The Class of 2015 is 595 members strong and armed with the possibility of improving their world with the knowledge and experience of a Lafayette education. Read what some of our grads will be doing with their degrees.
A first-generation college student, Shabhia Akter ’15 never expected to graduate from a school like Lafayette. With the help of the Posse Scholars program and her Lafayette mentors, Akter has transformed from an “anxious first-year student into a mature, educated young woman ready to take the world by storm.”
“My Posse mentor, Suzanne Westfall [professor of English/theater and director of the arts] and J. Christian Tatu [coordinator of the College Writing Program] have really been there for me,” she says. “They encouraged me to work hard, take risks, and expand my comfort zone, and without them, I don’t know if I would be as successful as I am today.”
Akter, a double major in English and psychology, has always loved to read, write, and discuss literature, so majoring in English was an easy choice. Psychology was a surprise. She took her first psychology course at Lafayette and fell in love with the discipline’s many subfields.
A Robert Beane ’58 Intern Scholar, Akter gained valuable internship experience through the College’s Gateway career development program. Her experiences with the American Museum of Natural History’s Museum Education and Employment Program and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission helped her determine her next steps after Lafayette.
Her hard work paid off. She earned a Fulbright award to teach English in Bangladesh and plans to attend law school when her Fulbright ends.
For Robyn Henderek, a class scheduling conflict changed the trajectory of her academic and professional career. Due to a class cancellation, Henderek enrolled in a Paleobiology course taught by Dave Sunderlin, associate professor of geology and environmental geosciences, which included a weekend fossil hunting field trip to Calvert Cliffs, Md.What happened next inspired Henderek to double major in geology and anthropology & sociology. She pulled a 12-million-year-old dolphin vertebra out of the cliffs that Sunderlin proudly displays in Van Wickle Hall.
“It was the very first time that I pulled remnants of an ancient living creature out of the layers of the Earth, and it made me realize that this what I want to do with the rest of my life,” she says.
The field experiences Henderek gained as an undergraduate – ranging from Wyoming to the East Coast and Panama to Kenya – have helped her secure a position studying paleontological remains in the caves of the Grand Canyon with GeoCorps and the National Parks Service after graduation. She also is applying to graduate programs and plans to become a geology professor like her mentor Sunderlin.
Geology wasn’t the only surprise in store for Henderek on College Hill. A member of Lafayette’s swim team, she seized an opportunity sophomore year to join the diving team even though she never dived before.
“I learned to dive and become a Division I athlete. I took up studying geology after having no prior exposure to the field,” she says. “My first experience ever leaving the country was to go study abroad in a very remote area of Kenya, and, just weeks after I got back, I left again to go work in Panama for several months. I have had amazing opportunities here.”
After excelling in an introductory politics course, Andy Muñoz thought he had his major all figured out. Then he traveled to Honduras with the College chapter of Engineers Without Borders and Costa Rica.
In Honduras, he helped build a pipeline water system to provide a rural community with clean, potable water. In Costa Rica, he volunteered with several nonprofit organizations to provide underprivileged foster children with educational and recreational activities. Those experiences showed him that the issues developing countries face encompass not only politics, but also economics, history, and culture.
“My international and volunteer experiences gave me the urge to help create positive global change,” says Muñoz, a first-generation college student and Posse Scholar. “The international affairs major fit into my life experiences and goals and gave me the framework to understand the world and view issues from multiple perspectives.”
Muñoz has been accepted into Nielsen Careers’ HR Emerging Leaders Program, a two-year rotational program that will train him to attract, retain, and develop talent to help companies grow and succeed. He will work in the U.S. and abroad.
Thanks to internships with Moody’s Investor Services and Viacom that he secured through career services, Muñoz is ready to take on his next challenge.
“My goal is to help create an inclusive and diverse work environment that will attract and retain top talent,” he says. “I want to fulfill my intellectual curiosity of discovering the nexus between effective employee engagement and business productivity. The mentorship and training I received at Lafayette helped me reach my aspiration at Nielsen.”
Looking back on his four years at Lafayette, Juannell Riley counts George Panichas, Hogg Professor of Philosophy and department head, as one of the people he’ll miss the most. Panichas was the first person who told Riley that he wasn’t as smart as he thought, and when Riley insisted he was, Panichas challenged him to prove it.
Riley was up to the task. A member of Lafayette’s track and field team, specializing in hammer throw, he was named to the Outdoor Track and Field Academic All-Patriot League Team.
If Panichas took the tough love approach, Bruce Murphy, Kirby Professor of Government and Law, encouraged Riley that he was actually smarter than he thought. With a work ethic inspired by Panichas’ challenge, Riley found the confidence from Murphy to tackle tough questions. Both professors, says Riley, prepared him well for Columbia Law School.
Planning to one day enter politics, Riley says his “aha moments” happened in Panichas’ Philosophy of Law class and Murphy’s Constitutional Law class. Both showed him the overlap of philosophy and politics.
“Columbia teaches you how to think more than it teaches you how to be a lawyer,” says Riley, a double major in philosophy and government & law. “In their classes, I learned to look beyond a particular question and focus on the methods I used to come to an answer. Enriching my methods of thinking will be an asset at Columbia.”
Lots of little boys dream of playing professional football, but very few achieve that goal. This summer, Ross Scheuerman’s wildest dreams will become a reality when he trades the maroon and white for the black and gold of the Pittsburgh Steelers. One of the top running backs in Lafayette history, Scheuerman will join the Steelers as a free agent – “an indescribable moment” – and is prepared to work hard, something he learned as a Leopard.
“Being a student-athlete at Lafayette gives me an advantage because so much is asked of you both academically and athletically,” he says. “It has kept me disciplined and created a hard-working attitude that will translate well into professional football.”
Brad Potts, assistant director of athletics for peak performance, taught Scheuerman to attack each day and be mentally strong. Scheuerman has seen incredible changes in himself since his first year on campus and says Potts was instrumental in that development.
Lafayette hasn’t only prepared Scheuerman for his next step after College Hill but for the step after that, too. When he hangs up his football cleats for good, the economics major will be ready to enter the financial and business world thanks to his challenging course work and mentor Susan Averett, Dana Professor of Economics, who Scheuerman considers his academic coach.
“Lafayette was the best four years of my life, and it’s tough to move on from such great years,” he says. “I’ll cherish the memories for the rest of my life.”
As a biology major, Jennifer Schroeder enjoyed her classes but missed in-depth conversations that were often absent from solitary lab time. In the Introduction to American Studies course, one of her group projects was to ask random people on the street in Easton to define the term Americanist. Later, her group spliced the responses together into one audio recording. Schroeder was hooked.
“That class was the reason I switched majors,” she says. “That project provided the interactions I needed with people and the opportunity to grow and learn as an individual. My majors allowed me to design my own path.”
Schroeder found a lot of opportunity for growth on College Hill. She added a second major in art after a professor encouraged her photography work. She also put her creativity to good use in the immersive visual arts, theater, music, dance, film and media experience Frankenstein 2029.
A Posse Scholar, Schroeder calls mentor Andrea Smith, associate professor of anthropology and sociology, “an advocate, a mother away from home, superwoman, and the glue” for her Posse group. The relationships she formed with custodial and dining staff also impacted her undergraduate years. They became her “family away from home,” and she often sought art advice from cartoonist and custodian Joe Swarctz.
Schroeder, a middle distance runner on Lafayette’s track and field team, has been accepted into the Teach for America program after graduation.
“Open-minded” is a phrase Zhe “Jason” Sheng, a double major in mechanical engineering and music, uses often when he talks about Lafayette. Whether it’s the research experiences he’s undertaken or fellow musicians he’s met or the academic environment itself, Sheng has found the encouragement and support to push his limits.
The College’s intense engineering education taught Sheng problem-solving skills he can use anywhere, and the interdisciplinary projects he participated in through the EXCEL Scholars undergraduate research program armed him with flexibility and creativity.
“I am ready to take on challenges and work hard,” he says. “Whenever I approached professors to share some of my ideas, they always encouraged me to explore and learn more.”
Professors like Anne Raich, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, with whom Sheng researched the feasibility of “deployable structures,” founded on the principles of origami. Or Ingrid Furniss, assistant professor of art, with whom Sheng studied the Silk Road as a cultural artery.
In addition to his research, Sheng was a member of Concert Choir, Percussion Ensemble, and R&B a cappella group “The Truth.” It was during a semester abroad in New Zealand that Sheng decided to keep studying both his passions by pursuing a master’s degree in music technology at New York University.
In kindergarten, Laura Zito refused to listen to some boys who bullied her for playing with Legos, so her teacher gave her a special “Protector of Girls’ Dreams” award. Protect her dreams, she did. Zito is graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering and added a minor in architectural studies.
At Lafayette, Zito found “large-university resources” to help make her dreams come true. Her engineering education was unlike anything she expected as a first-year student. Professors, she says, weren’t interested in teaching her to get an A but rather in equipping her with the ability to apply her classroom knowledge to real-world problems. It’s a skill she’ll need when she goes to work for Colgate Palmolive, where she interned last summer.
Though she received an outstanding education, Zito says the people are what really stand out at Lafayette. She worked with Paul Felder, visiting part-time instructor of art, on several independent study projects in architecture. For the last one, they developed and presented a redevelopment plan for the Boys & Girls Club of Easton’s outside grounds. A member of Lafayette’s soccer team, she also participated in Athletes C.A.R.E., a nonprofit started by a fellow student-athlete.
“There are so many genuine people here, both faculty and students,” she says. “Professor Felder provided me with guidance not only on projects but also on what I wanted to do after college. I was also able to spend a lot of time with Dawn Comp, senior associate athletic trainer, and she was always available to talk to about anything at all hours.”