Jill Belsky ’78 and Steve Siebert ’78
This year, we celebrate 40 years together, a partnership that began at Colgate.
Although we were in the same biology classes first year, we had not formally met. Steve remembers Jill sitting a few lab tables away, and crooning a love song from one of the Colgate theater productions. Jill remembers Steve as the only one who got the trick question right on Professor Novak’s lab exam.
The first weekend sophomore year, Jill biked out to visit friends Al Filreis ’78, David Rohrbach ’80, and Michael Markson ’79 at the farmhouse they were renting in Earlville with Steve; she had so much fun that she decided she would bike back there the next day. To her surprise, early the next morning, Steve was waiting for her on the stairs of Bunche (Peace) House, where she was living, to escort her back to the farm. By the following week, we were a tightly knit twosome.
Our coupling has not only been romantic, but also professional. Our mutual interest in international relations and development led us both to enroll our junior year in a semester field-study course in British Honduras (now Belize) under the superb direction of Professor Nigel Bolland. About a decade later, we both completed our master’s and doctoral degrees at Cornell University: Jill in rural and environmental sociology and Steve in forest ecology and management. Our graduate research projects focused on conservation farming, livelihoods, and sustainable land uses (in Philippines and Indonesia). Our PhD dissertations were linked studies funded by the (short-lived) Collaborative Fulbright program.
We have continued our academic collaboration over the past 25 years as co-researchers, co-instructors, and co-faculty members at the University of Montana. We have co-taught for 20-plus years a Community Forestry course and led our own student field-study courses in Belize together, returning to some of the same villages where we lived and studied as Colgate undergraduates. Undoubtedly, our best collaboration is our beautiful son, Max, who will turn 28 years old this year. This incredibly wonderful partnership begun at Colgate has been nurtured by the formative experiences we had in the rural New York environment, academic-experiential programs, and friendships (many continuing to this day). We cherish our time at Colgate and are grateful for all it gave us — especially each other.
— Jill Belsky ’78 and Steve Siebert ’78