The Next Four Years

Eight semesters. Forty eight big months. Here are the stories of five first-year students. This is who we are right now.
Posted on January 9th, 2017 by

First-year students Aleah Felton (Lake Elmo), Avery Bachman (Saint Peter), Alice Nguyen (Hanoi, Vietnam), Christian Araya (Chicago), Stephanie Coe (Wenatchee, Wash.)

ON THE FAR SIDE OF ADULTHOOD, your years in college can feel like a short (and distant) memory. But when you’re living it, college can feel like an eternity—a wonderful one and, at times, a scary one. Personal transformation is like that. You aren’t the same coming out that you are going in. You take some big leaps.

Gustavus too will take some big leaps the next four years as the Gustavus Acts strategic plan becomes action. What these five students will experience here will be different than those who have come before. They will grow as the College grows. And yet they will be Gusties: caring, daring, and smart.

These are five new Gusties we’re excited to know. Here’s to their four years of seismic change—and ours too.

ALEAH FELTON “I’m excited to figure out what kind of person I want to be.”

Both her brothers attended, and they prepped Felton on the important things: “The best place to study, the best late night snack at the Caf,” she says. (It’s chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce and a banana.) But there have been surprises. For one, she earned a spot in the Gustavus Choir. Coming from an all-girls high school, the sound has blown her mind. “It’s a different sound than I’ve ever heard, from people who actually like to sing, want to sing, and are good at singing. I’ve never been in a choir that sounded so good unrehearsed.” Another surprise? Finding the courage to audition for the musical, Sweeney Todd. “That was scary. I got flustered, but I got a call back.” (And a featured role, too.)

Where will this early performance take her? “I’m still exploring my options,” says this grounded woman. She is interested in education. She loves her sociology class. She sees how her acting class can apply to any profession. She’s exploring new friendships too, especially in her First-Term Seminar. “A lot of the students are from homes who have immigrated to the States, and it’s cool to see what type of cultures people are living.”

No rush to make any hard choices, she says. “I don’t know what it is about turning 18, but suddenly people are very serious about asking you, ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ I’m just excited to be on the journey.”

AVERY BACHMAN “I never wanted to go anywhere else.”

He follows a long line of Gusties—his parents, two of his siblings—and from there grew a love of Gustavus football. Bachman plays on the team he has followed for years, “I love competing. I love going to football practice and going to meetings.” And he loves being busy. “Some days I have classes from 8 to 2 and football from 3 to 7,” he says, but it keeps him productive. Speaking of class, “It’s tough but it’s going really well. I’m studying physics. I’d like to be an engineer,” he says. But he adds, “Who knows what will happen in the next two or three years.”

Certainly he’ll grow with teammates. “This year we have one of the most diverse football teams Gustavus has had—they’re from all over the country. But as you practice together and spend time together, you forget differences.”

He won’t forget his first-year exhaustion. “Some days I’m just really happy when I get to lay in my bed and go to sleep.” Once football’s over, “I’ll have to find something more to do,” he says. “I’ll look into FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). Faith and athletics have had an impact on my life, and it’s a way to keep the faith strong through what I do in sports.”

ALICE NGUYEN “This campus! It’s like walking in a park.”

This international student is delighted with the teaching. “I was completely lost in a class and now my professor works to see if I am understanding the lectures. She knows me.” The writing is hard, but tutors help with ideas and editing. Other students are great role models. “They talk a lot and participate in class. I’m learning from them.”

Her learning has a cultural breadth. “I have friends from Vietnam, Bangladesh, China, Japan. My roommate is Lao and Vietnamese, and she is from the Twin Cities. I have American friends, friends from Sweden, from Pakistan.” Their great joy is sharing their traditional food with each other, almost every night. “It is so fun, it takes us at least an hour to eat,” she says.

There will be no wait-and-see exploration for Nguyen regarding a major. It’s economics. Her campus job with event services is a perfect pairing for her plans to work in the hospitality industry: she helps set up events, sound systems, and microphones. Sometime during her four years, she hopes to take a course she’s heard about on landing a dream job. She is convinced that job will be hotel manager. In the meantime, she is relishing Minnesota’s beauty. “In Vietnam the trees do not change their colors that much. Here, I just want to kick the leaves and see them fly. And soon there will be snow.”

CHRISTIAN ARAYA “I want to start strong.”

He speaks five languages. His goal is to become a cardiologist. He has a full academic scholarship. “I always push myself,” he says. “That’s the result of that.”

Araya is from Ethiopia; he immigrated to the U.S. when he was 14. Though Gustavus is
more ethnically and culturally diverse than it has ever been, it’s not nearly the mix of people who attended Araya’s high school on Chicago’s north side. He found Gustavus through extended family in Minneapolis. “They told me there was a college here that was really awesome.” But life here is definitely a departure from Chicago’s urban core. He knew he was in Minnesota, he says, “when my dad stopped his car to check a map and none of the cars behind us honked their horns.”

His first semester had him taking three writing classes—an intense load. But he was wholly engaged, particularly in “Faith and Religion in Science,” as well as his philosophy class. Beyond class? Just occasional intramural soccer. “My purpose is education. I have a lot of pressure from my family. They don’t want me to slack off.” He wants that pressure to come from his professors too. “They are always behind me. I like to be pushed.”

STEPHANIE COE “I’m far away, but I feel like I’m where I need to be.”

She saw Gustavus brochures at an ELCA gathering, read the core values, and thought, “This is so me!” Her parents, who raised her in eastern Washington State, were a bit reticent. They’d never set foot in Minnesota. “But when my mom came to visit with me, she could see me on campus,” Coe says.

The weather was actually a selling point. Coe is a competitive figure skater, and ice (particularly an on-campus rink) matters, as does the Gustavus figure skating club. “Having a group of people that all share a passion for something I do has really helped with the transition,” she says.  Other things that matter: the ability to study music and science, and science with faith. “Here I get to think in the classroom, how does this relate to being a spiritual person? I can grow in all the areas that are important to me.”

And her family in Washington state? “It’s been hard to be away from them,” she says. But her boyfriend’s cousin is her roommate, and his grandparents are Minnesotan. She met that boyfriend at that same ELCA gathering she met Gustavus. In many ways, family and church surround her here, she says. “Minnesota is the Land of Lutherans.”


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


One Comment

  1. Ray Sajulga says:

    Wow! Truly inspiring.