Graduating COLA seniors look back on lessons learned and forward to bright futures

Tuesday, May 15, 2018
group photo of nine student ambassadors outside academic building

(left to right) Tara Paladino, Krysta Gingue, Will Silverstein-Belden, Eden Suoth, Bethany Cooper, Rory Wilson, Crystal Napoli, Sriyaa Shah and David Manzo. Photo by Perry Smith.

Meet the College of Liberal Arts student ambassadors. Each year, the college selects a small number of outstanding seniors to represent the college during their final year of study. Now these superstars are ready to fly — some, literally. One ambassador is heading to Indonesia and another to England. A third is deploying with the Air Force. No matter where they land, they're sure to build fruitful, engaged lives and careers.

Bethany CooperKrysta Gingue | David ManzoCrystal Napoli | Tara Paladino | Sriyaa Shah | Will Silverstein-Belden | Eden Suoth | Rory Wilson

Bethany Cooper

photo of Bethany Cooper

Bethany Cooper’s path to her passion was not a straight line. That’s not unusual for undergrads, but the segments of her journey were in very different directions — first she pursued the sciences as a dietetics major, then turned to the humanities as an English major, then found her heart in the arts. Turns out that the stage is where Bethany feels most alive and, after graduating in May, she’s going to hit the pavement, auditioning and pursuing additional film and stage acting training. She might pursue an M.F.A. in acting along the way, but what’s not in question is where she wants to end up: on film.

From Hudson, New Hampshire, Bethany has had a busy four years beyond her curriculum — she’s participated in student organizations, including CRU, a Christian organization; she undertook independent research in the McNair Scholar’s Program, studying the new field of black acting methods; she spent a semester exchange at Mississippi State University, and she’s acted in plays — several of them, including “A Man’s World” by Rachel Crothers and “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller.

A UNH highlight for Bethany was portraying a concentration camp survivor in "The Bone Bridge" by Trina Davies, a play about the Bosnian genocide of the 1990s. The UNH production was the world premiere of the play, so Bethany was in the unique and thrilling position to originate the character of Mevla.

“To embody the character’s pain and dignity was difficult, but it changed me,” says Bethany. “The play showed me how important it is to make time to understand other people's suffering. Telling their stories can move people, which is even better than entertaining them.”

That focus on humanity has been the hallmark of Bethany’s liberal arts education. Here, “you get to be a scholar of people,” she says, adding that, no matter the major, the liberal arts are always helping you learn more about yourself, others and the cultures of the world.

Krysta Gingue

photo of Krysta Gingue

If you happen to find Krysta Gingue in a quiet moment, this senior from Lyndonville, Vermont, might just be curled up with a Harry Potter book or watching one of the Potter films for the umpteenth time. But Krysta is pretty active, so more likely you’ll find her leading a paint night social as a resident assistant, or serving on the Memorial Union Building board of governors, or volunteering in New Orleans’ lower ninth ward over spring break. Service has been a focus during her UNH years, something not lost on those around her. She won the Governor Wesley Powell Award for Community Service her sophomore year, one of only about a dozen university-wide awards given each year to UNH’s best and brightest.

Krysta’s commitment to UNH and beyond springs from a sense of gratitude. “I appreciate the fact that I could afford higher education every day, and I never want to take for granted the opportunities I’ve been afforded because of my privilege,” she says. “I hope to use it in the future to fight for people who don’t typically have a voice.”

Now that she’s graduating, this political science and international affairs major is looking to make an impact beyond the borders of the U.S. She’s applying for jobs with international organizations and hopes her career will allow her to travel, especially to Europe, where she has already spent some time.

One of Krysta’s favorite experiences during her four years was studying abroad in Paris. She managed to travel to 13 countries in one semester. In France, she experienced the French presidential elections. Being in the heart of the country, daily exposed to the ideas of the citizens around her, was an incredible way to learn about international politics, she says. And it gave her an enlarged perspective on the world.

“I know that my liberal arts education has prepared me for a globalized world,” says Gingue. “One that requires unique perspectives to solve critical international problems.”

David Manzo

photo of David Manzo

“Open-minded” would be an accurate way to describe David Manzo. It’s a great quality for someone who wants to be a lawyer. After graduation, this sociology and justice studies major from Abington, Massachusetts, hopes to commission as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, then apply to law school, then become a judge advocate general in the Air Force and then, well, maybe move into private practice or government work, he says.

Seeing both sides of an issue is a skill he’s developed at UNH, says David, whose favorite class was Famous Trials and Perspectives with Professor Kirk Trombley.

“Class discussion about controversial topics opened my mind to the reasoning behind so many different perspectives, and I hope to continue to use those perspectives to grow a well-rounded knowledge base on law,” David says.

Moreover, David says he finds the ability to entertain different perspectives to be the most important lesson he’s learned at UNH, and its value goes beyond the law. As an outgoing person who enjoys hanging out with friends and meeting new people, being open-minded and giving those you meet the benefit of the doubt broadens your ability to get along with a wide variety of people. “It can be extremely simple and rewarding,” he says.

Those people skills can also stretch you thin. In the last few years, David has taken advantage of social and experiential learning activities on campus and off that have had him running. It’s something he didn’t do in his first two years, he says, because he was so focused on his coursework. Now, among other activities, he’s president of Golden Key International Honour Society, a fraternity brother (Sigma Phi Epsilon) and a member of the New Hampshire Air National Guard. He spent a January term at the Washington Center in D.C., interned with the federal government and studied abroad in Costa Rica. And he’s particularly proud to have served as a liberal arts ambassador this year.

“With all of the hard work I have put in throughout these past years, it is incredible to know that someone has noticed and appreciated the things that I didn’t expect to be recognized for,” says David. “This achievement culminates all of my experiences both on and off of campus.”

Crystal Napoli

photo of Crystal Napoli

It tells you something about a person when she says that studying Chinese language provides a nice break from her other coursework. That’s a person who doesn’t shy away from exercising her brain.

Crystal Napoli, a history and justice studies major from Salem, New Hampshire, has spent the last four years leaning in to challenges and opportunities — she conducted research in Taipei through the UNH International Research Opportunities Program, studied abroad in Changchun with the help of a U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarship and interned in Boston with Semester in the City. And those are just a few of the highlights. She’s learned to be an advocate for herself, she says, searching for that next opportunity that would provide a valuable experience.

A culminating experience occurred last January when she served as project leader for UNH Model UN's trip to the Galapagos Islands. The team attended a conference on international cooperation and climate change.

“This experience allowed me to connect my academic interests in advocacy and youth empowerment to my skills of fundraising and leading teams,” Crystal says.

Crystal fundraised over two-thirds of the project budget. Six students and political science professor Alynna Lyon attended the conference and engaged in community service projects with area youth. And the group found time to take in the giant turtles, iguanas and seals that inhabit the landscape. The UNH team won Outstanding Delegation at the conference and Crystal won an Outstanding Delegate Award.

After graduation, Crystal plans to keep travelling because, she says, “seeing the world is such an important part of life.” She’s headed to Copenhagen on a Humanity in Action Fellowship where she will join an international group of students and recent graduates that will focus on human rights and politics. Then she’ll return to UNH to begin the master in justice studies program.

Looking back on her four years as a liberal arts student, Crystal finds that the experience helped her identify the issues closest to her heart: economic justice, education access and children's rights.

“I know that as long as I am working for organizations focused on these issues, I will be deeply satisfied with my career,” she says.

Crystal has been recognized with the University Women’s Award, given to the senior woman who shows the greatest promise through character, scholarship, leadership and usefulness to humanity.

Tara Paladino

photo of Tara Paladino

Tara Paladino is proof that internships can be a helpful career move. This major in psychology (who has a second major in human development and family studies) undertook an internship at the Dover Children's Home this year and it's turned into a full-time job. The home provides a residence for children involved in the juvenile justice system or the state's Division of Youth and Family Services. Tara will start working there as a counselor shortly after graduation.

"I'm really excited to continue working with residents and staff," says Tara, who hails from Bristol, New Hampshire. "I'm hoping to start a master of social work program in the next year, as well — likely online so I can continue working."

Tara's Dover internship is one of three she's pursued as an undergraduate. In addition to working with the women's studies program (in which she is minoring), she interned for the UNH Admissions Office as a summer tour guide. That internship gave her valuable hands-on experience and something a little less tangible but equally important — a window into herself.

"The confidence that I have built through guiding tours and sharing my experiences with prospective students has helped me determine that I am, in fact, meant to work in the field of public service, as I thrive on helping others," says Tara. "Giving tours, for me, is less about talking about how many books are in the library, and more about sharing how this school has shaped me, through all of the opportunities it offers, into the person I am today."

Those opportunities included serving as a research assistant in the psychology department's Interpersonal Violence Lab, studying abroad in Rome, involvement in the volunteer organization Project Sunshine, which works with children and families in local hospitals, and UNH VOX (Voices of Planned Parenthood), which focuses on advocacy and awareness.

A broad array of courses with diverse faculty across two majors and a minor have challenged her, says Tara, and given her new ways to think about the environment around her and her place in it.

"The courses I've taken have exposed me to a variety of pressing issues in our world, and have made me more aware of how I can create change," she says.

Sriyaa Shah

photo of Sriyaa Shah

Opportunities come to those who work hard for them, says Sriyaa Shah, a communication and psychology major from Dubai. She's made an effort to get involved, stay active and try new things during her time at UNH. Early on, a stint as a residence hall representative led to a job as a resident assistant. Most recently, her work with the UNH social media team led to a job offer upon graduation as a social media associate with a Massachusetts-based cybersecurity firm. In between these two events is a laundry list of activities. It's why she won a "UNH's Best" award from the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership.

"I love being involved; it's my favorite," says Sriyaa, ticking off her activities, which reflect a strong commitment to diversity, among them president of the Psychology Club, and serving as a student representative for the President's Commission on Status of People of Color and vice president for Desi Students Association.

Sriyaa's academic commitment has been just as robust. She's an excellent student who has taken advantage of study away in Washington, D.C., an internship at Cuseum in Boston, and independent research with communication professor Jennifer Borda on femvertising and political advertising and with psychology professor John Mayer on personality.

Even when Sriyaa slows down to relax, she's pretty active.

"I like to explore new places and meet new people. I like listening to stories about human experiences and cultures; it keeps us connected and humble to the world beyond ourselves," says Sriyaa, who speaks five languages and dabbles in two others. It's partly why she chose to come to rural New Hampshire from large, urban Dubai: "I was determined to get outside my comfort zone and enter uncharted territories to experience the American culture in its authenticity." It's also why she's loved her liberal arts education: "You learn about humans and their behaviors, which not only gives you a multidimensional perspective on key issues, but is also helpful in navigating your life daily.”

Will Silverstein-Belden

photo of Will Silverstein-Belden

Will Silverstein-Belden says he’s pretty confident he can eat more than the average UNH football player. Maybe that’s because this English literature major (with a second major in environmental and resource economics) spends a lot of his free time rock climbing and leading vigorous outdoor adventures with the New Hampshire Outing Club. While Will can be quite bookish, too, he approaches his literary pursuits with equal vitality.

“My favorite course at UNH has been Critical Approaches to Literature,” says Will, who grew up in Keene, New Hampshire. “The class discussion was engaging and challenging. The readings worked my brain harder than any other readings for other classes.” He also got along great with the professor, Petar Ramadanovic, he says.

Will’s commitment to his academics have earned him the Mary C. Petrella '57 English Award, given to excellent students who show a particular enthusiasm for English. Commitment to the work at hand is the most important skill he’s developed in his time at UNH, he says.

“I’ve learned that the amount of effort I put into things doesn't affect anyone other than myself. When I challenge myself to work my hardest, I get more out of the experience,” Will says.

After graduation, Will plans to continue to challenge himself. He’s hatching a plan to start his own real estate management company. In the meantime, he’s on the market for work in IT sales.

“I'm hopeful that the critical thinking and verbal skills I've developed at UNH in the last few years will be of use in my entrepreneurial pursuits,” he says.

Eden Suoth

photo of Eden Suoth

“Much of what I’ve learned within the College of Liberal Arts is how to be a good person and how to live a decent life” says Eden Suoth, a mathematics and philosophy double major from Rochester, New Hampshire. “Different people want different things out of their college experience, and much of what I wanted was to develop myself as a person.”

Eden credits his coursework for some of that development. Ethics with philosophy professor Paul McNamara taught him how to be a decent human being, he says, while Global Citizenship with history professor Janet Polasky gave him a better understanding of what it means to be a global citizen. Social and Political Philosophy and Philosophy of the Arts, both with philosophy professor Nick Smith, simply “changed my life,” he says.

His extracurricular activities have rounded out the lesson. Among the many organizations with which he is involved, he’s a leader of the Socratic Society, a student organization that gathers regularly to discuss big ideas. Topics have included human trafficking, “monstrous men” and even that hardest of questions — the meaning of life. 

The university has recognized Eden with several of its most prestigious awards. He’s won the Class of 1899 Prize for demonstrating the ideals of good citizenship, the Alumni Meritorious Service Award for helping advance UNH and the Hood Achievement Prize, given to the senior man who shows the greatest promise through character, scholarship, leadership and usefulness to humanity. This year, he also won the Student Leader of the Year award from the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership for reaching “the pinnacle of involvement and leadership” within the student organization community.

So what’s next for Eden? Study in Indonesia, the place of his birth from where he emigrated at age two. He’s received a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship to study the Bahasa Indonesia language this summer and a Fulbright research grant that will commence in the fall. He’ll be researching Javanese conceptions of power and the Javanese response to political apologies in Yogyakarta.

Eden traveled to Indonesia two years ago when he won his first U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship. He was able to put the language skills he developed to an interesting use back in New Hampshire. President Barack Obama attended elementary school in Indonesia, so when he visited UNH in 2016, Eden, chosen to greet him, was able to converse with him in the native language, a unique experience Eden says is among his favorite at UNH.

Rory Wilson

photo of Rory Wilson

Rory Wilson has found his voice at UNH. He says he’s learned how to speak his mind and not let thoughts founder in his head. He’s better able to challenge others on what they say while still considering a variety of viewpoints. It’s a skill he’s learned through his liberal arts education. And while Rory has been finding his voice, he’s been helping others find theirs.

A philosophy major from Carolina, Rhode Island, Rory is the program coordinator for the Diversity Support Coalition, an umbrella organization for six groups devoted to advocacy for marginalized people. He is chair of one of the groups, Alliance, which works for the LGBTQIAP+ community (the abbreviation stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual and pansexual plus). He’s also worked with UNH Safe Zones, a program that educates the campus community about sex and gender identities. His work has been recognized with the Kidder Fund Award, a university award that honors those who foster greater understanding of sexual orientation and gender expression, as well as a Collaborative Leader Award and a UNH Best Award from the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement.

Academically, Rory has been active in the McNair Scholars Program, a competitive program that nurtures first-generation college students and those from underrepresented groups who are interested in careers in academia. Through the program, he traveled to conferences across the U.S., and under the mentorship of philosophy professor Charlotte Witt, he conducted independent research on pronouns and transgender identities. He also spent a summer in Taiwan learning Chinese — his first time outside the U.S.

After graduation, Rory will be traveling again, this time to England, on a Fulbright master’s degree grant to study philosophy at the University of Sheffield where he will be concentrating on the intersection of social issues and language. “I am looking forward to participating in their Philosophy in the City program which teaches philosophy in primary schools and homeless shelters,” he says. “I am also hoping to get involved with LGBT Sheffield, which works towards LGBT advocacy in the city.”

“I think the biggest thing my experiences at UNH have taught me is that to make the most of your opportunities, you have to take care of yourself,” says Rory. “Sometimes you just need to unplug and spend some time with your thoughts or a good book.”

Perry Smith | Freelance Photographer