Student’s Earlham-inspired tattoo keeps ‘The Heart’ close

Some people wear a hat or a t-shirt to show their love for their alma mater. Senior Thea Clarkberg got a permanent tattoo instead.

“To me, it just feels like a comforting hand or an angel on my shoulder,” she said about the new ink on her right shoulder. The tattoo is a map of campus sidewalks that radiate from what the Earlham community knows as The Heart, the central gathering place on campus.

“Earlham is home to me. Whenever I’m feeling down, it’s a reminder than there are people who love me and are there for me,” she said.

The idea has been in her head ever since she participated in August Wilderness, Earlham’s signature pre-orientation program.

“Some Earlhamites have a very intense love for Earlham,” Clarkberg said. “During August Wilderness, the counselors were all sharing their tattoos, and mentioned that one of their friends had a tattoo of The Heart. This has always been in the back of my mind—even before I started my freshman year.”

A biology major from Ithaca, New York, Clarkberg has benefitted from Earlham’s funded undergraduate research program and off-campus study programs.  Last summer, she conducted field research with professors Jaime Coon and Wendy Tori in the Grand River Grasslands of southern Iowa and collected data of endangered species of native birds. She also participated in a new January Term earlier this year with professor Chris Smith, observing biodiversity in Florida. 

On campus, Clarkberg is a member of the barn co-op, a volunteer at the Free Store and Miller Farm, and a student worker for the greenhouse, the Office of Marketing and Communications and the Epic Journey initiative.

“To me, Earlham just feels like family,” she said. “When I walk around campus, there’s always people waving hello to me or ready to give a hug. Even my professors I’m super close with.”

After graduation, Clarkberg’s goal is to participate in a tree census at a long-term ecological research station in Puerto Rico. She will likely pursue a graduate school program in restoration agriculture, natural resources or ecology.

“Wherever I end up with, I know that Earlham will be with me,” she said.

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We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.
We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.