Corey Guen ’17: At Home in a ‘Stellar Community’ Guen splits his time between hiking the mountains of Rockbridge and traveling the world.
“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.”
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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A little more about Corey
Exeter, New Hampshire
Economics, East Asian Languages and Literatures (Chinese), Shepherd Minor
– Afterschool program at Lylburn Downing Middle School through Campus Kitchen
– SPCA volunteer
Why did you choose your major?
I came to W&L intending to major in economics, and I told my parents if they would stop making me go to Chinese classes after school in middle school, that I would pick Chinese back up in college. It has been far more enjoyable this time around! The Poverty and Human Capability Studies minor was the only thing I picked up solely on the recommendation of friends and through some excellent experiences my freshman year.
What professor has inspired you?
Professor Howard Pickett in the Shepherd Program helped me discover an area of study I hadn’t thought about before, and after four years it’s been central to my time at Washington and Lee. His courses are uniquely challenging and enlightening, and though I’ve had many outstanding professors during my time at W&L, his lectures still stand out in my mind.
What’s your personal motto?
“Seek the joy of being alive,” the motto from my childhood summer camp, immortalized in ink on my right forearm.
What’s your favorite song right now?
I’m entirely unashamed to admit my favorite song at the moment is “Kelly Price” by Migos and Travis Scott. It may have no deeper meaning to speak of, but no one floats over a beat like Quavo.
Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
If it’s an occasion, I’ve never had a bad experience with anything at the Red Hen. If it’s more casual, a pulled pork sandwich from Foothill Momma’s always does the trick.
What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
You will meet lots of people with amazing interests you didn’t even know existed; trying new things is a great way to learn about other people as well as yourself.
I wish I had a more concrete answer at this point, but I hope to combine two of the three focal points of my W&L academics: either Chinese and economics or economics and poverty. That could mean being a political risk consultant focused on East Asia, or something more entrepreneurial like Venture for America.
Favorite W&L memory:
I’ve summited McAfee’s Knob twice for the sunrise as an App Adventure trip leader, and both times it’s been awe-inspiring. Sharing that with new students is always special, and it serves as a deep breath before jumping back into a year of classes.
Professor Eastwood’s Neighborhoods, Culture and Poverty was a fantastic class I took my sophomore year. Part seminar, part lab, we eventually got to use census data and crime statistics to examine a topic and city of our choosing, using ArcGIS and Stata to create cool map overlays. Rarely have I felt I produced such an in-depth piece of work that I was proud to show off, and the readings were consistently thought-provoking. I have to give a nod to Professor Casey’s Economics of Tropical Seascapes during Spring Term, though. The week in Belize climbing Mayan temples, snorkeling and surveying tourists was incredible.
Favorite W&L event:
To echo fellow Johnson Scholar Harry Lustig, App Adventure holds a special place in my heart. My freshman trip sparked a passion for hiking that brought me all over the world, and the subsequent trips I led introduced me to some of my favorite people on campus.
Favorite campus landmark:
Can anything really compare to the Colonnade? The image is so iconic, especially at night with the statue lit up. It was my first impression of W&L, one of great history and beauty, and one I won’t forget.
What’s your passion?
Hiking, which is perhaps the favorite gift W&L has given me. Before arriving on campus, I’d never camped before. Now, I’ve hiked hundreds of miles, caught sunrises on mountaintops on three continents, bought all my own gear and introduced other students to the joys of walking in nature. It’s calming, simple, easy, and brought me to places that have literally left me speechless.
What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I love video games that are meant for kids, especially anything made by Nintendo. I never wanted the more adult game systems as a kid, I was content with a Gameboy and a Gamecube until the insecurities of adolescence convinced me an Xbox was cooler. Now that I’m older and far more comfortable liking what I like, I’m a proud Nintendo fan for life.
Why did you choose W&L?
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. Now that I’m nearing graduation, I truly believe we are privileged to attend an institution that gives its students so many incredible chances to study, explore and grow. There’s little else I could ask for from my four years at W&L, and every moment I take to reminisce is full of appreciation.