Ducks carve their own paths to graduation, and the future

Graduation scene

Another academic year has flown by at the UO, and soon another class of Ducks will collect their diplomas and take wing to begin the next chapter in their lives.

Members of the Class of 2019 arrived on campus in fall 2015 nervous and ready to start a new adventure called college.

In the intervening years, they’ve crossed the Willamette on crisp fall afternoons for the Autzen experience. They’ve found their favorite study spots and their favorite trees on campus. They witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime eclipse. They’ve seen campus in its blaze of fall glory, woken to see it blanketed in snow and watched as it bloomed to life in the spring.

They figured out their majors and found their tribe. They learned how to learn, how to study, how to make sense of complex subjects.

Soon, on a sunny June morning, they’ll walk down East 13th Avenue to Matthew Knight Arena, be conferred degrees, switch their tassels from the right side of their caps to the left. They’ll walk out into the sunshine, find their friends and family, and get ready to embark on their next adventure.

We talked to a few of the soon-to-be graduates about the path they carved during their time at the UO and about what lies ahead. Good luck, graduates.

Will Nielsen

Will Nielsen

Major: Advertising.

Outside the classroom: In his senior year, Will was a creative director for Upstream Advertising, the UO’s award-winning team in the National Student Advertising Competition. It was there he gained 26 new lifelong friends and created irreplaceable memories.

World traveler: Will spent six weeks in Querétaro, Mexico, where he studied Spanish, and also studied abroad in London while he interned at a menswear label called Feng Chen Wang. His time in London helped him “become more independent and embrace my self-starter attitude.”

Around the city: He enjoys any sunny day, and his favorite spots in Eugene are the river along Alton Baker Park and Mount Pisgah.

Influencer: Dave Koranda, professor of practice in the School of Journalism and Communication. Will says, “I'm constantly inspired by his curiosity of the world.”

Advice to first-years: Do not be afraid of who you are and remember that college is a period of major growth, he said, “so embrace change within yourself.”

Memorable quote: “High risk, high reward.”

What’s next? Will is interning at Squarespace in New York City, where he will be a content studio production intern.

Braxton WilliamsBraxton Williams

Major: Double major in marketing and finance, minor in Spanish

The undergrad experience: Braxton gives credit to the friends he’s made who have made his experience special during his time as an undergrad. Much of his community came from playing basketball at the Student Recreation Center and watching basketball in the residence halls.

Outside the classroom: He was a member of the Warsaw Sports Business Club and a development manager for the Oregon Consulting Group. Braxton says working with the consulting group was an eye-opening experience where he had to implement his work in a fast-paced environment and learn how to interact with professionals. He said both groups provided him not only confidence but also a community of like-minded individuals who challenged him to grow intellectually.

A working man: Braxton has spent two years working in Mohr Career Services, where he was able to help students with resumes, cover letters and general career guidance. He said he was also “able to learn a lot of crucial professional development information.”

Influencers: His supervisor at the Mohr Career Services, Sarah Jester, is excellent at giving feedback, and she went above and beyond to ensure he was growing as a person, he said.

Favorite campus spot: The Rec Center. For Braxton, it was a place to not only relieve stress, but a place to meet new people.

Advice to first-years: Take advantage of all the extracurricular opportunities, because doing things outside your comfort zone is where you’ll have the most fun and learn the most.

What’s next? He’s headed to Seattle to be an analyst at a management consulting firm.

Morgan RobinsonMorgan Robinson

Major: Comparative literature, with a minor in Spanish

On being a Duck: It’s about supporting everyone around you with kindness and compassion, working hard and being open to new opportunities, she said.

Favorite UO memory: Morgan spent a lot of time at the Knight Library in the Special Collections and University Archives for a literature class, where she got to see ancient manuscripts and original publications. She also curated her own exhibit and learned how to bind books.

Finding community: Morgan said she found her community by putting herself out there and talking to people. She said it was scary at times, but she realized there must be many people like her who want to connect, so she didn’t let fear hold her back.

The SOSer life: As a sophomore, Morgan worked as a student orientation staffer and said it was both grueling and rewarding. She came out of it feeling like the whole staff was her family and making connections that led to her current position as a copywriter and editor.

Around Eugene: Her favorite places are the Cascade Courtyard and Hendricks Park. She loves to eat lunch and take breaks out in the courtyard and appreciates Hendricks Park as a beautiful escape close to campus.

Advice to first-years: Bravery is just showing up, she said. If you can get yourself to class or work and then find a peaceful moment, everything else will fall into place. It’s also totally okay to ask for help.

What’s next? She’s traveling to Hawaii and Spain with a labor exchange program that lets her work on a farm in exchange for room and board. After her traveling, she wants to pursue a career in literary translation and publishing.

Everette SomersEverette Somers

Major: Biology.

Campus experience: Everette was a teaching assistant for the biology department, which helped her discover a career path and allowed her to be immersed in a community of intelligent, amazing people. She also volunteered in the Duck Nest, worked at the rock wall in the Student Recreation Center and did research in two different labs.

World traveler: She studied abroad in Tubingen, Germany, her sophomore year, where she learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. “Immersing yourself in a culture and language you don’t know much about can be really challenging at times,” she said, “but learning to embrace that discomfort is something I’m really grateful for and will benefit me in the future.”

Influencer: Everette says Mark Carrier, a biology instructor, has been a common thread between everything she has accomplished at UO. She says that he’s encouraged and pushed her to pursue every opportunity possible, from studying abroad to doing summer research through the ESPRIT scholarship program.

UO memories: One of her favorite memories is when she went on a mycology field trip and spent the entire day hunting mushrooms.

Advice to first-years: Everette recommends taking a lighter spring term if possible, in order to enjoy the great weather and nature Eugene has to offer.

Last words: “To me, being a Duck means finding balance. It means studying hard, but leaving room in your schedule for exploration and adventure.”

What’s next? She is pursuing her master’s degree in education at the UO this fall.

José AmesquitaJosé Amesquita

Majors: Mathematics and computer and information science.

Finding community: José was a member of many student organizations, including being a founder of the Xi Epsilon Chapter, Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity, which is the first multicultural fraternity at the university. “Having the opportunity to start a fraternity here on campus has helped Latinx male students build a community among the brotherhood,” he said.

Residence hall life: He met two of his best friends while living in Sweetser Hall in the Walton Complex, and he believes living in the halls was a unique experience that allowed him to meet other students from across the country.

A leader: José volunteered as a mentor and tutor for the Advocating for Latinx Achievement in Schools program through the Counseling Psychology Program. He was able to connect with Latinx students at a local high school, helping them with homework, exam preparation and scholarship and college applications.

World traveler: José interned for a startup company called Waiguoren Technology as an IT analyst in Shenzen, China, through Global Education Oregon. He received a passport grant that covered the cost of obtaining his passport and helped fulfill his lifelong dream of working abroad. He was the recipient of two prominent scholarships, the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship and the Freeman-Asia Scholarship, to help fund his study.

On graduation: While his current favorite UO memory is from IntroDUCKtion, José feels that commencement day will become his favorite memory.

Being a Duck: José feels that the student life culture and atmosphere on campus is very vibrant, and he felt welcomed from the moment he arrived.

What’s next? He is looking into careers in software development and wants to be a part of a company that values innovation and collaboration.

David BrownDavid K. Brown

Major: A graduate degree through the UO Teach Curriculum and Teaching Program.

A music man: Beyond performing music for friends, family and the community, David started teaching piano lessons to elementary students. “My piano students and the work I do with them brings me a lot of joy,” he said. “It’s amazing to see elementary students progress under my tutelage.”

Influencer: David says he appreciates Amy Harter, a graduate program assistant in the College of Education, for always having positive things to say about his teaching or coursework and for having an attitude that encouraged him to stay positive.

Favorite UO memories: David visited the Many Nations Longhouse and enjoyed learning about Kalapuya Ilihi land and the eight autonomous subdivisions that compromise the Kalapuya Native American ethnic groups. He also had a blast at his first home football game at Autzen Stadium.

Advice to first-years: “Don’t forget to breathe! Enjoy every minute of class, free time and adversity. Create good routines that help you stay healthy, focused and ready to succeed in all situations.”

Being a Duck: To David, being a Duck means being a citizen of the collegiate world and the UO community, and he thinks it’s important to represent the university as an upstanding Duck.

What’s next? He will continue to teach private piano lessons and take summer courses to obtain his endorsement in physical education because he wants to get yoga into elementary physical education.

Mikayla LindsayMikayla Lindsay

Major: Communication disorders and sciences with a minor in Spanish.

Undergrad experience: She said what made her undergraduate experience special were opportunities to participate in real-life work experiences, such as working in a speech therapy room through a practicum placement. “For nine months I have been able to work with these adorable students on core speech and language skills as well as how to regulate emotions, make friendships and resolve conflicts,” she said.

World traveler: Mikayla studied abroad in Oviedo, Spain, and will be returning this summer to complete her Spanish minor and undergraduate career. She wants to pursue her bilingual competency in order to help alleviate the misdiagnosing of bilingual children.

Influencer: Mikayla pays tribute to her dad as her most influential person throughout her time at UO: “He passed away my freshman year, but I have always remembered his words of encouragement and his lifelong devotion to my pursuit of a higher education.”

Outdoor studies: Mikayla enjoys getting her studying done while enjoying the outdoors. She loves studying in the Price Science Commons and Research Library because of the giant windows, where she can look at the beautiful arboretum and sometimes even watch snails climb trees.

Favorite memory: While living in McAllister Hall her first year, she and her friends ran outside during a thunderstorm and splashed their way through the sidewalks and ended up laying out on the grass, talking about their luck to have ended up at UO.

Being a Duck: “To me, being a Duck means appreciating the environment and the simplicity that can be found in watching ducks build their nests and beavers build their dams, but it also means becoming a culturally competent individual who can have understanding and knowledgeable conversations with their neighbors and community members.”

What’s next? She’s staying in Eugene to go to graduate school for communication disorders and sciences. She aspires to revolutionize the way speech pathologists approach people with speech and language impairments.