Finding Her Community When Kara Lough '20 found W&L, she found a supportive environment that allowed her to lead a magazine, study in Italy, work as a photographer and plan a career.
“I wanted a community, and I knew that I would grow to be the adult I had envisioned if I had a community of professors and friends that challenged me. W&L has done exactly that.”
~ Kara Lough ’20
Hometown: Charleston, West Virginia
Majors: Strategic Communication, Sociology
Q: What made you decide to attend W&L?
As clichéd as it sounds, I fell in love with W&L as soon as I stepped on its beautiful campus. I remember feeling such excitement that I could possibly attend a school as well-accomplished as this one. The honor system and the small classroom size were two of the major reasons I decided to attend. I wanted a community, and I knew that I would grow to be the adult I had envisioned if I had a community of professors and friends that challenged me. W&L has done exactly that; I have learned so much about myself and how capable I am throughout my four years here. This school will provide a mass of opportunities if you’re brave enough to take them, and I recognized that even when I took my first tour of the university.
Q: Why major in sociology and strategic communication?
Interestingly enough, I was set on being pre-med when I started my first year. I had an empty spot in my schedule my Fall Term, so I filled it with an introductory sociology course. The professor of that course would go on to be my adviser for my major in sociology. After Fall Term of my first year, like many people, I decided to drop being pre-med. My entire family is in the health care industry, so it always felt natural to be pre-med until I came here. But I realized that I could not picture spending my four years at W&L in the Science Center, and I was being drawn to other departments. I sort of fell into the strategic communication major, but it’s been a perfect fit for me. It’s allowed me to take classes in which I gained skills crucial for a marketing career. I like to say that my sociology major teaches me how to study and understand people in society and then my strategic communication major helps me to successfully communicate with that knowledge in mind.
Q: What is InGeneral Magazine, and what’s been your experience with it at W&L?
InGeneral Magazine is a W&L student life magazine that covers anything from restaurants in the area to student vaping on campus. It allows students to write or photograph things that they feel significantly impact students’ lives. We produce an issue in the fall and in the winter, and I have been involved with the magazine every year since Fall Term of my first year. I was a writer and photographer for my first two years, and my favorite piece was probably one that I wrote about volunteering in Lexington. During my junior year, I became managing editor, which required me to oversee writers and edit their stories. Finally, my senior year, I became editor-in-chief, and this was by far my favorite year with the magazine. We changed the design to be more modern, and we changed our distribution methods to better highlight the beautiful, revamped magazine within our student body.
Q: Tell us about your work study position with the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.
My work study position sort of fell into my lap, and it’s probably one of things that has changed my life the most. I am a student photographer under University Photographer Kevin Remington, a position that many of my friends envy. I am still not the best photographer but I have learned a great deal throughout my years. I consider myself an assistant to Kevin. I will randomly identify people in photos or get groups of people together for photo shoots. Kevin has been the most amazing boss; I genuinely think I will never have a boss that’s as understanding, encouraging and kind as Kevin. He’s always believed that I can do anything I wanted, and his support in me has been crucial to my success these past four years. I will greatly miss working for him, and I hope anyone who gets the chance to interact or work with Kevin cherishes it.
Q: As a junior, you studied abroad in Florence, Italy. How did that opportunity come about?
I always knew that I wanted to study abroad in college. I had never had the chance to travel to Europe before, and I was eager to take the opportunity to do so. My scholarship tremendously helped me afford to go and travel while there. I picked Italy because I wanted to go somewhere semi-warm in the middle of winter, and I was fascinated by Italian culture. The program that I specifically picked had an array of sociology courses, and through it, I was really able to immerse myself in the Italian way of life.
I took a history class on Florence, an introductory Italian language course, a class on Italian culture, and a class on the Italian family. I also volunteered as an English teaching assistant in a 1st grade classroom every week, and I found that particularly rewarding. I was pretty busy because I traveled every other weekend, too. I went to Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dublin, Budapest, Croatia, Switzerland, Malta, Morocco and several places within Italy. I learned how to budget my time and my money more efficiently while I was abroad. My only regret is that I didn’t learn Italian well enough beforehand! I definitely do not regret all the pasta and gelato I consumed.
Q: What were the most important lessons you learned during your summer internship in marketing with KEEN footwear?
I learned that you need to put yourself out there if you ever want to get anywhere, and you need have work to back yourself up. I made the most of my internship by actively taking on tasks and talking to lots of people in the office. There were so many people whose life and work experiences I was able to learn from. Working in Portland was a bit of a culture shock, but it’s a fun, unique city. I had not been to the West Coast much before this summer, so I tried to take in all that I could. The summer internship showed me that I do want to work out West upon graduating, and for that, I will always be grateful. I also appreciated my senior year a bit more than I think I would have because of my summer in Portland. I did not interact with any W&L students or alumni in Portland, and I grew to miss my W&L community. There’s something truly special about this place.
Q: Has anyone at W&L been a mentor to you?
I have had several mentors during my time here, Kevin Remington, of course, being a huge one. In addition, my strategic communication adviser, Mark Coddington, has been an amazing mentor these past four years. He was there for me in times of celebration and in times of panic. He read countless cover letters and helped me earn the KEEN footwear internship. He even helped me with my sociology capstone this past Winter Term. Professor Coddington has a lot of advisees, but he gives each one such attention and encouragement. His classes were some of my hardest at W&L, but they were rewarding because he’s a great teacher. He’s the type of professor who genuinely wants his students to succeed and feels awful when they fail. I could randomly knock on his office door whenever and I would know that he would help me. In fact, I have cried several times in his office. I don’t remember what I cried about, but I remember him offering me tissues and telling me that it would be okay. He supported me consistently throughout my four years, and I will really miss him. I owe a lot of my success to him, and I hope he knows what a spectacular professor and adviser he is.
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More About Kara
Q: What’s your favorite restaurant or shop in Lexington? What do you usually get there?
Pure Eats has always been a favorite of mine because I have a soft spot for doughnuts, but Heliotrope Brewery has probably grown to be number one in my book this past year. Their pizza is just so good! Lex really has some amazing pizza places, and if you ask anyone close to me, they’ll tell you how much I love pizza.
Q: What one book or film do you recommend to everyone?
My favorite author has been Jodi Picoult for a long time, so I’m always recommending one of her novels. I particularly like “19 Minutes” or “House Rules.”
Q: Favorite W&L event?
OIE Day was by far my favorite event this year; it was great to see organizations like the Multicultural Student Association and the Student Association for Black Unity come together and help to put on an event that no one on campus could miss. I remember walking through Commons, and the space was just packed with people, decorations and food. There was music playing and helpful information posted on the walls in case you didn’t know about any of the organizations that do so much to celebrate diversity on our campus.
Q: Favorite spot on campus?
I love the balcony of the Center for Global Learning; it’s the perfect place to do work while enjoying the sun and looking out on the campus.
Q: Favorite class?
I have had some unique classes throughout my time here so it’s hard to pick just one. But since I have to, I will pick a gender and sexuality course taught to me by Professor David Novack. He is a brilliant professor who was able to spark interesting conversations in the class.
Q: Favorite W&L memory?
I feel particularly tied to a memory I have of the Mock Convention parade. I just thought how special W&L really is that a bunch of college students could put on a parade with over 50 floats on a random Friday morning. And I felt such a strong feeling of gratefulness in that moment, as I knew how lucky I was to be able to experience all that I had over the past four years.
Q: What do you miss most during the quarantine?
I miss walking on campus when it’s buzzing with student life. It’s hard to describe the feeling of happiness that I get when I walk between classes, seeing people I know and saying hi. I will never get to walk around campus as a student again when it’s alive with student life, and I wish that I had been able to recognize and cherish that last moment I had walked around. I miss seeing my W&L community interact on the most casual terms, such as running into each other and stopping to sit on the Front Lawn for a few minutes.
Q: Who is the first person you’ll hug when you get back to campus for Commencement?
I would love to just do a big group hug with all my friends!