Grace Shrestha 22C

Grace Shrestha

“When I was younger, there was an emphasis on reverence and respect for tradition, which is an overarching principle in a lot of Asian cultures. The idea is to always keep your head down, work hard, be gracious, and then show pride in your heritage, and honor your family. I would often feel hesitant to voice my opinions. This has always been an obstacle for me. After coming to Emory, I am now President of Emory Behind the Glass. I am able to take part in research and have an honors thesis with my name on it. It's shown me how speaking out and sharing ways of contributing to the research field and contributing to reform is the ultimate show of respect for my heritage. It shows my ancestors and former generations that their hard work was not in vain. Now I have a better understanding of all of the things they had to overcome and that they sacrificed their voice so that I could find mine.”


Sean Chen 22C

Sean Chen

“One of my goals is to do a TED Talk about yellow watermelon. I identify as Taiwanese American. I grew up in Taiwan, and I've always seen yellow watermelon. So much so that it has become a metaphor for me. Here’s how: On the outside yellow watermelons look the same as other watermelons, but once you cut them open, inside it’s a completely different color. It’s a rare genetic mutation, which makes them special. It’s important to talk about exploring the special part that lives inside of you and talk about identity. Explore who you really are on the inside and what defines you, and what makes you feel fulfilled. I also identify as queer, and there’s a difficult intersection between being Asian and being queer. Sometimes you feel like a yellow watermelon, which can sometimes make me feel out of place, but also really special.”


April Lawyer 25C


“Although I’m majoring in Biology and English, I want to find out how to build a castle from the ground up! I want to answer questions like, "How deep do I build the foundation?" or "What type of rocks do I need to use?" Building a big stone castle or fort has always been a fantasy. Here at Emory, I've had the opportunity to research medieval architecture books from the Woodruff Library. I go there and read to try to expand my knowledge. It’s been like my own candy shop, but with castles!”


Olivia Johnson


I’ve always been interested in education inequality because where I grew up it was very stark. You could tell the difference between schools that were receiving proper funding and schools that weren’t and they were within walking distance of  each other. That changed something in me and I made it my goal to seek out the best education opportunities that would have me. A lot of my identity is wrapped around being a student so when the pandemic hit, I realized how much I felt a sense of belonging specifically when I was on campus. Suddenly, that was all taken away and I realized, I was afraid of what life would feel like once I graduated. I just didn’t know how to operate NOT as a student, but I started thinking about that identity shift. Honestly, Emory has done a fabulous job preparing me for the real world, but I’m also so glad to be back on campus for my final year here. It just feels right.


Henry Pang 25C


“I do ballroom dance in my spare time. I was so happy when I found an Emory club where I could dance with others that also love ballroom. There’s Foxtrot, Waltz and Rumba, and all these different art forms. The cool part is you’re never bored. You can always try something new and a lot of the basics are similar. So, even when you’re learning a new type of ballroom dance there’s something familiar. I didn’t realize how much I missed that connection. A song will come on and you can just dance with someone.  You can be close with them during this time when it's not very common to be close to people anymore because of the pandemic. However, in that class I get to connect to people and to feel that closeness again.”


Crescent Alcid 22PH

Crescent Alcid

“I'm the Co-VP for the Graduate Student Government Association. One of the things that I'm doing is laying a foundation for curriculum requirements. So that every graduate student here will be recommended to create a curriculum that involves more diversity and equity. This ensures that the voices of those who have been historically oppressed are represented in the classroom. Also, one of the recommendations we have is to increase hiring for Black, indigenous and people of color as well as people with different abilities and statuses. We want to make sure they are actually teaching classes in their respective fields because it's so different learning about a subject matter when it's someone who has come from that specific background versus someone who's only just done research around it. Emory supports this initiative and I don’t know if I could have had this much support anywhere else.”


Andre Scales Jr. 25C

Andre Scales

“What excites me most is making connections with people again. I'm naturally a shy and introverted person, and I hadn’t been in a classroom since my junior year of high school so I was nervous about being around people again. However, the first couple of weeks here, I immediately met a great group of people and I started pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I started taking classes and going to different events and voluntarily talking to more people. I never do that! It’s like Emory has given me time to breathe, and it has allowed me to take big leaps. I feel like I have already made lifelong friends who are making this Emory journey so fulfilling. “


Jasmine Mahadumrongkul 23B


“As a Vice President of Emory’s Buddhist Club, we provide an on-campus opportunity for practitioners to learn with Senior Buddhist instructors from places around the Atlanta area. We plan weekly guided meditation and put together a different topic of reflections and discussions such as anger, or how to cope with stress, how to deal with homesickness, and how to eat mindfully. We remind each other to give ourselves a break and not to be too stressed about it all because after all, you're supposed to have fun and enjoy college life.”


Nalissa Blanc 25C

Nalissa Blanc

“My mental health has been difficult to deal with lately. My mother didn't go to college, my father didn't go to college and I had a cousin who went to college, but she dropped out after the first year. So one thing that scares me is that I'm not going to succeed because everyone before me didn’t finish college. However, I think about my long-term goal, which is to open different prenatal clinics to provide women who cannot receive prenatal care in different countries. Statistics show that many women have miscarriages because they don’t have access to prenatal care or they don't know that this exists. I want to be able to provide these services for women with low-income health care. I also want to become a certified midwife nurse in the future to help other women around the globe. Everyone in my family is looking up to me. Most of my time is spent studying so I can finish school and help my family have a better future. It starts with me.”


Brent Allman 22G


“I got my first rejection letter yesterday for a fellowship that I applied for. The truth is, I was bummed but it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I was anticipating the rejection because everything is so competitive right now. However, my advisor told me to celebrate the submission process. Although the acceptance is out of our hands, we do have control over the process; the research, proposal, and the way it’s presented. So, I'm choosing to celebrate the process more because the accomplishment is in my work and the thought that I put into it.”


Areej Nazir 25C


“I grew up in a diverse Muslim community in South Dakota, which most people find ironic. I feel a level of responsibility to educate people. When we started learning about Pakistan in school I noticed there was a lack of empathy for my people. So I started to talk about the Pakistan that I know, not just the one taught in books. Gradually, my fellow students began asking me questions about Pakistan and suddenly their perspectives became more open and accepting. Now I’m a freshman representative for the Pakistani Student Association and it’s something I'm very proud of. It’s exciting to talk to other people about your culture and your beliefs. I think that it is especially important when you're surrounded by people who don't necessarily know a lot about it. There is power in not just seeing someone like me but hearing about my experience and learning about my people from me. Suddenly, people see me as a person and see my people for more than what they may be perceived as.”


Daniel Zozaya 22L


“I never thought that at 32 years of age I'd be living in a college dorm as a Complex Director. I had a previous career before law school where I worked as an economic development manager. I loved what I did and I got to work with a lot of communities empowering people. However, I also wanted more. That's why I took the risk at 30 to become a lawyer. I took a step back, quit my job, and went back to school and now I’m seeing the results. I'm excited to see the investment that I made in myself pay off. I’m ready and looking forward to my future.”


Maddy Setser 25C

Maddy Setser 25C

“My future goals of working in real estate are clear; I've known exactly what I wanted to do since my junior year of high school. However, Emory encourages first-year students to explore as many different areas of interest so I’m keeping my mind open and taking full advantage of my liberal arts education. I just recently sent an application to the Career Center here at Emory for shadowing days. At Emory, I can actually see the path towards my dream of having my own business.”


Matthew Nails 22C


I find it difficult to take care of my mental health in a college setting, but sometimes I have to be willing to take what I would call the “L” - or losses - some days. I’ve learned to take them gracefully because at the end of the day, college is a four-year experience, but your mental health is for a lifetime. For example, there are some days when I choose to listen to the recorded lecture instead of attending class because my mental capacity is limited. Taking that time for myself allows me to recharge. So even if you can't attend in person, you can always catch up later instead of putting yourself in a situation where your mental health is progressively declining.”


Gurel Ari 25C

Gurel Ari

“I feel alive when I'm working on a project or expanding my mental capacity with education. When the pandemic hit, that changed everything. It was really hard to stay at home and find something new to engage with mentally. When I returned back to campus I was so excited to be back that I joined about 50 different clubs, I even challenged myself by joining Salsa Club. Our instructor, Jay is so amazing and so funny that he makes you love salsa even more. I also realized, I’m a terrible dancer, ha! However, knowing that my teacher is there to help us makes the process of learning and dancing feel great so much so that I've been consistently going to the salsa club meetings ever since. I feel more alive than ever! Now I’m starting to learn more about the beautiful culture of salsa and I’m getting better at dancing! I’m not terrible anymore. Within the next year, my goal is to perform somewhere. I don't know where yet but I’m going to make it happen.”


Sareena Sethi 20Ox 22C

Sareena Sethi

“Many people don’t know that I’m a musician by heart. I was the first female drumline captain in my high school marching band. I think a lot of people didn’t think I could boss around all those guys on drumline because of my size but I did it! Another fun fact is I have perfect pitch, which is the ability to recognize the pitch of a note. So, when I needed to unwind from a stressful day of studying, I would go into the chapel at the Oxford campus because it was open. They had this big grand piano and I would just go in and play. It was fun because all of the custodial staff would walk in and start requesting songs. They were always so surprised that I knew older songs. It’s been so refreshing to be back on campus to share my love of music with my close friends and the staff here at Emory.” 


Yemko Pryor 25PhD

Yemko Pryor

“Something that I don’t think many people know about me is that I carry crystals. I use them to help remind myself to communicate my thoughts, especially thoughts that are deeply intellectual. I carry a crystal called, Tiger's Eye, which also helps me find clarity and helps combat my anxieties with communicating. I also have a Clear Quartz, which amplifies everything for me. Lastly, I carry two small cowrie shells in this little satchel. These are a daily reminder that my ancestors are always with me so I know that I am never alone, that I am covered in the energy and the memory of them.” 


Akshat Toshniwal 23C

Akshat Toshniwal

“I think most of my friends would characterize me as an extrovert. However, before starting college I had just moved from India and at first was very hesitant and nervous to branch out and get involved in any activities. When I started to make friends they encouraged me to get involved on campus and to run for elections for my residence hall. I became a part of my own community here and suddenly many doors opened for me. So even though my first year was challenging, once I found a sense of community I felt right at home.”


Rebekah Lee 25C

Rebekah Lee

“As a freshman, I am very interested in social justice and equity, especially access to health care. It’s personal for me. My brother actually had a rare blood vessel brain disease, which was initially dismissed. Doctors would say, “Oh, you just have headaches, you don’t need to worry about it.” When Obamacare finally became available, we were able to have access to better doctors and specialists who immediately looked at his charts and saw that it was not just normal headaches. He immediately was referred to a specialist for an MRI that saved his life. This is how all health care should be.”


Kaleolani Laymon 22C


“Emory has truly taught me that education is activism. I saw it best when I was tutoring middle school students this year. I witnessed teachers that actively addressed current issues in their classrooms. It was so inspiring to see middle schoolers tackling big topics. I could see how much they gained from being able to talk about what's going on in their world and applying what they're learning in class to their daily lives. After my experience there, it solidified my choice to go into the field of education so I can bring activism and humanity into classrooms, and empower the next generation.”