Yazmin Baptiste ’20, anthropology and sociology

What is your current role?

I am a data associate at GiveDirectly in New York City. GiveDirectly is an organization that provides cash transfers to people with incomes below the poverty line across Africa and the United States. I own all technology-related aspects of new project launches. This includes working with our operations team to define and implement program requirements, project managing the implementation across multiple stakeholders, and analyzing, structuring, and acting on program data. Knowing that technology will play a critical role in enabling the next generation of cash delivery operations, I help design and implement data systems to effectively and efficiently enroll and pay recipients.

How did Lafayette prepare you for this role?

Being a data associate is interesting because you are dealing with a lot of numbers, Excel sheets, and code. I am constantly problem-solving on my computer, which can create a sense of removal from the people I am serving. During my time in the Anthropology and Sociology Department, I learned it is simply not enough to care about a topic—improving the world requires a great amount of critical thinking, care, and energy. In acknowledging my physical distance from the communities I serve, I am constantly trying to contextualize my work by talking to co-workers who work in these communities, reading current events, and challenging the way we do things in the nonprofit space. At Lafayette, I realized most things in the world do not work in a good/bad dichotomy. In moving through nonprofit work with my education at Lafayette, I try to think critically in how my decisions can affect the people I serve.

What are you most looking forward to when you return to campus?

Before the pandemic, I was able to attend graduation for the Class of 2019, so I had a chance to see what graduation could look like for myself. I remember the flowers, the excitement in the air, the smiles of the graduates, and I imagined the day when it would be my turn. To have that experience with my family means the world to me. My family had a huge, meaningful impact in me getting into college in the first place. And throughout college, they supported me the best they could, always taking calls whenever I needed them and sending care packages. To celebrate in the place where we had these experiences is extremely exciting, and I can’t wait to share this time with them.

Being invited back for this ceremony is very exciting for me. I definitely understood why we couldn’t have our celebration in 2020, but knowing that didn’t make it any less disappointing. Graduation for me is a time to appreciate the hard work that I put into getting through college and honor the people who supported me throughout it. Taking this time to celebrate with my friends, family, and professors will be very fulfilling, and I look forward to seeing them all together.

Yazmin Baptiste ’20

Yazmin Baptiste ’20

Rebecca Blocker ’20 (civil and environmental engineering)

What is your current role?

I’m a staff geotechnical engineer at Langan Engineering in Parsippany, New Jersey. I am a field engineer, so my time is split between construction oversight and geotechnical investigations. During construction oversight, I work with contractors and our clients to ensure that the earthwork and foundation preparation are being performed as the design engineers intended. In geotech investigations, I collect soil samples and information about the soil and surrounding area to determine if the area would be suitable for the proposed construction, and if so, to help develop recommendations for the construction of the proposed development.

How did Lafayette prepare you for this role?

The civil and environmental engineering professors who I had at Lafayette prepared me in so many ways for my role. The reports that we prepared for classes and labs prepared me to be able to clearly and thoroughly communicate my ideas and support them for reports for my team. The hands-on lessons and labs prepared me for collecting soil samples and other information while on sites for investigations. The discussions and debates we had in classes prepared me to think from many different angles and prepare myself for people with ideas opposing my own. 

What are you most looking forward to when you return to campus?

I am looking forward to seeing my classmates and professors again. I am looking forward to seeing everyone together again, and to celebrate our accomplishments. I am also looking forward to hearing what everyone has been up to since we left campus, and how everyone is doing.

I am very grateful that the Class of 2020 was invited back for a special ceremony. I am looking forward to getting to celebrate our accomplishments with my fellow classmates and professors, and finally walking across the stage.

Rebecca Blocker '20 holds foam glass

For her senior honors thesis, Rebecca Blocker ’20 conducted strength and density testing on foam glass (pictured).

Erica Luing ’20 (Spanish)

What is your current role?

Service dog trainer at Puppy Jake Foundation in Urbandale, Iowa. Puppy Jake Foundation trains service dogs for combat-wounded veterans with PTSD and other physical disabilities related to their service. As a trainer, I’m responsible for training the dogs in our program from eight weeks to 2 1/2 years old through private training and teaching group class with dogs and their fosters. I love working with dogs every day while also being able to make a tangible impact in the lives of others.

How did Lafayette prepare you for this role?

The most obvious way my Lafayette experience prepared me for this role is through my involvement in the Dog House LLC. I lived in the Dog House junior and senior year and served as president from January 2019 until graduation. Raising puppies for Canine Partners for Life made me realize this is the profession I wanted to pursue post-graduation and gave me invaluable experience in service dog training. 

What are you most looking forward to when you return to campus?

I’m looking forward to being back on campus for the first time since I moved to Iowa in summer 2020 and seeing everyone together again. I’m also looking forward to being able to see the professors who really impacted me during my time as a student and properly thank them. 

While 2020 and the pandemic as a whole took so much, and we can never get those last months of senior year back, having a ceremony now allows us to get that special moment being with our classmates and walking the stage. For me, with this ceremony I feel like I will be able to finally close that college chapter and get the ending I’ve been waiting for since freshman year. 

Erica Luing receives dog kisses from yellow lab Jake

Erica Luing ’20 and Jake

KeeShawn Murphy ’20 (English with a concentration in creative writing)

What is your current role?

I am an English teaching fellow at Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts. In this role, I am responsible for creating thorough and engaging lessons for students in English. I assist in the residential experience by serving as a house counselor. I support multicultural student-led events as a community and multicultural development adviser and board member. I also assist admissions with incoming first-year students and coach the step team.

How did Lafayette prepare you for this role?

In the English department, we have a lot of freedom with the texts that we teach. I didn’t expect to have so much freedom in a high school education system to teach texts that I personally love and had the pleasure of studying at Lafayette.

What are you most looking forward to when you return to campus?

Seeing my friends—I miss them so much!

KeeShawn Murphy

KeeShawn Murphy ’20

Categorized in: Alumni, Careers, Commencement 2020, Featured News, News and Features

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