Music major Katie De La Vega came to Southwestern on the recommendation of her grandfather, who is a friend of Professor of Music Kenny Sheppard. “Because Southwestern is small and recognized for its academics, and thanks to my connection with the choral conductor, Southwestern was my choice,” she says.

Involved in “all things music,” Katie was active on and off campus. “I sang in the choir, served as the music librarian, played viola in the orchestra, played in a string quartet, sang in the opera, and helped direct both choirs,” she says. 

She was also a member of Delta Omicron, the music fraternity, as well as the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. Off campus, she performed with the San Gabriel Chorale and at First United Methodist Church of Georgetown as a soloist and as a member of a string quartet.

According to Katie, it was the professors who made her Southwestern Experience memorable. She explains, “Because of the small class sizes and the professors’ genuine care, I was able to get to know most of them on a personal basis. I even had opportunities to travel in the U.S. and overseas with my professors; I’ve sent them late night texts with concerns about classes; I’ve gone to dinner and even invited them to family functions.”

In fact, Sheppard even invited Katie to perform as the soprano soloist for the premier of Haydn’s Paukenmesse in China. “I was terrified and tried to back out, but Dr. Sheppard believed in me every step of the way. Because he helped my confidence, I was able to sing in a far away country in front of thousands of people.” Sheppard, more than anyone, is the one person Katie says has inspired her to pursue music.

Along with her passion for music, Katie also enjoys working with animals. She is currently employed as a nurse at a veterinary office, while at the same time works as a soloist/director’s assistant at San Gabriel Presbyterian Church in Georgetown. She is also applying for graduate programs to study social work next fall.

The best advice she received as a student? Sheppard told her that, “if you’re flatting just sing higher.”

Her best advice to new students is to not waste any time in college. “This is the perfect time to try new things,” she says; “to explore different people and activities. At Southwestern, there are so many organizations and classes that provide the resources to pursue your interests.”

Pulling it together

Through things like civic engagement, intercultural experiences, Paideia and Career Services, Southwestern provides intentional, structured ways for students to reflect on and connect each experience, and to learn how each of those experiences combine to create an integrated education.