Senior Spotlights: Hendrix Seniors Moving Up and Moving On

Brooke Nelson – Assistant Staff Writer, Reader’s Digest

“You never wake up expecting to have a job offer that day,” Nelson stated as she recalled the moment Reader’s Digest offered her a job just a few weeks ago. She was in her humble Hendrix apartment when the phone call came and her initial reaction was simply “Oh! Wow!” in the most high-pitched and surprised tone possible.

First a staff writer for The Profile, Editor-in-Chief of the school magazine her sophomore year, and then an intern for D Magazine (based in Dallas), Nelson has taken many steps to reach this coveted job. The most influential experience was her internship with Reader’s Digest last summer through the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) Program, and after that experience she was asked to continue on as a freelance writer for the magazine. Nelson noted that “throughout the course of this year I have been staying in touch with them and writing for them three to four times a month.”

Nelson’s job at the magazine will entail writing stories for the online site, mostly, along with curating pictures and story ideas for the website, however she acknowledged that there will undoubtedly be many more duties that come along the way. She hopes to blaze her own trail at the magazine as well.  “I’d like to carve out a space for myself at Reader’s Digest where I can write a lot more political pieces, because I think Reader’s Digest can respond to political and world events in an interesting way that’s more focused on lifestyle and how you, yourself, can become political.” She noted that the magazine has a really interesting history, and she appreciates the ways in which they have mixed politics and lifestyle “Fun fact: they were also the first to break the news about smoking being bad for you,” Nelson added.

Nelson does not yet know where in New York she will live (Reader’s Digest is actually in White Plains, New York, just north of the city), but she plans to keep herself in the midst of the action.

“I’ve been told it’s easier to find a job in New York than it is to find a place to live,” Nelson said.

What she does know is that she wants to continue on in the journalism field, hopefully moving up the ranks to editing positions. “I enjoy writing, but I really enjoy the editing part of journalism. I like being able to put ideas together in a cohesive way, combine the written aspect with the visual aspect, and think ‘How can we tell this story in the most effective way?’”

As an International Relations Major at Hendrix, Nelson’s path to journalism is unique, and she credits this unique path to the very nature of our liberal arts school.

“Hendrix in every way prepared me for what I’m going into now, and I don’t think without the experiences that I’ve had at Hendrix I would have the opportunities that I have now. I’m deeply grateful for both the people and the opportunities,” Nelson said.

And although her journey after Hendrix is exciting, she noted that it is also bittersweet. “As excited as I am for the road ahead, I will definitely be sad to leave behind the place that made that road possible,” Nelson said.


Sami Sexton – Law School, New York University

It came down to two schools for Sexton: Georgetown and NYU.

“Georgetown was actually at the top of my list because I wanted to go to D.C.,” Sexton said.

Sexton, along with everyone else in her life, thought she would be attending Georgetown in the fall, but a recent visit to NYU changed that.

“I liked both schools because of their constitutional law and civil rights programs because that’s what I want to do. NYU has multiple clinics where you work directly with the ACLU and a lot of professors who have worked for the ACLU in the past,” Sexton said.

Both programs are extremely prestigious and competitive, and getting into both was by no means easy. Sexton spent most of her summer before senior year studying for the LSAT and took about seventeen practice tests before taking the real exam. Her experiences at Hendrix have also prepared her for law school at NYU.

“I’ve been participating in [Mock Trial] since freshman year and that has really helped me discover that I like making arguments and participating in a trial setting,” Sexton said.

Sexton was the Captain of the Mock Trial team this year. She also noted that the academic options at Hendrix propelled her forward in her interests.

“Hendrix actually has two semesters of constitutional law and so I took both of those last year. That really helped me solidify that I want to go to law school because I enjoyed those classes so much and I could see myself doing that again,” Sexton said.

Sexton would ideally like to work for the ACLU after law school, however the first step is figuring completing the housing application for NYU before May 1st.


Elizabeth Soo – Assistant English Teacher/Language Cultural Ambassador, Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program

“I’ve always been interested in other cultures – my family travels a lot – and while I was at Hendrix I got interested in International Ambassadorship and working a lot with the international students” Soo stated.

Although on a pre-med track at Hendrix, Soo wanted a fun gap year experience that would cultivate her interests. Gwen Stockwell, the Director of ESOL and International Student Services at Hendrix, was a part of the program some years ago and encouraged Soo to apply.

After submitting her application, Soo flew to Tennessee for an interview. “It’s this horrifying interview because you go and sit in this room with three people staring at you,” Soo recalled. After the interview she thought she was not going to be accepted. “When I got accepted I was completely stunned.”

Her job through the JET Program will entail assisting the main English teacher in the classroom. “In Japan, even though their [English] reading and comprehension scores are pretty good, they don’t speak English very often so I’ll be there to encourage them to speak English and to be an example of what English should sound like,” Soo said.

Right now she does not know what classroom she will be placed in; the classrooms could range anywhere from elementary to high school.

Soo is learning some Japanese this year but she is not fluent. “A lot of it I’m just going to have to learn on the fly,” Soo said.

Soo leaves July 29th and will stay in Japan for a year. After Japan her plan is to return to a lab at UC San Diego where she has worked in the past, and while working there she plans to apply to medical school. While most students take the conventional route to med school, Soo acknowledged that Hendrix has really pushed her to reach further.

“I think honestly it’s because of Hendrix that I’m even doing this. I guess when I first came here I was like ‘OK I’m going to go and get my science degree and I’m going to go to medical school and Hendrix has allowed me to cultivate my interests in other cultures and multicultural interaction and communication.”


Isaac Filat – Intern for American Arab Institutes Foundation, placed at National Immigration Law Center (D.C. office)

Like many students, Filat’s ideas about his future have shifted during his time in college. Originally he thought he would be a doctor, and then it was public policy, and now he plans to work in immigration law. That being said, Filat is taking a gap year before law school, an ever-increasing popular choice for college graduates. He found out about the American Arab Institutes Foundation internship the day the application was due. “It was due that day at 9 am, and this was 10:30 am, central time, so 11:30 for them. But, I had already written up a personal statement for my graduate schools…by 1:30 I had everything collected and sent.”

Although he had to turn the application in a few hours late, Filat was selected as one of about ten students chosen for the program among many students, most from prestigious ivy leagues like Stanford and Cornell University.

“I really didn’t think it was going to pan out. It seemed rather competitive and probably wasn’t going to be a thing I ended up doing,” Filat said.

Filat’s internship placed him with the National Immigration Law Center because of his interest in immigration law, which he thought was especially impressive. “They take three in-house students, and I believe it’s six or seven other students that they place in partner organizations”

Filat’s paid internship starts May 30th in Washington D.C.

“At the National Immigration Law Center, I will be working with research and advocacy. They do a lot of their legal stuff in southern California, but in D.C. their office is focused on research and advocacy, and informing a lot of congressional offices about what is going on.”

He explained that the program’s scope of work is fairly broad, however “the organization is really focused on low-income migrants; individuals who are less benefitted by society.” When asked about the current crisis in Syria and his possible role in that issue, Filat responded “I think a lot of the work that we will be doing will have to deal with DACA and the Dreamers. The Syrian issue, what we will be doing in regards to that, will be more research based.”

During the internship, Filat plans to study for the LSAT and attend law school the following year. He credits his liberal arts education at Hendrix for helping land him this internship.

“The liberal arts education really develops your skills in [reading and writing] and certainly over the past four years mine have developed and improved. I think that put me at an advantage because part of the internship’s interview was a writing sample and then beyond the writing sample was a writing test,”  Filat said. Filat also credits his professors at Hendrix for helping him along the way. “I know I developed an interest in foreign policy because of Ambassador Al Eastham. I know I was motivated to keep doing whatever I wanted from Jay Barth. I know I developed my real interest in research when I was doing my senior seminar with Peter Gess…so I wouldn’t say any one person so much as the community of staff and faculty that helped prepare me.”


Photos by Aditya Katke and Konrad Witkowski





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