By Jenny Dunn, MES Student. 

As I entered the MES program, I wondered how my schedule would look, how easily I would make friends, and what my social calendar would look like. It’s not a lie to say that the program and studies dominate my time schedule, but there is always a need to make room for some social activities and fun outings with fellow classmates. Over the past year and a half I’ve participated in quite a few festivities with classmates: a St. Patty’s party, clam digging, hikes with alums, a city basketball league, and the infamous trivia Tuesdays at the Fishtale Brew Pub in Downtown Olympia. As my time comes to a close in the program, and possibly in the PNW, I’ve been scrambling to make the most of my time by splitting it between thesis mode, which entails giving my undivided attention to my computer as I crank out my thesis and troubleshoot my stats with fellow thesis writers in the CAL on campus, and enjoying the opportunities that the PNW offers.


MES students Kelly Beach, Bri Morningred, friend Emily, author Jenny Dunn, and Fiona Edwards playing trivia.

If you’re struggling to find some great social activities to share with friends or classmates here are a few:

Great Hiking:

Lake Cushman is by far my favorite place to hike that I’ve experienced so far in WA. Not only does it remind me of my undergraduate years at Michigan State University, with the beautiful evergreen trees, cottages surrounding the lake, and the cliff jumping, but the hikes are spectacular with picturesque views of the Olympic Peninsula. I’ve also enjoyed camping here as part of an end of the year celebration with fellow MES classmates, as we completed our first year of grad school last June. We ate oysters grilled over a fire, played extreme bocce, and climbed a tree with a diameter at least 15 ft.

MES students Jana, Jenny and Lisa near Lake Cushman

MES students Jana Fischback, author Jenny Dunn and Lisa Abdulghani near Lake Cushman

Besides Lake Cushman, there are numerous trails around Rattlesnake Ledge, Capital Forest, Sol Duc Falls, Hurricane Ridge, and Vista Loop at Mt. Rainier. As MESers, we are lucky enough to have bountiful options in terms of hikes in WA and I encourage everyone to take advantage of it while you can and, better yet, go with your classmates, which helps limit cost and lessen your imprint on the environment you’re exploring. Hikes closer to Olympia are: Tumwater Falls, Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, McClain Creek, and Priest Point Park.


Jenny on a hike with MES alumni Andreas Keodara and Bobby Coleman


In terms of local social activities, I’ve participated in quite a few in town: a trapline (bar crawl where we dressed as Alaskan frontiersman and hit up bars along 4th Street in Olympia), trivia at Fishtale Brew Pub, which 2nd years tend to gravitate to when we don’t have our thesis workshop, and lastly, I even joined a local city-league basketball team that was coordinated by an MES alum and has MES staff, current students, alum, and other community members on it. The options in Olympia for indoor, local social activities aren’t limited; it’s just a matter of getting out there and making it happen. Whether it’s spending a Friday night dancing off your stress at Jake’s bar, relaxing in a coffee shop catching up, or rock-climbing at the CRC on campus.

MES students Bri, Jenny and Rachel, and friend Emily, enjoy the Washington State Fair in Puyallup

MES students Bri Morningred, author Jenny Dunn and Rachel Stendahl, with friend Emily, enjoy the Washington State Fair in Puyallup

So, as a current 2nd year in the MES program, I encourage all MESers to think outside the box and indulge in a little destressing with some activities with friends and to get ready for some warmer weather with Spring around the corner.


Jenny with fellow MES student Carola Tejeda, after participating in the Color Run