Shaye Worthman, 22, who is graduating summa cum laudefrom Xavier University with majors in psychology and Spanish and a double minor in gender and diversity studies and Latin American studies, is the 2009 Xavier University Elet Award winner. This is the award formerly known as the valedictorian. It is given to the student who maintains the highest grade point average and has an outstanding record of service. Worthman will speak at the 9:00 a.m. undergraduate commencement ceremony at the University’s Cintas Center on Saturday, May 16.
Worthman, who is from Ossian, IN (46777), plans to take one year off to travel and live in Mexico. “I absolutely fell in love with the country, the people, and the culture after studying abroad there twice,” she says. “I will be returning to Puebla, Mexico to teach English either at the university or high school level. After that year, I will pursue a Master's degree, possibly in International Development or Cultural Anthropology. I know I want to use Spanish in my future career, and could see myself with an international organization working in Latin America. I currently intern for the nonprofit Cooperative for Education, whose mission is to break the cycle of poverty in Guatemala through education, and I could see myself in a similar position in the future.”
Shaye was looking for a smaller university in a big city, and Xavier’s small, friendly atmosphere and beautiful campus immediately caught her attention. She recalls heading home in the car and telling her mother there was no need to visit any more universities. After seeing the interactions between the students and professors, she was even more certain she would attend Xavier. “The small class sizes at Xavier allow for more one-on-one attention, and in my opinion, a higher quality of instruction,” Shaye says. “You have the opportunity to develop relationships with your professors in and outside the classroom, which is something that not every school can offer.”
She feels she has had many wonderful opportunities at Xavier over the past four years. “My years at Xavier were not what I expected at all, in that I never thought I would be where I am now, double-majoring in Psychology and Spanish, having so many unique experiences including travel to Mexico and Guatemala,” she says. “It's funny how little by little things lead you to what you're really passionate about.” One of her best experiences was studying abroad. “Everyone should take advantage of the opportunities to study abroad through Xavier and/or other programs,” she stresses. Another of her best experiences has been the opportunity to research with psychology professor Dr. Christian End, which resulted in three professional publications of which she is a co-author. She presented at two national research conferences, a regional conference, and twice at Xavier's own Celebration of Student Research.
All of the work she did up to this senior year at Xavier--learning Spanish, gaining valuable research and analytical skills--helped her land an internship with Cooperative for Education. The most rewarding part of the internship was traveling to Guatemala this past February to help inaugurate new textbook and computer center projects during a 10-day project tour.
Shaye shares lessons she has learned during her time at Xavier. “Take advantage of the opportunities available to you. All of the experiences and opportunities I became involved with at Xavier, from researching to ESL tutoring to study abroad, though seemingly unrelated, led me to be a part of something so much bigger than myself that has helped to better the lives of others--which is exactly what Xavier is about.,” she says. “But, another lesson learned is not to get involved in every possible organization out there. Instead, really dedicate and apply yourself well to a few things instead of spreading yourself too thin. Take some time for yourself and to be with your friends and enjoy college.”
She attributes her success to the great professors she has worked with in and outside the classroom, specifically those in the Psychology Department (and namely, Dr. Christian End). She adds that she has really had to study and work hard to accomplish the things she has while at Xavier.
Worthman is the daughter of Stan and Rebecca Worthman of Ossian.
As a Catholic, Jesuit University, Xavier strives to develop men and women who will dedicate their lives to the service of others.