Volume 17 • Issue 1

First-Year Stories ’05

Southwestern @ Georgetown
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
High School: America’s High School

Alonzo Thomas

Alonzo Thomas first heard about Southwestern through his high school counseling office. “I was looking at a list of schools noted for strong science programs, and Southwestern really stood out,” he explains. After applying, Thomas appreciated the personal attention that Southwestern gave him. “Southwestern showed the most interest in me as an individual; I did not feel like a number here. From the phone calls, to always finding something in the mail from Southwestern, I was always in contact with the school,” he says.

Residing in the new Living-Learning Community (see LLC story in the On Campus section) in Mabee Hall, Thomas enjoys the ease with which he has adjusted to college life. “I thought it was going to be really hard to get used to a new learning environment surrounded by a whole new group of people, but my LLC and my First-Year Seminar made things so much easier. The people here made me feel right at home.”

During orientation, Thomas was selected to take part in the limbo competition, which he won by limboing a mere eight inches off the ground. His classmates now know him as “Limbo Guy.” “Right after this experience, I knew that I would be able to make friends whom in 10 or 20 years I could call up out of the blue to get together and reminisce about the ‘good old’ days at Southwestern,” he says.

Thomas, who will major in biology and minor in chemistry, looks forward to his coming years at Southwestern and hopes to learn as much as possible about the sciences—particularly with regard to the performance of the human body. “Southwestern is a place that will open anyone’s eyes and hearts to academic success and personal happiness. Southwestern was the perfect pick for me, and I am glad I made it,” he says.

Southwestern @ Georgetown
Hometown: Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
High School: Cranbrook Kingswood, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
In the background: The historic Palace Theatre in downtown Georgetown.

Alana Bergfield

Alana Bergfield’s road to Southwestern was a little different than most first-year students. To begin with, Bergfield was born and raised in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. “Living in Saudi Arabia has given me the chance to experience a completely different world. I learned to respect and live with a different culture, religion and way of life,” she says. “I am very grateful for the experience of living in another country.”

Since there were no high schools for American children in Saudi Arabia, Bergfield attended boarding school in Michigan. “Going to boarding school is like going to college, only with a lot more rules. The experience made me much more independent and really prepared me for college,” she says.

A competitive swimmer since she was four, Bergfield first heard about Southwestern from her summer swim coach. “My coach suggested that I take a look at Southwestern, and I ended up absolutely loving it. As soon as I walked onto the campus, I knew that this was where I wanted to go to college.”

The impression made by the SU swim team and coaching staff was also important to her. “Swimming is part of my life, and I cannot imagine living without it,” she says. “Once I met the coaches at Southwestern, I knew that this school and this team would be a perfect match for me.” Bergfield looks forward to the new opportunities that swimming in college will offer her, including swimming longer distances.

On the professional side, Bergfield has always wanted to be a pediatrician, and she plans to take advantage of Southwestern’s excellent pre-med program. “During my time at Southwestern, I hope to become a strong member of the swim team, strive academically and prepare myself to get into a good medical school.”

Southwestern @ Georgetown
Hometown: Arden, Del.
High School: Mount Pleasant High School

Susannah Halsey

“I like the ratio of professors to students and the importance they put on individual attention and trust (the Honor Code). I feel like I can be an adult here,” Susannah Halsey says in explaining why she chose Southwestern. Halsey is originally from Delaware. She chose to attend the University because of its small size and for the opportunity to explore all of her interests.

Accepted to Southwestern for Fall 2004, Halsey deferred enrollment for a year and participated in several service projects across the country. “I volunteered with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) in the Big Thicket National Preserve,” she says. “I was part of a team of four other people who managed exotic plants. We focused on the Chinese Tallow tree, an invasive species in the Thicket that was disturbing the forest system.” Halsey spent the remainder of the year working for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Hartford, Conn. where she was a teacher’s aide in the inner-city Catholic school. She cites this experience as the inspiration for her future career as a teacher.

Halsey’s numerous interests drove her choice of a liberal arts university. “I liked the fact that I could develop each of my strong areas,” Halsey says. She hopes to use her drama and choir experience to audition for a Sarofim School of Fine Arts musical.

When asked about her greatest hopes regarding her college experience, Halsey says, “I expect to grow into the person I want to be. I like being in a place where my intellectual side is nurtured, as well as every other aspect of my life. It’s a place to become stronger all around.”

Southwestern @ Georgetown
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
High School: Churchill High School

Kevin O’Neil

Kevin O’Neil ultimately chose Southwestern for its small classes, strong sense of community and emphasis on a liberal arts education. “SU stood out from other schools because of its extremely personable and helpful faculty, staff, coaches and students,” he says.

Born and raised in San Antonio, O’Neil is a 2005 graduate of Churchill High School. He first heard of Southwestern through SU men’s soccer coach, Don Gregory. After researching the University, O’Neil became interested in the liberal arts approach to education and Southwestern’s 3-2 Engineering program. “I feel a liberal arts education will help me in my future career as an engineer,” O’Neil says. “As an engineer with a liberal arts background, I will not only be able to use the technical aspects of the trade, but also consider the social responsibilities of my work in order to make ethical judgments and analytical decisions.”

Since his arrival, O’Neil has become a member of Southwestern men’s soccer team. He has found this experience valuable and rewarding. “The Southwestern men’s soccer team has helped me meet my academic workload because it gives me structure and makes me focus on the task at hand,” O’Neil explains.

Academically, O’Neil’s passion is mathematics and the natural sciences. “I have been able to pursue these interests through a variety of classes and by interacting with many passionate students who are interested in the same subjects,” he says. His own dedication to learning helped earn him one of Southwestern’s most prestigious academic honors for incoming students, the Brown Scholar Award.

“For me, the most rewarding aspect of being a college student is that I am more independent and, therefore, have greater freedoms and responsibilities,” O’Neil says. “The most challenging aspect, so far, is developing an effective routine to complete work, do chores and still remain social.”

Southwestern @ Georgetown
Hometown: Houston, Texas
High School: Alexander Smith Academy

Walker Lukens

Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Dinosaur Jr., Burt Bacharach, The Boss, Prince … First-year student Walker Lukens’ list of favorite musicians is extensive and diverse. Joining the ranks of the 2005 first-year class from Houston, Texas, Lukens, an accomplished guitarist and pianist, has really enjoyed meeting other musicians on campus and being close enough to Austin to play in and see shows regularly.

Lukens discovered Southwestern through an older high school friend who was applying to the University. “I was attracted to Southwestern because it is a good liberal arts school in Texas, and it is near Austin,” Lukens says. The friendly student body, faculty and staff also played a major role in his decision to apply. Additionally, being at Southwestern provides Lukens the opportunity to pursue his interests and his music. “I think being in a creative, small community like Southwestern lends itself to pursuing the arts in any direction or form. Since being here, I have found a number of new musicians to play with and many places to play in Austin,” he says.

Lukens’ interests include philosophy, language and literature, but music remains his passion. “I mainly play guitar, piano and sing in my band,” he says. “I also play the harmonica, drums, bass and banjo very amateurishly.” He has been playing music since age 11 and began to write his own songs at 13. Lukens and his current band have been together since he was 16. While he does not plan to major in music, he would like to study trumpet and violin.

Lukens finds handling the workload and having time to one’s self the most challenging aspects of college. When asked what he finds most rewarding, he says, “The most rewarding aspect of being a college student is being in an academic environment where you can be curious and inquisitive without feeling so socially conscious of it as you did in high school.”

Southwestern @ Georgetown
Hometown: Bastrop, Texas
High School: Bastrop High School

Delilah Dominguez

Raised in Bastrop, Texas, Delilah Dominguez was the 2005 valedictorian of Bastrop High School, as well as a National Merit Scholar and National Hispanic Scholar finalist. She attributes much of her success to the encouragement of her family. “I am very fortunate to have such a strong family foundation, and I am very grateful for their support,” Dominguez says.

After encountering Southwestern’s Web site during her college search, Dominguez was intrigued by the University. “I continued learning as much as I could about Southwestern through other sources and decided to apply,” she says. “After my first visit on campus, I sensed that Southwestern would provide a wonderful community in which to grow.” Upon her acceptance to Southwestern, Dominguez received the University’s highest academic honor for incoming students, the Brown Scholar Award.

While Dominguez hopes one day to become a professor of English, other areas of study captivate her as well. “I find that I am drawn to American studies because of the interdisciplinary and flexible nature of the major,” she says. “I want to combine my interests in English, history and political science, and it appears that the American studies major will allow me to do so.”

Dominguez is also a member of the women’s golf team. “My love for the game of golf prompted me to play at Southwestern. When I met Coach Ruyle and some of the current golfers, I knew that I wanted to be a part of the golf program,” she says.

During the next four years, Dominguez looks forward to experiencing her newfound independence as well as continuing her academic success. “I feel that my experience at Southwestern, thus far, could not be much better. I know I will continue to enjoy my experience here, and I only hope that I can give back to the Southwestern community that has already given me so much.”