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Graduate reflects on experience at ETSU, special recognition from university

Brandon Paykamian • Updated May 8, 2020 at 9:54 AM

Sarah Hamilton of Johnson City is one of 10 members of the East Tennessee State University Class of 2020 inducted into the newly formed 1911 Society.

The organization, named in commemoration of the year the university was founded, recognizes notable graduates for their “academic excellence, service and leadership.”

In her time at ETSU, Hamilton has been a member of the Preview and Orientation Leadership Organization, serving as vice president and as a student leader. She’s also been closely involved in Volunteer ETSU, Admission Ambassadors, the ETSU Homecoming Committee and other university initiatives.

While earning a bachelor's degree in biology and a second degree in Spanish, Hamilton met her fiancé, Anthony Walls, who will receive his master’s degree in educational leadership. The two are set to graduate Saturday at ETSU’s virtual commencement.

On Thursday, the Press asked her to tell us more about herself, starting with fast facts.

Age: 21

Hobbies: Hiking, oil painting and reading.

Dogs or Cats: “Definitely a dog person.”

Pet Peeves: “When someone leaves just a couple seconds left on the microwave.”

Favorite music: Loves ‘80s rock and Spanish rap music.

What was your reaction to the recent recognition?

“Oh, I was shocked. I am a fairly pessimistic person, so when I applied I thought there was no way I’m going to get this. There are so many other applicants, it would be crazy. I was just speechless, honestly.”

What qualities should a student leader have?

“I think being able to listen to everyone’s needs and not being centered on yourself. If you notice someone hanging out in the back of the room, you make it a goal to go talk to them rather than the ones that are already extroverted and talking.

“When I started out as an undergrad, I was an extremely introverted person. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I was just going to get my degree and get out, and I quickly realized that wasn’t the right way to go about things.”

What’s the importance of getting involved on campus?

“College is a way to not only improve your education but also to improve in self growth in ways you wouldn’t have imagined possible. Getting involved opens those doors to try new things and get out of your comfort zone while still having a support system.”

What are your plans moving forward?

“I am on the wait list for Quillen College of Medicine, as well as UT-Memphis. We (Walls and I) are just kind of waiting to hear back from medical school. If not, I’m looking into different online graduate programs and getting a job here. So not quite sure yet.”

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges students face, and how should they be tackled?

“The transition from high school to college; no one can prepare you for that. It can seem really huge and daunting because there are thousands of students.

“Find your passion for what you want to study and then be brave enough to try something slightly different than you expected because you might surprise yourself. One of those things for me was, I got to live in Spain. Staying in a country for the summer and not speaking any English was the most terrifying thing that I probably did during my college education, but it was absolutely the best thing I could’ve possibly done.”

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