Volume 17 • Issue 1

Paideia® Scholar Profiles

Southwestern @ Georgetown

Dan Slezak ’06

“Unique, enlightening, worthwhile, interesting, fun and frustrating.” These are the words Dan Slezak uses to describe his Paideia® experience. Now midway through his final year in the program, Slezak has had the opportunity to experience how the five strands of Paideia®—rigorous academic program, intercultural experiences, collaborative/guided research and creative works, leadership and service-learning—come together.

“I think all five strands are important because they force us out of our comfort zone in one way or another,” he says. “I’ve begun to get comfortable being uncomfortable, so to speak.” This juxtaposition is what prompts Slezak to take time to reflect on the connections among his Paideia® experiences—a key ingredient to getting the most from the program. “When you actively think about the five strands, you begin to realize that you engage at least one of the strands every day, sometimes all of them. Reflecting on this has made me a more well-rounded and self-aware individual.”

Slezak has challenged himself to realize connections among the five strands and his experiences throughout his progression within Paideia®. From his summer abroad studying Spanish culture in Valencia, to collaborative research in which he designed an experiment with members of SU’s business faculty, Slezak has molded a Paideia® plan that just might serve as a framework for future Paideia® Scholars. “My participation and my numerous reflections on those activities have elevated my plan into a construct of relationships between my Paideia® experiences,” he explains. “In particular, writing ‘connection’ essays on specific activities or events has helped me discern relationships between the strands.”

Paideia® remains an evolving program. As a result, Slezak and his fellow Paideia® Scholars occasionally find themselves in the role of test subjects. It is this experience of growing pains and the accompanying bumps and bruises of discovery that have, at times, been frustrating for Slezak. Yet, even these challenges have been rewarding. “Paideia® has prepared me for difficult and uncomfortable situations and taught me to remember that nothing great comes easy,” he says.

Southwestern @ Georgetown

Iliana Sosa ’07

Growing up as a border child in El Paso, Texas, has helped mold Iliana Sosa’s identity and is serving as a catalyst to shape her future. “My experience living along the border has not only served as my fortitude that inspires me to pursue all of my endeavors at Southwestern, but it also has ingrained in me a sense of appreciation for everyday struggles of everyday people,” Sosa says.

An influential class with Daniel Castro, associate professor of history, persuaded Sosa to craft her own major in Latin American studies. “I had the wonderful opportunity of working with Dr. Castro,” she says. “He instilled in me a deep interest in the historical, social and political contradictions present in Latin America, as well as the independence to pursue a field in dire need of being more genuinely understood.”

The desire to combine a classroom education with real-world experience prompted Sosa to apply for the Paideia® Program. “I personally feel that it is important to be immersed in an environment where you are exposed to a plethora of different cultures and people,” she says. “By having the opportunity to study abroad and even do one-on-one research with a professor, I felt that the Paideia® Program would be a socially and intellectually fulfilling experience.”

The Paideia® Program also has inspired Sosa to take on a variety of leadership and service roles at Southwestern and within the broader community. She is the presidential advisor for Latinos Unidos and is a coordinator for the Amigas program, both of which promote the academic success of Latino students. She also has tutored children to prepare them for the TAKS test through the Getsemani Community Center and is an academic mentor for first-year students at Southwestern. Additionally, Sosa was one of the coordinators for Southwestern’s first Latino Heritage Symposium. “I believe I am much more involved in different service areas rather than just one by being in the program. I have gained many rewarding experiences from participating in events and projects that I would not have engaged in otherwise,” she says.

Southwestern @ Georgetown

Steven LeMieux ’08

Steven LeMieux first heard about Southwestern’s Paideia® Program while attending Accepted Senior Day. The principles and ideas behind the program captivated him. Eventually, he applied and was accepted into the program. “Paideia® touts ‘lifelong learning.’ This is a pursuit I have given some thought to, and is essentially what I would like to get out of my time at Southwestern. I believe that Paideia® will make this goal a personal reality,” he says.

Interweaving the strands of Paideia® helps students realize the connections that exist between their various academic pursuits and the actions of the real world. Paideia® Scholars become especially skilled at recognizing and seeking out the learning opportunities that abound in the world around them. “Through Paideia®, I hope to gain a true sense of lifelong learning. I want to experience learning that does not stop in the classroom, the residence hall or the school,” LeMieux notes.

Lifelong learning is one of Southwestern University’s Core Values. The new Living-Learning Community program (see the LLC story in the On Campus section) in place in Mabee Hall, where LeMieux is a resident assistant, also exemplifies this Core Value. LeMieux is excited to be a part of the LLC. “I would really like to see a true blending of living spaces and the classroom,” he says.

As LeMieux embarks on his first year as a Paideia® Scholar, he is perhaps most excited about attending the Paideia® seminars with his cohort of nine other students. “Hopefully, we’ll be free to share what needs to be shared with one another and, in turn, be able to speak our minds on the subject. I hope that my peers and I are able to mix our different ideas and thoughts together to add to one another’s overall learning experience.”