Describe your senior year in three words.
Confidence: This year, I decided to do a lot of things I hadn’t had the courage to do in earlier years at Lafayette. Senior year has allowed me to feel a new confidence in myself and my ability to excel in a variety of activities.
Redefining: For me and many other seniors, we deeply felt the loss of the traditional ‘markers’ of being a senior during this crazy, unprecedented year, like Homecoming, 100 Nights, and Senior Sips. Redefining these moments has been a notable part of my senior year. Instead of the typical events, I celebrated two COVID-19 vaccination dates, my National Conferences on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) presentation, my capstone project, my acceptance into graduate school, a few rainy productions of The Wedding Singer, and an equally rainy Commencement. Reframing senior year has helped me enjoy all that we have gotten rather than focusing on what we have lost.
Grateful: Because classes have been offered remotely this year, I have gotten to keep doing school from home. I am incredibly grateful to have spent this extra time with my family, and I am thankful that living away from campus gave me the ability to travel (safely, of course) to see friends without losing touch completely with the Lafayette community.
What does being valedictorian mean to you?
I am extremely honored to be recognized as one of the valedictorians in a school full of such talented, hardworking students. I am thankful for all the time and effort my professors have put into helping me advance my education, and for the friends and family who have supported me through all of the difficult moments.
What’s your favorite Lafayette memory?
I really enjoyed one of the Marquis Players’ last rehearsals for our would-have-been production of Footloose: The Musical in spring 2020. Before it was announced that we wouldn’t be returning to campus after spring break, the production team was intent on keeping up our rehearsal schedule in the event we were allowed back afterward. Still, we knew this might be our last and only chance to put on a production. I accompanied the cast on the keyboard as we ran through the whole show in our pajamas—both scenes and choreography we had learned already, and some music numbers we had not. The run itself was clunky, but there was so much energy and passion behind it that we all completely overlooked it. This ‘almost production’ on one of our last nights on campus stands out as one of my favorite memories at Lafayette.
What’s the most impactful class you took?
The most impactful class I’ve taken at Lafayette was [professor of sociology] Rebecca Kissane’s Social Welfare Policy and the Safety Net. I enrolled in this class the semester after returning from an ASB service trip in Texas—a trip on which I came face-to-face with mass incarceration and the inadequate social programs available to ex-convicts as they reenter society. This course took these issues a step forward, highlighting the ways in which many social services are at odds with each other, further disadvantaging a large subset of the American population.
After learning about the misaligned goals and ineffective programs of different government agencies, I decided that I wanted to major in anthropology and sociology. From this class and others, I will take with me a passion for equity and an intention to promote social justice outcomes. This class began my journey in considering and (eventually) writing policies to build up our country’s social supports for those in need, a project I will be continuing at Carnegie Mellon in the fall. From Lafayette, I will take with me a passion for equity and an intention to promote social justice outcomes.
Who was the most influential person during your time at the College?
[Assistant professor of music and director of choral activities] Jennifer Kelly has had the greatest impact on my time at Lafayette. I have had the privilege to work with her across many settings. Dr. Kelly has encouraged me to think about why we do things a certain way (particularly in music) and how we might push for change in our field. She also gave me the confidence to start using my voice as a leader. I have grown as a leader and as a musician during my time at Lafayette. Dr. Kelly has supported my activities across campus and has helped me affect change in my small corner of the world.
What will you miss most about Laf?
The people. Remote learning highlighted that the community is what makes Lafayette so special. I am thrilled that we were able to find ways to preserve this sense of community over the past year, but I will miss seeing friendly faces around campus.
Describe your biggest challenge and how you overcame it.
My greatest challenge at Lafayette has been discovering and staying aligned to my values. This was brought to the forefront by my journey through Greek life. I made the choice to disaffiliate, and this decision allowed me to focus on being the best version of myself that I could be. I spent time figuring out what I want to represent. I took my desire for accessibility and inclusion into the arts community on campus and, through these groups, I found friendship and a deep sense of belonging. Although challenging, this journey has been transformative and has prompted my personal growth.
What do you wish for your fellow graduating classmates?
To the dreamers, changemakers, free thinkers, go-getters, and future leaders of the Class of 2021: Let’s go out and make this world a better place. I am excited to see where your enthusiasm and passion for the things you care about take you.
What advice would you give to your first-year self?
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. There are so many decisions we make that can change the rest of our college careers. While the ‘what-ifs’ are to be expected, they may also prevent us from making any decision at all for fear of messing up. My mistakes at Lafayette are what have pushed me to grow the most—to the point where I wouldn’t still consider them mistakes. The choices that I later realized might not have been the best for myself have encouraged me to become resilient and push myself in new directions. I would make sure to tell my first-year self that mistakes are how we learn what we want in life, and being afraid of this will keep you from the beautiful growth that comes afterward.
What words of wisdom would you like to share with upcoming seniors?
Enjoy every moment of your senior year. As you already know, something could shift any day and change what you thought college would be like. Enjoy everything about your time at Lafayette—living down the street from your best friends, meals prepared for you (yes, you’re going to miss it!), being able to walk everywhere, the beautiful spring weather on the Quad, and lots of people around you helping you achieve your dreams. This time is so special, so cherish everything about it!
How has Lafayette changed you?
The Lafayette motto ‘Cur non?’ has left a huge impact on me. Although I came into college ready for my fresh start, my time at Lafayette has taught me that the ‘Why not?’ spirit is not as easy to embrace as I may have romanticized. It is hard to take risks, it is hard to go against the grain, and it is hard to put yourself outside of your comfort zone. Over the past four years, living and studying at Lafayette has encouraged me to take creative risks in order to better both myself and the community.
How do you hope to change the world?
I am passionate about education equity—making sure that all students have the resources and opportunities they need to succeed. I have been working in education research recently, and I would love to continue making a difference in this sector. I would love to be one of the people who gets to weigh in on education policies, making these spaces for learning more diverse, equitable, accessible, and inclusive for students. I am also interested in making sure the arts continue to be a part of education in public schools. With recent budget cuts and the push to ‘defund the arts,’ advocacy for arts education is more important now than ever.
The most important thing you learned about yourself at Lafayette is:
My time and energy are valuable. Freshman year, I felt like I should say ‘yes’ to everything—every activity, job opportunity, and extracurricular experience that I could. But this quickly got overwhelming. Despite loving a lot of the things I was committed to, I found myself feeling drained. Over the past four years, I have clarified the types of activities I am willing to put my energy toward and have learned how to say ‘no’ to some things so I don’t feel overextended.