2021 Senior Spotlight

Qwameek Bethea

Politics and International Affairs

Claire Conzelmann


Renee Neves


Ingrid Ramos Rivera

Politics and International Affairs
Latin American Studies

University Communications would like to offer a special thanks to these students as well as 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 2021.

Qwameek Bethea
Qwameek Bethea Pathway

Qwameek Bethea

  • Hometown: Dillon, South Carolina
  • Majors: Philosophy, and Politics and International Affairs

Qwameek Bethea knows what he wants out of life.

“If I could have my ultimate dream, I’d be a law school professor,” he says. “I’ve always said that.”

Once he graduates, the road to that dream job will take him to law school – after a few years of on-the-ground experience. That starts right after graduation, when Qwameek begins work as an internet analyst for the Atlanta-based international law firm, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.

For a self-described introvert, Qwameek has been involved in an impressive number of groups, including the Malone Center for Career Engagement, the Riley Institute Advance Team, the Furman Pre-Law Society and the campus chapter of the NAACP, of which he is president. He also participated in the Western Front War and Remembrance Study Away program and the 2019 Duke PLUS Pre-law Fellowship.

As the 2020 winner of the Rosa Bodkin Award, presented annually to a student who demonstrates a commitment to advancing Furman’s culture of diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism, Qwameek is glad to see Furman address its own past.

Actions such as acknowledging Furman’s historical ties to slavery, erecting a statue honoring Joseph Vaughn ’68, Furman’s first Black undergraduate, and renaming the Lakeside Housing Complex in honor of beloved school groundskeeper and janitor Clark Murphy have advanced the diversity conversation, says Qwameek.

“We have to understand the historical context and background of the university,” he says. “We can’t just think that students are going to look at the past and not know about the things that took place here.”

Qwameek Bethea
Claire Conzelmann
Claire Conzelmann Pathway

Claire Conzelmann

  • Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Major: Mathematics-Economics

From the lives of local children to the struggles of coastal residents to the reflections of prison inmates, Claire Conzelmann has wanted to understand the experiences of others. For most of her four years, she’s been involved in Ladies of Distinction, a mentoring program in which students are matched with Berea Middle School girls.

“It’s been super fun, just getting to know middle-schoolers and getting to hang out with them,” she says, even as the pandemic shifted them to virtual mentoring. More recently, Claire joined the Furman Justice Forum, helping to plan speakers and programming around the issue of social justice. But it was her work corresponding with incarcerated people through the Furman Prison Education Partnership that most challenged her assumptions about people.

“We’re not seeing their identity as a person,” says Claire. “They have feelings and really profound thoughts. Some of the letters I’ve gotten have been beautifully written.”

And then there is her research: As a Hollingsworth Undergraduate Research Fellow, she and two other students researched how high tide flooding impacts income inequality in East and Gulf coast counties, using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s flood gauges and the American Community Survey. The experience introduced her to the rewards of collaborative problem solving and paying close attention to details – and caught the attention of a prestigious employer.

Claire will put her curiosity and quantitative skills to work for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, where she has been hired as a research associate, assisting the institution’s economists.

“I’m really excited about it,” says Claire who received Furman’s J. Carlyle Ellett Economics Prize. “And some place like the Fed, it’s kind of like a dream program – exactly what I’m looking for.”

Is she nervous?

“I had a lot of support from my professors and advisors throughout the entire job search process,” says Claire. “I feel well prepared."

Renee Neves
Renee Neves Pathway

Renee Neves

  • Hometown: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (originally from Danbury, Connecticut)
  • Majors: Sociology and Spanish

When she was presented with a framed group photo embellished with handwritten notes of appreciation from first-year fellows of the Shucker Leadership Institute, Renee Neves was nearly moved to tears. Even talking about it two years later has the same effect.

Renee, who led first-year Shucker Fellows during her sophomore year, says the experience embodies her definition of leadership. One of five recipients of the Furman Fellows Award, Renee took the 28 new fellows under her wing, providing an inclusive and comfortable space for building friendships and community among her Shucker cohort and others on campus.

After all, she says, that first year is difficult: “You’re often coming in not knowing anyone, so it’s really scary and you’re trying to adjust.”

As student director of SLI, the sociology and Spanish double major doesn’t see leadership as a rung on a ladder but rather as a deep commitment to caring for and impacting others.

“Just recognizing the power you can have by making an impact on someone else – that’s how I describe leadership – leading by example and being there for other people and lifting their voices up,” says Renee. After graduation, she plans to build on those foundational leadership skills, ideally in a social impact role in the nonprofit sphere or in higher education.

“So much of my Furman journey has been shaped by all the mentors I’ve had and all the roles I’ve served in,” says Renee, who also worked as an orientation staff member, helping ease the transition to college life for 700-800 new students each year for three years.

“There are so many staff and faculty members at Furman who have pushed me to be a better version of myself.”

Renee Neves
Ingrid Ramos Rivera
Ingrid Ramos Rivera

Ingrid Ramos Rivera

  • Hometown: Greenville, South Carolina
  • Majors: Politics and International Affairs, and Spanish
  • Minor: Latin American Studies

Ingrid Ramos Rivera has always loved her first language.

“It was important to me to use my ability to speak Spanish,” she says. But Ingrid, who was born in California and raised in Mexico, did not see a future for herself as an interpreter.

“I wanted to be more in charge of the communication.” At first, she wanted to pursue pre-med studies – until the beginning of her sophomore year when an attorney, a guest lecturer in a Spanish class, shared a story that changed her perspective.

“If a child is sick, a doctor can say what’s wrong – say, he has asthma – and send him on his way,” Ingrid remembers the lawyer saying. “But what’s the root of the problem?” The way to make a real difference, she decided, was with a law degree. So, Ingrid, a member of Furman Hispanic Outreach Latinx Awareness (HOLA), became a politics and international affairs, and Spanish double major, minoring in Latin American Studies – and won the Paula Harper Bethea Civic Engagement Award. One example of her commitment to engaging the community? When she returned from a semester in Madrid, Ingrid participated in the Language in Motion at Furman program, joining other returning students to inspire interest in learning languages and foreign study in public schools.

In the future: paralegal work and preparing for law school – eventually. Right now, Ingrid plans to return to where she grew up.

“I want to visit Mexico and take some time to appreciate what I’ve learned in my Furman classes and apply it. That’s one of my top priorities – never forgetting where I came from.”

Andrew 'Drew' Singerman
Andrew “Drew” Singerman Pathway

Andrew “Drew” Singerman

  • Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
  • Major: Health Sciences

Amid the losses and hardships of the pandemic, the forfeiture of last year’s tennis season pales by comparison. Still, Drew Singerman, captain of the men’s tennis team, is grateful he was able to play this year. And because of COVID-19, he’ll still be playing for the Paladins with yet another year of eligibility after he graduates with highest honors.

But tennis isn’t the only game in town for the health sciences major. He will be enrolling in Furman’s Master of Science in Community Engaged Medicine program on his way to medical school.

“I couldn’t think of a better opportunity – to stay another year, play tennis and be with my teammates and the faculty again,” he says.

When Drew was just a first-year, his teammates stormed the court after he and his doubles partner won a deciding match at a tournament hosted by Florida State.

Since then, he’s earned a 4.0 GPA his entire career and was honored with the Jerry R. Thomas Award in Health Sciences.

A three-time recipient of the Southern Conference Commissioner’s Medal, the SoCon Honor Roll and the SoCon 4.0 GPA Team, Drew is also an ITA All-American and made the 2019 Google Cloud Academic All-District Team, a roster chosen by CoSIDA.

And then there’s his real-life superpower.

“He devours course material and has an almost eidetic memory,” wrote Professor of Health Sciences Matt Feigenbaum ’88, M’90 in a letter of recommendation for Drew’s medical school application. “In my 30-plus years in academia, I’ve only had a handful of students who possess that gift … I know Drew wants to continue to challenge himself to use this gift in a meaningful way.”

Andrew “Drew” Singerman