In Mayflower Hill classrooms and labs, through research and volunteer work in the surrounding community, and by taking advantage of learning opportunities around the world, the Class of 2015 achieved a collective record of extraordinary accomplishment in the last four years. Approximately 480 seniors—students who came from across the United States and around the globe—will graduate May 24 prepared to put their learning into practice. Below, select members of the Class of 2015 reflect on their Colby experience.
Majors: English; American Studies | Minor: Theater
Hometown: Cumberland, Maine
Maggie Bower was selected by the Class of 2015 as the senior class commencement speaker. Bower is president of Colby Improv, performed in several theater and dance productions—including a dance piece by Sara Gibbons ’15 at the 2014 American College Dance Festival’s New England Conference—and last summer interned for Late Night with Seth Meyers. “The most important thing I learned at Colby was to prioritize finding good people and working hard to earn their respect,” she said. “I’ve been so lucky to go to school where meeting amazing people is the norm, and my goal has always been to work hard to be a part of their team.” After commencement Bower will consider what comes next while leading a six-week canoe trip in northern Ontario.
Major: Economics | Minor: Human Development
Hometown: Andover, Mass.
Football captain and offensive lineman Connor Clancy is active with the Colby Volunteer Center and created Colby Football Youth Day, an annual free clinic that had more than 100 participants this year. Following the 2013 Steubenville, Ohio, sexual assault case, Clancy cowrote a petition that amassed 65,000 signatures and resulted in a National Federation of High School Associations pledge to provide prevention education for coaches. This spring he received Colby’s Richard L. Whitmore Jr. Award for academic and athletic excellence and service. After graduation Clancy will head to Chicago, where he has a job at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “I learned at Colby … how to think critically by drawing on multiple ways of thinking about an issue,” he said. “Instead of examining an issue just from economic thought, I know that all issues are affected by other spheres and require thinking from humanities too.”
Hometown: Mansfield, Mass.
Student Government Association President Justin Deckert won the Condon Medal for constructive citizenship, the only student award presented at commencement. From leading COOT excursions to tutoring Waterville Junior High students to serving on the Board of Trustees’ Academic Affairs Committee, Deckert forged connections with students, alumni, faculty, community members, and administrators. Asked about the most important thing he learned in his time on the Hill, Deckert said, “Leadership skills—how to communicate, work with a team, manage my time, delegate tasks, and be accountable.” After Colby, Deckert will work as a financial analyst at Citigroup in New York City.
Hometown: Limington, Maine
With a passion for research, Sarabeth George earned Goldwater, Mitchell, and Hollings scholarships, a Mitchell Fellowship, and Phi Beta Kappa membership. George did research in the Geology Department all four years and in 2013 completed Colby’s semester in residence at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. “[At Colby] I was able to make connections between the people I met, the classes I took, and the research I worked on,” she said. “The best thing about attending a liberal arts college is that there is no one important lesson that you learn, but rather a million smaller things that come together.” Next year George will work as a research associate at Bigelow and will raise seeing-eye dogs prior to embarking on a Ph.D. program at Brown in fall 2016.
Majors: African-American Studies; History
Hometown: Queens Village, N.Y.
Well known on campus for her activism and leadership, Posse Scholar Tionna Haynes received the 2015 Drum Major for Justice Award, is president of Students Organized for Black and Hispanic Unity (SOBHU), and worked at the Pugh Center for nearly four years. She also performed in Broadway Musical Revue, held Student Government Association leadership positions, and served as a sociology research assistant. Stating that Colby is a process, Haynes said, “Going through Colby made me the person I am today … the confident, conscious black woman I am. That doesn’t mean Colby was all lollipops and gumdrops, but I hope the ways I have tried to improve Colby have planted more lollipops and gumdrops for future generations.” After commencement Haynes will head to Chicago, where she’ll be a special education teacher through Teach for America while attending graduate school.
Major: Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minn.
Madeline Hunsicker held leadership positions with the women’s squash team, the Bridge, and the Student Government Association in addition to serving as a Campus Conversations on Race facilitator and volunteering for Equality Maine. This spring she won an Undergraduate Poster Session Award from the Eastern Sociological Society for her senior honors thesis in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. After graduation she’ll head to her hometown, Minneapolis, where she plans to serve with AmeriCorps and apply to Ph.D. programs in feminist studies. “[My professors and deans] have constantly challenged me and reminded me how to find meaning in the scholarship I pursue and the activism I engage in,” Hunsicker said. “Colby has been a wonderful growing experience, and I will finish this year exhausted, sad, but ready (kind of) for what comes next.”
Javier Monterroso Montenegro
Major: Government | Minor: Economics
Hometown: Guatemala City, Guatemala
Javier Monterroso Montenegro was inspired to start the Migrant Peacebuilding Project—which aims to provide employment opportunities and resources for Guatemalan nationals deported from the United States—with Joe Long ’15 while taking Economics of Migration at Colby. “We thought, ‘Transnational issues require transnational solutions,’” Monterroso Montenegro said. He won a 2013 Projects for Peace grant for the project and completed internships at the Guatemalan Embassy in Paris, the Organization of American States, and the Permanent Mission of Guatemala. Following graduation he will work full time on his project. “At Colby I learned that rigorous academic exercise must be accompanied by meaningful practical experience,” he said. “Getting involved … outside the classroom is essential to exchange knowledge and become even more intellectually ambitious.”
Major: Government | Minor: Philosophy
Hometown: Corfu, N.Y.
For his senior honors thesis in government, Shelby O’Neill researched whether a correlation exists between socioeconomic status and political participation in the nearby town of Belgrade, Maine, concluding that socioeconomically privileged people are more likely to participate in most forms of political activity. O’Neill, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, became interested in farming at Colby and joined the Colby Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. After commencement he’ll apprentice at an organic farm in Scarborough, Maine, and he’s thinking about pursuing a Ph.D. in sociology to study, among other topics, “grassroots democratic alternatives to neoliberal capitalism.” But first he’s eager to immerse himself in education outside the classroom. “Knowledge is a collective construction,” he said. “The learning process occurs … when writing papers; it also occurs in late-night conversations, in trips to the local record store, and in muddy romps through the woods.”
Major: Global Studies | Minor: Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Hometown: Los Altos, Calif.
Academic powerhouse Eleanor Powell made the Dean’s List every semester, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior, and is a Julius Seelye Bixler Scholar. She was also a two-year Hipnotik dance team captain, and she completed an independent study on the persistence of sexual violence committed by UN peacekeepers. “I was able to pick any topic that interested me and get lost in all the problems it presented,” she said. Powell has served as an executive board member and research assistant for Colby’s Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights. After Colby she’ll intern at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. Talking about her success and lessons learned, she said, “What you want to see will never come to fruition if you don’t go after it with everything you have.”
Major: Biology | Minor: Economics
Hometown: Duxbury, Mass.
Brett Sahlberg received the Phi Beta Kappa Scholastic Achievement Award as a sophomore and was elected to PBK as a junior. In addition to serving as a teaching assistant in Colby’s Economics Department, he was a research intern at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research for two summers. He’s a member of the indoor and outdoor track teams and a Colby Cares About Kids mentor. After commencement Sahlberg will work for investment consulting company Cambridge Associates in Arlington, Va. “I think having the opportunity to study several subjects, be a student-athlete, and make a difference in the Colby and Waterville communities has shaped me into who I am today,” Sahlberg said.
Majors: Religious Studies; Middle Eastern Studies (Independent)
Hometown: Brownville, Maine
Mitchell Scholar Spencer Traylor says conducting religious studies research at Colby has been “an incredible opportunity.” In 2012 he won a CIEE and Mitchell Institute International Fellowship for an internship in Jordan, where he studied peace processes and public diplomacy. Traylor is a senior admissions fellow and a member of Model UN, and he works with Lives of Purpose, a program that engages first-year students in volunteer work. “At Colby I learned that there is never just one answer to a question or one solution to a problem,” he said. “The more perspectives you can draw on in any situation, the better equipped you are to find the best approach.” He’ll put that philosophy to work after commencement at Tree Street Youth, a program in Lewiston, Maine, for refugee and immigrant children.
Majors: Chemistry-Biochemistry; German Studies
Hometown: Ridgewood, N.J.
As a Young Ambassador for the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Christine Wamsley promotes study and research abroad in Germany. She’s also a Euroscholar who spent a semester in the Open Research Lab at the Deutsches Museum, and at Colby she conducted research in the Biology, Chemistry, and German departments. “Conducting high-level research … with such knowledgeable professors is an amazing opportunity that most undergraduate students don’t have the chance to experience,” she said. She also touts the importance of a well-rounded education: “Although [courses outside my major] may have been out of my comfort zone at the time, they allowed me to see new perspectives I may never have considered had I solely taken science courses.” Wamsley will take a year off to work and will apply to enter medical school in the fall of 2016.
Major: English | Minors: African-American Studies; Anthropology
Hometown: Helena, Ark.
Joseph Whitfield says he was fortunate growing up “to have young, serious, and passionate teachers from all over the country who brought … new stories, experiences, and styles of teaching.” Those teachers inspired his decision to return to Arkansas after graduation and work for Teach for America. “I decided that home was a place that I want to return to, to help other students in my community,” he said. He also plans to go to law school and pursue a joint degree in law and education policy, explaining, “I want to be a part of … allowing students to thrive in an equitable system for all.” In his first year Whitfield joined Gentlemen of Quality, a club that aims to shape what healthy masculinity is and improve abilities to critically engage, and he is now co-president.
Majors: Theater and Dance; Global Studies | Minor: Anthropology
Hometown: Suzhou, China
Sujie Zhu won a 2015 Watson Fellowship, a $30,000 stipend to spend a year on independent study outside the United States. This summer she’ll start her project, titled “Expanding Possibility: Exploring Cross-Cultural Improvisational Performance,” which will entail researching performing arts in Senegal, Japan, India, and Eastern Europe. “Viewing practices from other cultures is like looking into a mirror,” she wrote in her project abstract. “One’s own boundaries come into focus, catalyzing new discoveries and innovation.” Though Zhu has been performing since childhood, it was at Colby that she found theater and dance as a vehicle for expressing social and political views. “The Theater and Dance Department has really taught me to think of performing arts … to be thought-provoking, to be something that’s powerful not only for you as a performer, not only for the audience members, but also for the larger society.”