Sam Agnew’s balancing act

For sophomore Sam Agnew, there is no such thing as a day off. Agnew is one of a few members of the Tufts community with the overlapping distinctions of being both a varsity athlete and a dual-degree student; he is a member of the men’s crew team and is also seeking a combined degree from the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts (SMFA). For this Jumbo, that means there is little time for relaxing.

“I just take it a day at a time,” Agnew said. “So far [everything] has been manageable.”

Undeniably, Agnew wears a lot of hats as a member of the Tufts community. In regards to his academic undertakings, he will graduate after five years of study instead of four and receive two degrees, one being a Bachelor of Fine Arts. His responsibilities as a member of the rowing team are as ample as those of any varsity engagement, and include 5:20 a.m. wake-up calls for practice six days a week. However, Agnew certainly knew what he was getting himself into when he chose this sparsely traveled route. Throughout the college application process, Agnew searched for a place that would allow him to engage in all of his various passions, including art.

“[Tufts] was the best school for me to be able to do all the things I want to do at once,” Agnew said. “I did art in high school and I wanted to [continue to] study art [in college] … It’s just work I really love to do. If I went to a Division I rowing school, I wouldn’t be able to do anything but row. If I went to an arts school, I wouldn’t be able to do anything but art… I thought [Tufts] would be a good way to balance art [with] other [endeavors].”

So far, Tufts has provided Agnew with just that.

There is a lot of balance in everything I’m doing,” Agnew said. “It makes it a lot easier to [manage].”

Agnew’s day-to-day schedule can vary widely, depending on which classes he has on the docket for the day. If he has classes at Tufts, he returns to campus following 6 a.m. practice, eats breakfast with the team and then begins his academic day. If he has classes at the SMFA, he rides the Orange Line from the William A. Shoemaker Boathouse to the Fenway campus.

On lift days — scheduled four times a week — he heads to the gym in the afternoon. Those are just some of the finite components of the day; it’s hard to imagine what a 24-hour period looks like after piling in time for homework, meetings and all of the surprises a day can entail. 

Sophomore Adrian Tanner, who is also a member of the men’s crew team, found Agnew’s WMFO radio show commitment last year to be particularly fascinating.

“He had the 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. slot on Wednesdays,” Tanner said. “That means he got up at 3:45 a.m. to go do the radio show.”

Afterwards, Agnew attended practice, followed by his SMFA classes, according to Tanner.

“I think that is probably the craziest [thing] he has ever done,” he said.

Agnew has no grievances, though.

“He definitely does it because he loves it,” Tanner said. “He’s not out to complain, [although] he might be tired afterwards. [He is following] his passions.”

That is what it is all about for Agnew: passion. He believes that if you really care about everything you are doing, the time requirements won’t be a problem. As for Agnew’s studio requirements, the time demand is a big one, but not one that takes away from his excitement to be doing what he loves.

“Studio classes and the independent studio projects I do take up to 10 to 20 hours a week,” Agnew said. “But it is just work I really love to do. By the time I’m done with that, the other stuff seems a lot easier.”

As Agnew mentions, it is the fervent passion for his various undertakings that makes the flip side of his busy schedule easy to deal with.

“Scheduling stuff is tough because I have to do all of that by myself,” Agnew said. “I have to figure out the right days between the two schools, and transportation is really time consuming. I’m on the T a lot.”

While bits and pieces like these lead to some tough moments for the sophomore, Agnew is never deterred and always lively. Junior tri-captain of the men’s crew team Isaac Mudge speaks to Agnew’s jovial disposition.

Sam’s a really funny guy; he’s a very cheery, charismatic dude,” Mudge said. “He’s incredibly modest for how interesting I’ve found him to be. He is why I really like being on the crew team because it is the type of team where guys find that they can just be themselves and own the cool [activities] that they do outside of the team.”

Agnew cherishes the little moments, but also notes that he looks forward to concluding his art projects at the close of each semester. An especially distinctive moment for Agnew, who is studying sculpture at the SMFA, was when he included Tanner in one of his projects.

In Tanner’s words, Agnew was exploring the theme of masculinity in this specific work. Tanner went to the SMFA with Agnew and modeled alongside Agnew’s work. It was an experience Tanner was grateful to be included in, as it also gave him an inside look at Agnew’s artistic method.

It was really cool to see him work, and [watch] his creative process,” Tanner said. “He is not your typical athlete… He thinks in ways that are different than most athletes do.” 

In addition to his teammates, Agnew has a mass of other supporters throughout the Tufts community. One particular mentor of Agnew’s is Adam Cowell, the welding studio manager at the SMFA. Cowell describes Agnew as being willing to really delve into his work and get his hands dirty, while never shying away from daunting time commitments.

“He is not afraid of labor,” Cowell said. “His new project coming up is going to take forever… But, when I asked him, ‘Are you ready for this? Do you have enough time?’, he just kind of smiled and said, ‘No, but I’m going to get it done.’” 

It is clear Agnew is well respected among the people he works with. He credits his coaches, the faculty at both his places of study, his friends and his teammates all as having great influence on his Tufts career. The support of his parents is something he greatly appreciates as well.

“My parents have been fully supportive of all this,” Agnew said. “They know I have a crazy schedule, but they know that I am [well] and that I don’t really stress out too much.” 

The future for Agnew is bright; he mentioned that he would love to do an art residency overseas someday. While he is aware that his rowing career will conclude following his college experience, what lies ahead for this Jumbo will seemingly always have pieces of his various passions, including his time spent in the boat.

“I have always felt like rowing grounds me and pushes me, and teaches me how to push myself,” Agnew said. “I think that will play into whatever field I end up in.”

However, Agnew is not looking to the future too much just yet. For now, he is still looking to tomorrow and still taking it all day by day, enjoying every moment spent immersed in his many passions.


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