This entry is part 24 of 29 in the series Fall - 2016


by Anna Gerber

If you ask her about it, Maia (Griswold) Hayes (’15) will insist that her participation in Semester at Sea was a personal choice, but her family history suggests otherwise. The Griswolds have been sailing on the floating campus of Colorado State University’s new international education partner — as faculty, staff, and students – for 37 years.

Hayes’ grandparents, Jean (’76) and William Griswold, professor emeritus of history, sailed as faculty and staff for the first time in 1979. Grandpa Bill and Grandma Jean, as Hayes calls them, have always led an international life and encouraged their children and grandchildren to do the same. Maia’s Uncle David and Aunt Ruth sailed as students on that same 1979 voyage. Bill and Jean went on to sail again in 1983, 1991, and 2000, and David again in 1985, before Hayes sailed as a student in Fall 2013.

Bill and Jean also encourage other CSU students to broaden their horizons by awarding the annual Griswold Scholarship to Rams dedicated to international studies.

Just as strong as their Semester at Sea ties are the Griswolds’ CSU connections. Hayes’ parents, James (’80, ‘86) and Lou Ann Griswold (’79, ’86), are also CSU alumni. When it came time for college, CSU was the obvious choice for Maia, even from New Hampshire, where she grew up.

“When I got to CSU, I just dove into engineering. I didn’t want to go abroad at all,” she says. “I wanted to be different from my family, and I had already traveled quite a bit.”

But being forced to drop her rigorous civil engineering courses due to illness in Spring 2012 changed her mind. She had fallen behind a semester, opening the door for a semester abroad before resuming courses.


When Maia Griswold married Christopher Hayes, the wedding guests shared more than a toast. Many of them had also sailed with Semester at Sea – and were CSU alumni as well. From left to right: Ruth Coleman (sailed Spring 1979), David Griswold (sailed Spring ’79, CSU ’85), Bill Griswold, Jean Griswold, Dalton Crawford (sailed Spring 2014), Maia Griswold Hayes (sailed Fall ’13, CSU ’15), Christopher Hayes (sailed Fall ’13), Carson O’Conner (sailed Summer ’12, CSU ’13), Becca Scane (sailed Summer ’12, CSU ’13), Ellen Sahli (sailed Fall ’13), Sumi Yu (sailed Fall ’13), Natalie Forystek (sailed Spring ’14).

“My grandparents never pressured me to go on Semester at Sea,” Maia says. “But because I was here and with them so much, I saw how much they valued the program.”

She sailed on Semester at Sea’s 50th Anniversary Voyage, learning onboard and porting in 15 different countries over the course of 115 days.

“Semester at Sea pushed me to discover myself, and gave me a better perspective,” she says. “I became more adventurous, and seeing all the other engineering in other countries really sparked a renewed interest in my studies.”

Two weeks into the voyage, Maia met Christopher Hayes from Vanderbilt University. They explored Antwerp, Belgium, together and fell in love quickly, but she never imagined the relationship would last.

“I remember thinking, ‘I wish I didn’t meet this guy on a ship, because I want to marry him,’” she says.

Despite her initial skepticism, Maia, now a geotechnical engineer with Terracon in Fort Collins, and Christopher started an international life of their own in December 2015 after getting engaged in Paris.

“We are so much stronger because of Semester at Sea,” Maia says. “Learning to travel together, you realize what’s important to you, what you want to spend money on, and how to handle stressful situations. I can’t imagine being with someone who I haven’t traveled with.”

Christopher was eager to move to Colorado, where the two could live near Maia’s extended family and some of the mutual friends they had made on Semester at Sea.

“It connected me with my grandparents in such a huge way too. When I came back, all they wanted to do was listen to me talk about my experience,” she says. “And they immediately knew Christopher was someone who they liked and respected because he was part of that community. It was amazing to have that connection and for them to see how much the experience affected me.”

With such a rich history with the program, CSU becoming the academic partner with Semester at Sea means the world to the Griswolds. Literally.