COLA student fellows, open-minded and determined, are ready for the future

Monday, June 6, 2022
montage of photos of nine student fellows

The 2021-2022 College of Liberal Arts Student Fellows

Saying goodbye to graduating seniors is bittersweet. Among the class of 2022 are nine students who particularly tug at the heartstrings: the College of Liberal Arts student fellows. These scholars served as stellar ambassadors for the college in their final year of study. As they take their leave, we give you a glimpse into their UNH experiences. We thank them for their service and wish them well on their journeys.

Bryson Badeau Kasey Birth Elza Brechbuhl Taylor Donnelly Riley Espat Nathaniel Hunt Thomas McDonough Camden Roy James Silveria

Bryson Badeau

Bryson Badeau '22

Theatre and performance were Bryson Badeau’s passion long before he came to UNH. “I’ve been performing since I was three years old,” the Dedham, Mass., native says. “I’ve always been passionate about theatre.”

Badeau is pursuing a degree in secondary theatre education, one of the reasons he chose UNH. “It isn’t offered at a lot of other schools,” he says. Originally a pre-law major, Badeau switched to secondary theatre education because he believed he’d be happiest studying theatre. He added a second major, design and theatre technology, with an emphasis on lighting design, after learning more about the tech side of productions. “I love the connections and opportunities that being a theatre major offers,” he says. “It allows you to work with so many different people in so many different areas and allows you to explore your creativity in ways you can share with an audience.”

Active in all things theatre on campus, Badeau is a member of WildActs, UNH’s social justice theatre troupe, and is president of the Mask and Dagger Dramatic Society, a student organization that produces live theatrical productions and provides opportunities to explore various areas of theatre. The Society fully funds and produces its own shows, which has helped Badeau further strengthen his leadership and communication skills. He also works as a technical assistant in the Department of Theatre and Dance scene shop, working on all areas of the school’s mainstage theatre productions, from lighting and sound to set design and costumes (one of his prop designs was nominated for an award from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival).

Thanks to support from Raina Ames, Theatre and Dance Department chair and Badeau’s advisor, he has secured a position after college as artistic director at Village Nest Cooperative, an outdoor school where he currently serves as a substitute teacher. His ultimate goal is to become a high school theatre teacher. “I fell in love with drama in high school so I want to help other high school students feel the same passion,” he says. “My liberal arts education has helped me make connections with surrounding schools and theatres in New Hampshire.”

Kasey Birth

Kasey Birth '22

During her time in COLA, Kasey Birth has parlayed her passion for World War II history into a multi-year internship, fascinating research opportunities, academic recognition and more.

The history major interned for a full year at the Wright Museum of World War II in Wolfeboro, N.H., her hometown. The research and information she gathered about women in the military during her time at the museum inspired her senior capstone paper as well as her honor’s thesis. “I’m focusing on the experiences and different perceptions faced by the Women’s Army Corps, the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) and Army and Navy Nursing Corps during World War II,” she says. A theoretical interactive museum exhibit about the WASPs that Birth created for a museum studies course won her the History Department’s Harris Paper Prize. She’s also a member of Phi Beta Kappa and a recipient of the Edmund G. Miller Award, presented annually to a new Phi Beta Kappa member with the highest GPA.

Birth knew she wanted to study history before coming to UNH; classes with faculty like associate professor Molly Dorsey convinced her she was in the right major. “Her teaching and concern for her students’ education assured me I made the right decision majoring in history,” Birth says. “I also have always enjoyed the skills and tasks associated with history, including reading, analytical thinking and writing.” Through COLA, Birth has explored a variety of courses inside and out of her major that capture her interest. She hopes to attend law school after graduation this May.

In addition to her academic interests, Birth is a member of Chi Omega sorority, the Pre-Law Society and the undergraduate History Department committee. “An important lesson I learned at UNH is to branch out and take interest in the community around you to the fullest extent possible,” Birth says. She also enjoys the flexibility of being in COLA. “I’ve had the opportunity to explore so many different topics and interests. The staff is great at encouraging students to follow their passions and trust in that to help them find future career paths.”

Elza Brechbuhl

Elza Brechbuhl '22

With a dual major in communication and women’s and gender studies, Elza Brechbuhl is excited by the possibilities her courses offer inside and outside the classroom. Her discussion-based classes address complex issues and enable “honest, very personal” conversations with her peers. “I love my majors because they hug and slap me at the same time,” she says. “I’m often invited to events in the community and engage with people outside our college. That pushes me to apply what’s in textbooks to the real world and really reflect on my work.”

One of Brechbuhl’s most powerful experiences at UNH was co-organizing the Black Lives Matter protest during summer 2020. After watching other protests pop up across the U.S., Brechbuhl and several friends decided to organize one on campus, balancing keeping people healthy during a pandemic while sounding a call for change. “We brought about 1,000 people on to campus to listen to Black students speak about their experiences,” she says. “It was the first time I saw so many people care about a problem in our community. I was thankful for being a Wildcat.”

Brechbuhl’s passion for social justice has earned her several accolades. She was named a McNair Scholar and worked last summer on a research project she hopes will lead to options for graduate school. She also received the Social Justice Research Fellowship last summer to study issues related to minority groups and barriers to attending and/or succeeding in higher education. In addition, she received the 2022 Gilman International Scholarship to study sex trafficking and modern slavery in Europe after graduation. She chaired the Community Development Council in the Student Senate for two years, formulating policies aimed at underrepresented student groups such as the Diversity Support Coalition, non-traditional students, commuters and athletes. And she’s involved with Mosaico, a Latinx student organization. Participation in the Civil Discourse Lab, a Communication Department organization, strengthened her ability to talk with others about important issues.

Her COLA experience has helped Brechbuhl become more analytical and sharpened her critical thinking skills. “I’ve learned that society is not a world of exactitudes,” she says. “We can find different perspectives within a story and recognize problems in what seems to be the right answer.”

Taylor Donnelly

Taylor Donnelly '22

Not every student arrives at COLA with a plan. Taylor Donnelly wasn’t sure she wanted to attend college; she decided to try UNH for a year, believing it would help her step outside her comfort zone and grow emotionally and academically. That self-motivation has helped make her stand out.

Donnelly took classes in human development and family studies as well as courses in political science, justice studies and psychology. “I wanted to learn about people and how we conform to society,” Donnelly says. Meeting with Cesar Rebellon, chair of the Sociology Department, and taking an introductory sociology course during a January Term convinced her that the major was a good fit. She graduates this spring with a dual major in sociology and justice studies. “I love that I could participate in various programs within my majors,” she says. Interested in juvenile justice issues, Donnelly interned for Build a Movement 2022 as part of UNH’s Washington Center program and studied abroad at Cambridge University. She wants to pursue a career in juvenile law after graduation.

Most importantly, though, UNH helped Donnelly recognize that her mental and physical health came first. Forging a bond with her fellow freshmen women on 10A in Williamson Hall, she discovered a support system and everlasting friendships. “We’ve continued to grow and support each other through college’s best and worst moments,” Donnelly says. She also joined the Mock Trial team freshman year where she discovered multiple opportunities for leadership, networking and adapting to stressful situations, first as a team member, then as captain and tournament director. On campus, Donnelly is a Career and Professional Success Ambassador, COLA Peer Advisor, a member of Alpha Phi Omega, an orientation leader and a member of Alpha Phi Sigma, the criminal justice honor society. “People may be surprised to learn that I have to push myself to participate and be involved,” she says. “I realized that to make UNH an experience that I was proud of, I had to push my boundaries and put myself out there, which was overwhelming and uncomfortable. College is where I learned to put myself first.”

Riley Espat

Riley Espat '22

Many COLA students are appreciative that they can explore a variety of subjects as liberal arts majors. Riley Espat took that one step further and pursued three minors in addition to her dual major in political science and justice studies. “The (justice studies) professors were so passionate about their work and their students’ educations,” says Espat. “I have amazing professors who influenced me to pursue minors in sociology, forensics and security studies.”

Although winter and the opportunity to enjoy sports like snowboarding and ice skating initially drew her to UNH, Espat, who is from East Greenwich, R.I., was intrigued by COLA’s pre-law track. “I’ve always been interested in law and knew that if I was going to attend law school, I would need a major that was reading and writing intensive,” she says. New Hampshire’s significant role in presidential primary politics during national election cycles and the flexibility of UNH’s Justice Studies Program were also draws. Extracurriculars including Pre-Law Society, Mock Trial and an internship with the Chubb Law Group, an intellectual property law firm in Dracut, Mass., are among many of the “great experiences” Espat says she’s had at UNH. She continues to work for Chubb as an administrative assistant. “It’s helped further my interest in the legal field and attending law school,” she says. “I learned that being an experienced attorney is helpful in running a successful law firm, but I also understand that it’s a business.”

The first generation American has racked up academic honors at UNH as well, including membership in the Alpha Phi Sigma criminal justice honors society, the Pi Sigma Alpha political science honors society and Phi Beta Kappa. Her post-graduate plans include completing an accelerated master’s degree in UNH’s Justice Studies Program and attending law school.

Espat believes her liberal arts education has set her up for success in her future career. “It’s allowed me to explore several related areas of study that will allow me to have an abundance of resources to utilize in my future career as well as perceive situations from various lenses,” she says.

Nathaniel Hunt

Nathaniel Hunt '21

Nathaniel Hunt transferred to UNH ready to dive into philosophy. At his last school, he had the intention of becoming an occupational therapist. But he changed his major after his first week of classes. “Going to my health science classes felt like a chore,” he says. “My philosophy classes were fun. I felt like I was in another world for those 90 minutes.”

Hunt, a lacrosse player, believes philosophy enables him to think differently. Embracing creative thought may have helped him win the 2021 Holloway Prize Competition. Together with College of Engineering and Physical Sciences students Nicolas Camara ’21, Brayden Esmaili ’23 and Joey Neleber ’22, he developed a concept for a lacrosse diagnostic tool that tracks data such as reps, shot speed or shot angle. “I never thought I would stand a chance (in the competition) because I’ve never taken a business class before,” Hunt says. “But with the coaching of the E-Center, my amazing cofounders and my passion for my company SPAITR™, we were able to win.”

The Rochester, N.H., native had visited the UNH campus several times before he became a student. But it was meeting Professor Nick Smith, chair of the Philosophy Department, that convinced Hunt to come to UNH. “The Philosophy Department is a family that makes you feel supported even when you struggle with the content,” Hunt says. “Philosophy allows you to think in a way you never have before, which is refreshing.”

Hunt has prioritized having as many experiences as possible on campus and off. “That enabled me to start my business and learn things that didn’t necessarily pertain to class material,” he says. “I am still looking for my ‘calling.’” He’s studied Buddhist philosophy and art in India as well as interned with ecoText, a UNH-alumni-run company, and also helped start a student leadership institute based on philosophy and leadership at Souhegan High School in Amherst, N.H. Other organizations he’s joined include The New Hampshire Gentlemen acappella group, the Socratic Society and the Indigenous NH Collaborative Collective. He also won the Philosophy Department’s Neil Lubow Memorial Scholarship Award in 2020 and 2021.

Hunt received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy in December, along with a minor in international affairs. He and the SPAITR™ team are building a prototype of their product and already have lacrosse teams interested in using it; he plans to focus on building the company after graduation. One thing he knows for sure: “I’m a completely different person since coming to UNH,” he says. “It’s the best decision I ever made.”

Thomas McDonough

Thomas McDonough '22

Originally from Lowell, Mass., Tom McDonough selected UNH for its inviting sense of community. A political science and international affairs major, he will also be pursuing a master’s degree in political science at UNH. “I decided to study political science and international affairs because they complement each other very nicely, and added minors in economics, philosophy and American studies to supplement my majors and add focus in areas I was interested in,” he says.

An aspiring diplomat, McDonough learned to stretch himself socially and academically at UNH, making connections with other students and faculty and discovering professional opportunities that expanded his career possibilities. Last fall, he interned in UNH’s Semester in the City program, working in Boston for Leading Cities, a nonprofit organization connecting “smart cities” around the world. McDonough has also been a member of UNH’s Student Senate, the Socratic Society, the Outing Club and worked on campus for Admissions, Residential Life and MUB operations.

COLA gave McDonough an opportunity to explore different courses outside his political science major, classes that encouraged exploration and creativity (and, more tangibly, improved his writing, reading, analytical and public speaking skills). “In my studies, there has been great room for exploring, between trying new majors and minors, a breadth of electives, and support from advising staff to explore new subjects,” he says. “COLA is perfect for those with great ambitions and a thirst for knowledge.

“I’m a completely different person now than I was in high school,” he says. “My time at UNH has helped me to become a lot more comfortable being social and vulnerable, and I am so grateful for all of the connections I’ve been able to make.”

Camden Roy

Camden Roy '22

Camden Roy entered UNH as an English literature major because he loved to read (fun fact: he’s read at least one novel a week for the last four years). But after exploring more of COLA’s courses, he settled on a dual major in classics and Italian studies. “I ended up in these majors because of the intellectual freedom that the CHI (Classics, Humanities and Italian Studies) Department promotes,” says Roy. “Thanks to great mentors, I’ve been able to pursue my own interests in the Department.”

Those mentors include UNH lecturer Paul Robertson. In addition to participating in several independent studies and research projects under Robertson’s supervision, Camden helped him produce his most recent book, “The Cyclops Myth and the Making of Selfhood” (Gorgias Press, 2022). “I had three major roles for the book: securing image permissions from various museums around the world, providing an index and editing,” says Roy. “It was a great learning experience.”

Roy finds both his Italian studies and classics programs collegial. “The relationships forged in classical language class are like no other,” he says. “So much of our culture interacts with classical material. Understanding those interactions has reshaped the way I think.” One of Roy’s most memorable experiences has been helping organize Il Cinema Ritrovato, an Italian film festival produced each spring by CHI and the Music Hall in Portsmouth, N.H.

Taking advantage of UNH’s opportunities for undergraduate research, Roy received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) for independent study on the religious outlook of Irish writer George William Russell (Camden’s research was subsequently accepted for presentation at an annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature). “The opportunity to work on my research full-time was invaluable, both for my career and as a learning experience,” says Roy. In addition to membership in Phi Beta Kappa and Eta Sigma Phi, the classics honor society, Roy’s honors include first and second year Greek awards and the Cereta Award for Excellence in Scholarship in Italian Studies.

After graduation, Roy will pursue a doctorate in Rice University’s religion program, focusing on New Testament studies as well as a certificate in gnosticism, esotericism and mysticism.

James Silveria

James Silveria '22

James Silveria felt at home the first time he stepped onto the UNH campus. Thanks to a friend, a resident assistant at Stoke Hall, who showed him around campus, Silveria was introduced to “some of the nicest people I’ve ever met while showing me everything UNH had to offer.” He knew immediately he wanted to be a Wildcat.

Silveria came to COLA as a Spanish major; he’s studied the language since he was six. “I had some amazing Spanish teachers who opened my eyes to the bigger world and all the people I could meet by learning another language,” the Foxborough, Mass., native says. An aspiring Spanish teacher, he’s also majoring in educational studies because he wants to share his knowledge with the next generation of students.

Silveria tested his education skills last summer as a teaching fellow in the Breakthrough Collaborative, a summer-long, pre-professional teacher training program pairing college students with college-bound, underrepresented youth. It was Silveria’s first experience teaching; he taught ninth grade literature as well as a sports class. “It was incredibly rewarding and so fun,” he says. “There is nothing like seeing a student who was struggling finally understand and apply the concept you’ve taught them, or meet their parents and families and hear ‘my kid loved your class.’”

Studying Spanish also motivated Silveria to study abroad in Granada, Spain, for part of his sophomore year. In addition to trying out his Spanish skills, he connected with new people in a new culture, one of his personal passions. With the encouragement of his advisors and mentors Judy Sharkey, chair of the Education Department, and Lori Hopkins, associate professor of languages, literatures and cultures, he has applied for a Fulbright scholarship to be an English teaching assistant in Mexico after graduation.

COLA has broadened Silveria’s world perspective and made him an independent thinker by offering him access to many different experiences. “I’ve spoken at a conference, gotten an internship, interviewed professors and built professional relationships with people from across campus,” he says. “I feel there is no other college that prepares you to see the world the way COLA does. My perspective on the world is so much broader now than it ever was before I came here.”

Perry Smith | Freelance Photographer