Beloit College Magazine

Beloit College Magazine

Spring 2012 (March 20, 2012)

Time to Move On

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March 20, 2012
By Susan Kasten
Nearly four years ago, we introduced five first-year students who talked about the unusual things they brought to Beloit. Already, they are moving on.

One sticky August afternoon, they arrived on campus, dragging boxes and bags down campus corridors and unpacking their respective rooms. It was 2008, and they were among Beloit’s newest arrivals: first-year students, establishing their homes away from home and facing unfamiliar terrain at every turn. So it was no surprise that they’d brought a few meaningful items with them to make the transition a little easier. On move-in day and during their first weeks on campus, they talked to Beloit College Magazine about their hopes and dreams and some of the noteworthy things they brought with them.

Two of those five students have already finished their Beloit careers. The remaining three plan to cross the Commencement stage in May. But before that happens, we checked in to see how things turned out for them, to ask what they’re taking with them from Beloit, and what they’ll leave behind.  

Molly Steigerwald’11

SteigerwaldMolly Steigerwald’s hand-sewn Indian tapestry still hangs within arm’s reach of where she sleeps at night, just like it did at Beloit. It’s a place of honor she’s given to the colorful textile ever since she brought it home from India in 2007 after a 10-month visit.

“I think it’s quite possibly the most beautiful material object I own,” she says of the tapestry, adding that it matches her “ideal aesthetic”—full of color, dust, and subtle mistakes, and with a backstory that’s not immediately apparent.

A studio art major, Molly spent only three years at Beloit before graduating early in 2011. By picking up college courses here and there over two years after high school, and taking an Arabic language class at Beloit one summer, she was in a position to accelerate graduation.

Though Molly’s time at Beloit was brief, it was meaningful, maybe even more so in its abbreviated form. “I lived in the Art House my senior year,” she offers as just one example. “There was something truly magical about the group of people that I got to live with that last spring, and all of us falling in love collectively and working toward common goals.”

Molly SteigerwaldBesides forming strong friendships at Beloit, she created art, choreographed and performed in dance pieces, and, in general, learned to be more bold and in charge. “I loved the time I got to spend at Beloit wildly,” she says.

Major academic endeavors, like her senior art show and a dance piece she choreographed for Chelonia—Beloit’s annual dance concert—gave her confidence that she could achieve large-scale, complex projects—and have them turn out according to plan if she was willing to work hard and own them.

“I started to think and hold myself accountable in different ways at Beloit,” she says. “Where I had skated through on certain things academically, I realized I needed to step up and be responsible for the things I was doing.”

Now living in Asheville, N.C., she works as a medical assistant in a dermatology office, sometimes assisting with skin cancer surgeries. She likes the job so much she’s seriously thinking about studying nursing next. “It seems like all the things I’ve studied and experienced are coming together to point in that direction,” she explains. “A liberal arts education is so valuable.”

Besides her tapestry, what did she take with her from Beloit? “The most magical friends, maturity, bravado, a sense of self,” she says.

“I lost myself, and then I found myself,” she adds. “I changed so much.”

Steven Jackson’12

Steven JacksonHailing from Yachats, Ore., Steven Jackson brought a melodica with him to Beloit in 2008. During a photo session for our original story, he played a jaunty version of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” on this plastic keyboard with a mouthpiece.

While the melodica is still among Steven’s possessions, he’s recognized its musical limitations (it cannot be tuned), so lately he’s spending more time playing bass. Still, this part-toy, part-musical instrument triggers great memories, like the time Steven and his roommate—who also acquired a melodica—hung out on the covered stoop of their campus house, playing waltz music in the midst of a downpour. “It was eerie and really cool,” he says. “Then we killed the mood by playing ‘Tequila.’”

Besides bringing a melodica to Beloit, Steven brought an open mind and a willingness to let it lead him where it would. He studied cross-cultural psychology in Estonia and Morocco, co-edited the Round Table, played in bands, composed and performed music for a promotional college video, and took to the stage with Voodoo Barbie, Beloit’s popular improv troupe. He’s written for this magazine and co-authored a blog for Psychology Today’s website with Professor of Psychology Larry White. He self-designed a major in culture and cognition.

Yet Steven is somewhat self-effacing about all that.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself when I first arrived here, and I’m still pretty flummoxed in some ways,” he explains. “But when I first got here, everything was uncertain. Now, I feel like a more stable person. I understand myself a lot better than I used to.”

Some of that insight grew out of his academic work in cultural anthropology and cross-cultural psychology.

“From anthropology, I’ve learned to look closer at my world—at social groups, popular culture, mundane stuff we do every day—and find meaning in things I used to take for granted,” he says. “Cross-cultural psychology helped me take that critical eye for our surroundings, and shift focus to the individual level. How do social structure, media presence, daily routine, tradition, language, and all the other things that comprise the cultural setting, shape people’s thoughts and behavior?”

Steven JacksonAfter graduation, he’ll work on trail conservation for the Montana Conservation Corps. When that temporary stint concludes, he’s considering the Peace Corps or positions with media outlets and journalism organizations. One of his loftiest dreams? To work for Radiolab, a New York City-based documentary radio program about people and ideas, brought to life through sound.

“I left a comment on their website confessing that I’m obsessed with their show, and also asking for a job,” he says. “I just received an encouraging reply, along with an application for an internship. I’m really excited about that,” he says.

Faith Jones’12

Faith JonesShe may have been toting a fluffy purple pillow when she arrived on campus, but Faith Jones is no softy. In fact, the remarkable consistency with which she’s carried through on plans she set in motion as a first-year student reveals the depth of her focus and tenacity.

Her aim was to major in biochemistry, which she did, driven by an earlier dream to become a pediatrician. (She’s wanted to be “Dr. Jones” since she was 4.) Her academic advisor, chemistry professor, and fellow basketball aficionado Kevin Braun’99 says Faith was “driven from day one.” He says he helped guide her “more as a traffic controller than a pilot.”

After Beloit, she plans to take a year off to do research or work in a hospital, then she’s on to medical school, most likely in Chicago, ideally at Loyola University.

Women’s basketball has been a constant feature of Faith’s life at Beloit and another piece of her initial plan. After being recruited for Beloit’s team, she played guard all four years. Though practice and games often squeezed out other activities, she built her strongest friendships with her teammates both on and off the court. “We’ve gotten to know each other on so many different levels,” she says, “so we’ve been through a lot of ups and downs. We love each other and will always be there for one another.”

Faith JonesIn December of her senior year, as a sign of how much she relishes her last season, she can cite precisely how many games remain on her final basketball schedule. She recognizes that playing basketball for fun “will not be the same as putting on your jersey and being with your team when you’re down by two points with 20 seconds left in the game,” she says.

And the purple pillow? Faith took it home to her parents’ house in Illinois after changing the color scheme of her Beloit room. The other notable object she brought to campus, the video game Guitar Hero, remains a favorite and gets played on a regular basis.

When it’s time to pack up her things, Faith will take away much more than she brought to Beloit. Most of it will be in her head and in her heart, including lifelong friendships and everything she’s learned, both in the sciences and beyond.

In looking back, she can’t help but think ahead—to the students who will follow her. She wants them to know that if they strive high, they can accomplish anything and that stretching beyond their academic majors will serve them well. Mostly, she wants them to realize that their time at Beloit is precious and fleeting. “Make sure you cherish those years,” she says.

Dana Wierzbicki’12

Dana Wierzbicki’12The robot-talking transformer helmet Dana Wierzbicki brought to campus was the most curious object we discovered among first-year students’ possessions in 2008. Since then, she’s lost interest in it, tossing the plastic headpiece into the dusty heights of the attic in the Women’s Center, where she once lived.

Now, in Dana’s room in Porter Hall, visitors will find other playful items, such as a study-corner wallpapered with pictures of cats (a stress reliever) and a collection of one-piece pajamas with hoods, ears, and cartoon characters printed on them, which she picked up while studying in Japan.

During four years at Beloit, Dana’s original plans to study psychology were upstaged by anthropology.

A Society and Culture course taught by assistant professor Jennifer Esperanza whet her appetite, and she just kept going. “I thought it was one of the coolest classes I’d taken, and I wanted to follow up with all the other anthropology classes,” she says.

Dana WierzbickiWith interests in Asia, and an Asian Studies minor, Dana ventured out of the country for the first time for a semester abroad in Hirakata-shi, Japan. In her dorm room far from home, she padded around on tatami mat floors and slept on a paper-thin pad. She developed a new appreciation for everyday things, like her traditional American mattress, while also bolstering her sense of adventure and independence. “I did a bit of traveling around and visited a lot of shrines and temples,” she says. “I took a trip to Tokyo completely by myself and realized that I’m no longer scared of getting lost anywhere.”

Beloit’s Women’s Center was central to Dana’s experiences at Beloit. Many of her friends were involved in the center’s work or lived in its special interest house. She even completed an ethnography of the Women’s Center for one of her anthropology courses.

When taken in full, the last four years sort of run together, Dana says. “I’ve probably changed a lot,” she says with an exhale directed up toward her bangs. “It’s really cliché, but I’ve grown up a lot, and I feel more independent.”

At 21, she realizes she has plenty of time to shape her future plans. For now, travel is on the agenda before anything else. She may go to Europe for the first time or return to Japan after graduation in May.

What will she leave behind at Beloit? “I’m going to miss being around all of my friends, because I know that we’re going to split up really soon. I’ll miss just how pretty the campus is and being able to go to the C-Haus to see cool bands that are a two-minute walk away from my dorm—just those small things.”

Canberk Dayan’12

Canberk DayanWhen Canberk Dayan arrived at Beloit in 2008, he brought a gregarious personality, the guitar his father gave him, and an ambitious plan to pursue Beloit’s 3-2 engineering program.

The native of Turkey had a clear, but challenging roadmap for himself: three years at Beloit, followed by two at an Ivy League school. Beloit was a sort of way station on the road to bigger and better things.

Nearly four years later, he’s finished up his studies at Beloit and nearly completed his first year at Columbia University.

But the three years he spent at Beloit were more profound than he ever expected.

“When I think about Beloit now, I see that everything I experienced was priceless,” he says, citing his interactions with his host parents, professors, students, and staff members, “who made me who I am today.”

He talks about Beloit professors who, besides teaching, offered valuable advice, even friendship. He discovered context in many of his courses by learning how they perceive ideas and approach problems.

Canberk, pronounced Johnbeck, also squeezed leadership experience from the things he cared about. He founded the Table Tennis Club and was elected president of Beloit’s International Club. He formed what he describes as the first Multiple Sclerosis Club created on a U.S. campus. The club raised money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society through student-run musical and dance performances, and the group brought a speaker to campus who had scaled seven mountain summits, despite having M.S.

Today, Canberk says living in New York and studying at Columbia has its ups and downs. 

Canberk DayanThe environment that comes with 25,000 intensely career-oriented students is competitive, but it keeps him focused and compelled to stay out in front of his research. Opportu­ni­­ties for networking abound in New York, but he still misses the social life at Beloit.

By the end of this spring semester, he will have completed the first of two years studying engineering management systems at Columbia. The innovative program essentially applies industrial engineering principles to business and finance. He plans to cap off his engineering degree with an M.B.A., ideally from a top U.S. university. Eventually, he plans to return to Turkey. No matter what position he takes, he says he’ll make sure he has time to give back to his community.

In fact, he made a pledge along those lines to Nancy Benedict, his Beloit host mother and the college’s vice president for enrollment services.

“I promised her I would sponsor a student from Turkey to come to Beloit when I’m in the position to do it,” he says. “Who knows? I might even become a trustee of the college.”

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