Meet the Johnsons: Ryder Babik ’19
“This is the kind of place where differing views, each with their own valuable contribution, create a climate of real, meaningful change”
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?