Hometown: Newtown, Conn.
WCSU Degree: Bachelor of Arts, Anthropology/Sociology
Activities: Treasurer of WCSU Bellydance Community, member of Anthropology Club, member of OWLS (Older, Wiser Learners), work part time as a bartender in Westport, single mom to a 4-year old (I consider this a MORE than full time position), distance runner for fun
Honors and Awards: Member of WCSU Honors Program; Dean's List all semesters; Steven Ward Social Science Scholarship recipient; Merit-based full tuition scholarship recipient; member of Alpha Sigma Lambda; member of Iota Iota Iota, the national women's honors society; recipient of Howard G. Post Sociology Award; 3.82 GPA
Sarah Hall is one of those people who started down a path in life, found it wasn't what she wanted, and then pursued her passion with all the enthusiasm of someone who has been given a second chance. "I floundered in community college for years with little focus," Hall says. "I took a couple of classes at a time and was much more focused on my career in finance through those years. After my marriage, the birth of my son and the financial crisis, I abandoned finance and decided to pursue with rigor a degree in anthropology." Hall transferred to WCSU from Housatonic Community College and Norwalk Community College with almost two years of study behind her.
Hall says when she took her first anthropology course, at 21, she thought, "I could study this for the rest of my life and never know enough." It is with that spirit that she has undertaken her studies at WCSU, although it took many years to get that focus. "I struggled for a long time with what I wanted to do, and study, partly because my interests are so varied," she says. "I have spoken with many nontraditional students who struggle with picking a major because the pressure of age and responsibility can make it seem — and maybe it's true — that we have so much more on the line. If I pick the wrong course of study, am I going to regret it forever? Will I be stuck doing something I don't love? Those questions haunted me for some time, and it was only through the guidance of my professors that I came to realize that what I choose as a course of major study matters much less than I thought."
WCSU was the obvious choice for the Newtown resident because of its location, affordability and access to the WCSU Childcare Center, which Hall utilized for her son, Nicholas, after he turned 3. "It was a pleasant surprise to meet a community of faculty and students who have truly shaped and molded the direction my life has gone," she says.
Hall can't say enough about the social sciences department at Western. "After picking social science as a major, I had a long, and as I look back on it now, life-changing conversation with [Professor of Anthropology] Dr. Rob Whittemore, who was the department chair at the time. He became my adviser and has indeed been most influential in my academic career. I took two classes with him in one semester, and 'learned how to write.' I say that because I learned a way to express myself that is meaningful, intelligent, and was challenging at a level I had not been before. Damla Isik taught with a no-nonsense approach to social and women's issues. Her teaching style forced me to independently research challenging and difficult material, and she did not bat an eyelash when I produced 'A' work for her. It was always as if she were saying, "I told you you could do it, what were you so worried about?" I felt very much like I was at the edge of a very high diving board during my first two semesters here. Looking back, however, I can see that I was the only one who thought I might not be able to jump. Leslie Lindenauer in the history department has taught two of the honors classes I have taken, and become an incredible source of support to me. Her expectations are extremely high, and she is willing to help her students succeed in any way she can. Averell Manes has been another voice that has guided me and shaped my thinking and writing, and been particularly helpful through the graduate application process. She doesn't sugar-coat how competitive and difficult this process is; something her students very much appreciate. I can only hope to carry with me the tone and voices of the professors who have influenced, molded and shaped my academic life."
Asked what she will remember most about her Western experience, Hall says, "I have so many. I can't say there is one experience that sticks out for me more than others, but meeting the community of people I have surrounded myself with has been a life-changing experience. I have gravitated towards faculty and peers that are like-minded in their love of learning, divergent in their viewpoints and challenging to the ideas I have, constantly forcing me to think outside the box. I have made friends I will have for a lifetime here. Dinners at my house have become a staple in my brainstorming process and I hope as helpful for my friends."
After graduation, Hall says she will pursue a graduate degree. "I have known I would pursue graduate education since before I came to WCSU, but had no idea for what," she says. "From my first class with Carina Bandhauer, Theories of Race and Racism, I knew that I needed to do something to help under-represented and/or disenfranchised populations. Public advocacy and administration seemed to be a concrete area of study to bridge the research and methodological work I have done with direct action. So I will be attending Brown University to earn a Master's in Public Administration in the fall."
Hall’s advice to new students entering WCSU is: "Did I mention I was a high school dropout? If I can be successful with huge gaps in my education, then anyone can. Treat college like a full-time job. Take it seriously; it will come with you wherever you go. Stick with people who are doing the work it takes to be successful; you can support each other. Nothing is easy, you have to work hard and be diligent, but it's worth it. Get involved. Join clubs, serve as an officer, and take advantage of the help that is available. There is a vast amount of support at WCSU: the Math Lab, the Writing Center, our professors will bend over backwards to help you succeed. Start building your resume now, it will make things easier later. And for goodness' sake, do the reading!"