Senior Stories 2013
Southwestern 2012 graduates share their stories.
Rory Jones History and German Major, Paideia Scholar, Tennis, Pirate Bike Promotion, Destination: Service Rory Jones—a history and German major—was active academically, especially in his Paideia cohort, as well as outside the classroom. His intentional integration of academics with extracurricular activities left him with a desire to tell incoming students to “take time to find yourself—it’s worth it.” While Rory’s main focus at Southwestern was academics, he was also able to try different things, “many of which I would never have gotten to do at a bigger school,” he says. “I played an NCAA sport (tennis); anywhere else, I would not have been able to say that ... Southwestern is just a completely different experience.” He advises new students to get involved early on, saying, “You’ll have more regrets about the things you didn’t do than the things you did.” Prestigious Fulbright He was also involved in campus organizaTeaching Assistantship tions like Fellowship of Christian Athletes, awards provide recipients Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society and with an initiation into Student Foundation, where he led a team of the idea of cultural five in promoting and fundraising for the ambassadorship.They Pirate Bike Program. Meanwhile, he cultiemphasize understanding vated his passion for history as an intern with cultures in depth and both the Williamson Museum Collections inspire the same kind and the Dallas Holocaust Museum. of curiosity about and But the highlight of Rory’s Southwestern respect for others that Experience, he says, was his trip to the we are working toward at Gila Wilderness in New Mexico with the Southwestern. Destination: Service (alternative Spring Sprechen sie Texan? Break) Program. He says, “Going in, I knew maybe five of the group of 20 … I feel like we all became a family through the work we did, cooking all our own meals, camping out under the stars in 30-degree weather—it was awesome!” Rory is currently living in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany, and is an English teaching assistant at the Ganztagsschule Friedrichstadt. As a Fulbright Scholar, he is also continuing research he began when working on his German honors thesis. Following his Fulbright commitment, Rory is considering becoming a high school teacher, but is “keeping his options open.” Whatever he chooses to do, he feels highly prepared by Southwestern. “I know how to read critically and write analytically, which, if you break it down, is the essence of many jobs today,” he says. He also hopes to compete on an Ultimate Frisbee team when he returns to the U.S. “I bleed Ultimate!” Nekia Tharps Education Major, Track and Basketball, EBONY, Elementary School Mentor While education major Nekia Tharps spent much of her senior year student teaching, she had the opportunity while at Southwestern to pursue her passions both in and outside of the classroom. The highlight of Nekia’s Southwestern Experience was playing sports at the collegiate level. “I am a very competitive person and it was such a great feeling to get a ‘W’ with my basketball girls or win a relay with As a Division III university, my track team,” she says. Southwestern places What brought Nekia to Southwestern? “I the highest priority on knew Southwestern was for me,” she says, the overall quality of the “but the deciding factor was the school’s educational experience ability to help make college affordable for and on the successful my family and me.” completion of all students’ Nekia was also involved on campus in academic programs. the EBONY organization and was one of the founding members of the Coalition for Diversity and Social Justice. In the community, she was a Partners in Education mentor with Georgetown ISD and volunteered with Agapé Christian Ministries. “I loved the atmosphere at SU,” she says. “I got to know a lot of people and established quality relationships; something I don’t think would have happened had I gone to a bigger university.” Through all of her activities, Nekia learned the importance of networking. She says it’s important to “make meaningful connections, because you don’t know where they might take you in the long run!” Some of the connections she made were with her faculty advisers. “Whether I had a school or personal problem, they truly cared about my success,” she says. They also encouraged her to go above and beyond the minimum requirements in all that she did. “That advice truly made me stand out while student teaching!” She advises incoming Southwestern students, “Get involved! It will make your time at SU more memorable if you are active and make a difference while you are here. Make someone remember your name!” As a student, Nekia also learned that there are no limits. “I had never been challenged the way my courses challenged me at SU,” she says. “As a result, I have become a much more determined person, and I know that I can achieve anything if I just put in the time and work.” And work she did. “I graduated feeling very prepared; while student teaching, I used the valuable knowledge I gained in my classes and was offered a job.” Nekia is now teaching fourth grade math and science at Pillow Elementary School in the Austin Independent School District. Books before boards Eric Godat Physics and Mathematics Major, King Creativity Symposium, Pi Mu Epsilon, Summer Camp Counselor After seeing a few simple snap shots of campus, Eric Godat decided a visit was is order. “I fell in love with the campus,” he says. “And scholarships didn’t hurt either.” However, Eric quickly realized that life at Southwestern wasn’t going to be as easy as high school was for him. “I realized that the professors here expect the best and are willing to go above and beyond to challenge you,” he says. His mom’s advice after he failed his first test in Calculus III? “It’s college; it’s supposed to be hard.” Eric ended up with an A in the class. Now, after graduating from Southwestern, the physics and mathematics major (and avid Dallas Cowboys fan) believes he is significantly more mature and independent. “I feel like I can function in the real world now.” In class and around campus, Eric participated in a variety of activities and organizations that lead him to believe that he can “contribute to the world both in my field and outside it.” For example, Eric says he became something of an expert on campus Established as a “pilot for renewable energy. project in creativity” in His involvement in Math Club, Physics 2000 by W. Joseph “Joey” Club and Pi Mu Epsilon mathematics King ’93, the King Creativity honor society, as well as the King Creativity Fund annually supports a Symposium (for which he presented the wide variety of innovative solar collector and thermal battery he and visionary projects by created), allowed Eric to take what he Southwestern students. learned in the classroom into the “field,” Kings of creativity so to speak. In true liberal arts fashion, he also spent several summers as a camp coordinator and instructor at Art Splash Summer Camp in Dallas. These experiences are all likely to enhance his time at Southern Methodist University, where he is now working on both masters and doctorate degrees in high-energy theoretical physics, as well as working as a teaching assistant in the SMU physics department. Eric credits his faculty and staff advisers with always being available to talk and to providing invaluable help for both his projects and life in general, and says the best lesson he learned as a student was that “research is never finished; you just work hard, and hope to make deadlines and stay under budget.” What will he miss most about Southwestern? “…the campus atmosphere, the relationships I built with professors and my peers, and (of course) the Saturday morning research doughnuts in FJS (Fondren Jones Science Hall)!” Kristen McCollum Sociology Major, Paideia Scholar, Resident Assistant, Student Peace Alliance, Volunteer Kristen McCollum says majoring in sociology was one of the best things about her Southwestern Experience. “The sociology faculty is top notch.” In fact, Kristen says her major was the result of advice she received as a first-year student having an “I-don’t-know-what-to-major-in crisis.” She made an appointment with the Office of Career Services, told them that she loved people and numbers, and they suggested that she check out sociology. “So I did,” she says. “And here I am.” She also enjoyed being a Resident Assistant (RA). “I really enjoyed being a resource for new students. My favorite part about living in the first-year halls was the community atmosphere; it was part of my job to build that community. Of course, living in the same building with 100 other people has its challenges, but ... I felt so comfortable that I didn’t even mind wearing my footy pajamas around the building” Kristen’s advice to those first year students? “Don’t be afraid to take courses in things you know nothing about. You may not know what you’re passionate about, so keep exploring until you find something The Office of Civic that clicks.” Engagement looks for ways When she wasn’t relaxing by playing to move students beyond piano, Kristen was involved in the Student traditional practices of Peace Alliance and was a member of a volunteerism, service and Paideia cohort. “Paideia helped me see the activism to begin crafting connections between my academics and action that resonates with the real world,” she says. Off campus, she their passions, talents worked for the Georgetown Project and and academic work, while volunteered for the Migrant Student Office addressing the needs of at Georgetown High School. community nonprofits. “I worked a lot with the homeless ... and Breaking with tradition helped set up the first youth homeless shelter in Georgetown—The NEST.” After researching the process of community-building among the homeless, Kristen presented her capstone paper at the Southern Sociological Society conference in New Orleans, where she received the top award for undergraduate research. Kristen says receiving the Odum Award for her paper was the highlight of her Southwestern Experience, and that the award “affirmed that I had presented quality work with value; it was the first time I could see how my academic work could really make an impact.” After spending a summer in Peru for her intercultural experience (a Paideia requirement), Kristen decided to continue her humanitarian work as the volunteer coordinator for a community development organization in Peru called SKIP (Supporting Kids in Peru). She is working in the organization’s economic development department, which gives micro-loans to the families of the children they support. Harrison Glaser Environmental Studies Major, Head Resident Assistant, SEAK, Clusterfest Coordinator, Volunteer Harrison Glaser, an environmental studies major with a minor in communication studies, grew up in nearby Austin. Some expected him to go to The University of Texas at Austin. Others thought he would go to school far from home. Harrison says, “I wanted to be close without being too close. Southwestern stuck out as being really personal and a cool community.” After four years, he says his classes were all great, but by far the best parts of his Southwestern Experience were extracurricular. “A great thing about Southwestern is that it’s really easy to get involved in projects that are real and impactful. I was able to participate in, and often lead, efforts that truly affected people and made a difference.” As a Resident Assistant (RA) and Head RA, Harrison had the opportunity to help many students adjust to college, which can be a tough transition. He says of the experience, “I always say that I learned more from being an RA than I did in any of my classes, and I stand by that. I learned how to work with people—how to talk and, more important, how to listen.” Harrison was a member of University Programming Council, Students for Environmental Activism and Knowledge (SEAK) and the SU Garden Club. Off campus, he volunteered at the Georgetown Animal Shelter. With his self-proclaimed “obsession with music,” it’s no wonder Harrison was also the From weekly events co-chair of Clusterfest, a large-scale music featuring nationally touring festival held on campus. artists and performers His philosophy and advice to new to frequent student students is that “You can figure out a lot organization-sponsored more about what you’re interested in by events—including actually doing things instead of just learning Clusterfest, an annual about them ... you have to stretch yourself music festival held on and try a lot of things...” campus—there is always Harrison says the thing he will miss most an entertainment outlet. about Southwestern is the ability to walk out Austin, the live music of his room and find someone to hang out capital (20-plus miles due with pretty much instantly. He also says of south), is a big one. his time at SU, “I’ve become more confident and more interested in trying new things.” Maybe that’s due in part to the fact that he never expected to be so close to faculty and staff. “I knew Southwestern was going to be a close-knit community, but I didn’t think it would be close-knit between students, faculty and staff.” Following graduation, Harrison served as conference assistant at the Austin Film Festival, even moderating one of the panels of writers. He says, “It was crazy and frantic and non-stop and one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had.” He is also an operations specialist for KIPP Austin Public Schools, a district of charter schools in East Austin. Live music... suburb Jenna Mozingo Political Science Major, Transfer Student, Student Congress, Korouva Milkbar When political science major (with french and environmental studies minors), Jenna Mozingo left Maryland to attend college in North Carolina, she was disappointed to find that her chosen college was largely a “commuter” school. When she visited a friend at Southwestern, she found a vibrant campus community. That, along with her financial aid package, made the distance from her family worthwhile. On campus, Jenna was involved with the French and political science honor societies, Students for Environmental Activism and Knowledge, Student Peace Alliance, Student Congress and the Progressive Student Alliance. And for hanging out with friends and discussing their lives, Jenna says Korouva Milkbar was the place. “It’s a little funky, but a staple of the ‘alt-western’ experience.” The highlight of Jenna’s Southwestern Experience was getting to know certain professors. “I’m sure I wouldn’t have received so much feedback on my schoolwork (and lifework!) from friends and teachers if I had been on a larger campus.” At Southwestern, the biggest lesson Jenna learned was to think before you speak. “You never know how someone will hear your words, so it’s important to be genuine,” she says. She advises others, “Don’t act like a fool just because it’s the first time you’re away from home and you’re around lots of At Southwestern, interesting people. You have four years to live students take the lead in with the reputation you make for yourself.” environmental activism, Personally, Jenna says she lives her life with initiatives ranging with intent. “I always try to be conscious from the installation of of what I’m doing, and how, why and what LED lighting in a campus implications my actions have for others.” theater to mapping the She says she feels well prepared for life after solar potential of the Southwestern, but perhaps not in the way campus in the University’s that she expected to be. “In a lot of ways, advanced GIS laboratory my Southwestern Experience changed what I to a year-round community thought I wanted in my life.” garden with a greenhouse Since graduation, Jenna has traveled in and on-site composting of Europe, where she worked on a vineyard in campus food waste. southern France and learned about straw- Black, gold and green bale building and beekeeping in Denmark. Since her return to the U.S., she has built a greenhouse in Pennsylvania, a composting toilet in Tennessee and a geodesic dome in Oklahoma. She says, “It feels really great to help people make environmentally conscious changes to their daily lives.” To those who ask Jenna why she isn’t going straight to graduate school, she explains, “My work comes straight out of what I learned at Southwestern about who I am and what kind of world I want to live in. Honestly, I think this is the most valuable thing for me to be doing right now—experimenting.” Morgan Bailey Studio Art and Biology Major, Intramural Lacrosse, Volunteer “What brought me to Southwestern was that I would be able to study both art and science in four years,” says Morgan Bailey, who was—not surprisingly—a studio art and biology double major. Although Morgan didn’t actually visit the SU campus until after she was accepted, she immediately felt that “it just fit with what I was looking for in a college education.” Over the course of her time on campus, what she enjoyed the most was the small campus size. “There is truly nothing like it,” she says. When not in the art studio or biology lab, Morgan could be found in a conference room discussing issues with the Art and Science Interdisciplinary Committee, on the lacrosse field as a member of the women’s intramural team, or a few miles off campus helping disabled children at Ride on Center for Kids (ROCK), a hippotherapy, therapeutic riding, and equine facilitated learning center. All the while, Morgan nurtured her passion for science as a research assistant and collaborator with several Southwestern professors, and her love of art as a freelance artist and figure model for other artists. What did she learn, besides a lot of science and art stuff? To “never take yourself too seriously, but always take what you do seriously,” she says. With that in mind, Morgan says of her more recent art, “I strive to integrate scientific and artistic endeavors, which share the investigative powers of observation and evaluation.” Now that’s taking both of Southwestern’s intentional, your passions seriously! interdisciplinary and Because Morgan’s art has appeared in integrative approach to more than 20 group and solo exhibitions, higher education allows and her student/faculty collaborative students like Morgan to research on the post-translational processing pursue more than one of mutagenesis proteins was presented at the academic interest while national meeting of the American Society becoming a broadly and for Microbiology in San Francisco, Calif., highly educated individual. she can legitimately share this advice to This is the value of having new students—“What you put into your a broad-based, liberal arts college experience is definitely what you curriculum, spanning get out of it.” many disciplines. Southwestern helped Morgan become more open-minded and prepared her for the real world by teaching her to think critically about almost everything. “This campus has a way of forcing you to confront ideas, theories or beliefs that may be quite different from your own and, through good old-fashioned Southwestern contemplation, you learn how to reconcile such ideas with your own.” Morgan is currently attending medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, and is still painting “on the side” at her kitchen table turned make-shift art studio. Doubling down Katie De La Vega Music Major, SU Choir, SU Orchestra, Zeta Tau Alpha, Opera in China Music major Katie De La Vega came to Southwestern on the recommendation of her grandfather, who is a friend of Professor of Music Kenny Sheppard. “Because Southwestern is small and recognized for its academics, and thanks to my connection with the choral conductor, Southwestern Through things like civic was my choice,” she says. engagement, intercultural Involved in “all things music,” Katie was experiences, Paideia active on and off campus. “I sang in the and Career Services, choir, served as the music librarian, played Southwestern provides viola in the orchestra, played in a string intentional, structured quartet, sang in the opera, and helped direct ways for students to both choirs,” she says. reflect on and connect She was also a member of Delta Omicron, each experience, and to the music fraternity, as well as the Zeta Tau learn how each of those Alpha sorority. Off campus, she performed experiences combine with the San Gabriel Chorale and at First to create an integrated United Methodist Church of Georgetown as education. a soloist and as a member of a string quartet. According to Katie, it was the professors who made her Southwestern Experience memorable. She explains, “Because of the small class sizes and the professors’ genuine care, I was able to get to know most of them on a personal basis. I even had opportunities to travel in the U.S. and overseas with my professors; I’ve sent them late night texts with concerns about classes; I’ve gone to dinner and even invited them to family functions.” In fact, Sheppard even invited Katie to perform as the soprano soloist for the premier of Haydn’s Paukenmesse in China. “I was terrified and tried to back out, but Dr. Sheppard believed in me every step of the way. Because he helped my confidence, I was able to sing in a far away country in front of thousands of people.” Sheppard, more than anyone, is the one person Katie says has inspired her to pursue music. Along with her passion for music, Katie also enjoys working with animals. She is currently employed as a nurse at a veterinary office, while at the same time works as a soloist/director’s assistant at San Gabriel Presbyterian Church in Georgetown. She is also applying for graduate programs to study social work next fall. The best advice she received as a student? Sheppard told her that, “if you’re flatting just sing higher.” Her best advice to new students is to not waste any time in college. “This is the perfect time to try new things,” she says; “to explore different people and activities. At Southwestern, there are so many organizations and classes that provide the resources to pursue your interests.” Pulling it together Zoe Martin Anthropology Major, Student Foundation, SEAK, Harp, Ceramics, Roller Derby Alternatively schooled her whole life, Zoe Martin—an anthropology major—liked how personalized her education had always been. “I was used to small class sizes and close relationships with my teachers; Southwestern definitely offered a continuation of that learning environment,” she says. “As I began visiting different colleges and universities, I found myself coming back to Southwestern over and over again.” Once on campus, Zoe discovered not only a passion for anthropology, but an opportunity to take a variety of classes — from anthropology to music to macroeconomics. “I took hand-forming ceramics classes during my sophomore year. It was exciting to create and collaborate on interdisciplinary art projects, such as my set of environmental justice-themed shot glasses and the campus Empty Bowls Project.” She also found time to pursue a variety of interests on and off campus. Zoe began playing the harp and became involved in A prospective student Students for Environmental Activism and who is a good fit for Knowledge (SEAK), the SU Community Southwestern is one Garden and Student Foundation. She also who wants to discover spent time in Austin playing recreational flathim or herself, take track roller derby for the Texas Rollergirls’ chances, have the ability Rec-N-Roller derby league and interning at to grow and change, is The Parish, a downtown music venue, and open to questioning and at Transmission Entertainment, an Austin discovering, and is looking music booking and production company. for diversity among his or Through it all, Zoe says, “I’ve become her peers and professors. much more confident since my senior year of high school; my curiosity and adventurousness have continued to grow as I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I feel more comfortable now in my own skin.” Zoe says the words of Richard Alpert—Remember, Be Here Now— reminded her to “be in the moment and reflect on why I was making certain choices. This advice helped me prioritize, make memories, maintain my sanity and have a lot of fun!” What’s next? While she wants to compete in the premier Texas Rollergirls flat-track roller derby league, Zoe plans to “pay the bills” by pursuing her interests in ceramics, anthropology and environmentalism. “I believe my Southwestern Experience has prepared me with the enthusiasm, curiosity and work ethic that will be essential during these next steps.” Currently working as retail and non-profit vendor coordinator for Austin-based Transmission Events on its annual, three-day music festival “Fun Fun Fun Fest,” Zoe is also busy developing her own Etsy business, “PeachedPlum,” named for one of her favorite harp songs. Like a glove Connecting the dots Experiential learning “Paideia” (pronounced Pie-DAY-uh) is a word the ancient Greeks applied to an approach to education that was holistic in its scope and that prepared students for a life of productive citizenry. In their first year at Southwestern, students are introduced to an array of themes from which they choose a Paideia Cluster—a series of three interconnected courses, culminating in a fourth— the Paideia Seminar. Along with interdisciplinary courses, Paidiea integrates civic engagement and intercultural learning into the academic experience. Sixty percent of the Class of 2011 reported completing at least one internship experience. Twenty-nine percent of the class reported completing two or more internships. Civic Engagement: More than 70 percent of Southwestern students volunteer on campus or in the community – a rate that is twice the national average. Students give more than 23,000 service hours annually in communitybased learning projects, long-term partnerships, and volunteerism in more than 100 local non-profits and agencies. Study Abroad: More than half of Southwestern students take advantage of diverse study abroad experiences around the world, including a semester in London and summers in Jamaica and Costa Rica, as well as a variety of approved semester-long or summer programs in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia. Living-Learning Communities (LLCs): In conjunction with First Year Seminars, LLCs are designed to help students connect in-class and out-of-class experiences by fostering an element of intellectual curiosity within the residence hall. 60 % one internship 29 % two or more internships Where are they now? The Class of 2011 reported their primary activity after graduation: Employed 60.9 % 34.5 % Graduate/Professional School or Advanced Coursework 4.6 % Other (Seeking or Volunteering) Prepped for any destination More than 95 percent of Southwestern graduatesâ€™ first destination is employment or graduate/professional school. This year, some of those destinations have included: Recent positions accepted: Disneyâ€™s Animal Kingdom Park, Animal Behavior Intern CIEE China, English Teacher Deloitte & Touche LLP, Auditor Hewlett-Packard Company, IT Developer/Engineer Capital Area Food Bank, Program Coordinator Caritas of Austin, Case Manager Charles Schwab, Broker Trainee National Instruments, Global Database Marketing Houston Museum of Natural Science, Information Coordinator Midland ISD, 12th Grade English Teacher Scott & White Healthcare, Dementia Care Specialist New York Life Insurance Company, Financial Adviser PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Staff Auditor YWCA Austin, Youth Specialist Steger Bizzell Engineering, Project Manager Teach for America, Bilingual Education Teacher Tesco Corporation, Field Sales Representative Human Interfaces Inc., Usability Specialist SafePlace (via AmeriCorps), Case Manager/Life Skills Teacher Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Air Quality Investigator Graduate/Professional programs: Rice University, Ph.D. in Applied Physics Columbia University, Ph.D. in Historical Musicology Georgetown University, Ph.D. in Neuroscience Boston University, M.A. in Public Relations The George Washington University, Ph.D. in Political Science California Institute of the Arts, M.F.A. in Theatre Management Johns Hopkins University, Master of Health Administration Tulane University, Master of Public Health University of California, Davis, Ph.D. in Animal Behavior University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Juris Doctor Degree Vanderbilt University, Master of Accounting The University of Texas at Austin, Master of Science in Social Work University of Wisconsin, Madison, Ph.D. in Computer Science The University of Texas School of Law, Juris Doctor Degree The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, M.D. The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, M.D.