Meet the Grads
Students from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences will walk across the stage on Saturday, Dec. 15 as they graduate from West Virginia University, ready to take on the world.
As Commencement is upon us, several of our Eberly College graduates reflect on their time at WVU and their plans for the future.
Looking back on her career at West Virginia University, Elizabeth Young, a Charleston, West Virginia, native reflects on memories of her adventures competing on the rowing team, walking through the snow blanketed campus and the lifelong friendships she created along the way.
Her passion for history led her to double major in history and geography and obtain a minor in French. In summer 2018, the Gilman Scholarship sent Young on a four-week study abroad trip to Montpellier, France, where she was able to practice her French language speaking skills.
“The biggest takeaway I found was actually to be more confident in my speaking of French, and it wasn’t until the very end that I felt more able to go about and visit places both in Montpellier and when I did a little bit of independent travel in Paris as well,” Young said. “So, knowing that you’re going to make mistakes speaking a second language and to just find comfort in that you’re learning."
Young credits her majors for expanding her perspective and opening her eyes up to a career path that will eventually lead her to becoming a professor.
“My passion for history is stronger than ever before. Through my emphasis in environmental change, I’ve learned about the environment in such a way that I never have before and how interconnected humans and the environment are,” Young said. “It’s really pushed me to want to pursue environmental history as a future graduate level degree.”
She also served as an intern in the West Virginia GIS Technical Center.
“While here not only was I on the rowing team where I met some really great women and created some lifelong friendships, but also my student internship at the West Virginia GIS Technical Center has broadened my knowledge of GIS and how important it is, and how much of a growing field it is with all of the opportunities behind it,” Young said.
Kristyn Lizbinski, a Drums, Pennsylvania, native and doctoral student studying biology atWest Virginia University, spent her WVU career studying the olfactory system of insects in Assistant Professor of Neuroscience Andrew Dacks’ lab. Lizbinski’s research on the way neurons communicate was published in eNeuro this fall, and she was awarded the first prize in DRVision and Interstellate’s 2017 Neuroscience Travel Award for a 3D microscopy image of her research.
“Being at WVU has been a transformative experience in terms of how I think about not only science, but just scientific problems in general,” Lizbinski said. “One of my most memorable experiences was getting my first paper accepted. A milestone in graduate school is publishing your work. It’s a great feeling to know that the hard work that you’ve been putting in is actually amounting to something.”
Lizbinski will graduate from WVU in December 2018 with a Ph.D. in biology before beginning postdoctoral research at Yale University School of Medicine’s Department of Neuroscience.
“I think I’ll miss the people at WVU,” Lizbinski said. “For me, it’s always been about the connections you form and the community you form with the people around you and I’ve been extremely lucky to develop such a great support system in not only my peers, but my advisers as well. The supportive environment of the Department of Biology has been wonderful, and I’ll miss it.”
North Canton, Ohio, native Aaron Brake first came to West Virginia University
as a forensic and
investigative science major. However, after completing a research
project rooted in statistical analysis, Brake made the jump to industrial
math and statistics, which he completed in two and a half
“I like the inquisitive nature of statistics,” Brake said. “I did a research project that was highly statistical in nature, and I really enjoyed that. I’ve always enjoyed mathematics, so I decided to give it a try. I took a few statistics classes and absolutely loved them, so I thought this is what I want to do.”
Following graduation, Brake plans to work at the WVU Alumni Association to implement a data analysis program and eventually obtain a Ph.D.
Brake enjoys the statistics major because it offers many different career paths and credits the strength of WVU’s undergraduate programs for solidifying his decision to attend the University.
“I have a lot of familial ties here,” Brake said. “I’m a legacy student, but that didn’t influence me as much as the strong academic program and the really talented and driven professors we have working with the students.”
Brake recommends for anyone considering a STEM-related degree to give it a try.
“Applying yourself and really working hard is the key,” Brake said. “If you’re interested in pursuing any sort of STEM degree, I highly recommend looking at some mathematics classes because it can only help you. Mathematics is the basis of that, so I recommend trying to take some classes. It’ll only help you understand your own discipline more.”
Brake spent his semesters studying in the Downtown Campus Library’s Milano Room where his father, who attended WVU in the 1980s, also studied.
“When I came to tour WVU, my dad showed me a section of the library,” Brake said. “It’s so much different from the rest of the building, and I like to study a lot in there. If I had a favorite place on campus, it’d probably be there.”
Brake equates being a Mountaineer to being yourself.
“I think being a Mountaineer means hard work,” Brake said. “It means not letting people put you in a box that doesn’t fit you. To me, it means defining your own path.”
For Tyler Brewster, an Inwood, West Virginia, native and political science major, joining the Student Government Association was his first priority when he came to West Virginia University as a freshman. He has since served as an intern, a senator and a legislative director.
“SGA has really taught me how to get myself out there, how to talk to people, how to be personable and how to get things accomplished,” Brewster said. “I’ve set a goal, and I’ve been able to reach that goal every single year. That’s one of the things I’m most proud of at WVU.”
During his time at WVU, Brewster ran for student body president in the fall 2017 semester and won Mountaineer Idol alongside criminology major Katie Simms. He has also gained experiences through his political science major while meeting many different people.
“What I like most about political science are the people,” Brewster said. “All of the professors are so intelligent. They know exactly what they are talking about. It’s usually a debate-based major. During class discussions, the students are always very vibrant, but they’re also respectful of what they do.”
One of Brewster’s favorite memories of his time at WVU was his first home football game, which he attended with some of his best friends and sang “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” for the first time as a Mountaineer.
“What I’ll miss most about WVU are the friends that I’ve made here and the experiences that I’ve had,” Brewster said. “Not being able to see those people every day as we move forward in our lives will be the thing that I miss most.”
“WVU is unique in terms of other land-grant universities across the nation because we are the lifeline of the state of West Virginia,” Brewster said. “Being a Mountaineer means empathizing with the rest of the state and really helping as many people in the state as we possibly can. Being able to see all these people who genuinely care about the state moving forward has taught me a lot about how one institution, WVU, can have such an impact on the state as a whole.”