When members of the Austin College Class of 2011 were freshmen, they completed a survey that indicated strong commitment among the class to lives of meaning and service to others. Four years later, a repeat survey of the class showed that, along with goals for success in their careers, values of service to others and full, engaged, and meaningful lives had become even more important to the students.
Those results were no surprise to Austin College President Marjorie Hass. “One of the most fundamental things about a liberal arts education is the idea of public good,” she said, “and we try to create an environment in which that is emphasized. The education we provide is about preparing alumni for success, which means being part of making the world a better place, not just amassing financial gains.”
The next pages highlight just a few of the Austin College Class of 2011 faces of success. These graduates already have been extremely successful—discovering interests and awakening awareness, finding their own paths, making the most of opportunities, and leaving their mark at Austin College. Now they are embarking on new adventures. Five of the students have received Fulbright grants; others are taking their place in the career world; still others are preparing for the start this fall of graduate or professional school, or opportunities yet to be discovered. No doubt the graduates’ success will continue—success that involves achievement in careers, service to others, commitment to family and friends, and active involvement as knowledgeable citizens of a global community in which most already are quite at home.
“Every child wishes to be a superhero. I may be 21, but I still do.”
Matthew Varvir wrote those words for an essay in application for a Fulbright grant. Learn a bit about him and it becomes evident he indeed is something of a superhero. His co-curricular involvements alone seem to surpass time limitations; add his academic achievements and superpowers seem necessary.
The summa cum laude graduate received the Kidd Scholarship Medal as one of the two top seniors in the Class of 2011, and that Fulbright grant application had good results—he will spend the next year teaching English in Germany.
Matthew completed majors in physics and communication studies (theatre emphasis), as well as a minor in mathematics. Meanwhile, he had major roles in campus theatre productions; performed in the A Cappella Choir, Quartette, and Consort; served as a member of the residence life student staff; conducted research in physics; was active in the Society of Physics Students and Alpha Psi Omega theatre honorary, holding offices in both; and explored Peru, Ecuador, and the Galapagos Islands during a January Term course.
He did all that while maintaining the highest levels of academic excellence. The Carrollton, Texas, freshman entered Austin College as the Clyde L.Hall Presidential Scholar, and later was awarded the Mary Foulks Gourley and Lloyd E. Gourley Prize in Physics, as well as the Jayne C. Chamberlin Fellowship in Communication Studies. He was selected for Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Chi national honor societies, as well as for those in drama and physics.
Matthew’s many involvements did not allow much time for campus service projects, commitments he witnessed and admired in his classmates. “The service-oriented mindset permeates the Austin College populations so strongly that I constantly found myself to be a part of it. My motivation to become a resident assistant, Fulbright recipient, and educator all stem from this philosophy,” he said.
After the Fulbright experience, Matthew will begin a graduate degree in secondary education with a specialization in physics or science, with the plans to teach high school physics and theatre. Eventually, he plans to complete a doctorate and enter the field of teacher education at the undergraduate or graduate level.
Katherine Wilshusen had taken a few language classes before coming to Austin College, but she considered them simply academic, not really a means of communication. Though her family ancestry is German and she was interested in the country, she didn’t have opportunity to study German until she arrived at Austin College.
She didn’t experience that class as academic; it set her on a four-year adventure that will continue in 2011-2012. This spring, the German and political science major from Dallas, Texas, was awarded a Fulbright grant for an English Teaching Assistantship in Germany.
“My German course quickly became my favorite,” Katherine said, “as I fell in love with the way the words sounded, so bold and confident with their many consonants and the logical, albeit difficult, grammatical structure.”
Courses in German multiplied; she lived in the German wing of Jordan Family Language House for an immersion in language and culture. She spent a January Term in intensive language study in Berlin and her junior year abroad at the Johannes Gutenberg Universität in Mainz. She received the Clara Zauk Binkley and James Binkley Scholarship in Foreign Languages and the Wilkes Family Endowed Study Abroad Scholarship. In January 2011, she traveled back to Mainz to conduct research for her Austin College honors thesis in German.
“Learning a foreign language has been such a powerfully positive experience in my life that I am motivated to promote the learning of foreign languages, which I believe will foster better international cooperation,” Katherine said. “The Fulbright experience will give me the opportunity to help teach German students about my own language and culture, which will in turn give them the tools to benefit their future careers and lives, as well as the relations between our countries.”
At graduation, Katherine received the Robinson Scholarship Medal as one of the two top scholars in the Class of 2011. The summa cum laude graduate also was selected to Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Chi national honor societies, as well as national honor societies in political science and German.
In the long term, Katherine is considering further teaching of English abroad, a career in foreign services, or law school, paths that would combine her desires for exciting, challenging, and rewarding work. “Austin College has prepared me for this idea of success by making me learn how to learn; how to truly draw connections between different points of view and different fields of study,” she said. “The expanded world view that results from a liberal arts education extraordinarily fosters creativity and a desire to continue learning.”
A brush with her own mortality—through melanoma surgery as a high school student—gave Erin Sweeney “the burning desire to live the rest of my life with passion, purpose, and faith.”
After four years at Austin College, that desire is burning still. Everything Erin does, she approaches with passion and enthusiasm—and she does a lot. Her list of campus social and academic activities would fill the page, ranging from election to Student Assembly to involvement in the Catholic Church, volunteer service to Pre-Law Society. She has studied internationally, completed a Mellon research fellowship, and earned a Global Outreach Fellowship for international service in Moldova.
Her enthusiasm and passion, as well as her academic success and winning personality, combined to result in her selection as the 2011 Altrusa Outstanding Senior Woman.
Erin also had an excellent academic record, graduating summa cum laude with a major in political science and a minor in history. Entering Austin College as the Jack B. Morris Presidential Scholar, she was awarded a Hatton W. Sumners Scholarship in Political Science and was selected to Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Chi national honor societies, as well as honor societies for history and political science.
This spring, she was awarded a Fulbright grant to teach English in Croatia throughout the next academic year. “I hope to engage my students’ creative abilities to make English not simply enjoyable, but a life-long passion,” Erin said. She also looks to enhance understanding between people of the U.S. and Croatia.
“Life cannot be reduced to mathematical equations, biological functions, market trends, or even the political theories that I find so fascinating,” Erin wrote in the essay for her Fulbright application. “Just as proper depth perception requires the use of both eyes, we can cultivate an accurate and complete understanding of our surroundings only by examining the world through multiple perspectives.”
When she returns from Croatia, Erin, from Rowlett, Texas, will begin study at Michigan State University School of Law, where she received a full scholarship (and was able to defer admission
until after her Fulbright service). She plans to complete a law degree and MBA and work within the arena of international law. She comes from a family with a strong tradition of military service and is considering a career as a JAG officer. “I would be tremendously honored to serve the men and women of the armed forces for one simple reason,” Erin said. “They are my heroes.”
Nic Low is outstanding. Obviously a lot of people think so. This spring, Nic was named Austin College Outstanding Senior Man and, one week later, Outstanding Greek Man.
He is a member of Zeta Chi Beta social fraternity and Alpha Phi Omega national service fraternity. This year, he served as president of Greek Council.
Nic was no stereotypical Animal House Greek (few Austin College students are). He maintained an excellent academic record, graduating summa cum laude with a major in English and a minor in philosophy. Like his female counterparts, his list of campus involvements was extensive, including social and academic activities such as service as an Academic Skills Center peer tutor in English and philosophy.
He also studied internationally and completed a Lilly Internship with a law firm in Dallas. That experience should be beneficial when he begins study this fall at SMU Dedman School of Law.
As an Austin College entering freshman from Sunnyvale, Texas, Nic’s achievements were recognized with the Robert T. Mason Presidential Scholarship. He later received the S.D. Heard Fellowship for an Outstanding Student in English and was selected for induction into Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Chi national honor societies.
Nic said he was solid academically when he came to Austin College so he expected to continue an excellence in his coursework. Social life was a different story. “Only at Austin College could someone who was too embarrassed to attend his high school senior prom become the Homecoming king a few years later,” he said. “The Greek system pushed me to meet people and learn how to interact in social situations. This has been an invaluable experience for life, and Austin College has been an integral part of my formation into an adult.”
After completing his law degree, Nic plans to remain in the Dallas area to be near family, but otherwise is open to where his life may take him. “My idea of a successful future is being happy.
Along with that, I hope I’m not living in a box under the highway,” he joked. “But if I’m truly enjoying what I’m doing, then I consider myself successful.”
Jane Jennings’ first classroom interaction at Austin College was her Communication/Inquiry (C/I) course, “Finding the Good Life,” in which students explored what happiness is and how to attain it.
Jane, from Longmont, Colorado, seemed to find the good life at Austin College. She combined class work toward her major in international economics and finance and a minor in psychology with many involvements on campus and beyond. She served as president of Alpha Delta Chi sorority and a member of Greek Council, as well as the women’s lacrosse club team and the ACtivators ministry team. She trekked through Peru and Bolivia then Malaysia and Singapore during January Term courses and spent a semester of study in Granada, Spain.
She also received the College’s E.H., Leslie, and Virginia Moseley Scholarship and a Sara and Robert Hallam Scholarship. Her involvements and leadership gained her the honor of being named the 2011 Outstanding Greek Woman.
Jane is awaiting news on her AmeriCorps application and would like to do an internship in viticulture as an alternative. While she doesn’t know exactly what route her career might take, she wants her work to make a positive difference in the lives of others. “In the long run, my ideal goal would be to reform the U.S. agriculture system, specifically the meat sector,” she said, explaining that she would like to see that animals are properly raised, killed, and processed to maximize the quality of life of the animals and the nutrition of the meat supply.
“Arriving at Austin College as freshmen, I don’t think any of us really know who we are yet,” Jane said. “I know the search is not over even after these four years, but I am confident that Austin College has allowed me to explore corners of myself that I didn’t know even existed. I am daring, caring, and very driven, and all of these things have been strengthened during my time at Austin College.”
“No form of study can fully prepare someone for the experience of total immersion in a foreign culture.” That, Cameron Behal wrote, was what he was thinking as he emerged from a thick Ecuadorian jungle into the Kichwa Indian village where he would live and work for several weeks. That experience, as a Lilly Vocational Internship Program intern, took place the summer after his sophomore year at Austin College. The previous summer, he had worked with Iraqi, Kenyan, and Burundian torture victims at the Center for Survivors of Torture in Dallas. As a junior, he spent a study abroad term in Barcelona, Spain.
The lessons Cameron, an international relations and Spanish major from Austin, Texas, learned through these experiences led to his application for the Fulbright Teaching Assistantship he will take on in South Korea this fall.
The South Korean experience, though, is about more than the sharing of cultural experiences. Cameron wants to study the South Korean educational system as an option for areas of the world in which a Western teaching model is inappropriate.
Cameron’s Austin College years were filled with involvements from Model United Nations to three years as swim team captain to co-founding and leading Zeta Chi Beta fraternity. He was a member of the Posey Leadership Institute and Alpha Phi Omega national service fraternity. He received the Lela May Currie and Marion Carol Currie Memorial Endowed Scholarship, a Sally Posey Leadership Fellowship, and a Charles F. Richardson III International Studies Scholarship.
The cum laude graduate also was inducted to Pi Sigma Alpha national political science honor society and Sigma Delta Pi national honor society in Spanish.
Cameron’s goals for the next year and the Fulbright experience are much the same as for his planned career in international diplomacy: to serve the U.S. and international community with greater levels of understanding.
Christiana Bay looks forward to teaching because she loves learning. She will spend 2011-2012 in South Korea as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. She has been interested in Asia since she was 10 years old and attended a camp at the Chinese Community Center in Houston. Her interest in studying Japanese language led to her decision to attend Austin College.
The English and psychology major from Austin, Texas, also is anxious to see new places, meet new people, and learn new things. She spent a study abroad semester in Florence, Italy, and traveled to Taiwan for January Term 2011.
Christiana expects to continue her own learning through the Fulbright experience, but her goals are for the children she will teach. “I intend to leave Korea with an imprint of memories from my students, lessons learned for my own personal growth, but also to have given them a love to continue their own education,” Christiana said.
On campus she had many opportunities for learning through work as a resident assistant and involvement in Omega Zeta sorority and campus theatre productions, as well as national honor societies in drama and psychology.
A magna cum laude graduate, Christiana was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa national undergraduate honor society and completed Honors in English with a thesis that included five original short stories interweaving Freud’s concept of psychosexual development with the seven deadly sins. After her Fulbright experience, Christiana is considering graduate school and a career in counseling, working with children. She also hopes to write novels for young people, an area she already has begun to explore through the short stories written for her thesis. She would like to be near friends and family, do some volunteer work abroad, and adopt a dog.
“To define success in terms of dollars and cents is extremely linear and narrow,” Christiana said. “To me, Austin College has strongly emphasized learning rather than grades, and I find that very applicable to life. Passing through life, going through the motions to achieve the linear ‘success’ not only is tiresome, boring, and sad, it’s lacking in color, vibrancy, and powerful essence. Continually learning in every aspect of life from work to familial situations is what success is about. Seeing new perspectives, experiencing new horizons, and always learning, are the keys to a more dimensional success.”
More Faces, More Success
Lewis Musoke and Dhruv “Bobby” Patel attended high school together in Nairobi, Kenya. When Lewis began to look for a small college with good premedical preparation, he found Austin College. Then, he sold his friend on the idea of enrolling with him. The two soon were making their mark upon the campus community.
Both were selected as Sally Posey Leadership Scholars and became involved in various college organizations. Both considered it important to promote their own culture on campus through involvement with the Student International Organization, which they later served as president and vice president. They were pleased to discover that their peers were very knowledgeable about other cultures and respected their differences and embraced their commonalities.
Lewis, selected by his classmates to present the senior address, completed a major in biology and a minor in French and performed with the Austin College A Cappella Choir and Quartette. At Austin College, he benefitted from the support of the Mary and Clifford Grum Sponsored Leadership Scholarship. This fall, he will begin his medical degree at St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada of the West Indies. Considering specialization in infectious diseases, he eventually will return to Kenya to practice medicine.
Bobby found his niche in finance. He served as a student manager in the Williams Student Investment Fund, completed three internships in finance, and was a finance and chemistry tutor in the Academic Skills Center. He also spent a study abroad semester at the Manchester Business School in England, receiving the A.J. Carlson Endowed Scholarship for International Experience and Study.
Selected to Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Chi honor societies, Bobby graduated magna cum laude, completing a major in international economics and finance and a minor in chemistry. His hard work paid off: he is employed with Goldman Sachs Specialty Lending. After training in New York City this summer, he will be in the firm’s Dallas, Texas, offices.
Austin College’s study abroad emphasis for students is well documented and regularly ranks in the top spot among peers for student participation. Class of 2011 graduates Rachel Dodd and Amy Kalmbach certainly did their share to move the College to the top of the lists.
Rachel, who this spring received the College’s Henry Bucher Global Citizen Award, traveled to Xi’an, China, and to Prague, Czech Republic, for Model United Nations competitions; to Battambang, Cambodia, for a Global Outreach Fellowship service experience; to Dhaka, Bangladesh, for an internship at Grameen Bank; to Taiwan for January Term study; and to Muscat, Oman, for a study abroad semester.
Even in the U.S., the international relations major with a minor in religious studies had many global experiences through five additional semesters of Model UN involvement. She also was a Sally Posey Leadership Scholar in the Posey Leadership Institute and a Sara Bernice Moseley Scholar, served as captain of the women’s lacrosse club team, and was a Sallie Majors Religious Life Intern and took part in leading ACtivator youth ministry events.
Rachel is interested in completing internships during the next year as she completes the application process for graduate school in international relations. Eventually, she hopes to work in the human rights field, particularly relating to human trafficking.
Amy said the global emphasis of Austin College is what led her to attend—and by graduation, she had certainly traveled the globe. She spent a semester in study abroad at Vesalius College in Brussels, also working as the Policy Intern for the European Youth Forum; took intensive Arabic classes in Morocco during one January Term and studied Spanish in Argentina for another. She also spent 12 weeks in Thailand as a Global Outreach Fellow, serving through HELP International. Those were just her main stops. Each experience involved additional travel, adding to the total of 23 countries she visited during college.
The Sally Posey Leadership Fellow in the Posey Leadership Institute also was a regional volunteer coordinator for the Obama for America campaign in Ohio, served as a Sallie Majors Religious Life Intern, participated in Model United Nations competitions, was a member of the Service Station board, and led the campus chapter of Amnesty International. She also worked at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Sherman.
Amy, a political science and French major with a minor in community service and policy, received the Hatton W. Sumners Scholarship in Political Science and the Lela Mae Currie and Marion Carol Currie Memorial Scholarship, as well as the Johnson-Pense Sponsored Moseley Scholarship.
The magna cum laude graduate will begin study this fall at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas for a degree in global policy studies with a focus in international development. She hopes to work in a non-governmental organization in promotion of cultural sustainability and development.
Both Amy and Rachel are members of Omega Zeta sorority.