The Columns

Shaping Traditions: Alex Meilech ’18

— by on January 17th, 2017

“Just as I bring my traditions into Hillel, I will bring the traditions I learn at Hillel to my next chapter in life and beyond.”

Alex Meilech ’18 has experienced tradition – from Lexington, Virginia to Buenos Aires, Argentina

I walk across campus as the sun is setting, hurrying from physics lab prep to make it to Hillel in time to help set up for dinner. It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Friday, and I’m always tired after a long week of school – who isn’t? As I open the front door, I can hear people in the kitchen, students working together to prepare our weekly Friday night Shabbat meal. I relax, shrug off my backpack, and head in. After the table is laden with food (Make Your Own Pizza, Burrito Night, Breakfast for Dinner), we all gather round to light candles, drink wine, and eat challah.

My earliest memories are of running around under the table with my cousins during my family’s own weekly Shabbat dinners, and now I am one of the “adults” putting together these celebrations for fellow students and community members, my Hillel family. As we pray together in Hebrew, I am reminded, with a mix of appreciation and awe, that fellow Jews around the world are all doing the same thing.

When I went on Spring Term Abroad to Argentina, I had the privilege of visiting a synagogue in Buenos Aires, the oldest synagogue in the country, for a Friday night service. Just like at Hillel, we spoke Hebrew prayers that I’ve known since childhood. (And thanks to learning Spanish, I also understood the discussion there – mostly!)

What I’ve learned through Hillel is that college is not a bubble, as we sometimes make it out to be. These activities are the same worldwide, whether you are in college or not. Just as I bring my traditions into Hillel, I will bring the traditions I learn at Hillel to my next chapter in life and beyond. And this is a great lesson for me: the same holds true for everything I learn here at W&L.

One of my majors is chemistry-engineering, and as I start to prepare for my post-grad future, I know that I’m not planning on being a chemical engineer. So why am I learning about thermodynamics and physical chemistry? This is a question I often ask myself in the middle of an arduous night of practice problems… But I remember that while I may not be doing this specifically in the future, it makes me a better thinker, a lifelong learner, and a problem solver, shaping who I am.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” I like to think he was talking about Shabbat meals at Hillel.

Careers in Motion: Tara Loughery ’18 STEM in Richmond

— by on January 17th, 2017

“I was thinking about switching from medical practice to medical research instead. The career trip really helped me justify switching my focus to pursue research.”

Meet Tara Loughery, a junior who was considering going pre-med, but decided to pursue a different path.

So you’re obviously in a STEM path already. What made you want to go on this trip?

I saw an ad for the trip in the Science Center. I had already been thinking about changing my plans for the future and wanted to see what options were out there.

Has STEM been “part of the plan” for a while?

When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor. That was a dream that followed me all the way to when I first entered college.

You don’t sound super convinced. Do you still want to be a doctor?

I had started thinking about changing my plans. I was thinking about switching from medical practice to medical research instead. The career trip really helped me justify switching my focus to pursue research.

#wluCarrer Trips all scrubbed up and learning about robotic surgical instruments at Richmond's Retreat Hospital#wluCareer Trips all scrubbed up and learning about robotic surgical instruments at Richmond’s Retreat Hospital

There were a lot of opportunities on this trip. Did you learn anything you didn’t expect?

I really enjoyed hearing about all of the different types of STEM jobs. It’s not just medicine. I really liked going to the psychology center. We were walked through what running a clinical psycology trial was like — what things to look out for, what tools to use, how to combine results. We even learned how clinics apply for funding — the real nitty gritty.

I felt like I learned a lot from everywhere we went. I appreciated how everyone told me the most important piece of advice to them in getting their careers started.

Who has been the most influential person in your studies, especially in your thoughts about the future?

My mom inspires me. She is incredibly kind and hardworking.

#wluCareerTrips in Richmond with Gary Bokinsky MD '67 learning about urology medical practicing and pursuing a career in medical research#wluCareerTrips in Richmond with Gary Bokinsky MD ’67 learning about urology medical practicing and pursuing a career in medical research

Okay, flashback time. If you could go back to First Year Tara and tell her one thing, what would it be?

Being a doctor is not the be-all, end-all peak of success in science. There are lots of things you can do to help people with your knowledge.

Would you tell her to go on the career trip?

Absolutely! It can never hurt to see what kind of opportunities are out there, especially in STEM, where there are more things than you might think.

#wluCareerTrips enjoying an early morning on the farm learning about STEM jobs in agriculture, ecology and enviro.#wluCareerTrips enjoying an early morning on the farm learning about STEM jobs in agriculture, ecology and enviro.

You sound like you’ve got your plate full. Medical research? A Ph.D in clinical neuroscience? Are you excited — or scared?

I’m excited about the future in general. I don’t know exactly what I will end up doing but I feel like there are a million possibilities!

Does this sound interesting? We live-tweeted this entire trip, and you can check out all of the good stuff we learned on the trip here.
Are you interested in finding a career or internship? Are you wondering how to start working towards your dream job? The Career Development Office wants to help! Check out their website and make an appointment today!

Careers in Motion: Olivia Sisson ’17 Humanities in New York

— by on January 17th, 2017

 

“The trip showed me that there are so many talented and interesting alumni who are working in fantastic companies and industries that might have nothing to do with what they studied at W&L.”

Meet Olivia Sisson, a senior who has wanted to be an artist since she was little – but didn’t know how – as she talks about her experience on the Humanities Career Trip to New York.

When you heard the words “humanities career trip,” what did you think?

I heard about the career trip through a Career Services email that had information about the trip. I ultimately decided to go because I knew it would be a great chance to meet some cool alumni and learn about different career paths that I hadn’t considered before. Career Services is incredibly helpful and a fantastic resource so I was very confident that the trip would be well worth my time.

Have you always been interested in art?

When I was little, I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I still want to be an artist, but also to work in the design world or just find a way to use my creativity in a business setting.

So you knew you wanted to pursue an artist’s life when you entered college?

When I started college, I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to do for a career, but I was fairly certain that things like math and business didn’t fit my skill set very well. I knew I loved art and started taking classes, but wasn’t really sure what careers I could make out of an undergraduate studio art degree.

I would say my goal to keep developing my creative skill set is one I’m still achieving and is something I hope that I will be working on for a very long time.

Now I have a much better idea of how many different industries and jobs utilize the kind of creative thinking and analytical problem solving that I really enjoy using in my academic studies.

Is that because of your professors?

My advisors, Leigh Ann Beavers in the art department and Lisa Greer in the geology department, have both really encouraged me to work hard and challenge myself in both departments. Both professors have encouraged me to be more curious and ask more questions.

#wluCareerTrips’ great view in New York

Did the career trip help with that also? Have you learned new things about careers in arts?

The trip showed me that there are so many talented and interesting alumni who are working in fantastic companies and industries that might have nothing to do with what they studied at W&L.

This really encouraged me to start reaching out to as many alumni as possible in order to just learn more about these different industries. It showed me that I can use my majors in so many more ways than I thought possible.

Now my goal is to learn as much as I can about some of these areas and figure out how I can apply my skill set to them.

Where did you go on this trip? Was it mostly museums and galleries?

We visited nine different companies while on the trip. We visited the Michael J. Fox Foundation, One Kings Lane, American Red Cross, Blackrock, Hearst Publishing, Fusion Media, Marcus and Millichap, Grey Advertising, and AT Kearney. We really got a great sampling of different industries, from publishing to home decor, wealth management to corporate real estate, non-profits to media companies, and advertising as well.

#wluCareerTrips visiting The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson Research

Wow! I didn’t realize there were so many businesses on the trip. Which one was your favorite?

I really enjoyed visiting One Kings Lane. They have a huge creative team that creates 90 percent of their website content — like photography work — in-house. It was really interesting to see their studio space, where all of this content production takes place.

When meeting with these companies, did you receive any advice that you think was particularly helpful for someone pursuing art as a career?

Jeff Hamill, a W&L alumni at Hearst Corporations, highly recommended starting to create our own content now if we are considering getting into the media/publishing world. I think this is a really great piece of advice for anyone in college who is considering getting into any type of media-related industry.

So many companies need social media marketing campaigns and young people with experience to write them. I started my own website this summer and, after getting this advice, I started putting more work into my site and realized continuing to create my own content is really great practice for a lot of entry-level positions.

What about other advice that keeps you going? Do you have any kind of mantra?

I love Napoleon Dynamite. I think he has a great outlook: “Out to prove he’s got nothing to prove.”

You’re a senior now. If you could go back in time and give some advice to little freshman Olivia, what would you tell her?

I was nervous when I declared my art and geology major as most of my friends were declaring business or economics. I appreciate these majors, but just didn’t find that I was very interested in them. I had no idea what kind of jobs (or if I’d be able to get a job) with geology and art but in retrospect I’m very happy that I followed what I was truly interested in. This made all of my coursework engaging and rewarding, and I know now that I can use these skills in a myriad of ways that I didn’t think possible before.

So here’s the big question: What’s next for you?

I’m very excited about the possibility of a master of fine arts program. I really enjoy academia and would love to get more in-depth with my art practice. I’m hoping to learn about new mediums like textiles and paper making. Before that, though, I’m very excited about finding my first job and getting my foot in the door somewhere that I’m excited about.

For now, I’m enjoying networking with alumni a lot. The W&L alumni network is incredible, and everyone I’ve talked to is so eager to help me out and share their knowledge with me.

It sounds like you got a lot out of this trip. Would you recommend it to other art students, or students in general?

I would definitely recommend the career trip to other students, especially if they are not sure what they want to do after graduation or even if they are just interested in checking out New York City and getting a better feel for what it’s like to work and live there.

I didn’t realize how valuable it would be to actually visit companies and be able to see what their working environments are like. I feel like I learned so much about industries that I wasn’t very familiar with before and got to meet some incredible alumni. It was an overall fantastic experience.

Are you interested in finding a career or internship? Are you wondering how to start working towards your dream job? The Career Development Office wants to help! Check out their website and make an appointment today!
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Careers in Motion: Carley K. Sambrook ’17 Fashion in New York City

— by on January 17th, 2017

“Everything to which I’ve been exposed at W&L is relevant to the fashion industry, so I will graduate confident that my knowledge and skills will help me throughout my career.”

Meet Carley Sambrook, a senior who has recently discovered her passion for fashion – and now has the know-how to explore it thanks to the Fashion Career Trip to New York.

Okay, so W&L offers a Fashion Trip? How did you hear about this? Have you been involved with fashion in the past?

I am lucky to be a Career Fellow in Career Development, so I was one of the first to hear about this amazing trip! I have spent the last two summers working in fashion in New York City, so I went on this trip to continue to develop my network within the industry and specifically within W&L.

Did you want to be in fashion when you were young or did you have other plans?

I wanted to be an astrophysicist. I am a secret nerd for quantum mechanics.

As a First Year, what took priority — fashion or quantum mechanics?

I knew I wanted to pursue a degree in business administration with a focus on romance languages, which hasn’t changed. I come from the French part of Canada, so speaking multiple languages has always been important to me. Then, I began exploring the fashion industry, which is the perfect area to combine my love of business, creativity and international exposure!

Visiting Neely ’13 and Chloe ’14 Burch at their pop-up accessories store

Has W&L been supportive of your goals for fashion?

The liberal arts education provided by W&L has been extremely important. It has allowed me to hone a variety of skills that I can apply to my chosen field. I have had exposure to all aspects of the business world: entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, technology, law, writing and more. On top of that, I have taken courses in science, politics and art. Everything to which I’ve been exposed at W&L is relevant to the fashion industry, so I will graduate confident that my knowledge and skills will help me throughout my career.

So the career trip must have been special — all about fashion. Did you learn anything special?

Speaking with W&L alums who have been successful in the fashion industry was motivating. This trip furthered my excitement about the year to come. I have a lot of decisions to make with respect to my journey upon graduation, and I am looking forward to the process. I hope to be able to talk about my career one day with the same excitement and passion as the alumni with whom we spoke.

Laura Holman ’08 speaks to students at Valentino

Where did you go on the trip?

We visited with alumni and other contacts from nine different companies: Ralph Lauren, Valentino, Michael Kors, Chanel, Joor, Macy’s, Neely & Chloe, Gap and J.Crew. We were lucky enough to visit many of the actual corporate offices, which was a great opportunity to see the inner workings of the business behind a major fashion house. The men and women with whom we met talked about their career paths, their current jobs, and their aspirations, and also took questions from our group. It was amazing to see how passionate these individuals are about their jobs and the industry as a whole, and how excited they were to share their experiences with us.

Wow! That’s a lot of fashion in a short amount of time. Was there any one place in particular that stuck out to you?

My favorite visit was with our alumna at Valentino. I’d met her previously, so it was really interesting to learn about the changes in her career since I’d seen her. It was great to hear her speak about her journey throughout the industry. I was so inspired! I hope to one day have a career as developed as hers. One thing she said to us that I think applies to any job application is to know your strengths and how they apply to the job at hand. You need to know why you want a job, as well as why the employer should want to hire you in particular.

Students at Ralph Lauren

Do you have a fashion mentor that you turn to for inspiration?

I am inspired by Tory Burch. I worked for her company this past summer, and I am in awe of her. Not only has she created an influential American fashion brand, she also has a wonderful foundation that empowers female entrepreneurs. I admire her tenacity, generosity and eye for beautiful product. Working for her company was a dream; the culture is welcoming, motivating and focused, and I developed valuable skills throughout my time there.

Okay, reflection time. What would you tell your First Year self if you could tell her anything?

It’s never too early to start planning. Whether you think you know for sure what you want to do or not, there is something you can do to prepare for internships and job opportunities in the future. You can perfect your resume and identify holes in your experience, network with alumni and other contacts, and develop cross-functional skills that will help you in whatever direction you follow. In that vein, visit Career Development early to start building that relationship!

Would you tell her to take the Career Trip?

One hundred percent yes! The fashion industry really has something for everyone. It can be analytical and numbers-based or drawing and technical-focused, while simultaneously revolving around creativity and human interaction. This allows for the exploration of so many fields within one industry! I think that W&L students would greatly benefit from learning about another area of business to which they can apply their skills.

‡UPDATE: We just received word that Carley has just accepted a job at Saks Fifth Avenue next year in their Merchant Development Program. Congratulations, Carley!

Are you interested in finding a career or internship? Are you wondering how to start working towards your dream job? The Career Development Office wants to help! Check out their website and make an appointment today!

Careers In Motion #wluCareerTrips hit the road over Reading Days

— by on January 17th, 2017

“It is amazing to see when students have that ah-ha moment hearing about a job path they hadn’t thought of before.”

Over Reading Days, three groups of students traveled out of Lexington and into the “real world.” Their goal was to find alumni and recent graduates who had found success in their fields of interest and learn from them. These trips, organized by the Career Development Office, aimed to give students a glance into what people had done with their education, how they had found their jobs, and what students could do now to follow their passions and prepare themselves.

There were three trips humanities, fashion and STEMand students were able to travel with whichever group they preferred.

Humanities in New York

The humanities trip took students to the Big Apple to discover different avenues of business that can be explored with a humanities degree. The trip highlighted how humanities fields had led students to careers in anything and everything from marketing and design to wealth management and real estate.

#wluCareerTrips' great view in New York#wluCareerTrips’ great view in New York

“The goal of the humanities trip is two-fold: one, to give students a broad understanding of their career options; and two, to have students understand that their major could lead to unbelievable opportunities,” trip organizer and Director of Career Development John Jensen said. “It is amazing to see when students have that ah-ha moment hearing about a job path they hadn’t thought of before.”

During the trip, students were able to visit the Michael J. Fox Foundation, One Kings Lane, American Red Cross, Blackrock, Hearst Publishing, Fusion Media, Marcus and Millichap, Grey Advertising, and AT Kearney.

We interviewed Olivia Sisson, a senior who has wanted to be an artist since she was little — but didn’t know how — about her experience on the trip.

Fashion in New York

Like something straight out of a movie, students boarded a bus bound for New York to discover careers in fashion. “This trip was developed after realizing there was a growing student interest in this field,” said Caroline Schmidt, who organized the trip. “Students would often comment that there isn’t a clear path of how to break into this industry, so we pulled this trip together to learn the stories of fashion alumni in New York City to educate students.”

Laura Holman '08 speaks to students at ValentinoLaura Holman ’08 speaks to students at Valentino

The fashion trip brought together a group of alumni in the New York City area to help students explore not only fashion as a career, but to realize the different areas of industry that exist within fashion. The trip also focused on how to break into the industry through various internships, programs and job opportunities. During the trip, students were able to visit Ralph Lauren, Valentino, Michael Kors, the Gap Headquarters, and the Macy flagship store.

We interviewed Carley Sambrook, a senior who has recently discovered her passion for fashion — and now has the know-how to explore it.

STEM in Richmond

STEM has been a buzzword for years. Students every year enter college seeking degrees in the “Big Four” — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. But what do you do with a degree in STEM? This career trip, the first of its kind, sought to answer this question.

The STEM trip traveled to Richmond, and explored both the city and countryside, from operating rooms to high-tech agricultural farms.

“Our trip was meant to be exploratory,” trip coordinator Molly Steele said. “Students were able to see there are so many options to utilize their degrees, including private practice, research and industry.”

While STEM often means “pre-med” for many students, this trip had a little something for everyone. Students spoke to environmental consultants, pharmaceutical sales reps, medical engineering, clinical psychologists and more! Of course, there was also a stop for all the aspiring doctors in the room.

#wluCareer trips down by the river, learning about environmental disasters and what scientists can do to restore damage and prevent accidents in the future#wluCareer trips down by the river, learning about environmental disasters and what scientists can do to restore damage and prevent accidents in the future

“There are opportunities in many fields for all types of science disciplines,” Steele said. “So many jobs today require both scientific knowledge and the skills at the core of liberal arts such as verbal and written communication and problem solving and critical thinking.”

Each stop was multi-faceted so that students who were interested in various aspects of STEM would be able to explore paths, not only in their own disciplines, but in other areas of science they didn’t know where connected.  They received advice on how to break into a specific area of STEM, how to gather experience for a job or grad school, and how to set yourself on a path to “your STEM dream job.”

During the trip, students were able to visit Angler Environmental, the Commonwealth Institute for Child and Family Studies, Virginia Urology, a precision agriculture and drone research farm, the VCU Rice Center for River Habitat Conservation, and the Retreat Hospital.

Does this sound interesting? We live-tweeted this entire trip! You can check out all of the good stuff we learned on the trip here.

We interviewed Tara Loughery, a junior who was considering going pre-med, but decided to pursue a different path.

Are you interested in finding a career or internship? Are you wondering how to start working towards your dream job? The Career Development Office wants to help! Check out their website and make an appointment today!
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Meet the Johnsons: Graham Novak ’19

— by on January 11th, 2017

“Don’t fret about making an exact four-year plan when you arrive on campus; your interests will change, you’ll find new passions, you’ll want to explore various fields, and you want to be open-minded.”

Meet Graham Novak ’19, an aspiring – and already accomplished – entrepreneur

 

Q: How did you first hear about the Johnson Scholarship?

Graduating debt-free from a highly respected university was a top priority in my college search. With that said, I targeted top universities that had full-ride scholarship programs, and Washington and Lee quickly became a top contender.

Q: Were you considering any other colleges when you applied to W&L?

Vanderbilt, University of Pennsylvania, Emory, Furman, and Washington University, St. Louis

Q: Why did you ultimately choose W&L?

Of all the colleges I visited, W&L’s professors were the most down-to-earth and well-connected to the students. Going to class didn’t seem like a chore, instead it was a time to look forward to. Additionally, I came to the realization that the quality of education between the schools was extremely close; I’d have the opportunities to be successful at any of the institutions, but W&L expressed their genuine interest in me by offering a tremendous scholarship.

Q: How has Johnson affected your views on leadership and integrity — or on academics?

The Johnson Program represents a convergence of W&L’s traditions and the embodiment of student-driven passion for excellence and innovation. Academically, it reminds me that I have a high standard to uphold. The biggest impact, however, is an internalized sense of commitment to the university’s culture and community. I strive to be an ambassador of our values, role model for others, and contributor to the greater good as a small way of saying thanks to the school for providing me this unparalleled opportunity.

Q: What is your favorite story about your W&L experience, if you had to pick one?

Each fall, the university hosts its annual Entrepreneurship Summit; hundreds of students and alumni gather to hear from founders and CEOs, participate in a school-wide pitch competition, and network with the individuals who are creating the businesses and technologies of the future. My freshman year, I managed my way into the final round of the pitch competition, standing on a stage in front of peers, professors, and potential investors. When they announced the winner, I felt the sting of loss but it only lasted a moment; as soon as the session ended, alumni swarmed me with their congratulations, offering their mentorship, asking me to tell them more. They didn’t talk to me like a student. They talked to me like a future partner.

Q: Do you have a mentor on campus? Faculty, staff, or another student?

Dr. Goldsmith is not only one of my favorite professors, but also my economics major advisor. Whether I want to discuss the repercussions of Brexit, pursue research opportunities, or get advice on the best vacation places in Australia, the man has advice on everything.

Q: What extracurricular are you involved in right now that you are extra-passionate about?

Without a doubt, my favorite organization is the Venture Club. We consult for start-ups, provide resources to student entrepreneurs, have case competitions, sponsor student pitches, and meet with alumni and business owners.  While it can be time-consuming and intensive, it is amazingly rewarding. Right now, we’re consulting for five different businesses, including a food producer and distributor in Shanghai, a digital publishing/marketing company, and a non-profit that wants to reimagine the way people donate money. Every semester is full of new projects that continue to challenge me in different ways.

Q: What is your favorite campus tradition or piece of history?

The Honor System creates an amazing sense of trust, mutual respect, and understanding between students and professors. I can leave my door wide open without the fear of someone taking my things. I can schedule my final exams to the times when they’re most convenient because the professors know that I will not cheat. I can trust that the students around me are honest and act with genuine integrity. It’s comforting, supportive, and held with the highest respect.

Q: If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to “first day on campus” you?

Don’t fret about making an exact four-year plan of all your classes when you arrive on campus; your interests will change, you’ll find new passions, you’ll want to explore various fields, and you want to be open-minded. There are many amazing classes that you just don’t know about yet.

Q: If someone asked you “why choose W&L,” what is the one reason you would tell them?

Students are happy, amazingly accomplished, and have a track record of unprecedented success after graduation. I feel genuine connections to my peers and professors, I’m given the tools and skills to accomplish my loftiest goals, and every day I’m thankful for making the best choice of my life; I don’t think there’s anything else I could ask for.

Thinking about W&L for college? Why not apply for the Johnson Scholarship?

Meet the Johnsons: Ryder Babik ’19

— by on January 11th, 2017

“This is the kind of place where differing views, each with their own valuable contribution, create a climate of real, meaningful change”

Meet Ryder Babik ’19, a student who enjoys college as much as he enjoys helping others apply to college

Q: How did you first hear about the Johnson Scholarship?

During my initial search for competitive, small liberal arts schools, I came across Washington and Lee and began to research the school online. While reading about everything from the Speaking Tradition to all of the various clubs on campus, I came across a page about the Johnson Scholarship and was amazed by the opportunities it offered. Especially weighing the abilities of one to “contribute to the intellectual and civic life of W&L and the world at large in years to come,” the scholarship’s ideals greatly aligned with my values and motivated me to apply.

Q: Were you considering any other colleges when you applied for the Scholarship?

At the time, I was considering Tufts, Yale, Bowdoin, Johns Hopkins, and Hamilton.

Q: Why did you ultimately choose W&L?

Between the Speaking Tradition, Honor System, and overall genuinely friendly nature I saw of students at W&L during my visit to campus, the quality of the students here definitely influenced my decision. Additionally, the professors I met and staff I talked to all welcomed me as if I were already a W&L student. So for me, the ultimate decision to attend W&L came when I visited the campus and almost instantaneously learned of the uniquely special environment here.

Q: How has Johnson affected your views on leadership and integrity — or on academics?

The Johnson has made me feel as though I have a special responsibility to represent the W&L ideals both in and out of the classroom to the best of my ability. The most interesting part, however, is that at W&L everyone lives by this responsibility such that it is nearly impossible to differentiate between who has the Johnson Scholarship and who doesn’t. So although I am honored to be a Johnson and it inspires me in all my pursuits while I’m here, every student, regardless of their situation, embodies this same enthusiasm to represent W&L and better the community.

Q: What is your favorite story about your W&L experience, if you had to pick one?

My favorite memory at W&L so far has been my experiences during spring term to conclude my first year. I was enrolled in a British literature class and would often spend afternoons relaxing outside with classmates while furthering the discussions we had in class. With the added free time during spring term, I also explored Lexington a lot, from tubing down the Maury to hiking and fishing with friends. Overall, spring term was a truly awesome experience because I was fully invested in the course I took while still having time to pursue other passions that are sometimes put on hold during the busy fall and winter semesters.

Q: Do you have a mentor on campus? Faculty, staff, or another student?

Although all of the professors in the mathematics and engineering departments have mentored me tremendously, my most valuable mentors have been my close friends at W&L. They regularly offer me advice on everything, from what to eat in the dining hall and what TV shows to watch to what classes and extracurriculars I should pursue to accomplish my goals. My friends, through serving also as mentors, have undoubtedly played a crucial role in shaping me to be the motivated W&L student I am today.

Q: What extracurricular are you involved in right now that you are extra passionate about?

One organization I am currently involved in and very passionate about is College Access, through which I’ve been tutoring a local Lexington High School student for the past year and a half. Beginning with help in his classes, then preparing him for the SAT/ACT, and now aiding him in the college application process, it has been extremely rewarding to work alongside him and watch his progression. When we aren’t debunking a weirdly phrased SAT math problem or revising his “who are you?” college essay, we’ll talk about other interests of ours, and just life in general. Through tutoring and getting to know him, I’ve become connected to the Lexington community and feel as though Lexington is more of a second home than I ever would have thought possible.

Q: What is your favorite campus tradition or piece of history?

My favorite campus tradition is the superstition that when walking along the path through Graham-Lees, it is bad luck to walk between the center columns as it will supposedly cause you to fail a class. It just goes to show how motivated W&L students are about academics when the narrow cement paths on both outsides of the center columns have been worn down several inches from being walked on so excessively. On the other hand, the huge walkway between the two columns always looks freshly laid and untouched. I’ve never personally tested out the truth of this superstition, but it’s funny to see that no one else is willing to test it out either.

Q: If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to “first day on campus” you?

Looking back, I would advise myself to take advantage more of open office hours and the outgoing nature of professors at W&L. For the first semester of my first year at W&L, I was hesitant to reach out to professors outside of the allotted class time each week. At a small school like W&L, the professors are here because they genuinely want to get to know their students and help them succeed. So whether you need further explanation on the topic of a lecture or are just curious about something you read online the other day, utilizing the openness of professors is definitely something I wish I started sooner. W&L provides an infinite number of opportunities to learn outside the classroom, but it is up to you to take advantage of these opportunities and make the most of your time on campus.

Q: If someone asked you “why choose W&L,” what is the one reason you would tell them?

Because this is the kind of place where differing views, each with their own valuable contribution, create a climate of real, meaningful change. When an engineering major like myself, a classics major, and an economics major are all sitting and conversing together in the dining hall, the varying perspectives intellectually stimulate you far beyond what is capable solely from the typical classroom experience.

Thinking about W&L for college? Why not apply for the Johnson Scholarship

Meet the Johnsons: Harrison Westgarth ’17

— by on January 11th, 2017

“Choose W&L for the people; for the professors who challenge the perception of your own ability and intelligence, for the peers who disagree with and question your beliefs, and the friends you will make within a community that will change your life.”

 

Meet Harrison Westgarth ’17, a pre-med varsity athlete with a passion for teaching ESOL

Q: How did you first hear about the Johnson Scholarship?

I first heard about the Johnson Scholarship from the head swim coach, Coach Gardner. She told me all about the scholarship program when I came for my recruiting visit and suggested I look into applying. Without her suggestion, I don’t think I would have ever been aware of the scholarship to begin with.

Q: Were you considering any other colleges when you found W&L?

I was seriously struggling between the University of Rochester and Washington and Lee when it came down to my final choice. I also considered Carnegie Mellon, Wesleyan, and NYU as I narrowed down my options.

Q: Why did you ultimately choose W&L?

Many reasons. I visited three times and got a feel for the incredible sense of community that makes W&L what it is. The Johnson Scholarship was the unprecedented opportunity that provided the additional impetus leading to my ultimate decision to matriculate. There were opportunities here that weren’t available anywhere else, but there were also people here unlike any others.

Q: How has Johnson affected your views on leadership and integrity — or on academics?

The Johnson Scholarship constantly forces me to reflect on my purpose and place here at W&L. I periodically ask myself what I am doing to validate my status as a recipient of the award. Am I helping the campus change in a positive way? Am I making an impact on my peers? Am I truly performing in the classroom in a manner that would befit such an investment? I always try to conduct myself in a way that allows me to honestly answer “yes,” although it’s surely a constant process of self-evaluation.

Q:  What is your favorite story about your W&L experience, if you had to pick one?

This is a hard one, mostly because it’s difficult to pick a singular instance over all the great experiences I’ve had at W&L.

Of the many, one sticks out in my mind as fully representative of the W&L experience, though it didn’t take place on campus at all. It was Thanksgiving break of freshman year, my first time traveling home. I was in the Philly airport eating lunch alone near my gate when I needed to use the bathroom. I promptly stood up, leaving all my stuff abandoned at the table, and found my way to the restroom. Upon my return everything was as I’d left it, however, it dawned on me that leaving personal items unattended in public places was something I could only enjoy under the Honor System. Until that day, I didn’t realize the extent to which W&L was so intensely impacting my daily life. From then on, I’ve been consciously thankful for the life I live in my Lexington bubble.

Q: Do you have a mentor on campus? Faculty, staff, or another student?

Yes, my advisors Dr. Simurda and Professor Mayock. Dr. Simurda has been a wonderful guide to me since the very first week of my freshman year, providing me with unending advice in the academic world, helping me pursue my dreams in the professional world, and truly ensuring that I enjoy the greatest success possible.

Professor Mayock has had a similar impact on my academic path, but has affected me most in my journey learning Spanish. She was an integral factor in the development of my current passion for the Spanish language and Hispanic culture. Her phenomenal classroom presence during my sophomore year was contagious and led me into many of the organizations that make up so much of my campus identity today. My life has been changed irrevocably for the better thanks to the guiding hands of Dr. Simurda and Professor Mayock

Q: What extracurricular are you involved in right now that you are extra-passionate about?

Of my current extracurriculars, I am most intensely passionate about ESOL. I began working with the group my sophomore year and was matched with an immigrant family from Honduras. Over the past two years, I have grown and changed with this family. My skills as a Spanish speaker have increased, as has the English of their son (much to my pride). We have been through difficult and uncertain times, and most importantly, we have shared meals and laughed together. This family has impacted me in intangible and great ways and brought immigrant issues much closer to my heart. I now also work as the In/Out of School Tutoring Coordinator with the group and continue to take great pride in the difference we try to make in the lives of immigrants and non-native English speakers in Rockbridge County.

Q: What is your favorite campus tradition or piece of history?

My favorite piece of history is the story behind the Cyrus McCormick statue.* The story goes that when McCormick was very ill in his later years he wanted to donate money to the university, but only if they would include his name in the name of the school. They said they would and accepted his money. McCormick died, but the university administration considered Washington, Lee & McCormick University too long a name and thus just built him a statue. Most people think the statue is Robert E. Lee. I also always like to mention him on my tours because I feel bad for him and he deserves a little bit of love.

Q: If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to “first day on campus” you?

If I were to give advice to “first day me,” I would likely tell him the following: Don’t be a bum and wait to do your laundry and wash your sheets at the last possible moment, strive to give back and serve on campus sooner rather than later, and don’t be anyone other than yourself.

Q: If someone asked you “why choose W&L,” what is the one reason you would tell them?

I would tell them to choose W&L for the people; for the professors who challenge the perception of your own ability and intelligence, for the peers who disagree with and question your beliefs, and the friends you will make within a community that will change your life.

*We checked with the good folks over in Special Collections and this is apparently one of the many urban legends that comes with a history as long as W&L has. For the full story (which is just as interesting), Special Collections recommends reading Dr. Ollinger Crenshaw’s The Rise and Growth of Washington and Lee University.

Thinking about W&L for college? Why not apply for the Johnson Scholarship

 

Meet the Johnsons: Stephanie Chung ’18

— by on January 6th, 2017

Before I even came to college, I knew that there were people here who had my back and would help me succeed in what I wanted to do.”

Meet Stephanie Chung ’18, an anthropology major with a passion for women’s health advocacy

 

Q: How did you first hear about the Johnson Scholarship?

It’s a very funny story – you know how you get all those emails from colleges after taking the SAT? I was trying to delete them from my Gmail and accidentally clicked outside of the little box and opened the email. In big letters, “Last day to apply to full-ride merit based scholarship!” I had a few hours to kill, so I wrote the essay and submitted the application.

Q: Were you considering other colleges when you applied to W&L?

I applied to way too many! I had full rides from UT Austin and Case Western Reserve that I was considering, and I was admitted to UPenn, Wellesley, Johns Hopkins, and about six others.

Q: Why did you ultimately choose W&L?

I chose W&L because I thought I could succeed here. Professor Novack convinced me that he and the sociology and anthropology department would have my back during my four years here and the rest of my anthropology career. The Johnson Scholarship gave me both financial stability and financial resources to pursue opportunities. The campus was beautiful, the people were friendly, and the professors were fantastic.

Q: How has Johnson affected your views on leadership and integrity — or on academics?

Through its financial support, the Johnson Scholarship has given me academic opportunities I never thought I would be able to take advantage of. The summer after my first year at W&L, I spent nine weeks in Europe, including three weeks doing my own ethnographic research in Malta. Now the results of that research are close to being published, and I have found myself with real-life experience that informs my experience in the classroom and in my academic field.

Q: What is your favorite story about your W&L experience, if you had to pick one?

I think my favorite story about W&L is actually how I found my girlfriend. I had heard stories about how there is a man on campus who hand-matches all of the first-year random roommates, and so I put myself in his hands! My roommate instantly became my best friend, and then a year and a half later, my girlfriend. It was a complete coincidence that we were put together, and we would never have been close enough to fall in love if we hadn’t been roommates!

Q: Do you have a mentor on campus? Faculty, staff, or another student?

I know I’ve already done a lot of raving about Professor Novack, so now I’m going to have to rave about Professor Bell! She has been nothing but supportive of my goals. Every opportunity she has to help me, she does it without hesitation. Every time I’m stressed out about applying to grad school or becoming an anthropologist, she’s there to both reassure me and get me on the right track.

Q: What extra-curricular are you involved in right now that you are extra-passionate about?

Project Horizon is the domestic violence shelter in Lexington, and they have a sexual abuse and domestic violence hotline that is partially run by volunteers. Through the Shepherd Poverty and Human Capabilities department, I did a service learning course through volunteering at Project Horizon, and I haven’t left since! Playing with the kids in the shelter, talking with women staying in the shelter, and being a resource for those who call the hotline has become an important part of my life in Lexington. It is work that is extremely difficult and extremely important. I say that I want to stand up for women’s rights and against injustice, and this is the perfect volunteer site to get experience doing so.

Q: What is your favorite campus tradition or piece of history?

There is a statue on campus that is quite close to Lee Chapel. Every year I see so many tourists posing for pictures with the statue, and it cracks me up every time. Why? Because it’s not the famous Robert E. Lee… It’s Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the reaper.

Q: If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to “first day on campus” you?

Don’t be afraid of not knowing what to do – you are 18 and you have time to figure it out! Spend some time enjoying college and spend some time taking fun classes. You can worry about the hard stuff later!

Q: If someone asked you “why choose W&L,” what is the one reason you would tell them?

The honor system. You can get small class sizes, incredible professors, and an elite student body at other schools. The honor system as it applies to academics especially pushes each student to their academic best. You know that you can trust your classmates to be honest, the trust the professors have in you means that you are taken at your word, and overall, it encourages us all to be more hardworking and more honest human beings.  You are given respect and responsibility, and you have to do the right thing with it, which is excellent practice for the “real world” after college.

Thinking about W&L for college? Why not apply for the Johnson Scholarship

Meet the Johnsons

— by on January 6th, 2017

“Students with the intellect to Excel and the selflessness to care should have the opportunity to lead.”

Every year, 10 percent of the incoming class is selected as Johnson Scholars – we’re here to give you a closer look at those students.

These are the guiding words behind Washington and Lee’s Johnson Scholarship, which recognizes leadership, service and outstanding academic achievement. Each year, about 40 students are chosen from the incoming class of admitted students to be Johnson Scholars.

Many in the W&L community — faculty, staff, fellow students — can name a Johnson or two, but we wanted to get a front row seat at what our Johnson Scholars are doing today, tomorrow and every day here in Lexington. Some of them are pre-med scholars who are volunteering in Lexington. Others are anthropology majors about to publish ethnographic research. Others are varsity athletes who also play in the school orchestra.

Below are some profiles of Johnson Scholars who are active in the W&L campus, community — and beyond!