Postcards of Appreciation for #WashU20
As an Ervin Scholar, Durrell received a full scholarship to WashU. But her experiences and studies in education and in sociology in Arts & Sciences taught Durrell that money is not enough.
“Low-income students need mentors who can help them navigate their way on campus and academic resources — not because we aren’t as talented, but because we often did not have access to the programs and schools our peers did,” Durrell said. “But most importantly, we need a support network of our peers.”
Durrell has helped deliver all of the above to Washington University through her service to the Deneb STARS program, an innovative cohort program for low-income and first-generation students.
“We shared a vision of what this program could be,” said Anthony Tillman, assistant provost for student success, who launched the program in 2016. “Her strong sense of self shows Denebs that their backgrounds and identities are not a deficit, but a source of cultural wealth.”
It’s a message Durrell, also a Civic and Enterprise scholar, has shared with the Board of Trustees, where, as a student representative, she has advocated for the university to recruit, accept and support more low-income students.
And it’s one she has shared with the young students at Humboldt Elementary School, where she and fellow members of WU-SLAM taught slam poetry.
“I was there to show them the power of writing and performing, but I also considered it my job to inspire the students to strive for college. And not just any college, but a good one,” said Durrell, who will work in Milwaukee Public Schools as part of the City Year program. “By the end of it, they would say, ‘I’m going to go to WashU.’ And I would answer, ‘Yes. Yes you are.’”
— Diane Toroian Keaggy
For his first three years of college, Hershberger was aiming toward a future as a research professor. It was the default path for him, but it wasn’t a perfect fit.
“I love math and physics — it’s so cool to explore the most fundamental aspects of our universe — but it never felt quite right for me to make that my career,” Hershberger said. “I’ve become increasingly interested in how science travels from the lab bench to the public sphere, and increasingly worried by the disconnect in that process.”
Hershberger took an internship with The Ampersand his senior year, reporting on topics as diverse as molecular muscles and “emergent simplicity.” Based on this experience, Hershberger was awarded an AAAS Mass Media Fellowship to spend 10 weeks this summer writing for Scientific American. After that, Hershberger plans to enter a master’s program in science communication.
Hershberger was born in Colorado and grew up in Wichita, Kansas. A Compton Scholar at Washington University, he is set to graduate with a degree in math and physics, and a minor in Spanish, all in Arts & Sciences.
Math Club is Hershberger’s favorite extracurricular activity, but music is an important part of his life, too. He has played jazz piano and composed music since middle school, and he volunteers weekly teaching piano lessons with Orchestrating Diversity (now Sounds of St. Louis).
“One of the first moments when Scott really caught my attention was in the sophomore-level physics class, where I was teaching a lecture about Fourier transforms and using an audio spectrum analyzer,” said Kater Murch, associate professor of physics in Arts & Sciences. “I showed how it would give the frequency content of sound on the microphone, and I asked (jokingly) ‘can anyone give me a C?’ And before I knew it, there was Scott, singing a perfectly in-tune C, with it displaying beautifully on the spectrum.”
Hershberger went on to conduct research in Murch’s quantum physics laboratory.
Hershberger hopes that clear science communication can help society tackle urgent problems.
“The fact that so many people reject the evidence that climate change is occurring is just one example of the failures in communication between academia and the general public.
“More than ever, we need a dialogue,” Hershberger said. “We need scientists to communicate not just what they found, but also how and why.”
— Talia Ogliore
In middle school, Longmeyer asked his parents for a plant for Christmas.
“It’s called a pregnant onion, but it isn’t actually an onion,” Longmeyer explained. “It’s also not pregnant.” His unconventional gift request was granted, and by the end of high school, he had collected more than 80 plant species.
Longmeyer’s fascination with plants eventually led him to Tyson Research Center, where he has contributed to research projects and conservation efforts. He is set to graduate this month with a degree in environmental biology from Arts & Sciences.
Longmeyer began working at Tyson as part of a research group that studies interactions among soil organisms and plants. The next summer, he joined a landscape architecture project. Most recently, Longmeyer has taken a leadership role in the Tyson Conservation Corps (TCC), a student-led organization dedicated to conservation and ecological restoration.
“As TCC student coordinator during the 2019-2020 academic year, Jacob builds community among his peers and connects them with valuable training and networking opportunities,” said Solny Adalsteinsson, staff scientist at Tyson Research Center. “Importantly, he brings people together with a personal warmth that creates a welcoming community, whether by adding his artistic flair to events or baking tasty acorn muffins to share with the group.”
“A lot of people at WashU are not from St. Louis, so many of them aren’t familiar with this environment and the plants that grow around here,” Longmeyer said. “It’s cool to bring people out to Tyson and watch them become interested in the nature around them.”
Born in Rolla, Longmeyer’s family moved to Pleasant Hill, Mo., when he was in third grade. He said Tyson reminds him of the forests and hills he grew up around. He credits coursework with Doug Ladd, senior lecturer in environmental studies in Arts & Sciences and at the Sam Fox School, and a meaningful experience with the MARC USTAR program for helping to cement his research interests in ecology.
This summer, Longmeyer plans to work with Eleanor Pardini in Arts & Sciences, surveying an endangered lupine plant along the Point Reyes National Seashore, north of San Francisco. Then he will stay on at Point Reyes to work with the National Park Service for six months before applying to graduate school.
— Crystal Gammon
Steinhaus is a paramedic, transporting patients to the hospital and responding to 911 calls. A month ago, he answered maybe one or two coronavirus calls a week. Now it’s one or two a day.
“You have to be totally gowned up,” explained Steinhaus, who has been a paramedic for nine years. “You spend a good 45 minutes after each call making sure you totally decontaminate everything, and then another hour after that terrified to touch your face.”
It’s important work. It’s rewarding work. But it’s not Steinhaus’ passion. Politics is.
“I’ve always been a political junkie and am curious about political behavior,” Steinhaus said. “I’m really curious about how we create our political identities and how those identities influence how we act and how we see the world.”
Steinhaus explored those questions at University College at Washington University in St. Louis, where he is in line to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science and in psychology from Arts & Sciences. Steinhaus also has been awarded the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence, the highest academic honor for a graduating undergraduate, and earned Latin honors for his research thesis into white identity politics.
“To complete an undergraduate degree while also working as a paramedic is an accomplishment in and of itself, but Matt is a stand-out student for so many reasons — his strong command of social psychology and political science, his conscientiousness and creativity and, absolutely, his passion,” said Erin D. Solomon, Steinhaus’ research adviser and staff scientist at the School of Medicine.
After graduation, Steinhaus will continue to serve as a paramedic. Ultimately, he hopes to move to Washington, D.C. To do what, he’s not yet sure. His coursework in political science has prepared him for a career in electoral politics. Or he could leverage his expertise in statistics to work as a pollster. Or he could bring his research skills to a think tank.
“Thanks to the opportunities I’ve had here, a lot of options seem open to me,” Steinhaus said.
— Diane Toroian Keaggy
These postcards originally appeared on The Source. Illustrations by by Monica Duwel.