More than 3,200 master’s, doctoral, baccalaureate and honorary degrees will be awarded to the Class of 2019. Read on to meet a few of this year’s 2,500 outstanding undergraduates.
Niveditha Badrinarayanan knew her path after shadowing a physician in high school. “For me, it’s all about people. I want to be a doctor in order to make connections with people,” says the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences grad. Research opportunities and UVM’s Larner College of Medicine (where she’ll start this fall) drew her from Chennai, India. In her four years, the biochemistry major and pharmacology minor worked in a lab examining human mesothelioma; plus, she was a resident advisor, trained tutors at the Career Center, and volunteered in pediatrics, which earned her an award from the Mosaic Center for Students of Color. “UVM gave me everything I need to become a doctor.”
This summer, Christian Abys will be visiting lots of Vermont farms and microbreweries—as his job. He’s been hired as an energy engineer by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation to talk with farmers and brewers about how their waste—manure, used grains, etc.—could be used to produce heat and electricity in biodigesters. “Farms are the biggest users of land and energy and water in the world, and there’s a lot of opportunity to make them more efficient and profitable,” Abys says, who majored in environmental science with a minor in geospatial technologies in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. “I did a lot of research on farms as an undergrad. I took every research opportunity that I could,” he says, explaining how he landed this paid summer internship. This fall, he’ll continue to study remote sensing and geospatial sciences as a master's student in Boston University’s Department of Earth and Environment. But this summer he has a lot of data to collect across Vermont and, sure, he might sample artisanal cheese and IPAs along the way.
Honors College grad Rachel Bowanko is bound for Stanford Law School, and she already has a taste of what it takes. As part of Student Legal Services, Bowanko and fellow interns work closely with two attorneys to give free legal advice to fellow Catamounts. The environmental studies major, who’s interested in advancing renewable energy through her law career, conducted research on energy systems while at UVM; she also served as co-president of FeelGood, which serves up grilled cheese on campus to spark conversations about world poverty, and volunteered with Camp Kesem, supporting children through and beyond a parent’s cancer. Where does she find the drive to tackle some of the world’s biggest issues? “You have to turn everything you hear into motivation to make a difference.”
Vincent Van Patten’s military ambition of becoming a Green Beret in the U.S. Army might seem grand and surefooted, but the political science major and Russian and Eastern European studies minor from Stowe, Vermont, didn’t always know what he wanted to do. It wasn’t until he joined ROTC at UVM that he found his true calling for military service. “I joined the military because I want to help people,” he says. “There are lots of people living around the world under pretty severe oppression. War is not always the answer, but sometimes that’s the only way the job can get done to help those people. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t, but I want to be the one who gets it right. I think I can be.” Soon Van Patten will head to infantry officer training in Fort Benning, Georgia, but not before enjoying two weeks traveling around Europe, where he hopes to visit Normandy. Following infantry officer training, he will likely attend U.S. Army Ranger School, where he’ll be tested and pushed to his mental and physical limits to qualify to become an elite U.S. Army Ranger.
When she toured UVM in high school, Natalia Ruiz admits she got lost in the Grossman School of Business. The graduating global business marketing major and psychology minor recalls that the “kind person” who pointed her in the right direction that day was none other than Dean Sanjay Sharma himself. “Throughout my time at UVM, the professors have shown that they really do care about you. Everyone in the business school is willing to help, and that’s been special to me,” Ruiz says. During her time in Grossman, she founded the Women in Business Club to create a community for women in a male-dominated major as well as co-founded the Diversity in Business Club after she traveled to Indiana University to participate in their competitive National Diversity Case Competition, twice. After graduation, the Connecticut native will return to her home state to work fulltime as a digital merchandizer assistant at Lego — yes, the iconic toy company — where she will help market Lego products on Amazon.
Henry Mitchell’s interests span many worlds. The math and physics major has done research with five different professors in three different departments (one of which resulted in a published paper). How? “Just knock on doors. Go places and introduce yourself,” says Mitchell. He dove into campus life, too – playing intramural soccer, DJing at WRUV, tutoring peers, and giving campus tours as an AdvoCat. Next up: Johns Hopkins for a post-baccalaureate pre-med program. An internship at Goddard Space Flight Center last summer cemented his hopes of someday seeing outer space. “I would love to be a NASA flight surgeon.” Read more about student research projects, including Mitchell's.
Growing up as one of few — if not the only — students of color in her Shelburne, Vermont, school, Shania Bunbury is well-versed in the realities of racial discrimination today. Having persisted through a traumatic, racially-charged experience herself in middle school, she now prepares to become the person she wishes she had back then: an advocate for the marginalized. The economics major and law and society minor had her choice of top law schools, but they all paled in comparison to Harvard. Bunbury will soon take a pivotal step on her long-planned journey to combat marginalization issues (like the school-to-prison pipeline and housing, education and employment discrimination) as a lawyer. “These are the really big goals, but ones that I think are so important because the people that need the legal system most don’t have the resources for it. It’s really important to me that I use this degree to be the person that I would have wanted when I was going through the education system,” she says.
Lauren Trumble is winding down a stellar career as a student athlete—she’s headed to medical school next year, and capped off her spring track season with a record-breaking first place finish in the 1000 meters in the 2019 America East Track and Field Championships. Trumble entered on a pre-med track, but one of her most influential courses was a first-year TAP class “Street Children,” taught by anthropology professor Jonah Steinberg. “That opened my eyes to the importance of global and community health,” says Trumble, who decided to minor in UVM’s anthropology in global health program, which uses social science approaches to health care. Read more about Trumble.
“I love numbers,” professes Abby Collins, a graduating business analytics, entrepreneurship and mathematics student. “I love the ‘why’ and the data behind the choices we make. But with that, I am a full believer that data is only as valuable as our ability to communicate.” In just a matter of weeks, Collins will move across the country from her home in Nashua, New Hampshire, to San Jose, California, where she’ll begin work as a data analyst at PayPal. Though she may be Silicon Valley-bound, Collins makes it clear that UVM — especially her time in Mercy Hall and her apartment above nearby Momo’s Market — will be difficult to leave behind. As a student leader of the 2019 Family Enterprise Case Competition, Collins helped reimagine and expand the global competition, which most recently welcomed 26 teams from 17 countries to the Grossman School of Business under her leadership. Collins could be back on campus soon, serving as a judge of future FECCs. “As graduation approaches, I am leaving with more than I came,” says the numbers enthusiast.
Kyle Bodge, a health sciences major in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, says he began to find his path at UVM in an anthropology course titled “Culture, Health and Healing.” For a class project, he investigated access barriers to hospice care in America. End-of-life care, Bodge says, “was just something I was unexpectedly passionate about. As I continued taking courses at UVM and explored other educational opportunities, my love for both end-of-life care and the field of gerontology have grown.” Experience beyond campus has included an internship providing palliative care with UVM Health Network Home Health and Hospice. Post-UVM, Bodge plans work in healthcare or human services in Vermont with his eye on graduate school in social work down the line.
For new graduate Julia Coleman, family history and the history of her alma mater are intertwined across centuries. With a UVM lineage that traces all the way back to Roswell Farnham, Class of 1849 and the 38th governor of Vermont, Coleman is the seventh generation of her family to graduate from the state university. Studying exercise science in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, she’s been inspired by courses with Professor Jeremy Sibold and applied some of those lessons in her own pursuits as a UVM club soccer athlete. Post-graduation, Coleman is heading west to teach in an adaptive ski/snowboard program, anticipating that experience will be followed by graduate school.
As a women’s ice hockey defenseman, captain Sammy Kolowrat led the Catamounts to many victories, including an upset of No. 5 Minnesota. Now, she’s facing down a new challenge: earning her accelerated master’s in pharmacology at UVM. Kolowrat notes one person, in particular, who encouraged her to pursue an advanced degree, Paula Deming, a favorite professor “because she made the material so interesting and applied it in a clinical real-life context.” Kolowrat, a biological science major, reflects back to growing up in Prague, Czech Republic, where she’d visit her grandfather’s plastic surgery office. “I was so inspired by him, his journey, and the amazing work he did to help people.” Someday, she plans to apply to medical school.
Hyde Park, Vt. native LeAnn Gove is headed for Brooklyn, where she has a coveted software engineering position at American Express thanks to connections made at Grace Hopper, the world’s largest conference of women technologists. UVM sent her to Grace Hopper three years in a row. “That factor helped me launch my career so early on in college,” explains Gove. While here, the computer science major and math minor danced with UVM Jazbaa and was active with the Society of Women in CS. Here, she talks about her experiences as a student of color at UVM.
Having transferred to UVM from New York University her junior year to study art history and writing in a supportive academic environment and beautiful location, Barrie Knapp says her brief time at the university exceeded her expectations — thanks, in large part, to the relationships she was able to forge with faculty. In August the New Jersey native will return to the Big Apple for a competitive internship at Christie’s, where she’ll gain valuable hands-on experience at one of the world’s premier auction houses as an Asian Art Department intern. But first, Knapp plans to enjoy her last summer in Burlington entrenched in the local arts community as she continues her work as a curatorial intern at Burlington City Arts. “I’m passionate about art and the ways in which it represents, unifies and impacts different cultures,” she says.
When Ryan Smith lands in Sierra Leone to begin his service with the Peace Corps, it will be the 17th country he’s visited. Among the more memorable trips: a month volunteering in Calcutta at Mother Teresa’s orphanage, and a travel study trip in Nepal with Dr. Prem Timsina. “Every experience led to this,” says the community entrepreneurship major of his next adventure with the Peace Corps. He’ll serve as a community health promotor, raising awareness about everything from safe sex practices to malaria prevention.
Writing for this piece contributed by Josh Brown, Kaitie Catania, Kevin Coburn, Andrea Estey, and Tom Weaver. Photos and videos by Josh Brown, Brian Foley, Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist, Brian Jenkins, Sally McCay, UVM Athletics, and courtesy of featured students.