Making the Most of Opportunities

Miriam Lowenfield-Jayne ’15 says the things she likes most about Earlham are the opportunities.

At Earlham, she found a school where her family had strong ties and one where she could study the Middle East and be involved with two student-run cooperatives, one at a coffee shop and the other at a horse barn.

Lowenfield-Jayne works as the lesson coordinator at the Earlham barn to help pay board for her horse, and during the late 1980s, her father Christopher Jayne ’89 worked in the barn in exchange for riding lessons.

“Of course, I had heard a lot about Earlham,” Lowenfield-Jayne says. “My cousin (Damon Hearne ’99) drove me up here and gave me a tour. I met Michael Birkel, and he talked about Earlham’s structure, community and the unique Arabic studies offerings. The way he composed himself and the way he depicted campus made me want to come to Earlham.

“Oh, and, of course, I wasn’t going to any school where I couldn’t take my horse.”

Lowenfield-Jayne is designing an interdisciplinary major in Middle East Studies that combines courses in history, language, religion and music. As part of Earlham’s Middle East/Jordan off-campus program, in January she will travel for the first time to the country she has spent years studying. The semester abroad is based in Amman, the political, cultural and commercial center of Jordan that blends historic and modern elements. Students also will have homestays to learn more about family life.

During Thanksgiving break, Lowenfield-Jayne and Birkel, Professor of Religion, attended the International Qur’anic Studies Association Convention in Baltimore, MD.

“I find the language beautiful, and I got caught up in the history,” she says. “Arabic is a very poetic language and is descriptive. It sounds almost musical to an ear that doesn’t understand it.”

To help structure the academic part of her life, Lowenfield-Jayne spends about 10 hours per week at the barn.

“There’s something very cathartic about mucking a stall,” she explains. “You are moving constantly, but your brain isn’t working the way it would in a classroom or with a textbook. There is something very valuable about having the time and space to think about things in other ways. This adds clarity to my entire life. It gives you an outlet that has time constraints, but once you are done you are rejuvenated academically.”

As lesson coordinator, Lowenfield-Jayne is responsible for scheduling all lessons and co-op members’ work schedules. This is an additional 10 hours of work per week.

“I wanted to give something back to the co-op,” she says. “The barn community here is stronger because we are a group of people who work together rather than a community of people who just pay to board our horses.”

That same idea of community drew her to join the Rose City Coffee Co-op, which is staffed entirely by volunteers who agree to work two, two-hour shifts each week.

"It seemed like a cool community, and it was made up of people I didn't know," she says. "It also was good training to become a barista."

Miriam Lowenfield-Jayne
Miriam Lowenfield-Jayne 2015

Hometown: Swannanoa, N.C.

Major at Earlham: Middle Eastern Studies

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