Senior Speaker: Aria Ballance ’19
Aria Ballance BA ’19 will be the student speaker at the College of Arts and Sciences commencement on May 11. A committee of seniors, staff, and faculty selected Aria, a chemistry major and theatre minor from Santa Barbara, California, as the winner of this year’s Senior Speaker Competition.
Overseas study: India
What three words best describe your Lewis & Clark experience?
Exhilarating, loving, changing.
What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?
Oh my goodness gracious, so many things! The big draw for me was how much room I was given in my schedule to breathe—even as a chemistry major. At most colleges, if I wanted to major in chemistry, I would not be able study abroad, have a minor in a field outside of STEM, or participate in too many extracurricular activities. I also knew that I wanted to keep theatre in my life as much as possible. At Lewis & Clark, you don’t even have to be a minor to be a part of the theatre productions. Also, this campus is gorgeous. When I was trying to make my decision, I took a walk around campus to try to relax a little. It sure as heck worked! The decision was pretty easy after that.
What was your favorite class? How did it expand your knowledge?
Organic chemistry definitely was one of the hardest classes I have ever taken and I’m pretty sure my brain grew at lot during that course. It was challenging, but I also made some of the best friendships in that class, sharing struggles and brain meltdowns as we desperately tried to figure out how we gained a random carbon. My all-time favorite course, however, would have to be Acting I with Rebecca Lingafelter. That class fundamentally changed the way I see the world. Rebecca taught me how to breathe, let go, and really, truly listen. The tools I developed in that class, surprisingly, also helped me in my chemistry courses and extracurricular activities. I could feel myself becoming more present in my day-to-day life and loving every tiny thing around me.
What was the best thing you were involved with at L&C outside of class?
All of the productions L&C puts on every year have been so wonderful to be a part of. When I was considering colleges, it didn’t even cross my mind to look at the theatre departments because I didn’t think any would let a strange little chemist like me audition for their shows. L&C sure proved me wrong. I even got to play a mad scientist for someone’s senior thesis and help create the experiments that were used in the show!
Do you feel as though L&C has changed you?
YES!!! But here’s the thing: Even though time changes everyone, I am especially happy with how L&C has changed me. I have learned how to love everything around me and through that find a passion for everything I do. I had to take risks and challenge myself in ways that I initially didn’t want to be challenged, but I knew that I had a safety net of friends and professors who would catch me if I were about to fall into a pit of lava. I feel stronger and more loved than I have ever felt before. As scary as it is, I think I am ready to jump again.
Do you have any graduation plans?
Yes, I do! It’s a short plan, but it will give me a little more time to make a bigger one! I have been given the wonderful opportunity to do research this summer in the 2019 National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) program in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Utah. After that, I’ll take a gap year during which I will be applying to PhD programs in chemistry. I would also love to go backpacking abroad and maybe try to learn how to play guitar or something like that. I am honestly really excited to just sit down in a nice patch of grass, with a few bars of chocolate by my side, and read for pleasure as slowly as I want to.
What message do you hope to convey to your fellow graduates at commencement?
I think the most important thing I want my class to know is that they are loved and supported. I mean, look at this incredible journey we just took together! It’s kind of wild to think, as big as our class is, that all of our paths crossed in some way. We will always have these memories of wonderful things to look back on; no one can ever take away from us. I think we are especially lucky, being part of the biggest class the college has ever seen. It means that there are a lot more people who are here for you. Even when I am sitting in my rocking chair I will still have friends from college who will want to rock out with me. Classzilla has some of the most loving, supportive people I know and I am so grateful for each and every one of them. We got this.