Year Four: The Big Leap
On the cusp of commencement, seniors tell us about their most memorable professors and classes; favorite places on campus and in New York City; immediate plans and dream jobs; challenges faced and lessons learned; and what they will miss the most when they leave Wagner. The final installment of our four-year series on the Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts. Story by Laura Barlament / Photographs by John Emerson
Hometown Rolling Hills, California
Major Theater Performance, Dance Minor
The professor who made the biggest impression on me is Rusty Curcio, head of dance, my advisor. I came to Wagner unfamiliar with the craft of dance, and with no self-assurance, and I wanted to get better at it. He saw that in me. He opened my eyes to new ways of looking at movement and how it applied to acting and to being a person in general. What we study with Rusty is a system that analyzes movement. Everything in life is movement, everything. Being aware of that is really beautiful.
My dream job is to be on Broadway. If I could be that song and dance guy, you know, leading man. Especially in a classic, like Billy Bigelow in Carousel, or Tommy in Brigadoon. Amazing stories with great music. That's the stuff, I feel like.
When I leave Wagner, I'm going to miss the intimacy of campus. Being able to walk from Harborview to Foundation or Main Hall or Guild, and be with my best friends in the entire world. We're all interested in the same thing, and we all love the same thing. It's just a creative hotbed for art.
A change I would like to see at Wagner is higher participation in co-curricular activities. Students don't always take the time for them, not realizing that we're not always going to have these opportunities. Also, the theater facilities don't nearly match the level of the faculty that we have in the theater department, or the standard they're training their students to be at. We have a joke we tell prospective students: “It's the worst place you'll ever work.” Still, it's worth it to be in New York City.
My next step will be doing summer stock theater at the Arundel Barn Playhouse near Kennebunkport, Maine.
Hometown Sayville, New York
Dual Major Anthropology/Sociology and Elementary Education
My favorite place on campus is the Oval. It's the place you hang out when the fall semester has just started, when I'm always happy to be back, or the spring semester is about to end, and I'm ready for a break. It's the spot on campus where everyone's the most relaxed. We have the children's Reading Carnival out there, and it's such a pretty view of campus.
The classes that made the biggest impression on me were anthropology classes, like Comparative Cultures, taught by Professor Alexa Dietrich. I learned how to read critically and apply theories to real life. Dr. Dietrich was great about helping her students connect anthropology to any discipline or career field they were involved in.
After four years in the Wagner Plan, I would say it worked really well for my major. I've been in classrooms every semester, observing and teaching. In my senior learning community, we focused on diverse student populations and developed experiential lesson plans, while we were also student teaching. So, we were applying experiential learning while also participating in it ourselves.
My dream job is teaching, ideally in a classroom where I would have enough money to give the kids everything I could possibly give them, and take them on field trips and do projects with them, and where I didn't have to do the paperwork and worry about the political end of it, and lawsuits and everything that's going on in classrooms.
My next step will be teaching social skills at an international rugby camp in Barcelona, Spain, this summer. I've been teaching a program called SARA — Students Against Relational Aggression — in Staten Island elementary schools during my four years at Wagner, so it's a good fit for me.
Hometown Ridgefield, Connecticut
Self-Designed Interdisciplinary Major Philosophy and Psychology
My favorite place on campus is outside Cunard Hall when the cherry trees are blooming. I love walking through there. I started dating my current girlfriend last spring, and we would walk through there together. I love flowers and plants.
My favorite place in New York City is anywhere there's great food. New York is the first place I had Indian food, which I love. I ate so much the other day I thought I was going to puke.
The professors who made the biggest impression on me are Walter Kaelber in religion and Miles Groth in psychology. They let me bloom as a thinker and learner. It's been scary and fun.
My dream job is to be a psychologist. I'd like to do something like the men's group I led at Wagner. It was a group of about 10 guys who met weekly to talk about our experiences as males. It was a challenge, because it isn't easy to get guys to talk about feelings and emotions. Also, it got me involved in political conflicts and power struggles on campus and in larger academic circles as well. But my real aim was to try and understand if there are any differences between males and females, and to improve the relationship and communications between the sexes. I want to understand myself better as a male. And, I want to continue to learn.
At Wagner, I received the gift of not thinking normally, like in Platonic academies, where they said you hadn't been educated if you hadn't gone crazy, meaning that you've become so filled with the enthusiasm of life that you go a little cuckoo.
When I leave Wagner, I'm going to miss an environment where people are learning and living close together and growing up together, with all the trials and tribulations that brings. That's such a cool environment for anyone who's trying to learn about life.
Update about Kyle: He will spend the fall 2011 semester as an international research assistant at the University of South Australia.
Hometown Levittown, New York
Dual Major Theater and Elementary Education
My favorite places on campus are the library — it's quiet, and I love quiet — and this year also my room in Towers, which has a view of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Seeing the sun rise over the water helps me get up early for my student teaching.
The professor who made the biggest impression on me is Stephen Preskill, chair of the education department. He taught my intermediate learning community, and he's brilliant. I wrote down quotes by him in the front of my notebook. One was, “An educator is a convenor of great minds.” I love that! Teaching is a humbling job. Dr. Preskill taught us that a teacher is one who does not stand above the students, lecturing and passing down knowledge, but one who gives the students tools to create their own learning.
A challenge I faced at Wagner was trying to win a part in a Wagner Theater show. I started auditioning as a freshman. After I realized how competitive it was, I decided to keep doing it at least for the auditioning experience, which is always valuable. And this year, for the very last Main Stage show, I got a part in the Seussical ensemble. “Anything's possible” is a quote from Seussical. It's a cliché, but I believe it's true. I believe that the energy you put out will be returned to you. The universe works like that.
My dream job is to perform and to work with kids in the realm of theater. When you give a child an outlet to express themselves in a positive way, it's very fulfilling. After graduation, I have an internship with the Rose Theater in Omaha, Nebraska, which will allow me to do both of these things — perform and work with children. I'm very excited about it!
Hometown Orangeville, California
Major International Affairs, Concentration in Economics, Italian Minor
My favorite place on campus is outside of the admissions building. I love to sit there at night, listening to music. It looks like my dream house — a yellow house with a porch.
The professor who made the biggest impression on me is Mary Rose Leacy in economics. I love Dr. Leacy's passion in the classroom every day, how she explains economics in a lively fashion, and gets to know her students. She would take me aside if she saw me missing classes or not doing well, and say “You're better than this.” She got me reading Internet blogs and publications like the BBC and The Economist. She taught me how to do research on my own, understand information and analyze it objectively. I haven't had another teacher make me want to try as hard.
A challenge I faced at Wagner was the unexpected passing of my father during my first semester. I felt like I forgot how to breathe. I left for a month, but I did complete my classes that semester and continued on. Wagner was the right choice for me because of how personal it is. Because when life hits, it hits hard. Wagner's support systems allotted me enough time to work through that struggle. Without Wagner, I wouldn't be the person I am today.
Five years from now, I'd like to be living abroad and starting a business. I would love to go back to Italy, where I studied abroad for a semester through the St. John's program in Rome. I'll always carry a bit of Rome in my heart. But first, I'm going back to California to work for a grassroots political organization.
My dream job is to own my own business. I have written a business plan for a consulting firm that helps small and medium-sized businesses expand their profits by reducing their costs and expanding their markets.
Katie Jo Younkins
Hometown Lisbon, New Hampshire
Major International Affairs, History Minor
My favorite place on campus is the war memorial in front of Spiro Sports Center. It's near the center of things, but most don't realize the benches are there, and it is very quiet. I love it when the sun is out!
When I was a freshman, I wish I'd known that you are never too old for Disney movies. I didn't bring mine to campus with me freshman year, but that's all we watch! I really didn't expect it.
My favorite place in New York City is S'MAC in the East Village. Best gourmet macaroni and cheese place ever! I love the walk there from Union Square.
The class that made the biggest impression on me was Economics of Genocide. Learning about multinational corporations' role in exploiting underprivileged countries completely changed my perspective. It made me want to go into human rights in international law.
My next steps are to work as a graduate assistant for the assistant dean of campus life, Curtis Wright, while pursuing my MBA in international business. Dean Wright offered me the position because of my work as the Student Government Association's vice president for finance. I think an understanding of the business perspective will be helpful with my future law studies.
My dream job is to advocate for those less fortunate in other countries regarding human rights violations, or advocate for the State Department.
One of the best things about Wagner is Student Government Association town hall meetings. How many schools have their president come to meet with the students, and you can ask him any question you want?
Dual Major Psychology and Education
What I learned at Wagner is that you can never have enough questions, and there are an infinite number of answers to every question. Life is so much more interesting if you understand that you should continuously learn, and continuously question, and seek out different answers and solutions to problems. I learned to be comfortable with not knowing. There aren't black and white answers, and that's awesome.
Major Psychology, Art Minor
Wagner has given me a new love of learning. Before, my education seemed forced and contrived, but at Wagner I came out of classes with a new perspective and could connect my knowledge from one class to the next. My dream job would be something like art therapy or communications that combines my interests in creativity and psychology.
READ PREVIOUS STORIES IN THE SERIES ABOUT THE WAGNER PLAN: