Sewanee students begin to gear up for summer plans

University View at the Memorial Cross. Photo courtesy of Sewanee’s Flickr.

By Luke Gair, Staff Writer

As the winter winds slowly recede and the springtime leaves begin their annual reappearance across campus, students are preparing their summer plans, whether that be an internship or starting a new job. Thanks to the Office of Career and Leadership Development, along with several other resources the University offers, students have countless opportunities to work in the summertime both on campus and off.

Hellen Wainaina (C’18) plans to work alongside budding artists at the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference, a highly regarded national program for high school creative writers. The program works across mediums including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and play writing. This will be Wainaina’s second time working for the program.

“It happened by chance frankly. I was initially applying for a position at Folkways. But it didn’t work out, and around the same time, Dr. [Elizabeth] Grammer was looking for counselors because two of her counselors had to withdraw,” said Wainaina.

During her experience, she hopes to connect with the attendees. She stressed that, “students come from all walks of life, and they are putting themselves out there and attempting to create and express themselves genuinely. It is so important, in my mind to support that endeavor and be mindful of their experiences.” After spending time working as a tutor, counselor, and teaching fellow, she will be able to transpose her experiences into being a successful counselor.

Throughout her time on the Domain, her experience has “built a connection with Dr. Grammer and her work with Young Writers, her passion for literature, and supporting literary artists.” She was sure to emphasize how “that enthusiasm and devotion has carried over to interest and care for young writers and the program Young Writers.”

Abbie Warr (C’19) will also be working in the Sewanee area, but her work will be impactful in a much different way. During her time here in the summer, Warr plans to intern with Folks at Home in the local Sewanee area where she plans to “help start up their StoryCorps project.”

According to Warr, “Folks at Home is a local non-profit organization developed for and dedicated to assisting its members in continuing a dignified and comfortable lifestyle in the community through coordination of services they need during their elder years. The ultimate goal of StoryCorps is to have students, faculty, and community members alike contributing to the collection of stories, building relationships fostered through sharing lived experiences.”

Warr hopes to utilize this experience by strengthening her role as a go between for the student community and its other surrounding members, “particularly through promoting StoryCorps through the Community Outreach and Engagement house in the fall.” After she graduates next year, she is interested in a career that centers around Speech and Language Pathology. The internship will be an opportunity “to practice skills that are needed when interacting with the elderly. Empathetic communication is crucial in the field of speech therapy.”

In her freshman year, she originally intended to work as an English teacher. After spending last summer interning in the field of social work through the Sewanee at Yale program, the experience allowed her “to work with kids and adults in a clinical setting.” This is what drove her to a career path involving speech therapy.

After having her own plans change, she encourages underclassmen to “keep your options open and do not be afraid to try new things because that could ultimately end up being your passion.”

Students will be working away from campus as well. Leslie Vargas (C’21) will be taking five weeks to conduct research with the Island Ecology program on Saint Catherine’s Island in Georgia. In her first semester at Sewanee, she took an introductory forestry class with Dr. Ken Smith, who went on to recommend her for the program. After attending the information session, Vargas notes how she was immediately “ready to fill out my application.”

As a rising sophomore, she is intent on creating more relationships with classmates and learning more. Since she is still figuring out a career path, she hopes “the program will solidify some sort of career path.” Hoping to carry over this experience into her career post-graduate, she believes the program will offer an extensive experience and be “a gateway for entering the field of natural resources.”

Outside of the classroom, she states how “my time at Sewanee has made me rethink my future and has pushed me to do things I had never knew were possible. As a freshman, I told myself to find my sense of place before taking on any commitments… work hard and take the risk. Every experience, good or bad, is a learning and growing experience and that’s just as great. Do everything in your power and you can never be disappointed.”