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PCAL Stories

Stories about our liberal arts majors and their unique Hilltopper Journey.

We are proud of our liberal arts students that #ClimbWithUs. Learn more about their victories, their struggles, and their personal journey to the TOP in the stories below.

Maria Siewers


Siewers wants to make change both locally and globally

Siewers wants to make change both locally and globally

Photograph by Jared Zweben.

Written by: Dawson McCoun, September 29th, 2020

For Maria Siewers, a junior from Bowling Green, KY majoring in sociology with a concentration in family, gender and sexuality, understanding the world has been a driving force.

“Humans are social beings and there is so much to learn about us when we understand how and why we act the way we do,” Siewers said. This interest is what led her to study sociology and pursue an education both within Potter College and abroad.

Siewers attributes her interest in sociology to the semester she spent studying at Harlaxton College in Grantham, England. While abroad, her interest and understanding of the discipline was piqued as she saw how different societies operated first-hand. Siewers said that this experience has also motivated her to pursue a graduate degree abroad – particularly in Europe.

Siewers links her interest in a global understanding to her experience in Potter College. She started as a gender and women’s studies minor but switched to a sociology major when she discovered her passion for the discipline. Her favorite course has been ANTH 343: Anthropology of Gender, which opened her up to a different perspective on the subject. 

Along with sociology, Siewers is studying communication disorders in the College of Health and Human Services. Siewers hopes to combine her two majors to pursue a career in speech pathology working with people transitioning genders. Additionally, her passion for ensuring others can confidently and effectively communicate led her to take additional coursework in the Department of Communication. Though she does not pursue a degree in the Department of Communication, Siewers believes helping others communicate the way they want will lead to a more just and fair world.

While her studies may not be confined to one discipline, she said this has only expanded her knowledge and proved beneficial. Siewers believes her experience at WKU has equipped her to be a successful global citizen and changemaker.


For more information about the Potter College of Arts and Letters, visit: https://www.wku.edu/pcal/

For more information about the Department of Sociology and Criminology, visit: https://www.wku.edu/sociology-criminology/index.php

For more information about the College of Health and Human Services, visit: https://www.wku.edu/chhs/

For more information about the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, visit: https://www.wku.edu/communicationdisorders/


Elma Jašarević


Jašarević forges connections as first-generation college student

Jašarević forges connections as first-generation college student

Written by: Mary Bidwell, December 2nd, 2020

At the age of two, Elma Jašarević, a graduating senior from Bowling Green, moved to the United States with her parents due to the Bosnian Genocide. As early as middle school, she knew she wanted to become a criminal prosecutor. Pursuing that aspiration, Jašarević chose to major in Criminology and Political Science.

"The reason I chose to go into law is that I want to help stop things like that from ever occurring again,” Jašarević expressed. “A lot of people have the same goal and vision - I'm just trying to do my part to help."

While looking for options to pursue her future career, Jašarević fell in love with WKU and the opportunity it presented while on a campus tour.

"I could stay here in my hometown, which I love, and I can also get a degree in my field," Jašarević said.

Additionally, Jašarević was excited to join a program with a smaller student-teacher ratio and more opportunities to get to know her professors and peers. Throughout her college career, Jašarević has felt the impact of that supportive network – especially as a first-generation college student.

"I had so many unique experiences that people who weren't first-generation wouldn't have. I didn't have a person in my family I could go to with questions, so it was a process of trial and error," Jašarević said.

However, Jašarević did not face those experiences alone. Thanks to her classmates and WKU faculty and staff members, she found a helping hand at every turn. In her first days on campus, she collaborated with a fellow first-generation college student to map out the best routes to their fall semester classes and notes on important campus buildings. 

Jašarević also developed strong friendships and connections in her classes and as a peer mentor for the Department of Sociology and Criminology. Through her studies, she met a wide variety of individuals - but the most unforgettable memory came from her penology class, which discussed prison management and the treatment of offenders. 

"One of my favorite memories at WKU is meeting two of my best friends as part of a group project. Ever since that project, we have been great friends and had fantastic study sessions. Even though they are off doing different things now - Austin is in the United States Army and Melanie is a social worker - we are still connected," Jašarević said. 

In addition to making personal connections, Jašarević helped facilitate networking and learning about career opportunities for a wider group of classmates. By serving as a peer mentor for the Department of Sociology and Criminology, she aided in coordinating a wide variety of outreach efforts, such as a freshman welcome event, a Women in Justice panel, and a peer mentor takeover on the department's Instagram account. 

"We had over 20 speakers come to the Women in Justice panel. It was so awesome seeing all of these women in different positions coming to speak to us, share their perspectives, and how they reached their positions," Jašarević said. 

Most recently, Jašarević helped organize a Federal Law Enforcement Panel, featuring panelists from the U.S. Marshals, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, and more. She worked closely with Dr. Holli Drummond, Head of the Sociology and Criminology Department, and Penny Bowles, Deputy Chief – Support Services Bureau for the Bowling Green Police Department, to contact the speakers. Through her efforts, Jašarević helped facilitate opportunities for her peers to network, speak with professionals in the field, and meet new friends. 

Reflecting on her journey, Jašarević noted how WKU has helped her find herself, both personally and professionally.

"I used to be a very shy person – meeting people, having classes, being a peer mentor, all of those things helped me get out of my shell. I will always be thankful to WKU for that," Jašarević said.

Jašarević noted that numerous faculty and staff members positively shaped her WKU experience and offered unique connections to the local community.

"All of our professors are so passionate about what they do - it makes me know that I'm picking the right degree for me. They reassure me that this is what I want to do, that this is the profession I want," Jašarević said. 

In addition to the supportive, tight-knit network, Jašarević noted the value of applied learning and community connections in her classes. 

"I love that WKU has adjunct professors - such as Deputy Chief Penny Bowles and Instructor Tambra Steelman - who are actually in the field. It really helps give you a different perspective, and they have so many connections," Jašarević said. 

Jašarević knows the power of networking firsthand, through her position at the Commonwealth Attorney's Office for the Eighth Judicial Circuit. Aided by a coworker at her part-time job who also worked for the Kentucky State Police, Jašarević gained an internship at the Commonwealth Attorney's Office. She later advanced to a position as a runner in the office, giving her firsthand experience in her field. Together, Jašarević's majors and practical experience gave her valuable insight into her future career. 

"I want to learn why our world works the way it does. Through my courses, I can learn why people do the things they do and gain a better understanding of other people," Jašarević said. 

Looking back, Jašarević expressed her gratitude for all of the individuals who helped her along the way - most notably, her family. 

"Coming from a family of immigrants who moved across the ocean to give me a better life, I always had standards I held myself up to. My parents pushed me to be the best person I can be - telling me that I am smart, I am more than capable, and I have got this. I owe all my success to them," Jašarević said. 

After graduation, Jašarević plans to pursue the next steps toward becoming a criminal prosecutor – studying for the LSAT examination and seeking admission to law school.

"I know I can do this. It is now up to me to get that better life," Jašarević said. 


For more information about earning a degree in Sociology and Criminology, visit https://www.wku.edu/sociology-criminology/.

For more information about earning a degree in Political Science, visit https://www.wku.edu/political-science/.


Nyla Rogers


Rogers gains confidence through classwork, student organizations

Rogers gains confidence through classwork, student organizations

Written by: Dawson McCoun, November 24th, 2020

When searching for a student who embodies the WKU spirit, look no further than Nyla Rogers, a senior from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, majoring in criminology and Chinese.

Rogers is an active presence all over campus. She serves as chapter president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., where she has managed, planned and created events to serve the community. “Being a part of this organization has taught me how to be more confident in myself and what I have to offer to the world,” Rogers said.

Rogers is also active in WKU Housing and Residence Life. She serves as a resident assistant in Minton Hall. Through this position, she serves as a resource to her peers and plays a key role in ensuring student success. Rogers is also active with the Intercultural Student Engagement Center Academy. She said ISEC has fostered the growth that has made her into the successful young woman she is today.

Rogers said her experiences in Potter College of Arts & Letters (PCAL) have not only helped her academically succeed but help others too. With the array of classes the college offers, students are able to expand on subjects both inside and outside their major. Rogers said her favorite class in PCAL had been the criminology course “Homicide and Serial Homicide” with Dr. Carrie Trojan.

Along with criminology, Rogers is developing her skills as a global citizen by studying Chinese. Through the Department of Modern Languages, she has studied abroad in China twice – spending three weeks in Tianjin and two months in Shanghai. She has also spent three weeks studying abroad in Italy.

Rogers was able to study abroad by earning the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The scholarship helps undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need to study overseas, gain proficiency in diverse languages, and experience new cultures.

When discussing her time in Shanghai, Rogers said, “that was one of the best experiences I had while studying abroad as my language skills became significantly better.”

Rogers’ aspirations extend far beyond campus – in fact, they cover the entire world! After completing her studies, Rogers hopes to work for either the FBI or the United Nations. She is determined to make a positive change in this world with her background at WKU and PCAL.

Rogers’ successes – both on and off the Hill – have prepared her to make an impact at WKU and across the world. The future is bright with leaders like her.

Bridget Beavin's Picture

History and Political Science major aims for career in public service

History and Political Science major aims for career in public service

Written by: Amanda Beavin, October 27th, 2020

Bridget Beavin has always been interested in a career in public service. Raised in Louisville, KY, she is now a sophomore on the Hill pursuing degrees in History and Political Science. Ultimately, she plans to work in the government or the non-profit sector. Beavin believes WKU is setting her up well for this career path. 

“My Political Science and History classes have given me great context of social issues to be addressed and the political institutions through which to fix them. Also, the Joint Undergraduate-Master's Program (JUMP) allows me to take graduate classes as an undergraduate student, providing me a fast-track towards earning my Masters in Public Administration. WKU offers many undergraduate research opportunities, such as the FUSE grant and internship opportunities with local campaigns and non-profits,” Beavin said. 

Beavin is also a member of the Potter College of Arts and Letters (PCAL) Dean’s Council of Students, the college’s official ambassadorial group. She finds the PCAL community to be incredibly supportive and creative. “Whether it’s social science majors coming up with innovative ways to solve society’s problems or fine arts majors who create beautiful works of arts, everyone in Potter looks at the world in a different and unique way,” Beavin said. 

In this election season, she has valued the opportunity to learn about the election and voting system through her History, Political Science, and English classes. She stated, “As a Political Science major, elections are extremely important to me, and they should be important to everyone. I think people often take the right to vote for granted but learning about different governments around the world in my classes has taught me to appreciate our right to vote in the US.”

Beavin also shared that she had the opportunity to learn about the candidates in her English 300 class this semester. Each student created a political engagement presentation that shared each political party’s stances on issues such as education, health care, and climate change. “These presentations informed the class about each candidate’s stances, so everyone can be prepared to vote in the upcoming election,” Beavin noted. 

Beavin’s favorite class she has taken at WKU is HON 251: Citizenship & Self, taught by Associate Professor of History, Dr. Alexander Olsen. Not only did she learn about the value of active citizenship at WKU and in greater society, but she also found the class to be a fun experience. Looking back, Beavin noted that, “I met so many of my best friends in that class, and we got to wear costumes and have tea parties!” 

Ultimately, Beavin feels that her experience in PCAL has prepared her to be an active citizen and pursue a career in community engagement.

Hannah Banks Picture

Three unique experiences and four faculty impact WKU grad's success

Three unique experiences and four faculty impact WKU grad's success

Written by: Aurelia Spaulding, December 9th, 2019

WKU anthropology major Hannah Banks will graduate on December 14 with three unique applied learning experiences that will hopefully pave the way for her future. 

“I thought that I had so many opportunities to do so many different things here that I wanted to get my feet wet,” Banks said.  “And I wanted to be a well-rounded anthropologist and not just be able to talk about one sub discipline.”

The three unique experiences include working as an archaeology field technician at Mammoth Cave National Park, participating in an archaeology field school in Mongolia, and completing an independent research project on autoimmune disease. 

As an archaeology field technician at Mammoth Cave, Banks’ position is part of a MACA Archeological Site Stewardship Program grant awarded to Dr. Darlene Applegate, Folk Studies and Anthropology Department Head.  “They do regular visits to archaeological sites in the park that are vulnerable to damage from natural and human impacts (such as water erosion and unauthorized excavations) and they document and assess conditions of the sites,” Applegate said.

“It was an opportunity that I did not want to pass up, once she (Applegate) asked me during my junior year at WKU,” Banks said.  “The impact of this work is that we are preserving sites from the previous people that inhabited the space. The land and the people who lived on the land are a part of Kentucky's history.”

After starting at Mammoth Cave, Banks spent the summer of 2019 living in a collaborative Western Mongolia Archaeology Project and Field School to learn archaeological field methods. In Mongolia, Banks learned various archaeological field techniques under the direction of Folk Studies and Anthropology Associate Professor Dr. Jean-Luc Houle. He directed the program which was a collaboration between WKU and the National Museum of Mongolia to learn more about nomadic herders during the Bronze Age.

“Hannah did it all. She engaged in the excavation of mortuary, ritual and habitation sites, participated in state-of-the-art archaeological geophysics, worked with our geoarchaeologist, and helped with ethnographic interviews. This all speaks to Hannah’s willingness to go above and beyond and go all in when it comes to her education outside the classroom,” Houle said. 

Different from the previous two experiences, Banks’ independent study is working toward a greater understanding for those that have a chronic illness that may or may not even be fully understood or explainable. 

“Autoimmune diseases are still not fully understood, so I wanted to interview people to get their perspective on their chronic disease even though medical research has not been able to fully pinpoint why these diseases are popping up,” Banks said. 

Banks believes that autoimmune patients are often experiments. She sees them like this because, according to Banks, doctors typically place autoimmune patients on many different kinds of medication before the patient can find the correct treatment that works for them. Banks explained, “For example, there are so many autoimmune diseases, but the medications that are out there for autoimmune diseases are sort of one size fits all because some medications are used to treat multiple autoimmune diseases, even if the diseases aren't similar at all. It's a complicated issue that's affecting women, a growing number of which are in their twenties.” 

Banks believes this project is a stepping stone for future research. “In the future, I'd be interested in addressing what puts women at a greater risk for autoimmune diseases, if access to healthcare changes things, and if food quality/nutrition can play a role in the development of these kinds of diseases.”  

Hannah Banks came to WKU knowing that she wanted to pursue graduate school and eventually earn a PhD. While the three applied learning experiences described above will contribute to her academic success, she acknowledges four anthropology professors for their impact as well. 

 “...I found my home in the anthropology department and that has one-hundred percent made my experience better than I ever could have imagined. The four anthropology professors are fantastic and they inspired me to go after my own interests within the discipline,” Banks said. “Without them, I would not have been able to participate in any of these activities so I am very thankful for them and the opportunities that they presented me.” 

Banks went on to acknowledge the faculty who contributed to her inside and outside the classroom experience in addition to Applegate and Houle. Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology Associate Professor Dr. Kate Hudepohl serves as Bank’s faculty advisor for her directed study. Although she did not work personally with Assistant Professor Dr. Ashley Stinnett, Banks expressed gratitude for Stinnett always trying to help her and give her advice.

“It's rare for students at other schools to be able to work in multiple subdisciplines of anthropology and it took me so long to narrow down my own interests that I'm very happy I got to do a little bit of everything,” Banks added.  “The four professors in the Anthropology department are truly amazing because they all bring different things to the table and they're willing to help you and give you opportunities to do many amazing things during your undergrad.”  

For more information about WKU’s Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology, visit www.wku.edu/fsa.

Daisy Major Picture

PCAL Dean's Council president (2019-2020) reflects on DCS experience

PCAL Dean's Council president (2019-2020) reflects on DCS experience

Written by: Jordan Fries, February 25th, 2020

College is not meant to be a purely academic experience. For many students, it is a chance to expand their horizons. For Potter College’s Dean’s Council of Students (DCS), many members receive opportunities to grow and give back to the university that they wouldn’t have inside a college classroom. DCS President Daisy Major and DCS Staff Advisor Cierra Waller know firsthand the positive impact this organization can have on DCS, both members and WKU students in general. 

“It has definitely helped with that idea of the Potter College family making everyone feel welcome,” said Waller, “We have so many programs (12 academic units), so we’re pretty big, and I think one of the benefits of DCS is that they are able to reach students through their own respective disciplines. It is a unique student-on-student experience where they are able to give that positive impact and being willing to serve.” Waller has been serving as DCS’s staff advisor for almost five years and is proud of how the members have been representing Potter College. “It’s been great! Actually, DCS is the bright spot of my day. It’s a very rewarding experience to work with the students and seeing them excited about doing events and listening [to] their stories about what drew them to WKU. All of the students are very passionate about their programs, so they represent us very well.” 

DCS plays a vital role in Potter College’s student recruitment and community outreach. “DCS is our Potter College Student Ambassador group. Our student ambassadors handle our college orientation, recruitment, and retention events,” said Waller. “They serve as guides, they field questions from prospective students and families, they work current students, they help with graduation. They essentially perform service for the college.” For Major, DCS has been an important part of her growth as a student and as a person, and she looks forward to her future within the organization.

Major, a history major from Hickman, KY, was recruited into DCS in Spring 2019, and this is her first semester as the organization’s president. “One of the previous presidents was my sister’s roommate, so she recruited me last spring. She really loved it and was really excited about it, and she thought that I would be a good fit with the other members and the mission of DCS.” Learning to balance the responsibilities of her junior year of college and her newfound leadership role has offered unique challenges, but Major takes them in stride. “It is a little bit more responsibility because as a member, you are mostly just getting events ready, meeting people and helping students,” said Major. “It’s pretty much the same as president, except I’m overseeing everyone else as well as myself.” Though the transition into a leadership role has been challenging, Major is grateful that DCS has given her the opportunity to reach out to the WKU community. “I wasn’t as involved when I first came to WKU,” said Major, “but once I got recruited onto DCS, I got to know my professors, and the incoming students, the potential students, the students that are already here. It has helped with making connections with people and getting the word out about DCS. Knowing people in DCS has helped me get to know people in other colleges as well.” 

Visit https://www.wku.edu/pcal/deans_council_of_students/deans_council_of_students.php to learn more about Potter College’s Dean’s Council and receive more information about applications and recruitment. If you have any questions about DCS, email wkupcaldcs@gmail.com to reach out to the organization directly. 

Camille Acosta's Picture

Acosta shares what Hispanic Heritage Month means to her

Acosta shares what Hispanic Heritage Month means to her

September 23, 2020

Camille Acosta is a second-year graduate student in the Folk Studies MA program, concentrating on the Research Thesis track. Growing up in El Paso, Camille has always been a storyteller. Coming out of high school, she was nervous about her transition to college life. Reflecting on her hesitance, she expressed, "I was a little Chicana with big dreams of telling stories about the Latinx experience, and I was worried I wouldn’t be enough.” However, her background in theatre and speech and debate gave her the confidence and ability to attend WKU on a full scholarship for her undergraduate education. Now, in her final year of her graduate program, she has gained the tools to tell stories for the Latinx community; “Because of WKU, I will never stop dreaming big and reminding myself: I’m worth it.”

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States from September 15th to October 15th. For Camille, the month is “not only a personal celebration of the trials and tribulations you as a Latinx individual have conquered, but it is also a time to reflect on the millions of strong Latinx ancestors that have paved the way to your success.” In the fashion of a true storyteller, she describes the significance of the month with a poetic verse:

“From the shining artistic icons like Selena Quintanilla-Pérez and Frida Kahlo who taught you to stay true to yourself and hold your cultural heritage on a pedestal, to your selfless abuelitas and abuelitos who helped you learn that with hard work and perseverance, you can capture the world with your heart; our blood is ignited by the passion and brilliance of a proud culture. Latinx Heritage Month is everything to me. It gives me the chance to voice my truth on a larger platform for the world to see; because we are deserving of being heard.”

Our college is proud to have students like Camille, who so proudly express and honor their culture, and we happily join her in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month!

Sarah Lyons Picture

EST student helps other English majors through new mentor program

EST student helps other English majors through new mentor program

Written by: Jordan Fries, October 1st, 2019

Sarah Lyons, a WKU junior from Shepherdsville, has had a few changes in her educational journey, but now finds herself in a place to help her peers as a mentor in the English for Secondary teachers’ program.

English for Secondary Teachers is a program in WKU’s Potter College of Arts & Letters in partnership with the School of Teacher Education. The EST program prepares students to teach English in grades 8-12. Lyons started out majoring in another program before deciding to change.

Seeking out help from her fellow students helped Lyons find her place. “It took going through a lot of different people with a lot of different degrees, talking about the future and laying out what I wanted, to understand that I wanted to become an EST major.”

Lyons is one of many English upperclassmen who are using the knowledge they have accumulated during their time at WKU to help new English majors seek out opportunities within the department. The English Department Mentor Program was introduced this year in order to aid incoming English majors with everything from scholarship opportunities to changes in concentration.

“There are so many unanswered questions whenever you’re new to the university and new to your degree,” Lyons said. “The goal of this program is to give people an opportunity to grow inside their university, to figure out who they are, what they want to do, and have support doing it.”

According to Lyons, all students involved in the program benefit from it, whether they are a mentee or a mentor. “I’ve applied more of my student observations to working with my mentees than have in most of my classes,” Lyons said. “For me, specifically, because I am going to be working with younger people in my career, who have a lot of questions and not a lot of answers, it really is a great opportunity to practice some of those skills.”

What makes the experience rewarding for Lyons is giving the mentees the opportunity to navigate the English department with all the right tools. “It makes it harder to do things when you’re not really aware of what they are, so bringing more awareness to all the stuff that’s going on in the English department is beneficial to anyone that’s in the department.”

For more information on English for Secondary Teachers, contact advisor Peggy Otto or visit https://www.wku.edu/english/englishforsecondaryteachers.php.

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