Introducing Shannon Young ’16

Shannon Young ’16 is an intern with the offices of development and alumni and parent engagement this fall. She will be writing alumni feature stories and posting to social media throughout the term. Read on to hear her voice and her story. 

What do poppy seed bagels, Taylor Swift, and Judith Butler all have in common? The answer is not much—besides being some of my principal interests. My name is Shannon Young and I am a senior English major and Ancient Greek and Roman Studies minor at Furman. This semester, I’m interning in the development office on campus so you’ll be hearing from me periodically.
Why did you decide to come to Furman?

It was during my senior year at Hotchkiss, a boarding school in Connecticut only half an hour from my house, when my family moved to Florida. As I was beginning the college application process, my mom insisted that I apply to at least one college in the South. I had never heard of Furman, but the website was appealing and I applied along with my list of New England colleges. I was planning on going to Wheaton College in Massachusetts until I saw Furman’s campus on Accepted Students Day later that year. Besides the impressive landscaping, bubbling fountains, and immaculate facilities, the students looked happy. And when I learned about all the study abroad options, I was completely hooked.
Why Greek and Roman Studies?

My interest in Latin actually goes back to the 7th grade when I was required to learn basic Latin in addition to continuing my Spanish studies. I loved learning about the culture of Ancient Rome, and finding Latin words and phrases we use in everyday English, like “in medias res” and “quid pro quo.” This introduction to Latin was a huge factor in my applying to Hotchkiss because students could qualify for a special honor called the Classics Diploma. I overloaded in high school, taking four years of Latin and three years of Ancient Greek so that on graduation day, I received a special diploma written in Latin and wore a laurel wreath with my white graduation dress.
Did you want to be an English major before you came to Furman?

Reading and writing have always been my favorite things to do. But I also love Ancient Greek and Latin, and spent much of my time in high school focusing on ancient languages, history, and culture. For a while I thought I wanted to study historical linguistics, and planned on majoring in Classics when I started at Furman. It was after taking my freshman seminar with Dr. Hausmann, and spending my sophomore fall on the British Isles trip, that I realized Ancient Greek was my hobby and English was my passion.
What is your favorite topic to write about?

Generally: travel. Specifically: living in the medieval city of Viterbo. During my junior year of high school, I lived with an Italian host family for nine months to study classics through a program called School Year Abroad (SYA). It was both wonderful (I ate incredible food, slid down a volcanic crater in Sicily, and learned to be independent) and terrible (I was nauseatingly homesick for the first four months and had no background in Italian before arriving). It is still the most difficult and rewarding experience of my life.
What place is next on your list for travel?

India. I had to make the decision last year of whether to go on the May X to study religion and art in Turkey, or to travel to India this fall. My love of classics won out but I’m still dying to walk the streets of Chennai and to see the Taj Mahal.
Why do you think it is important for donors to give to Furman?

Something I’ve already realized in my short time working in the Development Office is that my relationship with Furman isn’t over when I graduate. And I think it’s really special that alumni can give back either to areas of most need, or to specific areas that are close to their hearts. For instance, my study abroad trips are some of the highlights of my time at Furman, and if I knew that my donation would help another student who couldn’t afford to go on her own get to do something that meant so much to me, that would make me feel so happy. To put it simply, donations matter; they influence everything from deserving students’ ability to attend and stay at Furman, to campus renovations, to recruiting and maintaining the incredible faculty Furman is known for. As a student you experience the effects of those donations, and as a donor you are one of the most important reasons why Furman is a wonderful place to work and go to school.


Fall Festival Closing Concert 10/17

3p.m., October 17, McAlister Auditorium. Hugh Ferguson Floyd conducts the closing concert with the Furman Singers & high school choral students. Free.

Professor Allen to speak on “Robot Revolution?” Wednesday at High Noon

Fall 2015 High Noon Schedule

Some experts believe that highly developed robotic devices can be a positive addition to our lives.  Others suggest that intelligent machines could be an imminent threat to humanity.

Dr. Tom Allen

Dr. Tom Allen

Either way, robots that can perform human tasks are only going to become more ubiquitous as we move further into the 21st century.

Furman University computer science professor Tom Allen will talk about where robotics is today and what we can reasonably expect in the near future when he speaks at the university’s High Noon fall lecture series Wednesday, Oct. 14 at noon at the Upcountry History Museum-Furman.

The lecture, “Robot Revolution?” is free and open to the public.

Dr. Allen is the Daniel Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at Furman, and he has been a member of the faculty since 1987.  He holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from Memphis State University, a M.S. from the University of South Carolina, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

Allen’s talk is the third of seven consecutive lectures presented by Furman professors during the fall. All lectures are free and begin at noon on Wednesdays.

The Upcountry History Museum/Furman is located at 540 Buncombe Street in downtown Greenville’s Heritage Green area.

For more information, contact Furman’s Marketing and Public Relations office at 864-294-3107 or

Women’s Soccer vs. ETSU 10/16

7p.m., October 16, Stone Soccer Stadium. General Admission $3.

Furman Chorales and Singers in concert Oct. 22

chorales fall 2013 croppedThe Furman University Men’s and Women’s Chorales and the Furman Singers will present their fall concert Thursday, Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. in Daniel Memorial Chapel on the Furman University campus.

The concert is free and open to the public, and is part of Furman’s Cultural Life Program.

Furman Singers

Conducted by Furman music professors Dr. Vivian Hamilton and Dr. Hugh Ferguson Floyd, the program includes a mix of sacred and traditional hymns, folk tunes and spirituals.

Accompanying the choral groups are Furman freshman Gabriel Smallwood of Florence, and Furman senior Grace Odell of Pelzer.

About Dr. Vivian Hamilton

Dr. Vivian Hamilton is director of the Furman Chorale and a collaborative pianist in the music department. Hamilton has been a singer in the Robert Shaw Institute Festival Singers where she worked with Robert Shaw, and studied conducting with Dan Lewis and Edvard Tchivzhel. She has worked with choirs at Simmons College, Emerson College, the University of South Carolina, Northeastern University, and Clemson University. For 12 years, she conducted the Greater Anderson Musical Arts Consortium Chorale, and is a former president of the South Carolina American Choral Directors Association. Her choral conducting experience also includes work at Baptist and Methodist churches in Massachusetts and South Carolina, and in the public schools of Boston and Upstate South Carolina. She is active in the community as the Minister of Music at First Baptist Church, Greenville, S.C. She has served as a collaborative pianist in Boston, Massachusetts and throughout South Carolina. She was the Principal Keyboardist for the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, playing celeste, piano, and harpsichord.

About Dr. Hugh Floyd

Dr. Hugh Ferguson Floyd is professor of music at Furman, coordinator of choral ensembles and director of the renowned Furman Singers. He is the first recipient of the Bingham L. Vick, Jr. and Judith S. Vick Professorship of Music, established by the Furman Singers Alumni Association. Prior to his appointment at Furman, Floyd served as the Director of Choral Studies at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music at Oberlin College. He also served as Director of Choral Activities and voice instructor at the famed Interlochen Center for the Arts, and a guest lecturer at the Eastman School of Music, and Yale University. Floyd frequently serves as a guest conductor and clinician around the country. In 2010, he was named Artistic Director for the New York State Summer School of the Arts School of Choral Studies. Floyd is a graduate of Furman University, the Eastman School of Music, and the University of Michigan.

For more information about the event, contact Furman’s Music Department at (864) 294-2086, or email the department at

A second chance at a first-class education


Most kids have a lot of growing up to do when they graduate from high school. Breana Vachon had more to do than most.

A late birthday combined with skipping the fourth grade had Vachon facing her first steps into adulthood at a mere 16 years old, and the Laurens, South Carolina native freely admits she wasn’t ready to take them.

“I did well academically in high school, but I was also a lot younger than everyone,” she says. “I think that explains my maturity level leaving high school . . . I had a full scholarship to Winthrop, and I just blew it. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I just went because you’re supposed to.”

So Vachon moved to Greenville and did the other thing you’re supposed to do when you grow up: She got a job. That maturity also allowed her see what she couldn’t in high school: A career path.

“Just having been out in the work force for a while you get a little bit of experience,” she says. “I was in sales, which I did not like, but the bookkeeping, accounts and ledgers, I did like.”

To get anywhere, however, she needed a four-year degree. Professors at Greenville Tech alerted Vachon to Furman’s Undergraduate Evening Studies (UES) program and the bachelor’s degree in accounting it offered, but she doubted it was a realistic option until she had a conversation with director Beth Crews.

“It seems daunting after you failed in college after the first attempt . . . I was concerned about my grades from years before, but the difference is that now, I have a different attitude about it,” Vachon says. “They made it simple and really focused on me. I had a lot of questions before I decided to apply, so I met with Beth and she helped me work through those questions. I put in my application that day.”

She still wasn’t completely confident in her ability to succeed once classes started earlier this year, but that doubt, too, quickly evaporated.

“I was a little bit nervous going from Greenville Tech to Furman because of what expectations may be from a place that has such a great reputation, but it doesn’t feel like you’re at a snobby school . . . It still feels like a regular place,” Vachon says. “Many of my classmates are in the same situation I’m in, and the professors are understanding and will work with schedules.”

Vachon continues to work part time at a cost-estimating firm but it slated to be finished by the spring of 2017 thanks in part to UES’s pilot program last summer, block scheduling and hybrid courses, which allows students to graduate more quickly by completing courses in half the time and blending classroom sessions with online learning.

“They split the summer up into two six-week blocks, so it was a lot faster and more intense,” Vachon says. Crews expects that the programs piloted with be tweaked and made a permanent feature of evening studies classes.

Vachon did her part to make the process as speedy as possible by getting married in April the weekend before exams, and honeymooning between the spring and summer semesters. It’s that kind of serious adult student Furman is after, Crews says.

“Instructors at Greenville Tech identify students with great academic promise, and introduce them to Furman. Breana is one of those who was referred to us,” Crews says. “She didn’t think she would have a chance to get to Furman . . Non-traditional students such as Breanna are much more career-focused, so the majors we offer are much more career-focused. They come to us to earn a liberal arts degree, from a top university, at an affordable price. For an Upstate resident, Furman will always be on your resume. It speaks here.”

For more information on Furman’s UES, click here.

Adopting a grandparent at Furman

christina-sturgeon-usatoday-smallerAdjusting to the lack of family connection in everyday life can be rough transition for many college students living away from home. To help students maintain that family connection while away at school, Furman sophomore Christina Sturgeon has created a program in which students can “adopt” a grandparent—allowing student and grandparent to form true relationships. Sturgeon’s efforts were highlighted in an article in USA Today.

Helping Greenville middle schoolers stay on track

It all started with Dave Breslin.

Breslin, a fifth-grade social studies teacher, set the bar high for his fifth-graders, including young Ansel Sanders. The dynamic educator brought learning to life and made it relevant and fun. He wanted to make sure his young students could articulate events surrounding the Trojan War and explain the war’s value to today’s society. Most importantly, he listened to his students, energized them, held a high bar, and recognized their potential.

Ansel Sanders ’09, associate director of Public Education Partners in Greenville

“Growing up, I sought to emulate Dave Breslin and when I chose to become a teacher, I had my chance to do so,” said Sanders ’09, associate director of Public Education Partners in Greenville.

Sanders earned his B.A. in English from Washington and Lee University in 2004 and went on to earn his M.A. in Teaching from Johns Hopkins University in 2006. He began his career teaching English language arts to eighth-graders in Baltimore, Md., and coaching middle school soccer and lacrosse teams on the side.

If love hadn’t intervened, Sanders said he might still be teaching in that same Baltimore classroom.

He returned to his wife Helen’s hometown of Greenville and took a position as an assistant administrator at Mauldin Middle School. At the same time, he worked to complete his master’s plus 30 in school leadership at Furman.

For Sanders, Furman’s program offered him valuable guidance on both education theory and practical aspects of leadership, such as how to use the school budget as a tool to make decisions that would align with the school’s mission.

Sanders also learned basic management practices and the idea of “being present.” As an administrator, it can be easy to be sucked into minutia, said Sanders. Furman Education Professor Dr. Harris Heath focused on the need to take time to simply walk the hallways— “managing by walking around”—to be informed and aware of students’ and teachers’ successes and struggles.

“Dr. Heath walked us through the process of building our leadership and management capacity and gave us the personal attention we needed to be successful,” Sanders said.

It wasn’t long after finishing his studies at Furman when Dr. Phinnize Fisher, then the Greenville County Schools Superintendent, called Sanders into her office one Monday. “Give me your thoughts on how the young child should be educated,” she asked.

Fisher then told Sanders about her vision for A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School of Engineering, the first urban school built in Greenville in over 40 years, with the first school-wide engineering curriculum in South Carolina. Sanders was appointed founding director of A.J. Whittenberg and went on to serve as lead planner for the district’s new STEAM middle school, now open and named in Fisher’s honor.

Even more opportunities presented themselves for Sanders, and in 2012 he enrolled in a three-year, multidisciplinary Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

Sanders said he wanted a program that would allow him to focus on his field experiences coupled with leadership development. “I wanted to take time to step back as a practitioner and reflect with other practitioners who were wrestling with innovative ideas and system-level dilemmas,” he said in an interview featured on Harvard’s website.

After earning his doctorate from Harvard, Sanders and his family moved back to Greenville. It was an issue of loyalty, not only to family, but also to the network of people in the Greenville area who put faith in him, Sanders said.

“Dr. Heath gave me a shot. Dr. Fisher gave me a shot. Mrs. Gardner at Mauldin gave me a shot,” he said. “I appreciate these leaders and look forward to paying it forward to impact Greenville’s students and schools.”

As part of his role with Public Education Partners (PEP), Sanders is leading the organization’s efforts in OnTrack Greenville, a multi-year effort to improve high-need middle schools. Along with OnTrack, his priorities include strengthening school and community partnerships, fostering ways to support new teachers, and defining and operationalizing advocacy strategies.ontracklogo_small

Sanders is excited to be back in Greenville and at PEP. “One thing Dr. Heath frequently said was that ‘It does no good to bring a group of people together to bless the status quo.’ I took this learning with me into my school leadership experiences and it served as a guiding principle during my time at Harvard. Now at PEP, I’ll be putting this learning to work, operating at the nexus of policy, research, and practice to challenge the status quo and support all of Greenville’s public school students.

Sanders and his wife, Helen, have three children, Field, Walker and Stuart.



Emily Wirzba ’13 addresses climate action resolution

An article by Emily Wirzba ’13 was recently published in The Hill in support of a recent House dsc_0006-2Republican resolution on climate change, calling it “a strong vehicle to carry within Congress a renewed spirit of bipartisan dialogue on solutions to climate change, for the sake of the American people and future generations.”  Wirzba double-majored in political science and philosophy at Furman and now serves as a policy associate for sustainable energy and environment with the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Learn more about Wirzba’s work at

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