By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis

Photography By Olivia Giralico


With each of its members bringing a unique set of talents, smarts, and triumphs to the table, the Class of 2027 has the future at Lafayette looking bright. Here are just a few things that make this class of students stand out:

They’re the best and the brightest. More than 9,800 students applied to Lafayette—the second largest applicant pool in the College’s history. In August, 697 new Leopards joined the Lafayette family.

They’re making family history. Eighty-seven members of the Class of 2027 are first-generation college students and will be the first in their families to graduate from a four-year college. 

They hail from all over the country … and the world. Fifty-one international students represent 48 different countries of citizenship. The first-year class also has representation from 35 states and U.S. territories. 

Get to know a few members of the Class of 2027—and how they hope to live out Lafayette’s “Why Not?” motto over the next four years.


 

Headshot of Lafayette College student and Class of 2027 member Olivia Mackey

Olivia Mackey ’27

Hometown: Corvallis, Ore.

Potential majors: Psychology and Spanish

Campus involvement: Marquis Scholar, D.Y.E.R. Fellow, women’s club lacrosse, Refugee Action Club (RefAct), Salsa Club, Psychology Club, Pottery Club

Awesomeness factor

One evening during her sophomore year in high school, Mackey was discussing her future with her parents over dinner. She was explaining to her father that she loves psychology and working with people, and she’s fascinated by outer space. She’d been toying with the idea of potentially pursuing a career with NASA, but wasn’t interested in engineering. “My dad looked at me and said, ‘Well, why don’t you become a psychologist for astronauts?’ So, I Googled it, and I thought, oh my gosh, this is really a thing. This is what I want to do.”   

Her strong family connection has been an inspiration to Mackey in more ways than one. Her mother, who is from Mexico and works as an interpreter and translator at the local school district, also volunteered at medical clinics for farmworkers. Mackey, who is fluent in Spanish and was a member of Corvallis High School’s volunteer service club, accompanied her mom during her visits to the clinics—which further solidified Mackey’s desire to pursue a line of work that would allow her to help others. 

“It was something I was so passionate about that I wrote my college essay on it,” Mackey says. “I thought it was super cool the way I could make such a positive impact with something that was normal for me, which was speaking Spanish with my family.”

Thanks to her dad’s encouragement, Mackey played high school basketball and lacrosse, the latter of which she continues to play today as a Lafayette student. “Sports are mentally as well as physically challenging, which I found to be beneficial, but I also loved the team dynamic; I made a lot of friends through playing sports.” In addition, Mackey was president of her high school’s National Honor Society, and she participated in SAFE (Students Advocating for Equity) club.

How she envisions herself embodying Lafayette’s Cur Non spirit

Mackey says her parents’ unwavering support taught her to be open to pursuing new opportunities—even those she isn’t comfortable with. “I enjoy exploring different things,” she says. “I didn’t have friends in all the clubs I signed up for when I came to Lafayette, but I found people I enjoy spending time with. I love that Lafayette has given me the option to study both Spanish and psychology, and to study abroad; I’m planning to go to Spain. I’m hoping to eventually do some neuroscience research. For me, the best part of Lafayette is that I can try all these different things—and I plan to continue exploring those opportunities throughout my time here.”

Headshot of Lafayette College student and Class of 2027 member Dashawn Sheffield

Dashawn Sheffield ’27

Hometown: Newark, N.J.

Potential major: Government and law

Campus involvement: Model U.N., Association of Black Collegians (ABC), Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC), Lafayette Outdoors Society (LOSt), Alternative Spring Break (ASB), volunteers to teach English to Spanish-speaking adults in the community, aiding children and staff in autistic support classrooms

Awesomeness factor

What Sheffield loved about studying history at North Star Academy Washington Park High School was that it isn’t just about memorizing names and dates. “It’s so much more,” he says. “History is the who, what, when, and where, but it’s also the why and how.” And with the strides he’s made in his efforts to promote mental health, champion DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives, and serve his community, Sheffield has the potential to make history of his own.

Within his community, Sheffield spearheaded various projects that changed the lives of others for the better. He co-founded Future Leaders Incubator, an initiative that provides training and resources to promote advocacy among high school students, and he founded EduMatch, a nonprofit that matches high school seniors with college students who provide them with counseling throughout their college application process. Sheffield also created a peer tutoring program at a nearby middle school to help prepare underrepresented students for high school, and he served as a board member on the DEI committee for two charter high schools. The board position allowed him to not only help manage diversity and inclusion processes alongside school staff, but also promote the development and advancement of underrepresented groups in education through creating professional development courses and training.

“There is a quote by Coretta Scott King that I always hold dear to me that states, ‘The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members,’” Sheffield says. “My passion for community service stems from a deep-rooted belief in the transformative power of collective action, and the enrichment it brings both to individuals and society as a whole.”

Sheffield was widely lauded for his community work: He was one of 29 high school students in the U.S. to be awarded the Princeton Prize in Race Relations for undertaking significant efforts to advance racial equity and understanding in his community through his volunteer opportunities, he was honored by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, and he earned Ramapo College’s Russ Berrie Making a Difference Award for his efforts in promoting racial equality in higher education through EduMatch.

Sheffield also made a sizable impact on his school through his involvement in various student organizations and projects. As student body president, he organized and coordinated various fundraising events to support schoolwide initiatives. As a freshman, he developed the curriculum for North Star’s first mental health and wellness class, which was implemented in a Brooklyn high school after various academic leaders in the area saw how successful it was at raising student morale. Additionally, Sheffield developed a wellness council that educated North Star staff, parents, and students on mental health issues and ensured access to school-based support through partnerships with local community organizations. Not only was the council implemented into an elementary school in Georgia and featured on NJ PBS and in Chalkbeat, but it also attracted the prospects of an HBO documentary. 

His motivation for supporting his high school, Sheffield says, stems from his desire to pay forward the gift of education he was given by North Star, and to ensure that current and future students can savor the same transformative experience. “My high school served as a nurturing sanctuary, where my teachers went above and beyond to make sure I succeed, igniting a genuine love for learning within me. This environment cultivated my intellectual curiosity, fostering the belief that education possesses the power to shape lives and forge a brighter future.”

A student journalist as well, Sheffield wrote several articles for Chalkbeat. One of his pieces was published in the Star Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, and another he wrote about his journey as a queer Black male will be added into the English curriculum at approximately 11 high schools across New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts.  

Sheffield, whose dream is to pursue a career as a lawyer, diplomat, or investment banking associate, worked as an intern at Wall Street asset management firm BlackRock, where he assisted with investment portfolio construction and modeled the financial stability of multiple corporations. “Interning there made me realize my love for finance aside from law,” he says.

How he envisions himself embodying Lafayette’s Cur Non spirit

Sheffield explains that he plans to face any future challenges head-on, with a determined and resilient mindset. “By embodying the spirit of ‘Why Not?’ I am committed to viewing obstacles as opportunities for growth and self-improvement. I believe perseverance and a positive attitude are crucial in navigating the ups and downs of college life, and I am confident that the Cur Non motto will serve as a constant reminder of this.”

Headshot of Lafayette College student and Class of 2027 member Kylee Brotz

Kylee Brotz ’27

Hometown: Delran, N.J.

Potential major: Art and mechanical engineering

Campus involvement:Tabletop and Role-Playing Appreciation Program (TRAP), Lafayette Equestrian Team, Social Gaming Network (SGN), Pard Projects, International Students Association (ISA), D.Y.E.R. Fellow, Eco Rep, Williams Center for the Arts usher and box office attendant, theater production assistant, tutor for local first grade students

Awesomeness factor

Brotz’s childhood battle with a rare chronic illness, and her lifelong fascination with how everyday objects work, gave her a clear and unique vision of what she wanted her future to look like: helping others by not only building new things, but creatively designing them as well.

“When I was very young, I liked taking things like toy cars apart and piecing them back together. By the time I was 9, I already knew I wanted to be an engineer,” Brotz says. “I started creating more, which fed into my additional interest in the arts. My struggle with my health also made me aware that there are people who face different challenges, some of which are invisible to the eye. That, in addition to the fact that I come from a lower-class family and am a first-generation student, helped me see that some people don’t have the same opportunities for a life they deserve and want. This fostered my intent to become an engineer specializing in designing prosthetics that are adaptable to the user.”

Brotz was the founder and president of the Art for Hospitals Club at Delran High School, in which she and her fellow students created artwork to be installed at local hospitals, as well as holiday cards for patients, and murals and hand-painted stones for hospital campus grounds.

“Most of my childhood was filled with hospital visits, sleepless nights, and moments of defeat. I had missed so much of my life, and all that time in the hospital became detrimental to my mental health,” Brotz says. “I didn’t want others or myself to continue to experience that suffering, so I decided to do something about it. I wanted to create an environment that would be more calming and less overwhelming to those who need to focus on healing physically.”

Having lost multiple friends and family members to suicide, Brotz also is passionate about raising awareness of mental health issues: “It is one of the hardest battles each of us fights every single day,” she says. “This pushes me to ensure access for everyone to resources that can help.”

In high school, Brotz served as a representative on the Student Council Executive Board, which, she explains, gave her the opportunity to provide a voice for her community and unite her fellow students. She led schoolwide events, such as blood drives and a community movie night. She also volunteered as a crisis actor in her local police department’s active shooter training exercises, organized a Color Run for mental health awareness after her community faced a tragic loss, and tutored her peers weekly. Additionally, she was a member of the National Honor Society and Thespian Society.

“I love poetry as well,” Brotz says. “Reading, writing, and performing poetry provides me with something to help me understand the world, and it’s an outlet for my words and the way I see life.”

How she envisions herself embodying Lafayette’s Cur Non spirit

Brotz says she plans on dedicating each moment of her time at Lafayette to living the Cur Non motto: “I plan on following my passions no matter how hard it may seem,” she says. “I will continue to work on mental health, accessibility, and human rights issues in any way possible. I also plan on continuing my club from high school—and hopefully expanding it so I can help even more people. I have a lot of projects in mind, such as murals, Gaga Ball pits, and outdoor classrooms that I would love to start, and I plan on establishing my own nonprofit organization.”

Headshot of Lafayette College student and Class of 2027 member Tyler Beck

Tyler Beck ’27

Hometown: Sarasota, Fla.

Potential major: Government and law

Campus involvement: Track and field

Awesomeness factor

As a child who was born and raised in Sarasota but often traveled to New York City with his mother for her job, Beck developed a passion for airplanes early on. “I would beg my mom to take me to the airport to watch the planes take off, and eventually I convinced her to let me start taking flying lessons,” he says. Now as a licensed pilot who flew his first plane at the age of 12, Beck hopes to someday work in military contracting and aviation. “I would love to work for or start a company that does aerial surveillance or electronic warfare for the U.S. government,” Beck says.  

During his time as a high schooler at The Out-of-Door Academy, Beck was not only an active member of his community, but also an accomplished athlete. He founded the nonprofit Fishing for Futures Foundation, which helped local marine laboratories conduct environmental research, and helped provide opportunities for children with disabilities and veterans to visit the labs. The organization also hosted fundraisers to raise awareness of local water quality issues. On the athletic front, Beck went to AAU nationals for track and field each of his first three years of high school, and he placed third, sixth, and seventh at state championships his senior, junior, and sophomore year, respectively. He was the captain of his high school football team’s defense and an all-state tri-county all-area outside linebacker, and he played varsity basketball and soccer. He also was a pole vaulter and distance runner in middle school.

“Sports have been a huge part of my life,” Beck says. “They changed my life and who I am as a person for the better. I was the kid who no one really talked to, and sports really brought me out of my shell.” And he’s already feeling at home as a member of Lafayette’s track and field team: “I love my coaches, and the community around the team is an environment you can’t find anywhere else.” 

How he envisions himself embodying Lafayette’s Cur Non spirit

Beck says “Why not?” has been a motto he’s lived by his entire life, and he hopes to continue embodying it by pursuing new ideas and projects at Lafayette. “I’m working on something now—it’s a work in progress—that hopefully will support athletes and other people on campus if it works out. I expected to be laughed out of the room when I first shared my idea, but everyone I talked to about it at Lafayette said, ‘Why not? Let’s do it.’ That philosophy is the perfect environment for me.”

Headshot of Lafayette College student and Class of 2027 member Mia Gomez

Mia Gomez ’27

Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.

Potential major: Computer science

Campus involvement: Bohio Association, Hispanic Society of Lafayette, NIA: A Sisterhood, Lafayette College Chapter of National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)

Awesomeness factor

A Posse Scholar of many talents and interests, Gomez says her greatest passion lies at the intersection of technology and art. 

At NYC iSchool, Gomez immersed herself in classes and activities that allowed her to express her creativity in areas like mural painting, clay sculpture, and printmaking. During her junior and senior years, she interned at the Museum of Modern Art, where she worked alongside film industry professionals and emceed museum events. As a senior, Gomez interned at Assembly, a post-production company where she shadowed and assisted film colorists. Over the summer of 2022, she also participated in the Girls Who Code program, in which she learned how to design and create websites from scratch.

“It allowed me to be as creative as I wanted to be,” Gomez says. “Website design isn’t just technical; it lets your imagination wander. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to continue my coding journey by taking Computer Gaming my first semester at Lafayette, and I absolutely love it.”

She also enjoys putting her artistic skills to work for the greater good: In high school, Gomez was a member of Glamour Girls, a foundation through which she helped provide comfort for elders in isolation by writing letters, creating handmade bracelets, and planning events at senior centers in New York City.

How she envisions herself embodying Lafayette’s Cur Non spirit

Gomez hopes to take advantage of the wide spectrum of opportunities Lafayette’s liberal arts education provides: “There are different layers to me, and I’m genuinely interested in so many things,” she says. “I plan to major in computer science, but I’m also currently taking a printmaking class, where I make shirts with fun designs. I also plan to take an Intro to Film and Media Studies class next semester because it’s another field I want to learn more about and possibly pursue. I’m excited to experiment in other student organizations too, like the Radio Club and Pottery Club. I push myself to have diverse experiences because … why not?”

Headshot of Lafayette College student and Class of 2027 member Lonan Jennings

Lonan Jennings ’27

Hometown: Pittsfield, Mass.

Potential major: English

Campus involvement: Lafayette Outdoors Society (LOSt), The Marquis literary magazine, Tabletop and Role-Playing Appreciation Program (TRAP), Social Gaming Network

Awesomeness factor

Since his childhood days when his parents would read tales like Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion to him as bedtime stories, Jennings has had a deep-seated passion for writing and crafting fictional worlds. His greatest achievement to date, he says, is a 200-page research paper he wrote on world-building for one of his AP courses at Pittsfield High School, which he is currently developing into a full-length novel. “It took months of research,” he says. “I had to read about 20 books in the span of a couple of months, build the history and characters, and then write a draft for the book. It’s still in the works, and I’m hoping to complete the novel and get it published sometime while I’m at Lafayette.”

When he began high school, Jennings was at first unsure if higher education was in the cards for him: “Both my parents dabbled in college and never completed it, and my entire life they told me not to bother with it because we couldn’t afford it,” he says. When a neighbor and friend confided in Jennings that he regretted missing the opportunity to go to college, however, Jennings was inspired to do everything he could to ensure he wouldn’t have to face the same misgivings. “Growing up in an impoverished neighborhood, seeing a lot of strife and people with failed hopes and dreams just because they didn’t have the support they needed or the ability to strive for that higher level of living—that really shaped and impacted my mindset when it came to going after the future I want where I’m as happy as possible,” Jennings says. “Poverty was the main source of my inspiration for escaping it.”

In addition to becoming involved in 10 extracurricular activities—including the student newspaper, quiz team, Latin club, and chess club—Jennings tirelessly worked outside of school confines as a server at a local Dunkin’ Donuts. “It was an uphill battle, but it was fun,” he says. “The fire under the bellows was to make it to college and fulfill that wistful dream that I had gotten to a little later than most people.” 

Jennings’ life was forever changed, he says, when he was awarded a $60,000 scholarship by the Chang Chavkin Scholars program during his junior year, which would also provide him with personal mentorship throughout his time in college. It was through the scholarship that Jennings learned about Lafayette, and now he’s soaking in each day while studying his favorite subjects: English and the classics. “I’m very happy to be here, and I have a smile on my face every day,” he says. “I can’t believe I made it.” 

How he envisions himself embodying Lafayette’s Cur Non spirit

Jennings says one major goal of his is to use his experiences to inspire others to rise above the hardships they were born into. “Instead of looking back and focusing on the tethers and ropes holding me back, and the history that just doesn’t want to stop bubbling down from the swamp, I want to look forward and say ‘Why not?’ Why not take challenging courses? Why not join a student club and write? Life is too short, and there’s too much to obtain out there in the world to not wake up and just go for it.” 

Headshot of Lafayette College student Hasnat Aslam '27

Hasnat Aslam ’27

Hometown: Lahore, Pakistan

Potential major: Mathematics-economics

Campus involvement: Lafayette College Investment Club, research with Prof. Caleb Gallemore

Awesomeness factor

Awesomeness factor: As the son of a lawyer who was politically active in his native Pakistan, Aslam grew up in a home environment that both inspired and nurtured his passion for proactively defending human rights. After visiting one of his best friends in Balochistan, a region split by three countries, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, Aslam was moved to establish Stories of Plight—an organization aimed at creating a database of Balochi community members who have been extrajudicially abducted.

“I was deeply shaken by the terror that saturated peoples’ lives there, and I wanted to make an effort to change that,” he says. “The database helped us identify high-risk areas, spread awareness of the extent of the issue, and draft targeted legislative proposals.”

Also a fervent debater since childhood, Aslam is adept at viewing a single issue from multiple perspectives—a skill that, he says, has deeply influenced not only his educational pursuits, but also how he sees the world: “Debate makes you challenge your most fundamental beliefs, and it teaches you to think more critically about things you often take for granted.”

As a high schooler, Aslam enjoyed such subjects as economics, mathematics, and sociology, which allowed him to study humanistic issues through an empirical lens. With hopes of pursuing a career in finance, he is currently conducting research alongside Caleb Gallemore, associate professor of international affairs, on how private capital can be used as a resource to positively impact biodiversity conservation. He’s also working on building an investment portfolio as a member of the Lafayette College Investment Club, a pursuit he says is valuable on both an educational and personal level.

“As a first-year student, it is quite exciting to not only have such profound intellectual experiences as working with Prof. Gallemore, but also, through avenues like the Investment Club, having the opportunity to foster friendships with students who possess curiosities similar to mine,” Aslam says.

How he envisions himself embodying Lafayette’s Cur Non spirit

For Aslam, the meaning of Cur Non transcends individual achievement: It’s about developing a culture of relentless spirit. “During my time at Lafayette, I hope to create and work with teams of people who challenge dogma and persistently ask ‘Why not?’”

Headshot of Lafayette College student and Class of 2027 member Ava Murphy

Ava Murphy ’27

Hometown: Winchester, Mass.

Potential major: Economics

Campus involvement: Women’s soccer

Awesomeness factor

Murphy is the picture of perseverance: Despite having suffered two severe injuries during her time at Winchester High School—she tore her ACL in both her freshman and senior years—the strong-willed soccer player not only overcame adversity, but also tucked a number of athletic and academic triumphs under her belt. “My injuries required surgery and a yearlong recovery filled with ups and downs, but I loved soccer too much to stop,” Murphy says. “So, after my second surgery, I kept working and did not give up.”

A varsity team member throughout all four years of high school and team captain during her senior year, Murphy earned League MVP, All New England, All State, All Eastern Massachusetts, All League, Boston Globe All Scholastic, and Boston Herald All Scholastic honors during her junior year. She also regularly volunteered with her team at a local soup kitchen, and she participated in the A Shot for Life All-Star Game, in which select players from around New England play to raise money for cancer research—a cause that is particularly significant to Murphy, who has several family members who either have had or are currently battling cancer. The game ultimately raised $80,000.

Outside of soccer, Murphy was a member of her high school’s Best Buddies Club, a student-run friendship club that pairs up students with and without disabilities. She also was a member of National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society.

Today, Murphy is already asserting her well-earned spot on Lafayette’s women’s soccer team: She was named Patriot League Rookie of the Week in August. “I’m so grateful I was given the opportunity to study what I love while playing competitive Division I soccer,” she says. “Lafayette is the perfect fit for me, and I am so excited to continue my education and soccer career here.” Her two elder sisters, she adds, are her greatest inspiration: “Both my oldest sister, Mia, a senior at Tufts who is on the pre-med track, and Ally, my middle sister, a sophomore at Princeton who plays on the women’s soccer team there, provided me with an incredible example of being both a great student and athlete.”

How she envisions herself embodying Lafayette’s Cur Non spirit

Murphy says she plans to continue stepping out of her comfort zone and taking risks while she’s here at the College: “Lafayette offers students so many opportunities and resources that I am prepared to take full advantage of.”

Headshot of Lafayette College student and Class of 2027 member Emma Li

Emma Li ’27

Hometown: St. Louis, Mo.

Potential majors: Theater and English

Campus involvement: The Lafayette student newspaper, Lafayette College’s theater production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lafayette College Arts Society, Model U.N., Marquis Players

Awesomeness factor

After taking her first theater course at Parkway Central High School, Li has pursued the arts as not only a passion, but also a means for helping others. She went on to learn every facet of theater production—from light design and costuming, to characterization and script analysis—while also studying journalism, literature, and philosophy through her English classes. Li started writing for her high school’s student newspaper as a sophomore and eventually became editor—which, she says, gave her the opportunity to not only help others improve their writing, but also grow as a person. “I love talking to people and learning about things I never knew before,” she says. 

During her senior year, Li became involved in teen and community theater, working backstage for productions like The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical. She also contributed to her community as a member of her school’s theater club, for which she served as an officer for three years and ran the annual canned food drive. The efforts resulted in the collection of over 1,000 pounds of food in the fall of 2020 and 2021. “We were still coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the community theater experience was all about kids being seen and heard—it was a really cool show to be a part of,” Li says. “It also was really exciting to be able to do so much for the community with the food drive, especially since so many people became food-insecure during and after the pandemic because of job instability.” As a member of the newspaper staff, Li took pride in keeping her fellow students informed about pressing issues, like changes taking place in the school, protests, and other controversial topics.

Now, Li is venturing into acting for the first time: She’s playing the role of Moth in Lafayette’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “I really wanted to be a part of it because I’ve never done Shakespeare before, and I love English literature,” Li says. “It’s also important to experience both sides of theater—being both backstage and onstage—because it helps to understand each side’s perspective in order to better work together to put on the best show possible.” Her end goal is to pursue a career as a costume designer.

How she envisions herself embodying Lafayette’s Cur Non spirit

Part of the reason why Li chose to come to Lafayette, she says, is because she believes there is something she can learn from each person on campus: “I want to keep learning and trying new things, and I want to find out more.”

Categorized in: Class of 2027, Featured News, News and Features, Student Profiles, Students

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