Meet the Class of 2019 Top 10 Outstanding Seniors

Vanderbilt's 2018 Top Ten Outstanding Seniors
Vanderbilt's 2018 Top Ten Outstanding Seniors

At this weekend’s Homecoming football game, Vanderbilt will name its Class of 2019 Outstanding senior. Students were nominated by their organizations and interviewed by a selection panel before the top 20 were voted on by peers.The tradition goes back to 2005 and honors the accomplishments of nominated seniors. The Hustler sat down with the Top 10 to learn more about their time at Vanderbilt and what makes them outstanding.

smith

Samantha Smith

Undergraduate Honor Council, AmbassaDores, Tour Guides and Dore for a Day

What does being Outstanding Senior mean to you?

I hope it means that Vanderbilt and my peers recognize the sense of community I’ve tried to form at Vanderbilt and the amount of energy, time and love I’ve put into building up this community and relationships among my peers, professors and faculty in different corners of campus. I think in another sense it also means that I have a new way of reaching out to students. I’d like to be able to engage with the student body as a way to show them what my Vanderbilt experience looked like and help them learn from the mistakes I’ve made along the way, the lessons I’ve learned, the things I’ve enjoyed and just be a resource for other students.

What is one of your best/most memorable Vanderbilt experiences?

It’s hard because there’s so many. There’s so many things that have shaped me in different ways. Some of the most memorable ones are some of the hardest lessons to learn, some of the challenges, but I think also some of the ones that you walk away from and smile are the ones you want to say are the most memorable. I think from that the relationships I’ve formed with people are really the first thing that come to mind because that kind of bridges both of those. People that help you through the hard times and difficult situations, but then also the people that are there for all of the good moments in between. Some of my most memorable moments are sitting in office hours with professors and just talking about random topics, where you go in for one assignment and you end up talking for an hour. Other memorable moments are friendships with people that we started on an executive board here on campus and then years later they’ve graduated and we still text regularly and keep talking. It’s not really one moment or memory, but generally the relationships you get out of Vanderbilt.

What was one of your most challenging Vanderbilt experiences?

I think the biggest challenge I faced was medical problems along the way. I think why it stands out to me is that for a lot of Vanderbilt students, balancing obligations is very difficult because we’re all super passionate and like to get involved. I think that’s what makes our community so special. When I had these medical problems, it was something I had no control over and it wasn’t like I overbooked my time with something, my time was just taken away from me. That was something that was hard to face and hard to kind of understand how it wasn’t anything I necessarily did wrong or didn’t plan for. It wasn’t anything I necessarily did wrong or I hadn’t planned for, and I think this is something that happens to Vanderbilt students in different ways. It may not always be strictly a medical thing, things happen that get in the way of our ability to control what we’re doing. But, what I will say is Vanderbilt was there for me in that in a way I never expected. Whether it was peers that I talked to on exec boards and said I need help, I can’t do everything right now, and they stepped up and were there for me. They were there to direct me to resources. Resources suddenly weren’t a buzzword, they were people there with a smile, ready to help you and communicate on your behalf. It was definitely a challenge, and it’s definitely something I’ve learned how to kind of face moving forward, but I think being able to learn that at Vanderbilt with such a supportive environment and having learned how to accept help when I need it is definitely something I’m very grateful for.

How do you recommend that other students maximize their time at Vanderbilt?

I think my advice would be to invest in people. No matter what you do in your time here, you’re going to find things you love doing, find things you’re passionate about, but at the end of the day you could do a whole variety of things that could give you amazing experiences and change your perspective on the world, and those will continue to influence you when you leave this campus, but the things that will maintain their influence on you are going to be the people.

Pierce

Jacob Pierce

MLC, VUcept and RA in Hank Ingram

What does being selected as an Outstanding Senior mean to you?

It’s a very complicated award I think because I’ve thought a lot about what had to be given up to be nominated for this position, whether it’s in terms of academics, social life or mental health. I think to be nominated I feel very humbled, I feel very grateful that people think that I have done activities on campus that are considered to be outstanding. But I’m also critically reflecting on what that means and just trying to authentically talk about my experiences and just trying to share those experiences because it’s a very complicated award. I think that it’s nice to have that recognition, but with that recognition comes a lot of critical reflection on my time here at Vanderbilt.

What is one of your best/most memorable Vanderbilt experiences?

The one that comes first to my mind is I met Joe Biden in March or April when he was here, so that definitely stands out. I got to shake his hand, so that was pretty cool. Other than that, when I was a first year we had a humongous snow storm that came through Vanderbilt, and it was so beautiful out here because all of Commons was covered in snow, classes were cancelled, it was very nice. It was a nice time for me, so those are the two things that come to mind.

What was one of your most challenging Vanderbilt experiences?

I think learning to say no and realizing that I don’t have to do everything for everybody. I think a lot of what I’m trying to do a better job of this year is empowering other people to take control of their lives, to take control of their involvement on campus, to reach out to other people, to just do more of that. Letting other people know they have the power to do these things or just taking a step back so that new ideas, new energy can come up and kind of be cultivated. I think my biggest challenge has definitely been the inability to just say no because I always want to help people. It’s very hard for me when somebody comes to me asking for help it honestly breaks my heart to have to tell them no, and so just remembering that I can’t fully invest in people if I’m not investing in myself and realizing that there’s so many other people on campus who are going to be in this same position a year, two years, three years from now, so just giving them that training, those skills because I want everybody here to be successful. If I’m hogging that lane for guidance, mentorship and friendship then I know the things I care about will be worse off down the road, so I’m trying to take a step back so new people can be involved and make sure their ideas are heard.

How do you recommend that other students maximize their time at Vanderbilt?

I think the biggest piece of advice I have is just to relax. Everything is going to work out, and I know that’s kind of difficult to believe. I think of it like you’re on an airplane. You’re flying on an airplane and sometimes you’ll hit turbulence and if you’re like me, i hate flying. But you know I hit turbulence and i think that the plane’s falling out of the sky, but that’s not necessarily the case, you know, you’re just dropping a few feet, but you’re still flying towards that destination and getting to where you need to go. I think just being more comfortable with that turbulence and realizing that everything is going forward, everything is moving forward in a positive direction. You just have to make sure you’re asking for help and reaching out when you need it.

Williams

Zaria Williams

VUcept Vice President and President of Eta Beta chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

What does being selected as an Outstanding Senior mean to you?

I think it’s such an honor and something I never imagined seeing myself nominated for. Especially as a first-year just because I had a lot of struggles my freshman year adjusting and feeling like I mattered on this campus. It really was upperclassman I think who really helped me, mentored me and made me feel like I had a voice and made me feel like was important on this campus. When I was a freshman and saw a lot of those people who nominated for Outstanding Senior, they were people I felt like had a big impact in my life and had been really important to me. I’ve always thought of it as someone who made a difference on campus by just being there for people and being really intentional about how they treat other people and making other people feel important on campus. That’s what it means to me and I think I’ve tried to do that just by being here in everyday interactions and through organizations, so to be recognized for that means a lot to me and means that all the struggles I went through were worth it.

What is one of your best/most memorable Vanderbilt experiences?

I think I’ve had a lot of really good moments at Vanderbilt that have changed me for the better. I think one things that I’ll never forget is the first year I became a VUceptor we had a VUcept meeting, and we were doing this activity where they would pull names out of a little fishbowl or a little hat, and that person had to go up and tell a story. I was terrified to tell a story because I don’t think I was super confident at the time and just didn’t feel like my opinion was really important or that it mattered. My name ended up getting called, of course, so I had to go up there, and I talked about just what I was going through, and how I was feeling like I wasn’t super important at Vanderbilt, but that I had seen people who made me feel important just by being my friend, listening to me and telling me what they were going through. I told everyone about how I was trying to make an impact that way, and just getting up in front of all the VUceptors and sharing my story boosted my confidence so much and made me able to share my story with other VUceptees, with other people in my life and created that culture of vulnerability, embracing struggles and listening to everyone’s perspectives. That moment stands out to me a lot.

What was one of your most challenging Vanderbilt experiences?

My challenging time at Vanderbilt was definitely first semester junior year. That was when I saw the ugly side of leadership and over-involvement. I was doing way too many things, just involved in too many organizations, taking 18 hours, doing research and trying to overcompensate for not really knowing exactly what I wanted to do and what kind of impact I wanted to make. That was a really hard time for me, I struggled a lot academically during that time. I just really struggled taking care of myself physically and mentally. It was just a really bad semester just all around, and I ended up having to quit some things, take a step back and retake some things. After that I really learned what it meant to be intentional about what you’re doing, and everything you’re doing should have purpose. You can’t overspread yourself because then you’re not having a purpose and impact in anything that you’re doing. It was just a really humbling moment for me. I think after that I’ve gotten way more out of my academic experiences and my leadership experiences after having that overload and really taking a step back and seeing what was important to me.

How do you recommend that other students maximize their time at Vanderbilt?

I would say first off, know that you matter and that people matter the most. I think a lot of my junior year and a lot of my early time at Vanderbilt, I was so worried about doing things that I wasn’t really pouring into relationships as much as I could and not taking advantage of and embracing how many great people I had around me. Looking at the Top 20 Outstanding Seniors and Top 10 Outstanding Seniors, a lot of them are my close friends, and I don’t think I would have gotten on the list if I hadn’t really leaned on those people for their guidance, their mentorship and their friendship in general. I think value your friendships more than anything, that is what has made all the difference for me and gotten me through. Like I was just saying, just not over spreading yourself, and really just valuing what’s important to you and taking time to seek that out. You don’t have to rush into leadership, you don’t have to do 50 things to be successful if you can just be good at one thing and love that thing, get something out of that thing. That will be worth it.

Klein_edit

Cutler Klein

Vanderbilt Hustler Sports Editor, VandyRadio and VTV

What does being selected as an Outstanding Senior mean to you?

It means a lot. I mean, being a senior now and having experienced what I have over the past four years, it’s hard to imagine graduating in May just because I’ve enjoyed my time here so much. To see myself up there with so many incredible people who have done so much on this campus, far more far-reaching and far more impactful than I feel like I have, it’s really incredible. It’s humbling, it’s flattering, it’s truly an honor.

What is one of your best/most memorable Vanderbilt experiences?

Oh that’s a tough one. It would probably have to be getting to meet Skip Bayless last year. Not only getting to meet him, but getting to interact with him on a personal level. I got to spend a lot of time with him, got to know him and understand what his Vanderbilt experience was and how it shaped him in the rest of his career because he has changed the sports media landscape a lot. It was really an honor to get to know him and to see one of Vanderbilt’s proudest alumni come back and get to re-experience it. He was really willing to share his experience because Vanderbilt set him on the path towards what he did because of the way he was able to express himself creatively here and was able to establish his own identity, and I feel like Vanderbilt’s done the same thing for me.

What was one of your most challenging Vanderbilt experience?

It’s really been a four year process, it’s the “trial by fire” of time management. That’s what this place really is. If you want a new slogan, that’s it. It’s been a struggle for me over the last few years to find the balance of time to be able to have an active social life, be able to maintain relationships with people outside of a working or student organization context, and be able to have time to maintain the academic level that is required to be at a place like this to be able to excel in all of those areas and find a way to do that to the best of your ability. It’s not easy, and it’s not been easy since day one, and balancing a lot of those relationships has been hard and at times it’s been overwhelming. At points I needed to take a step back and be like okay, what’s important here? What can I do and what is going to make me the happiest and most sane in any given moment. For some people it’s easier than others, for me it was tough at times. I don’t even know if I’m there yet, but I’ve gotten myself to a point where I’m more self-aware, and I know when I need to stop.

How do you recommend that other students maximize their time at Vanderbilt?

I feel like I’ve had a very unique Vanderbilt experience, where I’ve been able to excel in a certain area, but in an area that kind of transcends the Vanderbilt bubble and has taken me into the broader Nashville community. I feel like the best advice I can give is don’t feel like you need to have one single experience at Vanderbilt. Don’t feel like you need to pitch and haul yourself into one area. What I mean by that is don’t feel like you need to have the Vanderbilt experience in order to have your Vanderbilt experience. Each person is going to experience this school in their own way, each person is going to have ways to do that. There are so many great people on this campus and so many great things to do. It is impossible to do them all, so as long as you are doing the things that make you happy and are challenging yourself, you’ll be able to maximize the Vanderbilt experience in your own way.

Bristol_edit

Henry Bristol

Greek Inclusivity Alliance founder/co-chair, IFC VP of Diversity and Inclusion, Co-pres of Vanderbilt Aerospace Design Laboratory, Head Resident (Lewis) and VUcept

What does being selected as an Outstanding Senior mean to you?

This is a complicated question. I remember freshmen year when I was like, these are people I want to be. They’re super cool, they’re outstanding, they’re recognized. They’re kind of the people that people at Vanderbilt try to aspire towards. So now, being on this side of it, should people aspire to be me and what does that mean? I think it’s kind of complicated because I don’t know if people should because often times Outstanding Senior is for people who are very involved, do very visible things, and it just so happened that was my Vanderbilt experience, where I’m doing visible organizational work, and that’s cool, I’m prideful of the work I’ve done on campus, but I don’t think it necessarily makes me more outstanding than anyone else. It just means I’ve been more Vanderbilt facing than others. So what it means to me is a recognition of the impact I’ve had, and I’m very happy to be recognized for doing things that I find meaningful, but I think the idea of it being necessarily outstanding, I don’t think outstanding is a comparative term.

What is one of your best/most memorable Vanderbilt experiences?

I think sometimes it’s the small things that really make experience good. It’s the late night conversations with people in my room or going to get dinner off campus. There’s a lot of very small moments where I really remember the quality of relationships I’ve built with people. I think those are some of the best memories because it’s hard to have a specific one in that context. On the other side of it, it’s seeing things come to fruition. Seeing a lot of the things I’ve put time and effort into, like the Greek Inclusivity Alliance, go from no infrastructure, no system, to being like we should build a curriculum, we should get people involved, we should talk about diversity and inclusion, we should transform a space. It’s rolling now, it’s this big, legitimate program. It’s become a thing where to be Greek at Vanderbilt means that you recognize that this exists. So there’s two sides of it, the small memories and the pride in my experience.

What was one of your most challenging Vanderbilt experiences?

One of the things we did in the Greek Inclusivity Alliance was I wanted to build a more programmatic infrastructure for diversity and inclusion work in the same vein that Vanderbilt has a Chief Diversity Officer and we have Melissa Thomas Hunt as the Vice Provost. There’s a whole office that exists, so I thought we should model that, it makes sense. I made this pitch for there to be a Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion on the IFC exec board, and I got a pretty hard shut down about a year ago. It was kind of like a tail between my legs, I was infuriated, I went on this long rant after that to a couple of my friends. I pitched it to IFC exec, it was an old exec, it wasn’t this one, but it was very humbling to me because this thing I care about, I don’t know if other people care about it. This thing I see as the inevitable, next good step, we want to do these good things. I remember I left that meeting and did nothing for 48 hours. I just did nothing. It was bad. That was a pretty humbling experience and getting up from that was a bit of a reworking of how we proceed with what we do, who we talk to, how we make the pitch and why should we do it.

How do you recommend that other students maximize their time at Vanderbilt?

Do something meaningful. Flat out. It’s really easy to do 24 hours a day of work, involvement or anything that fills your time. Be it a party, an organization, homework or something else. It’s really easy to be busy. I think the thing I’ve found most rewarding is doing things I’ve found that make me tick. For me, some of those things have been being intentional about the depth of my relationships. It’s really easy to keep shallow ones because I’m doing all these things and don’t have time for friends, one can easily say that, but for me being intentional that I might have homework, but I’m going to grab dinner with you.

Trivedi

Priya Trivedi

 Ingram Scholars Program, Multicultural Leadership Council, Resident Advisor and Tour Guides

What does being selected as an Outstanding Senior mean to you?

It’s really interesting because I feel like when you’re a first-year it’s so easy to idolize the seniors and be like oh my gosh, these are my role models, they’re doing all these incredible things. Now as a senior, it’s felt kind of weird because so many of my closest friends were in the Top 20 or in the Top 10. I look around and I see all these seniors and know that I wouldn’t be sitting here or being recognized if it weren’t for those people. The other people that are being recognized, those are the people that I’ve cried with, struggled with and gone to when dealing with serious stuff. It sounds really weird, but it’s made me reflect so much on my relationships and how lucky and blessed I am to have such incredible people in my life that I can actually sit here and be considered this Outstanding Senior when really it’s because everyone else has poured so much into me.

What is one of your best/most memorable Vanderbilt experiences?

I’ve been involved with the MLC for a really long time, and I think one of my favorite events that I’ve experienced at Vanderbilt was InVUsion, which is an event we put on every year, but it’s basically a giant celebration of a bunch of different cultural organizations on campus and kind of a way to celebrate the unity, but also the differences, in the multicultural community. There’s a bunch of food and people dance, but even more than that it’s a chance at the end of the year to reflect on how the year went and how we’ve grown stronger as a multicultural community. That’s been one of my favorite experiences at Vanderbilt, that event, but also the MLC in general.

What was one of your most challenging Vanderbilt experiences?

I think for me it would be having to get super real about my mental health and taking care of myself. I’ve been an RA since my sophomore year, and it’s really easy to share resources with your residents and know everything on campus, but not really apply it to yourself and just think of it in the context of what your residents need. But, I’ve also had a lot of personal stuff happen in my life and that’s why I say I don’t think I’d be sitting here without some of the other Outstanding Seniors. I think the hardest thing has been truly being okay and internally accepting the fact that it’s okay to ask for help, get formal resources, take care of yourself and not just glorify this idea of business and over-involvement. I think for me the most challenging part has been figuring out how to take that framework of giving other people resources and actually believing within myself that it’s okay to use them for me.

How do you recommend that other students maximize their time at Vanderbilt?

I think it’s too much to ask to say do what makes you happy and don’t focus on what you think you need to do. I think regardless of what people tell you, people are always going to feel that way, but I think in order to maximize your time at Vanderbilt or really make the most of it, I would say surround yourself with people that give you energy, that you feel safe around, that you feel complete around. I think too many people spend time worrying about how they’re social experience plays out here, and I just quickly realized it’s a waste of time to try either putting yourself into groups, whether formal or just people, that don’t contribute as much energy to you as you do to them. For me, it’s just surround yourself with good people that make you feel happy and make you feel valuable because at the end of the day if you have that support system, you’ll be able to chase whatever else you want to on campus.

Kencell-Nixon-Headshot

Kencell Nixon

Mic Man, Tour Guide, Transfer Student Orientation Leader and Peer Guide at Center for Student Wellbeing

What does being selected as an Outstanding Senior mean to you?

To me it means that I have made a positive impact on the Vanderbilt community, which is amazing coming in as a transfer student. I did not anticipate having such a big impact on the Vanderbilt community and making so many awesome friends. That’s what it means to me, I think it’s pretty cool.

What is one of your best/most memorable Vanderbilt experiences?

My favorite experience I’ve had is being the Mic Man of the student section at Vanderbilt sporting events. I really like sports, I really like cheering and I love school spirit. I was the first Mic Man ever, we invented it last year and I’m still doing it. It’s really fun and I get to lead cheers at sporting events, so it’s really cool to create something new that is kind of pure and fun for other students and for myself has been a really good experience.

What was one of your most challenging Vanderbilt experiences?

I would say my most challenging Vanderbilt experience was starting out here. Like I said, I’m a transfer student, and so starting here was really difficult because everyone has already made their friends on the Commons, everyone’s already been super involved in their organizations freshman year and know the groundwork about Vanderbilt. I was a sophomore and didn’t know what Rand was, didn’t know what the Commons were and was just confused and lost a lot. Also academically you’re really behind too, so just trying to get caught up in all aspects of life as a sophomore was really difficult. I think I came through it really well, and I’m happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish.

How do you recommend that other students maximize their time at Vanderbilt?

I would say to do what you love and not do what you think other people want you to do or what might be the cool thing to do or the award that has prestige. I would say just do what you love, find your passions and work as hard as you can at those passions. If you do that then you’ll be able to make a big impact on the community, and it’s going to make you feel good about yourself. You’ll also feel more genuine and not like you’re trying to be somebody else.

Jane Brennan, Vanderbilt Outstanding SeniorJane Brennan

VP Judicial of Panhellenic, HR Branscomb, Tour guides and AKPSI

What does being selected as an Outstanding Senior mean to you?

I think it’s complicated. There are so many people that should be recognized AND deserve to be on this list, but aren’t because there are way more than 10 Outstanding Seniors at Vanderbilt. I’ve internalized it and thought about it. The way I think of it is hopefully I can be a good representative of my peers because so many people at Vanderbilt do such amazing things, and I think it was really humbling to have people nominate me to be a representative of this class. I think that’s how I’m viewing it because that’s I think that’s what makes it special. We as a class, which is why I think it’s cool we talk about this, touch so many corners of campus because we’re doing so many outstanding things. To be somebody that’s involved in that group and seen as somebody who’s trying to go across different groups to hopefully get to know a lot of people at Vanderbilt, it’s very special.

What is one of your best/most memorable Vanderbilt experiences?

Probably two-fold. First is freshman year, the experience of hanging out on my floor all the time. We had this one friend who was an opera singer, and we could hear her singing anytime we came down the hall. But just lounging in people’s rooms in a world where I’d never done that before stays with me. I have the best memories from freshman year, we were completely oblivious to the rest of Vanderbilt, lived in our own bubble. We all ended up going our separate ways and are still close. It’s really cool knowing that when I see people from Sutherland, I always say hi. We always talked so much freshman year despite our main commonality was living in the same place, so I think that’s super special. In terms of later experiences, sophomore year I had the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. for VSG. Student Body president Ariana, a junior representative, a freshman representative and I went and lobbied for higher education reform. The experience of breaking across different grades and groups to go out of the state with a few people I’d never met pushed me to get more involved on campus in different things. I felt more confident in trying things I wasn’t certain of. I met these people and they were all doing these amazing things I’d never heard of, and I was like I should try and meet more people like this. I think that experience shaped the rest of my Vanderbilt experience.

What was one of your most challenging Vanderbilt experiences?

On a high level, balance at Vanderbilt is so difficult. We talk about it all the time, we all try to pretend that we can do 900 thing in one day. I have a 25 hour day it feels like, but I know everyone feels that way, so figuring out how to prioritize homework, friends, activities, my own personal mental health, my physical health, all of that. It’s something I’ve struggled with for four years and senior year I’m still trying to figure out how to find balance. I think it’s something we all struggle with here.

How do you recommend that other students maximize their time at Vanderbilt?

I think I would recommend two things. The first is to spend time with friends, it’s so cool to be surrounded by an environment of people who inspire you and challenge you and to hang around people all the time is wonderful. Not being around Vanderbilt the past couple summers reminds me of what an incredible experience that is, and it’s fleeting after these four years. The second thing I’d recommend is I wish at a younger age I’d started going to things on campus that weren’t related to my curriculum or my exact interests. During junior year I would meet a friend in class who was in some organization and they were having an event, and I would show up. Even if I couldn’t stay the whole time, even if I went by myself, I started going. I felt so much more connected to campus and have taken so much more away from college just from going to those events. Finding times to go to events has changed my learning experience and the people I know.

Fenech_edit

Agatha Fenech

 VuCept, Alternative Spring Break and Tour Guides

What does being selected as an Outstanding Senior mean to you?

I am very honored and very grateful, and I think it’s really caused me to reflect on all the people who have believed in me, supported me, allowed me to be my best self here and able to contribute to the Vanderbilt community.

What is one of your best/most Vanderbilt memorable experiences?

I think serving as a VuCeptor and being a member of the VuCeptor community has been very important to me. My VuCeptor was one of the people who made me feel like I belonged here and deserved to be here, and it’s been very important to me to play that role in other first year’s lives and help our entire first-year class transition well into Vanderbilt and foster those feelings of belonging. I think we all do our best if we feel believed in and loved and as a VuCeptor I think I’ve been able to foster those relationships and spaces.

What was one of your most challenging Vanderbilt experience?

My first year I really struggled to transition here, which I think has definitely motivated a lot of my passion for the first year experience. I know I definitely struggled with feeling like I was worthy of attending this institution and that I belonged and that I was smart enough or capable enough to be here. Going back to what I said earlier, I am so grateful for all of the people who were in my corner when I was a first year and are still in my corner today because I know it’s there support that’s really enabled me to thrive here. I just hope I’ve been able to extend that same support to other people.

How do you recommend that other students maximize their time at Vanderbilt?

Take care of yourself because your well-being is of utmost importance. I know it doesn’t always feel that way, but it is. You can’t pour from an empty cup. I think it’s really important especially if you’re somebody who takes care of other people, you need to be taken care of as well, and obviously that’s something you’re not alone in. We have many resources, we have so many people, and I think it’s just really important to take care of yourself.

Masaoay

Telyse Masaoay

President of Tour Guides, Co-chair for VSAP, HR for Warren College and VP of Native and member of Speakers Committee

What does being selected as an Outstanding Senior mean to you?

Outstanding Senior is kind of a confusing honor. Knowing so many incredible people in my class that deserve to be recognized for their contributions to this campus, it’s difficult to fathom that it could be narrowed down to 10 of us. Essentially, I think I’ve worked hard while I’ve been here, but so many other people have, too. Outstanding Senior should be a lot more than an award handed out at the homecoming game, and for me, it’s been a reminder that the class of 2019 is a beautiful bunch of people. It’s a celebration of the entire senior class and our collective accomplishments, and I’m happy to be a part of it.

What is one of your best/most memorable Vanderbilt experiences?

One of my most memorable experiences at Vanderbilt was on Nov. 9 2016 – the day after Donald Trump was elected. It was a pretty terrible day. There was an eerie silence across campus, and I remember a lot of people missing class. But that night an org I’m a part of, Speakers Committee, was bringing Daveed Diggs to campus. I remember sitting in the crowd that night and hearing exactly what I needed to hear from him. He talked about art and politics and pain and representation. Then after the speech, the committee was able to have dinner with him in Stambaugh House in Prof. Alice Randall’s apartment. She had arranged for this really extravagant dinner with the head chef of the Catbird Seat, silverware that had been used by Malcom X, and very rare truffles for our mac ‘n cheese. I sat right next to Daveed Diggs and got to talk with him about how he found himself in Hamilton the Musical. For weeks after that night I could recite the exact dinner menu and the entire conversation we had, but those details have since fallen away. But I will always remember the way that event and Vanderbilt students helped make me feel hopeful and grateful on a day where I didn’t think that possible.

What was one of your most challenging Vanderbilt experiences?

One of my most challenging experiences was honestly adjusting to the academic rigor of Vanderbilt. I came from a public school in Missouri, and my teachers were always passionate, but I never felt like I had to study too hard in high school. At Vanderbilt, I quickly contracted imposter syndrome. I got C’s on my first 3 tests of college, all within the same week. I felt like so many of the people I met had taken 50 APs and had cured some rare disease during their high school research projects. It was overwhelming. I called home a lot and cried to my roommate. I felt like I didn’t belong. But slowly I came into my own strengths. I had a lot of people around me who affirmed me, those same people that I was impressed by when I first met them. I realized how incredibly important it was that I was being humbled by my peers regularly, and then I came to learn that so many of those individuals really cared about me. It was through my supportive friend group that I gained better study habits and figured out how to bounce back from falling really hard. Vanderbilt has given me my people, and in any challenge I encounter, be it academic, social or mental, they always remind me of my strength and worth.

What would you recommend to other students for maximizing their time at Vanderbilt?

I would say some of my best advice for other Vanderbilt students is to be strategic, but perhaps not in the traditional sense of the word. I think a lot of Vandy students get caught up in their next move to build their resume or prepare for next steps, that they lose sight of what motivated them to do it in the first place. I would encourage Vandy students to be strategic about how they spend their time and focus on things that make them excited. When something feels overwhelming or the people you’re spending time with don’t support you in the way you need, find a way to leave. Never be ashamed or afraid to release yourself from commitments that don’t serve you.

NO COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY