15 for 15: Four years in common. 15 uncommon paths.

Stories by Ron Wagner '93
Photos by Jeremy Fleming '08

Science and art, business and community service, lives poised to begin just down the road or all the way in Asia, these 15 students tell us how the Furman spirit has shaped them and where they’re taking that spirit next.


Teddie Chastain

Coordinating a future

It’s not that Teddie Chastain doesn’t like art history. She just likes being a part of the present more. “I really enjoyed all of my classes, but as I started looking at what I was going to do post-grad I realized I’m too much of a people person to be in the back of a museum curating something at the age of 22,” Chastain says. So the Cleveland, Tenn., native parlayed an internship with the Greenville festival Euphoria into a job as a “Road Warrior,” which is what The Color Run calls its event coordinators. Making sure the “happiest 5K on the planet” goes off without a hitch around the Carolinas assures Chastain of both a potential career in event planning and a healthy dose of human interaction.


Alex Jenks

Inspired by the masters

Alex Jenks is no different than many of his classmates in that he intends to play music for a living. That’s where the road splits, however. “We’re kind of similar to The Killers or Phoenix,” the Long Island native says when asked to describe Shiffley, the band he formed with four high school friends. “We call it bubblegum synth rock.” A tour is in the works, and on stage, the trombone that Jenks focused on at Furman will be replaced by a synthesizer. It is synth rock, after all. “I get to create new things with my friends, and I get to learn about how to be in a business as well as be in a band, how to write music,” he says. “It’s just cool.”


Cassie Chee

A responsibility to help

Cassie Chee doesn’t have a set plan yet for her future, which is OK seeing as how she’s too busy helping kids now. Her summer is booked doing work with Kids in Need of Defense, a non-profit dedicated to aiding immigrant children who end up in deportation proceedings. “I know we also have our poverty here, but I just don’t see how we can send all those children back to the places they came from when they’re so dangerous,” she says, and she intends to walk the talk. Trips to Africa and South America have solidified her determination to move to Latin America, perhaps on a Peace Corps assignment. “I really feel because we were born so privileged I have a responsibility to help other people,” she says.


Austin Charles

A culture of introspection

Austin Charles knew he wanted to be on the other side of an ocean someday. The question was, which one? A summer semester in Oxford, England, and an internship with the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, sealed the deal—for the Pacific. “I really enjoyed my time in Europe, but I realized my true interest in my heart was more in Asia,” Charles says. A longtime practitioner of wing chun kung fu and yoga, Charles found himself more and more drawn to the culture’s focus on introspection and “mindfully moving through the world” after school trips to China and Japan. Set to enter Georgia State University College of Law in the fall, Charles hopes to “integrate” himself into law practice involving Japan.


Dalton Weigle

Smiles all around

Working with teeth offers some obvious benefits. There are also some not-so-obvious ones. “Being a dentist or an oral surgeon, you get to have a lot more interaction than you would as a doctor,” Dalton Weigle says. “You have the same people coming in every six months for a checkup, and every six months you get to see what’s going on with their lives.” Weigle’s father is a dentist, but once Dalton saw how oral surgery made people happier about their appearance he knew that’s the direction he wanted to go. The Medical University of South Carolina College of Dental Medicine awaits. “I will say the money’s not bad, but it’s a field where you get a lot of reward,” the Philadelphia native says.


Tyler Smith

It’s pronounced “boost”

To have a chance at one day living and working across the pond, Tyler Smith needed a [bu:st]. He got just that when an internship with the German company led to something bigger. “They offered me a job I just couldn’t turn down,” he says. “I’m really excited about it. There are only about 20 people in the states who work for [bu:st]. Most of them are in Europe, so I’m hoping I’m going to be learning German, so maybe I’ll get the opportunity to work in Europe for a few years.” Until then, he will be doing project management consulting, which is basically helping companies maximize efficiency. “I didn’t really imagine staying in Greenville, but here I am,” Smith says.


Alice Williams

Half a world away

Alice Williams can tell you exactly where she’s going after graduation, but odds are you still won’t know. Finding Timor-Leste on a map presents a challenge, but not nearly as much of one as the people living in the southeastern Asian island nation face in the form of extreme poverty. Being a 24-hour flight away from home for two years as part of her Peace Corps assignment is something her “family is still getting on board with,” but Williams will be exactly where she’s wanted to be since a Study Away trip to India.“I loved it, and I think that’s what really solidified that I wanted something in Asia after graduation. It made me feel that I’m more capable of this,” she says.


Nicholas Lau Hao Keat

Blazing a trail

Furman’s 2015 President’s Award winner took the brave step of traveling 10,000 miles from his home in Malaysia to attend the University primarily because of its online academic reputation. Now that he’s headed home to work as a corporate analyst with J.P. Morgan, Nicholas Lau Hao Keat would like to see others follow in his footsteps. “I think (more diversity) would be good for Furman because meeting someone from Spain or Hong Kong helps you to learn about a new culture,” he says. To that end, he founded the Student Diversity Council in 2012. “When I first came, I was the only Malaysian on campus, so everyone was totally different from me,” he says. “But it was a good opportunity for me to meet people from different backgrounds.”


Orlin Sergev

Just getting started

Considering how long he plans to be working on his MD-Ph.D., Orlin Sergev can only hope he likes the University of Wisconsin anywhere near as much as he appreciated four years at Furman. “I’ve enjoyed my time thoroughly here, and I don’t have enough good things to say about it,” Sergev asserts. The opportunity to do research as a freshman pulled the Detroit-born Sergev to Greenville over bigger-named scientific institutions, and the freedom to pursue hobbies like creating his own political thought club prevented burnout that he hopes will help him get through the next 12 to 15 years. “The liberal arts education was always emphasized, and I think it really complemented what I found out was the advanced research that was being performed here,” he says.


Natalia Arenas

A Fulbright future

It’s not every day that winning the Harry B. Shucker Outstanding Student Leader Award isn’t atop a student’s list of senior accomplishments, but not every student is Natalia Arenas, who recently learned she will be teaching English in Taiwan as a Fulbright Scholar to cap four years of remarkable accomplishment at a school she admits she initially didn’t want to attend after growing up in Greenville. “I’ve dug into the things that have given so much to me,” she says. “I wanted to give back to other people and have them receive what I’ve received, which sounds cheesy but that’s honestly the only reason.” When Arenas returns to the U.S. she hopes to keep leading and giving with a career in foreign policy.


Luke Christie

Writing his own story

Moving from one place to another is something most of us take for granted. Muscular dystrophy made sure Luke Christie has never had such a luxury, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get where he’s going. A May Experience class in San Francisco showed him for sure—in more ways than one. “That trip fueled my passion for rhetoric,” Christie, who is dependent on a powered wheelchair for mobility, says. “It also really helped me gain a lot of confidence in my ability to do that kind of thing, and it whet my appetite for more travel and more exploration in years to come.” Furman’s 2015 male American Legion Medal recipient and Phi Beta Kappa member has simultaneous goals of earning a Ph.D. in communication studies and becoming a published fiction writer.


Addison Rothrock

Paying It Forward

Addison Rothrock’s lifelong Christian faith is the first reason she’s attending Yale Divinity School to pursue a master’s degree in religion, but her college professors are a closer second than you may think. “My teachers at Furman were really influential in my life, especially the religion department,” she says. “I really want to do that for other college students one day.” Rothrock attended a Christian high school, but she dabbled in several potential majors before realizing religion had been her calling all along. Econ won’t get tossed out the window, however. “Yale’s course requirements are really flexible so I can easily take economics courses within their graduate department,” the one-time Furman dance team captain says. “I want to concentrate in Christian, social, and economic ethics.”


Daniel Hoilett

By the book

Daniel Hoilett has always enjoyed working with kids, but making a career of education wasn’t his plan when he came to Furman. That changed when he spent the summer of sophomore year working at Freedom School Partners, a literacy camp for at-risk kids. “Many of these kids wouldn’t normally have access to a pool in the summer, but through books, they saw the world.” In the fall, he signed up for Dr. Katie Stover’s literacy block. “That’s when I realized how much you can give a child with just one book. I did the I Survived series with my fourth graders this year, and they literally wrote essays. It was the most they had ever written.” This summer, Hoilett will work at Camp Burnt Gin for children with disabilities and chronic illnesses. He will return to Greenville this fall to teach second grade at Brushy Creek Elementary School and has plans to enter Furman’s Masters in Education Literacy program.


Megan Willner

Failure wasn’t an option

A lot of excuses come with both of your parents dying before you turn 12. Megan Willner didn’t want any of them. “I just sort of made the decision that I was going to be better than what people expected of me, because coming from that background people don’t really expect a lot,” she says. “They assume that you will be mediocre at best, and I was like, well, that’s not going be who I am.” Instead, she’s someone who leaves Furman having accomplished the goal she brought to Furman, which was getting into medical school. At the Medical University of South Carolina, Willner plans to keep studying neuroscience. “It’s a budding field, and (Furman is) one of the few universities that has a major in it,” she says.


Kris Hajny

Using his powers for good

When Kris Hajny emerges from Purdue University, he’ll likely have a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and a bevy of job offers from big industry inviting him to add to the planet’s environmental mess. But he’d rather be the one to help clean it up. “When I came to Furman freshman year I was involved with engaged living.” Hajny says, “Through that I realized my interest in the environment was something I could easily incorporate into my actual major and my career.” Now Hajny is intent on using science to both prevent and eliminate pollution as an environmental chemist. “(Other schools) were phenomenal in chemistry, but Furman had more of an environmental edge than my other options. That made me feel more welcome here,” he says.