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Meet the Class of ’21: ‘Just Be Yourself’

Emerson Today reached out to graduating seniors from across the College and asked them the same seven questions. Part 1 talked to graduates from Communication Studies; Performing Arts; Journalism; Business of Creative Enterprises; Writing, Literature and Publishing; and Media Design. Below is Part 2.

Maya O'Day in leather jacket in front of brick wall
Maya O’Day (Courtesy photo)

Maya O’Day
Hometown: Sarasota, Florida

Major: Comedic Arts, in the Honors College

Tell me about your time at Emerson.

I am a Comedic Arts major at Emerson. I chose this program because I want(ed?) to one day be a comedic actress and producer, so this was the perfect fit, seeing that I could learn production and writing skills while still taking performance classes. During my time, I was a part of a bunch of different productions, from television to film to stage. My most cherished roles were playing Liz in the first season of the Emerson Channel’s first sitcom, 707: A Sitcom; Marge in Mercutio Troupe’s Stalling (written by a Comedic Arts alum, AJ Tierney), hosting Breaking News, and playing Six in Flawless Brown Stage’s production of I Was Baked for All of WWIII.

Additionally, I am lucky enough to be a sister of the local professional sorority, Kappa Gamma Chi. Kappa is where I met my best friends. It also taught me a great deal about what it means to be a professional woman… and also what a cover letter is (I didn’t know before joining, lol). In Kappa, I was the secretary on the Executive Board during my junior year.

From sophomore to the beginning of my senior year I was a tap desk assistant on campus. That was a great job because it allowed me to make a living while having some free time to do homework. Now, I work at Flour Bakery and couldn’t ask for a better job. The staff are as wonderful as the food, and it’s nice to have something to do in this time where everything else is just sitting on my computer.

I held two internships while at Emerson. First, I was an intern for Improv Asylum my freshman year. Then, in my junior year, I was the Comedy School intern at Improv Boston. Both of these were great because they gave me a sneak peek into what it is like to run an improv theatre/school while also providing me with free improv classes.

Also, this past year I wrote a 60-page thesis for my Honors degree which analyzed the most recent iterations of the Black Liberation Movement— the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement— and how the current Movement for Black Lives maintains similar sentiments of liberation while expanding their inclusion through their use of Black feminist theory. This topic was overall influenced by the current climate in this country as it pertains to the current movement, and also the many classes I took at Emerson focusing on the history and experience of Black people in America. It also has made me think I might want to go to law school to be a lawyer for social justice…

What was your favorite class or project, and why?

This is too hard since I worked on so many amazing projects and took some very awesome classes… I guess my favorite out of all of them though would be the production of Stalling produced by Mercutio Troupe. That show was so well written, I loooved my character, and the entire creative team was just soooo inspiring. It made me fall back in love with acting.

What is your favorite memory from your time at Emerson?

I think any time my two best friends, Emily Houger and Megan Seyler, and I got together to hang out: When they would visit me at tap desk, when we would walk to Kappa Chapter together every Sunday night, spending money we didn’t have and getting Fajitas & ‘Ritas, getting Zipcars and driving through Boston before our last Kappa cross, that one time they caught me when I fainted in the middle of Boylston on our way back from Maria’s…

What song or movie will forever remind you of your college years?

Not a song or a movie but the entire album: Yesterday Was Forever by Kate Nash.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of all that I have accomplished during my time at Emerson, but especially this past year. This past year was the hardest, most taxing year of my life. And I really thought I was going to give up at some points. But I didn’t. And I wrote a 60-page paper, maintained a great GPA, worked 20-hour work weeks, had a healthy social life, and didn’t crumble to the ground. And I think that’s pretty amazing…

What do you wish you had known four years ago?

Just be yourself. People will like it if you’re weird and loud. Don’t get so hung up on the stupid petty people. Join Kappa. Be gay. Love yourself. Have fun.

What are you doing (or hoping to do) next?

I am moving to Philly, making lots of money at cafes and retail stores, relaxing, getting involved with my best friend’s non-profit organization that provides laundry to homeless people, considering either law school or acting grad school, and having a good time.


Sara Chreim in regalia in front of graphic of notebook
Sara Chreim (Courtesy photo)

Sara Chreim
Hometown: Panama
Major: Communication Sciences and Disorders
Minor: Psychology

Tell me about your time at Emerson.

My time at Emerson was very precious and meaningful to me. As I mentioned, my major is Communication Disorders. Some of the activities that I loved doing were going to the Robbins Center to do observation hours, watching clinical sessions, asking the professionals, and learning more every day.

Another activity that I remember was when I took my American Sign Language class. The professor told us to go to Northeastern University to a deaf fair to see and experience how the world worked for them. It was also very interesting because we experienced how deaf people live in their everyday life and the challenges they faced.

What was your favorite class or project, and why?

My favorite project was in a class called Language Acquisition. The project consisted of choosing a young child and measuring his [mean length of utterance] and his speech and language development. This project was exciting and interesting because it was the first time I experienced a child hands-on and saw how everything I had learned was related.

What is your favorite memory from your time at Emerson?

My favorite memory at Emerson was when faculty members from the CSD department [held] events, and we went to watch movies related to [speech language pathology] and at pizza and snacks with faculty and classmates.

What song or movie will forever remind you of your college years?

A song that will remind me of my college years is a Spanish song called “Apaga y vamonos,” (“Turn off and Go”) because every night my roommates and I were stressed about school, we played that song to relax and take a break for a few minutes.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud that I achieved it; I graduated and with a high GPA, which is very exciting because my grades were not as good…in college when I was in high school. My major is not a typical major at Emerson, so I am proud of what I studied and the connections I made with the faculty and classmates.

What do you wish you had known four years ago?

Four years ago, I wished I would have known how fast time goes and always appreciate every moment like there is no tomorrow, because everything can change in one day, and memories are the only thing that will last forever.

What are you doing (or hoping to do) next?

After I graduate, I plan to go back home to Panama to get a master’s diploma there. I also plan to work in a hospital in the area of speech pathology while I study for my master’s. In the future, I would like to open my clinic and treat children with language impairments.


Harper McKenzie in red sweater in front of white brick wall
Harper McKenzie (Courtesy photo)

Harper McKenzie (she/her)
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
Major: IDIP (Creative Writing and Disability Studies)

Tell me about your time at Emerson.

I came to Emerson as a Creative Writing major, but as I came into my own as a disabled woman, began to feel an intense call to disability justice work, particularly through authentic media and storytelling. During my sophomore year, I turned this passion into my IDIP, Creative Writing and Disability Studies.

I dove into disability coursework, but got my greatest education in disability through student leadership and activism. In serving as the Student Government Association’s Accessibility Senator, I gained insight, collaborators, and, most meaningfully, the empowerment to advocate fiercely for Emerson’s disability community.

The early days of this advocacy led to the founding of Access: Student Disability Union, Emerson’s first affiliated organization for disabled students, which only led to more advocacy. Serving as Access’s president has been a great honor; to work towards the betterment of our school with my closest friends and allies has been a labor of love. 

What was your favorite class or project, and why?

My favorite class was Disability and the Media. It sits perfectly at the intersection of my passions and worked very well as a core course for my IDIP. It was a really wonderful, life-giving opportunity to study my community, identity, and culture in the classroom. I learned so much and carry the course’s impact with me in everything I do.  

What is your favorite memory from your time at Emerson?

It may sound like an odd choice, but I think my favorite memory is the week between Spring Break 2020 and everyone having to leave campus because of COVID. The week started on a high note for me because after months of Access advocating for the instillation of an accessibility push button at the front entrance of the Walker Building, the school finally put one in and we saw it for the first time that Monday. Then, the next day, the school announced we would be closing campus due to COVID. It was stressful and hectic, information was changing every hour, and we were all a mess thinking about not just our safety, but our uncertain future.

But I look back at that week fondly, partly because it was a fascinating few days that feel almost unreal, but mostly because we really all came together. I was left to move out of my dorm room alone before flying back to Texas, and because of my disabilities, this was nearly impossible. But members of my community stepped up to help me pack my room and store my things, giving me comfort and hope when I needed it most and forging new friendships that I will forever cherish. That week was a rollercoaster; in some ways, it was the worst and best of my college experience, and I think that’s why it comes to mind as my favorite memory. 

What song or movie will forever remind you of your college years?

“Lean on Me” by Bill Withers. Access has a radio show on WECB, The Access Radio Hour. Last fall, our host (one of my closest friends) picked this song to play during our Friendsgiving episode, which featured thankfulness submissions from members of our community. To go from everyone’s kind and wholesome submissions to this song that perfectly represented our community was really meaningful. 

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of The Access Advocacy Project, an action plan for disability equity at Emerson crafted by myself, the Access e-board and the Access community this Spring. With the aim of streamlining our advocacy efforts and producing a record of our community’s needs, we crafted the Advocacy Project to instill actionable change within Emerson. Through intentionality, community centrality, social media activism, and a schoolwide call for action, we were able to make our voices heard throughout the student body, faculty, and administrators, setting Access and the Emerson disability community up for future success. In watching the Advocacy Project fulfill its initial goals, but also in watching members of our community grow through the work, I have found a deep sense of pride I will always be grateful for. 

What do you wish you had known four years ago? 

I wish I had known that change isn’t the enemy. I was always so adamant that I would never change my major and that I knew exactly what I wanted out of life, but I’ve evolved so much in my time at Emerson. I feel so different, but truly like I am more me than I’ve ever been. If I could tell my freshman self that everything was going to be OK, not in spite of change but because of it, I would in a heartbeat. 

What are you doing (or hoping to do) next?

The details of my future are still unknown, but right now, I plan on applying for jobs in the field of disability justice and/or media making, working on revising my creative writing thesis, and leaning into whatever evolutions are to come. 


Diego Torres in plaid jacket
Diego Torres (Courtesy photo)

Diego Torres
Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela
Major: Marketing Communication
Minor: Political Science

Tell me about your time at Emerson.

I have been involved with many great organizations during my time at Emerson College including Amigos, Raiz, and I also have loved every moment of being a Student Ambassador. However, my greatest experience has been being the president of [Emerson Communications] for the last two semesters. I am so proud of the EmComm community and what we have been able to accomplish throughout the pandemic.

What was your favorite class or project, and why?

My current capstone course. It has been absolute pleasure coming together with a talented group of bright, forward-thinking colleagues and servicing a real-world client with real-world results!

What is your favorite memory from your time at Emerson?

My 22nd birthday

What song or movie will forever remind you of your college years?

“More Than This” by Roxy Music.

What are you most proud of?

Earning the respect of my peers and faculty with style.

What do you wish you had known four years ago?

Boston is not nearly as cold as some people would you have you believe.

What are you doing (or hoping to do) next?

Having fun, learning every day, and ideally attaining financial security along the way.


Gary Sowder in plaid suit with mountains behind
Gary Sowder (Courtesy photo)

Gary Sowder
Hometown: Katonah, New York
Major: Media Arts Production
Minor: Psychology

Tell me about your time at Emerson.

I came to Emerson with a Screenwriting concentration, with the firm intention of moving to LA post-grad and working in TV. Almost immediately, I found screenwriting format restrictive, everything had a page limit, sentence limit, word limit, the only freedom you were allotted came with your words, which had to be quick, snappy, and succinct.


This led to me to, as a joke, taking a column-writing gig for the Berkeley Beacon, which kickstarted my love for nonfiction. I found a way to channel the short, quippy style I’d learned from screenwriting into a kind of writing that finally felt fulfilling.

I also spent the majority of my time at Emerson working as a barista, which meant that I came to so many of my afternoon classes smelling like sweat and espresso.

What was your favorite class or project, and why?

For my Introduction to Documentary Filmmaking class, I made a short doc where I interviewed my Tinder matches about their experiences with online dating.

What is your favorite memory from your time at Emerson?

For my friend’s 21st birthday, my friends and I put on our best outfits in my Colonial suite, went to a drag show at Jacques, followed that with the Tam, and rounded-out the night at Club Café. At some point it started snowing, hard, and the four of us trudged to the club through 4 inches of snow. 

What song or movie will forever remind you of your college years?

When Harry Met Sally.

What are you most proud of?

My work with the Beacon or my friends.

What do you wish you had known four years ago?

I have great mental health coverage. 

What are you doing (or hoping to do) next?

What I’m doing? Moving to New York City with some of my closest friends. What I hope to do? Work at a magazine or publisher, or I don’t know, man, I just want a salary.

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