ArtSci student marshals

Carrying the Banner: Meet the 2018 Student Marshals

At the university-wide Commencement ceremony on May 18, small groups of students from every branch of Arts & Sciences will be representing their schools by carrying their school banners. It’s an honor to be selected; each student marshal was chosen for their exemplary student career whether in the College, the Graduate School, or at University College. Ahead of the big day, the ArtSci student marshals reflect on their journeys and share their favorite memories and advice.

College of Arts & Sciences

Rob CurranRob Curran, LA’18
Major: History

What is something WashU has taught you to appreciate (about the world, life, etc.)?
WashU has taught me to appreciate architecture, design, and impactful space. I gained this respect for the built environment because many of my friends were based in Sam Fox, but also because the campus and city are both so textured and thought-provoking. It’s also been a wild journey to get out of the bubble and wander through North St. Louis. The closeness in proximity juxtaposed with the distance in privilege and upkeep between WashU and the city at-large has helped me reckon with my own blessings and give back to the community. St. Louis is a great place to study issues of urbanity because, unfortunately, the city is a great case study in what not to do when it comes to urban planning. Much of the city’s residential mapping, civic spatial priorities, and redevelopment schemes are steeped in racism. While it is easy to emphasize the ugly when thinking about St. Louis, one should also recognize the city’s resilience and surviving ethos, both of which are cemented by local place-making initiatives and rich neighborhoods that cherish diversity and preservation. And I’m thankful to have lived and interacted in many of these significant spaces.

What is your funniest and/or favorite memory at WashU?
My favorite memory at WashU came during Bob Hansman’s community tour. We so easily forget about the ghetto that exists just north of campus, and the tour helped me gauge and acknowledge the community for the first time. It’s a tough tour because the sights are so jarring, but recognizing the uprooted reality of the city’s African American community is the only way one can actually understand the city itself. Plus, the tour provided me with a rough map of the Northside, which I’ve been able to fill in with greater detail by biking through the complicated terrain in my free time. North St. Louis is gorgeous for so many reasons, and I really wish all WashU students felt the same way.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your time here?
I’m most proud to have maintained a healthy relationship with the city. Volunteering with City Faces, learning about the history of St. Louis in my courses, and interacting with my neighbors in my personal time proved to be thought-provoking and, at times, defeating, but overwhelmingly positive.

 

Lauren JohnsonLauren Johnson, LA’18
Major: Earth and Planetary Sciences: Geochemistry

What is something WashU has taught you to appreciate (about the world, life, etc)?
WashU taught me to appreciate the relationships I have with other people. The opportunities I have received as a student here has allowed me to connect with people from all over the world such as by studying abroad in Dublin last semester. Because of this experience and many more throughout my undergraduate years, I realized the passion I have for reaching others in need which inspired me to teach high school chemistry through Teach for America after I graduate. Without the relationships I have built during my time here, I would not be the confident and determined woman that I am today.

What has your time at WashU taught you about yourself?
Spending time at WashU has taught me to always make time for self-care. As someone who is not pre-med but still took most of those courses, I often found myself with overwhelming amounts of work and stress that accumulated into several illnesses. After I was hospitalized for the second time within one year, I realized that I had to make a change and focus on my own happiness. Once I did that, my mental and physical health vastly improved and I began to wholeheartedly enjoy my last remaining moments here.

What is your funniest and/or favorite memory at WashU?
My favorite memory at WashU is when I was a dancer for Black Anthology. It was my first and only cultural show here, and it allowed me to release my passion for dance for the first time since high school. I especially loved seeing everyone committed and working so hard for something we were all very proud of. When I went abroad last semester, one of the things I missed the most was Black Anthology since I was unable to once again experience such a diverse and extraordinary group of students.

 

Noah WeberNoah Weber, LA’18
Majors: Chinese Language & Culture and English Literature: Creative Writing

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your time here?
My translation of Chinese author Lao She’s Xiaopo de shengri (小坡的生日,Little Po’s Birthday) and the research I have done in the process of that translation. Lao She was an important early-20th century author and many of his works have been translated, but this early work of his currently lacks an English version. It takes place in Singapore and features a cast of young children, and is at once silly and thought-provoking.

What is your favorite memory at WashU?
Many of my favorite memories come from my jazz piano lessons with Kara Baldus these four years, and I’m glad WashU gave me the opportunity to keep up that creative outlet each semester.

What has something WashU has taught you to appreciate?
A good nap.

 

Graduate School

MASTER’S GRADUATES

Heather Himes

Heather Himes, MFA’18
Concentration: Dance

What is something WashU has taught you to appreciate (about the world, life, etc)?
It has taught me to appreciate the prior training and knowledge that I bring with me when I enter a new space. My knowledge is valuable and I should be confident and willing to share my experiences.  

What is your funniest and/or favorite memory at WashU?
My favorite memory is immediately after my cohort and I finished our thesis concert. We embraced and cried together for several minutes. It is something incredibly special about going through this experience with two incredibly talented women and completing this journey together.

What one word best describes how you feel about carrying the banner at graduation?
AYE!!!

 

Peter TaylorPeter Taylor, BS’18, MA’18
Major: History; Concentration: American Culture Studies

I appreciate the opportunity to fulfill a personal goal set well over 35 years ago.  After not being able to complete a college degree after high school, I went into the United States Air Force to fly airplanes and did that until I retired twenty years later.  I then went into the corporate arena where, many years later, I also retired.  It was then that I was able to return to complete that unfinished task, that has now been satisfied.

What one word best describes how you feel about carrying the banner at graduation?
I am honored to have been chosen to lead my classmates into the Commencement ceremony as a student marshal.

 

DOCTORAL GRADUATES

Andrea BolivarAndrea Bolivar, PhD’18
Concentration: Anthropology; Certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your time here?
While I am especially proud of few accomplishments, such as co-founding the Latinx Graduate Student Alliance in 2012, I am most proud of my dissertation defense, which took place just a few weeks ago! My dissertation examines the experiences of transgender Latinas in Chicago. Conducting the research and writing the dissertation were extremely difficult, yet rewarding, endeavors. I felt so proud to be able to present an overview of the final product during my defense. I was also honored that I could answer my committee members’ questions, ultimately engaging in a rich scholarly discussion with such impressive professors. In anthropology, the defenses are open to the public. The audience was composed of my students, family members, friends, and colleagues, as well as other random people who were interested in my project. I am a Chancellor’s fellow, and another fellow who is a PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering—a field that could not be more different from my own---was in the audience! I felt so supported. And of course, I passed, and my family and friends threw me an amazing party. I am the first in my family to graduate high school, so I felt so incredibly proud to successfully complete the last requirement for the PhD. So far, it is one of the happiest days of my life.

What is your funniest and/or favorite memory at WashU?
I have many fond memories of events for the Chancellor’s Graduate Fellowship Program. The program has been such a vital source of support and inspiration for me. While all of the fellows are committed to combatting inequality and increasing diversity within academia, we all come from such different disciplines. Therefore, I have had the privilege of learning about a variety of fields, approaches, and perspectives from my colleagues in the program. Some of the most interesting, inspiring, and grounding conversations I have had on campus have been with Chancellor’s Fellows, both at strictly academic events and more social gatherings. I also have a soft spot in my heart for the program because it is where I met my partner!

What one word best describes how you feel about carrying the banner at graduation?
Proud.

 

Elissa BullionElissa Bullion, PhD’18
Concentration: Anthropology

What is something WashU has taught you to appreciate (about the world, life, etc)?
The biggest thing that being at WashU has taught me to appreciate is the value of collaboration and camaraderie in research and teaching. During my career as a graduate student at WashU, I have had the opportunity to work with many different faculty and students both within Anthropology and in other departments including history and neuroscience. These relationships were invaluable to developing my skills as a researcher and scholar. Research, in all academic disciplines, is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, allowing us to explore new avenues we never could as independent fields. But for this type of research to truly flourish, it is not enough to gather a group of good scholars, those scholars must understand how to work together and appreciate each other's contributions. At WashU, I observed and was fortunate to be a part of many such effective work groups and came to appreciate not just the importance of rigorous research, but of compromise, dialogue, and even disagreement. I am thankful that I was able to gain so much of this experience at WashU and know it will serve me well as I embark on the next phase of my academic career.

What has your time at WashU taught you about yourself?
My time at WashU has taught me many things about myself, as a student, a teacher, and a friend. As a student, WashU has taught me that there is always something more to learn. The faculty and my fellow students at WashU constantly showed me that no matter how much I thought I knew about a topic, there was always another layer to explore. As a teacher, working with WashU students taught me that when you give students the opportunity to engage with material, they not only improve their learning, but also offer new perspectives. I always knew that WashU students were smart, but they still managed to constantly surprise and impress me and push me to expand my understanding of topics as well. Finally, my time spent in the WashU community has taught me about being a friend and building community. Graduate school is a labor of love, but at least for me, my love for my work would never have been enough without the support of my friends near and far. The stress and time commitment of graduate school left me out of touch with many friends, and some years I barely saw my friends in the next office over. But the experience taught me that good friends will still be there at the end. It also taught me that taking time to be with friends is sometimes more important that spending just one more hour on a paper or lecture. Graduate students can tend to idolize extreme dedication of time and effort to our work, but I have found that I am a better scholar when I have been recharged and inspired by time with my friends.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your time here?
The accomplishment that I think I am most proud of from my time at WashU is winning the H. Kathleen Cook Prize. This prize is awarded to a graduate student in anthropology who exemplifies Kathleen's dedication to excellence in scholarship, teaching, and community building. This prize reflects my academic accomplishments, from being awarded an NSF dissertation grant to successfully running field excavations in the mountains of Uzbekistan. It also celebrates my teaching experience with WashU and UCollege students. As much as I love my research, teaching has been one of the most rewarding parts of my time at WashU. But most of all, I am most proud of the Cook prize because the award is determined through nominations from my peers. One of my biggest reasons for choosing to come to WashU for graduate school was for the graduate community in the Anthropology Department. The research, innovation, and friendships cultivated by my peers never ceased to inspire me throughout my graduate career. I strove to live up to the high standards set by those who came before me and those coming up, so being nominated for this prize was incredibly humbling and more than any publication or grant made me feel like my time as a graduate student at WashU was time well spent.

 

Ching-Ting HwangChing-Ting Hwang, PhD’18
Concentration: Movement Science

What is something WashU has taught you to appreciate?
The power of collaboration and reaching out to start a conversation. The unique perspectives and diverse expertise of faculty, staff, and students at Washington University has brought to life innovative and interdisciplinary research and ideas. I have learned to appreciate conversations with scholars in other fields and leaders from outside of academe.  It all starts by reaching out - who knows where the next conversation you have might take you?

What is your funniest and/or favorite memory at WashU?
Our lab had everyone in the department take pictures with a bobble head of my doctoral advisor. On her birthday, we threw a surprise party and revealed all the funny pictures taken with her bobble head.

 What one word best describes how you feel about carrying the banner at graduation?
Honored.

 

University College

Melanie BehbahaniMelanie Behbahani, MS’18
Concentration: Clinical Research Management

What has your time at WashU taught you about yourself?
My time at Washington University has shown me how resilient and tenacious I can be.  Like many others who chose to continue education later in life, I have had to juggle classes with the demands of a full-time job and family (including 2 young children and 2 retrievers).  There were quite a few times I doubted my ability to “do it all”, but I am proud to say that I never gave up.  I sincerely thank my family, friends, and my program instructors for all the encouragement and support they provided.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your time here?
Graduating!  I entered the program in 2013, and it has been a long road to graduation as personal and professional demands have affected my ability to take courses with any regularity.  The fact that I hung in there and am graduating with a MS degree feels amazing!

What one word best describes how you feel about carrying the banner at graduation?
Pride.  I am so proud to say I graduated from Washington University.  This has been a dream of mine for so long, seeing it become reality is beyond words.  Being asked to carry the banner at graduation also provides another example to my children of the great things that can happen when you persevere through tough times.

 

Jenny KiserJenny Kiser, BS’18
Major: Global Leadership and Management

What is something WashU has taught you to appreciate (about the world, life, etc.)?
WashU has taught me to appreciate that hard work really does pay off and although achieving one’s goals takes sacrifice, the end result is worth every effort. 

What has your time at WashU taught you about yourself?
My time at WashU has taught me that both my strengths and weaknesses have equally helped put me on the path to where I am today.  As long as I focus on what I want to accomplish, I will have no trouble reaching my full potential.

What one word best describes how you feel about carrying the banner at graduation?
Proud

 

Adam PresswoodAdam Presswood, BS’18
Major: History

What is something WashU has taught you to appreciate (about the world, life, etc.)?
Prior to coming to WashU, my life was filled with a number of boring, frustrating, and obligatory commitments that were unenjoyable, stressful, and unfulfilling. Those commitments came in various forms-occupational, academic, etc., but the one thing they all had in common was their emphasis on having answers. Once I finally worked up the courage to go back to school and to do it at WashU, I was amazed at how different it was from everything else that I had allowed to clutter up my life to that point. Studying at WashU has not been boring, obligatory, or stressful. In contrast, it has been both enjoyable and fulfilling. Perhaps more importantly, at WashU I have learned the value of searching for the answers, rather than simply possessing them. In short, my experience at WashU has shown me that the key to happiness is in picking your own projects and passions, and in eliminating (to the extent possible) those things that drain you of joy and zest, leaving both your intellect and your soul unencumbered and free to pursue knowledge for its own sake, in contrast to the myriad of reasons for which we sometimes find ourselves doing things.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your time here?
Since beginning my studies at WashU as a history major, I have made the Dean's List during all but my first semester, and I was just inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.

What one word best describes how you feel about carrying the banner at graduation?
Humbled

 

 

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