First-Year Stories

– Amanda Lott ’07
Focused, balanced and centered—mostly.

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Hometown: Norcross, Georgia

Major: Communication Studies

Minor: Studio Art

Meredith Henry

“From an early age, my parents stressed to me the importance of a good education. But I think the most important thing they have taught me, thus far, is the lesson of lifelong learning,” Meredith Henry says. Growing up in Norcross, Georgia, Henry practically grew up at Oglethorpe University, her parents’ alma mater. However, when it came time for Henry to start her college search, she knew that going out of state would provide the best opportunities for her. “My mom kept hearing about Southwestern and its good reputation, and after the tour, I absolutely loved it!” she says. “The best part about Southwestern is the community feeling, which really makes me feel like I’m at home.”

Henry brings another important lesson with her from Georgia: to take advantage of the opportunities that come her way. She believes Southwestern’s small size allows her to become involved in campus organizations and have the opportunity to make a difference. Henry has joined a student mentoring program on campus called Operation Achievement through which she helps a sixth-grade student from Georgetown with homework, projects and test preparation. “Operation Achievement interested me because I love working with kids, and I felt like this is an organization I could excel in,” Henry says. “I look forward to meeting even more amazing people, as well as becoming involved in more activities and organizations around Southwestern.”

One opportunity that Henry is most looking forward to is taking part in Southwestern’s study abroad program. “I love traveling, and I can’t wait to go abroad,” she says. “I hope to go at least twice while at Southwestern, once in the summer and once in my junior year. I would love to go to Madrid or South Africa.” Henry eventually sees herself coupling her enthusiasm for traveling with her passion for photography and writing. “I love photography. I am constantly reading up on new techniques and taking pictures of anything that I think has an artistic flair,” she says. “I would love to be a photojournalist or anything that combines traveling, writing and art.”

Hometown: Alamo Heights, Texas

Major: English and Pre-Med

Gillian Graham

“I always had a feeling that I would enjoy being a student at Southwestern, but I had no idea how much I would come to love every part of the Southwestern experience,” Gillian Graham says. “There are innumerable opportunities for creativity and activities beyond the classroom, but people also take academics very seriously here.”

A Brown Scholar, Graham says she has always been imaginative, and since reading and writing stimulate the creative side of her brain, she plans on majoring in English. However, she ultimately sees herself in the medical field. “Both of my parents are in the medical field, and I also want to be a doctor,” she says. “I hope to use my writing in my medical career, possibly to be a medical journalist.”

Keeping in touch with her creative side, Graham also hopes to write a children’s book. When she does so, it will not be the first time she has used her creativity to educate children. Her junior year of high school, Graham created the Rainbow Program. “My goal for the program is to battle the rising obesity rates in America, reaching youth and adults, by starting with children,” she says. “The motto of the Rainbow Program is ‘eat your colors every day,’ and the program is based on a concept simple enough for young children to understand, while being effective enough to make a strong impact on their nutritional wellbeing.” To teach the children in her class, Graham develops coloring books, cookbooks and placemats, and shows children how to choose and prepare nutritious snacks and meals.

As Graham makes the transition into college, things are only looking bigger and better for the Rainbow Program. She has already met with Suzanna Pukys, coordinator of volunteer resources and community-based learning, and hopes to implement the Rainbow Program into various programs within the Georgetown Independent School District and throughout the Georgetown community. “I am overwhelmed by the opportunity and support Southwestern offers to assist me with my program, and I am eager to get to work on further developing the Rainbow Program with the support of the Southwestern community,” she says.

Hometown: Early, Texas

Major: Classics

Cody Smith

At any time of the day, you can hear music ranging from Ben Folds to UnderOath playing in Cody Smith’s dorm room. Many of Smith’s First-Year Seminar classmates can also be found lingering around his room in the Mabee Residence Hall. His first-year seminar class, Political Spin Masters Back in the Day: Alexander the Great and Caesar Augustus, is part of Southwestern’s Living-Learning Community (LLC), and so far he has enjoyed his experience in the LLC. “The fact that you live in such close quarters and share at least one class with each other really encourages camaraderie,” Smith says. “The LLC is a lot of fun and we do a lot of random things together, from YouTube nights to collective trips to Cici’s. I love the environment of the LLC, and some of my better friends at Southwestern live within 10 feet of me.”

Smith also credits his First-Year Seminar class with teaching him the value of getting his school work done in advance. In fact, he considers the workload to be one of the more challenging parts of his transition to Southwestern. “I have easily already devoted more time and done more homework here than I did in all four years of high school,” Smith says. “However, it is a surprisingly nice change of pace to be challenged by courses.”

Smith plans to take the LSAT and eventually become an attorney. “I’m really looking forward to how the educational opportunities offered at Southwestern will help me achieve my goals,” he says. “The study abroad program appeals to me more than anything; after all, what better place to learn the Greek language and ancient philosophy than the city of Athens itself?”

Smith says he is happy with his decision to attend Southwestern. “So far, Southwestern has been amazing,” he says. “My most memorable moments have come from utilizing campus facilities, including intense games of racquetball and various ‘competitions’ for Pirate bikes. The best aspect of life at Southwestern is the fun that can be had around campus.”

Hometown: The Woodlands, Texas

Major: Business

Minor: Architecture

D’Artagnan Bebel II

D’Artagnan Bebel first stumbled upon Southwestern in “Colleges That Change Lives,” one of the many college books that he purchased. As luck would have it, Bebel then received a tennis recruitment letter from Lester Sombito, head tennis coach, inviting him to come for a campus visit. “As soon as I stepped foot on campus, I realized that this is where I wanted to be. Everyone I talked to was really nice and the campus atmosphere was like none I had ever experienced,” Bebel says. “The day after visiting Southwestern, I called my high school admissions counselor and told him to change my application type to Early Admission. I knew this was the place for me.”

A Texas state-ranked USTA junior tennis player, Bebel considers himself very fortunate to have the opportunity to play tennis for Southwestern. “The tennis team is very close, and I enjoy the camaraderie of my teammates,” he says. “I also appreciate that I am able to walk across campus every day to work out and practice on the tennis courts with my teammates and friends.”

Bebel started playing tennis more than 12 years ago and one of his passions is giving back to the community through tennis. While in high school, Bebel coached tennis to underprivileged children through the Zina Garrison All-Court Foundation. “The foundation’s goal is not to develop the world’s next number one player, but rather to create better citizens,” he says. “I get excited about programs that combine tennis with academics to build more productive citizens.”

Bebel hopes to use his education and skills to develop communities and form a real estate development firm. He plans to combine Southwestern’s liberal arts education with a business major and an architecture minor. “One great thing about Southwestern is that the students are willing to help each other succeed,” he says. “The workload is tough, but the students are willing to help each other out, whether it’s going over notes or reviewing for a test. I look forward to forming close bonds with students, my teammates and my professors.”

Hometown: Bastrop, Texas

Major: Undecided

Victoria Dominguez

“Do they really drink green beer? The Irish in America.” This was the title of Victoria Dominguez’s First-Year Seminar class and her first taste of college. Through the instruction of Paul Gaffney, dean of The Sarofim School of Fine Arts, the course focused on the history of Irish-Americans as well as students’ own immigration history, and analyzed issues surrounding immigration in the United States today. “I have really enjoyed my First-Year Seminar class,” Dominguez says. “Dr. Gaffney’s enthusiasm for the course and his desire to help us become acquainted with Southwestern easily makes this one of my favorite classes. It also has made me ready for college life by preparing me for the rigor of Southwestern’s academic curriculum.”

While academic life at Southwestern is certainly difficult, Dominguez comes to the University possessing the skills necessary for success. She was Bastrop High School’s 2007 valedictorian and was named a Dixon Scholar at Southwestern. She also has encouragement from her family, especially from her sister, Delilah, who is a junior at Southwestern. “I am extremely close to my family, and the fact that my sister attended Southwestern was definitely a plus,” she says. “Ultimately, I decided to attend Southwestern because I felt extremely comfortable on the campus. I just clicked with the campus, and I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.”

As Dominguez looks forward to the rest of her first year, perhaps what excites her most is the upcoming golf season. Dominguez has been hooked on golf ever since she was in eighth grade and watched her sister play in a tournament. Her decision to make the transition from high school golf and join the Southwestern golf team was a no-brainer. “I decided to join the Southwestern golf team because the program here is great,” she says. “The women’s team has made it to the NCAA Division III National Championship two years in a row, and they won the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship last year. That impressed me, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of a competitive program like this one. I hope the team’s success continues this year, and we win the conference championship again and the national championship!”