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An ambassador of music, an internationally competitive climber and a second generation Griffin: meet the incoming students for Fall 2017

This fall, Westminster College will welcome 505 first-year and transfer students to campus. These students represent 29 states and 19 countries. Of those students who chose to disclose, 61 percent said they identify as female and 39 percent as male. The Forum interviewed five of these incoming students about the upcoming year through a combination of in-person, phone and email interviews, which have been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.

Kieran Hadley

Kieran Hadley, 17, is a competitive rock climber who graduated as valedictorian from The Climbing Academy, an international high school for climbers. Originally from Boise, Idaho, Hadley plans to study communication at Westminster and is enrolled in the Honors College. He said he is contemplating an environmental studies or an outdoor recreation minor because he loves being outside.

Kieran Hadley, a first-year communication major, poses outside the Bassis Student Center. Hadley is a competitive rock climber and member of the incoming Honors College cohort. (Photo by Stephanie Held)

Kieran Hadley, a first-year communication major, poses outside the Bassis Student Center. Hadley is a competitive rock climber and member of the incoming Honors College cohort. (Photo by Stephanie Held)

Q: Why did you choose Westminster?

A: I chose it because I like the smaller environment and the class sizes. I thought it was much more individualized than, say, the University of Utah. And I just liked the lower student-to-teacher ratio and how you could have more discussion-based classes and things like that with that structure.

Q: Was the Honors College part of what helped you make your decision?

A: Yeah, it was. I thought the Honors College sounded really cool. I had a mentor that talked to me a lot about it because he graduated from the Honors College at Westminster. So he talked to me a lot about it and what it was like, and so that kind of helped my decision to come to Westminster — which may or may not have happened if I didn’t know about the Honors College.

Q: What are you most excited about for this coming year?

A: I think I’m most excited for the community aspect of Westminster and how close I can be not only to all of the other students but also [to] the teachers and [for] the relationships I can build within the classroom. And I’m also really excited to have these classes where you can [learn] critical thinking skills and have discussions. I like discussions a lot. Yeah, I’m pretty excited about most everything.

Q: Do you have any fears about the upcoming year?

A: Probably some of my fears coming in would be remembering to turn in all of my assignments. I mean, there’s just a lot of unknowns. I honestly don’t know how hard it’ll be and so the unknowns are what worries me. But I’m pretty confident that I’ll figure those things out pretty early on, so it shouldn’t be too bad.

Q: What are some interesting facts we should know about you?

A: I just spent the last year traveling around the world and climbing. […] I went to Spain. I went to a few different places in the US. I went to Mexico.

Q: What was your favorite place?

A: Probably Spain. Mexico was also really cool, though. I don’t know. They’re kind of different, so it’s hard to measure them.

Q: Do you speak Spanish?

A: No, not a ton. I speak French. I lived in Belgium when I was little, so I learned French pretty early on.

Evan Leeds

Evan Leeds, 18, spent the weeks before classes volunteering for The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival, a local performing arts series largely organized by Westminster students and faculty. Leeds, an incoming theatre major, was vice president and later president of his high school’s drama club.

Evan Leeds, a first year theatre student, originally planned to go the University of Utah. He chose Westminster after seeing a performance at the college. He is an incoming member of Westminster's Honors College. (Photo courtesy of Kellie Hale)

Evan Leeds, a first year theatre student, originally planned to go the University of Utah. He chose Westminster after seeing a performance at the college. He is an incoming member of Westminster’s Honors College. (Photo courtesy of Kellie Hale)

Q: Why did you choose Westminster?

A: My original plan had actually been to go to the University of Utah. I was set on going to the U of U, but I saw a show that Westminster put on and it was so fascinating and so original and it really got me hooked on the theatre program there. And then as I looked more into Westminster as a college, I just continued to be fascinated by how strong of a community it is. I love the fact that there’s so much diversity and that they recognize that but that it unites everybody together.

Q: What are you most excited about for this coming year?

A: Honestly, I’m most excited just to get to know people. I’m a pretty social person and I love talking to people and having conversations with people. And that’s not even just with my peers — I love to have conversations with my professors. […] Especially with Westminster being such a diverse community, I think that’s what I’m most excited for: to get to know all these different people with these different views and to help it inform me as a person.

Q: What do you mean when you say Westminster is a diverse community?

A: I think what I’ve noticed with Westminster, even just with the clubs you guys have there, […] you guys, as a school, try to erase the stigma around differences. So for example, there’s the Alphabet [Soup] Club, which helps raise awareness for LGBTQ issues. There are different clubs for different ethnicities, and that’s not something that you always see. […] I really appreciated that aspect of Westminster.

Q: Do you have any fears about the upcoming year?

A: It’s kind of funny because it relates back kind of to what I’m most excited about, but as much as I love getting to know people, it’s really hard for me to kind of get that icebreaker in. It’s hard for me to just go up and talk to people. So I am a little nervous about this first week orientation and having the courage to go up and talk to people and be social and get to know people without that weird awkwardness. So I’m a little nervous about that. But I think that’s something I mostly just have to push through and realize that there’s no better way to get to know people. And since that’s what I’m most excited about, I just have to do it.

Q: What are some interesting facts we should know about you?

A: I did have the opportunity through what’s called the Utah Ambassadors of Music to travel to Europe a couple years ago, which was an amazing experience. I learned so much from that and again I got to learn about so much diversity. It was an interesting experience being in a place where you don’t know the language. I didn’t realize just how difficult that would be, so that was pretty fascinating.

Michaela Prasad

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Michaela Prasad is the fourth member of her family to become a Westminster Griffin. Prasad, 18, is an incoming first-year pursuing nursing and dance at Westminster. She said she feels a strong connection to the college because of her family’s legacy: Prasad’s sister will be graduating from Westminster this year and her parents met here as undergraduates. The Highland High School graduate, who responded to these interview questions via email, said she couldn’t be more excited to continue her education at Westminster.

Michaela Prasad is a second-generation Westminster student who will be the fourth member of her family to become a Griffin. Prasad will be pursuing nursing and dance at Westminster. (Photo courtesy of Keala Jarvis)

Michaela Prasad is a second-generation Westminster student who will be the fourth member of her family to become a Griffin. Prasad will be pursuing nursing and dance at Westminster. (Photo courtesy of Keala Jarvis)

Q: Why did you choose Westminster?

A: The first time I toured Westminster’s campus, I could not contain my excitement. I was vividly able to picture myself succeeding there. I felt incredibly welcomed and was inspired by the stories and experiences told to me by current Westminster students. As I learned more and more about the school, I soon realized that this would most definitely be the college for me.

Q: What are you most excited about for this coming year?

A: I am most excited for the relationships I am going to be able to build with both fellow peers and faculty. The small class sizes Westminster has to offer not only will help me excel academically but also will foster strong relationships that will push me to thrive in every aspect of my life.

Q: Do you have any fears about the upcoming year?

A: I am definitely intimidated by the intelligence of Westminster students! I want to always challenge myself academically but also fear not being able to keep up. In order to succeed, I must use my fear as motivation. Instead of comparing myself to other students, I must use their success as encouragement.

Q: What are some interesting facts we should know about you?

A: I have been dancing since the age of three and look forward to continuing my dance training at Westminster. In addition, I am also taking classes to prepare me to hopefully be a part of Westminster’s nursing program. Throughout my whole life, I have been lucky enough to have support from my sister Claire. She has helped me get to where I am today, and I could not be more grateful. Not only is she my greatest inspiration, but she is also one of my best friends. I cannot wait to attend Westminster College with her this year.

Ella Brisson

Ella Brisson, 18, is an incoming first year enrolled in the Honors College at Westminster. Brisson, who responded to these interview questions via email, said she has a passion for aviation. She has been on campus for several weeks already with the aviation program and said she is thrilled for the opportunities awaiting her in Salt Lake City.

Ella Brisson, a first-year aviation student and  incoming member of Westminster's Honors College, is originally from Hanover, New Hampshire. (Photo courtesy of Alisa Brisson)

Ella Brisson, a first-year aviation student and  incoming member of Westminster’s Honors College, is originally from Hanover, New Hampshire. (Photo courtesy of Alisa Brisson)

Q: Why did you choose Westminster College?

A: I chose Westminster because of the amazing opportunities it offers not only for my major of choice but for the amazing sense of community and the beautiful location. I think that the size of the school is wonderful, as it allows for more personal connections between members of the Westminster community. The people here have so far been nothing but kind and helpful, and I’ve felt completely at home (even though I live all the way across the country!).

Q: What are you most excited about for this coming year?

A: I can’t wait to meet everyone else once they’re on campus, as well as progress through my major while getting the opportunity to study other subjects.

Q: Do you have any fears about the upcoming year?

A: Moving away from home and starting college is definitely one of the biggest transitions in a lot of our lives, and it’s scary to get going, but so far I’ve had no trouble settling in!

Q: What are some interesting facts we should know about you?

A: I love to fly, play ice hockey, play with my dog and two cats and spend time outside exploring!

Nelly Rivera

Nelly Rivera, 18, and her family moved to Utah from Honduras three years ago. She graduated from East High School. During her senior year, Rivera enrolled in East High’s Clemente Course, an interdisciplinary humanities class taught by professors from Westminster and other Utah colleges. She will be the first of her family to go to college and is pursuing a nursing degree.

Nellie Rivera is the first member of her family to go to college. Originally from Honduras, Rivera is a first-year nursing student who is considering a minor in art or writing. (Photo courtesy of Julia Matute)

Nellie Rivera is the first member of her family to go to college. Originally from Honduras, Rivera is a first-year nursing student who is considering a minor in art or writing. (Photo courtesy of Julia Matute)

Q: Why did you choose Westminster College?

A: I’m shy. I’m a shy person so I decided that I needed a small school so I’d be more comfortable with it. Also I [heard] that Westminster has a really great nursing program.

Q: Any other reason?

A: Yeah, because they helped me a lot with the financial needs.

Q: What are you most excited about for this coming year?

A: Living on campus, you know, and [meeting] a lot of new people. […] And I want to learn more about my profession, my major.

Q: Do you have any fears about the upcoming year?

A: I think it’s the language. I’ve lived three years here, so I’m not fluent in English so I’m worried about that. […] I really struggle. I like to speak a lot, so that kind of worries for me.

Q: What are some interesting facts we should know about you?

A: I like to write poetry and drawing and dancing.

Q: Are you thinking about pursuing a minor in arts or in writing?

A: I was thinking creative writing. Something like that because I really love [to] write a lot of poetry and stuff like that.

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