Senior Stories 2005
This years edition of Senior Stories features a cross-section of students who, among the 264 graduates of the Class of 2005, epitomize the engaged learners that Southwestern strives to graduate.
Nominated by faculty members for this annual feature, these recent graduates embraced the rigor of their academic experience in some of the most impassioned and intriguing ways.
Some pursued study abroad opportunities, conducted research with faculty, held leadership positions on campus and elsewhere, and provided service to the Georgetown community and beyond. In so doing, each has embarked upon a new journeywhether in a career or in pursuit of an advanced degreewell prepared for whatever she or he will face.
Jason Hayes 05
History with Teaching Certification
Amanda Lott 07
An education major, Jason Hayes 05 describes his Southwestern experience as an unforgettable test of courage. As a sophomore, Hayes and two other students conducted a King Creativity project researching what African-American students learned in the classroom and the barbershop. Hayes and company presented their findings at educational conferences all over the country. He says, I find it fulfilling to help people acknowledge and utilize the stepping stones laid in the past to help empower them in the present and future. Bridging the gap between the past and the present will help shatter the cycle of oppression and self-hatred. The following year, Hayes took an opportunity to participate in Southwesterns study abroad program in Ghana, Africa. There he taught HIV and AIDS awareness to secondary school leaders at the Buduburam Refugee Camp. Fittingly, in August, Hayes will begin teaching eighth-grade U.S. History at Dobie Middle School in Austin. Not only is he ready to accept this upcoming challenge, I want to have a monumental impact on my students, Hayes comments. In the next 10 years, he hopes to take on an administrative position in a secondary school, either in the United States or abroad.
Audrey Tinsley 05
Ernest Valdez 06
Southwestern doesnt allow you to take the easy road out, says Audrey Tinsley 05. She explains, It has really helped push me to find my interests and always ask questions. Southwestern instilled in me the value of never settling because the faculty doesnt accept second-rate work.
Tinsley attended a community college for a year before enrolling at Southwestern. Coming to the University has proved an immeasurable opportunity because of the personal growth nurtured by her time on campus and her study abroad experience in Senegal, West Africa. She notes, My priorities changed because I became much less worried about the perfect GPA and much more concerned with learning life skills and finding human connection. The small community helps foster relationships with professors, and I have found my career because of the guidance that several of my professors have given me.
Presently, this career path has Tinsley working with DART, which stands for Direct Action Research Training, a community organizing team in Austin. Her interest in this organization stems from a desire to develop long-term answers to social problems rather than relying on quick fix band-aids that only make the problem less noticeable. Tinsley asserts, Community organizing gives people the power to make a difference while charity has a positive but short-term effect.
Feeling fully prepared for her future, Tinsley attributes her current success and drive to Southwestern.
Phaedra Jackson 05
Theatre, Political Science
Amanda Lott 07
Not many people begin and end their Southwestern career in the same fashion; however, Phaedra Jackson 05 did just that. Jackson applied for admission to Southwestern by auditioning a piece from George C. Wolfes The Colored Museum. Her capstone presentation was a King Creativity-funded production of the same play. To Jackson the performance was the perfect bookend to my career here at Southwestern. Majoring in both theatre and political science, she was able to tie the two areas together through the production. Her political science capstone paper researched the Civil Rights movement. She comments, The research I did gave me a lot of social and political context so that I could do justice to the playwrights intent. I was able to relate to Wolfes play better by understanding his references in the play having not experienced the same things. Jacksons desire to make a bridge between history and culture through the arts led her to study abroad in London and Mexico. Next, she will travel to New Zealand and study advanced theatre. She says, I want to study how life and art work together and impact one another, then maybe Ill come back to the states and focus on fusing the power of the American mindset with the flexibility of diverse historical and cultural values.
Curtis Roush 05
Amanda Lott 07
In discussing his college career, Curtis Roush 05 says, I have always felt that I learned more in my first semester at Southwestern than in all 12 years of public grade school. His First-Year Seminar class, Secret History of the 20th Century, drew him into the political science field, and he was quickly inspired to become a professor one day. Roush was able to use his passion of music to relate back to the social sciences and especially his writing. An aspiring musician, he comments, playing in a band instilled confidence in memostly in my writing, to which I feel compelled to bring the same level of artistic concern as music. Although Roush does not write lyrics for his band, he notes, social, political, economic and cultural commentaries play significant roles in inspiring my writing process. Known amongst his professors as an excellent social sciences writer, Roush modestly explains that he writes just like he plays his music. I just relate to topics concerning political and cultural concerns in a way that makes me passionate and excited about writing on them. In the coming years, look for Roush to be a professor at a liberal arts college or performing onstage. For now, he will take time off from school to enroll in some culinary classes and work on several new musical projects.
Olga Cardoso 05
Latin American Studies and Spanish
Ernest Valdez 06
Coming from a small South Texas town only slightly larger than Southwestern, Olga Cardoso 05 was elated after being accepted to the University. Though she planned to pursue a degree in the sciences, she instead chose an independent study major with Professor Daniel Castro. His passion for teaching Latin American history sparked a desire in me to pursue a major in Latin American studies, she recalls. Cardoso spent the first 10 years of her life in Mexico before moving with her family to Texas. In fact, she did not speak English until coming to the States. Although she graduated at the top of her high school class, Cardoso nearly missed the opportunity to attend college because of her residency status. Late in June 2001, she received residency status and was accepted at Southwestern. Southwestern didnt shut its doors on me like other institutions had just because I was not a U.S. resident, notes Cardoso. Ya que soy la primera de mi familia en graduar de la universidad, me doy cuenta el privilegio que es atender una institucion como Southwestern y lo afortunada que he sido en tener esta oportunidad.* Cardoso hopes to find work with a community organization in South Texas so she can help initiate positive change within local communities and groups.
*As a first-generation college student, I realize how fortunate I have been to attend an institution of higher education like Southwestern.
Ana Luz Villalobos 05
Anthropology and Political Science
Ernest Valdez 06
The road to self-discovery is how Ana Luz Villalobos 05 describes her time at Southwestern. Through study abroad opportunities in Mexico and Ecuador, she was able to discover her true self. It really helped to prioritize my life, she says. Additionally, Villalobos has interned with the Washington Office on Latin America, a non-governmental organization, working to bring social and economic justice to Latin America. She also interned with PODER, a Texas environmental justice group based in east Austin, which fights environmental racism. I felt it was the perfect opportunity to give back to my community and put to use the knowledge Ive gained, Villalobos explains. As a first-generation college student, she embraced the chance to attend Southwestern. Como graduada de la universidad me encuentro en una posición elite, considerando el bajo porcentaje de Latinos que obtienen un titulo universitario. Aprecio la educación universitaria que he recibido y espero continuar la lucha para la justicia social trabajando con comunidades de color.* Villalobos intends to continue her work with PODER before pursuing a masters degree in the Border Anthropology Program at the University of Texas.
*As a college graduate, I now find myself in an elite position, considering the small percentage of Latinos who obtain an undergraduate degree. This makes me appreciative of the college education Ive received. Perhaps I will be able to strengthen and empower communities of color in the future.
Greg Mast 05
Environmental Studies, German
Amanda Lott 07
As a child growing up in Lake Jackson, Texas, Greg Mast 05 first became interested in gardening and environmental issues in the fourth grade. He explains, My parents gave me a small garden plot by the side of our house. The ability to watch and help things grow at such a young age made a deep impact. This experience gave him a foundation for his years at Southwestern. As a first-year, Mast, along with Matt Boeer, founded the SU Garden Club, for which Mast served as president three times. An environmental studies and German double major, he also was a member of Students for Environmental Activism and Knowledge (SEAK) and served as a resident assistant on the Green Hall, an environmentally themed residence hall. Mast was able to gain firsthand experience in sustainable agriculture while interning on a goat farm. He also spent a semester studying abroad in Germany. He comments, My time in Germany helped reinforce my opinion that being much more environmentally responsible is possible without any reductions in our standard of living. Mast is not sure what lies ahead for him, but he says, Hopefully, I will work in a cool city and be able to enjoy meaningful relationships, preferably with some of the people I have gotten to know at Southwestern.
Sarah Fox 05
Studio Arts with Painting emphasis, Art History minor
Ernest Valdez 06
From a young age, art has always been a part of the life of Sarah Fox 05. Her mother is also an artist and is a constant source of inspiration. Her experience at Southwestern has helped foster Foxs growth as an artist as well because of the many opportunities afforded to its students. She says, Being able to have my own show was a wonderful experience, and it showed me another side of the art world. Lots of organization and manual labor goes into putting up a show, and it was great for me as an artist.
A King Creativity recipient, Fox produced larger-than-life paintings that she wanted to function within the pre-existing tradition of Western religious art. Within this tradition, Foxs art takes on contemporary and timeless issues of human representation and understandingwith particular focus on the female. She explains, I make no attempts to represent the ideal modern American women, for I believe there is no such thing. Rather, I wish to pose questions to the viewer about his or her own ideas of beauty, gender, power, sexuality and religion. I want them to question their beliefs.
As president of the art association, Fox organized the Day With(out) Art Auction for AIDS Awareness. In this annual event, students and faculty alike donate artwork to the silent auction, and all proceeds go toward AIDS Services of Austin and the Rural AIDS Services Program in Georgetown.
Matt Boeer 05
Amanda Lott 07
A native of Brenham, Texas, Matt Boeer 05 comments, Southwestern is about getting involved and making the world a better place. Boeer, a Brown Scholar, kicked things off by co-founding the Southwestern Garden Club his first year. Since then, he has served as a resident assistant for two years in the Herman-Brown Hall and last year in the Charline Hamblin McCombs Residential Center. As an accounting major, Boeer was at first unsure as to how he would use his academic and professional strengths to enact change in the world. Then, while sitting in his Foundations of Business class, he had a revelation. I learned I could use my interests and talents in accounting as a way to contribute to society through the nonprofit sector. It gave me a purpose, a goal. I have been trying to move towards it ever since. It is a passion. Boeer started Community First Consulting, which offers financial consulting services to nonprofits, free of charge. The intent was to help nonprofits maximize their donations, while simultaneously giving students firsthand experience honing business and accounting skills. Boeer hopes to set something like this up in the real worldmaybe coordinating pro-bono work out of different accounting firms. Boeer will soon begin work at Pannell, Kerr, Forster of Texas, P.C., an accounting firm in Houston, and is preparing to sit for the CPA exam this summer.
Courtland Quinn 05
Amanda Lott 07
He has lived with a polygamous family, ridden a camel through the Sahara Desert with a nomadic village and even survived contracting malaria. The semester that Colorado native Courtland Quinn 05 spent in Mali, Africa, allowed him to experience firsthand the culture of an area that is very important to him. The purpose of his visit was to do research for his history honors thesis. However, what he got was a lifetime full of experiences. He comments, These experiences will come into play in many ways throughout my life. Quinns experiences in Mali have led him to work with Caritas, a non-governmental organization that is affiliated with the United Way. He will work directly with refugee families from Africa and other areas and will help them get settled into a new life here in the United States. I am able to apply my academic and linguistic skills that I developed at Southwestern and in Mali in a way that I couldnt have even hoped for. I also will be able to continue my life as a student in a very real and new venue under an entirely different set of educators, he says. In the coming years, Quinn hopes to become a history professor so that he may share his knowledge and enlighten others.
Sarah Sher 05 and Blithe Casterline 05
Ernest Valdez 06
Sarah Sher 05 and Blithe Casterline 05 prove that small towns do not produce small thinkers. They have received national recognition for their research on the carcinogenic compounds that exist within popular brands of bottled water. The purpose of the research was to bring awareness to an environmental issue that the general public should know about. If consumption of chemicals from bottled water may be harmful, people should know, Casterline says.
Sher and Casterline attribute much of their success to Emily Niemeyer, associate professor of chemistry at Southwestern. They note, Conducting research with her was a great experience because she constantly challenged us to do the best that we could.
In promoting their work, the two traveled from coast to coast, presenting their findings at national conferences in San Diego and Washington, D.C. In San Diego, representatives from Coca-Cola and the plastics industry met us with a great resistance, but being able to defend our work against these experts was empowering, Sher says. These experiences were also meaningful because we were promoting the importance of research within undergraduate institutions, Sher explains.
Many institutions cannot provide this type of exposure for their undergraduate students, but Southwestern was able to take us to places that students of our level rarely go, Casterline adds.
Between research and class, Sher had to meet the additional challenges of an intense collegiate swimming schedule. Southwestern has a heavy academic workload, so balancing my time proved to be one of the toughest challenges. My schedule left me exhausted every day, but its what I had to do, Sher says.
According to Casterline, The best thing about Southwestern is that it pushes students to work harder than they thought they could. The bar is set high. I could have had it easy at some other school, but I wouldnt be at the same level that Southwestern has driven me to achieve.
Casterline will pursue a Ph.D in chemistry at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles beginning this summer. Sher will move to New Orleans to attend a masters program at Tulane University before attending medical school.