Each of the almost 2,000 undergraduate seniors participating in Commencement on the National Mall next weekend has a story – whether it deals with academic or personal achievements, social life or post-GW plans. The Hatchet spoke to faculty and students in order to uncover 10 especially intriguing graduating seniors.
-photos by Ben Solomon, Nick Gingold and Aaron Miller
Claudine Roshanian – international affairs
Claudine Roshanian took an accelerated path through GW – she is graduating in three years with a 3.97 GPA.
But that extra year might come in handy. Roshanian has several aspirations she would like to accomplish post-GW, including teaching Spanish, getting her master’s degree, cooking and opening her own business. She said her family and background motivate her to want to do so many different things.
“I’m extremely close to my family. I’m also very similar to a lot of people in my family,” she said.
Her parents are natives of Iran and fled after the 1979 revolution when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took over the country and transformed it into a populist theocratic republic. Both her parents attended GW once they got to the U.S., and Roshanian said she applied on a whim.
“It definitely affected me. I’ve always grown up knowing what happened in the revolution and always watching the news, learning about world events and history,” she said.
Her family’s history is what sparked her interest in international affairs, but while she is graduating with a double concentration in international politics and international economy from the Elliott School, she said she won’t be satisfied working for the government or at a non-governmental organization.
Roshanian realized this after working as an assistant to the chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative last summer, where she dealt with scheduling, researching international trade policies and sitting in on diplomatic meetings.
“I learned it was not the direction I wanted to take in my life,” she said. “In any bureaucracy you kind of get lost in the shuffle, and there’s very few jobs where you can have a direct impact.”
Roshanian, who grew up in the D.C. area in Vienna, Va., said she hopes to one day end up like her father and grandfather by being a small business entrepreneur.
“It kind of runs in the blood, and people on that side of the family end up working that way,” she said.
She wants to go back to school later on in her life and get her master’s degree in business administration, go to culinary arts school and then open her own business – maybe a restaurant or a bakery to fulfill her passion for cooking, which she calls her “creative outlet.”
“I’ve grown up eating good food all the time – especially good Persian food,” she said, adding that she typically leaves Food Network on as background noise in her room. “It’s more of a long-term thing. I can keep practicing to see if I can use it career-wise or if it’s just a hobby.”
But for now Roshanian plans to spend the next few years teaching Spanish, in which she minored, to middle or high school students in Fairfax County, Va.
She said, “It’s something where I can have a direct impact.”
Lauren Peterson – biology
Lauren Peterson may have spent most of her time at GW practicing biology – including doing her senior thesis on the living adaptations of caterpillars along the Potomac River – but next fall she will start law school practicing intellectual property law.
Peterson, 21, said ever since she was a little girl she has always wanted to be a doctor. She came here and majored in biology with hopes of completing the pre-med requirements to get into medical school.
After her sophomore year, she did a complete 180 and turned her attention to law. Starting this September she will be a GW Law student.
“I just figured out that I was only sticking so strongly with pre-med because I wasn’t letting myself consider anything else,” she said. “I was going to be a doctor since I was five. Sophomore year I took a constitutional law class and really liked it.”
But that didn’t stop Peterson from continuing to study biology. She spent last summer working with a Georgetown University professor trying to figure out why the Silver-spotted Skipper, a type of butterfly, lives on certain plants in the D.C. area by raising caterpillars in a lab and then releasing them in the field to see how and if they survive.
“Interestingly enough, my thesis was on ecology, and I didn’t plan on working in ecology,” she said. “It was random.”
When Peterson finished the write-up on the experiment, however, her adviser realized it contained a lot of hard work and submitted it for publication in a professional journal.
“I will soon be a published author,” she said, adding that she enjoys writing and actually did better in high school in non-science courses, but chose to go into biology anyway “because it’s challenging.”
But Peterson won’t be spending this summer with caterpillars. She plans to spend the next few months “slacking” in her hometown of Pittsburgh, working at a bicycle shop. While at GW, she was a member of the cycling team.
Peterson said she thinks transitioning from GW’s undergraduate life to its law school to the working world should be pretty simple – especially because she spent the last three years working in the law school as a career counselor helping students find jobs.
“I want to work in a firm in D.C. with a big (intellectual property) department,” she said. “I want to be a patent attorney.”
Suanna Edmiston -international affairs, political science
Suanne Edmiston has always termed herself a pro-life advocate in the national abortion debate, and her ideals will continue to resonate on campus even after she graduates from GW this weekend.
When Edmiston, 22, was a sophomore, she founded Colonials for Life, an anti-abortion student organization that prides itself on secularism and advocacy. She started the group in fall 2003 with only a handful of students who shared her convictions. By the following spring, membership had jumped to 150.
“When I was a freshman here I never came across a pro-life organization. I didn’t realize that GW didn’t have one until my sophomore year, when I started Colonials for Life,” she said.
Edmiston said her convictions stem from her parents, whom she said raised her with an anti-abortion background.
“I’ve always been pro-life since I’ve been young, and I’ve always been passionate about it,” she said.
In creating Colonials for Life on campus, Edmiston said she wanted to make sure that it wasn’t religious and was secular instead, so that it could have the most diverse membership possible to share ideas, unlike previous anti-abortion groups at GW.
“Anything pro-life before wasn’t secular,” she said. “In Colonials for Life we have so many different people from different backgrounds and religions.”
As a founder, she said her main responsibility is coordinating and facilitating a forum for students to share their views.
“I have met so many passionate people here, so they’re out there,” she said.
Edmiston, double majoring in international affairs and political science in the Elliott School, will be attending law school at Regent College in Virginia Beach, Va. this fall. She said she wants to get involved in law that deals with child advocacy and human rights.
“I want to make sure that it’s something people will think about,” she said about continuing her pro-life activities. “I want people to question assumptions … I want to get the word out there.”
Claudia Panait -international business
Claudia Panait may have spent her time at GW being involved in business organizations on campus, but post-Commencement she will be pursuing her true passion: acting.
“Ever since I’ve been a child, I’ve wanted to act,” said Panait, who grew up in Cleveland and is heading off to Los Angeles this summer to make contacts and network for her acting career. “I figured if I wanted to do anything, now is the best time to do it.”
Panait, 22, said that she got into international business because it interests her and because it gave her something to fall back on in case acting didn’t work out after graduation.
“My motivation behind acting stems from my need to make people laugh and keep them entertained. I get such a thrill and rush standing in front of a huge group of people or audience and basically performing,” she said. “Acting is also a creative outlet for me and helps me use the left side of this brain of mine.”
While Panait hasn’t made it big as an actress yet, she almost made it into the modeling scene. In summer 2004 Panait made it to the semi-finals to be a contestant on UPN’s reality show “America’s Next Top Model,” hosted by supermodel Tyra Banks. She said that she just did it for fun and didn’t expect anything from it, but it was an interesting experience.
Panait said that she isn’t passionate about modeling the way she is about acting and that trying out for the show was an “eye-opener.”
“I probably wouldn’t do it again, but if the opportunity (for modeling) ever presented itself, I’d definitely jump on it,” she said.
But at GW, Panait didn’t penetrate the acting scene. Her extracurriculars included being a mentor for freshmen in the business school, serving as a liaison between the school and students as the business class manager of 2006 for the past four years, and being an active member of Delta Sigma Pi, GW’s business fraternity.
If acting doesn’t work out, she said she could always put her degree to use. She said she would probably get involved in Latin American international development.
“L.A. may sound out-there, but it’s what I want to do, so I’m going to try,” she said. “I really want to do something big.”
Skye Humphries -American studies
While Skye Humphries admits that the Lindy Hop swing dance isn’t as popular as other dances around the globe, he said he’s out to change that after graduation.
An American studies major hailing from New York, Humphries, 22, said his mother’s interest in swing dancing when he was a child influenced him to become involved with it early on.
“She knew I would like it and got me into it. I did Lindy Hop with some friends in middle school, and we eventually started a performance group, performing and teaching the dance,” he said.
The Lindy Hop’s roots lie in the African American culture of Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s. It was a dance that was at first set to jazz music but quickly morphed into a swing dance that combines elements of mostly jazz, tap, the Breakaway and the Charleston.
“I was intrigued in where the dance came from … it’s a historical thing,” Humphries said. “It’s given me a connection to American history.”
Humphries is undertaking a five-year plan at GW, and after graduating with his bachelor’s degree this May, he will return in the fall to complete his master’s degree in American studies within a year.
Humphries has already started working on his master’s thesis, which deals with dance and issues of race in 1910. He said his research is strongly connected to his dancing.
“As a white kid from New York doing a dance from the ’30s from Harlem, I was drawn into looking into race issues as well,” he said.
While at GW, Humphries joined a dance group called the Silver Shadows, where he performs and teaches the Lindy Hop along with others throughout D.C. to get the community involved in swing dancing. His group participates in events in the city, including the Cherry Blossom Festival.
This summer Humphries plans to teach and perform the Lindy Hop abroad – starting by touring Europe, hitting up France, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. Hewill then returned to the U.S. to Denver and San Francisco, finally finishing the summer in Asia before coming back to GW in the fall, where he has even more ambitions.
“I’m trying to start a program of teaching dance and performing in D.C. schools,” he said.”Hopefully it will happen in the fall, and I hope to continue American studies.”
Humphries is also working with a group in Texas on a documentary film, where he serves as a historical expert on the Lindy Hop.
“It will address issues of race and culture in American History,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. I love it.”
Eric Herd -marketing, sports and event management
Eric Herd will spend his post-Commencement days doing something that most D.C. sports fans dream of – working in an office with a view of the Washington Redskins’ 50-yard line.
Herd, 22, has already begun his job with Red Zebra Broadcasting, a broadcasting company recently formed by Washington Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder.
Herd works as a customer service manager, where he focuses on maintaining relationships with sponsors of the company’s radio stations, which will go live in July and be the home of the Redskins Radio network.
“I’m working at a football field. I never even dreamed of this,” he said. “Who gets to look at a football field in their first job out of college?”
This fall Herd interned for the Redskins and worked with its sponsorship clients. His boss later recommended him to employees at Snyder’s new company. He’s the youngest person working in the new corporation, where most of his colleagues are older than 40.
An Albany, N.Y., native, Herd said that growing up he always had a “hunch” for marketing. “It just clicked,” he said. “I’ve always known marketing,” and coupling that talent with sports made an optimal career choice.
“I’m a huge fan of sports, but the business of sports – it excites me, it’s always changing,” he said. “Football is so popular. Why is it so popular? What does it take to make that happen?”
During his first three years as an undergrad, Herd held marketing-related internships at Hot 99.5; Washington Sports & Entertainment Inc., where he focused on public relations for the Washington Wizards; NBC, where he logged live feeds during the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece; and Arnold Worldwide, an advertising agency.
“Persistence pays off. Bottom line is :they’ll remember you,” he said.
But he added getting in on the ground floor of a new company is just the way to kick off his career.
“It’s definitely a good starting place,” he said. “Where will it take me? I couldn’t tell you.”
Chris Peters -political science
Chris Peters has two reasons to celebrate this weekend. After four years in GW’s Navy ROTC program, he will be commissioned into active duty with the U.S. Navy Friday – two days before he graduates on the National Mall and gets to meet former President H.W. Bush.
Peters, 21, will become an ensign for the Navy this week and report to the USS Halsey in June, where he will be deployed to sea from its San Diego, Calif., base.
Peters will serve as a surface warfare officer, meaning he will be in charge of a division of 20 to 50 sailors, and he will be responsible for the handling and operation of the destroyer.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to serve my country while seeing the world and leading American sailors. It’s a great privilege,” said Peters, who will present Bush with an honorary degree at Commencement Sunday.
Peters spent the last semester serving as GW’s NROTC battalion commanding officer and was ranked as the first NROTC surface warfare midshipman in the country, which allowed him to pick the ship he wants to serve on for the next two years. He said the USS Halsey is a brand new destroyer recently commissioned by the Navy.
Peters said that his success in NROTC was unexpected.
“The military was not something I’ve always wanted to do. I’d only considered it towards the end of high school,” he said. “I’ve always been patriotic … but when I joined the program as a freshman I didn’t think I’d be good at it or even like it.”
But Peters, who is from North Reading, Mass., said that serving in the military also has a family significance for him.
“My grandfather served in the Navy during World War II, and I’m very proud to be able to wear the same uniform he once wore,” he said.
Peters hopes to continue serving in the Navy after his mandatory four years at sea – two of which he already knows will be on the USS Halsey. After that he doesn’t know which ship or ocean he’ll end up in.
He said, “I ended up finding myself more in the military, and it’s really what I can see myself doing for many years to come.”
Cherice Tearte -human services, sociology
It wasn’t until Cherice Tearte first volunteered at D.C. Central Kitchen her freshman year that she heard about GW’s human services program. She spent the next four years volunteering and studying how to help others.
Tearte, 21, is currently a service coordinator for The Neighbors Project, a branch of GW’s Office of Community Service, where she works with health, aging and disability services issues.
Post-Commencement, she will enter into Teach For America, a two-year program where college graduates teach in under-resourced public schools. She will train this summer in Atlanta and after that she will become a special education teacher in North Carolina.
“I’ve been volunteering since I was younger,” she said. “My parents got me involved, and it’s been a part of my life for a long time.”
This year she received a State Farm Youth Service grant, which she put towards GW’s annual Senior Prom, a gala for more than 130 senior citizens in April.
Tearte is also one of the founders of GW’s community service sorority, Epsilon Sigma Alpha, and has taken part in GW’s alternative spring break twice, first to Belize and then to Costa Rica.
She said looking back over her years at GW, her favorite place to volunteer was St. Mary’s Court, an elderly home on campus at 24th and H streets.
“Spending time with the senior citizens, learning about their lives and hearing their stories,” she said. “I have learned so much from working with them over the years, and I love spending time with them.”
Matt Grieger -political science
Even though Matt Grieger spent eight months of his college career down the trenches of American politics, after graduation he intends to escape from it by going all the way to central Asia.
In less than a month Grieger will head to Mongolia to teach English with the Peace Corps for 27 months. He said he knows one word in the country’s native language – “sain bainuu,” or hello – but he’s not too worried.
“I’m not a teacher … I don’t know where I’m going to be, what grade I’ll be teaching,” he said. “I know I’ll be out in some random small town very likely, but other than that, I can’t tell you a whole lot.”
Grieger, who hails from Lebanon, Ind., a town of about 13,000, originally attended Butler University in Indianapolis, but spending time with Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s (D-Conn.) 2004 presidential primary campaign furthered his interest in domestic politics. He knew he had to get to D.C.
In Washington, Grieger also wrote for UN Wire, a small publication that covers the United Nations and international affairs, and worked as a copy editor at Agence France-Presse, the French news service.
Grieger said he does not plan on returning to journalism or politics when he returns to the U.S. and will likely move back to Washington and pursue a career in international affairs.
“U.S. domestic politics, I think so much of it is a foregone conclusion,” Grieger said, admitting he sounds cynical. “It’s a done deal, no matter if you or I go and do anything about it. I’d rather spend my time doing something else.”
Anaid Gonzalez knows firsthand how much scholarships mean to education, and she hopes that in her post-GW career she can give back to others.
Gonzalez, who moved to D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood from Mexico City when she was 9 years old, went to high school at the School Without Walls on 21st and G streets.
When she was a senior, she was offered the Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarship, which pays for students’ tuition, books, room and board and fees at GW for all four years in full.
“I was completely freaking out. I think I cried,” she said. “I was on TV. I felt like a rock star after that.”
For the past three years at GW she’s worked at the local Hispanic College Fund, an organization that has given over $6 million in scholarship money to Latino students who otherwise couldn’t afford to go to college.
“I met them in person and realized they are 10 times more extraordinary in the flesh then on paper,” she said.
Gonzalez, who always knew she wanted to work in business because she liked networking and reaching out to people, and she will start her job as a tax consultant at Price Waterhouse Coopers, an international accounting and consulting firm, in September.
But it doesn’t mean she will stop volunteering at the Hispanic College Fund – she could be involved even more since Price Waterhouse is a company that donates to the organization.
“Everything’s worked out so perfectly,” she said. “Everything just kind of sunk into place.”
She said, however, if the corporate road doesn’t work out, she would instead go into business with her 32-year-old brother who runs his own accounting firm in D.C. and focuses on helping small Hispanic businesses.
Despite her altruistic goals, Gonzalez admits that she hasn’t always been so focused on helping others and it wasn’t until college that she realized she wanted to aid Latinos in her career.
“When I was little, I wanted to be a CEO with the biggest house on the block and have three Mercedes,” she said. “But there’s more than that to life.”
“It’s realizing that I have a lot of opportunities that a lot of people growing up in similar situations than me don’t have,” she added. “The more you give back the better you feel.”