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The Pioneer's List of 10 Students to Watch

April 19, 2011

Category: Academics, Students

by The Pioneer Staff   (Student Newspaper,

The Pioneer staff, through talking with professors and students, have come up with a list of students to watch in the future. These students have excelled in their classes and their majors. We honor all of their hard work and congratulate them for being chosen as a Student to Watch for 2011.

In Teaching: Alexa Baird
Alexa was drawn to Catawba because of the small school atmosphere. She has always attended a smaller school, which really helped her thrive due to the low student:teacher ratio. Alexa left the dreadful and despised cold weather of New Jersey, ready for a change in scenery. North Carolina had always been appealing to her and she fell in love with the campus immediately. Once Alexa found out Catawba had an amazing teaching program, and that she could continue playing soccer in Division II, she was hooked. Hooked or not, Alexa's original plans were to go back to New Jersey to receive a Master's degree  in Education.

Like all college students, Alexa's original plans changed after she realized that getting hired in a teaching position back home would be difficult. Alexa realized she could potentially get a job here in North Carolina, even with no experience. Her professors informed her of the opportunities here and were extremely convincing. After her first few years, North Carolina grew on her and Alexa decided she could see herself staying.

StudentsAlexa's plans for the future include being accepted in the Teach for America program, where she will teach in a rural school district for two years. Alexa will serve in Eastern North Carolina, an area known to have low test scores and high poverty risk,  for this program and should find out her school placement soon. She is planning on getting her Master's in Education at East Carolina University while teaching. After her two-year commitment is up, she would love to stay in North Carolina; however, she would not mind traveling to other state's to teach. While teaching, Alexa plans to continue her love for soccer by coaching.

In English: Laela Ghorbani
Laela Ghorbani is a senior from Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Ghorbani attended Highlands Ranch High School, where she was involved with soccer for four years and served as varsity captain for two. Ghorbani was also involved in Newspaper and was a member of the Yearbook Staff, the Speech and Debate team, and was honored as Youth Referee of the Year in Colorado at age 17.

Now, at Catawba, Ghorbani is a successful English major with a minor in Political Science. She has been part of the Catawba's Womens Soccer team for the past four years, and is currently a captain. Ghorbani has also been actively involved with Catawba's student newspaper, The Pioneer, for her sophomore and senior year.

As for future plans, Ghorbani has applied to serve in the Peace Corps with a preference to be stationed in South America. She is currently underway within the Peace Corps' application and interview process.

StudentsIn Religion: Molly Williams
Molly Williams is a Religion and Philosophy major concentrating on Outdoor Ministries. After graduating from Catawba in May, Williams will be attending Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, where she is enrolled in Liberty's Master of Arts in Worship Studies program. Williams' interests are camping, rock climbing, and any outdoor adventure, mission work, reading, watching, movies, and going to Christian rock concerts. Her life goal it to work in some type of ministry and to "Make people more passionate about Christ."

In Natural Science: Devin Rodgers
Devin Rodgers, a senior Environmental Science major, has recently been named a "Student to Watch" by many of his professors.

Rodgers has "been interested in environmental science since [his] junior year in high school, when [he] took an AP Environmental Science class." Rodgers' older brother, Derek Rodgers,  also majored in environmental science at Catawba. Devon's brother was the one who generated his initial interest in the subject. Another factor that led to Rodgers' interest in environmental science was a trip that he took his freshman year to Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Dr. Michael Baranski's Plant Taxonomy class. Rodgers explains: "[G]iant trees, hillsides covered in wildflowers, and the immensity of the plant world opened my eyes."

StudentsRodgers chose to attend Catawba because "...They had the most organized program with excellent professors, an awesome building, an ecological preserve, a beautiful campus, and a small school setting that allowed me to expand myself through personal relationships with professors."

After he graduates in May, Rodgers is going to northern California for an internship. He says that he "will study rare plants with a Forest Service botany crew for 12 weeks beginning on May 31." For the following three to four weeks after his internship, Rodgers plans on traveling the West. "Eventually," he shares, "I will go home for the holidays to work, physically train, and plan for my five to six-month backpacking trip from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail, which will begin in March 2012.

When it comes to long term plans, Rodgers will attend graduate school to study something like environmental science, ecology, or botany. He hopes to one day become a botanist, plant ecologist, or environmental scientist.

According to his professors, Rodgers is well on his way to becoming a successful adult.

StudentsIn Theatre: Senior Chris Clowers
Like a lot of high school seniors, Chris Clowers' first goal when picking a school was to be as far away from home as possible, and thankfully for us, he showed up all the way down here, far from his home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Chris was drawn to the school because of its liberal arts curriculum, the [Ecological] Preserve, and the lack of snow. He says, "When I visited Catawba, it was still winter in Wisconsin and when I met Catawba on spring day I knew it was a place I could get used to."

While here, Chris has been a part of several different theatre and music productions including "An Evening of Magical Song," where he was seen beat-boxing to Disney songs! He also participated in the several Study Abroad programs. Chris has been everywhere from Europe, Coasta Rica, and was even to Japan just this past winter. His advice for students: show up to class, stay focused, and seek out your own answers. "Try everything once…within reason… and follow your sober instincts. They will nudge you in the right direction of true happiness."

After graduation, he is moving to Los Angeles in June and will pursue improv and acting in any way, shape or form that he can. He plans to use everything he has learned and actively work towards making theatre, the arts, and humor a vital interest for the betterment of society. "In other words, I just want to make people laugh and have a good time doing it."

In Athletic Training: Kelsey Divers
StudentsKelsey Divers is an Athletic Training major from the class of 2011. She moved to Salisbury to attend Catawba in August of 2007 from Milan, Ohio where she attended Edison High School. Divers decided as a senior in high school that she wanted to be an athletic training major. Growing up with her little brother and her good friends that were involved in sports, Divers knew the athletic environment was something she wanted to stay around.

She found Catawba through something she had received in the mail and did a little research regarding its athletic training program. Catawba's appeal not only came from the impressive athletic training program, but it was also an ideal distance from home. Divers has worked with a variety of sports team while studying at Catawba. This past year, she was with the men's and women's soccer teams, but has previously worked with football, lacrosse, and baseball. The long and tedious hours and days she has to put in for the experience are her least favorite part of her major. However, her favorite part is watching the injured athletes return to play and seeing the entire process of their recovery unfold. Once she graduates, Divers will be attending Ohio University to  earn her Master's degree in athletic training. She hopes to one day work in a high school or college and to continue to help future athletes recover.

StudentsIn Music: James Abbott
James Abbott is a 20 year old Music Business major from Winston Salem, North Carolina. He chose to come to Catawba College because of the unique Music Business program that it offers. He was also attracted by the "small classes and the close-knit, family atmosphere." Abbot has been involved with the Vernaculars as both a musician and manager, and is also a member of the Alpha Chi Honor Society. He currently works as an assistant at an artist management and small label company. After graduating next spring, Abbot plans to make a living by being involved in as many aspects of the music industry as possible.

In Business: Pat Novak
StudentsPat Novak defines a well-rounded business student with his role on the swim team and his aspiration to go to law school. Novak is a senior Economics major. He plans to apply for law school at Villanova, Penn State, Temple, or UNC Charlotte. Novak is also a member of the Dead Athenian Society on campus.

StudentsIn Communication: Alex Wapole
Alex Walpole is a senior Communication major. He is a member of the Order of the Blue and White and is currently working on a practicum for the Lilly Center for Vocations and Values. Walpole chose to become a Communication major because he gets a rush from public speaking and says that his thrills come from rousing people. Walpole has applied to several graduate schools and plans on one day working as a news anchor. He also has a bigger dream that one day he will be famous saying, "My dream is to have 'Alex Walpole' become a household name across America."

In Social Sciences: Melanie Mishue
"I am interested in understanding why people do the things that they do, so majoring in psychology gives me the tools to be able to do so," Melanie Mishue says.

StudentsBorn January 28, Melanie Mishue was brought into this world with a passion for psychology and writing. Mishue will be graduating in May with a B.A. in Psychology and plans to go on to graduate school in the future. After graduating from Catawba, she wants to start a family and begin writing her book. She believes that it takes discipline and hard work to be successful in psychology. Mishue's favorite part of being involved in the Psychology department is the interaction with her peers. "We have been able to connect and talk things out. You always feel like you have someone to talk to," Mishue explains.

Pioneer Staff members involved in this project: Kaylee Johnson, Angela Banks, Dusti Kempf, Erin Kidd, Jade Hamdan, Laela Ghorbani, Molly Williams, Brandi Cockerham, Lizzle Davis, Erica Smith, and Sean Fontaine.




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