May 4, 2015
Full circle: Seniors reflect on how college has changed them
Seniors reminisce about the wishes they made as freshmen and how the college experience has changed them
Share this story
May is here and seniors at Virginia Commonwealth University are ready and eager to graduate and embark on life after college. But as they move on to careers, graduate school and starting families of their own, they’ll always have their college memories to look back on. For the members of the Class of 2015, one of their first VCU memories may be of a fairly new VCU tradition that takes place at orientation.
Each summer, thousands of new students (and many of their parents) touch the ram horns sculpture outside the University Student Commons and make a wish. The sculpture, by VCU alumnus Timothy Blum, had been installed for about a year before Kelli Lemon, director of new student programs at the time, had the idea to incorporate it into a VCU tradition. She thought it would be a great way to help new students feel they belong.
“It was just a way of building community and building a sense of VCU pride,” said Lemon.
In the days leading up to commencement, we checked in with seniors to see if their ram horn wishes came true and asked them to share some details about their college experience and future plans.
Karl R. Bethea II
Major: Communication arts
What was your ram horn wish and did it come true? When I touched the ram horns, I remember wishing that VCU would become a place that I could call home. I wished that I would love it here, and that I had made the right choice to come here. Five years later and a week away from graduation, my wish has more than come true. Coming to VCU was the best decision of my life.
How do you feel you’ve grown since you were a freshman? Since freshman year, I feel like I have become much more mature and independent. I have been a resident assistant for four years, and I will be working for New Student Programs as an orientation leader this summer for the fifth summer in a row, so I think it’s safe to say that my leadership and interpersonal skills have greatly improved. I'm also more outgoing than I was as a freshman — being around quite a lot of people a majority of the time has made me more comfortable in large groups.
If you could make a wish for the next four years, what would it be? My wish for the next four years is to be an established, up-and-coming illustrator. It took me a while to find my voice through my artwork, but I feel that I’m just scratching the surface of great things to come! As long as I continue to stay driven and work hard, I know that wish will also come true.
Any plans after graduation? Well, after New Student Orientation has concluded, I still plan to stay in Richmond at least for the next few years, if not longer. The art community here is so rich and supportive, I think it’s a great environment to foster and establish my art career. My internship for the semester just ended recently, and I plan on working for them full-time following orientation. Also, since I have been a part of Residential Life and Housing these past four years, I’ve yet to experience living outside of a residence hall here in Richmond, so that will be exciting. And I will be experiencing all of this with the love of my life, my boyfriend, so that’ll be amazing. Real-world, post-grad life is looking pretty awesome — I can’t wait!
Major: Biomedical engineering and psychology
What was your ram horn wish and did it come true? I wished that I would successfully graduate in four years with my biomedical engineering degree. Next week, I will be graduating with two degrees, one in biomedical engineering and one in psychology. I never would’ve thought I was capable of doing that as a freshman.
How do you feel you’ve grown since you were a freshman? VCU has given me many opportunities to explore myself. I have figured out who I am and have become truly comfortable in my own skin. I also had many opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone through the Emerging Leaders Program, Ram Camp, serving as an orientation leader and as president of the VCU Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa.
If you could make a wish for the next four years, what would it be? I would wish that I continue to learn and grow as a person and a researcher while attending graduate school and that I continue to make an impact at VCU as an alumna.
Any plans after graduation? I will be a doctoral student in the Engineering Psychology program at The Georgia Institute of Technology.
Major: Mass communications (public relations) and English
What was your ram horn wish and did it come true? I wished that I would find a home at VCU. Being a Navy brat, I spent my entire life moving from place to place and I hoped that upon arriving to VCU, it wouldn’t be like all of the times I’ve moved to a new place. This time, I could find a place that was meaningful to me and where I could fit in. I wouldn’t say my wish came true exactly. Instead of finding a home at VCU, I made a home at VCU. And that is the kind of place that this university is: a place where you can discover who you are and make the community suit you. No one will force you to think, act or be a certain way. You can make a home for yourself at VCU being comfortable in your own skin, and that’s what I was able to do over my four years here.
How do you feel you’ve grown since you were a freshman? My freshman year, I got a tattoo in my grandmother’s handwriting that says: “Wherever you go, go with all of your heart.” In a strange, sort of prophetic way, I really did bring all of my heart to VCU, and in return I was given so much back. My time at VCU has taught me to pursue and believe in your passions endlessly and my experience here has given me the tools and knowledge set to do so.
If you could make a wish for the next four years, what would it be? I would wish that I would no longer focus on the pursuit of happiness, but focus more on the happiness of pursuit. I have accomplished a lot while at VCU and look forward to more success in giving back to whatever communities I am a part of in the future, but for now I would like to relearn how to just “enjoy the ride” of life and wherever it takes me in the serendipitous manner that life seems to abide by.
Any plans after graduation? After finishing up my appointment to and work with Gov. McAuliffe’s Task Force for Combating Campus Sexual Violence in June, I will be on the job hunt with the rest of my peers. My goal is to combine my communications and media skill set with my passions for music and advocacy and start a career in the music industry, working to develop and support artists.
Major: Religious studies and international social justice, with a minor in Italian studies
What was your ram horn wish and did it come true? Actually, I was most excited to come to college to FINALLY take Italian! In wishing for an open space in the class, I was also hoping I’d make it through all four years here. I liked being home with my family.
How do you feel you’ve grown since you were a freshman? I have really grown into myself since being a freshman. Being of Italian heritage, I have learned so much more than just the language. My Italian professors have become like my second family here.
If you could make a wish for the next four years, what would it be? I would love to find something that incorporates my field of study into an enjoyable job. I just don’t actually know what that could be!! Moving to Italy wouldn’t be a bad option either!
Any plans after graduation? I was selected to work for the Department of State as a Student Ambassador to the United States at the Expo 2015 in Milan, Italy. I will be there for just over three months, July 20-Nov. 1. The opportunity came to me through my very first Italian professor, Gabriella Valsecchi, so I am honored to represent VCU as well. She has been such an inspirational part of my college career.
Major: Biology, with minors in Spanish, general business and chemistry
What was your ram horn wish and did it come true? I wished to find myself and my niche during my college career. This definitely came true — I found a support system among a close group of like-minded individuals and gained sisters by joining Kappa Phi Gamma Sorority Inc.
How do you feel you’ve grown since you were a freshman? I learned so much about myself by stepping out of my comfort zone. This helped me grow as a person and become self-confident, independent and self-reliant.
If you could make a wish for the next four years, what would it be? I would wish to keep growing and learning about myself even more. I hope to always want to gain more knowledge, keep traveling and learn more about the world we live in.
Any plans after graduation? I am headed to the University of Virginia School of Medicine in the fall and will be a part of UVA SOM Class of 2019!
Major: Psychology and African American studies, with a minor in criminal justice
What was your ram horn wish and did it come true? I actually wished for two things, 1) to graduate in four years of course and 2) I wished for many great opportunities to come my way!!!!
How do you feel you’ve grown since you were a freshman? Wow, since freshman year, I have matured a lot and I have also learned to love life as it is. From freshman year I did not realize the importance of school, and once I got involved in clubs and organizations I started to become more serious academically and socially.
If you could make a wish for the next four years, what would it be? I’d wish for success, a great job with financial stability or someone to pay for me to go back to school to receive my master’s or Ph.D.
Any plans after graduation? I am currently looking for a job and research positions to gain more experience before going into grad school for fall 2016.
Major: History (concentration: pre-medicine), with minors in chemistry and biology
What was your ram horn wish and did it come true? During orientation I wished that I would graduate from VCU with a 4.0 GPA! I wanted to leave VCU being as successful as possible in order to get into VCU medical school! As for it coming true...it did not! I got a B my junior year, but I can say I am graduating this May with a 3.9 and I am OK with that! I still believe through my other experiences here at VCU I definitely still made the most of my time here and was as successful as possible!
How do you feel you’ve grown since you were a freshman? I am from Blair, Nebraska, so coming to college in a place where there aren’t corn fields visible from the window was a big deal... but then to transition to an sprawling urban campus like VCU was a huge culture shock for me! However I came to love it! Since coming to VCU I think I have become more open and confident about who I am and I definitely know now that I belong in the city!
If you could make a wish for the next four years, what would it be? To stay in Richmond and be a Ram again! I am currently applying to medical schools around Virginia. My top choice is VCU; I hope I get in! I love the city and the community and I do not want to leave!
Any plans after graduation? The first thing I plan to do is some laundry because I have been putting it off all of finals week — but after that I am going to continue applying to medical schools and working here in Richmond!
Asad A. Abdullah II
Major: Information systems
What was your ram horn wish and did it come true? When I touched the ram horns during orientation, my one wish was to have a memorable and enjoyable college experience (and graduate).
How do you feel you’ve grown since you were a freshman? My first year at VCU was fairly heavy on me, since I was going through a lot socially and personally. My second semester freshman year I met with a counselor at VCU [University Counseling Services] that not only saved my life, but changed it for the better. Since then I’ve encountered several opportunities that have benefited me mentally, socially and academically that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. I’ve also been privileged to relay my experience and knowledge to others as a resident assistant and orientation leader. I love what VCU has done for me, and I hope my contributions can be benefited from as well.
If you could make a wish for the next four years, what would it be? What I truly wish for, not only for the next four years, but many years from now is to develop into a stronger and more intellectual individual so that I may continue my passion for others and change more worlds.
Any plans after graduation? I have a few job offers local to the Richmond area, and since I love VCU/Richmond, I plan to stay here and move in with my boyfriend.
Major: Mass communications, with a concentration in strategic advertising
What was your ram horn wish and did it come true? To complete my undergraduate degree in four years due to financial limitations — yes!
How do you feel you’ve grown since you were a freshman? The trajectory of my life has completely changed. I had no idea what I wanted to do freshman year and since I learned how to learn rather than solely memorizing information, I discovered topics I had no idea I would develop great passions for. I now value constantly growing and learning throughout my entire life rather than looking at education as a finite race with a finish line to cross. Continuing my education abroad was absolutely pivotal and has changed the idea of the future that I will create. I love foreign languages even more than I knew and also was introduced to teaching English.
If you could make a wish for the next four years, what would it be? To spend it happily and healthily with my family.
Any plans after graduation? Advertising internship that will help me determine if I want to continue in the field. Earning my TEFL Certification and going from there.
Subscribe for free to the weekly VCU News email newsletter at http://newsletter.news.vcu.edu/ and receive a selection of stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings in your inbox every Thursday. VCU students, faculty and staff automatically receive the newsletter.
Subscribe to VCU News
Subscribe to VCU News at newsletter.vcu.edu and receive a selection of stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings in your inbox.