Each semester, one NC State student is selected to deliver a message on behalf of the entire graduating class. Before the 2010 spring commencement ceremony, we sat down with senior Lianne Gonsalves, a Park Scholar and biological sciences/international studies double-major, who spoke to us about her NC State experience, covering everything from the Krispy Kreme Challenge to anthropological research in Guatemala.
Dave Pond, University Communications: Of all the qualified candidates, why do you feel that you were selected to address your fellow graduates?
Lianne Gonsalves (Cary, N.C.): I know a number of my fellow graduates who auditioned, and they’ve all done some great things both in and out of the classroom. Knowing that there will be so many other speakers that day sharing little kernels of wisdom and different anecdotes that will help graduates live their lives going forward, I wanted to make my speech more of a conversation from one student to another – something that each of my fellow graduates could relate to, and take something from.
DP: And, of course, you’ll be the one of the first NC State graduates to take the stage in Wolfpack red.
LG: It’s amazing – I’m so excited. I bought my gown at the end of April, and it’s been hanging up for several weeks – I can’t wait to put it on for the event. I think it’s going to be awesome to see that sea of red, and I think it’s going to look really amazing on Saturday.
DP: You’re graduating summa cum laude with degrees in biological sciences and international studies. From an academic standpoint, how has NC State allowed you to not only identify what you want to do, but equip you best to reach that point?
LG: It goes back to the diversity in curriculum that NC State offers. I’m a huge fan of the general-education requirement that we have here. In my case, it’s what introduced me to the humanities and the international studies major. I came in as a biology major, but just fell in love with those humanities courses I had to take to fulfill my general-education requirements. So, I ended up picking up a second major. Only at a university that is as large and diverse as NC State can you get that breadth of curriculum.
DP: Is there a singular facet of university life that has played a key role in shaping you into the person you’ve become?
LG: Coming to NC State was an opportunity for me to explore my interests. I’ve done a lot of things at NC State that I never would have considered before I came to campus. I’ve met people from all walks of life with all different interests and, again, I think that really speaks to what NC State has to offer as a community. As a university, NC State encourages all sorts of different interests and gives students the support to explore whatever they can dream, be it academic or extracurricular.
I’m thankful that I have been able to take full advantage of my opportunities over the past four years, and will be forever grateful to NC State for introducing me to some newfound interests that I hope will stay with me forever.
DP: How have travel opportunities helped give you a global perspective that reaches beyond the borders of our campus?
LG: I really appreciated the opportunity to practically apply my education. I was fortunate to do quite a bit of travel while I was a student, through an NC State study abroad program in Guatemala and several internships. The trip to Guatemala was a very intensive anthropological research experience, and I think coming out of that seven-week program, we covered as much as you would in a year’s work of classroom coursework.
The opportunity to work at the embassy in Honduras was an amazing application of almost three years of international studies work here on campus – getting to see foreign policy in action and being able to come back and share that with my professors. It really made my classroom experience come alive.
DP: And in the midst of all that, you’ve managed to have a bit of fun during your time at NC State.
LG: I loved it. I had a fantastic time exploring all of my random interests. I got involved in ballroom dancing and crew when I was a freshman and, literally, it was because I saw fliers on campus or a friend told me about opportunities. The people you meet and the friendships you develop between completely different groups of people are just amazing. It’s amazing, the different social groups you have here on campus, and how easy it is to move between them.
There is definitely something at NC State for everyone, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to dabble in a little bit of everything.
DP: What lies ahead for you?
LG: In October, I’ll be taking a Fulbright Scholarship to go to Venezuela and teach English for nine months. Then, I’ll either enter the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins to pursue a master’s degree in global health or – if my security clearance goes through and I get an offer – I’d like to join the U.S. Foreign Service, which is the U.S. diplomatic corps.
DP: You’ll address your peers on Saturday morning, but is there anything you’d like to share with students who are working toward graduation, or those who will be joining the NC State family this fall?
LG: It’s definitely a bit personal for me, because my little sister will be entering NC State in the fall, and I’m really going to miss being on campus at the same time as her. I’ve been telling her already – do everything. Any interest you have, explore it. Meet new people. Get involved in new things.
There is no other point in your life where you’ll be in an environment that is so supportive to helping you develop yourself, and giving you the opportunity to meet new people. Whether you’re here for two, four, six years or more, use every day to go after anything that interests you, and have a fantastic time doing it.