Michael Seamans ’02 was at the front lines of the Ebola crisis in 2014, when he was in Sierra Leone to report on infant mortality rate. The birthing clinic he was reporting on was in a district that was locked down for quarantine—with him in it. He stayed and reported on the unfolding outbreak.

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Photo by Michael G. Seamans

Michael will be part of an alumni panel on October 8, 2016, where he’ll join other alumni to discuss his post-Sterling life and career. Here, he talks in-depth about how climbing and a Global Field Study in Nepal changed his life and career.

Degree: B.A. in Outdoor Education and Leadership

Where do you currently work and what is your job title? I work for Maine Today Media; the Morning Sentinel.  My job title is photojournalist. I’ve been there since 2010.

What is a typical day in your job? I listen to the police scanner, run some sort of spot news every day; everything from high school sports to general features, general news. The assignment load varies from day to day. It’s typical small town news.

What made you choose photojournalism? Really, it was climbing. I was a very focused climber at Sterling. Climbing was the driving force behind me picking up a camera. Traveling really introduced me to the power of the camera and people. A strong sense of community is really the theme of Sterling College, and I wanted to apply my trade to a more community-based way; the power of the medium of photography just stands on its own.

I was at Sterling on 9/11 and drove to NYC, and seeing the smoldering buildings [was really hard]. Photography, clarity of messages came to my mind, and thats when I made up my mind I wanted to do something in the world of journalistic photography.

How did Sterling College contribute to your career path?  No matter what degree you get at Sterling, everyone gets the tools to do whatever the hell you want. Critical thinking, how do things affect the greater community—tools like that. Im a teacher, in a way—I have to go out into the natural environment and apply what I know. Thats the pulse of the curriculum, show me what you know. I have the confidence from my time at Sterling that I can figure out what I need to figure out.

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Photo by Michael G. Seamans

Tell us about Sierra Leone. I received a grant from the Pulitzer Center for crisis reporting. I was going to report on infant mortality rates, and Sierra Leone’s are the highest in the world. I was going to document a birthing clinic, which couldnt open because of the Ebola crisis. I volunteered with an [Ebola] clinic there; I wanted to do some background reporting on how the Ebola crisis is going to affect healthcare systems. I ended up being there at a critical time. The district I was in was on lockdown. I entered a quarantine district just as it was closed down. Healthcare workers were going door to door, looking for sick people.

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Photo by Michael G. Seamans

Im going to be going back next month. The project got a green light because the Ebola scare is stabilizing. The [birthing] clinic is opening up and I will be there for about 3.5 weeks reporting on it.

I first went [to Sierra Leone] in 2011 with Glen Campbell, the author of Blood Diamonds. We updated his book 10 years after it first came out; we did a lot of reporting on the diamond mining and the diamond trade. We reported on child labor and health care, and thats where we came across this [birthing] clinic.

Describe Sterling College in one word. I dont think you can! Sterlings a dynamic place. OK, maybe dynamic.

What’s your fondest memory of Sterling College? Id have to say climbing with George Gardner and Ned Houston. Those two people are the paramount of who I am now and where I am now. On a daily basis, I hear Ned in my ear or George in my ear. Im still really good friends with most of the people I went to school with. The Nepal trip with Ned and George certainly is the highlight of my experience. That was more paramount to me becoming a photojournalist, getting out to see other peoples cultures. The similarities, the differences.

How would you define environmental stewardship? Its not something that happens outside of you. It happens inside you; were always looking for that external for harmony between humans & the environment. Change begins with you.


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