By Brittany Martin 

Pepper Prize nominees have made Lafayette their home over the last four years, with mentors every step of the way to encourage, teach, and inspire them. To celebrate the people who make Lafayette Lafayette, we asked these seniors to tell us about their most influential mentors.


Meredith McGee and Tommy Lee smile with an award.Tommy Lee [assistant director of gender and sexuality programs] has been the most influential mentor to me at Lafayette. Without his support and guidance, I would have never dreamed of the changes I was able to make on campus, nor would I be pursuing a master’s in public health. Tommy has given me the ability to challenge the system while growing from it and has given me the tools to create further change. Most importantly, Tommy has become my biggest supporter and inspiration, and challenges me every day to be a better person.” –Meredith McGee ’23 (biology, history)


Jodie Frey and Swati Pandley smile“I hold all my mentors in the highest regard, but if I am to name one person who has consistently contributed to the person that I’ve become, it would be Jodie Frey [associate dean and director of recreation services]. What started as a mentor-mentee relationship during my sophomore year has now transformed into a friendship based on shared vision, respect, and a commitment to learning. Jodie unarguably deserves immense credit for helping me grow into a person who recognizes and emphasizes the importance of collaboration and community. To have a mentor who is intentional and invested in your growth outside the spaces in which you coexist has helped me grow into a person with holistic conscience and commitment to betterment—something that I will forever be grateful for.”  –Swati Pandey ’23 (biology)


Dylan Gooding smiles, holding a ladder in the library.“If I had to select only one mentor, I would say that Prof. Bruce Murphy [government and law] has had a particularly large impact during my time at college. Prof. Murphy was originally my First-Year Seminar professor, and he first taught me how to write at a college level. Since my first semester, I have taken two other courses taught by Prof. Murphy, one about the First Amendment and the other about the Supreme Court. He is someone whom I greatly admire, and I will always appreciate the kindness he has shown me throughout the past four years.” –Dylan Gooding ’23 (economics, government and law)


Kaitlyn Hilley smilesWhen I first started exploring composting on campus, I was pointed in the direction of Prof. Art Kney in civil and environmental engineering. Throughout my time working on composting for the campus, Prof. Kney has been my mentor informally and formally as my adviser for my Waste Management internship through the Environmental Studies Department. He guided and encouraged me through the process of developing a composting program, working with the Lafayette administration, and enhancing my interdisciplinary understanding of the issue by integrating his engineering background with my studies in biology and government and law. I am so grateful for his generosity and the impact he has had on my time at Lafayette as I move into a career where I can do more of this kind of interdisciplinary work.” –Kaitlyn Hilley ’23 (biology, government and law)


Annie Krege smiles in a dimly lit auditorium.“My most influential mentor at Lafayette is Prof. Katherine Groo, film and media studies. I began my academic career at Lafayette in FAMS101 with Prof. Groo, and I am now wrapping up my honors thesis with her as my adviser. She has been a constant for me these past four years, championing me in both personal and academic affairs. Anyone who is willing to make the journey down the hill would be lucky to learn from her.”  –Annie Krege ’23 (English, film and media studies)


Charlie Mirsky smiles in a selfie with Prof. Newman.

Charlie Mirsky ’23 with Prof. Peter Newman.

“Having taken a pretty nontraditional path to college, I lacked any real writing experience before getting here. In my freshman fall, I took Prof. Peter Newman’s FYS, “1960s and Social Change.” I credit him more than anyone else for helping me figure out college writing and for encouraging me to continue to push myself, even when my writing was strong enough to get by in my classes. Since then, he nominated me for McKelvy, met with me multiple times per semester to catch up, hosted me and my family for two Thanksgiving dinners, and introduced me to Prof. Ilan Peleg, who himself has supported me immensely.” –Charlie Mirsky ’23 (government and law)


Thalia Newman smiles, sitting in a ledge outdoors.“In biology, Prof. Robert Kurt introduced me to the field of immunology and to research, helping me develop a plan for my future career and providing me with the knowledge and experience needed to do so. Within the music department, my voice teacher, Eric van Hoven, provided guidance and support in performance and music direction opportunities, leading me to become more confident in myself and my abilities on and offstage. Through my roles within PASA and PAVE, Katy Bednarsky, student advocacy and prevention coordinator, supported me in ways that taught me the importance of prioritizing self-care and empathy as a leader and team member. Even beyond the faculty members and advisers who have guided me over the years, fellow students played roles in shaping my journey at Lafayette, pushing me to take on opportunities that I may have shied away from otherwise and providing me with a network that I could always rely on.” Thalia Newman ’23 (biology)


Fatimata Cham smiles, standing under an archway of Pardee Hall.“There are so many: Prof. Mary Armstrong, Prof. Joshua Miller, Prof. Dana Cuomo, Prof. Tara Gilligan, Prof. Katalin Fabian, Prof. Robert Blunt, Prof. Wendy Wilson-Fall, Prof. Robin Rinehart, Prof. Youshaa Patel, Prof. Hafsa Kanjwal, Dean Julia Goldberg, really this list could truly go on. These professors have all impacted my understanding of the world. They have pushed me to become a better thinker and writer, and to think beyond my understanding of the world around me. They have also pushed me to be a leader inside and outside the classroom.” –Fatimata Cham ’23 (government and law, women and gender studies)


“Whatever I have achieved and built for myself has been a product of the support I’ve received from Prof. Justin Hines, Prof. Lisa Gabel, and Prof. Khadijah Mitchell. Specifically, Prof. Hines took me into his lab my first year at Lafayette and taught me the fundamentals of research while scientifically preparing me to pursue an honors thesis with him my senior year. He introduced me to the physician-scientist career path and provided me with the tools to secure a summer research opportunity at Weill Cornell Medicine for two summers.” –Harshil Bhavsar ’23 (neuroscience, biochemistry)


Jefrey Alexander smiles.My growth as a person is as attributable to my relationship with my mentors as it is to my relationship with my peers. I have had the privilege of learning more about myself through my interactions with individuals from a myriad of backgrounds. Whether it be Prof. Heidi Hendrickson, Prof. Angela Bell, Prof. Michael Nees, Prof. Wendy Hill, Robert Young, Scott Placke, Shirley Liu ’23, Ceci Montufar ’23, Evan O’Connell ’24, Abby Zea ’24, Travis King ’24, Connor Fanning ’25, Griffen Kempskie ’25, Shayla Ward ’26, the brothers of Delta Upsilon, my posse, or the McKelvy community, my time here at Lafayette College has been defined by an expansive network of individuals all reminding me of one simple thing: I’m loved for the person I am, not the person I could be.” –Jefrey Alexander ’23 (psychology)


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