Westminster seniors share their college experiences and takeaways

For many students, the 2017 spring semester is their last at Westminster College. Over 800 students, who represent 26 different countries and range in age from 19 to 63, will gather on May 13 to receive their diplomas at graduation. 

The Forum sat down with some of these students to talk about their years at Westminster and some of the things they will take away from college and remember for the rest of their lives. 

Jaime Vincent, a senior geology major, will be the first woman at Westminster College to graduate with a geology degree in 40 years. She said her favorite thing about Westminster is being part of the college’s snowboard team. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Jaime Vincent, a senior geology major, will be the first woman at Westminster College to graduate with a geology degree in 40 years. She said her favorite thing about Westminster is being part of the college’s snowboard team. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Jaime Vincent: The first woman to graduate from Westminster College with a geology major in 40 years. 

Q: Name one of the important things you've learned here. 

A: Honestly, confidence is a big thing. Everybody’s coming from different places, [and] it’s nice that we kind of have a little hub here. Everybody is different and we just want to learn from each other. We all have these different experiences of growing up, and so just being confident in wherever you’re coming from and embracing that and taking a little pride in that is kind of something that I’ve learned to do being here—because my experiences are different than [other peoples'] and that’s what makes the world go around. 

Q: What do you like about Westminster? 

A: I think my most favorite thing about Westminster is being a part of the snowboard team. That was really fun. It kind of started out more as a little party when I was a freshman but now it’s gotten more serious and we win the national title every single year, so that’s pretty cool. 

Because we all are in school, we do focus at the end of the day [and] get our school work done. If a competition was canceled, we would just go find something else to do like a hot spring or go hike around or go check out the towns. It’s like having a little family. I guess I like family-oriented things. 

For the most part, I’ve always felt like my professors and my advisers want the best for me. Right now, they are trying to help me look for jobs and they want me to be the best I can be. I think I just like the closeness of the classroom—that everybody is willing to 

help each other, also. It’s not just a great adviser, it’s a great community. It’s a whole team. 

Q: Any advice for Westminster students? 

A: Say 'yes' to every opportunity. Even if it seems wild, go and experience everything. Whenever somebody invites you to do something, say 'yes.' You can always evacuate the situation if you get yourself into trouble, but I think, within reason, say 'yes.' 

Do your research about where you're at, because you’re in the most epic area for adventure. Utah has so much. We have the Wasatch, Uinta—we have so many places to explore [and] so many national parks that I feel like people don’t take advantage of, so go camping. 

Madeline Gere, a senior psychology major, said her favorite thing about Westminster College was the opportunity to connect to the college community. Gere said her professors, bosses and friends have been there for her during hard times over the past four years and are also there to help celebrate her successes. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Madeline Gere, a senior psychology major, said her favorite thing about Westminster College was the opportunity to connect to the college community. Gere said her professors, bosses and friends have been there for her during hard times over the past four years and are also there to help celebrate her successes. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Madeline Gere: Psychology major. 

Q: What do you like about Westminster? 

A: I like that there’s really an opportunity to be connected to the community here. I think in other schools you just kind of drift, and here I feel really rooted. I feel like people know me and they know who I am as a person. My professors, my bosses, my friends—they’ve been here for me in really hard times and they are there to celebrate my successes. 

Q: Name one of the important things you've learned here. 

A: I think the most important thing I’ve taken away from Westminster is how to build a community and what it looks and feels like. Through all the relationships I’ve had [at Westminster], I see the world in a different way and I’ve changed, so I think it’s a powerful transformation. 

Q: What are your favorite memories from Westminster? 

A: A happy memory from this year that I really liked [was] for my job at the Dumke Center of Civic Engagement. We had a puppy power up event to raise awareness about homeless animals and also give students some support before finals. We had three to seven dogs and over 100 people crowded into the center. It was just puppy madness and everyone was just walking around with that face that people get when they’re around dogs. It was really fun. 

Q: If you got to say something to yourself when you were a first-year student, what would it be? 

A: The next three years of college [are going to] be crazy hard and amazingly joyful and the community at Westminster is [going to] be there for you through everything the world is [going to] throw at you. 

Sally Drutman, a vocal performance major, said she had a great time at Westminster College. She said the connections she made helped her gain the connections she needed over in Berlin, where she will continue studying vocal performance after she graduates. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Sally Drutman, a vocal performance major, said she had a great time at Westminster College. She said the connections she made helped her gain the connections she needed over in Berlin, where she will continue studying vocal performance after she graduates. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Sally Drutman: A vocal performance major. 

Q: What do you like about Westminster? 

A: I had a great experience here. It’s a bubble, but it’s not a bubble that keeps you in that mindset of “This is the time of my life.” It’s a great bubble that prepares you to go out and it leads you to the best times of your life. It gives you the skills to make your life even better. 

Q: Did Westminster influence your future career plans? How? 

A: The connections. It’s who you know, not what you know that gets you a job. We [were] given so many opportunities to perform and introduce ourselves to so many people that helped us get jobs outside of school. The connections I’ve made here have helped me gain the connections I need over in Berlin. I was able to convince a professor to teach me, so I have a teacher there now. 

Q: What are your favorite memories from Westminster? 

A: There are a lot of them. Most recently working on "La Boheme" having great rehearsals. It was so good—that entire experience. It was the smoothest show, the least drama-inducing show, that we’ve ever done and it was just a blast to sing with these people that I’ve sung with in the past four years. It was very nostalgic for all of us, but it was also very exciting to do such a big production that we didn’t expect to be able to do in our time period. 

Q: Any advice for Westminster students? 

A: I would say, 'Keep your options open [and] keep your eyes and hands open for opportunities to grab.' Things will happen. The opportunities will pop up, and if you’re not ready for them, they’ll pass you by. It’s exhausting, tiring and busy, but what other time of your life will you have this many opportunities available? Just grab them! 

Colleen Fitzgerald, a senior psychology major, said her family has a long history at Westminster College. Her great grandparents met at the college in 1917 and her mother graduated from Westminster in 1980.Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Colleen Fitzgerald, a senior psychology major, said her family has a long history at Westminster College. Her great grandparents met at the college in 1917 and her mother graduated from Westminster in 1980.Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Colleen Fitzgerald: A psychology major. 

Q: Why did you choose Westminster? 

A: My family actually has a pretty long history at Westminster. My great grandparents met here in 1917 and then my mom came in and she graduated in 1980, and we kind of came a couple of times and spent some time on campus. Just everything from my experiences on campus when I was younger to family history to perfect amount of far away and close to home is why I picked Westminster. 

Q: What do you like about Westminster? 

A: I think that the campus environment is very nice and really comfortable and welcoming and also the campus culture. I feel like every day I have a moment like, “I have never thought about that!” Whether it’s in the classroom or talking to other students, [I'm] learning something new that changes my thinking every day. 

Q: Any advice for Westminster students? 

A: Don’t be shy. Just go and get involved. Join clubs and do things, because I didn’t get heavily involved as I am now until maybe later in my junior year and I really regret that. So go to the events. 

Gulsum Bayazitova, an environmental studies major, came from Kazakhstan to study at Westminster College four years ago. She said Westminster taught her more about global issues and how she affects the world around her. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Gulsum Bayazitova, an environmental studies major, came from Kazakhstan to study at Westminster College four years ago. She said Westminster taught her more about global issues and how she affects the world around her. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Gulsum Bayazitova: An environmental studies major 

Q: What are your favorite memories from Westminster? 

A: The memory that comes to my mind is [of] the trip that we did last year. We went to Navajo [Nation] reservation. It was a Native American spirituality trip. We had a horseback riding in the canyon [and] I will never forget the moment because it was so beautiful, quiet and shiny and everybody just seemed very happy and peaceful, so it was nice. 

Q: Did Westminster influence your future career plans? How? 

A: I think at Westminster I was able to learn more about the global issues and I also became more aware on how I affect the world, so it kind of made me think more on the global scale. I’m definitely going to pursue my interest in global development and sustainability. 

Q: Any advice for Westminster students? 

A: Try to get involved. Your personal development is as important as your academic excellence, so while you’re in school I would recommend students to work on the development of their leadership skills and other skills that are very important once they 

graduate and start looking for jobs. I think it is as equally important as being just academically smart. 

Selina Foster, a mathematics major and outdoor education minor, plays with her dog Rhia in the Writing Center in the Bassis Student Center. Foster said the most important thing she has learned at Westminster is that you can be part of anything you want to be if you just go do it. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Selina Foster, a mathematics major and outdoor education minor, plays with her dog Rhia in the Writing Center in the Bassis Student Center. Foster said the most important thing she has learned at Westminster is that you can be part of anything you want to be if you just go do it. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Selina Foster: A mathematics major 

Q: Why did you choose Westminster? 

A: The Honors program was the convincing factor, but the proximity to skiing was a huge draw. I’m pretty sure I Googled “small colleges near skiing or near mountains” when I was in high school and that was literally how I found Westminster. It was a Google search to some extent like that. 

Q: What do you like about Westminster? 

A: I like how close you become with your professors. You can go to a professor and knock on their door, sit down and talk to them. They are there for you academically and emotionally and are great mentors and role models. And there’s an open door policy. I love it. 

Q: Name one of the important things you've learned here. 

A: The most important thing that I’ve learned is that you can be part of anything that you want to if you just go do it. There [were] never any limiting factors to be like, 'Oh, I’m sorry; this option isn’t available to you.' If you seek it out, you can learn or do anything you want to [and] be part of anything you want to, because that space is here—you just have to go talk to people about it. 

Q: Any advice for Westminster students? 

A: Talk to everyone. The people you meet, even if you know them for like a week, are so cool. I learned so much from the people I interacted with for 30 minutes in a writing consultation. Talk to your professors, talk to the people in your class, to your friends and listen. You learn so much just by having interesting conversations with people. And don’t take 20 credits a semester—I’m so tired! 

Carly Blasco transferred to Westminster College two years ago to finish her degree in psychology. Blasco said she is interested in furthering her education because of her experiences at Westminster. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Carly Blasco transferred to Westminster College two years ago to finish her degree in psychology. Blasco said she is interested in furthering her education because of her experiences at Westminster. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Carly Blasco: A psychology major who transferred to Westminster two years ago. 

Q: What do you like about Westminster? 

A: Something that’s really big for me is the amount of continuing support that my professors are willing to offer—that I’m not [going to] be left hanging. 

I think my time here has also made me realize my interest in continuing education. Even though I’m taking a break right now, I’ve had experiences here that have piqued my interest to further my education. I feel more qualified to be able to negotiate positions or pay with the work that I’ve put into my education. 

Q: Name one of the important things you've learned here. 

A: I’ve learned that opportunities are not [going to] come to you [and] that you need to put yourself out there and ask and make an effort. I’ve learned that I could do things that I never thought I could do. 

Q: Any advice for Westminster students? 

A: I think something that has really helped me is to take each semester as an individual segment in time and to reflect at the end of each semester how I’ve grown as an individual. At the end of each semester, write it down. That way, when you’re feeling frustrated, when you feel like you’re not progressing, feel like you’re not getting anywhere [and] not learning, you can look back and reflect on each semester how you’ve grown as a person. 

You get stuck in this thought that, 'I don’t know what I’m doing this semester cause it’s all new' and you forget how much you’ve actually grown and all the growth that has led up to this point is why you’re able to do these classes. So I think that reflecting on your growth at the end of each semester is key advice that I would give. 

Kyle Ottmann, a computer science major, transferred to Westminster two years ago. He said he was looking for a school that felt like home — a criterion he said was fulfilled when he toured Westminster. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Kyle Ottmann, a computer science major, transferred to Westminster two years ago. He said he was looking for a school that felt like home — a criterion he said was fulfilled when he toured Westminster. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Kyle Ottmann: A computer science major who transferred to Westminster two years ago 

Q: Why did you choose Westminster? 

A: I was looking for a small school. I toured a bunch of different campuses of schools around the country, large and small, and I definitely felt more comfortable at a small school, but I still hadn’t quite found that school that felt like home. And when I toured Westminster, that’s kind of the feeling I got. I felt like I was at home and I was comfortable. It was a combination of that and then also I was looking for the really personal setting with professors and stuff where you have small class sizes and you actually get to know your professors and you can go to them for help and you’re not just like a number. You’re actually a person. 

Q: Did Westminster influence your future career plans? How? 

A: Coming into my major, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it yet really and definitely after being at Westminster I was able to narrow down what I wanted to do. It definitely helped me take a field that is so broad and narrow it down to a few things that I’m actually interested in, so it was helpful. 

Q: What will you miss? 

A: Before I transferred to Westminster, I didn’t like school. So that was one thing Westminster taught me is that I actually love school and love learning, so I’m actually sad that it’s over now. 

Q: What are your favorite memories from Westminster? 

A: My favorite memories all come from the Outdoor Program—the trips that I’ve gone on the Outdoor Program. I think it’s just a really neat experience. 

Riley Hodgson, a neuroscience major, said his time in Westminster College’s Honors program was one of the highlights of his college experience. Hodgson said the encouragement from Westminster professors to chime in and contribute during class discussions will be helpful in his future career. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Riley Hodgson, a neuroscience major, said his time in Westminster College’s Honors program was one of the highlights of his college experience. Hodgson said the encouragement from Westminster professors to chime in and contribute during class discussions will be helpful in his future career. Photo by Dariia Miroshnikova.

Riley Hodgson: A neuroscience major 

Q: Why did you choose Westminster? 

A: I remember the first time I came here, it seemed like this nice sanctuary away from like the city and the suburbs, so you just kind of come into Westminster and suddenly there’s sort of like an open lawn out here and all these cool buildings. It’s been an incredible four years. The Honors program really got me through that rough freshman year—just sort of the proximity to other people and professors that really cared. 

Q: Name one of the important things you've learned here. 

A: I think the encouragement from Westminster professors to chime in and contribute during class discussions, even if maybe you don’t feel super comfortable with the content, is going to be super helpful in my future career. Right now I’m working up at the University of Utah in a psychiatry lab and there’s like a hierarchy there with the Ph.D.-researchers at the top and I’m like at the bottom. But when we have meetings, I still feel comfortable chiming in and contributing and saying what I think just because the professors here and sort of the discussion-based atmosphere made me feel more comfortable and confident in my thoughts and ideas.