2023 Senior Spotlight
University Communications offers a special thanks to these students and the members of the faculty and staff who helped us tell the stories of a handful of the many outstanding members of the Class of 2023.
Hometown: Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Major: Communication Studies
Last year, Mike Bothwell might have gone pro. Going through the early NBA draft process in 2022 with teammate Jalen Slawson ’23, “I was thinking, ‘Do I want to go through a whole other year of college basketball, missing summer, missing Thanksgiving?’” says Bothwell. “But I knew coming back for a fifth year was the best decision. I bet on myself that it was going to work out the way I wanted it to this time around.”
That fifth year turned out to be a pretty good one for both seniors and their teammates, not to mention the fans watching the Paladins’ most successful season in history.
“For me, it felt more fulfilling winning the SoCon championship than to go to the NCAA tournament,” says Bothwell, who averaged a team-best 17.7 points per game. “One of my favorite things about Furman is how close the athletes are with each other. That community feeling is rare.”
The communication studies major’s fifth year also gave him the opportunity to get hands-on experience in a sports broadcasting course and at the Furman University News Channel.
“Once basketball is over, having that Furman degree will help me out so much,” says Bothwell, a Cothran Scholar, who ultimately plans to have a career in media. “Being able to balance athletics and a Furman education will go a long way for me. It was one of my goals to graduate with a GPA over 3.0, and I’m going to do that.”
While Bothwell is spending some time before Commencement preparing for this summer’s NBA draft, “there are no guarantees,” he says.
“I just want to be able to take care of myself and my future family one day through the game of basketball,” says Bothwell. “It’s taken me a lot of places so far in life, and I want to see how far it can keep taking me.”
Hometown: Greenville, South Carolina
Nath Kapoor searched for the big picture from myriad angles, taking courses in accounting, Spanish, sustainability, earth and environmental sciences, and philosophy before settling on a major.
“To me, it all fits into a puzzle where anthropology is at the core,” he says. “Anthropology is a method and a practice of observing human movement – why we move, what moves us, how we move and come to each other.”
As the son of an alumnus who had also served as Furman’s chief investment officer, Kapoor was already comfortable around campus when he began his first year. “It was a safe community to find my footing,” he says.
He quickly became a regular at the Furman Playhouse, taking classes and writing and acting in several productions. This spring, Kapoor received Furman Theatre’s Most Valuable Player Award along with the Award for Excellence in Anthropology. His talent for promoting dialogue and connection were evident in FUSAB, the Intergroup Dialogue Program and the Furman Justice Forum and as an Orientation leader. He’s also helped organize events and CLPs on immigration issues, the Theatre of the Oppressed, and the dangers of social media.
“It all ties back into anthropology and the theater,” he says. “All these processes and practices feel like they’re in the same family.”
For now, he hopes to join the Peace Corps in Costa Rica or work with AmeriCorps after graduation. But in the meantime, Kapoor – who cycled across the country last summer to raise money for people with disabilities – may drive a bike taxi in Charleston, South Carolina. His long-range plans may include a graduate degree in anthropology – but wherever he ends up, he says, “I will continue to do the work to get right with myself and show my shine in the world.”
Hometown: North Augusta, South Carolina
Major: Music Performance – Percussion
Almost anywhere you heard music at Furman in the last four years, you heard Taryn Marks.
The percussionist has played with the Furman Percussion Ensemble, the Paladin Regiment Marching Band, the Furman Symphonic Band, the Furman Symphony Orchestra, the Furman Chamber Choir and the Pauper Players.
“I really enjoy what each instrument brings,” says Marks, an Ellis Scholar, who plays an array of instruments, including marimba, bass drum, cymbals, snare drums, vibraphone and timpani.
Marks, who will earn a Bachelor of Music in percussion performance from Furman this spring, has also been heard offstage as a Pathways peer mentor, Dins Dialogue facilitator, co-founder of the FU Unity student mentoring organization, and member of the Furman chapter of NAACP and the Student League for Black Culture.
“I’ve been trying to be involved as a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) student on campus, being a part of these Student Diversity Council organizations and educating myself more about social justice,” she says.
Marks will continue that work this fall at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she will pursue a Master of Music degree in percussion performance.
“I want to keep advocating for percussionists and composers who are from particularly marginalized communities to get the attention they deserve,” she says.
In time, she plans to earn a doctorate and teach at the university or advanced high school level – an idea inspired by her mother, who earned a B.A. and two master’s degrees in education while working full-time and raising a family singlehandedly.
“I feel like that’s my way of giving thanks to her,” says Marks.
She’s also thankful for her Furman Percussion Ensemble colleagues.
“I learned so much from them,” she says. “They have given me a chance to be open, they’ve given me grace when I’ve fallen, celebrated my successes, cried at my fails. They’re basically my second family.”
Hometown: Greenville, South Carolina
Major: Biology – Biomedical Sciences, Pre-health track, and Spanish
Minor: Latin American and LatinX Studies
After finishing her junior year studying in Chile, Katherine McCann was ready to start her senior year back home. But first, she took a quick side trip.
From Santiago, she went straight to Nepal on a Freeman Fellowship and spent the summer with other volunteers promoting health care in the Himalayas.
“We didn’t have a lot of resources,” McCann says, adding that sharing even small amounts of health information could make a difference in the lives of kids and women they worked with.
She had started her college career much closer to home. “I grew up right across the street from Furman’s back gate,” says McCann, who is an Odell Scholar. “I would always come over in the spring to see the baby ducks.”
She made her mark in organizations such as the Political Thought Club, the Mere Christianity Forum, the Furman Prison Exchange and, at the club level, running and intramural soccer teams. She’s also been a Shucker Leadership Fellow, a Tocqueville Fellow, an admissions ambassador and a resident assistant, and she’s worked with community nonprofits Neighborhood Focus and Safe Harbor. This spring, she won Furman’s Award for Excellence in Latin American and LatinX Studies and the Cervantes Award in Spanish. But as the founder of the PalaMind mindfulness club, she does take a breath occasionally.
McCann will continue her education close to home – right after one more trip. She deferred her entry into the University of South Carolina Medical School-Greenville to teach English in Spain for a year, and she plans to take a certification exam in medical Spanish.
“Furman is a place where you can come to be challenged while also having the support of people you can trust, who care about getting to know you as a person,” she says. “Taking that same model and using it – not only in medicine but in all my relationships – is something I really value.”
Hometown: Pickens, South Carolina
Major: Earth and Environmental Sciences
One spring day – April 2, 2023 – captured Thomas McCoy-Bruce’s Furman experience in a nutshell. During two different ceremonies, he received awards for outstanding work in both his earth and environmental sciences major and his linguistics minor. He had to miss one of those events, however, to perform in his senior clarinet recital.
“It’s been great to be able to explore all the things that I’m interested in,” says McCoy-Bruce, a Daniel Music Scholar, who entered Furman as a John D. Hollingsworth scholar. “I got here thinking I was going to study music, but I’ve always had an appreciation for the natural world. One reason I came here was to stay close to the mountains.”
A member of the Furman University Outdoors Club, the Bartram Society and the Environmental Action Group, McCoy-Bruce presented his summer research project on wetlands at a regional geology conference this year. This spring, the linguistics minor, who has worked as a copy editor at the Paladin student newspaper and a tutor in the Writing and Media Lab, combined his focus in language with his environmental interests in his independent research project on “Sustainability Semantics.”
He’s also been a member of the Furman Pride Alliance, the Furman Justice Forum and the Furman University Poverty Awareness Committee. And in the Paladin Regiment Marching Band, the Furman Symphonic Band, the Furman Symphony Orchestra and the Furman Clarinet Studio, McCoy-Bruce, a musician and composer, has made “friends for life,” adding, “I can’t put into words how valuable that is.”
After Commencement and a May Experience in Iceland, McCoy-Bruce will start a six-month internship as a biology research assistant at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Atlanta, Georgia. Later, he says, he is likely to pursue graduate school, continuing his studies of how humans interact with the environment.
Hometown: Fort Belvoir, Virginia
Major: Politics and International Affairs
Mary Spangler knew she wanted to participate in ROTC in college. But she didn’t know which college until she Googled “most beautiful college campuses.”
“Once I actually toured Furman, it was the community that drew me in,” says the self-described “military brat” who grew up traveling from post to post with her U.S. Army officer parents. “Moving around a lot has taught me the value of having a support system.”
The cadet attended Airborne School, Cadet Advanced Camp and Cadet Troop Leadership Training and competed in Ranger Challenge. She will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army during Commencement weekend, when she will also receive her bachelor’s degree in politics and international affairs.
Spangler hopes that degree will help her become a civil affairs officer, a position where, she says, “you have to have a general understanding of the political world and global influences and how they all coincide.”
As an intern and part-time employee at the Soteria Community Development Corporation, she helped recently incarcerated people re-enter society. In 2022, Spangler, an avid athlete who also played intramural and club sports, organized the Paladin Battalion’s first Rudolph Ruck and Toy Drive to benefit patients at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital.
“ROTC has given me an avenue for service,” she says. “It’s been one of the biggest focuses of my college experience, and the most impactful.”
Spangler can apply for her dream civil affairs post after four years of service. For now, after training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, she will report to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to serve as an officer in the Field Artillery Branch.
“I’m going to be part of the Airborne division over there,” she says, “so I’m super excited.”
Director of News and Media Strategy