Meet the Seniors
Sure, they’re thrilled to graduate. But where are they going? Where have they been? Amherst interviewed more than two dozen members of the Class of ’08—men and women who’ve studied in Siberia, Greece, India; who’ve worked for record labels, hospitals, senators; who’ve joined the U.S. Navy and the Peace Corps. Here are 15 of their stories.
Activities Newman Catholic Student Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Community Engagement Orientation Trip
Favorite courses Religious Ethics, New Testament Greek
Room decoration His chest x-ray, a prerequisite for studying in Greece
Favorite Website Slate.com
Defining experience Living in the Agape Community, a Catholic commune in Ware, Mass., the summer after sophomore year
Studied abroad in Greece, where he visited places mentioned in the New
Lesson learned “To make myself vulnerable to people in order to really get to know them.”
World’s greatest problem “A lot of systems are bad for us and the world—war, suburbs, getting food from Florida. But we’re trapped in this sort of inertia.”
What’s next Starting an M.A. program in theology at the University of Notre Dame and working full-time at a church
Long range, Paz hopes to live in a Catholic farming commune or an urban Catholic worker house, where he’d depend on the generosity of others while at the same time providing for the destitute. He’s considered the priesthood as well but says he probably won’t pursue it because he disagrees with the church’s stance on ordination of women.
Home Brooklyn, N.Y.
Majors English and theater and dance
Activities Mentor, Girls Inc.; choreographer, Amherst Dance
Room decoration The sash she received as the reigning Miss Jamaica United States
Guilty pleasure Watching cartoons
Acted in For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, her senior project
Interned at Atlantic Records
Lesson learned “I’ve never had a lot of close friends. I used to worry about what people thought of me; I had a tough time with that in high school. But I’ve learned not to care and to be happy with myself—flaws and all.”
Goal in life “To make my parents smile every day.”
What’s next Applying to law school and continuing her training in theater and dance
Ambition “To be extremely successful in either law, film, theater or dance. Also to start a philanthropic venture for arts in education. And I really want to adopt a lot of children.”
Laguerre commuted an hour and a half each way to LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. She’s danced with a troupe affiliated with the Alvin Ailey Dance Co. and performed for Michael Jackson and members of the United Nations. But the audience member she’s most sought to please has been her mother. “My mom wants me to be a lawyer or doctor, because she used to be a dancer,” Laguerre says. But after the For Colored Girls performance, “she looked at me and said, ‘You were great. I support you.’ And I cried.”
Home Princeton Junction, N.J., where he grew up, and Seattle, where his parents now live
Majors Computer science and economics
Activities Men’s rugby, NOTE (a student computing group)
Favorite courses The TV Novel and The City, which involved watching The Wire; Introduction to Computer Systems
Find him on C Level of Frost—“It’s the quietest place”—or in the computer science lab
Regret That he didn’t take more philosophy courses
Talent “I can juggle four balls.”
Favorite Website Anarchaia.org
World’s greatest problem “We’re not living in a sustainable manner. The things we use, the way we treat the environment, the way we treat each other—we’re taking more than we give.”
Goal in life To make things that people use
What’s next Working in software development at Ning.com, a Silicon Valley start-up
Defining moment “I hope it hasn’t happened yet.”
“I like working on tough problems in very stressful environments,” Fortunato says. He worked with Larry Hunter, the Stone Professor of Natural Sciences (Physics), on a Website that parses information from the weather station on top of Merrill Science Center. He’s also helped many others at Amherst to build or improve their Websites.
Home Coral Springs, Fla.
Activities Equestrian team, Amherst Student, College Republicans
Favorite course Politics of Memory in 20th-Century Europe
Prized possession “My family.” (Her mother and father; her sister, Alicia ’06; and her large extended family.)
Studied abroad in Milan, Italy
Award Fulbright finalist; hopes to teach English in Italy next year
Ambition To be a physician
Regret “I don’t think I have any regrets. Even deciding late to be pre-med is not a regret because I love history so much.”
World’s greatest problem “There isn’t enough help for the Third World.” (Her mother was born and raised in Colombia: “My family comes from a place where terrorism is fact.”)
Medical school was a childhood ambition, but Fazzano pushed it aside when she took advanced physics in high school. “I ended high school thinking that science isn’t my forte,” she says. But in Milan, far from family and friends, she was forced to be self-sufficient and she became more confident. “I realized, I’m a perfectly smart girl. I can do it.”
Home Key West, Fla.
Activity Bassoonist and guest-conductor, Symphony Orchestra
Ambition To be a conductor
Prized possession Copies of Darwin’s journals. “They were my grandmother’s.”
Find him in a practice room, at Amherst Coffee, or in his room listening to music or studying a score
Traveled to Vienna, Austria, where he took part in a chamber music festival
Regret “That I didn’t learn Russian.”
Defining moment Watching pianist and conductor Leon Fleisher perform at Amherst. “I got to play for him in a master class.”
World’s greatest problem “Specifically, global warming must be the greatest problem. More metaphysically speaking, it might be the many preoccupations of our world that prevent us from seeking truth and meaning in our lives.”
Curtis always wanted to be a conductor. “But in the kind of way,” he says, “that people say, ‘I want to be a movie star.’” Now the childhood fantasy is a concrete goal. At Amherst, in addition to guest-conducting the orchestra, he’s taken part in a chamber music workshop. Off-campus, he’s conducted excerpts from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
Home Bloomington, Ind.; Wonju and Bundang, Korea
Activities Concert Choir, playing piano
Favorite courses History of Western Medicine, Neurological Biology of Disease
Prized possession The metronome she’s had since fifth grade
Find her in the lab or the music building
Regret “I’m not good at keeping in touch with people. It’s something I’m working on—to actively give to and show interest in my friends.”
World’s greatest problem It’s impossible to pick just one. “Is it selfishness? Is it lack of understanding? Is it that we fail to step back and see the big picture?”
Ambition To be a physician
Choe has spent a lot of her life moving—between Korea, where most of her relatives live, and Indiana, where her father was a visiting professor. That’s one reason she didn’t study abroad—she wanted to live in one place for four years. She’s been active in a program at Amherst to teach Korean to anyone who wants
Home East Palo Alto, Calif.
Major Black studies
Activities Multifaith Council, Black Student Union, Men’s Project
Prized possession His gohozona, used for Buddhist meditation
In his room NASA poster of Saturn; meditation beads
Guilty pleasure The waffles in Val
Find him in the admission office, where he works
Regret Not taking voice lessons all four years
Hobby Studying the early black college graduates of the United States
Defining moment “My dad’s stroke changed my life fundamentally. It made me realize how short life might be.”
Goal in life “To be unapologetically happy.”
Ambition To be a black studies professor. “I’m still hoping to be an astronaut as well. We’ll see.”
Next year, Lawrence, who spent four summers at NASA, will work for the Foundation for a College Education, a California organization that puts students on a college track. Lawrence himself is a product of that program. He’ll also continue to help care for his father, who suffers from dementia, and his mother, who has cardiopulmonary disease.
Home Hagerstown, Md.
Activities Amherst Student, Choral Society, tutoring
Prized possession “My hearing aid.”
Lesson learned “I used to hide my hearing loss. I’ve learned to wholeheartedly embrace the challenges and the comical misunderstandings that come with it.”
Guilty pleasure “Occasionally, I lip-read people from across the room without their knowledge.”
Studied abroad in Siena, Italy, where she studied Italian and Italian Sign Language
Defining experiences Learning American Sign Language and joining the Amherst Women’s Chorus. “To participate in both the deaf and hearing worlds—to sign and sing—is a dream come true.”
Accepted to Mt. Sinai Medical School; matriculates in 2009
Roza grew up in rural western Maryland with her parents, twin sister and set of twin brothers. In her sophomore year at Amherst, she applied to Mt. Sinai’s early-acceptance program for humanities majors. She'll spend next year working with the deaf community in Siena on a Fulbright Scholarship.
Home Castle Rock, Colo.
Majors Computer science, theater and dance
Activity Choral Society
Award Phi Beta Kappa
Guilty pleasures Facebook.com and Planworld
Hobbies Making jewelry, scrapbooking
Favorite Website Xkcd.com
Lesson learned “The people who don’t immediately present themselves as being social—people whom others have passed up—can make some of the best friends.”
Goal in life To balance work and family, to develop a strong social network and to do meaningful work
Ambition To get a Ph.D. in computer science and to fuse her interests in computing and performance
Home-schooled until college, Jessop spent
her early years studying whatever she liked. “I went through my archeology phase, my astronomy phase, my meteorology phase,” she says. Then, after spending time with public school kids, she decided to study the basics: math, English, social studies, science, French. In high school, she designed her own classical education. At Amherst, she designed costumes for theater performances.
Home Kingston, Jamaica
Majors English and political science
Activities Hermenia T. Gardner Bi-Semester Christian Worship Series, peer advocate, tutoring
Favorite course Evolution and the Intellectual Revolution
Favorite Website OED.com
Find her on the couch in a random common room
Studied abroad in Madrid, Spain
Defining moment When her parents separated
World’s greatest problem Apathy
Goal in life “To make Jamaica a better place.”
What’s next Teaching English at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, N.Y.
For the next two years, Chen will try her hand at teaching. After that, she intends to settle in Jamaica: “The greatest problem my country faces is brain drain.” She says that at Amherst, she’s learned to disagree with others politely and fearlessly.
Home Williamsburg, Va.
Major American studies
Activities Men’s baseball, Ultimate Frisbee, Big Brothers Big Sisters, admission tour guide
Favorite course White Identity in the United States
Prized possession “It was my car. The cold weather killed it. In general, I try not to get too attached to things.”
Room decoration A Clint Eastwood poster
Studied abroad in London, his first time overnight in a large city
World’s greatest problem A reluctance to assess and think critically
Goal in life “To have done something worthwhile. That’s what drives me. So I’m not sure if I want it to come sooner or later.”
Joined The U.S. Navy; leaves July 5 for Officer Candidates’ School
When Bruno signed on to four years in the U.S. Navy, he knew it was a defining moment. “Everything else I’ve done,” he says, “I could have gotten out of.” Bruno, whose father retired from the Navy, will work in military intelligence.
Home Vista, N.Y.
Major Political science
Activities Bassist, The Elements of Style; College Democrats; Sudan divestment campaign
Interned for Senator Hillary Clinton in 2006 (on a Latham Scholarship from Amherst)
Traveled to Sri Lanka to volunteer after the 2004 tsunami (on a Gerety Fellowship for Action from Amherst)
Prized possession “My guitar.”
Room decoration A map of the world
World’s greatest problem “Hands-down, global warming.”
Ambition To join the Foreign Service
Accepted to the Peace Corps; leaves for Mali in July
In 2004 and 2006, Mason went door-to-door registering Amherst students to vote in their home states. In Mali, he’ll work in water sanitation, cleaning the water supply, digging wells and building water pumps. He speaks French and Arabic and will learn Bambara.
Home Potomac, Md.
Majors Religion and economics
Activities Hillel, tutoring
Favorite course Sephardic Literature
Guilty pleasure “I try not to throw too much guilt at myself.”
Find him playing basketball in the gym
Favorite Website Freerice.com, among others
Studied abroad in India, in a Tibetan studies program
Regret “Sometimes I regret not having enjoyed myself more.”
World’s greatest problem Polarization
Ambition “I don’t know. Not law. Not medicine. Not academia. That still leaves a lot. If I could run my own business—that would be cool.”
Considering Business school
Goal in life “To be in a position—professionally, socially, personally—that allows me a degree of freedom.”
This year, Epner (whose father is Maury ’78) started broadcasting basketball games for WAMH, the student radio station. In India, he hitchhiked from rural town to town (wearing the boots he’s pictured with), “simultaneously feeling
utterly dependent and independent.”
Activities Coxswain, varsity crew; co-captain, bowling team
Room decoration Postcards from around the world
Studied abroad in Buryatia, Siberia, where she lived with a reindeer-herding family
Regret “I focused on my major too early.”
Lesson learned “Take things one step at a time. It’s okay to go slowly.”
Ambition To be a medical anthropologist or to work in Arctic studies. “Or maybe to go to Alaska and do organic farming or research there.”
World’s greatest problem Measuring progress through material comfort
Goal in life “To affect the way people see things, especially culturally.”
In Siberia, Tan lived in a remote village in the Sayani Mountains, where she witnessed reindeer births and learned about the contemporary concerns of reindeer herders, including rural health care, the role of ecotourism and how to maintain traditional herding activity in a modern country.
Major Political Science
Activities Center for Community Engagement, La Causa
Favorite course Education in Latin America
Room decoration The Oct. 28, 2004, Boston Globe, reporting the Red Sox’ World Series win
Studied abroad in China, Italy and Argentina
Favorite Website Overheardinnewyork.com
Guilty pleasure Deal or No Deal
Talent “By picking up luggage, I can tell you within two pounds how much it weighs.”
Ambition To get a joint degree in law and public policy
Goal in life “To work for populations that need a voice, to give back to my parents and to never stop traveling.”
Awarded a Watson Fellowship; will study language policy in Spain, Morocco, Switzerland, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and Taiwan.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Báez was 3 when he immigrated to Boston, where his parents had come in search of a better life. He grew up speaking English and Spanish, and he’s studied Latin, Chinese, Italian, Arabic and Portuguese. While at Amherst, he became an American citizen. He also co-founded Intercambio YA!, which sends volunteers to the Dominican Republic and raises scholarship money for university students there. Before he starts the Watson, Báez will spend the summer in Europe on a Humanity in Action Fellowship.
Home Kutztown, Pa.
Activities Christian Fellowship, Relay for Life
Favorite course Fiction Writing
Lesson learned Not to focus on myself but to help other people. “That’s what God wants me to do with my life.”
Hobby Raising peacocks on her family farm. “I have 150 right now.”
Regrets “Sometimes I regret not studying abroad. Sometimes I regret not taking more advantage of spring break. But I’m happy with my choices.”
Wrote a novel about a girl growing up on a farm (for her senior thesis). Has worked on three other novels as well.
Defining experience Doing community service with Springfield Urban Plunge
World’s greatest problem Apathy
Home Hamilton, N.J.
Activities Field hockey, track and field, Amherst Student, Student Athlete Advisory Committee
Prized possession A lucky string she’s had since eighth grade
Room decoration “My walls are kind of a shrine to Amherst field hockey.”
Favorite Website Flyers.nhl.com
Traveled to Wurzburg, Germany, the summer after sophomore year, to work in an organic chemistry lab
Regret “I wish I could go back to freshman year and study the way I’ve learned to study. I think my grades would have been better. But it was an important learning opportunity for me, so it’s not really a regret.”
Goal in life “I want to have an intimate influence on people. That’s why I’ve shied away from science research. You’re not really connected to the people you’re helping.”
Home McLean, Va.
Activities Crew team (freshman and sophomore years), biology teaching assistant, chemistry tutor
Room decoration Plants and travel posters
Favorite Website 101cookbooks.com
Studied abroad in South Africa, where she lived on a wildlife preserve and spent time tracking baboons and their social interactions with one another
Regret “I wish I’d taken a year off before coming to college.”
What’s next Working in a lab at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C.
Ambition To have a career in academia
World’s greatest problem An inequitable distribution of resources
Home Rochester, Minn.
Activities Crew team (freshman and sophomore years), orchestra
Favorite course Psychoanalysis and Law
Prized possession “Probably my camera.”
Room decoration Wooden statue of a Tanzanian medicine man
Favorite Website Facebook.com
Guilty pleasure Fresh mozzarella cheese
Studied abroad at the University of Capetown, South Africa
Ambition To get an M.D. and a master’s in public health
Regret Not getting to know people outside his social circle. “I wish I’d taken the initiative to jump the border to another group.”
World’s greatest problem Lack of understanding
Home Sandpoint, Idaho
Majors Philosophy and economics
Activities Jazz band, writing tutor, Career Center adviser
Favorite courses Philosophy of Math, American Diplomacy
Favorite Website Despair.com
Studied abroad in Paris
Regret “There are all these other great professors and great classes. It would have been nice to take more classes, but it’s hard to call that a regret.”
Talent Splitting firewood
Ambition To get a Ph.D. in economics, and then to either teach or work for the government or a non-governmental organization.
Goal in life To maintain balance and variety. “To keep from getting bored.”
World’s greatest problem “We have a serious inequality in opportunity.”
Home Westport, Conn.
Majors Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought; French
Activities Co-captain, women’s basketball; chair, pre-business group; resident counselor
Favorite course Global Legality
Prized possession My sneakers
Favorite Website “I check CNN all the time.”
Talent Impersonating her friends
What’s next Working in business intelligence services at Deloitte
Goal in life “I want to have my own family. I want to give to my kids and give back to others everything that’s been given to me.”
Home Miami and Singapore
Transferred from Miami Dade College, after two years in its honors program
Activities Amherst College Emergency Medical Services
Favorite course Investigating the U.S.-Mexico Borderland
Military service Tank operator in the Singapore military
Hobby Listening to classical contemporary opera
World’s greatest problem Lack of tolerance
What’s next Will apply to medical school and, he hopes, work at South Miami Hospital
Ambition To be a pediatrician, neonatologist or OB-GYN
Home Mililani, Hawaii
Majors Anthropology and sociology
Activities Equestrian team
Favorite courses Child Welfare in East Africa; Mental Illness and Culture
Prized possession My horse
Studied abroad in Kenya, where she worked on her thesis on mental illness in Kenya
Awarded a 100 Projects for Peace grant (with Hyowoun Jyung ’08) to serve in a slum in Nairobi
Guilty pleasure Watching America’s Next Top Model
Talent “I can wiggle my eyes.”
Goal in life “To be happy and to help people around me be happy.”
Home Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Majors Biology and sociology
Activities Resident counselor, admission tour guide, sailing team, gospel choir
Favorite course Genetic Analysis
Studied abroad in Senegal
Traveled To Thailand, the summer after sophomore year, where he served as a surgical assistant during a hysterectomy. “That’s when I fell in love with surgery.”
Favorite Website Threadless.com
World’s greatest problem Trash. “We’re accumulating so much garbage. You step onto the streets of Dakar [Senegal] and you’re overwhelmed with it. America just does a better job of hiding it.”
Awarded a Watson Fellowship. Will study post-genocidal health care in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda and Cambodia
Here are the questions Amherst asked the seniors. Log in (at upper right) to post your answers.
- What's your hometown?
- What's your major?
- What activities have you been involved in while at Amherst?
- Looking back over your four years at Amherst, what was your favorite course?
- What's on the wall of your dorm room?
- What's your favorite Website?
- What's your guilty pleasure?
- Do you have an unusual talent or hobby?
- What is your prized possession?
- If your friends wanted to find you, where would they look?
- What's been your most defining experience of your four years at Amherst?
- Looking back over your last four years, what's been your greatest regret?
- Did you study abroad? If so, where?
- What's the most important lesson you've learned outside of class?
- What do you see as the greatest problem facing the world today?
- What will you do after graduation?
- What's your big-picture goal in life?
Photos by Samuel Masinter '04