Commencement 2012: The Faces You’ll See and the Places They’ll Go

May 15, 2012

Whitney Brooks

Hard work and determination have defined Whitney Brooks‘ college experience. Raised by a single mother and the eldest of three siblings, she arrived at Mary Baldwin through the Partnership for the Future program, which helps prepare high-potential, high school students from challenging circumstances for college. She has made the most of her time at Mary Baldwin as a leader and academic standout: managing nine student organizations in her work as chairwoman of Minority Clubs United, leading the college’s Judicial Board, and earning her degree in English in just three years. In April, Brooks received the President’s Award, recognizing her honor and integrity, dedication to diversity, commitment to academics, exceptional leadership qualities, and campus and community service. The 21-year-old Richmond resident plans to work as a program coordinator for Partnership for the Future and study for the Law School Admission Test. ” I have gained far more than just an education, for I have truly learned many life lessons,” Brooks said. “Graduating from Mary Baldwin University means that I have set new standards for myself — to now go out into the world and display the womanhood that I have accomplished while here. It means that I have achieved a new level as a role model for my younger siblings and have also set the bar as a first-generation college student.”

Angela Gupta

“The most important thing that I have gained from Mary Baldwin is confidence,” said Lynchburg resident Angela Gupta. “Starting at the age of 13 through the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted, I was always unsure about myself. My experiences at Mary Baldwin have allowed me to flourish. I now feel confident exploring new topics, pursuing my interests, and voicing my opinions.” With a bachelor’s degree in biology and minors in chemistry and music, the 17-year-old will enter the MD/PhD program at Virginia Commonwealth University next fall.

Jessica Hartzog

As Jessica Hartzog searches for a job back home in North Carolina after graduating with a degree in business sustainability, she’ll be armed with the leadership skills (thanks to her years as a cadet in the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership) and academic research capabilities (demonstrated in her senior sustainability analysis of Tyson Foods, Inc.) many employers will find desirable. She’ll also have the knack to relate to people from all backgrounds. “The most important life lesson I learned at Mary Baldwin is how diverse the world is and yet how we are all really the same,” Hartzog said. “I have worked with people from all walks of life during my four years here at Mary Baldwin and I believe I have a much better outlook when it comes to walking in other peoples’ shoes. This lesson sticks with me every day.”

Cait Henck

She is involved in so many Mary Baldwin activities, and has grown into such a strong leader, it’s hard to imagine that when Cait Henck came to Mary Baldwin as a freshman, the Baltimore native begged to go home, believing that she could never survive a small town like Staunton. Lucky for her and her classmates, she stuck it out, becoming a class marshal, resident advisor, healthy lifestyles gateway peer, and member of the Ida B. Wells Society; participating in the Mason Center for Social Entrepreneurship; leading the campus LGBTQ group, SOULS; and being invited into honor societies Alpha Lambda, Omicron Delta Kappa, Omicron Delta Epsilon, and Phi Beta Kappa. Along the way, Henck has forged strong relationships with students, faculty, and staff alike. “As I look back on the past few years, with the sisters I’ve made ‘across the ages,’ I cannot imagine a better use of my time, energy, commitment, or love. I have grown from a girl to a woman in such a short amount of time, and for that I will always owe a large part of my heart and soul to this college. While it pains me to leave the place I’ve called home for so long — the place that has nurtured my dreams, skills, and ambitions — I feel confident that Mary Baldwin has prepared me to the highest degree to enter the world as a force to be reckoned with in the best of ways.” Henck is earning dual degrees in international business and economics and a minor in sexuality and gender studies.

Leighann Kimble

At the college’s annual Capstone Festival last week, Leighann Kimble accomplished something no other student has in the history of the event. She gave presentations in all three of her majors: sociology/anthropology, Asian studies, and international relations. The vigorous academic milestone was a meaningful end to her career at Mary Baldwin, which began as a young teenager in the Program for the Exceptionally gifted, and a symbolic start to a fulfilling career. Kimble next heads to the University of Maryland Carey King School of Law, where she’ll focus on international and immigration law. Eventually, she hopes to develop a nonprofit organization to serve indigenous communities in Latin America and work in public policy or linguistic anthropology. “At Mary Baldwin I learned that everything and anything is attainable, you just have to work to get it,” said the 17-year-old Baltimore native.” People often think that they are limited and Mary Baldwin has taught me to keep trying to reach my dreams, to keep learning and keep working until I reach my goals, whatever they may be.”

Krittika Krishnan

At the end of her junior year, Krittika Krishnan made Mary Baldwin history. She was the first international student and first student in the Program for the Exceptionally gifted who was elected Student Government Association President. In all of her four years at Mary Baldwin, not only has Krishnan made an impression at the college, but the college has made an impression on her. Inspiring her most were advisor and Associate Professor of Psychology Louise Freeman, unofficial mentor and Assistant Professor of Psychology Chandra Mason, and best friend Ann Philip ’11. Next, the 18-year-old native of India heads to the University of Texas’ behavioral neuroscience PhD program. “The past four years at Mary Baldwin has been a potluck of wonderful, sweet memories,” Krishnan said. “It’s shocking that we’ve reached the end of those four years … as if in the blink of an eye. I will greatly miss my close friends, professors and mentors here at Mary Baldwin. They have been a second family and I would not have been able to succeed without each and every one of them. It’s going to be a bittersweet parting, because I am ready for the next step in my career, but Mary Baldwin will always be my second home.”

Craig Maupin

As a high school senior in 1986, Charlottesville native Craig Maupin encountered a common virus from which he never recovered. He was diagnosed with chronic Epstein-Barre, a disease renamed as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). “CFS often creates a great deal of mental and physical exhaustion, even with small tasks,” said Maupin, a student in the Baldwin Online and Adult Programs (Baldwin Online and Adult Programs). “While at Mary Baldwin University, I completed most of my work for college from a bed or a horizontal chair next to a computer. The flexibility of the program was a key for me.” Maupin, whose mother also graduated from Mary Baldwin as an adult student, has found a cadre of “helpful and wonderful people” who have supported him since he began studying at Mary Baldwin in 2006. Despite the hardship of CFS, Maupin said that the illness had some positive effects on his work as a double major in English and marketing communication, because it allowed him time to think deeply and creatively. “My illness gave me a unique ‘outside’ perspective that I brought to my assignments and projects,” Maupin explained. His English thesis focused on Native-American views of modern materialism. Looking forward from Commencement, Maupin is not certain what the future holds, but he will maintain the conviction that “sometimes life’s goals are best achieved in small steps. If need be, take a long-term perspective.”

Priyanka Nadar

Priyanka Nadar‘s undergraduate research evaluating estrogenic activity of the suspected endocrine disrupting compound Triclosan and its effects on breast cancer proliferation has prepared her well for her future as a graduate student. The 17-year-old biology major (with minors in chemistry, math, and Asian studies) is headed to Dartmouth College in the fall to pursue a PhD in engineering and afterward hopes to attend medical school. “While I’m really sad to leave Mary Baldwin behind, I’m excited to move on to the next stage of my life,” said the Pennsylvania native. “Mary Baldwin has definitely prepared me for graduate school in terms of research and leadership experience.”

Courtney Saunders

For those who know her, it’s hard to imagine that Courtney Saunders won’t make a difference in the world. She will graduate with a psychology degree and minors in education and gender studies, and plas to earn a master’s degree in teaching. Through leadership roles in the Residence Hall Association, the Annual Fund Phonathon, and the language lab and off-campus work as a teacher at Central United Methodist Church and as a professional nursing assistant at Western State Hospital, Saunders has demonstrated her ability to make an impact. “I have a voice,” said the Hampton native. “And if I choose not to use it, I choose not to be heard. It is up to me to change my environment and my expectations.”

Tierra Smith

When Tierra Smith crosses the stage to receive her diploma on May 20, she’ll not only be closing out an impressive college career but she’ll be making a lasting impression on four young people in her life: her brothers De’John, Joshua, Isiah, and Desmond. Smith is the first in her family to go to college, and she’s made the most of four years at Mary Baldwin. “Being a pioneer in my family has really been a motivation for me. Graduating from Baldwin is such an honor and I have grown so much as the result of my education here,” Smith said. Earlier this academic year, she founded the social work honor society Phi Alpha, and, at Honors Convocation, she received the Charlotte Forten Grimké Award, in honor of the African-American anti-slavery activist, poet, and educator. Smith has been a leader in her work at New Directions, the Salvation Army, and Valley Mission. The 22-year-old Fredericksburg native has led the Social Work Club in various projects and has mentored middle-school students. She is an active Spencer Citizen and an engaged member of the Ida B. Wells Community. Next, Smith begins work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and pursuit of a master’s degree in social work.

Stephanie Wilson

Stephanie Wilson‘s college experience provides the ideal example of the flexibility and individual tailoring that is integral to Mary Baldwin University’s Graduate Teacher Education (GTE) program. While earning her Master of Education degree — which she completed in January — Wilson selected courses and customized projects that related directly to her position as director of multicultural services and service learning at Bridgewater College. “I was able to learn something in class one evening and apply it the next day. It was so wonderfully empowering to be a student again,” said Wilson, who earned her undergraduate degree at Oregon State University and served as program coordinator for Mary Baldwin’s Office of African-American and Multicultural Affairs before taking her post at Bridgewater. Wilson remains in the GTE program through fall 2012 to complete her certification in autism spectrum disorders, and she says her Mary Baldwin professors have helped her feel “prepared for the challenge” of entering a PhD program in the future.