More than a diploma: Senior Spotlight

In deciding which seniors to profile for this article, The Hatchet called up dozens of University departments in search of students whose accomplishments are unique yet reflective of GW’s vibrant undergraduate population. In addition, The Hatchet came across some of these seniors during the course of covering campus and city issues.

While many students’ accomplishments would qualify them for a spot in this article, the mix of academic and extracurricular feats that these eight seniors have achieved make them among the most intriguing of the class of 2004.

Kim Sels

Milford, Del.

Kim Sels has never gotten a B in her life.

A double major in art history and English, Sels boasts a 3.98 grade point average. Sels easily remembers the two A minuses she received in her college career, one in French and one in art history.

No stranger to academic success, Sels was valedictorian of her high school, where she took several college-level classes.

“I suppose we all have our niches,” Sels said between giggles.

Sels admits that studying has become a sort of compulsion.

“Not studying, it would kill me,” said Sels, a recipient of the Presidential Academic Scholarship. “I’m a dork … a huge, huge dork.”

“I’ve taken a lot of really great classes here,” she added.

Sels said her parents are partly responsible for her zealous work ethic, always setting high expectations for her as a child.

Raised in a rural area, Sels said she comes from a town “devoid of culture,” so art history was a natural draw.

“I just love to see how art relates to the sociocultural history of the time period,” Sels said.

A recipient of the art history award for “Best Senior,” Sels has been involved in a number of extracurricular activities related to the field. Sels was also a staffer at Dupont Circle’s Hirshorn Museum and research intern at the Public Program Museum Division, which identifies sources for museum funding.

Studying abroad in Rome for a semester, she participated in an intensive art history curriculum.

“It was really an amazing experience,” Sels said. “Everything seems so new here after being in Rome.”

Sels plans on continuing her art history education at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she will pursue masters and doctorate degrees. After receiving the degrees, she hopes to become a professor of art history.

Part of Sel’s inspiration to teach came from her experience guest-lecturing in an art history class earlier this year.

“It was a big honor…I realized how much I wanted to teach,” she said.

Before going to graduate school, Sels will spend time with her younger sister, with whom she is very close. She plans on practicing her teaching skills when she takes her sister to museums.

“I’m really looking forward to taking her to museums,” Sels said. “It’s really something every child should see.”

Eric Denman

Round Rock, Texas

A computer science major and founder of the a cappella group Emocapella, Eric Denman is a poster child for University involvement.

Denman is a recipient of the Presidential Academic Scholarship and has a 3.81 grade point average.

He currently works 20 hours per week as a network assistant for the computer science department, where he develops network administration and security procedures.

Outside of school, Denman has worked in a number of computer programming internships and participated in the Senior Design Project, where he created a network logging program over the course of a semester.

Denman said he spends a decent amount of time on academics, but is mostly just fortunate to understand his classwork with relative ease.

Beyond his academic achievements, Denman is thoroughly involved in the University music program. Denman plays the french horn in both the Colonial Brass and Wind Ensemble bands, for which he practices five to six hours per week. He is also a member of the University Singers and Chamber Choir.

In addition, Denman is founder and director of the group Emocapella, which practices two nights a week.

Denman said he and a friend got the idea for the group after attending the show of another a cappella group on campus.

“We just thought … it would be cool if we had an a cappella group that did our kind of music,” Denman said.

Since the group’s inception in fall 2001, Emocapella has achieved enormous success with mentions in Spin and Blender magazines and a feature article in Entertainment Weekly.

The group has performed at a number of events, including opening at the 9:30 Club for the group Taking Back Sunday – a night Denman said was the highlight of his time at GW.

In his spare time, Denman brews his own beer, having developed an appreciation for the skill while working at The Brickskeller, a bar that specializes in the sale of unique brews.

“I do all that stuff because I love it,” Denman said. “It’s good to get involved in as much as you can.”

Meredith Pryce

Hudson, Ohio

Having performed in more than 70 musical productions at GW, singing the Alma Mater in front of 20,000 people at Sunday’s Commencement ceremony won’t faze Meredith Pryce.

“I used to get the worst butterflies,” Pryce said. “Then I began to realize I can do this – there’s just no reason for me to be nervous.”

Pryce has performed in musicals such as “The Magic Flute,” where she played The Queen of the Night and “The Apple Tree,” where she was Princess Barbara.

In addition to her involvement in University performances, she has also performed in a number of music department recitals.

This May, Pryce performed in a Senior Recital, “Totally Meredith,” which she said was the highlight of her GW musical career.

“It was really the culmination of everything I’ve done here,” Pryce said.

Pryce said she enjoyed her time in the classroom at GW but preferred to be on stage.

“You learn more by being on stage than you can in any class,” Pryce said.

Pryce was also a founding member of GW’s University Singers and member of the University Chamber Choir, performing as a soloist for both.

Pryce has performed in classes with some of the world’s great opera singers, including Laura Brooks Rics and Julian Rodescu.

Pryce said she practiced “an absolute minimum of an hour and a half a day” in class and probably spends nearly 18 hours a week practicing on her own.

Originally set to continue singing opera after graduation, Pryce decided she was “much more easy going than that” and decided to apply for a Broadway training school instead.

Pryce will be attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, where she will train for two years starting in June.

Upon completion of the academy’s program, Pryce will receive a certificate of professional performance training.

Although she said she is sad to be leaving GW, Pryce looks forward to attending the academy in New York.

“I’m excited to be getting out and going on to bigger things … and I plan on there being bigger things.”

Ronald Crouch

Washington, D.C.

The recipient of GW’s most prestigious psychology honor, the Psi Chi award, Ronald Crouch not only exemplifies academic excellence but also has overwhelming compassion for others.

Although he is now a successful student with plans for graduate school, Crouch’s college career began unlike many others’.

After graduating high school, Crouch met and married his girlfriend, whom he put through college by working as a heavy equipment mechanic in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Shortly thereafter, Crouch and his wife moved to the D.C. area, where he attended Prince George’s Community College for a year until earning acceptance and a scholarship to GW.

“I wasn’t sure I was really going to make it here,” said Crouch, now 31. “I’m not the typical GW student.”

Inspiration came to Crouch, however, after he began work at the Montgomery County Hotline, an over-the-phone youth crisis center.

Working on the hotline introduced Crouch to counseling and psychology classes at GW, where he maintained an impressive 3.82 grade point average.

“I have a high GPA because I really love what I study,” Crouch said.

Along with his volunteer work, Crouch works as an English tutor for Buddhist monks at the Vihara Buddhist Temple of Washington. After a three-year relationship with the monks, Crouch was finally able to visit them at their native temple in Sri Lanka earlier this year.

“I learned that I would not make a good monk,” Crouch mused. “But living in different types of communities you can really learn a lot about people’s mental health.”

Katie Smith

Willow Street, Pa.

Katie Smith may be one of the few GW students responsible for both schoolwork and our national defense.

A member of the Air National Guard, Smith, as a junior, was deployed to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in November 2002 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Originally told she would be staying for 30 days, Smith was relieved to finally be sent home after sleeping in a tent and living in “horrible conditions for 62 days.”

In and out of her gas mask due to risks of chemical warfare, Smith said it was hard to readjust to life as a college student upon returning to D.C.

“It’s really hard to mentally adjust … one day you’re this kid at GW going out with your friends and the next you get a call and you’re packing up your desserts,” said Smith, using a military term for the clothes worn on a base.

Smith said she has taken away important skills from her service.

“It’s made me a better student … I’m definitely more focused,” Smith said.

After a short return to campus, however, Smith was once again shipped overseas, this time to Muhammed Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait as part of the Iraq invasion. She stayed there for three and a half months.

Smith said being deployed for a second time was “pretty traumatic.”

At the base, Smith was responsible for the assembly and armament of several missile systems and precision-guided bomb units. Smith personally dispatched more than 18,000 pounds of munitions for use during the infamous “Shock and Awe” campaign that bombed strategic targets in Iraq.

Smith currently works as a White House intern 25 hours per week. She compensated for her missed classes by taking summer courses.

Having already been accepted to several law schools, Smith is planning on taking it easy this summer before she hits the books again next fall.

“This is the first summer in three years that I haven’t been deployed,” Smith said. “I’m just going to try and relax a little.”

Theresa Adams

Riverdale, Md.

As a leader in several community service programs and director of the University’s Diversity Affairs Commission, Theresa Adams just can’t stop helping people.

A student program coordinator of the D.C. Reads Program, Adams said she is solely responsible for recruiting the programs’ team leaders. Adams also works on developing and leading training sessions on group facilitation and conflict resolution.

Until May 2003, Adams worked as the lead tutor of coordinating training for the Heads Up Program, a tutoring program for local children.

Adams said the highlight of her community service career came while participating in the Heads Up Program Career Day, which she coordinated. During the event, local students were given the opportunity to visit campus and meet prominent members of the GW community, including student athletes and Student Association members.

Adams said the usually rowdy students had a newfound motivation to succeed after Career Day.

“When I went back into the classroom, they were just screaming that they wanted to go to college,” Adams said. “That day I felt inspired … I felt I had done my job.”

In addition to her work with the University’s community service programs, Adams serves as co-director of the Diversity Affairs Commission, an SA committee that seeks to help minority students.

“We really want to reach out to those who are under-represented on campus,” Adams said.

Adams said her own experience as a minority student inspired her to get involved with the committee.

“I was always the majority in high school, and when I came to GW I was obviously the minority,” Adams said. “I feel very connected to people who look like me and are going through the same experiences I am.”

Her job as an assistant director at the education development center SCORE is a natural transition for the ever-enthusiastic Adams.

“I’m ready to begin my career,” Adams said. “I’m ready to take them on.”

Matt Mandel

Upper Saddle River, N.J.

Known for alleviating late-night munchies with the creation of Campus Snacks, Matt Mandell is one of the University’s most successful entrepreneurs.

Mandell began his first business venture at age 13, starting and running a successful disc jockey company called Spotlight Productions. Within a year, the company was booked to play at schools, birthdays and Bar Mitzvahs up and down the East Coast.

Mandell continued his entrepreneurial ventures when he came to GW, starting a book-trading business his sophomore year after getting the idea as an intern at a law firm.

Campus Snacks was originally started to cover the overhead from his book trading business, Mandell said. He got the idea from a University of Pennsylvania student who sold cookies he made out of his dorm room. Mandell said he liked the idea but thought, “Why stop there?”

Starting small, Mandell operated Campus Snacks out of his dorm room. The company quickly became popular on campus, and when The Washington Post did a feature article on Mandell’s business, University officials threatened to shut him down (as running a business out of a dorm room is against University policy).

Mandell was forced to quickly find a different operating location, which ultimately allowed the company to expand dramatically since its start in February 2003.

Now Mandell operates a seven-day-a-week business with employees who make $12 to $18 per hour. He declined to comment on annual revenue or expenses, citing his “paranoia” as the reason for the secrecy.

Mandell spends no small amount of time working on Campus Snacks.

“I work from the second I wake up until the second I go to sleep,” Mandell said. “I usually don’t have down time.”

A psychology major and communications minor, Mandell said he dedicates the majority of his time to running Campus Snacks.

“My education outside the classroom has taught me a lot more than my education inside the classroom,” Mandell said.

Campus Snacks will continue to expand under Mandell’s direction next year.

“I’m not going to abandon the people who built me up,” Mandell said. “There’s a long road ahead, and I’m looking forward to the next big step.”

Darrell Andruwski

West Windsor, N.J.

With his modest demeanor and easy smile, it is not easy to tell that Darrell Andruski is a fierce competitor. But as a member of the GW men’s cross country team, Andruski became just the second runner in team history to be named twice to the Atlantic 10 All-Conference Team. Only five GW runners have been named to the team even once.

Andruski is currently the cross country team captain. He said he prefers to lead teammates by example.

“I make sure my teammates know their goals and work toward them,” Andruski said. The Most Valuable Player award has gone to Andruski in each of the last two years.

Along with his athletic accomplishments, Andruski maintains an excellent academic record, with a grade point average of 3.7.

Andruski is a two-time member of the Academic All-Conference Team, whose members are distinguished by their academic and athletic performances. He is also a member of several honors societies, including the Golden Key International Honor Society.

Just as he encourages his teammates in running, Andruski said he has “set goals” in order to perform well in school.

Training for cross country is intense – workouts consist of nearly 70 miles of running a week. Runners usually have one long run of about 15 miles and two to three additional practices each week.

Andruski said that he also runs on his own during his off-days.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.