During their time at Gettysburg College, the Class of 2020 explored new ways of thinking, pursued opportunities that ignited their passions, and laid their foundations for bright futures. Read the following reflections from several members of this class on the experiences that shaped them, what it means to be a Gettysburgian, and how they are using their Gettysburg College liberal arts education to take on the world!
“My title as captain of the women’s lacrosse team here at Gettysburg, which has won two NCAA national championships in my time here, is a testament to my ability to lead and inspire others. A team without a great culture will not accomplish goals, and my fellow seniors and I worked together to create and maintain a dynamic that was inclusive, dedicated, and driven,” said Liza Barr ’20, who was an organization and management studies major, and business and education double minor. “By dedicating myself to developing an all-in mindset within the team, our potential was boundless. I am heartbroken that we were not able to see that into fruition [in the] 2020 season, but I know my class left our legacy and there will be great things to come in 2021.” Barr has been nominated as NCAA’s 2020 Woman of the Year. She now works at W20 Group as an account associate.
Mathematical economics and mathematics double major Kevin Benavente ’20 is now working in the Investment Fellowship Program at T. Rowe Price in Baltimore, Maryland. He plans on pursuing his Chartered Financial Analyst certification and eventually obtaining a graduate degree. “This experience is really a culmination of the hard work and valuable relationships that I have built from Gettysburg. I am now the sixth straight Gettysburg alum to be hired into T. Rowe's Investment Fellowship Program and I am very grateful for the guidance and support of those ahead of me who helped me land this opportunity,” he said.
Kealy Cassidy ’20, who was a political science and public policy double major and peace and justice studies minor, is currently a paralegal for the Department of Justice in the Antitrust Division and plans to attend law school in the future. “The value of a liberal arts education is limitless. During my time at Gettysburg College, I took courses over a diverse range of disciplines. This litany of knowledge across a wide spectrum of studies has informed and developed all of the perspectives I hold today as a young adult on the precipice of entering into the working world. It was the courses I would not have necessarily taken that impacted me the most.” Cassidy also studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, which she considers the most pivotal moment in her four years at Gettysburg, as it challenged her to attain personal and academic growth.
“If it were not for the liberal arts education at Gettysburg, I never would have had the flexibility and the ability to discover my second major, computer science, which eventually wound up becoming my career post-graduation. I was able to take courses I found interesting, and develop myself as a person beyond just my major,” said Craig Cissel ’20, who double majored in physics and computer science. “I plan to continue my career, developing technology and eventually starting my own fund to help underprivileged and first generation students overcome their hurdles, break the cycle, and attend their dream schools.”
Perry Alexander Darby
“Before I even stepped foot on campus, I was welcomed to the Gettysburg community. When I was going through my points of greatest struggle, I was surrounded by people who lifted me up,” said Perry Alexander Darby ’20, who majored in organization and management studies with an intra-organizational dynamics track. “The great teachers I had made me want to teach others as well. To me, it's about giving back what you get, and I've gotten a lot at Gettysburg.”
Upon graduation, health sciences major Katharine Ellis ’20 joined the E.E Cammack Group School Sales Leadership Program at Aetna, a CVS Health Company, and now serves as an account executive. Ellis will complete seven weeks of intensive training at the headquarters before joining the New England Sales Team in Boston as a middle market sales executive. Her advice to the incoming class is: “Find your passion, pursue it, and be true and confident in yourself while doing so! Gettysburg does a phenomenal job at giving you exposure to unfamiliar things, so take advantage of all of the opportunities available to you on campus during your four years and I promise you that you will not regret it.”
“Back in February [of 2020], I was in history class with Prof. Hancock. He likes us to argue with one another, especially in a legal history class, and stages debates on some of the most salient issues. At the conclusion of one such debate, he told me unprompted, ‘You argued that like a lawyer.’ What he didn't yet know was that I had recently gotten an offer from my first choice law school,” said Jessica Greenman ’20 who majored in history major with a writing minor. “All the effort I had put in, the long nights and stressful exam weeks, the periods of wondering whether all of the work would be worth it, was starting to pay off. I had a vote of confidence that I really was prepared for the next step.” She is currently attending law school at the University of Richmond.
“Being a Gettysburgian means taking the time to step out of yourself and into new experiences,” said Diana Guzman ’20, who majored in health sciences and minored in peace and justice studies. During her time at Gettysburg College, Guzman studied globally in India, and this experience solidified her passion for housing equality. She currently works as a Connect to Home Peer Advocate for Anchor House, Inc. In this position, Guzman equips youth with the life skills they need to live independently in the community and helps them work toward goals for educational advancement and independent living.
“During the end of my first semester at Gettysburg College, I was having a tough time adjusting to college. I remember turning in my final, 26-page paper for my First-Year Seminar was a pivotal time for me,” said Charles Hagen ’20, who was an organization and management studies major, and business and political science double minor. “As I was walking down the large, front steps of Weidensall Hall I knew I was capable of producing quality, college-level work, that I made plenty of meaningful relationships my first semester, and I couldn't wait until I was back on campus in the winter to embark on the rest of my college journey. That is when I started to realize how special Gettysburg College is.” Hagen now works as a sales executive for AT&T.
“I have always been a person who thrived when I was helping other people. I am better when I am helping other people. At Gettysburg, I put myself in situations where I could mentor and support incoming and current students of color because I know how hard it is to thrive at Gettysburg. So my way of being inclusive, passionate, and thoughtful has been through my dedication to helping uplift my community with mentorship. It is very important to make sure everyone feels like they have a sense of community and belonging on campus,” said Quyn Israel ’20, who was a sociology major, and peace and justice studies and writing double minor. Israel now works as a wellness coach at Services for the UnderServed.
“A pivotal moment for me during my time at Gettysburg was when I interned as a Digital Technology Fellow for the educational technology department during the summer of my sophomore year. I learned a new kind of perseverance and unique problem-solving skills during the internship that I will be forever grateful for,” environmental studies major Alyssa Kaewwilai ’20 said. Kaewwilai was a two-time NASA intern and is now a software engineer for Raytheon Technologies, supporting NASA’s Science Data Processing Team within the Intelligence and Space sector. She is also an incoming engineering scholar at Johns Hopkins University. Kaewwilai hopes to continue challenging herself everyday and inspiring others. “I want to be a leading figure for women and minorities and exemplify that adversities are nothing more than stepping stone upon your path to success.”
During her time at Gettysburg College, Caroline Kostecky ’20, who majored in Spanish and triple minored in education, writing, and peace and justice studies, embraced the collaborative community in the classroom, as well as the opportunity to learn from her professors and her peers. “I welcomed the opportunity to listen to the thoughts and opinions of my classmates as a means for changing my own perspective. I was inspired to take this action because it enabled me to connect with unique and diverse people as well as open up my perspective and views on different topics in the classroom and the world.” Kostecky was on the women’s soccer team at Gettysburg and is now a mentor for Sports Performance 360 and a South Georgia Tormenta FC Soccer Coach.
“Being a Gettysburgian to me is being an independent, but humble thinker. The College leverages the privilege it has acquired, and with those resources aims to make the world a better place. As a campus, we try to create an environment that makes one comfortable to seek an education in everything, as we have resources that extend well beyond the campus,” said Churon Lanier-Martin ’20, who majored in English and minored in peace and justice studies. “What I cherish most about being a Gettysburgian is being a student of the world, and not confining learning to a classroom. There is an opportunity to learn everywhere, and the tools the college equips us with, enable us to interpret and communicate the ideas we deduce from the world effectively.”
Jack Lashendock ’20 double majored in international affairs and political science, double minored in Middle East and Islamic studies and history, and served as a Senator for the Class of 2020. “There is no one way to be a Gettysburgian, and this represents the wonderful diversity of our community. For me, it means taking chances—academically, professionally, or personally—and putting in hard work to achieve something meaningful. This cannot be done alone, though; to be a Gettysburgian is to be a part of a community where lifelong friendships and partnerships can blossom, where people look out for one another, and where ideas and perspectives can be respected and challenged.” Lashendock is pursuing a Master of Arts in law and diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, which he will complete in May 2022. In addition to his studies, he is currently interning with the United States Army War College's Center for Strategic Leadership designing international strategic crisis negotiation exercises.
“My sophomore year I took Prof. Williams’ Education for Social Change class, and that class completely changed me. That class made me want to learn again, it made me want to be a better student, and it made me more aware of all the injustices that were happening. And that led me to my study abroad in South Africa, my role on the Peace and Justice Studies Council, and my Immersion Trip to Rwanda,” said Caroline Lloyd '20, who was an Africana studies major, and political science and peace and justice studies double minor. Caroline Lloyd ’20. Lloyd is now an early childhood educator at Operation Breakthrough.
Patrick McKenna Jr.
“A pivotal moment for me at Gettysburg was joining the Eisenhower Institute. I was encouraged to apply by some upperclassmen mentors and ended up in a year-long program called Inside the Middle East. This program transformed my time at Gettysburg by forcing me to think outside the box, and the immersive experiential learning opportunities really pushed me out of my comfort zone. The program led not only to my continued involvement with the Institute as an office and program assistant the next three years, but as an avid participant in their programs,” said former Student Senate president Patrick McKenna Jr. ’20, who double majored in political science and public policy. He is now Executive Assistant to the Secretary at Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.
“Being a ‘Gettysburgian’ is about finding the groups of people that inspire you daily, all connected by the common place that is Gettysburg College. These people will push you to be a better person, make you more interested in the world around you, make you smile, be there for you when you are upset, and always be your support system. I was fortunate to find a few of these groups, each inspiring me in a unique way,” said James Mullen ’20, who was a political science major and peace and justice studies and Civil War era studies double minor. Mullen accepted a position with Teach for America Massachusetts in New Bedford, MA.
“The liberal arts education is invaluable in my eyes. It gives us such a breadth of understanding in numerous fields, but most importantly, this type of education teaches us to think critically. The knowledge we’ve gained here will easily translate into the real world, and I think a liberal arts education prepares us for the next chapter in our lives better than any other education,” said Ethan Murphy ’20 who majored in mathematical economics and minored in business. Murphy is now a supply chain manager at OmniCable in West Chester, PA.
Elaine Negron ’20 studied Spanish and women, gender, and sexuality studies and committed herself to making the Gettysburg College campus an inclusive space for all. “I did this through being part of the Latin American Student Association and having events that would build community for those students who identified as Latinx. These events made the campus feel more home-like to them and have a space for conversation of issues that matter to them. I was inspired to take this action because I wanted a space like that of my own, to have my own community on campus.” Negron is pursuing a master’s degree in social work at Southern Connecticut State University.
To chemistry major Shelby Nicolau ’20, being a “Gettysburgian” means being someone who is willing to help others and who is excited by a challenge. “As a first-generation student in STEM, I found finding a community of like-minded individuals was really important for my success. I wanted to find a way to connect with and help other students in my position. As a mentor for the STEM Scholars program, I had perfect access to start doing just that. I also wanted to help make students excited about chemistry and became involved in prepping and teaching the organic chemistry lab sequences.” Nicolau is now attending the University of Michigan in pursuit of a doctorate in chemistry.
“During the choir’s spring tour my freshman spring, in the throes of sickness, travel, and a snow lockdown of New York City, I finally began to see myself as more than just an individual, but someone who was a part of something bigger than myself. This experience encouraged me to stay at Gettysburg, to continue making music, (and change my major!) and to approach leadership from a perspective of collaboration and mentorship,” said Austin Nikirk ’20 who was a music performance major and French minor. Austin recently moved to Amiens, France, to work as an assistant des langues vivantes in English and Music classes at two middle schools.
“You can’t define being a Gettysburgian without mentioning community, but I think it’s more than that. Being a Gettysburgian means having a certain vivaciousness and excitement about different experiences, about life, about learning, about meeting new people. It means not just sitting around when there is a problem to be tackled, it means organizing rallies or hosting meetings to open up dialogues between groups. And more specifically for me, it means learning to recognize the privilege I carry with me and working to even the playing field,” said Darby Nisbett ’20, who was a psychology and studio art double major and peace and justice studies minor. Nisbett is attending the University of Maryland in pursuit of a master’s of library and information sciences.
“As a first-generation student and an international student, my path to higher education has not been clear or straight, it has been a challenging experience that encompassed two continents. But I have kept my options open, taken risks, and challenged myself throughout my time here at Gettysburg,” said Precious Ozoh ’20, who was an environmental studies major and business minor. “From the soccer field to the classroom, each step [was] challenging, rewarding, and varied. I have always been passionate about others and their perspectives in life because I believe every individual is complex in their own way and see the world through their personal lens. I recognize that learning occurs at home, in the classroom, at the soccer pitch, and in the community among my peers. Therefore, each individual can learn from my shared experience, and I can learn from theirs while recognizing we all have different gifts, learning styles, and needs.”
Jazmin Reynoso Ortiz
“Junior year was one of purpose and contemplation. I elected to focus on self-evolution and my passion for mobilizing communities, gravitating toward organizations that could provide me with professional opportunities for growth and development. I ultimately became a Leadership Mentor at the Garthwait Leadership Center (GLC). During this time, I helped the GLC incorporate values of diversity and inclusion into their training methodology. Simultaneously, I found myself embracing that particular facet of my identity that for so long I had stifled, feeling like an outsider in my own community where this intersectionality was not generally discussed,” said Jazmin Reynoso Ortiz ’20, who studied political science and public policy. She is further exploring her passion for social justice issues at the City University of New York School of Law.
“I think the most pivotal moment for me in my time at Gettysburg was joining the track and field team my freshman year. Joining the team gave me a purpose and a community of people who I immediately became close to. Not only was I able to find success on the track, but I established relationships that defined the rest of my Gettysburg experience. Having my coach tell me that every day is a great day to enjoy your sport made me realize that you should always try your best to enjoy what you're doing and seek positivity in your life,” said Samuel Sheldon ’20, who was a history major and political science and physics dual minor. Sheldon is a part of the Urban Teachers Baltimore program, where he is teaching in underprivileged communities in Baltimore, MD, while earning a master’s in education from Johns Hopkins University.
“At its core, I believe a ‘Gettysburgian’ means being goal-oriented, both as a self-starter and as a collaborator in your academic, professional, and personal development, while also being passionately dedicated to fostering a sense of community and belonging to something bigger than just yourself. After spending four years at Gettysburg College you realize that there is really no place like it; it is a unique place where you can grow into your own, discover what you are most passionate about, and develop profound relationships that enable you to be compassionate and empathetic with the people around you. As a Gettysburgian, you leave college with the knowledge, experience, and skills to succeed in the world,” history major Jason Sinsheimer ’20 said. Sinsheimer now works as a team lead for U.S. enterprise sales development at Xeneta.
“I hope to become an active member of the alumni network giving advice and helping lead the way to future Gettysburgians. I have already started to talk to stem scholar members in the newer cohorts about the dual-degree program and how they can maximize their Gettysburg College experience. As a first-generation underrepresented minority I hope that I will be somebody other students of similar backgrounds can relate to and hopefully help these students in the same ways Gettysburg has helped me,” said Jonathan Trilleras ’20, who was a biochemistry and molecular biology major enrolled in the College’s dual-degree engineering program for biomedical engineering. Trilleras is studying biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
“Gettysburg College is a vibrant community, built upon the rich tradition of the liberal arts. Gettysburgians strive for excellence inside and outside the classroom. We are a community with a vision that extends far beyond the walls of the College, and beyond the space of four relatively short years. Gettysburg prepares us for the challenges of life after college, promoting thoughtful responses to many of the challenges facing our world. Gettysburgians do not shy away from the most difficult questions of our age. Rather, they relish them. Gettysburgians take their role as global citizens seriously. Moreover, Gettysburgians recognize that the world is our classroom. We see every day as a new learning experience,” said history and anthropology double major and Civil War era studies and public history double minor Zachary Wesley ’20.
“I found my true passion for scientific research while I was at Gettysburg, and I had the opportunity to foster community in STEM through mentorship. One of my main goals as a mentor was to help other students feel confident doing science, because many students find STEM courses intimidating—I wanted to make sure students feel supported. I found these endeavors to be very rewarding because I know that I wouldn't have been as successful without the help I received from my upperclassmen friends when I was a sophomore, and I wanted to make sure all students would have the same opportunities that I had,” said Claire Woodward ’20, who majored in biochemistry and molecular biology and minored in German studies. Woodward is pursuing a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania and plans to devote her career to science policy and advocacy.
“As I was getting ready to get on a German majors and minors Zoom hangout, my friend,
who attends a university with 25,000 students, was bewildered that the German department was close enough with each other to be doing these sorts of activities. He has not had the same experience at a large university, and what I think he was lacking, and what Gettysburg College absolutely does well, is the personal feel. Getting to actually know your professors,” said Aidan Wright ’20, who was a history and German studies double major. “My favorite part of my time as an undergrad is the people I've met and the connections I've forged, and that is simply not possible without the Liberal Arts education.” Wright is now working as a college advisor for the Pennsylvania College Advising Corps.
Celebrate the Class of 2020 at Gettysburg College’s 185th Commencement ceremony
Please hold September 26, 2021, for Commencement in Gettysburg. Please check the Commencement page for updates.