On Friday, May 13, 2016, the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design held its 147th Commencement ceremony. Among the more than 300 graduates who walked across the stage that day were seven graduates who were named to the prestigious list of 2016 WVU Foundation Outstanding Seniors.
Over the next several days, we’ll be featuring those exemplary graduates, whom we are pleased and proud to now call WVU Davis College alumni.
Graduate Spotlight: Clara Beth NovotnyClara Beth Novotny, from Falling Waters, W.Va., is an Honors College graduate who received degrees in biochemistry and world languages, literature, and linguistics in Spanish. In addition to being named a WVU Foundation Outstanding Senior, Novotny was also honored with the 2016 Order of Augusta, WVU’s most prestigious student honor. She is a member of Sigma Delta Pi Honorary Delta Chapter, Phi Lambda Upsilon Honorary Tau Chapter, and a student leadership organization that serves students and administrators at WVU, among others.
She has worked as a teaching assistant in the Biology Department and as a laboratory assistant in the WVU Reproductive Immunology and Molecular Biology Lab, where she participated in the research and development of a new form of contraception using a protein found in turmeric.
Novotny has traveled to impoverished communities of Honduras twice, including her trip in 2013 as a healthcare volunteer with the WVU Global Medical Brigades to assist and translate for U.S. doctors performing dental and gynecological exams in mobile health clinics. This particular experience inspired her to pursue a global medicine career seeking long-term solutions to healthcare challenges, including affordable medicines and language barriers. Novotny has also volunteered with the WVU School of Medicine’s MUSHROOM Project to provide medical attention to Morgantown’s homeless.
She has had two opportunities to study abroad in Spain, where she studied the differences between the Spanish and American healthcare systems and took classes in medical interpretation and translation.
In addition to being named to the Dean’s List twice, Novotny was a recipient of the Foundation Scholarship, was a finalist for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, and graduated as a Presidential Honors Scholar.
Novotny will attend the WVU School of Medicine in the fall, and ultimately she hopes to work as a physician and scientist to improve the efficacy and availability of reproductive health care in developing and developed countries alike.
Learn more about Clara Beth Novotny, in her own words below:
Why did you choose to attend WVU?
When I was considering colleges for undergrad, I came to WVU for an honors visit day. I was able to meet with my would-be advisor for several hours that day to tour campus and discuss the opportunities of studying biochemistry at WVU. I was really impressed with the program, and in comparison with the other schools I was considering, WVU promised the best experience. Fortunately, in-state scholarships added an irresistible bonus.
What made you want to pursue degrees in biochemistry and world languages, literature, and linguistics in Spanish?
I studied Spanish in elementary and high school classes, so I had already been introduced to the language. In my freshman year at WVU I joined a coalition of WVU students and West Virginia doctors on a medical service trip to Honduras for spring break. I helped to triage patients and translate for doctors with my (weak) Spanish background, so the trip inspired me to improve. I signed up for Spanish classes for the following semester and ultimately spent a summer and spring semester in Spain studying language and culture. Pursuing a language to balance all of the chemistry in my life has been extremely helpful for my sanity!
What has been the most valuable part of your WVU experience?
I’ve had a lot of really incredible opportunities here at WVU. One of my favorite of these was a summer spent working as a STEM ambassador for the Davis College at 4-H camps throughout West Virginia. I got to teach fun science to young students and talk with high school kids about how to get to and succeed in college. I learned a lot that summer—importantly, I learned about many problems with our current systems and I learned that I want to play a role in solution development. This, along with several other experiences at WVU, led to my application of the Rhodes Scholarship to study at University of Oxford. Applying for and ultimately becoming a finalist for Rhodes was a very rewarding experience that capped my undergraduate career and led me to find my true professional goals. It also allowed me to meet some truly incredible faculty and personnel at WVU that have been so supportive and encouraging of my education and goals.
What will you miss the most after you graduate with your undergraduate degree?
The PRT! (Just kidding.) I think I’ll miss most the diversity of my courses in undergrad. It’s a really wonderful thing to be able to learn about sciences, cultures, languages and philosophies all at the same time. I’m thankful that I will graduate from WVU with a much broader perspective than when I first enrolled.