Senior Standouts 2022

These graduating seniors represent the academic breadth and excellence of Colby College’s Class of 2022.

Senior Standouts 2022 portraits
Before departing Mayflower Hill, these graduating seniors reflected on their time at Colby, the memories they’ve made, and where they are headed.
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By Bob KeyesPhotography by Caitlin Penna
May 16, 2022
Lukas K. Alexander

Lukas K. Alexander

Colby taught him to explore outside his comfort zone

Preferred pronouns: he/him/his
Majors: Government and Religious Studies
Minor: American Studies
Hometown: Newton, Mass.

Read his interview

Why did you choose your field of study, and what did you discover about yourself through your studies at Colby?

Reflecting on my time at Colby, I am so happy to have double-majored in two fantastic fields,  government and religious studies. Arriving at Colby just four short years ago, I knew I wanted to be a government major. I have always been fascinated by local and national politics and was thrilled to expand my knowledge in a collegiate setting. What I did not know about myself as a young 18-year-old was how much I would come to love research in the field. Over the course of my four years, I fell in love and engaged with my professor’s research projects. Ultimately, my passion for research culminated in an honors thesis in the department, writing about the effect of the president on legislative voting behavior. My path to religious studies was less planned but equally impactful. As a first-year, I remember taking a course on the New Testament and being fascinated by the scholarship. Religious studies has been a place where I have been able to learn about ancient civilizations, culture, humanity, history, and more. The diversity of the department has opened my eyes to thinking about religion in a more nuanced way. To me, government and religious studies are totally different, yet totally synergistic.

How did you apply your academic lessons to life outside of the classroom?

I started my Colby career in Dijon, France, as part of Colby’s Global Entry Semester, and it was amazing. During my time abroad, I stayed with a host family. While every student in the study-abroad program had exposure to French prior to departing, living with a host family that solely spoke French was slightly overwhelming at first. However, I distinctly remember our program director telling us that the best way to immerse ourselves in French was to do what we could with the vocabulary that we had. Little did I know that the lesson of doing what I could with what I had would have such a profound impact on my life at Colby. While I did not always have the answers, I used logic, reasoning, and information that I already had to make decisions and tackle complex tasks. That initial experience made me want to make the very most of my Colby experience seeing the world, pushing myself, and moving outside my comfort zone.

How did you contribute to the Colby community, on campus and off?

Over the past three years, I have been a proud member of the Student Government Association. This past year, I’ve had the distinct honor of serving as the president of the organization, helping to lead the student body. The goal of my work has been to leave Colby better than when I first arrived. Through long hours, constant collaboration, and hard work, I’m proud to say that we’ve made incredible strides. While there is always work to be done, I’m proud of the improvements that SGA has helped to make on campus.

What did you enjoy most about your time on Mayflower Hill? If you could do anything differently, what would that be?

Hands down, the community. While every individual on campus has a different role and differing levels of seniority, I am so grateful to be able to call many of them my friends. The Colby community is inviting, caring, and tight knit. I would not have had as much collegiate success without the support system of the Colby community. Though I’m graduating, I know I will be entering an alumni community of passionate, friendly, and welcoming Mules. And to the last question, I can’t say I would do anything different. I am so thankful and just so happy for what I have been given on Mayflower Hill.

What do you have planned for your life after graduating, and where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

In the coming years, I hope to become a political scientist and will be pursuing a Ph.D. with hopes of returning to academia. While I’ll have to wait to see what the future holds, I’d love to come back someday to Mayflower Hill in a professional capacity.

Lensky Augustin

Lensky Augustin

He wants to make science accessible for everyone

Preferred pronouns: he/him/his
Major: Psychology with concentration in neuroscience
Minor: Environmental Studies
Hometown: Fruitland, Md.

Read his interview

Why did you choose your field of study, and what did you discover about yourself through your studies at Colby?

I chose psychology because I grew fascinated with behavior and how the brain functions when it comes to certain behaviors. I found that interesting. I took AP environmental studies in high school and fell in love with the course. I was exposed to a lot of environmental issues that I had never really thought about, so I picked up an environmental studies minor as a result.

How did you apply your academic lessons to life outside of the classroom?

Studying psychology has helped me understand people a little bit better, especially friends that I have who have certain disorders. It helped me to really empathize. In class you learn the terms and symptoms associated with them—for example, bipolar disorder. Outside of class, you interact with people who have these disorders. Putting those two together helped me be more understanding of their situations and also be a lot more empathetic.

How did you contribute to the Colby community, on campus and off?

I’m involved in the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship group on campus, where I was able to help foster a community where we could have conversations about our faith and grow together in Christ while also being out in the community connecting with various local churches. As part of the hall staff community as a community advisor, we’ve fostered community within the residence halls. I also participated in the Colby Cares About Kids program, where I mentored a middle school student for about two years, and since my first year, I’ve been a member of the Colby woodsmen team.

What did you enjoy most about your time on Mayflower Hill? If you could do anything differently, what would that be?

I enjoyed my time with all the clubs I was involved with. Those were very fulfilling. I was adamant when coming to Colby, I don’t want to do things just to check the boxes off. I wanted to enjoy what I was doing. If I could go back and do things over, I really wouldn’t change anything, to be honest. I really enjoyed my time here.

What do you have planned for your life after graduating, and where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

Starting in fall 2022, I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology at University of Utah. That will take up half of those 10 years. In 10 years, I’m not too sure exactly what it is I will want to pursue quite yet, but I have one potential career path. I would love to potentially help implement research labs in under-resourced areas around the world in attempts to make science more accessible.

Misael Beltran Guzman

Misael Beltran-Guzman

Educational equity motivates this first-generation college graduate

Preferred pronouns: he/him/his
Majors: Education and Latin American Studies
Hometown: Toledo, Ohio

Read his interview

Why did you choose your field of study, and what did you discover about yourself through your studies at Colby?

I knew I wanted to be an educational studies major since high school, even before applying to college. I went from a working-class neighborhood, and public schools and charter schools, to a private high school across town, and it was a whole different world. There was so much there in terms of resources, services, technology, everything at their disposal. The big question in my head throughout that time was, “Why is there so much here but not where I’m coming from?” That sparked my interest in educational equity.

What I’ve learned about myself during my time here is trusting your gut. I have taken the time to get to know myself during college, and that was something I was fortunate to do. Being a first-generation, low-income student, my goal leading up to this was just to get into college. Then once I got here, I had to figure out what I wanted to do. This entire process has been getting to know myself and listening to myself, and learning that this is the best way I can live my life to have a positive impact on people around me.

How did you apply your academic lessons to life outside of the classroom?

It was important to make sure that what I was learning in class felt relevant and applicable outside class, so that came easily as an educational studies major. Talking about educational equity and learning while being in college is conducive to that. We can bring in our experiences as students into the classroom and apply what we’re learning to the Colby context. Working to some degree in campus leadership as a fellow for the first-gen low-income program, I have been able to think a lot about how you promote educational equity in a holistic sense.

How did you contribute to the Colby community, on campus and off?

It’s a little cliché, but just being myself. But the most notable thing is being a fellow for the FLI (first-generation, low-income) Program. I have done that for three years. It’s been amazing to be a part of seeing the program grow and expand and be as successful as it is now. I’m excited to see where it goes next. In addition to that, I have served as a student representative to the Board of Trustees, representing on different committees for hiring or decision-making. The third category of leadership positions where I’ve been able to have an impact is bringing in things that were my own interest and giving space for that. I took a class in which the final project was creating a short film. Being someone who has really loved film, I had a lot of fun with that. Every semester that I have been able, I’ve helped out with a Latin dance course. I’m one of the choreographers for a dance company, and that is a lot of fun.

What did you enjoy most about your time on Mayflower Hill? If you could do anything differently, what would that be?

What has been most important, and the biggest part of my experience here, has been the people I have connected with. I’ve felt very lucky to connect not only with my peers, but also with faculty and staff members. Beyond what our titles are, we are getting to know and care about each other as people and as community members. That is why I consider Colby a home. I felt that especially during the first summer of the pandemic, when I was unable to travel home. It was a very isolating experience. But over the summer, folks who were here reached out, checking in and offering help and support. Just to feel that sense of community at a time when it was necessary is indicative of the people here. That has been my favorite part of Colby.

What do you have planned for your life after graduating, and where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

I know for sure I want to continue to work in educational equity and student support, whether directly at an educational institution or with a nonprofit adjacent to educational institutions. Right now, fingers crossed, the most hopeful prospect is to actually stay at Colby and continue working in the role similar to what I have been doing in the FLI program. I’m hoping to stay here. This is a community I love. But eventually, I want to go to grad school and perhaps eventually earn a Ph.D.

Kaliyah Bennett

Kaliyah Bennett

She builds communities and captures joy

Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Majors: African-American Studies and Anthropology
Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Read her interview

Why did you choose your field of study, and what did you discover about yourself through your studies at Colby?

I chose to be an African-American Studies major because, in everything that I do, my Blackness is embedded. I can only see the world through the lens of a Black woman. Being knowledgeable of the history of Black folk across the diaspora, especially the erasure of blackness in our world, encourages me to provide a space for blackness to thrive and be as is—in all its beautiful complexities. Dr. Cheryl Gilkes (the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of African-American Studies and Sociology) has been a pillar of knowledge throughout my years here at Colby, and I thank her for all the work she does. I’ve changed my minor so many times because I like to explore different things but choosing anthropology as my final minor—later becoming my second major—just seemed right because it allowed me to see the world through my lens: expansive and inclusive. In understanding anthropology, one must acknowledge that this field of study is rooted in colonialism. However, in the literature of Black anthropologists like Aimee Cox and Zora Neale Hurston, they have established a collective understanding that all cultural groups must be constituted to accurately represent land, space, and being. In other words, anthropology can aid in both promoting and combating racism. Yet, I’ve learned that in both anthropological and Black studies, all the work that I do must always stay connected to the culture and present through my Black feminist lens.

How did you apply your academic lessons to life outside of the classroom?

Through my travels across three continents, converging my love of photography, videography, and anthropology, I was able to create art through content creation to highlight the humanity and livelihood of Blackness across the diaspora. I love to capture raw joy even in the face of injustice and inequality—in other words, true resistance. In anthropology and Black studies, I have understood that one can not merely “explore” a culture, yet instead, one must seek to be an active participant in learning a culture, especially for me in exploring the beautiful extensions of my diaspora. 

How did you contribute to the Colby community, on campus and off?

For the past two years, I have served on the board of Students Organized for Black and Latinx Unity (SOBLU), and this year, I served as the Chair of Finance providing creative direction and managing all of our successful events for the club, which brought me so much joy and fulfillment seeing members experience pure joy and happiness through cultivated solidarity. One of the best quotes I’ve heard when it comes to success is from Ms. India Arie who said success is “to live with a joyful heart and [to actively be] making a contribution to the elevation of humanity.”

Serving on the SOBLU board is more than just an executive role, as my blackness is not just an identity, but a structural position that comes with experiences that are often shared. I feel so much comfort in knowing all the folks that inhabit SOBLU will consistently look out for each other because of our shared qualities. In May of 2020, I started my hair braiding initiative, The Braidstry, servicing my NYC and DC communities, later serving my Colby community, with natural hair styling. Hair has always been my avenue of expression. When you look good, you feel good, but most importantly, it feels even better being able to provide a place of comfort and protection. Your tresses are always safe with me. When my mother would dedicate Sunday evenings to styling my hair for the following week of school, the warmth and tenderness I felt is an everlasting memory. I seek to always have that lasting effect on all folks that grace my chair and to be a pillar of love and comfort because your hair is the crown that shows how much power textures, tones, and coils represent in the world that deems to say otherwise. 

What did you enjoy most about your time on Mayflower Hill? If you could do anything differently, what would that be?

Being able to curate a community of people that brings me solace is one of the best rewards of my time here at Colby. As a student from Brooklyn, N.Y., where I went to school with only Black and Latinx students, being here on the Hill was a culture shock, but being able to build strong connections with those who look like me and can relate to me in SOBLU—especially my best friend, Rohnique—was one of the most beautiful experiences yet. Not only was I able to build long-lasting relationships but I was able to travel the world with them too! Traveling to Spain, South Africa, and Panama was so invigorating as my 14-year-old self only dreamt of traveling the world, so being able to fulfill one of my biggest dreams is my proudest achievement. 

If I could’ve done anything differently, I would’ve approached new things with a “no-fear mindset” as I let many exciting opportunities pass me by because I let fear lead me. Before COVID hit, there were so many new things that I was excited to try, but the fear of failing or not being “perfect” drove me more than my excitement. For almost everyone, fear can have a way of altering the way you see things and yourself, but now, I seek to seize every opportunity that comes my way because I belong in every room that I step in. Fear will and can not dominate the success that I am destined for. As long as I keep that promise to myself, everything that is meant for me will come. 

What do you have planned for your life after graduating, and where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

I plan on going back to NYC and continuing to work in my executive assistant position at Redwood Enterprise while also exploring new industries like tech, music, and TV—specifically marketing, TV production, project management, and/or UX/UI design. Of course, I will continue to build community through my braiding initiative, hopefully expanding to other beauty-related initiatives as well. As I am interested in so many things, in five to 10 years, I see myself thanking the Kaliyah today for deciding to be courageous in allowing myself to take those steps in creating the future I want. Doing what I love, and loving how I do it is all I see in my future, whether it is content creation, project managing, or being a business owner. I will love what I do and always root my work in the liberation of Black folk.

Joseph Bui

Joseph Bui

He discovered the meaning of “home” at Colby

Preferred pronouns: he/him/his
Major: Studio Art, Photography
Hometown: Houston, Texas

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Why did you choose your field of study, and what did you discover about yourself through your studies at Colby?

I came to Colby knowing that I wanted to pursue the photography major. In high school, I was very interested in the arts, specifically photography and graphic design. During my studies at Colby, I’ve discovered that my photographic work is informed by my interest in the relationships between people and themes, such as the meaning of “home.” As an active listener and observer, I’ve been able to discover people’s personalities and perspectives, both on an individual level and through themes that connect them.

How did you apply your academic lessons to life outside of the classroom?

As a studio arts major, I’ve learned how to think critically about my work and how to interpret the world around us. The arts at Colby have allowed me to express myself creatively, build confidence, and develop my individual identity.

How did you contribute to the Colby community, on campus and off?

With the Colby Bridge club and the queer community on campus, I developed a photography book called Queer Journey. Through the act of reflecting, listening, and conversing with each and every person I’ve met, the book features a series of portraits and written narratives from the LGBTQ+ community on campus. With the Art Department, I worked as a photography teaching assistant helping students develop their work. As a photographer, I’ve helped contribute to documenting the various club and community events that happen on campus. I’ve photographed with DavisConnects, the Colby Museum of Art, Waterville Creates, community advisors, clubs on campus, and academic departments.

What did you enjoy most about your time on Mayflower Hill? If you could do anything differently, what would that be?

I enjoyed the time I spent with my friends during meals, events, and traveling. There was always laughter, screams, and excitement whenever and wherever. If I could do anything differently, I would’ve networked with professors, students, visiting artists, and everyone in general a bit harder.

What do you have planned for your life after graduating, and where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

Right now, I’m open-minded to where life takes me. I’m currently seeking opportunities to put my work out in the world through exhibitions, galleries, portfolio reviews, and open calls for work. In addition, I’m aiming to apply for artist residencies and fellowships to fund the many photo projects and stories I have in mind that I will start planning in the summer.

Erica Chung

Erica Chung

Forming Connections Wherever She Goes

Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Major: Psychology with a concentration in neuroscience
Minor: Chemistry
Hometown: Burbank, Calif.

Read her interview

Why did you choose your field of study, and what did you discover about yourself through your studies at Colby?

Since my first year, I have had the opportunity to work in [the Clara C. Piper Professor of Psychology] Martha Arterberry’s Cognitive Development Lab, utilizing my fluency in Korean. My first project involved understanding acculturation in Korean-American children’s development. As a daughter of Korean-immigrant parents, I began to reflect on my own development of thoughts and behaviors. I became interested in how human interactions experienced in early life can have lasting effects. My curiosity about how differences in our thoughts and behaviors can manifest in the brain further led me to choose my studies in psychology and neuroscience.

How did you apply your academic lessons to life outside of the classroom?

Lessons, particularly from my psychology classes, have been easily applicable to my past, present, and future. For instance, learning about memory and cognition has helped me realize how much our past experiences contribute to our actions in the present, allowing me to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future. In addition, leading a study on the role of empathy in interactions between different social groups has instilled in me the importance of open-mindedness.

How did you contribute to the Colby community, on campus and off?

As a mentor and board member of Colby Cares About Kids for over three years, I built a close relationship with a local junior high student and helped support mentors. In my first and second years, I was a board member of the International Club, planning events such as the Food Festival and Extravaganza and bonding with students of various cultures. As a rescuer and current officer of Colby Emergency Response, I have provided medical care to individuals on campus. I’ve also played the violin in the Colby Symphony Orchestra since my first year.

What did you enjoy most about your time on Mayflower Hill? If you could do anything differently, what would that be?

Some of my favorite memories at Colby involve biking and spending time outdoors with friends. I wish I could have taken more advantage of the nice sunny days to sit outside on Miller lawn with friends on my picnic blanket and de-stress. I also would have tried out more winter sports, such as snowboarding, which I tried for the first time my senior year and really enjoyed.

What do you have planned for your life after graduating, and where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

I will be attending the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine starting this fall to pursue a career as a physician. I hope to continue studying and working in my home state to support urban communities that lack access to adequate health care. All in all, I hope to leave a positive impact through my interactions with people, no matter how small.

Sharde Johnson

Sharde Johnson

A star athlete, she hopes to become a sports psychologist

Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Major: Psychology, with concentration in neuroscience
Minor: Sociology
Hometown: Pine Bush, N.Y.

Read her interview

Why did you choose your field of study, and what did you discover about yourself through your studies at Colby?

I have always really enjoyed observing my surroundings, and that intersected with the fact that my mom is a social worker. She has worked with various populations in supporting their ability to get access to important opportunities and resources. In high school, I took one psychology class. My interest in observing my surroundings, and more specifically other people’s behavior, fuses with conversations I’ve had with my mom and the work she does with various groups of people. That led me to be interested in psychology more specifically than social work, but I have a minor in sociology. All those things have fused together.

How did you apply your academic lessons to life outside of the classroom?

In a lot of my classes, whenever we are talking about research there has been a big emphasis on trying to pick apart the methods used and determining whether the demographics being studied are representative of identity groups that have been historically underrepresented in research. I’ve been able to take the lessons learned in interpreting research in the classroom and apply them outside the classroom when we are presented with so many research findings on a day-to-day basis, with statistics and whatnot. I have been a lot more intentional about analyzing the information being presented to me and being able to put those research findings into context and not just accepting the conclusion presented, but understanding why this conclusion is the way it is.

How did you contribute to the Colby community, on campus and off?

On campus, I have mainly contributed in two ways. Since I’ve been an athlete on the track and field team, we have developed the program a lot and raised the caliber of our dedication to the sport and the extent to which we strive to succeed in our sport. That development has come with national-level accomplishments. I have been really proud to be able to play a role in the evolution of one of Colby’s sports programs. It’s also important to me to be a friendly face on campus. Whenever I interact with anyone, I try to be encouraging and interested in what they are doing here at Colby. That has been important to me. I hope I’ve been able to positively impact other people on campus just by being kind.

What did you enjoy most about your time on Mayflower Hill? If you could do anything differently, what would that be?

I came into Colby knowing I wanted to commit myself to working toward academic and athletic success. What I have enjoyed most about my time at Colby is being able to be presented with so many awesome academic and athletic opportunities and trying my best to take advantage of those. I have been able to achieve the best of both, and I could not ask for anything more. Something I might do differently is very minimal. I took one astronomy class as Colby. I have always loved looking up at the sky and stargazing and trying to better understand the solar system. There is a student-led group on campus that organizes times to go to the observatory and stargaze. I have never done that.

What do you have planned for your life after graduating, and where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

Right now, I’m working toward attending a master’s program at Colorado State University and to compete on their track team. Long term, I would like to pursue a career in sports psychology. I will be very prepared for that career path. I still have a lot more to learn, but I am confident that it’s an area I can succeed in and that it’s a field where I can have a great impact

Riley Kelfer

Riley Kelfer

Colby taught him about life outside the classroom

Preferred pronouns: he/him/his
Major: English
Minor: Cinema Studies
Hometown: Sherborn, Mass

Read his interview

Why did you choose your field of study, and what did you discover about yourself through your studies at Colby?

I actually came to Colby with an interest in the pre-med track, but I had credits from high school that gave me some latitude in choosing my first-year courses. Although the process was a little more complicated than it will sound here, in short, each humanities course I took made it more difficult to return to the original plan. I really love the humanities. More importantly, I had incredibly generous role models among the humanities faculty. I am particularly indebted to Bess Fairfield (distinguished senior lecturer in writing), whose friendship I treasure, and whose encouragement as my first-year writing instructor gave me the nudge I didn’t know I needed to consider a different path. It’s difficult to adequately express my gratitude for these people and their commitment to teaching.

How did you apply your academic lessons to life outside of the classroom?

The famous literary scholar and public intellectual Stanley Fish once answered a question like this. Seeming a little exhausted, Fish explained that “the humanities are their own good. There is nothing more to say, and anything that is said diminishes the object of its supposed praise.”

I would suggest that my lessons in English, cinema studies, classics, and art history were entirely about life outside the classroom, as in those courses we worked to understand, among other things, how people come to hurt and hate and love and commune with each other. I think these are very practical matters. Similarly, as Seth Kim, one of my mentors and closest friends here at Colby, is fond of saying, the humanities are about finding a better way to be with one another. If that could be called a lesson, then I’m trying to apply it as best I can. I have found it takes time and a willingness to extend yourself.

How did you contribute to the Colby community, on campus and off?

Since 2019 I’ve been fortunate to work in the Farnham Writers’ Center, where I served as head tutor this past year. Helping students improve as writers is rewarding in itself, but it was especially gratifying to build relationships with those students over the years. I feel very lucky to have been a part of that impromptu community, which emerged around the act of tutoring but was sustained by friendly support. I also came to feel rather parental toward my fellow tutors, who are a remarkable group, and who were kind to tolerate my antics while I was in my leadership role.

What did you enjoy most about your time on Mayflower Hill? If you could do anything differently, what would that be?

I’m indexing myself a bit with this response, but I would say I leave Colby having most enjoyed the education itself. I think it’s important to be challenged and to confront yourself in a critical way, and college gave me the space to do that, as well as allies who supported me through that process. I’m leaving with both a satisfying sense of growth and a clearer picture of how I can be a better adult in the world.

The second question gets into some trickier territory. With that in mind, I guess my answer doubles as a word of caution to people who find themselves reading this: While I wish I had gone a little easier on myself, I’m also glad and wouldn’t necessarily change the ways I pushed myself if I could do all this over again.

What do you have planned for your life after graduating, and where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

I have a couple of writing projects that I’m excited to get back to this summer, and next fall I’ll be heading to the graduate school at Yale University to pursue a master’s degree in English. From there, I plan to apply to doctoral programs that will allow me to explore my interests in not just American literature and culture, but also film and media, philosophy, and intellectual history.

The competitiveness of the academic job market is more than a little frightening. In the face of this anxiety, I think the most optimistic thing I can say is that I’m excited to keep working on the skills I developed here at Colby. I don’t expect to have everything figured out in five or 10 years, but I think I’ll have a better sense of what questions are worth asking, and what issues bear confronting. Ultimately, of course, I also hope that a career in academia will result in work that is meaningful to other people, whether that transfer occurs through teaching, writing, or friendship.

Christian Krohg

Christian Krohg

A friendly face and a fine singing voice

Preferred pronouns: he/him/his
Majors: Economics and Music
Hometown: South Hamilton, Mass.

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Why did you choose your field of study, and what did you discover about yourself through your studies at Colby?

Coming to Colby, I knew I wanted to study economics. I had taken a course in high school and fell in love with it. It also was the closest thing I could get to study business in a liberal arts space. I had started a business at a very young age in middle school and had grown that significantly through high school. When I was choosing between Colby and other schools, I knew I did not want to go into an undergrad business program, because I just genuinely love learning and I knew liberal arts was where I wanted to be. I also had this idea that if you had a strong understanding of economics, you could be successful in any position in the business world.

I have always been involved in music in different capacities from a young age. I took an intro to music theory through composition class in my first fall and absolutely loved it. I had never been exposed to music theory, and I didn’t know how to read music when I got to Colby. But I loved playing the guitar and have been in an a cappella group since sixth grade. It was always that notion, how can I fit this music class in here? Because I really love it.

How did you apply your academic lessons to life outside of the classroom?

With economics, I was able to take direct findings, whether specific things about taxes or business logistics, and apply that theory to my business. I was able to grow Easy Eats, which is a company I started at Colby, to be doing $35,000 in revenue on a monthly basis. Just picking up the underlying tones of economics has enabled me to be a more successful businessman. Musically, being able to arrange music for the a cappella group Mayflower Chill is so satisfying.

How did you contribute to the Colby community, on campus and off?

My number one contribution was just being a smiling face on campus. I like people and saying “hi” and going to people’s sports games and whatnot. My second contribution is through music, just trying to share my music and create a welcoming environment for other artists.

What did you enjoy most about your time on Mayflower Hill? If you could do anything differently, what would that be?

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing. Absolutely, the a cappella group has been such a great way to meet people I probably would not have overlapped with between my two majors or having been on different club teams. That has been a way to meet and be exposed to parts of the community I would not have been otherwise, and I have loved that so very much. Remember to smell the flowers. It’s easy to get bogged down by micro-theory exams and having a ton of work. We just need to remember how fortunate we are to be here at Colby and the community that is around us and how valuable this opportunity is.

What do you have planned for your life after graduating, and where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

I don’t have an official plan yet, but I aim to be working in early-stage AI at a venture capital firm in Boston. If not there, I will be working at another early-stage AI company in Boston that I interned for this past summer, and they kept me on this school year. I’ve been working part time for them throughout my senior year. I’m applying to M.B.A. programs through the deferred admissions process, so we will see how that works out, but long term I certainly will be starting my own technology company.

Courtney Naughton

Courtney Naughton

They take care of others

Preferred pronouns: they/them
Majors: Biology (ecology and evolution); Performance, Theater, and Dance (stagecraft and stage design)
Minor: Astronomy
Hometown: North Kingstown, R.I.

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Why did you choose your field of study, and what did you discover about yourself through your studies at Colby?

I came in knowing I wanted to pursue biology and theater, and, in fact, was specifically looking for a school that would allow me to study both. Even though the two fields are very different, they’ve both been lifelong passions of mine as different ways of exploring the world—I’ve never been one to limit myself to just one thing. Astronomy was also a longtime interest but I didn’t have any plans on formally studying it until one of my dear friends and eventual roommate told me about the minor and persuaded me to join. 

The past four years have really reinforced the importance I place on lasting accessibility and inclusion in the fields I work in and the spaces I curate. Both biology and theater are steeped in racism and elitism (among a host of other issues), which is fair to say of pretty much everything in globalized Western culture, but biology and theater each have some egregious examples of their own. As a queer person of color, I can say it can be hard to exist in these spaces, especially since so many of these issues are still ongoing and being upheld by the structures in place, but that’s all the more reason to make sure to challenge that where possible. My goal going into any place or job is to make sure that I’m taking care of those I share the space with; that others feel safe and welcome to join as themselves with whatever that brings; and that I leave the structures in place so that it can continue after me. It’s not much in the grand scheme of things, but I think it’s the first step we need to make change. 

How did you apply your academic lessons to life outside of the classroom?

The thing about doing theater and remote fieldwork is that you are usually working with a limited set of resources, so you very quickly learn how to extrapolate any scrap of knowledge you have in order to apply it to the current situation. On the one hand, I tend to incorporate threads of one field in my work in the other. My senior capstone was a theatrical production that drew heavily on behavioral science and ornithology while also engaging with contemporary movement practices and ensemble-building. On the other hand, sometimes the only thing saving you on an island without running water when all your chicks are getting eaten by a heron and the weather has been atrocious is knowing how to take charge of scheduling and putting together a night-watch rotation plan that you record with detailed notes for the next generation of island interns. Groups are just ecosystems, which are just ensembles, which all need the same attention to detail and flexibility in order to work effectively.

How did you contribute to the Colby community, on campus and off?

I was a COOT (Colby Outdoors Orientation Trips) leader from sophomore to senior year (Coastal B twice!), and I was on the Powder and Wig board as production manager and then president for two years. Most of my time has been focused on making our theater spaces welcoming and places we can make work people are proud of. 

What did you enjoy most about your time on Mayflower Hill? If you could do anything differently, what would that be?

I love the people I’ve met here! I’ve made some amazing friends, and the impromptu trips to sing in stairwells or go swimming at the Hume Center are some of my favorite memories. I’m generally at peace with what I’ve done with my time, even if there were some pretty rough moments. If I had to change something, I’d probably say paying closer attention to my needs and advocating for those things in the moment rather than letting them spiral. But that’s a lifelong skill to practice. 

What do you have planned for your life after graduating, and where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

Oh, I have no clue. I’m doing seabird research on the Farallón Islands this summer with Point Blue Conservation, and then I’m working at Imagination Stage for nine months as a production apprentice, but after that anything’s fair game. I’ll probably look into pursuing grad school at some point, though I’m not sure when or in what. All of what I do is seasonal work, so while I’d love to keep working in both worlds, I’m just going with wherever the wind takes me.

Lylah Paine

Lylah Paine

She plans to study law—and is still hoping to see a moose

Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Majors: Government and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Hometown: Boxford, Mass.

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Why did you choose your field of study, and what did you discover about yourself through your studies at Colby?

I ended up in both of my majors by accident. I was taking classes for fun and ended up loving them. What I have appreciated most about government and WGSS is the overlap I’ve found between them. I have discovered I really like interdisciplinary work, and I like finding the ways that things connect across seemingly disparate fields. That’s what I have learned about myself and what I love most.

How did you apply your academic lessons to life outside of the classroom?

For the past couple of summers, I have been working for a law firm, and I plan to go into law after Colby. Government is applicable to that, but my ability to read and write carefully and think expansively in the way WGSS has taught me has helped me in that work. In general, at Colby I have learned a lot just getting to know people. I have gotten to know so many cool people here. It helps you in life to understand different people.

How did you contribute to the Colby community, on campus and off?

The thing I’m most proud of, I have worked for the past three years with the Sexual Violence and Prevention Program with Emily Schusterbauer. That has been very meaningful. I’ve been both a peer educator and a mentor to other peer educators. I’ve helped train new peer educators, and we have done a lot of work revamping the program. I’m also a leader of the running club, and that is really fun. We run three times a week around Waterville.

What did you enjoy most about your time on Mayflower Hill? If you could do anything differently, what would that be?

The thing I have enjoyed most is all the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made. I think I’ve learned as much from my friends just talking as being in class. I met a really good group of people here, and I am thankful for that. If I could do it over, I would explore the outdoors in Maine more. I really wanted to see a moose. I feel like, you go to school in Maine you should see a moose. I didn’t.

What do you have planned for your life after graduating, and where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

I’m going to law school at New York University next year. So that’s the next three years. In 10 years, I hope to be practicing law. I’m interested in housing law, and I’m interested in immigration law. I don’t know where I will end up, but those are my interests.

Isabella Valdes

Isabella Valdes

Began doing research as a first-year student and hasn’t stopped

Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Major: Physics with concentration in astrophysics
Hometown: St. Petersburg, Fla.

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Why did you choose your field of study, and what did you discover about yourself through your studies at Colby?

When I came to Colby, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to major in. I was pretty good at mathematics in high school, so I got into a few math classes, and my father is a mechanic, so he encouraged me to take physics. I really fell in love with my physics course, and I really liked the professor. By the spring semester, I got interested in astronomy and really enjoyed my intro to astronomy class. I spoke with the professor a lot outside of class, asked a lot of questions, and she reached out to me to be her research assistant starting my freshman year. That was an exciting opportunity. I didn’t know if I liked research, but I got into it and stuck with it all four years. I went to a few summer programs for research jobs, took a few internships, and I quickly found this research opportunity here at Colby. I was excited and grateful for that opportunity. I am able to say now that as a senior, I’ve been doing research for several years. I have applied to grad schools, got a lot of offers for Ph.D. programs, and accepted an offer. That’s where I’m headed next.

How did you apply your academic lessons to life outside of the classroom?

Before college, I knew I wanted to go to college and wanted to pursue higher education. While in college, I realized I wanted to go further, that I want to go to graduate school and get a Ph.D. So my academics have obviously meant a lot to me. While I’ve been here at Colby, I was briefly a double-major with theater and dance. In high school, I went to an arts conservatory and wanted to be a professional dancer. That was a whole other route in my life that I didn’t quite take. But that was an interesting experience, being at a liberal arts school, being an astrophysics major and doing all this research on one hand, and then I would rehearse every day and go dance and perform. It was a lot of work at the time, but it was interesting to see how what I was doing in physics class and what I was doing in dance could help each other. Exercising my brain and then exercising my body, it was beneficial to me to be doing both at the same time. I wish I could have continued it, but my commitment to research became too much and I had to deal with some injuries.

How did you contribute to the Colby community, on campus and off?

It’s on a smaller scale, but within the Physics and Astronomy Department, I’ve done a lot. It has become my home here at Colby and that has been my favorite part, finding such a nice home. I have TA’d since my freshman year, and I tutor students. I have a lot of underclassmen come up to me because they’ve heard I’ve been in research so long, they want to know, “How did you get involved with your research?” I’ve gotten the chance to talk with a lot of underclassmen about my experience and how much I’ve loved the Physics and Astronomy Department.

What did you enjoy most about your time on Mayflower Hill? If you could do anything differently, what would that be?

Not so much that I wish I had done anything differently, but I wish the times we live in had not quite overlapped with my college experience. But my favorite parts about being here, beyond going to classes and getting a degree, are fun experiences outdoors. Being from Florida, we don’t have a lot of nature. Coming up here, I got into hiking and explored the state of Maine. I have been to Acadia and done a lot of stargazing trips. We have a lot of low-light pollution areas up here. It’s been hard being so far away from home, and that was a big adjustment for my family, but I’ve made this place a home.

What do you have planned for your life after graduating, and where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

I applied to multiple Ph.D. programs, I got about six offers and accepted an offer at the University of Hawaii to study astronomy. I worked there this past summer, so I will continue to work with my professor there. They have some of the best telescopes in the world, so I’m very excited about that. That Ph.D. program will take me five or six years to complete, so by the time I am roughly 27 or 28 years old, I will have a Ph.D. and then I will continue in the academic route and get a postdoc and a professorship.

Songtao Xu

Songtao Xu

She is off to Harvard Medical School in the fall

Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Majors: Computational Biology and Math Sciences, Statistics
Hometown: Hefei, China

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Why did you choose your field of study, and what did you discover about yourself through your studies at Colby?

I’ve been interested in genetics and computer science since high school, and I found Colby offered a computational biology major, which perfectly combines the two. I enjoyed the research experience in Assistant Professor of Biology Suegene Noh’s comp-bio lab and decided to continue studying in the future. 

How did you apply your academic lessons to life outside of the classroom?

I improved my critical thinking at school. It helps me to understand others’ points of view and cooperate well with people both on campus and outside of school.

How did you contribute to the Colby community, on campus and off?

Last summer, I developed JAX clinical knowledge base as a medical informatics intern at Maine Cancer Genomic Initiatives. I created a prototype for generating clinical reports from patients’ genomic testing results automatically with the software development team. Our work will facilitate medical evaluation and advice for clinicians and oncologists. 

What did you enjoy most about your time on Mayflower Hill?

Colby provides me with precious opportunities to form close bonds with students and faculty, which is not common in larger universities.

If you could do anything differently, what would that be?

In my junior year, I realized the departments and career center provide a lot of resources for first-year students and sophomores. I wish I could have started utilizing the research and internship resources provided by Colby earlier.

What do you have planned for your life after graduating, and where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

I’m going to the biomedical informatics master’s program at Harvard Medical School this fall. In the long term, I would like to become a bioinformatics technician in an academic medical institution or a medical company.

Suixin “Cindy” Zhang

Suixin “Cindy” Zhang

Pushing through fear, she discovered the truth

Preferred pronouns: she/her/hers
Major: Mathematics
Minor: Physics
Hometown: Guangzhou, China

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Why did you choose your field of study, and what did you discover about yourself through your studies at Colby?

I enjoy thinking about mathematics. I’m drawn by the very abstractness, pureness, and deepness of mathematics. I appreciate the logic, the connections between different mathematical objects and ideas, and enjoy the struggle of working toward understanding them. I was blessed to be able to have the most wonderful professors one can have, who have encouraged me to bravely pursue the subject I’m passionate about and inspired me in both academics and beyond. I realized that it’s not the accomplishments, but the process of overcoming fears, taking up challenges and pushing through them that has empowered me and led me to discover truth and meaning.

How did you apply your academic lessons to life outside of the classroom?

I’ve learned to always be curious and pose questions, to think critically and approach problems with patience, determination, and creativity.

How did you contribute to the Colby community, on campus and off?

In my first and second year, I was in the International Club, and during my second year I was publication chair for the club. I helped organize campus-wide events, like the International Extravaganza and the International Food Festival. I also worked as a TA for physics and math classes.

What did you enjoy most about your time on Mayflower Hill? If you could do anything differently, what would that be?

I enjoyed the campus a lot. It’s a beautiful place, and I enjoyed spending time with friends and with myself. Another thing I enjoyed most, unsurprisingly, were the giant blackboards on the second floor of Davis Science Center, and the Math Department—both students and professors—where I feel I belong.

What do you have planned for your life after graduating, and where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

I’m heading to the University of California-Davis to pursue a Ph.D. in pure mathematics. I see myself working with excellent mathematicians and scientists, producing original research that advances thoughts in pure mathematics, and becoming the mathematician I want to be.



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