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 2022.
Oscar Guillén Arauz considers Greenville his hometown, but he came a long way to get here. Shortly after his second birthday, his family emigrated from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, seeking brighter economic opportunities and fleeing the area’s notorious gangs and criminal violence.
“My grandmother told me to study hard and make good choices,” Guillén remembers in an article he wrote in The Paladin this year, “because the opportunities provided in the United States were far better than those in Honduras.”
He’s taken full advantage of those opportunities, and though he admits that, at first, he found Furman an “intimidating environment,” he has enthusiastically taken on new challenges. One academic challenge led to a choice of major somewhat on a whim, he says.
“I’ve always been interested in learning a language – but I wanted it to be a very unique language,” he explains. “I wanted to be able to understand a language that didn’t use the Latin alphabet.”
Challenge accepted: He began a major in Asian studies. The ability to master a complicated subject, condense it and make it understandable is a skill he hopes to use in a career in either international wealth management or as a startup entrepreneur. As a member of the first class of Furman Angel Analyst Fellows, a program for students created by The Robert and Margaret Hill Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, he hopes to start an investment group in Honduras.
As the first in his immediate family to attend a four-year college, Guillén found himself working closely with three other Furman students with similar backgrounds.
“We got together and said, ‘Why isn’t there a student-led organization designed to create community and provide resources and mentorship for first-generation students?’” he remembers.
With that question, Guillén helped to launch Furman’s First-Generation Student Alliance, serving as treasurer since its founding in May 2020.
“It’s been a fantastic experience being able to create something from the ground up,” he says, “and now to have this blossoming organization that represents people like me – people like us.”
Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, Maggie Lewis always knew that she wanted to be a business major. And while she graduates with a B.A. in business administration this spring, a course she took as a sophomore sparked an interest in an additional field of study.
“I took a data analytics course, and I absolutely loved it,” she remembers. She especially liked learning the hard skills necessary for her career goals in banking and finance. When the time came to set her schedule for her senior year, she was encouraged to join the first cohort of Furman students to enter the data analytics minor program.
“I thought, ‘Why not make my senior year more difficult?’” she says with a laugh. Furman helped her find the confidence to blaze her own trail, she says.
“It’s knowing that it’s OK to have your own path and create that path for yourself,” she says. “I learned to advocate for myself.”
Another “a-ha moment,” she says, was when her sorority, Delta Delta Delta, offered her a spot on the executive committee as a sophomore.
“It gave me a lot of confidence in my leadership abilities,” she says.
Lewis also belongs to Furman’s equestrian team – she’s been riding horses since she was 6 – and has been tapped for Senior Order, a leadership honor society for women.
After graduation, she will launch her career in finance as an investment banking analyst at MUFG in New York City, where she had interned. Lewis expects to continue in the field for a while – but Furman has taught her to stay open to new possibilities.
“Coming in, I had a very specific idea of what my Furman experience was going to look like,” she says, “but I feel like I’m getting so much more out of this experience than I would have if I had taken another path.”
Willie Cornish laughs when he talks about the first music he ever composed. “It was not good at all,” he remembers. The self-taught composer kept at it, though, and eventually, at age 17, he wrote a short piano piece that he’s still proud of today.
“Considering I really didn’t know anything, I still composed something that was not that bad for someone who just started,” he says.
When it came time to pick a college, “I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else besides music,” says Cornish, who played horn in his high school’s marching and concert bands. The reputation of the music department and instructors like Jay Bocook ’75 and Mark Kilstofte drew the student’s ear to Furman.
“I definitely wanted to come here and study with them,” he says. “I knew that if I came here, I’d actually grow and really appreciate the art of composing things.”
Cornish presented his composition “The Butterfly Effect” at Furman Engaged in 2021, and he encored with “Shades of Black” at this year’s event in April. This spring, he won the Mattie Hipp Cunningham Scholarship and earned honorable mention in the New York Youth Symphony’s First Music competition for “Accismus,” his first chamber piece with strings. He also served as a representative on the Student Diversity Council and president of the music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha.
Next up is the University of Michigan master’s degree program in composition – which he will attend on a full scholarship – and a career in commercial composition for TV or movies. Eventually, he says, he’d like to teach.
“There’s tons of opportunities out there,” Cornish says. “You just really have to look for them.” Along the way, he says, he’ll remember the relationships he formed at his alma mater.
“The professors actually care about your future and your well-being,” says Cornish. “And another thing is the students that go here. I just felt like it’s a family here.”
The personal connections Lucy Waszak formed at Furman were key to helping her start her post-graduate career, so it’s fitting that personal connections helped her find the school in the first place.
“We had family friends back in Boston who moved to Greenville,” she says. “So I was touring other schools in the South, and we decided to just stop by Furman.”
It was beautiful, of course, but she also liked that Furman offered a Bachelor of Science in psychology. Although a psychology major was her original plan, she will graduate with a degree in a different field. “I started learning about public health and just thought it made more sense for me,” she says. “The classes seemed interesting.”
One course in particular stuck out – nutrition policy. “It was one of the hardest courses I took, but it really got me interested in nutrition programs like WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program),” she remembers.
That interest led to an internship last summer at the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston. There, she worked on qualitative data analysis with the USDA/Tufts Telehealth Intervention Strategies for WIC program.
Waszak had also interned with Furman University Eating Lean teaching nutrition classes, participated in Furman’s chapter of CHAARG, a health and wellness community for women in college, and served as secretary of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority.
Waszak will return to Boston again after graduation to start her job as a health consulting analyst at Mercer, a human resources consulting firm. She hasn’t ruled out graduate studies in public health. “My advisor helped me get my internship, and she was the one that pushed us to go to the career fair and encouraged us to connect with alumni, and that helped me get my job, too,” says Waszak. “You probably wouldn’t get those connections at a bigger school.”
Growing up in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, Hamp Sisson had an insider’s perspective of Furman from his sister, Ann Sisson ’17, who ran cross-country and track. So when he was recruited to play football for the Paladins, it didn’t take much to convince him to attend.
“I knew that’s where I wanted to go,” he says. “Not just for the opportunity to compete for football championships, but also for the incredible education.”
Sisson has racked up several highlights in his college career, including two seasons as team co-captain, three years on the Southern Conference Academic Honor Roll, and two stints as Southern Conference Student-Athlete of the Week.
Sisson accounted for 23 total touchdowns and passed for 2,814 yards in a Furman football career in which he started 16 career games over three seasons.
As a health sciences major, he combined his love of athletics with his longtime interest in medicine, which began with an accident in high school. “I broke my right fibula in my junior year,” Sisson remembers. “Communicating with the doctors, having surgery and healing, rehab – that whole process got me interested in a health career.”
If all goes according to his playbook, Sisson will be attending medical school in a year or so, concentrating on orthopedics or sports medicine. But in the meantime, he’ll get an insider’s perspective on another athletic program – at the University of Alabama, where he’ll be doing research with team doctors on the prevention of football injuries. His time at Furman gave him a crash course in leadership, he says, both on the football field and as the president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“I wasn’t sure I was ready for those leadership roles,” Sisson says. “But being told by other people that they saw leadership qualities in me forced me to get outside of my comfort zone. That’s a lesson that I’ll take into my future career for sure.”
She never imagined it would become her major, but Brenna Outten’s interest in neuroscience began with her little brother, Patrick, who has Autism.
“I would think, ‘Oh, my gosh, I would pay anything to peer into your brain,’” she remembers. “I just wanted to understand what’s going on in there – how he thinks and processes things – but I never considered doing it as an academic career.”
Outten started considering it soon after she got to Furman, when the professor teaching her first biology class praised her work and encouraged her to pursue further studies in science.
“I thought, ‘Well, this is something that I’m clearly interested in in my personal life, so why not integrate it into my academic career?'” she remembers.
Outten quickly grasped that neuroscience is a truly multidisciplinary field. Her research is in computational chemistry in the lab of Chemistry Professor George Shields, and her team’s goal was to develop a new way of treating addiction with a therapeutic molecule that would bind to the neuroreceptor and help treat opioid addiction.
Outten’s Furman journey also included work as a sustainability ambassador and at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute – which is “like having 2,000 grandparents,” she says – as well as involvement with social justice initiatives.
Outten plans to pursue a Ph.D. and has committed to attending CalTech for computation and neural systems.
“Staying somewhere within that realm is currently my plan,” says Outten, “but I’m open to detours.”