Four years have passed since the class of 2016 opened their big red envelopes signifying their acceptance into Southern Methodist University. Since stepping on campus as wide-eyed freshmen, their priorities have changed, lessons have been learned, ideologies matured and aspirations evolved.
With just one semester left, SMU seniors are setting their sights on the finish line. How far have they come, and was the SMU experience all they expected?
To find out just how nostalgic seniors are feeling, The Daily Campus interviewed five seniors from different backgrounds and majors. Here are their reflections.
1. Freshmen Fantasies
“When I first started at SMU, I was on the pre-med track. It took me most of college to realize that wasn’t what I wanted to do,” said senior psychology major Melanie Enriquez.
The Student Foundation director of administration has since realized that her interests and skills were better suited in an entirely different field.
“After graduation, I plan on going to graduate school for industrial and organizational psychology,” Enriquez said.
Between playing soccer and studying public relations and strategic communications, Brooke O’Hare’s priorities shifted, too.
“Freshman year, I wanted to join a sorority, get more playing time, maintain good grades, make a good group of friends and go to all the fun parties,” O’Hare said.
Now she focuses on doing well in school, exuding positivity and helping others on campus through organizations like Play Like a Girl.
For Jacob Conway, co-president of Spectrum and student trustee to the board of trustees, his dream of getting involved on campus has remained a priority since his freshman year.
“My priorities as a freshmen were much more macro; I wanted to make changes to the way the school operated. Now my focus is micro and much more relationship based,” Conway said.
Rather than changing the way the university functions, Conway said he has learned to focus his efforts on fostering relationships between faculty and students.
But as all seniors have learned, good intentions and the right priorities can’t ensure that students won’t leave with a few regrets.
Transfer Senator Keya Tollossa entered SMU at a time when her peers had already formed strong friendships and joined their niche organizations. Trying to experience and discover SMU on her own was difficult and lonesome.
“I focused too much on finding out the culture of the SMU campus on my own. I wish I had realized sooner that I could find my voice within communities like the Women’s LGBT Center and the Senate,” Tollossa said.
Tollossa isn’t the only student with regrets; even Student Body President Carlton Adams wishes he had done a few things differently.
“I’ve always been the student to keep leadership and academics hand in hand. At times I regret making leadership priority over academics, but luckily it has served me well,” Adams said.
Conway, the Spectrum co-president and social butterfly has just one major regret: “I wish I rode my bike more.”
He says taking joy rides around the campus and seeing more people he wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to interact with is a good way to decompress.
3. SMU through your eyes
As a student athlete, O’Hare was exposed to a very different view of SMU than the average student.
After witnessing a physical fight between two teammates and seeing the devastated faces of the men’s basketball team following the NCAA sanctions, her behind-the-scenes view has skewed her opinion of the university’s athletics department.
“Unfortunately, I think the SMU athletics department has not really done a great job. I don’t think they have been professional and held up to the school’s standards,” O’Hare said.
Conway came to SMU with great admiration for the university and student body. While he still appreciates the university’s education and environment, his involvement in various organizations and semester abroad have changed his perspective of the stereotypical SMU student.
Recognized by outsiders as the university where wealthy white students come to spend their parents’ money, this image is often reinforced by the attitudes of handfuls of mustangs.
“The SMU stereotype has become much more apparent to me over the years. It’s not always bad, but the stereotype does exist,” Conway said.
Other students still adore SMU as much as they day they stepped foot on campus. Enriquez, the senior psychology major, says SMU has become her home.
“It is the place where I have some of my fondest memories and where I have made lifelong friends,” Enriquez said.
After first being rejected from SMU, Tollossa became more determined than ever to gain admittance to the university and earn a degree and education that would serve as the framework for her future.
“It was my ‘impossible’ and I was going to climb this mountain that was SMU,” Tollossa said.
Now that she has reached the peak of her college career, Tollossa looks towards her next aspiration of creating social change in the Dallas area through non-profit work.
Conway has also acquired a worldly view. While studying abroad in Copenhagen for a semester he became inspired to work and live overseas after graduation.
“I’ve always had a desire to travel and see the world, but now it defines me,” Conway said.
The senior spent the past four years studying finance and advertising. But over the past few months, he found that finance no longer fulfilled his ambitions.
“Now I’m dead-set on going into advertising, and in London!” Conway said.
Others are less willing to say their final goodbye. Having grown up in Dallas and becoming such influential individual on campus, Student Body President Adams is looking towards a fifth year at SMU.
Come September he aspires to earn his Masters Degree in Economics.
“It’s funny though, as a senior in high school I hated economics,” Adams said.
5. Dear Freshmen,
With newfound aspirations, resulting from four years of life lessons both in and out of the classroom, the class of 2016 has one thing left to say.
If Tollossa, the transfer student, could share one piece of advice with her freshmen self, and all first years alike, she would say this:
“We are all in a box – the people we hang out with, our beliefs and our backgrounds. There is a way to get out if this box though, and college is the place to do it,” Tollossa said.
Adams would also advise students to take advantage of all that SMU has to offer.
“College and anything you do there after you must learn and grow. The knowledge you gain in college will be one of your biggest assets in life,” the study body president said.
Playing soccer for the university has taught O’Hare the importance of teamwork, discipline, communication and working with others.
“You don’t have to get along with everyone you play with or work with, but you do have to respect them,” O’Hare said.
Having spent much of her college career searching for a suitable career path and studying, Enriquez, the senior Psychology major, has learned that good grades aren’t everything.
“Don’t stress about the little things, they become irrelevant in the end,” Enriquez said.
At a school where diversity is a rarity, Conway stresses the importance of being unafraid to be unique.
“Be yourself in an unapologetic way,” he said.