Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger addressed last year’s graduating students at the Commencement ceremony. This year, more than 3,900 students in the University’s Class of 2011 will be recognized at Commencement on Monday.
This year, 3,932 students will be graduating at the University’s 166th commencement ceremony next Monday and will move on to hold jobs, explore their passions and continue their educations.
This year’s class orator and College senior Ben Kassoy, who will be working in product development for Macy’s Merchandising Group in New York City, said that though he decided early in the school year that he would “give the working world a shot” post-graduation, he didn’t accept his new job until after spring break due to his uncertainty about the position.
Though his job is in business, Kassoy, an English major, said that he hopes to continue writing.
“Although my job is in business, as opposed to a stereotypical field an English major would enter — writing, teaching, waiting tables — I will need to utilize creativity, communication and critical thinking skills, all of which I gained from my English and liberal arts education,” he said. “Plus, I am a writer, so what better place to freelance than New York City?”
College senior Jillian Edelstein, who majored in Psychology and minored in Dance and Movement Studies, will be attending Boston University Medical School as a Master’s student in the Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine program.
Edelstein said she came to Emory expecting to go to physical therapy school after graduation, but it wasn’t until an internship last summer that she decided what exactly it was that she wanted to do.
“After interning in a clinical setting in Atlanta over the summer of 2010, I realized that I wanted to attend graduate school to work with children [to] become a therapist,” she explained. “I am very excited to bring this new chapter in my life that will pave the way for me to be immersed into the working world as a licensed counselor.”
College senior Lauren Donnenfeld also has aspirations of working with children, but in a teaching setting.
“I wanted to go into teaching after working for Breakthrough Collaborative a few summers ago,” she said. “I loved teaching and knew that I wanted to go into teaching after graduation.”
Donnenfeld, who is a double-major in Political Science and French, will be teaching English in a disadvantaged school in France next year.
She explained that she had to turn down a position with Teach For America (TFA) in order to take on this opportunity and that the decision was difficult for her because she is “deeply committed to ending the achievement gap in [the United States].”
“I grew angry about the educational system in the U.S. and wanted to change it,” Donnenfeld explained of her initial desire to teach. “It seems unfair to me that there are vast discrepancies in the quality of education for children across this country. Our educational system disadvantages the students who need a quality education most.”
Other students such as fifth-year College senior Zeb Heidt are also pursuing their passions following graduation.
Heidt, who is a Chemistry major, transferred to Emory from Spartanburg Methodist College.
Between baseball and pre-med classes, Heidt said he knew from the beginning that he would have to stay an extra semester.
When Heidt submitted a graduation application in fall of 2010, he said that it was denied.
“It was not my decision to stay at Emory another semester, but I am very glad I did,” he said. “My academic life before Emory was extremely sheltered, and although I did not spend a full four years here, the Emory community has completely changed my perspective of the world.”
Though Heidt plans on applying to medical school in June, he will be spending a gap year doing research and working on a cruise ship as an entertainer, performer and dancer.
“I honestly do not think medical school would be in my future if it were not for my time spent here,” Heidt said of his plans.
While Heidt is graduating a semester later than expected, College junior Seth Schortz is graduating a year early.
An Art History major, Schortz said that he came to this decision in order to “save a year’s tuition so that I didn’t have to be in any more student loan debt.”
Schortz said that he has plans to go to law school in the near future, but because he is younger than even most of the junior class, he said he will be taking some time after graduation before applying to law school.
“I am going to take some time off to work at a law firm,” he said. “I am also going to continue building my photography portfolio. It’s an amazing hobby that could lead to something some day.”
Many of the Class of 2011 attribute their success to their time at Emory.
“I believe my undergraduate career at Emory has prepared me to prioritize my responsibilities, manage time and seek out opportunities that suit my interests and will benefit my career,” Edelstein said.
For Kassoy, it’s the culture of the education at Emory that has prepared him for his ongoing endeavors, he said.
“The best part about ... a liberal arts education from a great school like Emory is that I’ll be leaving college equipped with a broad and diverse set of skills and knowledge that allow me to succeed in a variety of industries,” Kassoy said.