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seniors-2017 Archives

Class of 2017: Akaninyene Ruffin becomes an activist—and the Outstanding Senior

May. 8, 2017—When Akaninyene Ruffin was announced as Vanderbilt’s Outstanding Senior for 2016-17 during Homecoming last fall, it marked a long journey from freshman year, when she struggled to make friends and suspected her African American heritage rendered her invisible to some of her peers.

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Class of 2017: Ryan Sullivan strengthens villages in Southeast Asia

May. 8, 2017—Moving a mile and a half of PVC pipe along unpaved, winding roads in a small pickup truck—in a foreign country, no less—is no easy task. Ryan Sullivan, known as “Sully” to his professors and friends, knows this firsthand.

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Class of 2017: Cici Xuning Zhang uses social media to connect Vanderbilt with China

May. 4, 2017—When China native Cici Xuning Zhang first started searching for colleges, a university in Nashville, Tennessee—or even one in the United States—was far from her mind. Then an iconic image of Vanderbilt’s Kirkland Hall popped up on her computer screen.

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Class of 2017: Musbah Shaheen finds belonging and purpose in the college experience

May. 4, 2017—Growing up in Homs, Syria, Musbah Shaheen excelled in science, eventually enrolling at Damascus University Medical College at 17. After two years, he wanted to “stow away” that chapter of his life in the war-ravaged nation and explore something different.

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Class of 2017: Jarrod Shilts makes biological discoveries and collaborates across disciplines

May. 3, 2017—When Boston native Jarrod Shilts arrived at Vanderbilt, he brought with him a strong interest in synthetic biology—a discipline devoted to designing and creating biological molecules that don’t exist in the natural world and using them to redesign existing biological systems.

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Class of 2017: Paloma Mendoza builds bridges—literally and figuratively

May. 3, 2017—Growing up outside Houston, senior Paloma Mendoza did not know a single engineer, though she knew she wanted to be one.

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Class of 2017: Oren Burks is a leader on and off the field

Apr. 28, 2017—Oren Burks is not afraid to step up when called upon, even when stepping up requires stepping out of his comfort zone.

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Class of 2017: Marc Chen studies transportation’s role in improving communities

Apr. 28, 2017—Marc Chen wants to use data to make cities work better for everyone. Chen, a math and economics major, believes there’s a wealth of untapped data out there waiting to be mined that could help public policymakers understand how their decisions affect the well-being of city residents.

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Class of 2017: Michael Umenta develops an app to help conference-goers connect

Apr. 26, 2017—Senior Michael Umenta, a computer science major, has a tough decision to make. Does he accept the software engineering job at Google, or does he partner with friends to launch a startup?

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Class of 2017: Lauren Pak seeks to resolve conflict and promote understanding

Apr. 26, 2017—Lauren Pak’s passport is a map of injustices around the world. She has spent much of her undergraduate career learning about conflict resolution—not just through classroom lectures and reading, but also by doing hands-on, university-funded research on five continents.

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Class of 2017: Nicole Long looks at the big picture of arts administration

Apr. 25, 2017—The combination of music, high academic standards and an openness to explore is what brought Blair School of Music senior Nicole Long to Vanderbilt. She knew from the beginning she wanted to double major in percussion and something academic, though she wasn’t sure what her second subject might be.

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Class of 2017: Zachary Bednarke thrives at the intersection of science and music

Apr. 25, 2017—After hours of thinking about theoretical physics, senior Zachary Bednarke relaxes by playing his trumpet. While running through scales on the instrument, he is also, technically, still doing schoolwork.

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