people feel good.”
This eclectic mix of responses reflects Provo’s many different roles on campus. She was a representative to Barnard’s Board of Trustees for the college’s Student Government Association, she helped found an improv group, and she served as a Barnard Speaking Fellow, a Constellation Leader, president of the Yiddish Club, and morale co-chair for Dance Marathon.
At Barnard’s Commencement on Monday, Provo won the Frank Gilbert Bryson Prize, which is voted on each year by Barnard seniors. The award is meant for a student who “has given conspicuous evidence of unselfishness and who has made the greatest contribution to Barnard during the college years,” according to Barnard’s website.
In addition to her participation in the improv group, Control Top, Provo acted in and worked on shows for King’s Crown Shakespeare Troupe and Columbia University Players. She said some of her best memories of Barnard include the “funny ladies” she’s worked with in Control Top and the team’s coach, Justin Grace, a former Columbia student whom team members call “Poppa Bear.”
“Doing improv, and especially doing improv with our coach, has given me a new approach to analyzing a lot of the things that I see,” Provo said. “He’s just really caring and compassionate and really giving of his time and his energies with us.”
During her time on SGA, Provo worked on issues like Greek life and campus space constraints. She said that being a representative to the board of trustees opened her eyes to the inner workings of the college.
“As students I think it’s really easy for us to be like … ‘This institution exists for me, for me,’ which is true on a lot of levels, but it’s also important to be like, ‘Oh, administrators also work here, and faculty work here,’” Provo said. “It’s cool to be forced to think about something that isn’t just yourself, while at the same time repping students hard and trying to make our voices heard on that front.”
Considering her many interests and activities, Provo said she “really just lucked into” finding her majors, psychology and Yiddish. She declared her psychology major sophomore year, thinking she might want to be a psychologist, but she soon discovered that her real passion was Yiddish, and she designed a Yiddish major for herself.
“I’ve always been really interested in religion, particularly Judaism, even though I’m not Jewish,” Provo said. “I had a friend who was going to be taking a Yiddish class and she asked me if I wanted to join her, and so I did.”
This summer Provo will work as a research assistant, helping Barnard English professor Pam Cobrin with a book, before heading off on what she called “one of those obligatory post-college Europe visits.”
Provo plans to spend time with her grandmother in South Carolina in the fall before returning to New York.
“I’m going to get a day job of sorts, and I’m going to try to do theater,” she said. “I’ve finally admitted to myself that I want to do theater, and I’ve given myself a sort of three-year limit.”
Provo said that one of her favorite parts of being a college student was “being surrounded by awesome, kick-ass women and men.”
“I’m definitely going to miss the people. But I want to put it on the record that I think this is the real world,” she said, referring to college. “I don’t like it when people are like, ‘What’s it gonna be like in the real world?’ Am I in purgatory right now? This is something. I don’t know how real or unreal it is, but it’s not unreal.”