Students Who Soar Under the Radar Not all BC students spend their days in the spotlight. Here are four upperclassmen whose "normal" days are anything but.

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here are roughly 9,100 undergraduates at Boston College, most of whom make it to Alumni Stadium four years later to hoist their diplomas above their heads. The road to Commencement is paved with good intentions in the form of held-open doors, failed tests, steak and cheeses, and Cronin dates. For most students, classes are punctuated by the inspired spark of a professor’s lecture, the sweat of athletic competition, a leadership position or two, and the nearly inevitable changing of majors. No one is just one thing.
Combined, this student body is a mix of talents, of intellectuals and artists, musicians and soccer players, executives and servants. The Heights’ annual Momentum Awards are typically reserved for students whose lives are befitting of the cover of a BC brochure, going above and beyond in areas that are popularly intriguing and glamorous.

But there are plenty of others who continue their toil without recognition in flashy recruitment videos. It doesn’t mean they put in any less work, or are any less important to the evolution of the University.

Here are four of these such students who convey the passion and drive that all BC students seem to have.

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imothy Victorio, MCAS ’18, is hunched over a table, rendering the chair next to him unusable by another student. It is organized chaos in Rubenstein #7—a gridded cutting board, a strange-looking ruler, and bits of balsa wood are strewn about. And then there are papers, all kinds, from cut-out cardstock to sheets of sketches, worked and reworked. For someone who lives off campus, Victorio spends a lot of time on Hillside, working in a room through a door that leads to the theatre department offices. Victorio is a student in Stage Design, a course that teaches students how to create models of sets and their accompanying drafting on paper, all in 1/4-inch scale. He is currently working on the sets for a three-act play, Rusalka. It requires hours of work, from the concept to the final product, three scene changes of miniature furniture. It’d be madness enough for most people, but Victorio isn’t even a theatre major. He’s studying biology at BC. Oh, but he wants to be an architect.
Victorio began his freshman year on the pre-med track with plans to become an orthopedic surgeon. He loves science—don’t let the career change fool you.

“It’s super hard to understand it and learn it and stay with it, but I just find it really interesting,” he said. “It just blows my mind.”

As his interest in orthopedic surgery waned, he changed to pre-dental. But one of BC’s core requirements, typically dreaded by students for some subject or another, shifted his focus elsewhere. He decided to take Drawing I to fill his fine arts requirement in sophomore year. The next semester, he took Drawing II, and by then, he had made his decision to forgo dental school to pursue architecture after college.

For those who major in architecture as undergraduates at other universities, the leg work involved is mostly finished by graduation. But without the major at BC, not to mention his credits already spent on Molecules and Cells, Genetics and Genomics, and his other biology classes, Victorio’s path to being a professional architect will take six or seven years, including a year after graduation before a three-year graduate program and internships. To even apply to a graduate school, Victorio has to build up a portfolio as part of his application. That’s where Stage Design came in. Building tiny furniture and learning the proper drawing techniques for laying out his plans gives Victorio the experience he needs for his portfolio.

His work isn’t confined to a mockup of the Robsham Main Stage made of foam board, however. With the help of Crystal Tiala, the chair of the theatre department and Victorio’s Stage Design professor, he will take his talents to full-scale productions. After finding his skill in the course, Victorio began working in the scene shop for Evita, using tools to create the larger-than-life opulence of 1940s Argentina under Peronism.

“When I work in the scene shop, it’s work, but it’s still enjoyable,” he said. “Even if it’s just a ledge for someone to stand on, it’s still really cool to do something with my hands rather than to sit there and think and write something out.”

Next semester, he will take on more responsibility as Tiala’s assistant for the theatre department’s production of Chicago. By second semester of his senior year, Victorio will have gone from having no experience in stage design—save for helping out with his siblings’ high school plays—to standing at the helm of design for No Exit in the Bonn Studio.   

 

Before college, Meghan Dumser, MCAS ’17, wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. What she did know was that she wanted to play soccer—but where, exactly, wasn’t clear. In her sophomore year of high school, Dumser made a verbal commitment to Lehigh University, a Division-I school in the Patriot League. The competitive club team she played on as part of the Players Development Academy sent girls to elite programs across the country. But Dumser wanted more than that. Her sister, who is eight years older, attended BC, making the school a part of her life from childhood. It was always in the back of her mind when considering colleges, and Dumser realized she didn’t want the cutthroat nature of competing for playing time and tenuous relationships to follow her to the next chapter of her life. So she decided on BC instead.

Despite closing the book on playing at the highest amateur level, Dumser wasn’t done with soccer. She came to campus to try out for BC’s club team, getting right into it during the first weekend of freshman year. Out of the more than 120 women who tried out, only four were taken. Dumser was one of them. Activities tend to wax and wane as a college career goes on, swapping high school interests for clubs friends are in or groups that can make a résumé shine. But for Dumser, the team fostered a relationship between its players that made it feel like a family, which she held onto throughout her four years.

“If I wasn’t with my team during the fall season, that wasn’t right, there was something wrong about that,” she said. “My friends have a joke, they’re like ‘In the fall you never see Meg because she’s always with the soccer girls. Always.’”

Dumser spent two days a week in the fall practicing for upcoming games, which fell on Saturdays when football was on the road, sometimes leading to doubleheaders or Sunday tournaments. She traveled with the team, driving to other states in the area for games against other universities in the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association. When the team made it to the Women’s Open in the National Tournament in 2015, it flew down to Phoenix, Ariz. and played in the semifinal, falling to James Madison University. As much as Dumser loves competition, though, just getting to play is fun enough.

While she missed out on her junior season to study abroad in Galway, Ireland—a decision that was tough for her, but ultimately an experience she couldn’t miss—her team still recognized her for her loyalty and leadership. When she returned in the spring, she was elected a captain with three other rising seniors. They began planning for the season in June, making sure everything fell into place.

On top of her devotion to the team, Dumser struggled with her academic future. She applied to Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences, hoping to be a lawyer, but quickly discovered upon her arrival that it was not the right fit for her. Left at the hands of the Carroll School of Management, which only this year is reopening applications for internal transfers, she settled for the economics major, with a minor in management and leadership. For now, she’s going to take her talents to Deloitte, working in New York City. While her academic success has led her this far, her favorite aspect of BC is her team.

“You come here, and you’re a freshman, and you kind of make friends in your dorm, but you decide what you involve yourself in … it becomes a social bubble, and it’s amazing,” she said.

 

“Nope, I’m from Connecticut.”

Olivia Spadola, CSON ’17, sounds cool and collected when talking about a nearly 3,000-mile move to Bend, Ore., uprooting her life in the Northeast to join Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) Northwest, the original nonprofit that spawned a national extension and an international offshoot. For Spadola, the yearlong commitment to service was a choice she had not considered until her final year at BC. The original plan, to go to graduate school and become a nurse practitioner, was challenged after she found herself enraptured by the service programs she participated in, taking her around the world and back again.

“It doesn’t really feel like I’m moving far away, for some reason,” she said. “It just feels like I’m taking the right next step for myself.”

Spadola threw herself into community service the moment she stepped on campus, signing up for the PULSE program at orientation. Since she wouldn’t have nursing clinicals until the following year, Spadola decided on a placement that would allow her to test the waters. At the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, she worked with doctors in an emergency setting and also tutored a 9-year-old girl. Her love for giving herself to others only grew as she traveled to Guatemala on an Arrupe trip over Winter Break her sophomore year.

The following year, she journeyed a bit farther, settling in The Philippines through Casa Bayanihan, a program run through the University of San Francisco that stresses “accompaniment.” Rather than playing into the narrative of volunteers coming in to “save” locals through service, the students act as equals with the community members in order to learn from them the best ways to help.

In the fall, Spadola went on an overnight event whose sole purpose is to help seniors determine whether they want to continue service full-time after graduation. After wrestling with the question herself for several months, she found others’ input to be the push she needed to decide. She then applied to JVC Northwest, was accepted, and found a job working for the Deschutes County Health Services Department. A departure from the clinical work that takes up much of her time, Spadola will be serving in a more public health-related role in the realm of maternal and child nursing, ensuring that patients have the proper insurance, care, and possible home visits.

While most seniors tend to ease up a little in their second semester, Spadola has done anything but. She is the president of the Red Cross affiliate on campus, arranging the blood drives. She just recently had her last shift for BC EMS, on which she was a team leader that supervised in the case of an emergency. Spadola gets up at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesdays to arrive at her clinical at Boston Children’s Hospital for her pediatric rotation, which runs from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Thursdays, she gets to sleep in—until 6:30 a.m.—before heading to her community population health clinical at the Cambridge Health Alliance at the Zinberg Clinic. She works with people with infectious diseases, including HIV and Hepatitis C. On Mondays and Wednesdays she gets to rest until 9 in the morning and has her regular course load. Fridays, up until April 14, were reserved for workouts and long runs to prepare Spadola for the Boston Marathon, in which she raised $7,000 for the Red Cross.

“This is making my life look so easy,” Spadola said when she mentioned that her first class on Monday is at 1:30. Well, to each her own.

While some might consider a year of community service to be a break from adult life, Spadola couldn’t disagree more. For her, the passion she feels in her work only propels her to give it a more concrete meaning.

“I think one of the important distinctions for me was that this was by no means a gap year and then a return to a normal job, or a year off from the real world,” she said. “I think this for me is the real world, and this is what I want to sink my teeth into and carry on the work of for the rest of my life.”

 

The BC lookaway is renowned for its ability to get one out of social interaction with an acquaintance, while also adding to the discomfort of the situation when it is seen by the exact person you wished to avoid. But if there’s one person who hates it, it’s Suneer Sood.

Sood, CSOM ’17, emanates cheerfulness and courtesy, nodding in encouragement when he listens to someone speak. He laughs in the face of the lookaway—if he knows you and he spots you from far away, he’ll make sure to give you a “hello” when he finally passes you. He puts everyone he meets at ease. That’s probably why he was picked to be an orientation leader for the summer of his sophomore year.

There’s a stereotype with CSOM students—that they are so cutthroat and competitive that they feel the need to get an internship with Goldman Sachs the day after they finish their freshman year. Sood, however, decided to take the time to pass on some of the wisdom he had acquired from upperclassmen and alumni to incoming freshmen, as well as meet the 42 other orientation leaders that would bring new perspectives to his life.

“For the rest of my life I’m probably going to be doing business in varying degrees, and I really just wanted to have the summer to myself and grow through the orientation program,” he said.

His mentorship experience extends past the summer he spent meeting the entire freshman class and all 112 transfer students that year. After participating in the Freshman League as a first-year, he interned for the program the following year and became a captain as a junior. He also led Halftime, as well as the BC Holy Grail of retreats, Kairos, just a few weeks ago.

Starting in his sophomore year, Sood became involved with BC Enactus, the school’s chapter of a nationwide organization that is devoted to providing funds and guidance for companies seeking to make a difference. Sood appreciates the concrete results he sees through the projects he works on. Two years ago, he worked with a company called Shanti & Deva, which produces handmade ethnic jewelry. With Enactus’ help, Shanti & Deva donated 10 percent of its revenue to Kiva, a microfinance company that offers loans to people in developing countries. Sood loved getting updates on the woman from Cambodia that had used the money to start a grocery store. His experience with Enactus, of which he was president of last year and is now co-president, has helped him figure out what he wants to do next.

During Sood’s own orientation, he was inspired by Rev. Michael Himes’ “three key questions:” what are you good at, what brings you joy, and what does the world need you to be? A thoughtful and inquisitive person, Sood immediately read the rest of Himes’ work to figure out what it could mean for himself. He’s applying the same questions for determining his career.

Though he has not secured a full-time position yet, Sood will be working as a summer associate at a private-equity firm that gives out capital growth packages only to companies working in the energy, sustainability, and innovation sectors.

“It’s a slam dunk for what the world needs you to do,” he said. “I don’t know whether or not I’m super good at it yet, but I’ve been enjoying the experience so far, and at least it’s bringing me closer to the right answer.”

For someone who seems so unsure of things, he knows a lot. Anything that comes across his mind becomes a topic for research. He reads articles upon articles related to his interests, including the art of fragrance. He has even taught a BC Splash course on perfumes and colognes, all of which stemmed out of a desire to impress a girl when he was in middle school. It’s quirky, but it’s a part of his personality. He’s not afraid to put himself on the line when it comes to making friends—it’s the reason the BC lookaway will never be for him.

Featured Image by Shannon Kelly

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About Shannon Kelly

Shannon Kelly is the assistant features editor. One day she'd like to get paid to be funny instead of being funny for free for this newspaper or on Twitter @ShannonJoyKelly. (The irony of her middle name is not lost on her.)