Meet Eric Larsen: Ultimate Frisbee Player, Coloring Enthusiast and Pink Shorts Aficionado

When it comes to standing out, Eric Larsen '12 raises the stakes. There isn't a person on campus that hasn't noticed him strutting through Stav Hall in his hot pink athletic shorts and wondered, "What is up with that guy?" The truth is, Eric simply has the ability to embrace who he is, and he lets this confidence shine through in everything he does. 

Ultimate frisbee is no exception. Eric has been playing ultimate since his first year at St. Olaf, where he started on the B team with absolutely no frisbee experience. After a little hard work, however, and some of that signature Eric Larsen spirit, Eric learned a lot and has since played on the St. Olaf Ultimate Frisbee A Team since his sophomore year. "I started playing because I needed a venue to burn off a lot of energy," says Eric. "I learned that the challenges are many, but the payoffs are great. The group of guys I get to play with are super cool dudes, a ragtag group of champions."

The ultimate team has traveled to many tournaments together, including a Halloween tournament this weekend where they dressed up and won first place! The team's passion also shines right here at St. Olaf. Eric, along with Tommy Cullen and captains Evan Doucett and Charlie Whitmore, organized a 45-team tournament hosted here at St. Olaf just a few weeks ago, a process that began very early last summer. "The process was long and tricky at times," says Eric, "but it is very gratifying when people come up to you at later tournaments to tell you they had a great time at your tournament." And, because of the team's persistence and dedication to their sport, they were fortunate enough to have an ultimate frisbee company sponsor the tournament, a merger that resulted in plenty of temporary tattoos ("Which I took full advantage of," says Eric) and a much more exciting tournament for everyone. 

Eric's passion for fun spreads to his other St. Olaf activities as well. He's an "Agent of Darkness" for the After Dark Committee, and says that it is a really great fit for him. "It's the first time i've had a whole committee back up my love of twister and glow stick tag," he says. He is also a member of the St. Olaf Royal Coloring Society, a role he takes very seriously. "Coloring club is all about unwinding with good friends while coloring," Eric explains. "Oftentimes we put our finished masterpieces in strangers' POs in hopes of making their day." It obviously also makes Eric day, and he says that he has grown in his artistic abilities.

While Eric may come across as a total goofball, he has a serious side as well, and finds ways to put the two together. Last year, when Eric grew out his hair (an impressive twelve inches), and allowed a friend to braid it into what he describes as a "cornrow mohawk," he let the change work to his advantage.

"I actually interviewed for a job with the mohawk," Eric says. "I told the people then, and it still holds true today, that I'm not totally crazy, but I have a bit of a wild personality and I like to goof off from time to time. I ended up getting the job too!  Just being yourself pays off."

This juxtaposition of fun with serious works also translates to his studies. Eric is a double major in psychology and Asian studies, and recently completed an application for a Fulbright grant to study identity formation in Japanese university students. And even if that doesn't work out, Eric is set on spending a year in Japan before continuing on to graduate school. His goal is to eventually become a psychology professor, just like the teachers that have guided him. "St. Olaf professors have definitely inspired me to want to be in their shoes one day impacting students like myself," Eric says. "They are such passionate people, and I want to help teach, inspire, and guide students like Olaf profs have done for me." He started pursuing his goal this past summer, doing psychology research here at St. Olaf as a part of a class on campus. He and classmates worked on place conditioning and the rewarding effects of alcohol in adolescent mice. He says the experience was part of "the best summer I ever had", and recommends a summer at Olaf to every student. 

Eric's love for Olaf runs deep, perhaps because of this past summer. His favorite places on campus include the "Bahamas" (the little known spot behind Larson where "the laundry vents blow out all of the hot air"), as well as the quad. "The reason I love the quad so much," explains Eric, "is because I can toss a frisbee there or toss around a 4-square ball and people will come over and play with me." In fact, this openness is what Eric loves most about St. Olaf. "I really like how Olaf students are totally cool with goofballs like me," he says. "I feel just as comfortable around and accepted by a football player as I do by a guy who hardly finds time to leave the science lab. Olaf women have their perks, too. The women don't just have looks, they are super smart. What guy doesn't love intelligence?"

This acceptance that Eric feels on campus has allowed him to embrace perhaps what he is best known for: his fun looks, including those pink shorts! "I roll in an entourage of many Erics," he explains, "so I have been told that when clarifying which Eric people are talking about, my bright short shorts, my long hair from last year, my beard and my lack of height all get referenced." And while all of those things may set him apart from his peers, Eric embraces them. "A very smart cousin once told me that I will never find a girlfriend if I continue to wear shorts all of my life, " he explains, "but they fit who I am. I wear them because they are comfortable and the bright colors reflect my energetic personality.  I'd much rather find a girlfriend who doesn't take life so seriously and enjoys my goofy personality rather than the pants I wear." 

While perhaps coming across as a totally goofball, Eric has let the fun that he embraces on a daily basis serve a function. He is an excellent reminder that you can be successful while still enjoying life, a lesson that many stressed-out college students can lose sight of. "The world can always use more jokes, laughs, smiles and friends," he says. "Just live your life!"