They did something here: The Hatchet’s intriguing grads of 2005

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The graduating class of 2005 is full of honor-roll students, presidents of student organizations and students who will go on to exciting places and careers. In search of students with more than an impressive GPA, The Hatchet spoke with faculty and students to find 10 intriguing graduating seniors. Although many could have been on this list, these are our picks from the class of 2005.

Jonathan Gordon – Applied Science

When Jonathan Gordon was 2 1/2 years old, he built a model photocopier out of blocks. At age four he made a working record player. When he was 11 he started sketching roller coasters, and now, at 22, the graduating applied science major has designed and patented a wooden inverted roller coaster.

The self-titled “artgineer” said he has always liked the artistic side of engineering more than its technical aspect. But, even though he enjoys music and creative writing more than chemistry and math, he is happy to talk about G-forces and up-stop wheels.

He spent two of his college summers working at Playland Park in Rye, N.Y., first as the park’s youngest ride mechanic at age 19, then as assistant to the amusement park’s superintendent. He said he has always loved riding roller coasters and trying to understand how they worked.

“I’d go wherever I could to ride a coaster,” he said. “They’d constantly say, ‘Excuse me sir, you need to get out from under the roller coaster … Sir, you’re not allowed to stand under the track.’ I didn’t do anything stupid but I was very curious how the damn thing didn’t fly off.”

Last summer Gordon started planning his Inverted Wooden Roller Coaster. Inverted roller coasters leave passengers with their feet dangling and, said Gordon, are considered some of the most frightening on the market. Most are made out of steel, which why Gordon’s idea is unique.

To prove that he was more than just talk, Gordon built a 14-foot long, five-foot high model of his ride out of balsawood, complete with metal cars.

After seven months, 750 hours of construction and countless accidental lacerations, Gordon has completed his model and hopes a theme park will build it.

Erin Dean History, Film Studies minor

Erin Dean suffers from brittle bone disease, and even though her wheelchair cruises at only a few miles-per-hour, there’s more proof life hasn’t slowed her down much.

Since she transferred to GW from a school in Vermont as a sophomore, Dean has volunteered at “Crossfire,” been a freshman peer advisor, interned at the non-profit Women in Film and Video and worked on the Program Board’s films committee.

As a film enthusiast, she is pushing for GW to add a film studies major, has taken nearly every film studies class the school offers, wants to go to graduate school to study film and said she loves movies because they are “an escape and a way to experience things.”

She is also quick to point out which movie theaters in town have handicapped ramps that are not quite up to par.

Dean has a genetic disease called osteogenesis imperfecta, which makes her bones easily breakable. She said her disability is not frequently the topic of conversation.

“There are only a couple of questions I get,” Dean said. She explained that both questions involve her motorized wheel chair-one is “how fast can it go?” and the other is “what happened to the red one?” (She recently upgraded from her red wheelchair to a purple one and guessed that her wheelchair operates at a top speed of about five to seven miles per hour, joking that she should test it alongside a car’s speedometer one day to find out for sure.)

Emily Goodstein – Human Services

Emily Goodstein said her college experience was shaped largely by chance.

The timing was right for her to start an abortion rights group at GW –

the University did not have a student organization like it, it was near the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and there was “a lot of political fuel for it.”

She started the group, Voices for Choices, as a freshman and said she “was in the right place at the right time.”

She contemplated going abroad her junior year, but then didn’t get into the program she wanted. That semester, she organized a coalition of students to march in the March for Women’s Lives in D.C., the largest reproductive rights demonstration in history.

“I decided not to go abroad, then the march happened. Things happen for a reason,” she said.

Although her passion for reproductive choice issues has impacted her decision to major in human services and pursue a career related to her interests, she had no such ambitions when coming to college.

“I just wanted to go and not miss my mom, not go over my cell phone minutes and not gain the freshman 15,” she said.

Next year, Goodstein will participate in a yearlong program at Hillel International. She is one of only six students in the country to be selected for the program.

Nils Janson Computer Science

Nils Janson can’t really talk about what he might be doing after graduation.

Janson is awaiting a polygraph test and the rest of his “invasive background check” before possibly scoring a job working on computer security for a top-secret federal intelligence agency.

Of the five government jobs he is applying for -others include jobs with the Department of Justice and the Army – he refers to this one as “the one he can’t talk about.”

As one of the few recipients of the National Science Foundation Scholarship fodr Service, Janson is required to work for a feeral agency for two years after graduating. His scholarship has also paid his tuition, room and board, books and a monthly stipend of about $2,000 for the last two years.

His background checks for the intelligence agency, which began in January, include completing a psychological evaluation and listing a reference with every address he has had since age 7. He said his four years living in Germany as a teenager is holding up the process a bit.

“Yeah, they didn’t like that too much,” he said, adding that his “end goal” is to return to Germany.

Originally interested in studying language, Janson said GW was his “safety school” and he had no intention of being an involved student on campus.

“I made a point to disassociate myself from extracurriculars because I was into all that in high school,” he said.

But Janson said he ended up liking the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences so much that he started giving tours of the school to incoming freshmen.

Heera Kamboj – International Affairs, Political Science

Heera Kamboj knew she wanted to study terrorism when she left to spend half her junior year in Spain. After an al-Qaida attack wiped out her local train station, it only heightened her interest in studying global conflict.

The international affairs and political science double major was sure she wanted to continue on that path after she studied terrorism in Israel through a fellowship program the summer before her sophomore year.

Since then she’s taken part in related programs all over the country and the world. She arrived at GW in the Women in Leadership Program and quickly began applying for fellowship opportunities in international affairs and journalism.

Kamboj is fluent in the Indian and Pakistani languages of Punjabi and Urdu. In addition to studying at the University of Tel Aviv she attended a journalism program at New York University.

At first, Kamboj said her parents worried that, by not going into medicine, she was not setting herself up for serious career options. The first-generation American said that her Indian family, most familiar with the Sikh culture, has come to appreciate her academic field. She joked that her parents’ primary concern now is that she won’t get married.

After graduating Kamboj will begin a master’s program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and enter the Foreign Service. She said she’s ready to go “wherever America needs me” but hopes she can study in Pakistan because she wants to learn about Islam.

Glen Dym – Biology, Economics

Glenn Dym knew in high school that he had a knack for comprehension when he got a high score on the Advanced Placement microeconomics test without taking the class. Now, that knowledge of economics is paying off, Dym has figured out how to turn his gift for learning into a gift for earning.

What started as a few Thurston hallmates asking for help with their chemistry for non-science majors course blossomed into a grand-scale tutoring operation, which Dym ran free of charge – until recently.

Throughout his time at GW, Dym met students everywhere from the Thurston basement to Gelman classrooms and led review sessions for biology, chemistry and economics courses. Sometimes he worked with students one-on-one; other times he met with “group sessions,” usually ranging from 20 to 30 students.

“I just have an ability to teach what I know. I get a real kick out of it,” he said.

Students came back to him for more tutoring and told their friends to call him because they were so happy with their results. The average grade for students he tutored on a recent macroeconomics test was 13 percentage points higher than the class average, he said.

What distinguished him from professors, Dym said, was his emphasis on individual attention.

“The real difference is that I put a personal spin on things. In a 30-person group session, I can answer a question as it comes up and nip the problem in the bud.”

Not until the second semester of his junior year did he begin to charge for his service. He said he made the “very difficult” decision because he needed to begin earning money for medical school.

Even after asking students to pay, Dym said he was receiving 25 to 30 calls a day during finals. He worked with as many students as he could and had to make personal sacrifices.

“I put my life on the back burner,” he said.

Dym, who was raised in Long Island, N.Y, will attend medical school in a few months at the University of Pennsylvania. The former EMeRG paramedic said he wants to be a plastic-reconstructive surgeon in Manhattan someday and hopes to eventually be able to spend three weeks a year in third-world countries, offering his medical services pro-bono.

Born in Bogota, Columbia, and adopted at six months old, Dym said his next challenge is becoming fluent in Spanish.

Danielle Santoro – Journalism

When Danielle Santoro’s report about housing costs aired on Washington’s WB channel this past spring, one first-grade student couldn’t believe that “Miss Danielle” was on TV.

Santoro filmed, wrote, produced, reported and edited the three-minute segment about high rent rates in D.C. during the same time period she was helping local first-graders learn the alphabet. The schedule was not unusual for this graduating journalism major, whose college career has been a balancing act between lunch duty and live-shots.

Teaching has always come naturally to Santoro – she’s been volunteering and working with kids since she was 10 years old. Her freshman year at GW she tutored in a notoriously dangerous neighborhood near Union Station but decided to find another school after witnessing a drive-by-shooting her sophomore year. That’s when the Office of Community Service put her in touch with Lisa Lowery at Stevens Elementary School near the GW campus at 1050 21st St.

“I started two days a week, but before I knew it I was in there four to five days a week,” she said.

Though Santoro said she loves working with kids, her real passion is broadcast news. She spent two summers interning for “Good Morning America” in New York. She said television news and classroom teaching are not too different.

“I think of broadcasting as a form of educating – it gives the public the information they want to know,” she said.

Sean Rose – Finance and Sports Management

When the GW men’s basketball team won the Atlantic 10 Conference championship in March for the first time in school history, Sean Rose cried.

“I wept openly for a good 30 seconds,” Rose said. “I lost it.”

A GW sports super-fan, Rose is the founder of Colonial Army, a nearly 750 person-strong student organization of team supporters. Colonial Army became a registered student organization last fall.

“We’re converting more casual fans into hard-core fans,” Rose said. “It just facilitates school spirit.”

Within an urban campus at a school with no football team, a lack of school spirit at GW is not an uncommon criticism. But, the emergence of Colonial Army paired with a winning men’s basketball team helped spread more buff and blue around GW. The organization gives members early entrance into games, T-shirts and discounted tickets, among other perks.

Rose also tries to generate support through Colonial Army for some of the more neglected sports at GW. He went to all of the women’s basketball games this year and broadcasted for WRGW, the campus radio station where he has worked since he was a freshman.

“I guess it’s my passion,” he said. “I’ve developed a passion for sports.”

Rose said is not sure about his post-graduation plans, but said he eventually wants to work with collegiate sports and would “love” to work in the athletic department at GW.

He would also like to stick around D.C.-in large part because he is not quite ready to part with GW sports.

Claritza Jimenez and Shaina Jones – School of Media and Public Affairs

When journalism professor Mark Feldstein asked Clartiza Jimenez and Shaina Jones if they wanted to teach journalism in local public schools, the concept intrigued them.

“I liked the idea of passing on what I had learned at GW,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez and Jones were two of the School of Media and Public Affairs students who participated in the Prime Movers program- a pilot project where one journalism student and one professional journalist team up to teach local high school students about news writing.

Jimenez and Jones taught similar facets of journalism in different schools, one in a notoriously tough D.C. neighborhood, the other in suburban Virginia.

Jimenez, a political communication major, worked three days a week at Ballou High School in Southeast D.C., co-teaching a television production class. In addition to helping students put together news packages and conduct interviews, Jimenez worked with them to produce their own versions of public service announcements.

Jimenez said the students she worked with were wonderful and that she is disturbed by the images many people have of students in Southeast.

“The students have so much potential and bring so much to the table,” she said. “It’s up to us to bring those things out.”

Jones, a journalism major, co-taught a video production class at Jeb Stuart High School in Falls Church, Va. The school had new equipment but students didn’t know how to make the most out of it. Jones worked with them to develop more effective interviewing techniques and shrewd editing skills.

Jones also interned at BELO Broadcasting in Washington, worked at NBC in her hometown of Jackson, Miss., and wrote for U-Wire, a national university newswire service. In June she’ll start working for NBC News in Washington.

Jimenez, who immigrated to Miami from the Dominican Republic when she was 9 years old, worked on a number of community service projects during her four years at GW. She was a supervisor at a youth development agency one summer in Boston and a coordinator in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program.

She’s spending the summer interning with the House Radio Gallery on Capitol Hill before beginning a yearlong fellowship with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s press office in Chicago.

Dan Wise – Business

Dan Wise spent his 21st birthday en route to Camp Commando, Kuwait. He would spend the following five months on the ground in Iraq as a member of the U.S. military’s psychological operations team.

For Wise, graduation is coming one year and one war later than he had expected when he first enrolled in GW, but this School of Business graduate-to-be said he is glad he served.

“I love (the Army). It’s certainly not for everybody, but the best decision I ever made was to join,” he said. “I’m pretty damn good at it too.”

The Boston-area native said he decided to become a soldier when he was a senior in high school and reported for duty the day after his high school graduation.

He arrived at GW his freshman year as a member of the Army Reserves and spent one weekend a month training at a Maryland base. He was also a member of the ROTC.

In mid-February 2003 he received official summons and told University administrators he had to go.

“They were really great about it. They stopped everything. I quit school and got all my money refunded in two hours,” he said.

Wise started his military tour in southern Iraq. He arrived in Nasiriyah the day after Private Jessica Lynch was taken prisoner and Wise was “a few buildings away” during the rescue mission.

During his time in Iraq, Wise had limited communication with family and friends. Few people at GW beyond his close friends knew he was in Iraq despite efforts to raise awareness about his activities. He returned home in September 2003 and resumed his class schedule in spring 2004.

After graduating he is entering a rigorous military training process and expects to be back in Iraq within a year.

“I feel like an asshole for not being there now,” he said. “I’m getting itchy.”

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