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Senior Spotlight 2024

Members of the Class of 2024: Top, from left: Connor Bready, Yoana Reyes-Zapata and Xavier Johnson. Bottom, from left: Abby Stapleton, Miles Baker and Sophie Shaw.

Last updated May 1, 2024

By Clinton Colmenares, Director of News and Media Strategy

University Communications congratulates the Class of 2024 and thanks the students, faculty and staff who helped us tell their stories, and, through them, the stories of Furman University. Special thanks to these six graduates, who represent a class of diverse talents and immeasurable promise.

Conor Bready ’24

Hometown: Wallkill, New York

Majors: Chemistry and Applied Mathematics

Favorite memory: I have always enjoyed doing chemistry research over the summers here, especially when getting together with everyone to compete in the Iron Chemist competition, which is a series of events (i.e. long jump, 2 mile run, basketball shootout, ping pong, darts, etc.) where all chemistry researchers, professors and students alike, are competing. The events are always a good time to hang out with friends in a chill environment after a long day in lab.

Biggest influence: Two main people have had a huge influence on me at Furman: Dr. George Shields in chemistry and Dr. Christian Millichap in mathematics. Dr. Shields is my research advisor and has truly allowed me to excel in research.

Dr. Millichap is my mathematics academic advisor. He has been a huge supporter of everything I’ve done at Furman, and I am so thankful to have been able to have him by my side during my time at Furman.

After graduation: I’ll be attending graduate school at the University of California Berkeley for a PhD in theoretical chemistry.

yoana reyes zapataYoana Reyes-Zapata ’24

Hometown: Greenville, South Carolina

Major: Communication Studies

Favorite memory: Planning and hosting Hispanic Heritage Month events for the Furman community and getting to learn and attend all the Cultural Heritage events hosted by the Student Diversity Council organizations.

Biggest influence: I want to say thank you to the Communication Studies department who have been my biggest supporters since I first declared the major. Dr. Brandon Inabinet, Dr. Selena Dickey, Janna Pennington, Mary Strugill, Dr. Adam Richards, Alyson Farzad-Phillips and Dr. Richard Letteri. Each Professor was a big influence on my decision in wanting to continue my education at Furman. They all have supported me and pushed me to do my best within the Communication Studies department and have inspired me to continue my work in media studies.

After graduation: This summer I plan to intern with a non-profit Latino organization in Washington D.C. After summer I’ll move back to Greenville and finish my Army Reserves contract, and soon after I will start applying to jobs within my field and permanently relocate to the Washington D.C. area.

xavier johnsonXavier Johnson ’24

Hometown: Greer, South Carolina

Major: Music

Favorite memory: Some of my favorite memories come from my experiences as a summer orientation leader. I enjoyed welcoming new students and their families to campus and guiding them into the next chapter of their lives. It was such a joy to work with my team and to meet so many talented and unique students, some of which have become dear friends.

Biggest influence: Dr. Matt Olson, professor of saxophone and jazz studies, has had a large influence on me. As he likes to say, his philosophy is to be “part saxophone teacher, part human.” Under his guidance, I have learned the art of saxophone and how to navigate some of my most challenging college experiences. I am grateful for his understanding, his kindness and all that he has invested into my journey at Furman.

After graduation: I will be participating in a MayX program focusing on American Indian culture in the American Southwest. Afterwards, I plan to rest, complete a fall internship at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C., and research Indigenous music in New Zealand next February.

abby stapeltonAbby Stapleton ’24

Hometown: Harrisonburg, Virginia

Major: Chemistry

Favorite memory: By far my favorite memories at Furman come from my time as a summer research fellow in the chemistry department. I began doing biochemistry research with Dr. Meghan Breen the summer after my sophomore year and have continued working in her lab. The experience cemented my desire to combine my passions for medicine and research by pursuing training as a physician scientist, and it introduced me to my best friends. From troubleshooting unexpected results in lab to playing sand volleyball together after a long day of work, my peers in the chemistry department became my family, and the people I met through my time as a Chemistry major are among those that I will miss the most upon my graduation.

Biggest influence: Dr. Mary Elizabeth Anderson’s passion for chemistry helped me engage with the material and I was able to regain the joy of learning chemistry that I had lost in high school. She encouraged me throughout the course, allowing me to build my confidence. Dr. Anderson provided the support and encouragement I needed to declare a chemistry major. Without her as a role model and mentor, I know I would not be where I am today.

After graduation: I will be entering an NIH fully funded MD/PhD dual degree program at The University of Arizona College of Medicine-Tucson to pursue a career as a physician scientist.

miles bakerMiles Baker ’24

Hometown: Greenville, South Carolina

Major: Sustainability Science

Favorite memory: There have been so many great moments, but if I had to choose one memory it would be from this year’s homecoming football game. I was honored to be on the homecoming court with some of my closest friends and had my parents and sister there to support me. My fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, put on an amazing tailgate. We had brunch of our alumni back on campus for the first time in years celebrated with them. All of the men that I joined the fraternity with came back for this homecoming and we got to reconnect and enjoy a beautiful day. I think homecoming at Furman is one of the best days of the whole year. Seeing old friends come back to campus and celebrate their time at this amazing place and share stories about their adventures here is always a blessing. And being a student while it’s all happening and being able to see the love people have for our school is incredible. Spending time with all the different organizations out tailgating and mingling with tons of new faces makes the day so fun and I can’t wait to come back for homecoming next year.

Biggest influence: One of the people that has influenced me the most was Drew Washington, class of 2022. During my first year on campus Drew took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. He took a vested interest in me and was a huge pillar of support. Aside from being one of my many mentors, drew was also a role model for me. Drew was a very involved person on our campus and was a mover and a shaker. Seeing all that he was able to do during his time here and the way he could control a room inspired me. Seeing all that he did showed me that there was a land of opportunity here and I just had to take the leap of faith. Drew was there each step of the way, encouraging me and weaving belief that I could do great things here at Furman. It’s people like Drew that made my experience at Furman. There are so many people who want to see you succeed here and I’m thankful that I had a Drew to help guide me at Furman.

After graduation: I will be attending the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Policy at the University of Texas at Austin to pursue a master’s of public affairs.

sophie shawSophie Shaw ’24

Hometown: Granville, Ohio

Major: Health Sciences

Favorite Memory: Studying abroad in Lisbon, Portugal during a MayX last year was one of my favorite experiences. As an athlete, I have been unable to study abroad in the fall or spring semesters, so participating in a study away program was unique. The Health and Medicine in the Global Context MayX provided a very hands-on educational and cultural experience that was fun and engaging. During my three weeks in Lisbon I learned much from shadowing in hospitals, exploring the city and meeting new people.

Biggest influence: Craig Clark, Furman’s associate athletics director for Sports Medicine and Performance, has played a significant role in my life here at Furman. Although I did not know him very well before my senior year, I grew close with him when he became my team’s athletic trainer for the year. Craig helped my teammates and me through some challenging times and has been incredibly supportive and encouraging. He always goes above and beyond for us. He’s an exceptional trainer, mentor and someone I admire.

After graduation: I will be working for Gartner Inc., an information technology, research and advisory firm, in their sales development program based out of their Dallas, Texas, office.

Contact Us
Clinton Colmenares
Director of News and Media Strategy