Hilltoppers are compassionate, globally minded, creative thinkers and problem solvers, and they prove it every day. These five students are stellar examples. Their internships, research and studies abroad at St. Edward’s have led them to surprising and innovative experiences — from working with a cutting-edge tech startup in Austin and joining pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong to receiving scholarships for social research in Africa and studying the behavior of tarantulas and exotic birds. See how they’re learning and living, fully.
Mural by Jason Eatherly
Maya Boehm ’21, Religious and Theological Studies and Global Studies
The study abroad experience she planned: Boehm spent three months last fall taking anthropology courses at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The education she didn’t expect: When Boehm arrived, student-led pro-democracy protests were occurring all over Hong Kong. She joined her new friends at sit-ins and marches, where thousands of young people packed into the streets. Boehm had attended hours-long protests in Austin before. But in Hong Kong the demonstrations were ubiquitous and unceasing, shutting down the city and making them impossible to ignore.
How she changed: “This was the first time I really had to think about: What does it mean to fight for freedom? What does it mean to have freedom? It was the most beneficial and heartbreaking experience,” she says.
Photograph by Inti St. Clair
Cody Dzurisin ’20, Marketing
How he’s applied his classes: Dzurisin first interned at the Austin startup myHouseby, an interactive house design website where customers can design their new-construction home. Next, he interned with Found Texas, a marketing agency founded by Matt Wolski ’13. At both companies, Dzurisin built email campaigns and developed his client’s voice on social media by scheduling posts and engaging the community by responding to comments.
His career goal: Dzurisin wants to pursue digital marketing in the tech industry. He prefers fast-paced environments that emphasize innovation, where he’s learning on the fly. “I always tell myself that I’m comfortable with being uncomfortable,” he says.
Kadija Samura ’20, Global Studies
Her visit to East Africa: The summer after her freshman year, Samura spent two months in Uganda, as a Martin Scholar. She wanted to learn more about nonprofits’ approach to problem solving and how aid is delivered to postcolonial African societies. For Samura, the experience highlighted the importance of meeting people where they are rather than importing solutions to problems.
Her time in Ghana: Her junior year, Samura was selected as a Boren Scholar. The award supports international study for students who will pursue a career in public service. Samura dedicated her summer to learning Asante Twi, which is spoken in the West African nation of Ghana. She spent most of the academic year in Ghana studying urban and rural school systems.
Her big questions: Samura was troubled by the legacy of colonialism she saw in the countries she visited in Africa. In Ghana, her research revealed a Eurocentric approach to education in some schools and a need for more culturally relevant instruction. “Because of colonialism, what has occurred is a cultural memory loss,” she says. “This part of history is essential for us to revisit and open a conversation.”
Andres Targa ’21, Environmental Science and Policy major
“Last fall, I collected data at Wild Basin that will help inform decisions about vegetation management at the preserve. Even though it’s hot, and the work is tiring, I enjoy the project because I like doing hands-on work outside. During Covid, we’re indoors and tethered to our computers so much that it’s nice to escape that reality at Wild Basin. Out there, I feel disconnected in the best way. I can’t get cell service, I’m removed from my daily routine, and in nature, you never know exactly what to expect: One day my research partner and I stumbled upon a battle between a tarantula and a tarantula hawk wasp. In my everyday life it can be hard to focus because there are so many distractions, but at Wild Basin I’m fully present.”
Ella Fotinos ’22, Pre-veterinary Biology major
“Last summer, I worked as a veterinary technician assistant. The previous summer, I interned in the bird department at the San Antonio Zoo. I wanted an experience with exotic animals so I could see how that compared to my work with cats and dogs at the vet clinic. At the zoo, I learned a lot about nutrition by making bird diets, and I rotated among different habitats where I fed storks, cranes and flamingos and cleaned up after them. These experiences helped me realize that while I love animals, I also enjoy working with people, and I appreciate the family-member bond that pet owners have with their companion animals. I’ve decided I’m more attracted to the mixture of animal medicine and human relationships that I’ll find in a small animal vet clinic.”
Photographs by Chelsea Purgahn