By CAROLINE WILLIAN —
At Claremont McKenna College, Stephanie LaFace flies under the radar.
While she proclaims herself an “ambivert,” her friends perceive her as an introvert, an observer in a sea of performers. And at CMC, a small college in Southern California which frequently utilizes the tagline “liberal arts in action,” Laface is an exception to the perceived norm.
When Laface, a senior from North Holly, California, embarked on the hunt for the right college, she zeroed in on schools with strong social studies departments, despite her intention to major in biology. She knew the culture of social studies would seep into her own experience.
“Doing science at a school like this is different than doing science at a school that’s strong only in science,” she said. She eventually decided to major in science, technology, and society, to combine her interest in both the physical and social sciences.
“I was looking for, somehow, schools that demonstrated a top-of-the-line aspect … (in) I don’t want to say leadership, it’s overused,” she said. “But essentially that.”
Despite Laface’s attraction toward leadership, she finds herself taking a back seat in the CMC extracurricular scene. This comes partly from Stephanie’s intellectual curiosity and dedication toward her academics. “School is the part that I always can do more in, or I always want to do more in,” she said. “Other people dedicate their time more to other things.”
Laface’s example proves that you don’t have to be well known on campus to learn from the culture. CMC students are often seen as chasing the narrative that one has to land the right on-campus leadership position, the right internship, even the right social group, in order truly to harness what CMC has to offer. But Laface doesn’t feel as though she has missed out during her time here. She credits her peers for the ways in which they have sculpted her experience.
Considering the things that have caused her most to grow, she said, “I think it’s more just being around intelligent people.
“Regardless of where you stand in the hierarchy, if you want to call it a hierarchy, of leadership on this campus, I think leaving this campus and being in the real world is far to none as far as what you bring to the table,” she said. “The leadership culture has been so pumped up here, how can it not continue with you?”
She admits there are moments when she questions her decision to come to CMC, and wonders if a school with more students focused on their academics would have been a better fit. But she believes wholeheartedly that the college has allowed her to grow in a positive direction.
“When I’m talking about my experience, my growth, I wonder, could this have happened at any other location?” she said. “But then again, it’s happening here.”
(Written by Caroline Willian; Sept. 27, 2017)