Exploring algorithms and the social impact of technology. Documenting faith traditions through photography. Lifting the voices and stories of others as a screenwriter. Practicing wellness in unexpected ways. Six Hilltoppers tell us about the opportunities and insights they’re experiencing on the hilltop that are helping them create fuller lives and futures.  


Josh Leikam ’20, Computer Science

“In the sciences, it’s easy to develop a theoretical, detached outlook. But behind every technical solution is a human problem or need. What St. Edward’s has taught me is that even if you’re not a humanities major, you still need to consider the human aspect of your work. Instead of just learning an algorithm, you need to think about how that algorithm might have ripple effects in people’s lives. St. Edward’s does more than acknowledge issues like the social impact of technology — it helps you think deeply about them.”


Ariah Alba ’22, Photography and Media Arts

“The courses in my Religious Studies minor have taught me how to ask questions about my own Christian faith as well as other people’s faiths. That was helpful in my Documentary Photography class last spring, when each student chose a specific aspect of Austin life to photograph. I documented faith communities in some of Austin’s non-Christian religions: Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism. I went to places of worship, all over Austin — mostly taking the bus because I don’t have a car. Every single community welcomed me in a way that made me feel like an invited member of their family. My project, ‘How Austin Worships,’ was included in our class’s exhibition at the Austin History Center, Discovering Place. I hope the people who saw my photographs learned about religions they might not have interacted with before and felt the same human connection to these communities that I did.”

Alejandro Castillon smiles as he stands in front of a mural.

Alex Castillon ’20, Writing and Rhetoric

“My professional goal is to be a screenwriter, and during college I’ve made several short films. Through Campus Ministry, I’ve participated in Service Break Experiences in Park City, Utah; Bangalore, India; and an Apache reservation in New Mexico. Each trip focused on education and working with children in underprivileged communities that a lot of people don’t even know exist. One of the best discoveries I’ve made is that I can incorporate what I’ve learned on my Service Break Experiences into my writing. ... That’s played a large part in finding my own voice as a writer.”


Tristin Castillo ’20, Criminal Justice

“Wellness is more than just the physical aspect. When you think of the spiritual aspect, the Recreation and Athletics Center has a tech-free room, which plays soft music and allows for meditation. There are also e-sports, which I’m really into, too. There’s just so many aspects of wellness you can pull into your life that build you up as a person.”


James Russo ’20, Criminal Justice

“I practice wellness by doing a combination of hobbies that make me happy, while sticking to my work and school schedule. Rugby has always played into my wellness because it’s an escape — no matter how stressful my week has been, I can run hard for an hour straight on the field. I’m able to get all that emotion out. I always feel so relaxed and relieved when I walk away from the pitch.”