Microbiologist: Paige Gupton Chopra, '04
Paige Gupton Chopra attended Wesleyan from sixth through twelfth grade. When she was a new student, classes were still meeting in trailers. The only buildings that existed were Marchman Gym and Cleghorn Hall. Upon graduation, Paige went to Clemson University and received a graduate degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
How did you first develop an interest in working in healthcare?
At Clemson, I chose Health Sciences as my major because it incorporates the science and math aspects of healthcare and I enjoy working with people.
Once you knew you wanted to work in healthcare, how did you go about securing your position at the CDC?
As part of the Health Science program at Clemson University, I was required to perform an internship my last semester of college. Since Health Sciences is a broad field, the internship let us focus and develop our interests in the field. Through a friend of my parents back in Norcross, I was invited to intern with the Parasitic Disease Department at the CDC. After the semester was over, I was offered a full-time position at the CDC.
Can you share a little about what you do for the CDC now?
I serve as a microbiologist for the Department of Tuberculosis Elimination. My team provides whole genome sequencing for TB outbreaks across the United States. In addition, we provide the National TB Genotyping Service, a service that genotypes tuberculosis patients' samples for state and local health departments as part of the National TB Surveillance System. I love my job because we work with cutting-edge technology and we are the only people in the world who are doing this work.
What advice would you have for young alumni or current high school students interested in working in public health?
My advice is to keep an open mind when going into the career world. When I started Clemson, I had no idea that working in a laboratory at the CDC was even an option. Unexpected doors do open. My second piece of advice is to network, network, network. The workforce is quite competitive. Most people I know got their jobs because of someone they knew. It always helps when someone at the job for which you are applying can attest for your skill set.
What was your favorite part of your Wesleyan experience?
Hands down, my favorite part of my Wesleyan experience was the friends I made. My best friends in high school are still my best friends today. Going to Wesleyan was such a unique experience, and my classmates made it so much fun.
What role did Wesleyan play in your development since graduation?
Wesleyan played a huge role in helping to develop my character and professionalism. Wesleyan taught me to put others before myself and to serve my community.
Actor: Austin Short, '11
During his time at Wesleyan, Austin starred in several theater productions and maintained heavy involvement in student government, the Green & Gold, Wesleyan missions, and as a cross country and track team manager. He is currently a senior at New York University, majoring in Film and Television Production in NYU's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts.
When did you first develop an interest in film and television?
Like many, I grew up watching films and TV, but it was acting in plays at Wesleyan that got me seriously interested in the arts and film. During middle school, I bought a camera and began shooting short films with friends. Today, my iPhone shoots better than that camera. Having the freedom to create films on weekends seemed to complement what I had learned on the stage. By high school, I began to seriously consider studying it at the college level.
Why did you choose NYU?
I knew I wanted to continue studying the arts, and film production in particular. I wanted to not only learn the craft, but also be in an environment that would help turn it into a career. After looking at different film schools, I fell in love with NYU. Not only did the reputation of the school stand out, but I knew New York City would provide me with the opportunities and connections to continue in the arts after school. I knew that in whatever ways I would grow and change, I wanted to be in NYU's highly creative environment. I'm so thankful to be here.
What do you eventually want to do in the entertainment business?
My goal now is to write and produce for television. Television is in a very exciting place right now. The transition of programming from TV to the Internet is in a formative stage. TV is no longer what we traditionally think of as a square box that sits in your living room. Audiences consume media in more individualized and abundant ways than ever. I see content makers now faced with a new responsibility to create quality programming that stands apart from the Internet's distracting white noise. I hope to be a part of a generation that uses technology to present quality storytelling to the masses.
Tell us about some of the internship opportunities you've had.
In the fall of my junior year, I was part of a program in which eight students in the film school spent their semester in London interning for the BBC. I was placed on BBC's TV entertainment development team. While there, I was involved in the brainstorming and construction of concepts for new BBC shows. Working alongside professionals at the BBC was unlike any learning experience I've had. From there, I returned to New York in the psring and interned on NBC's new Late Night with Seth Myers. Since then, I've stayed within NBC and am currently interning for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. It's been a surreal and incredibly educating experience. The Tonight Show is great, and words can't describe what it feels like to be a part of it. More than anything, it's an opportunity to lean from the best. You can't duplicate the real thing in a classroom.
How did you experience at Wesleyan spark your interest in the field that you're diving into now?
Wesleyan introduced me to theater and acting, but also the importance of being a diverse person. Especially in high school, students are in a time in their lives when the sky is the limit in terms of exploring their talents. You can fail and get back up, so why not? A student's extracurriculars aren't a definition of them as a person; they are a means for students to define their God-giving gifts.
How did Welseyan prepare you for your professional and personal endeavors post graduation?
Wesleyan gave me the confidence in myself to navigate the world. Like many Wesleyan alumni, it was not until I moved away that I began to see how my time at Wesleyan would have an unending impact on my life. Above intellect, talent, or training, what I believe makes a person successful is how they treat others in relation to themselves. Every facet of live involves other people. Understanding the importance of love and respect continues to inform every aspect of my life. I can never thank Wesleyan enough.
Attorney: Brian Seiler, '01
Brian Seiler attended Wesleyan during his senior year of high school. While many would be wary of a move that late in high school, Brian thrived at Wesleyan. As in-house counsel for The Salvation Army's regional headquarters in Chicago, Brian credits his time at Wesleyan for helping prepare him for his career and life after college.
How did Wesleyan prepare you for college?
My family moved to the Atlanta area shortly before my junior year of high school. My first year in the area, I attended a public school in the Northern suburbs. Unfortunately, the school was overcrowded and the classes often felt more like crowd control than an actual learning opportunity. As a result of this experience, I applied to Wesleyan and decided to make the move for my senior year because I felt it would be a better preparation for college. The move could not have gone better. Wesleyan teachers raised the bar and challenged me personally to do my best. Just as importantly, my classmates were - as much as any high school students, at least - interested in learning and succeeding and attending good colleges. From AP classes that allowed me to place out or up in my college work, to crucial development of analytical thinking skills, Wesleyan was the preparation for college that I so desperately wanted.
How did Wesleyan prepare you for your profession?
I have the privilege to work as an in-house attorney for The Salvation Army's regional headquarters in suburban Chicago. Before that, I worked for several years at a large Minneapolis law firm. As an attorney, analytical thinking and writing are the primary tools of my trade. My teachers at Wesleyan preached these skills, and I owe a permanent debt of gratitude to my AP English teacher, Ms. McIntyre, for being one of the first teachers to challenge me to read serious books, ask questions, and critically engage with the texts. She also taught us all to stop using passive voice and to pay close attention to our prose, catching our attention when the first paper was returned with a grade for content and a grade for grammar that for many of us was close to zero! I always loved reading and writing, but Wesleyan pushed me to take these interests to a new level.
Why are you a better leader because of Wesleyan?
Often, developing leadership skills is a matter of opportunity. The size of Wesleyan allowed me to participate more directly in a number of activities that I never would have in public school. As a musician, I spent a lot of time working with the school's praise band. Although I really didn't notice at the time, in retrospect, it is clear that the leaders (Colin Creel and Brad Mauldin) were quite intentional about nurturing my involvement and leadership in this group. Although music is still a part of my life, the more important life lessons that I take from this time are about leadership and collaboration.
Perhaps most importantly, Wesleyan teachers and staff encouraged me to develop a Christian worldview, instilling in all of us the knowledge that our faith informs every aspect of our lives. That continues to inform the way that I look at the world around me, and I think I'm a better person and leader because of that perspective.
Was a challenging academic Wesleyan education worth it? Why or why not?
Absolutely. Life is full of challenges, from any further education after high school to career challenges and even our personal development as adults. Wesleyan provides a safe, nurturing environment for its students to begin responding to and learning from challenges. These are lifelong disciplines, and, for Christians, it is the essence of our daily walk with Christ.
Was the struggle worth it?
Without question. If we ever stop seeking and responding to challenges, we risk becoming stagnant. I'm thankful for my time at Wesleyan, even though it meant moving schools once more, at a time when it would have been easier to stay with the people that I knew at my previous school. I still wish that I had a longer time at Wesleyan, but I am thankful for the lifelong impact of my year at Wesleyan. I can happily report that the struggle to move schools and voluntarily take on a more challenging academic environment was well worth it.