The Columns

Corey Guen ’17: At Home in a ‘Stellar Community’ Guen splits his time between hiking the mountains of Rockbridge and traveling the world.

— by on April 27th, 2017

“Beyond the unparalleled opportunity the Johnson Scholarship afforded me, I was struck by the sheer wealth of opportunities W&L students seemed to have, on campus and off.”


Corey Guen '17Corey Guen ’17

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

I heard about the Johnson Scholarship from a friend and high school tennis teammate, who was a member of the Class of 2015. I must’ve also heard from my mom, who was so on top of my college applications that she had a spreadsheet with at least 20 schools and their various deadlines and attributes, and notes about what I might like at each school. So if I haven’t said it enough in the past four years, here’s a very public THANK YOU MOM! I never would’ve gotten anything in on time without your help and support.  

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

I was considering a few other schools of the same ilk, particularly Davidson and Carleton colleges. Since arriving and living my life at W&L, I tell people constantly that I absolutely made the right decision, and can’t imagine life had I gone to one of those schools.

Q: Why did you ultimately choose W&L?

The scholarship made it an easy choice. Nowhere else was I going to find the combination of affordability through the Johnson Scholarship and a stellar community to call home for the next four years.  

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

The Johnson Scholarship made it possible for me to attend this institution, so I owe to it everything I have gained from Washington and Lee. The values the school holds dear are tangible from the first weeks spent on campus through to graduation, and the community has continually impressed me in every way possible. Students and faculty alike have amazed me with their ability to discuss complicated and controversial issues with grace and eloquence, a quality sorely missing from our nation’s public discourse. Students earn their grades, and consistently invest their time in pursuits that motivate them, not just to add to resumes. That total commitment to not only improving oneself, but actively adding to the diversity and excellence of the community at large, is what sets W&L students apart.  

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

I consider my inability to choose from so many to be one of the great privileges of my life. I, my friends and classmates have had so many extraordinary experiences at Washington and Lee. I think the feeling is best summed up in a conversation I had with several App Adventure trip leaders one evening during training week. Upon returning to campus, I had completed half a year abroad, studying at the University of Otago in New Zealand and Donghua University in Shanghai, China, so naturally I had many stories to share. As we caught each other up on our summers, I realized nowhere else but W&L could hopping around the Eastern Hemisphere seem almost pedestrian. Yet sitting there, listening to stories of archeological digs in Athens, or hikes down the Inca Trail, or time spent as an EMT, my life-defining experiences were just keeping pace with my peers. Rather than diminish my experiences, it made me marvel at the capability and drive of my friends, proud of everyone for accomplishing so much at such a young age.

Q: Do you have a mentor on campus?

James Dick, god of the outdoors and the world’s most genuinely enthusiastic man! I was fortunate to get a work study placement at the Outing Club Barn, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve been his employee, his student, his trip participant, his climbing partner and probably a bunch of other things, but he always has a smile on his face and an attitude that’s positive to an infectious degree. James is one of Washington and Lee’s greatest resources, and I’m lucky I had so many chances to interact with and learn from him.  

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

If my previous answer wasn’t indicative enough, the Outing Club has been a consistent presence in my W&L career. I firmly believe everyone on campus, students and faculty alike, should set aside a weekend to take a trip with the Outing Club. We have a ton of gear, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and zany leaders and a beautiful backyard to explore. Get outside!

Q: What is your favorite campus tradition or piece of history?
It might be minor, but I love that all undergraduates refuse to pass between the columns in the Graham-Lees archway. I’ve never seen a law student adhere, but meaningless superstitions and a little belief make life more fun and interesting.  

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

Make the most of your time. I would tell that to any freshman, not just myself. Four years seems like a long time until you’re sitting here, typing advice and wondering what happened to it all. Do something you hadn’t thought about before, even if you feel entrenched in the things you already do. I picked up rugby my senior year at the urging of some friends, and had an amazing time learning a new sport and feeling like a part of a team. Beating Christopher Newport University in the state tournament was incredible, and I never would’ve experienced that camaraderie without stepping far outside my comfort zone.

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

You can do anything you want. If you always dreamed of studying something, going to some place, W&L is better than any other school at giving you the resources and skills to realize those goals. Watching other students do the same is inspiring, and the excitement of mutual achievement drives me to keep doing what I do.   

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