May 09, 2019

From the nerve-wracking first-year cookouts to the senior-year job-landing celebrations, a college experience is nothing if not memorable. In the spirit of celebration (and not to mention throwback Thursdays), the Herd asked graduating seniors to submit photos of their earliest days on campus to be recreated in the days leading up to Commencement. It’s easy to see the changes on the outside, but less visible are the lasting connections that started during those first weeks on top of the Hill.

leshin group

What’s better than bookending your WPI years with a Prez selfie? Caitlyn Peterson and Amanda Alves hesitated to ask President Leshin for a photo because, you know, she’s the president. “Amanda and I made a choice to ask after a little deliberation about it, but we both knew we wouldn’t regret it,” says Peterson. Alves agrees. “I was anxious about starting my first year of college as a woman in STEM,” she says. “But seeing President Leshin’s accomplishments and her personality and willingness to really interact with the students was so inspiring … hopefully one day I can inspire girls to get involved in STEM the way President Leshin helped me!”

Friends from the very start, this trio of Jennifer Whelehan, Kyle Hanlon, and Laura Sawin now consider themselves "part of a growing fam. I'd say that not all that much has changed—we've all just gotten a lot busier,” says Whelehan. “These two have been a huge part of what has made WPI my home. I'm excited to see how our relationship continues even after graduation.” With close support from the fam, they thrived. “Back then I was more introverted and didn’t really have a plan,” Hanlon says. “My time at WPI helped me become more of an extrovert and take ownership of my own path in life. I’ve become more sure of what I want.”

From setting school records as a member of the Men’s Track & Field team to having the opportunity to apply all he’d learned in the classroom to his Major Qualifying Project, Antoine Harris has had a good run at WPI—literally. “My time at WPI has provided me with skills that will better me for the rest of my life,” he says. “They’ve shaped who I am today and will shape who I am in the future.”

As an international student, Carla Romo had been nervous about meeting new people when she started school. Her fears were short-lived as she quickly met new friends, including Jess Walsh, Katie Williamson, Ermina Damlamayan, and Anastasia Karapanagou, all of whom she’s remained close with to this day. “My friends have been my family away from home and my support system these past four years,” she says. “... I am grateful that I was able to make strong bonds early into college that I know will remain strong for many years.”

Caroline Johnston and Melissa Galgano were first roommates during Frontiers, which they both participated in the summer before their senior year of high school, and they’ve been college roommates and close friends ever since. “I feel so lucky to have been able to grow with these people throughout my four years at WPI,” Johnston says. “To be able to say, ‘Remember that time freshman year...;’ and reminisce together is truly a special experience.”

Trung Tran Trong and fellow international students Shreeja Bhattacharjee, Nicol Garcia, and Andy Ng saved most of their shopping for move-in day (and honestly, there’s never not enough time for a quick selfie with new friends). “My friends helped me open my eyes to new opportunities," says Trong, "and they supported me through the best and the worst of times … Andy, Shreeja, and Nicol have been the encouragement I’ve needed to do my best at WPI.”

Amanda Alves and her first-year roommates, Amelia Wilson and Laura Carlson, were quick to share their experiences with future WPI students at an Athena overnight event, where they hosted prospective students during their own first year on campus. They took a quick break from decorating cupcakes and discussing their first years at WPI to grab a photo with Gompei.

And no, Gompei didn’t shrink—he’s in especially high demand during commencement season, so his trusty Mini-Gomp was sent in his place (although we have to say, Honey, I Shrunk the Goat would be a pretty great addition to cinema history).

In addition to leadership, teamwork, and communication skills, Azita Bakhtyari’s WPI experience taught her to balance her studies with the demanding schedule of competitive athletics—all without sacrificing her other passions. “WPI has taught me how to be a professional by working hard, having high ethical standards, and being a reliable individual.”