Each student participating in graduation ceremonies this week has his or her own story to tell. We caught up with a few of them to find out their post-BYU plans and to ask what they’ll miss most about BYU.
Terik Daly’s cosmic collisions
One new graduate’s post-BYU plans include firing a gun built by NASA that shoots projectiles up to 7 kilometers per second.
Terik Daly is launching from BYU into a Ph.D. program at Brown University where he will study impact cratering on his way to becoming a planetary geologist.
The geology major already has experience simulating cosmic collisions. Terik and chemistry professor Daniel Austin built a system that charges ground-up meteorite powder so that it can be accelerated to the same speed that cosmic dust hits spacecraft such as the Cassini Orbiter. By recreating those collisions in the lab, they hope to understand more of the data being sent back from scientific instruments that have already been dispatched to far-flung places in our solar system.
“The dust in space tells an important story about how the solar system was formed, and what processes are happening now,” Terik said.
Each year several hundred new BYU graduates like Terik fan out across the country after gaining acceptance to Ph.D. programs at other universities. BYU ranks 5th in the country as a Ph.D. launch pad over the last 5 years.
In Terik’s case, he gives thanks to Professor Austin and geology professor Jani Radebaugh for mentoring his research and providing helpful career advice.
“The level of dedication and investment that faculty have for students here at BYU is truly amazing,” Terik said. “The emphasis on undergraduate research also helped me be prepared and have a skill set going into graduate school that I probably would not have picked up at another school.”
Terik wasn’t all work and no play in his time at BYU, however. The thing he says he will miss the most about BYU is the chance to dance. Terik participated with several student performing groups – all while carrying a 3.95 GPA.
Nanci Johnson’s big summer: Africa, then Cambridge
Nanci Johnson gets to cap her degree in history by fulfilling her dream to go to Africa on a historical research project – but that’s just the beginning of her summer plans.
Nanci will spend a week gathering oral histories and archival materials from the National Library of Namibia. And on her down time, she plans to appreciate the cultural surroundings she’s imagined for so many years.
“I’m so excited for the overall experience,” Nanci said. “This visit will really propel my work.”
After collecting histories in Namibia, Nanci will head to Cambridge University to complete the two-month Pembroke-King’s direct enrollment program. She is one of 40 BYU students who will participate in the Cambridge program this year. This BYU-Cambridge partnership began seven years ago thanks to the work of history professor Paul Kerry.
“It’s an extraordinary chance to really refine myself as a researcher and writer,” Nanci said.
Nanci will officially graduate in August but, given her summer itinerary, will participate in April graduation ceremonies.
Nanci will also embrace her stay at Cambridge by taking classes on gothic architecture, drawing and painting. She will also receive mentoring in history from a member of the Cambridge faculty. Following these adventures, Nanci hopes to secure an internship and a placement at graduate school, where she’ll study history, art history or English literature.
“There are so many options, but grad work is definitely in store for me,” she said. “BYU has prepared me well. This was the best decision I could have made.”
Nanci particularly noted how supportive the BYU history department has been for her.
“The guidance of professors has been amazing,” she said. “They’ve been extremely helpful and really shown me that I’m not just a student to shuffle through the system.”
What will she miss the most?
“Besides friends and colleagues, I’ll miss access to Special Collections at the BYU library,” she said. “And Interlibrary Loan. Both have been incredible resources.”
The top law schools are calling Stephen Richards
Economics senior Stephen Richards was on the bottom floor of the Maeser building when he got a call from Stanford Law School.
“That was a really amazing day,” he remembers. “I’ve always wanted to be there after BYU.”
Since Stephen was 12 years old, law school was the plan. Only weeks before graduation, he made the final decision after considering offers from Harvard, Yale, Columbia and the University of Chicago. Stephen is confident his economics degree from BYU prepared him well for a career in corporate law.
“It’s hard to beat BYU. The education is top notch at a low cost,” he said. “I would do it all over again, no second thoughts.”
Stephen attributes BYU’s uniqueness to having the benefits of a large university but small networks. He graduates with honors in April with a thesis that examined high school graduation rates.
“Small classes and that one-on-one relationship with professors is what’s really so helpful in college education,” he said.
In addition, Stephen particularly values the breadth of education opportunities he’s been able to experience while completing his education at BYU.
“Art museums, concerts, International Cinema . . . there’s a rich arts culture here that gives students a lot of opportunities to expand what they know,” he said. “I’ll miss that the most.”
With his BYU diploma in hand, Stephen now looks forward to relaxing with his wife Heather and their five-month old son Daniel before hitting the books once more.
“I’m going to play with my son outside and take a few months off and a deep breath before law school starts,” he said. “We’ve got good prospects.”
Writer: Kristi Smith and Joe Hadfield