Class of Spring 2023 Where Are They Headed? Part Two
Another Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) Commencement is upon us, as graduates depart to serve. Here's a glimpse of where a few students from the Class of Spring 2023 are headed.
Name: Alex Chavez
Hometown: High Point, NC
What activities were you involved in at WSSU? I am the ACS Chemistry Club secretary and a former NIGMS RISE Scholar. I presented at two Scholarship Days and have tutored organic chemistry students for the last year.
How has WSSU helped to develop you as a person? WSSU has helped me become more confident in myself. It has taught me to believe in myself and never give up, no matter how complex the challenge is.
How has WSSU prepared you to pursue your ultimate goals? WSSU is full of students that display drive and courage. Being a predominately black population, minorities show courage and drive more than any other group of people. This created motivation to pursue my goals of being a good student, getting into graduate school, and approaching any challenge I face with the mindset that I will achieve anything I set my mind to.
What will you miss most about WSSU? The people. I've met remarkable and kind-hearted people here at WSSU, from amazing friends to my future wife. I couldn't imagine not having those people in my life.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about attending WSSU? Always hold yourself in high regard; you are much brighter, stronger, and more ready than you think. Don't doubt yourself; if you believe in yourself and take up opportunities, you will accomplish more than you ever thought imaginable. I never thought I would be where I am today with all the things I have accomplished, but I'm so glad I bet on myself, and you should too.
What is your next step? I will attend Rice University in the fall to pursue my Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry.
Are there particular faculty or staff who supported or inspired you? Since I have been at WSSU, I have come across many professors that have inspired and pushed me to the next level. Of these professors, I would like to acknowledge four specific people.
First, Dr. Yi, my general chemistry professor/advisor and the first person from the chemistry department I met; because of him, I was inspired to pursue chemistry and believed I could succeed in this major. He has helped me get in touch with great people who have helped me along the way.
Second, I would also like to acknowledge Dr. Tao, my physics professor and first research advisor. She has taught me so much in and out of the classroom. She introduced me to research and helped me get many great opportunities. For example, she helped me get into Howard's nanoparticle workshop, and I was able to present our research on Scholarship Day.
I also want to acknowledge Dr. Guo, my organic chemistry professor and research advisor. Dr. Guo introduced me to organic chemistry and taught me what chemistry research is all about. He has given me so many opportunities that I wouldn't have gotten accepted into Rice University’s Chemistry Ph.D. Program without them. Under him, I presented at a national research convention, Wake Forest, Scholarship Day, and published a paper with my name on it.
Lastly, I would like to acknowledge Dr. Kiren. Dr. Kiren has been a staple that I could rely on, whether it's advice about graduate school life/applications, organic chemistry questions, or research, I know that I could always find him in the lab, and he would happily talk with me for as long as I needed. Thank you all for everything you have done for me!
If you could give advice to the freshman version of yourself, what would it be? Get ready! You will encounter the most significant obstacles, challenges, accomplishments, and relationship struggles you've ever had, but you will come out stronger and more resilient on the other side. You're going to feel lost and hopeless at times, but it's all part of learning who you are and who you want to become. So, you got this, don't ever give up!
Name: Janae Snipes
Hometown: Mebane, NC
What activities were you involved in at WSSU? Student Government Association; Student Senate, Chair of Academic Affairs; Supplemental Instruction Leader and Subject Tutor in Hill Hall; I'm a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. I'm a member of Tau Sigma National Honor Society and Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society.
How has WSSU helped to develop you as a person? Winston-Salem State University has helped me to develop as a person by providing many opportunities for me to grow and challenge myself academically. I became a motivated individual who loves learning which developed my critical thinking skills to analyze different approaches to situations.
What is your next step? After graduation, I will be working at Duke University Medical Center in the Division of Translational Brain Sciences in the Department of Neurology and Pathology. I will be completing research on Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s Disease. After completing this research opportunity, I will be attending Graduate school for a Masters in Clinical Research.
Are there particular faculty or staff who supported or inspired you? I definitely have to shout out Dr. Rachelle Barnes and Ms. Guana Dixon. They always pushed me and encouraged me to always be a better version of myself. It was so inspiring to receive the support I did from them both. They were both a listening ear whenever I needed to discuss anything. In addition, they helped me with many of the opportunities I received.
Who has encouraged you on your college journey? Since a young age, my grandparents always made sure I understood the value of an education which resulted in me making learning, teaching, and studying my top priority. This motivated me to learn every day. They always pushed me to stay focused and I love that they helped me to stay committed to my goals, even when I wanted to give up. Their prayers for me never went unanswered.
If you could give advice to the freshman version of yourself, what would it be? Every one of your steps are ordered by God so nothing happens by chance. Learn from the journey and TRUST the process. All you need to deal with stress is a little faith, the size of a mustard seed.
Name: JJ Ernest
Hometown: Winston-Salem, NC
Majors: Mathematics, Economics, and History
Note: Mr. Ernest is the Captain of the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge Team, who just returned from the National Championship Tournament in Los Angeles.
How has WSSU prepared you to pursue your ultimate goals? At WSSU, I broadened my knowledge across multiple majors, allowing myself to have more options for when I finish my education and get a career.
How has WSSU helped to develop you as a person? Following my transfer to WSSU, I have reinvigorated and expanded on my drive for hard work and acquiring knowledge that I have had throughout my life.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about attending WSSU? Stay organized; find a balance between work, school, extracurriculars, and your personal life; and be careful when crossing MLK Jr. Dr.
Are there particular faculty or staff who supported or inspired you? While all the faculty and staff I have experienced were supportive of my progress as a WSSU student, three that stood out to me were Dr. Villagomez, Mr. Baker, and Mr. Penn.
Thanks to the positive reviews I received on my essays in HIS 2311, which I took with Dr. V in the spring of 2021, I decided to add history first as a minor and later as my third major. As my history advisor, she not only helped me obtain a completely online course lineup last semester when my father was undergoing treatment for cancer but also worked out a backup plan for me to use my existing history credits to make up for my missing low-level history credits to compensate for my AP scores not properly transferring in.
Through all four of my years at WSSU, I have been a member – and now captain – of the school's Honda Campus All-Star Challenge team, coached by Mr. Baker and Mr. Penn. Not only did participation in the HCASC team allow me to connect with other students more easily than in the classroom setting, but it also allowed me to demonstrate my knowledge in ways beyond how I could through my schoolwork. In addition, both Mr. Baker and Mr. Penn helped promote my skills as a member of the team since I am not the type to brag about myself.
Who has encouraged you most on your college journey? The people who have encouraged me most on my journey to and through college are my brother, father, and mother. They have been there for me for my entire life, cheering me on during my good days and trying their best to get me through my bad days.
If you could give advice to the freshman version of yourself, what would it be? Be assertive and stand up for yourself.
What is your next step? I plan to take a gap semester or year, maybe with an internship, and then continue into graduate school.
Name: Najee Rodgers
Hometown: Durham, NC
Major: Social Work
Note: Ms. Rodgers is part of the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge Team.
How has WSSU prepared you to pursue your ultimate goals? WSSU has prepared me to pursue my ultimate goals by holding me accountable for my work and putting students like me in spaces where they can get help if they need it.
How has WSSU helped to develop you as a person? WSSU has helped me develop into a person by making me get out my shell and want to socialize with different people than I would normally talk to.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about attending WSSU? I would say you will have the time of your life, but you need to learn that student and social life balance because if you don’t you may feel like you are drowning in your work.
Are there particular faculty or staff who supported or inspired you? Two faculty staff members really supported me are Keith Penn and Joseph Baker. They have really been great mentors and even father figures to me in any time of need.
What is your next step? I am going to take a year off while working in the social work field to get some experience and then apply to get my master’s degree.
Name: Holden Hankerson
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
How has WSSU helped to develop you as a person? WSSU has provided me with a great learning environment, that helped me become a better critical thinker, leader, and improved my time management skills. These skills among others that I have acquired while attending WSSU are priceless and benefit me in all aspects of my life as well as career.
What will you miss most about WSSU? I will truly miss being a part of a big collective of black excellence and history, as well as the sense of community that school embodies between the students at WSSU.
What is your next step? After graduating WSSU, I will be attending Wake Forest University in the fall of 2023 to pursue my Ph.D. in organic chemistry.
Name: Amber Webster
Hometown: Pinnacle, NC
What activities were you involved in at WSSU? As a non-traditional transfer student and mother of two, I was unable to become as involved on campus as I would have liked. However, I did have the opportunity to work as a research assistant for Dr. Richardson and be a part of the Center for the Development of Identity and Motivation of African American Students in STEM.
How has WSSU helped to develop you as a person? My experience at WSSU has helped me find confidence in my ability to pursue my dreams and grow into the professional I am meant to be.
How has WSSU prepared you to pursue your ultimate goals? Every class I have taken and every conversation I have participated in has provided me with the knowledge and skills that will allow me to serve our community. I am grateful for the opportunity and thankful that so many have been willing to educate me, share their experiences and knowledge with me, and help me grow as a person and a professional.
What will you miss most about WSSU? I will most miss the amazing faculty in the psychology department. Every single member of the psychology department truly has your best interest at heart and wants to see you succeed.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about attending WSSU? I would advise anyone who is thinking about attending WSSU to do so, and to make sure you make the most of your experience. Get involved on campus, join clubs, find an internship, work with faculty on research, and find a faculty member who can serve as a mentor and help you grow along the way.
What is your next step? Beginning in the fall, I will be pursuing a Master of Science in Counseling with a concentration in school counseling at UNCG.
Who has encouraged you on your college journey? My family, especially my fiancé and our two children, have been a huge support throughout my journey and I truly could not have done this without them. In addition, Dr. Richardson and Dr. Barnes have each encouraged me in my ability to earn this degree, pursue my future education, and become the professional I aspire to be. I will be forever grateful for the opportunities they have given me and for the roles they have played in my journey here at WSSU.