Hometown: Elmira, Oregon

High School: Elmira High School

Major: English and Comparative Literature

Minor: Spanish

Elmira was named valedictorian at her high school, editor-in-chief of the school’s monthly news magazine, president of the Key Club, and a student leader of the Tolerance and Diversity Group. She served in student government, was the statistical software engineer for the school’s wrestling team, and was named a Fern Ridge School District Distinguished Community Builder. She’s an avid artist and is the winner of numerous awards in Advanced Placement coursework. She was the student adviser on the City of Veneta Park Board and regularly volunteers her time on service projects for hunger issues in Lane County.

What is the UO doing well? The University of Oregon does a great job in fostering an academic environment in which the faculty and professors genuinely care about each student’s success. Despite their busy schedules, when it comes to a student who has questions or needs guidance, faculty are always available. As a person with a never-ending supply of questions myself, I found this aspect of UO to be invaluable in shaping my freshman year. I have spoken with advisors in more departments than I could count and each time found sincere faculty who gave their undivided attention and expertise in often answering even more questions than I had.

What are you most proud of accomplishing since you started at the UO? Since I started at the UO, I’m most proud of finding my passion. As my high school’s valedictorian, I excelled in every subject, which rendered the age-old advice of “major in what you are good at” useless. Likewise, I did not know what subject interested me the most because I had the opportunity to take such a wide variety of classes every year and enjoyed them all. So when it came time to choosing a path for college, I picked one of the many fields which interested me: science. Beginning fall term I was excited at the idea of taking science classes, labs, and mathematics. But a couple weeks in and that was all I was doing. My life became endless hours of equations and formulas. I wasn’t enjoying college. Each day felt like a chore because I wasn’t interested in what I was doing. I had brought with me to my dorm a stack of novels, and each night as I was studying I would longingly stare at my stack on my desk, a pang in my heart as I watched it collect dust. During that time, my Honors History course with Professor Prazniak became my salvation. It was a course where we read a wide range of primary and secondary sources (not just a textbook!), drew intellectual conclusions, and wrote synthesis essays. Basically, it wasn’t science. The opportunity the Honors College gave me at taking such a different course from my major allowed me to step out of the academic box I had created for myself going in to college and find what I truly love: literature and languages. I cannot think back to a time when I didn’t have a book in hand. Even when I couldn’t read, my mother would read me stories each day and night. Books fueled my imagination and creativity; books accelerated my learning of the English language! Additionally, due to my full science schedule I wasn’t able to continue Spanish, a language I had loved learning four years prior. After one term of contemplation, I made the big decision to change my major to English and minor in Spanish. In my second term I witnessed the effects immediately. I looked forward to all of my classes every day and homework was no longer a chore, it was a chance to learn more interesting information. It was fun! I became more involved in extracurricular activities and all around loved college. These outcomes further reassured me that I made the right choice by following my passion.

What are some things you've been doing outside of the classroom since you've been at UO? I am a regular volunteer at one of the daycares on campus, Moss Street Children’s Center, and have joined University of Oregon UNICEF, a student-run organization aiming to promote the rights of children locally and internationally. Each term we feature a documentary for a related service project/goal. For winter 2016, we hosted a screening and discussion of “On the Way to School” to address education accessibility and worked on ways to make our university and surrounding schools more accessible (physically and economically) for everyone. Thanks to Vice President of Student Life Dr. Robin Holmes and Vice Provost of Undergraduate Studies Lisa Freinkel, I now serve on the Common Reading Committee. Due to my passion for literature and a memorable Common Reading experience this year, I am most excited for this opportunity to plan and prepare for future Common Reading books and subsequent events. What better way for incoming freshman to dive into the academia of college together by bonding over a good book?

Describe a mentor or professor that has positively influenced your experience at UO. I feel very fortunate to be in a university where every professor that I have had has made a positive impact on my experience here. In class and at office hours, they’re always there to advise in every way they can. But one person whose dedication and guidance has made the greatest impact for me is Michelle Holdway, associate director in Financial Aid and Scholarships. Whenever I have a question, big or small, Michelle always makes time to meet with me right away despite her busy schedule and workload. Her expertise and commitment has made a world of a difference in my time so far, and no doubt into the future, at UO. I’m grateful to have such a caring person like Michelle in my life.

Describe a couple of your favorite classes you've taken at UO. I have thoroughly enjoyed my Honors History sequences because they were unlike any history class I had ever taken before, particularly in the subject matters, discussions, and teaching styles. I was exposed to brand new concepts and my mind opened to intriguing aspects of history I never considered before. Another favorite class has been Turkish. I had been interested in the language for 12 years, yet never had the opportunity to take such a class. As soon as I set foot on campus for Week of Welcome, I set out to make my aspiration a possibility and eventually found the Turkish program through the Yamada Language Center. The course is very personalized, fun, and lively. I absolutely love Turkish and plan to continue learning my fourth language throughout college and beyond.

What are you hoping to do with your major, both while you work toward graduation and after? I plan on obtaining some teaching internships while continuing my higher education onto graduate school. In the future I aspire to be a college professor of English Literature or Comparative Literature, considering my four languages. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be teaching at the UO someday!