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'Stumpy' enjoys life as ESF undergrad

Nan Davis
2/4

By Ben Peskin
Published: 1/27/2005
The Daily Orange

Nan Davis' parents named her Anne, but after growing up in the great outdoors with four siblings and answering to "Nan" her entire life, she now sees it as merely her legal name.

As a sophomore forest ecosystem science major, Nan's choices of school, major, career and lifestyle stem from her upbringing and her high school extra-curricular activities. Using Sadler Dining Hall's Tupperware, riding a bicycle when the weather permits, camping, chairing the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry's Society of American Foresters and working with the National Park Service on a trail crew seem to make Nan a typical "stumpy" - and she's fine with that.

"For lack of a better stereotype, it's one I'm OK with," Davis said. Davis grew up as part of a big family from Kingston, a city along the Hudson nestled in close to the Catskills. As early as she can remember, Davis' parents took the whole family camping every year, something she now attributes to sparking her passion for the forest. And it has given her an intimate knowledge of hiking, camping and mountaineering.

"I think it helped that my parents were outdoorsy people," Davis said.

During her junior year in high school, Davis joined a trail crew as part of the National Park Service. She and six others spent three weeks roughing it in the woods, repairing trails by building stairs and raising or lowering the land to better suit future hikers. Throughout the three-week process, Davis and the crew never left the forest - except for one brief, dire moment.

On the trail, the crew had to make its cheese supply last as long as possible. Davis said the group sank a Rubbermaid cooler in water with the cheese inside to keep it cold and edible. One night, a storm blew through and in the morning, the cooler was missing - along with a large part of their food supply. So after using a time-old problem solving tool - rock, paper, scissors - the crew came to a decision.

"The decision was to hike back out (of the forest) and buy more cheese," Davis said. "Not exactly roughing it, but we needed the cheese."

Davis said the rest of the excursion went as planned, until the last day when the crew finally emerged from the woods.

"The last day we decided to finish quickly and leave to buy ice cream," Davis said. She and her crew found a small general store in the very rural area of North Carolina they had been inhabiting. When they got inside, the owner pointed out a side effect of their three weeks in brush without normal amenities.

"He said to us, 'Where y'all been? 'cause y'all stink!'" Davis said.

Davis enjoys going to SUNY ESF, a choice she credits to its reputation and the greater interest in the subject she gained while in AP Environmental Science in high school.

"It's the best environmental science school for the least amount of money in the nation," Davis said, "especially with in-state tuition." A fastidiously eco-friendly person, Davis naturally roomed with another ESF student, her friend Maggie Saia. Saia moved out of Sadler Hall this semester, but recalls many fond memories of the pair's cohabitation.

"Whenever she gets angry," Saia said, "she uses an 'intimidation face.' But she's very short, so all you have to do is stare above her. She hates that."

Although proud to be a "stumpy," Davis involves herself with a few Syracuse University-based organizations. Last spring she finished her final year of marching band, and actively competes on SU's Ultimate Frisbee team, an organization she said she loves and is proud to be a part of.

Recalling her childhood in a big family, Davis says that her personality now sometimes directly comes from that dynamic.

"I'm the oldest girl and a good leader," said Davis, "which is a polite way of saying I'm bossy."


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