CCAS Students Share GW Memories

May 11, 2022
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Class of 2022 graduates (from left) Jay Jones, Nia Lartey and Jessica Lewer.

From internships and cultural celebrations to personal milestones and life goals, Columbian College undergraduate and graduate students recalled their fondest memories as they prepared to receive their 2022 degrees.



Nia Lartey


Nia Lartey, BA Political Communication

“I have many #onlyatGW memories, from co-chairing the Black Heritage Celebration to becoming a member of the Mu Beta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. However, the 2019 National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Conference I attended will forever hold a special place in my heart. Earlier that summer, C-SPAN’s Angie Seldon took a chance on this loud, extroverted girl from Philly, and I became an Emma Bowen Foundation Fellow with the organization. A CNN representative at the conference saw C-SPAN on my resume and allowed me into a professional workshop meant only for seasoned journalists. I would later intern with CNN’s State of the Union (during election season!) and NBC—experiences I credit to NABJ. I was the first-ever intern for the White House Unit of NBC and MSNBC and will be working after graduation as a desk assistant in the NBC News Washington Bureau.”





Jay Jones, BA English

“I’ve had both a traditional GW undergraduate experience—and a not-so-traditional one that took longer than expected. I started my studies here in 1996. I lived in Thurston, bowled at the student center, spent late nights wandering around the monuments—all things that make GW so special. But I stopped being a student in 1998. I’ve been a staff member for nearly 20 years. In 2018, I began working for Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Cissy Petty. She made it clear that I would finish my degree under her watch! With her support, I had a whole new GW undergraduate experience: Riding the Vex to the Vern, Zoom classes at home with my partner Rob at the desk next to me, researching in Gelman’s online databases, taking a meditation class in Milken. My favorite GW moments have been volunteering for Commencement on the National Mall. This year, it’s finally my turn to celebrate!”





Lowella Lobaton, BA Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

“One of my fondest memories from GW is actually one of my most recent. I am part of the Philippine Cultural Society (PCS) on campus. Our organization has been a home for GW’s Filipino-American students since 1986. This spring, we held our annual cultural event called Tandaan—‘to remember’ in Filipino. We showcased Filipino dances and performed a skit that focused on Filipino-American identity and experience. I played a grandmother in the skit! It was our first in-person show in two years and it was especially meaningful for our members who hadn’t experienced Tandaan at GW because of the pandemic. It was amazing to be in a room filled with friends and families. We all got a little emotional, especially the seniors who have been in PCS for their entire stay at GW.”





Jessica Lewer, MS Chemistry

“A special memory I experienced at GW was my promotion to captain in the U.S. Air Force. Most promotions in the services are accompanied by ceremonies, traditions and a unit of military members. But my promotion date fell right in the middle of my classes. I assumed I would simply not have a ceremony and just happily start my new rank on a random Wednesday. But friends from the Columbian College Chemistry Department held a non-traditional ceremony for me at Science and Engineering Hall. On short notice, a good friend and Air Force officer flew out to D.C. to perform my oath of office. My best friend in the program pinned on my new rank in front of a very supportive Chemistry Department audience. I was excited, proud and very thankful to share my Air Force traditions and celebrate this time in my life in our academic setting.”




Laya Reddy


Laya Reddy, BA Political Science and Music

“When I think about my fond memories of my time at GW, I immediately think of the Music Department and all the opportunities I’ve had there. I play trumpet, and in high school I was in a brass quintet. GW didn’t have one when I arrived, so I continued playing solo trumpet. I joined other ensembles—band, orchestra—and I actually worked with a professor to create a brass quintet here. It ended up lasting just one semester because of COVID, but it was really fun. I can’t believe that I got to do that as a freshman and that it was so easy to form a new ensemble!”




Sydney Walsh


Sydney Walsh, BA Photojournalism

“My freshman year, Pete Souza—Barack Obama’s White House photographer—came to speak to Corcoran students as an artist guest lecturer. He didn’t even have a presentation; he just sat there and talked with us. It was so cool to get to see who he was as a person and hear all his stories. I asked him the reason he wanted to be a photographer in the first place, and his answer was that when he went to the dark room, it felt like magic to him. He would put the prints in the developer and the image would appear—like magic. That felt so true to me. There is definitely something magic about photography.”




Diego Suarez Salazar


Diego Suarez Salazar, MPA Public Administration

“I wasn’t physically on campus to take a class until my second year working on my MPA. Everything was virtual for my first year in the program, so I rarely found myself on campus. But I made many friends anyway. That’s why my favorite GW memory is the first week of my second year—because I finally got to see many of my friends in person. A lot of things can happen in one year, and while I enjoyed virtual learning because of the flexibility it provided full-time professionals, I did miss the personal interactions with classmates and friends. One of the things I love most about the MPA program is how it is such a close-knit community, and you really get to know almost everyone else.”




Yijo Shen


Yijo Shen, MA New Media Photojournalism

“My fondest memories are the support from my peers and my classmates. Students from my program are required to do a community media capstone project. It’s hard to do it alone—you need feedback from your classmates. When I was doing my project, which is about passing down culture in the Tibetan diaspora, I was really struggling with capturing the intimacy of interactions between families. But one of my peers reminded me that I had done a project about me and my grandpa, and she told me to use that same mindset for this project. I’m more of an introverted person, but thankfully she pushed me to talk to people and tell them about my project and my stories. That’s so important in doing this work.”