Nicole Cesanek '24
Business, organizations, and management major
This past year, I had the incredible honor of working with Mr. G’s Ice Cream and Alpha Delta Pi on a community-wide tab collection bin, benefiting the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) in Hershey, Pennsylvania. My family and I always collected tabs, but we had nowhere to turn them in.
When I got to college, I wanted to expand this collection to another community In high school, we collected more than 160 pounds of tabs in one year. Yet, in just two months, we collected 75 pounds for our Gettysburg collection.
Through this process, I gained an appreciation for public policy and learned valuable leadership and communication skills that helped this project succeed. Beyond all, my growth has been defined by the growth of this program and how much it has helped families that utilize RMHC’s resources. I’m very excited to now be a member of Alpha Delta Pi myself and make the lifelong commitment to RMHC through philanthropy efforts with this organization for years to come.
Munya Choga ’12
Co-founder and president of CareerPalz, computer science and economics major
Growing up in Zimbabwe encouraged me to pursue my intellectual curiosity and interests. After graduating from high school, I took a gap year to explore the possibility of getting a U.S. education with the hopes of becoming a Wall Street banker. I landed a scholarship to study at Gettysburg College. However, when I moved to the U.S., I faced challenges that turned into growth opportunities.
Like many international students, I struggled to settle in, particularly with navigating the job search paired with immigration restrictions on student employment. With support from mentors, advisors, and friends, I eventually found my footing and secured an internship at Goldman Sachs in 2011, which led to my first job after college.
Since then, I’ve continued to invest in building technical and business skills while nurturing authentic relationships to create a professional network. I co-founded CareerPalz to assist international students and young professionals who faced similar barriers. To help bridge that gap, we are building and growing this community through partnerships with professionals, academic institutions, and companies.
Harold G. Evans Professor of Eisenhower Leadership Studies, professor of economics
In my hardest moments, I benefit from two essential perspectives: others overcome much more than I, and I am supported by family, friends, and faith. I am reminded constantly that I am never alone. If there is one message I would share with our students, it is to ask for help when you need it. One of my goals as a professor is to plug them into the strong Gettysburg Network that wants them to be personally and professionally fulfilled.
In truly difficult moments, I imagine myself on the other side of the trial, reflecting on lessons I learned about myself and the world. Knowing I can rely on those around me gives me the courage to persevere through strife. When I feel overwhelmed or disheartened, I look to those with positive outlooks during far greater challenges to motivate me. I know cancer survivors, students whose homes were destroyed by war and domestic violence, alumni who are combat veterans, and survivors of sexual violence. One of our children, a Marine who recently served in Afghanistan, just kept doing his job despite losing a friend to a suicide attack. Their resiliency is my inspiration.
Professor of biology
There is a tendency outside of the scientific world to view science as a process that marches along a straight path of progress or growth of knowledge. Although there is certainly a significant component of building upon the work of other scientists, the path is rarely linear.
Scientists can propose ideas when the scientific community is not receptive but that will prove insightful later. Advances in technology—for instance, DNA sequencing—allow us to answer questions that could not be answered previously. Some observations or hypotheses stay on the sidelines until we have enough data to make sense of the phenomena they address.
I love science, particularly biology and evolution, because these fields allow me to organize and understand observations or data that otherwise do not make sense. However, I also love science because it forces me from time to time to reevaluate what I know and reorganize my understanding of processes—for example, wondering how the composition of my gut microbiota affects my health. It’s all about building, deconstructing but only when necessary, and rebuilding when appropriate. I like to think that is the true nature of scientific growth.
Vice president for College Life and dean of students
Growth that matters walks hand in hand with change—and change can be scary. Everyone who has ever gone away to college knows it, and I got a firsthand reminder when I moved here to Gettysburg in July. I left behind my comfortable habitat in Galesburg, Illinois—the people and places that nurtured me—and traded it for a new unknown but exciting prospect of invitation, challenge, and possibility.
The decision to leave my reliable life behind wasn’t an easy one. I was excited to spread my wings, but maybe it was safer to keep my feet on familiar ground. We will all be caught between these conflicting wisdoms throughout our lives, unlikely ever to be able to choose completely confidently between them.
Ultimately, I realized that everything I’ve gained in life, I brought here with me. Those people and places are, in fact, exactly what prepared me for this new period of growth. The past few months have been a lesson about the importance of tending to the two sides of ourselves—the side that embraces life as we know it, and the other side where the possible presents itself, and we are ready to receive it.