At the university-wide Commencement ceremony on May 15, three students will represent Arts & Sciences by carrying banners for the College and the Office of Graduate Studies. These student marshals have each demonstrated exemplary efforts in their respective fields. Ahead of the big day, we asked them to reflect on their favorite memories, proudest accomplishments, and lasting lessons from their time at WashU.
Ephraim Oyetunji, AB ‘23
Major: Biology (neuroscience track)
WashU has taught me to appreciate the memories and the time you have with the people you care about. College is a very unique time with young, driven people all around the same age who are eager to be part of a community. I appreciate the mentors and peers I’ve befriended who pushed me to become the best version of myself.
I’m most proud of my work with the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS). I’ve been on the executive board since my first year at WashU, and it’s been a privilege seeing how much the club has grown and what we have accomplished as a team. Last year, we won Chapter of the Year for the Midwestern region, and I won Member of the Year. This year, we won Chapter of the Year not only for the region, but nationally. Aside from attending conferences and supporting students on campus, we have also worked to contribute to the St. Louis community through the St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank. I will miss my time in MAPS, and I look forward to cultivating similar communities after I graduate.
Cecilia Wright, AB ‘23
I’m most proud of the work that resulted from my time studying Francis McIntosh, a Black sailor who was lynched in St. Louis in 1836. That work began by chance. I found McIntosh mentioned in a letter written by William Greenleaf Eliot, one of the co-founders of WashU, whose correspondence I was reading and transcribing as a research assistant for a course taught by Professors Carl F. Craver and Iver Bernstein. I searched McIntosh’s name and was dissatisfied with the information I was able to find. This dissatisfaction led to years of archival research, a senior history thesis, and ongoing work with the Reparative Justice Coalition of St. Louis and the Griot Museum of Black History to memorialize McIntosh in a lasting, public way.
I think the lesson I have most appreciated learning during my time at WashU is that no work needs to be done alone, and, in fact, no work is better for having been done alone. If you are beginning a project, you can be certain that someone else has already done it — or something similar! Figure out what has already been done, in what ways the prior work is effective, and in what ways it is not. Once you begin your own work, know that there are people — both inside and outside of WashU —who will be interested in what you are doing and whose help and insights will be invaluable. Spend time identifying those people and keep reaching out!
Jinping Yang, PhD ‘23
Although the global pandemic has brought about a lot of challenges, I cherish one particular memory from 2020. It was when we stepped back on campus after being locked down for months. I saw my labmates coming toward me, and my heart just filled with joy. Despite the social distance and strict mask policy in place at the time, we caught up in the hallway and it was like we were all just happy to be alive and together. We worked together to put up signs, draw markers for social distancing, and prepare hygiene sites, and the vibe was just so uplifting. It was a true display of teamwork and resilience, and it felt amazing to be a part of it. That moment was small but precious, and it was a reminder that no matter what challenges we face, we can overcome them together.
Working in a research lab can be an uphill battle with experiments often resulting in failure and leaving one feeling uncertain and frustrated. Fortunately, in our lab, we celebrate every little success and lift each other up during moments of doubt. The genuine compliments and heartfelt words of encouragement I’ve received from my mentor, labmates, and peers have become an anchor in my life, providing the support and motivation I need to overcome challenges and push through obstacles. I am truly grateful for this community and the kindness it has shown me, and I am committed to passing on that same warmth and encouragement to those around me.