Students

“SMC Seminar and Investigations have influenced me. They really cause you to stretch yourself more and think of different ways to problem solve.  They help to broaden your thinking.”

SMC is a good home for students who...

  • Are curious, imaginative, and love learning,
  • Challenge us as much as we challenge you,
  • Make intelligent and interesting mistakes, and
  • Are self-directed and have lots of interests.

Helen Ard

Lehigh University South Mountain College - Helen Ard
2017
Highspire, PA

I am a sophomore Global Studies major here at Lehigh University. My favorite region of the world is the Middle East as well as the Islamic world at large. Taking Arabic for my language has opened my eyes to how beautiful different languages are! But I have many, many interests and so far I'm involved in tutoring middle school students, a member of the Muslim Students Association, the Middle Eastern student union, Phi Sigma Pi, and the Philosophy club.

Dabney Brice

Lehigh University South Mountain College - Dabney Brice
2018
New Windsor, NY

As a first year student, I am really excited about the learning experience that SMC provides. Not having to worry about distribution requirements or grades makes the topics we’re discussing even more worthwhile to learn and more exciting to research.  I am very excited to go against the traditional class setting and explore more freely.

Karol Cyrklaff

Lehigh University South Mountain College -  Karol Cyrklaff

“SMC is what college is supposed to be about—learning about lots of things and being able to pursue lots of interests,” is how Karol Cyrklaff ’13 (women’s studies) described his decision to join the program.

One of Cyrklaff’s many interests includes volunteering for the Homework Club. He assists with the “America Reads/America Counts” program run through Lehigh’s Community Service Office. During his sophomore year, Karol served as a site leader for the program, helping kids in first through fifth grades with homework and structured playtime for 90 minutes everyday after school.

Cyrklaff’s likes that in SMC you have a say in what you learn about and an opportunity to influence the direction of the course.

Hillary Engelman

Lehigh University South Mountain College - Hillary Engelman
2015
Deerfield, IL

Although I didn't join SMC until my sophomore year, it has since been an integral part of my Lehigh experience. Some of the most meaningful discussions I've had, discoveries I've made, and people I have encountered have been a result of my SMC experience. Projects I've been a part of include:  a paper about Octavia Butler’s disruption of the typical science fiction genre and an online game on decision making in the context of a first year Lehigh Student. In addition to SMC, I am involved in a number of other campus organizations. I serve on the Executive Board for Challah for Hunger, and am on my second term of the Executive Committee for my sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha.

Kylie Gray

Lehigh University South Mountain College - Kylie Gray

“Learning without boundaries” is what attracted Kylie Gray ’14 to SMC. “In high school I experienced traditional learning methods and I was looking for a different approach.” SMC provided Gray with unique learning experiences during her first year. Her SMC Seminar studied comedy and a small group of students produced a remake of the movie Sex and the City. “It was an experience not found elsewhere. We recreated the story from scratch and did all the writing and recording. I was very proud of the outcome.” Gray’s Investigations project focused on 19th Century immigration from Ireland to the United States. “I wanted to find a way to visually show the narratives through quotes.” Gray’s creative solution involved making a quilt for her project.

Gray is also a member of the Lehigh track team. “Being involved in a sport is a huge time commitment but I really enjoy the time with my teammates.”

Karen Huang

Lehigh University South Mountain College - Karen Huang
2017
Brooklyn, NY

I often find it difficult to define myself by a set of organizations, interests, activities, etc., as these are things that I participate in often, but are not me. I paint, but I am not just an artist. I am a cognitive science major, but cognitive science is not all that I’m interested in. The one thing I feel that much of my actions are based off of is the desire to do something or create that makes a difference in the manner that I want to. Purpose. It is this desire that drew me to SMC as it gave me the impression that it is a program that will allow me to integrate any topic under the sun into projects that are worthwhile to me. What I am most looking forward to in the SMC program is having my ideas challenged on an intellectual basis because it is only if my ideas are challenged that I can reconstruct the way I think.

Caraline Jeffrey

Lehigh University South Mountain College - Caraline Jeffrey
2018
Lusby, MD

This is my first semester at Lehigh. I’ve been described before as having “intellectual ADD”— I’m interested in such a wide variety of topics that I can never manage to focus on just one. I have a love for the arts, both performing and visual. I act, participate in technical theater, draw, paint, and I’m on the photo staff of the yearbook. I also like to write and I work on the school newspaper. In my free time I read, watch movies, travel, and study the outdoors. I have so many interests that I can't even begin to choose a major, and that is precisely why I chose to join SMC. The program affords me the ability to explore my options without the restriction of general education requirements, while additionally pushing my communication and critical thinking skills that will help me in whatever I may decide to pursue.

Kaylee Kilgore

Lehigh University South Mountain College - Kaylee Kilgore
2017
Rockland, ME and Hershey, PA

I am the president of Lehigh’s Philosophy Club, I volunteer with local Girl Scouts, and with the Lehigh Prison Project. I plan to major in Global Studies with the goal of being a high school social studies teacher. I am also very interested in honeybees and the pollinator’s role in our food supply. 

Anna Li

Lehigh University South Mountain College - Anna Li
2018
China

I’m interested in art. For example, painting and playing the guitar and the Chinese Zenith (Gu Zheng). What’s more, I like to work out and read books. Since English is not my first language, it will be a challenge! I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone and make new friends. I believe SMC will provide me with a great experience and widen my horizon. And of course, I hope I can always feel I’m in the SMC community.

Maricruz Zavala Salas

Lehigh University South Mountain College - Maricruz Zavala Salas
2018
Reading, Pennsylvania

Because I am a first year student I have had no prior association with South Mountain College. Nonetheless, this first year experience has been amazing thus far. What I am most looking forward to in this program is its “discovery driven education.” I am thrilled to have the opportunity to conduct an investigation on a topic that ignites my intellectual curiosity and to have the chance to work with other students who share similar or different interest than my own. Through the educational freedom that South Mountain College program provides, I ultimately hope to find my passion.

David Tench

Lehigh University South Mountain College - David Tench

“SMC is open enough to allow each student to engage their curiosity and work on interesting problems,” is how David Tench ’13 (math) describes one of the best aspects of the program. “This freedom is very valuable. I decided that I wanted to think about feet, and shoes, and how what we wear on our feet affects how we interact with our environment. I ended up with some surprising conclusions, and many more questions. I chose an interesting, difficult problem, grappled with it, and then figured out how to explain to others what I had learned.”

Outside of the classroom, Tench plays saxophone for Lehigh’s Jazz Band, an Aikido club member, a tutor and a volunteer firefighter. His honors include being named a TRAC writing fellow, an Eckhard Scholar, a Dean’s Scholar, a National Merit Scholar, and a Phi Eta Sigma honors society member.

Eugene Vivino

Lehigh University South Mountain College - Eugene Vivino
2016
San Diego, CA

I’m a 3rd year Earth Sciences student here at Lehigh! I care deeply about our world, and enjoy working to improve it. SMC helps me take part in a group of like-minded friends, and together we learn and act. I have learned the value of friendship and relationships in great part due to the closeness of SMC ties. The structure of the program breaks down the barriers traditional education may sometimes raise, and shares with you an honest and wonderful glimpse of the world today. I’m immensely thankful to be in the program, and am undoubtedly a better person for being a part of it.

Aaron Wilensky

Lehigh University South Mountain College - Aaron Wilensky

Aaron Wilensky ’12 (political science) joined SMC as a first-year student and was drawn to the program because he “liked the idea of one-on-one interaction with professors. SMC puts students on a level playing field with professors – especially when topics are outside of their expertise. The 2010-11 Investigations theme Migration was a great experience because it allowed me to conduct intense research for a whole year on Muslims and their way of life. I have been interested in this subject since 9-11.”

In 2011, Wilensky was awarded the Elisha P. Wilbur Scholarship Prize for high GPA (he earned a 4.0). Outside of the classroom, he served as a gryphon during his sophomore and junior years and as head gryphon at M&M his senior year.  He was a member of the University Committee on Discipline. Wilensky also was a co-founder of “Lucky Mug,” a company he formed with three other SMC students (Mario Delgado, Patrick Lee, and Jake Kennon). The company began with the idea of developing phone apps to aid students in the college search process.