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“Cur Non,” the motto of the Marquis de Lafayette, is our rally cry. It means “Why Not?”, and it’s within that spirit that students are encouraged to ask themselves, Why not explore? Why not engage? Why not take risks?

To celebrate all they have accomplished during their Lafayette careers, we asked the 2019 Pepper Prize nominees to share with us their “Cur Non” moments—events or instances that shaped them during their time here and will influence their next steps.

Reeve Lanigan ’19 in the natatorium.

My “Cur Non” Moment: “As a freshman, I knew I needed to cultivate my academic journey through interdisciplinary thought, utilizing my passion for gender equity as a driving force. After being waitlisted for the Women’s and Gender Studies 101 course, I asked myself ‘why not’ take a chance and email Professor Mary Armstrong to see if I could enroll for the fall of my first year. I left my meeting with Professor Armstrong feeling inspired about how women’s and gender studies could provide me with foundations to propel my curiosity and lead me to further question intersections of gender under the law. But it wasn’t until later that I realized the importance of this simple, yet transformative meeting. This meeting started one of the most important mentorships of my life. I never could have imagined that this one fortuitous email would later provide me with someone who not only shares my excitement for learning, but also genuinely cares about my success both in and out of the classroom.” Reeve Lanigan ’19 (government and law, women’s and gender studies)


Connor Burwell ’19 in Kirby Library

My “Cur Non” Moment: “When I decided to run for president of our student government in my junior year, after having lost the election one year earlier. I figured I had already experienced the fear and nerves of putting myself in front of the community like that, and I realized I had nothing else to lose. I couldn’t be happier to have made that decision, because in my time as president I’ve been able to successfully advocate for real change on campus. My Stu Gov team and I worked with faith-based groups and the faculty to amend the dean’s excuse policy so as to better support religious inclusivity and created additional funding and institutional support for student organizations. By taking appropriate risks and asking ‘why not’ at the right time, I’ve helped to improve our campus community.” —Connor Burwell ’19 (government and law, philosophy)


Amanda Baildon ’19 in a dressing room.

My “Cur Non” Moment: “When my friend from home called me and asked, ‘Do you want to move to China together this summer?’ She told me that her brother had an extra bedroom we could share in his apartment in Nanjing, and how he could probably find us tutoring jobs. I was hesitant because I had little experience traveling outside the country and couldn’t speak Mandarin, but something inside me was stirring for adventure. So, in the most ‘Cur Non’ fashion, I said yes. In the three months that I spent living in Nanjing, 90% of my days were spent just guessing, but I learned how to embrace uncertainty and to seize opportunities when they come my way. When I returned to campus in the fall, my experience at Lafayette was now shaped by one ‘Cur Non’ moment after the next. I love to try new things, and I do so as often as possible: moving to new cities, organizing new events, challenging expectations about college culture. Lafayette gave me the tools to embark on unpredictable journeys, and for that I am grateful.” —Amanda Baildon ’19 (psychology)


My’Kelya Dickerson ’19 on Fisher Field

My “Cur Non” Moment: “My ‘Cur Non’ moment has not been just one moment, but a development over the years. ‘Cur Non’ means ‘Why not?’, but it means so in the spirit of anything is possible. If anything is possible, then that means I should be discouraged from staying within the bounds that society has set for me, that I should be able to break away from the narrow and shallow path that was determined for me before I was born. I can be a woman with ambition, a cheerleader with intellect, a Black woman with an engineering degree, and a Christian with a desire to love others as Christ loves me. Why can’t I be these things that I don’t see on TV or in a magazine? Why can’t I own my own narrative and say that my success is because of my hardships and not despite them? They are what make me destined for greatness. I can be who I want to be, even if I haven’t seen her before. In fact, that’s what makes the race worth running. I’ll be a model for the next young Black girl afraid to go to college, afraid that she might forget to code-switch, or afraid that her experiences won’t be understood and will be seen as a limitation instead of a propellant. I will be who I was made to be despite artificial barriers, and I will do so even without a blueprint. I will inspire because I am taking my village with me. I will be great—we will be great, because ‘Why not?’” —My’Kelya Dickerson ’19 (chemical engineering)


Kaitlin Nguyen ’19 in Hugel Science Center

My “Cur Non” Moment: “My most defining ‘Cur Non’ experience was my participation in the Rothkopf Scholars Program. As a biochemistry major, I did not at first think that I could partake in a program formerly reserved for those whose primary focus was art. In a ‘Cur Non’ moment, I applied for the program and was accepted. In the summer of 2017, I visited London and the surrounding areas as a Rothkopf Scholar. Guided by Professor Robert Mattison [Metzgar Professor of Art], three fellow students and I traveled abroad for 11 days. We experienced and studied visual art at multiple London museums, architectural monuments, a performance of Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and a classical concert of Bach and Vivaldi. Using art as a passage into studying history and people, this experience has expanded my understanding of the world in an irreplaceable way. This experience has really worked to shape not only my time in college, but also my interests and plans for the future. I continued eagerly studying art after this journey, inspired by the beauty and intensity of works I had seen. A true excitement for travel also resulted from what was my first experience visiting another country; I was enthralled by the excitement of visiting new people and places. The Rothkopf Scholars experience was integral in both my college career and my life as a whole.” —Kaitlin Nguyen ’19 (biochemistry)


Sydney Edelson ’19 in the Hillel House

My “Cur Non” Moment: “My most defining ‘Cur Non’ moment was when I decided to apply for an international social justice summer internship for the summer of 2018 in Be’er Sheva, Israel. Prior to this internship, the most time I had spent abroad was three weeks, and I was very wary of applying to a two-month internship in a country with a different language, especially when I wouldn’t be financially compensated. When I found out I was offered the internship of my dreams, to work as a development coordinator at Israel’s largest sexual and domestic violence relief center, I became determined to make this dream a reality. Thanks to the incredible guidance of my Gateway career counselor, I applied for the Robert E. Beane ’58 Internship Scholarship in the hope that I could fund my summer abroad. After an extensive application process, I was named a Beane Intern Scholar and received a stipend that enabled me to pursue a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Without the Career Services Beane Scholarship I never could have spent a summer immersed in social justice work, learning a new culture, and practicing a new language while forging lifelong bonds.” —Sydney Edelson ’19 (psychology)


Andrew Chuma ’19 in Bourger Varsity Football House

My “Cur Non” Moment: “I woke up July 31 in the heart of New York City; it was the last day of my internship on Wall Street at Citibank. I sat in my bed thinking about the days ahead of me—there was so much to do, and so much was changing. I was leaving my internship in order to return to College Hill, where I would begin 30 days of football camp the very next day. Going from sitting in an office in dress clothes to training in 90-degree heat on the football field was a complete 180. Just as I started settling into the football mindset, I had another event just two days away: my sister’s wedding in Connecticut. In 72 hours, I had changed from profession, to sport, to family. And as I contemplated the difficulties and challenges with that, I also thought to myself, ‘Cur Non.’ I was more than just a person. I was a football player, I was a student, a Wall Street analyst, and a brother. I was proud to have each of these identities. Through my experiences at Lafayette, I was always able to be anything and everything that I wanted to be. As I near graduation with a full-time job in hand, many times I have found myself in Skillman Library working late into the night on my 100-page senior thesis, or studying for business school, or writing an independent study report. And many times, as we sometimes do, I’ve thought to myself, why am I doing this? And the answer that I always give myself is because ‘Cur Non’—I know no other way.” —Andrew Chuma ’19 (economics)


Joaquin Font ’19 in Acopian

My “Cur Non” Moment: “My most defining ‘Cur Non’ moment was walking into Professor Alexander Brown’s [assistant professor of mechanical engineering] office as a sophomore to express interest in doing research. Even though I had never taken a class with him and had never talked to him before, I had read about his research online and thought it was interesting. I decided to go talk to him to learn more about what he did, and that conversation ended in Professor Brown offering to help me with what he was working on. Almost three years later, I have learned a lot by working with him, and I am now working on an honors thesis on deer-vehicle collision avoidance systems for self-driving cars. More importantly, walking into his office that day provided me with a mentor who was always willing to go out of his way to teach me new things. It was thanks to him that I learned skills I would have never learned in class otherwise, and that I was able to gain advanced programming skills.” —Joaquin Font ’19 (two degrees: B.S. in mechanical engineering and A.B. with economics major)


Ayleen Correa ’19 in the Williams Visual Arts Building

My “Cur Non” Moment: “As a double major in economics and international affairs, many may be surprised to know what my most defining ‘Cur Non’ moment at Lafayette has been. It was during my first semester when I took a photography class with Professor Karina Skvirsky [associate professor of art]. I had no ultra-inspiring goal in mind besides to learn. I had always thoroughly enjoyed different art mediums, but I was raised to differentiate my school work from what my parents believed was a ‘fun hobby.’ However, this class challenged me to view the world through unexplored perspectives and use mediums other than verbal language to communicate ideas, thoughts, and emotions. In this class, I learned about the science of art to properly convey a message to viewers, the potential of photos to disrupt societal norms, and the beauty of a camera as a tool to empower people to share their story. After this class, I viewed art, specifically photography, as a powerful instrument to fight for the causes I care about. Art since then has become fundamental in the ways I question, research, and navigate the world around me.” —Ayleen Correa ’19 (economics, international affairs)


Samuel McQuillen ’19 on the Quad

My “Cur Non” Moment: “I have asked myself ‘Why not?’ many, many times throughout my four years at Lafayette, but I always remember my choice to join the Whitman Fellowship Program as a defining ‘Cur Non’ moment for me. For many years, I struggled to justify orienting my career path toward economic and community development as opposed to a well-paying finance position. The Whitman Fellowship Program, a summer research project oriented toward economic empowerment, gave me the skills to confidently pursue a career in development. During this program, I met with community leaders, public officials, and local entrepreneurs in Appalachia in order to construct data-driven strategies to build the community’s capacity to work toward its own goals. Committing to this project led me to answer one fundamental question about my future: Why not strive to make the world a better place?” —Samuel McQuillen ’19 (economics, international affairs)

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  1. John Rehm '73 says:

    I relate to My’Kelya Dickerson in the respect that being a Christian in a rationalist society is constantly “swimming upstream” against the currents of the present culture. There will be quiet places in the stream and at the sides of the channel to gather oneself for the next push. God Bless You, My’kela!

    1. R '73 says:

      Not only for Christians, but all people of faith. Good to “see” you online, John. Many happy musical memories.

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