You End Up Finding Yourself

December 15, 2016

Aaron Dawley '18

Three years ago Aaron Dawley '18 sat at home in Suffolk, VA, weighing his options for college and came to a conclusion: Hampden-Sydney was the best opportunity to further his education, not only as a student, but as a citizen. Now, halfway through his junior year, he has found his niche on campus.

The College community encourages freshmen to participate in clubs and activities. Aaron heeded this advice, diving in eagerly as soon as he arrived on the Hill. "You end up finding yourself when you try to find what you are interested in and a group of people you mesh with," he says.

Aaron exemplifies the well-rounded liberal arts student, balancing athletic and artsy sides by playing club soccer and serving as President of the Acousticals, a student a capella group. In addition, he practices his faith as Vice President of Catholic Campus Ministries, and is a member of the Minority Student Union - all while serving as a Resident Advisor.

Many Hampden-Sydney men - like Aaron - believe that extracurricular involvement is vital to success. This claim is not hollow. According to a December 2012 study in the Chronicle of Higher Education, employers said that extracurricular activities are more valued than a candidate's GPA, the relevance of coursework to positions, or college reputation. Extracurriculars can help cultivate the whole individual, particularly enhancing one's personal development.

The discipline Aaron has focused on most is leadership. "A leader," he explains, "is someone who is firm in his or her beliefs - and will stand up for what they believe to be right - but will work with others to accomplish the mission at hand." Most importantly, Aaron adds, successful leaders must be able to listen to all sides and lead by example. 

And lead by example he does. As a Resident Advisor, Aaron's job is to watch out for his fellow students. He encourages them to take advantage of clubs, but to manage their time effectively as well. College life at Hampden-Sydney promotes - and requires - a balance of academics and activities. Aaron feels that "you can do anything at Hampden-Sydney if you apply yourself."

In January, as students prepare to start spring semester on the Hill, Aaron will be in route to Barcelona for a semester abroad. When he returns for his senior year, Aaron will of course continue to lead his peers, undoubtedly with a broadened cultural understanding to add to his already impressive repertoire of skills.