CAAH Class of 2019 dreams big, from designing film sets to helping refugees
In May, the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities at Clemson University will present more than 350 diplomas, including more than 275 undergraduate degrees. Many of the graduating seniors already have big dreams – and solid plans.
One will travel this summer to a Syrian refugee camp to teach English. Another is headed to graduate school at an Ivy League university and eventually wants to design film sets.
A third student has his sights set on working in counterterrorism while a fourth hopes to promote civic engagement among young people worldwide.
Meet some of the best and brightest 2019 graduates of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities:
Greece, then Mozambique
Ted Anastopoulo, 22, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, has a laser-like focus on his future: He wants to help refugees and immigrants.
He’ll journey to Athens, Greece this summer to work in one of its huge refugee camps for three months, teaching English to Syrians who have fled violence in their war-torn homeland.
“I want to pursue a career in refugee and immigration policy, so I think it’s important for me to experience the refugee crisis firsthand,” said Anastopoulo, a Charleston native whose minors are global politics and education.
“Learning English will help refugees find employment, accrue social capital and restore their autonomy and dignity,” Anastopoulo said.
He’s already been working as an English tutor for a Syrian family in the Upstate through a local chapter of World Relief, a non-profit evangelical organization that assists refugees as they transition to life in the United States.
After his work in Greece, Anastopoulo will travel to the southern African nation of Mozambique, site of a recent devastating cyclone, for a two-year stint with the Peace Corps, again teaching English.
“I want to work with vulnerable communities that have been forced to flee violence or famine, just doing what I can to help alleviate these problems,” Anastopoulo said.
Anastopoulo recognizes that the road ahead – learning new languages and dealing with possible social isolation — is not an easy one.
“If you’re not nervous, you’re not prepared,” Anastopoulo said. “People who join the Peace Corps have to understand that it’s one of the hardest things they’ll ever do in their life.”
He plans to return to the United States in a few years to pursue a master’s degree in international relations, which he hopes will be followed by a job with the U.S. State Department or another agency working with refugees and immigrants.
Columbia, then Hollywood
Kylie Walker, 22, has been accepted to the prestigious graduate program in architecture at Columbia University in New York.
What she really wants to do is become a production designer in film.
“Most people think of architecture as buildings, but there’s the potential to get involved with a variety of designs,” said Walker, who is graduating from the School of Architecture with a minor in history and a 3.91 overall grade point ratio.
Before beginning her graduate studies, she’ll enjoy a three-month internship this summer with an architectural firm in her hometown of Columbia, South Carolina.
Her Clemson education has been “life-changing,” she said.
“I’ve always received a lot of encouragement and relief and laughter from the faculty,” Walker said. “They’ve not only been supportive but they always knew I could do more than I thought I could.”
Walker recently received the College’s Phi Kappa Phi Certificate of Merit, awarded to top students who have made a considerable contribution to Clemson University.
Walker is co-director of CU Freedom by Design, a group of architecture students who use their skills to benefit local communities. Among other projects, the group has created a ramp outside a senior citizen facility, refurbished a park in Pendleton and built picnic tables on campus in the courtyard between Lee II and III.
Walker is also president of CU Equity in Architecture, which aims to boost diversity in the male-dominated field of architecture. The group has networked with female professional architects in Greenville, among its other endeavors.
“CU Equity in Architecture is mainly focused on making sure everybody can access the resources they need and everyone at Clemson has a sense of community,” Walker said. “Knowing that you’re supported is really valuable.”
Working in counterterrorism
As Paul Davis graduates in May with a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies, he hopes to secure a job in Washington working in counterterrorism.
At Clemson, Davis’ research in Islamic studies at Clemson sparked his interest in examining ideological extremism.
He’s currently serving an 11-week internship in the Office of Countering Violent Extremism, part of the Bureau of Counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department.
“We look at the underlying drivers of terrorism,” said Davis, a native of Orangeburg, South Carolina.
Davis hopes to parlay his experience as an intern into a job in the State Department or elsewhere in the government.
“The mission of the State Department is second to none – furthering and protecting U.S. interests around the world,” Davis said. “It’s a very noble mission, something I’d like to sign on to.”
Davis was one of only two recipients of the College’s Phi Kappa Phi Certificate of Merit, awarded to top students. The other was Kylie Walker, profiled above.
“The instruction and overall support I had from the Department of Philosophy and Religion was absolutely instrumental in my success, helping to make me a more thoughtful and critically thinking person,” Davis said.
In 2016, Davis enjoyed a study-abroad program in Dubai, exploring Islam and the Arabic language. His honors thesis looked at religious tradition in Saudi Arabia and its connection to global terrorism.
Davis is eyeing graduate school in a few years, with plans to earn a master’s degree in international relations with a concentration in Middle Eastern geopolitics and security.
An advocate for youth
Kevin Rabinovich, 21, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in architecture, wants to be an advocate for younger citizens, helping them to grasp their full potential.
“I want to help young people find their voices and understand why it’s important to be active and involved in society,” Rabinovich said.
The ideas of young people are marginalized, Rabinovich believes, particularly when it comes to their own education.
“Despite being the biggest consumers of education, young people are most disenfranchised when it comes to the decision-making process in education,” said Rabinovich, who has minors in philosophy and digital production arts.
Young people of voting age also feel they have little power, Rabinovich said, and that results in their low turnout at the polls.
Rabinovich himself has been involved in civic engagement since high school. At the age of 14, he founded TEDxYouth@Columbia, a forum for young people to discuss important social issues.
He recently won the College’s Blue Key Academic and Leadership Award, which recognizes a student who has contributed to campus leadership through scholarship.
Rabinovich’s honors thesis is all about civic engagement: It focuses on giving students a voice in designing an architectural curriculum.
In the near future, Rabinovich hopes to work in a government or nonprofit organization that advocates for young people worldwide.
“I want to empower those who are least civically enfranchised,” he said.
How has the School of Architecture inspired his interest in civic engagement?
“The School of Architecture prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders,” Rabinovich said. “You’re encouraged to collaborate, and to be critical of your own ideas, your peers’ ideas and even your professors’ ideas. I think an architecture student enters the world always looking at ways to improve existing systems.”