Senior Speaker: Tuse Mahenya BA ’21
Tuse Mahenya BA ’21 will address graduates at the College of Arts and Sciences commencement on May 8.
Tuse Benson Mahenya BA ’21 will be the student speaker at the College of Arts and Sciences virtual commencement on Saturday, May 8. We spoke to Tuse, an English major with a concentration in Entrepreneurship, about her time at Lewis & Clark, her love of storytelling, and her experience organizing Lewis & Clark’s first TEDx event.
What three words best describe your Lewis & Clark experience?
Wonderful, challenging, everlasting
What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?
Thanks to my father, I knew I wanted a liberal arts education at a fairly small college. I didn’t know Lewis & Clark existed until Brian White, director of the wonderful International Students and Scholars office, came all the way to my high school in Eswatini. I sat with Brian for about 20 minutes and left feeling like he genuinely cared about what I cared about. It was then, way before I had even applied, that I realized this might be the place for me. Lewis & Clark’s final selling point for me was the generous financial aid I received as a Davis United World Scholar.
What was your favorite class? How did it expand your knowledge?
We Tell Ourselves Stories with Megan Pugh has been my favorite class to date. The class validated the importance of telling stories for me and became the beginning of my walk toward pursuing a career in book publishing. We didn’t just read and analyze books and art—we discussed why we tell stories, who we tell them to, and who benefits from hearing them. The class’s title was inspired by Joan Didion’s The White Album, which opens with “we tell ourselves stories in order to live.” In many little ways, that class has shaped the person I am today for the better.
What was the best thing you were involved with at L&C outside of class?
Organizing the first TEDx event at Lewis & Clark my junior year was one of the best things I did on this campus. It was the first time I truly did something out of sheer passion. It taught me how wonderful, challenging, and important it is to step out and just try something new. Thanks to Chrys Hutchings, the associate director at the Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership, for encouraging me to apply to Winterim, which taught me how to lead, listen, and connect with people. It was during that week that I learned I could be the kind of person that creates space for others, which gave me the courage to create an event that let my peers and campus community share their own stories.
How do you feel supported as an international student?
Brian White, Bridget Flaherty, and Paola Dennis in the International Students and Scholars Office… that’s how I feel supported at L&C. Any international student on this campus can tell you the many stories of how these three people have cared for, come through, and fought for each one of us. From making sure we had a place to live when the campus was closed and none of us could fly back to our home countries because of the pandemic, to driving us to dentist appointments because we can’t drive on this side of the road, they were the first people who made Lewis & Clark feel like a home to me.
Do you have any graduation plans?
I’m thankful to be continuing as a creative production intern at Curology, a personalized skincare company based in San Francisco. In dedication to my passion for stories, I will also be attending New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute this June, and Columbia University’s Publishing Course in September.
What advice do you have for your fellow graduates?
I remember writing the answer to this question for our Admissions office when I was an overnight host for prospective students my sophomore year. I don’t know how I knew this back then, but I’m happy to say that my answer still stands. This was my response from two years ago: “No matter what happens, things will always work out for you in the end. It may take time, and I cannot guarantee that it will work out the way you expected, but if there’s anything college has taught me thus far, it’s that you will be so good.”