Around this time of year, FM usually publishes a feature called "15 Most Interesting Seniors," spotlighting ambitious and unusual members of the graduating class. The feature would consistently bring in some enjoyable interviews and a whole lot of web traffic. But it never felt quite right for us to decide who was “interesting.” We always told ourselves that anyone can be interesting if you ask the right questions.
This year, we’re putting that hypothesis to the test.
Brian P. Yu ’19, one of our Crimson tech saviors, scraped our class list and put together a randomized generator. It spit out the following 15 names. The list includes a few theater-lovers, one ukulele-player, the future governor of Texas, and, of course, a soon-to-be McKinsey consultant. We can't take credit for choosing these seniors, but we think they're pretty great, anyway.
—Marella A. Gayla '19 & Leah S. Yared '19, Magazine Chairs
When Genesis N. De Los Santos ’19 walks into the Harvard Art Museums, the photographer and I immediately know it’s her. She has the commanding presence of a performer — De Los Santos is the vice president of the theater troupe Black CAST — and her personality is matched with a pair of studded high heels. A History and Literature concentrator, De Los Santos has done just about everything on campus: She is the senior co-chair for the Association of Black Harvard Women, a member of Fuerza Latina, a Latinx outreach coordinator at the admissions office, and a volunteer in the Franklin After-School Enrichment Program at PBHA. Between that and her thesis, De Los Santos somehow found the time to talk with FM.
Is there something that ties together all the things you do on campus?
I wanted to give back — that’s an overarching theme of all of the things I do on campus. With the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program, it’s this idea that reaching out to minority students and to people who have historically not seen themselves at a place like Harvard could provide the opportunity for them to see themselves here, and to picture themselves walking through Harvard Yard and these hallways and know they have a place here.
I hear you’re writing your thesis on Dominican hair salons. Could you tell me a bit more about that?
My parents come from the Dominican Republic. Growing up in communities of color and around women in general, a lot characteristics of femininity are tied around how you wear your hair. My thesis is about hair in the Dominican Republic. A Dominican hair stylist is a woman who knows how to control curly and kinky hair, and essentially these straightening practices are a way in which sometimes erasure of blackness can happen in these communities. The Dominican hair salon is both a place of community and of cultural creation, but it’s also a way in which certain facets of identity are submerged by different practices that women do on their hair.
When you were little, what did you expect the you of today to be doing?
I didn’t expect to go to school here. It was never something that was on my radar or something that I thought I could attain. But I’m here, and I’m going to take up this space, and I’m going to be unapologetically myself in this place that I never once thought I would be.
It’s a crisp 41 degrees, and Hernan A. Cepeda ’18-19, who is graduating this December after taking a semester off, wants to meet at the river. He loves the outdoors, he explains, and the river is one of his outdoor spaces — to walk, read, toss around a football. (Halfway through our interview, we both agree to move inside.) For most of his life, Cepeda lived in warmer temperatures: born in Monterrey, Mexico, he moved to Houston, Texas in third grade. Now studying Economics, Cepeda cites his firsthand experience with the immigration system as inspiration for his future goals: His to-do list stretches from going to law school to running for governor of Texas.
Where are you from?
I was born in Monterrey, Mexico. I lived there until I was eight years old, and then my mom got a job as a teacher in Houston, so we moved there. So I have two homes. I’m a Mexican-American. I fully consider myself both those things. Especially with the whole political climate, and Trump, sometimes it feels like I’m both of these things, why can’t I be both? Sometimes it felt like you couldn’t.
Was it hard to adjust to a new country that young?
It was, yeah. When I moved here in third grade, I didn’t speak a lick of English. So that was difficult. I picked English up by watching a lot of TV with subtitles. I would also say that football helped me get Americanized in a way, helped me bond with people and just get introduced to American culture and Texan culture.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a lawyer. When we moved to the U.S., I saw and experienced firsthand how difficult the immigration process is, to do it legally. And that made me realize the power and the importance of the law. But I also realized that another way to help people is politics. So I want to be governor of Texas. I want to make immigration make more sense, because right now it’s a mess.
In a movie of your life, what actor would play you?
The first name that came into my head is Matt Damon, but he doesn’t look anything like me. So I’m trying to think of an actor who looks more like me. Oh — Tom Cruise. And he’s short, too, so that’s perfect. Boom.
What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?
Bonnie would hate this, but I sneak people into Leverett dining hall.
Hana Seita ’19 didn’t expect that she would end up at Harvard, but she also didn't imagine that she’d attend college in the U.S. at all. Growing up, she wanted to move to Japan. Both her parents are Japanese, and her extended family lives in Japan, but Seita was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and attended high school in Jordan. Seita attended international schools, speaking English at school and Japanese at home. Now she’s in third-year Arabic, which she is studying for her joint concentration in Government and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.
What was it like shifting between so many different cultures growing up?
Despite living in the Middle East for my whole life, I felt like I was never able to fully integrate into Middle Eastern culture. International schools in non-English speaking countries are odd because as soon as you step out of the school, it’s a completely different world. I always get asked why I am studying Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations here when I’ve spent my whole life in the Middle East, but it’s because I never really had the opportunity to explore this part of my identity.
Do you visit Japan often?
I visit around once a year, usually during the summer. In Egypt and Jordan, I felt out of place because I look different from everyone. In Japan I look like everyone, but I still feel like I don’t belong. Whenever I go into stores, people will talk to me in English. I think Harvard’s definitely the place where I feel like myself. Diversity is appreciated.
Do you have any idea of where you might live in the future?
I’m interested in international human rights law, and I don’t know what part of the world that will take me to. I really don’t care where I live in the future and I think it’s because I’ve learned so much from wherever I’ve been. I definitely didn’t have the best moments living as a minority abroad, but at the same time, I’ve learned a lot about myself from feeling like a foreigner.
What have you been proudest of learning at Harvard?
I’ve become more confident, but there are some things I still feel uncomfortable talking about. Whenever someone asks me, “Where are you from?” I’ll be like, “I guess I’m from Japan,” because whenever I say “I’m from Jordan,” the questions stop because people are so shocked. These are things that I still feel uncomfortable talking about, but I wouldn’t have been able to talk for an hour about all this freshman, sophomore year.
I recognize Ana S. Olano ’19 for the first time because she’s carrying two guitar cases, a ukulele and what she describes as a “bag of assorted instruments.”
Olano is an Applied Math concentrator in Leverett, and we’re meeting in her favorite place on campus, the Leverett Library Theater. She sits on the couch with a brown guitar, playing the “Toy Story” theme song before transitioning into a song from “Up.” She has five guitars and a ukulele that she’s been collecting since middle school; their names are Hippie, Eclipse, Sam, Buzz, and Suki Lele, but the one she’s playing now doesn’t have a name.
“It’s got to come to you,” she tells me when I ask how she names them. “That’s why this one isn’t named yet. But it’s got to be something melodic, not something too bisyllabic, easy to say. I think that when the time comes to name my child, I will have had some practice.”
What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut, and that was because I saw the movie Toy Story, and I was obsessed with Buzz Lightyear. My whole room was decked out in Buzz Lightyear things, and I dressed up as Buzz Lightyear for three or four years in a row. Defying gender norms from the very beginning.
What’s something you’ve done at Harvard that you’re proud of?
When I came here as a freshman there wasn’t really an outlet that I could see for musicians to have an unstructured space to play their music, be together, and just create a community around their music-making. So during first month of my freshman year, I knew some people from my classes, from my entryway, from [the First-Year Outdoor Program], and I told them, “Hey, let’s just host a jam session, like a coffee house” in the Canaday common room. I thought it was going to be something small, but the room was completely packed. There were 40 to 50 chairs inside but so many people came that there were people watching from outside. It was such a hit that I reached out to the Freshman Dean’s Office and collaborated with the Queen’s Head Pub to continue these events. So this was a bi-monthly event that went on for two years.
What’s your Tinder bio?
“Just a stray hydrogen looking for ionic bonds.” And then the second line is, “Do you want to have a guitar jam with me?”
Is there anything else interesting you want to add?
When I do two truths and a lie, I always say I got a shoutout from the Pope, and that is a truth. Several students here organized the first-ever hackathon at the Vatican, and I was one of the two students to go. We went to Rome and we went to the Papal Blessing on Sunday, and he says something like, “And a blessing for all the university students that are here in the Vatican this weekend.” So that’s pretty dope.
It’s a remarkably sunny afternoon for late November when I meet Josh B. Kuppersmith ’19 at the Newell Boathouse. He starts by giving me the grand tour. We stroll down to the dock, where we have a beautiful view of the Charles; we pass through rows of erg machines and hallways plastered with plaques and photographs; we walk downstairs to the historic wooden rowing tanks.
Kuppersmith, who has been rowing for eight years, seems to feel fully at home in the boathouse, telling me that he spends well over 20 hours here every week. With a twinge of sadness in his voice, Kuppersmith adds that his last practice of the semester is today at 4:30 . Alongside rowing, he studies Applied Math and works on a start-up called Zoba at the Innovation Labs. We sit down in the men’s lightweight rowing lounge, which smells faintly of perspiration and deodorant.
Why do you row?
First of all, it’s hard work and it’s really gritty, and I think that’s taught me a ton about perseverance and about sacrifice — so it’s not just getting up in the morning to row but also sort of the grueling workouts and a lot of emotional ups and downs. But I think the bigger reason is just the team component of the sport. In any team, in any boat you’re in, the boat really only moves if all eight people and coxswain are perfectly in sync, are not only physically doing same motions but mentally in the same place, striving towards that common goal. It makes victories and successes that much sweeter.
When you were young, what did you think you’d be like at this age? Are you similar to what you imagined?
I think I’m sort of similar. I was very — not quite analytical — but just interested in figuring out the way things worked at a young age. I always thought I’d be an architect or some sort of architectural engineer, someone like building things that worked really well. I really liked bridges, I thought bridges were really cool.
What is your most valuable possession?
I’m not sure that I have a lot of things that really are super unique. But I guess what I would say is that I have a lot of items that I’ve pulled out of my dad’s closet over the years, many of them kind of retro-style or just fun items. Some of them I’ll wear, some of them I don’t, but there’s a lot of items I have scattered throughout my closet or wardrobe that have some sentimental value. I think for me, here, it's just helped me think of home, and it’s really easy to miss home a lot when you’re here.
Maetal E. Haas-Kogan ’19, whose first name is pronounced “like the month May, and then tall,” often comes to a landing on the top floor of the Science Center when she’s stressed to look out over Oxford Street and the surrounding architecture. The San Francisco native is no stranger to the Science Center: Haas-Kogan is a History of Science concentrator and aspiring medical student. She sat down with FM (literally, on the cement floor) to discuss her thesis, love of nature, and celebrity doppelgängers.
What is your thesis about?
I'm writing about, very broadly, sterilization uses and abuses in the United States for different communities of women in the ‘60s through ‘80s, and looking at the mobilization of different terms, either to advocate on behalf of sterilization as a birth control method or to fight against sterilization abuse and coercion.
How did you become interested in that topic?
I've always known I was very interested in women's rights, then I went to Alabama my sophomore year over J-term. It was after the 2016 election. I just felt very disconnected coming from San Francisco then coming to Harvard, and just staying in these liberal bubbles, so I reached out to the ACLU and was like "Can I just come and be in Alabama for a little bit and work for you?" Through that I got really interested in criminal justice and engaging with those issues. Then this past summer, I worked in women's health in jails, and that spurred wanting to do this thesis.
What's the most embarrassing thing that you're willing to admit that you've done?
I really like nature peeing, so if I have to pee on any sort of walk or anything, I’m just like, okay! Especially if it's nighttime and there's no one around, I just like, squat in a bush and pee.
If Hollywood were to make a movie of your life, who would play you?
I aspire to be April Ludgate, but really I think I’m just Jessica Day.
What book do you think everyone should read?
When I was little I loved “The Phantom Tollbooth.” I think that just reading “The Phantom Tollbooth” every once in a while and trying to — I should read “The Phantom Tollbooth” again. I feel like when I've gotten older, I've gotten less prone to adventure and spontaneity and imagination, and I think that “The Phantom Tollbooth” is just such a cool way to think and I love that book.
I’ve been shuffling around the Loeb Drama Center for a few minutes, glumly trying each locked door, when Sherry T. Gao ’19 comes sweeping down Brattle Street in a floor-length black coat. She swipes us into a side door and ushers me through a maze of dark hallways into the sudden brightness of the Loeb Shop, where she and the rest of the production team build sets from the ground up.
A Chemical and Physical Biology concentrator and once-competitive figure-skater, Gao has burrowed fully into the performing arts scene here at Harvard. She is vice president and mainstage coordinator of the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club and a performer for the Harvard-Radcliffe Modern Dance Company; by the time she graduates, she’ll have taken part in 30 productions as performer, stage manager, or producer.
Perched on a stool in the cavernous studio, Gao is completely at ease, even as various industrial saws start buzzing. She calls this studio, where she sometimes spends up to 40 hours a week, her home.
What draws you to theater?
The power of theater — which I’ve only started thinking about here at Harvard — is that you choose what stories you tell, especially being on the creative and administrative side. Last semester I put on “A Very Potter Musical,” and the director and I knew from the very beginning that we wanted a staff of mostly women-of-color and a cast of people-of-color — claiming spaces for people who look like us and identify like us.
When you were a kid, what did you think you’d be as a grown-up?
I wanted to be a pilgrim because when I was in kindergarten, they put on this hat I really liked. Then I wanted to be a dentist until I realized how gross mouths are.
What class would you teach at Harvard?
Managing Your Lactose Intolerance While Being Addicted to Cheese and Boba.
Tell us about the last dream you had.
Every time I have something to do in the morning, I dream I’m running late. This morning I had a meeting at 7 a.m.; I had a series of dreams, and I was late to this meeting in all of them.
Do you have any advice for senior year?
Don’t ever miss chicken tenders day. The honey mustard and barbecue mixture? Iconic. Also, I don’t check the weather before I go outside, so I’m always surprised by rain and I’m always wearing sandals. Author's note: It is 38 degrees. Gao is wearing shorts. Check the weather before you leave your room for the day. As it turns out, most people already do — it’s just me. It’s really just me.
Kian C. Simpson ’19 is a self-proclaimed “type B+.” He’ll try his best, but if things don’t work out, he tries not to sweat it. People probably feel like he’s “a stereotypical Californian,” and when he tells me this he laughs.
Simpson hails from the Bay Area, and his high school experiences tutoring Oakland middle schoolers have fueled his dreams to someday pursue work in education, whether in a school district or a startup. At Harvard, he’s found a home in the Asian American Brotherhood, on The Crimson’s Business board, and on the club basketball team.
What did you think you'd be like at this age when you were younger?
I thought I'd be super polished and know exactly what I wanted to do. The only thing I wanted to do was to be proud of what I had done. And that's what I'm constantly working towards. But I really thought I would know what was going on. Turns out everybody is just amidst some existential crisis.
Did you have a dream job when you were younger?
When I was younger, I wanted to be a doctor for a bit. I have this autoimmune disorder where I will eventually go blind in one eye. So I thought that I would love to figure that out. I had to take medicine and I would go in once a month and I would get infusions. At the infusion center there were a lot of kids with a lot worse conditions and after that I was like “I don't think I can do this.” I would see leukemia patients, people with much worse conditions than me and then eventually, you'd stop seeing them. And that was really hard for me. But I think, I'm actually kind of grateful that I've been able to see that. Like my condition really isn't that bad and I feel knowing that things can be so much worse afforded me a kind of perspective that a lot of people might not ever have.
Best bathroom on campus?
Underneath Memorial Church. There are offices and there's this enormous bathroom that is pristine and there's no one ever there. It's glorious.
Any last thoughts?
It's kinda funny. When I got randomly chosen, I was just like, “Oh my god. Am I interesting? Am I interesting?” and I was just thinking “Oh my god, what do I even do? What do I do on campus? Who am I?”
So one of the many existential crises everyone’s going through—FM triggered one of sorts?
Yeah, you know, my weekly existential crisis came a little bit earlier because of that email.
Jamie A. Hawkins seems to know everyone in Eliot. As soon as we sit down, a friend comes over to say “hi.” About five minutes later, two others drop by with an “Eliot Events Package Dues” sign. When they realize I’m interviewing her for an article, one friend mouths, “She’s amazing.”
Hawkins, an Economics concentrator with a secondary in Philosophy, has picked the Eliot dining hall as our interview location because the House is a central part of her life. Hawkins chairs the Eliot House Committee and deeply values her communities of all kinds. She volunteered on the First-Year Social Committee as a freshman, works as a Peer Advising Fellow, and serves on the Senior Class Committee.
Why did you decide to get involved in Eliot HoCo?
I’ve always been a community individual. I’m from New Orleans, which is a small city, but it’s a community-oriented city, you know. We love food, and food kind of centers the community. There’s a lot of people from a lot of different cultures, so that’s kind of how people connect with each other. And then we also center around, like, celebration. Mardi Gras is a thing that happens in New Orleans — everyone gets out of school —so we get a week off of school growing up, which is kinda crazy, but that was fun. So, I've always been community-centered.
What’s on your bucket list for the rest of your senior year?
I really hit my bucket-list items this semester. I've taken every entry-level course here that's terrible, so I took CS50 this semester; also I did Ec10, Hum10, and LS1A, and then I did Math 21A, and now I'm doing CS50. I don't know why that was something that I wanted to do, but I did; you know, liberal arts education, I wanted to get that whole experience in there. Other things that I want to do my Senior Year include... I don't know. I think people are never satisfied in life. I'm pretty satisfied right now.
How would you describe your style?
It's kind of weird, but I'm kind of a sneakerhead; I love tennis shoes — I'm not wearing tennis shoes right now, I'm wearing boots because it's winter — but I love tennis shoes. I think shoes really put the outfit together. My style is not very exciting, I will say that, but I always do try to, you know, hit 'em with the shoes.
On first glance, it’s an just another elegant room with an old, aristocratic air: hardwood panels stretch from the ceiling to the floor, and high windows refract the light of a soft winter sun. But centered in the Horner Room is a large power saw. A paint-stained drop cloth covers the floor, with hard hats and stage props strewn across its surface. “This is where I spend most of my time,” Ned A. Sanger ’19 says, gesturing across the space with pride. Sanger is an expert with the power saw — in rooms like this one, he constructs the sets for several of Harvard’s theatrical productions.
How did you get involved with theater at Harvard?
I arrived as a freshman and was looking for community. I found the Hyperion Shakespeare Company and thought, “Wow, these are really swell people,” so I stuck around. And once you work on one show, people from tons of other shows ask you to work on their productions — you start thinking, “Oh, I’m kind of popular now!” I’ve mostly been a stage manager and a producer. It’s eaten my soul every semester, but it’s been extremely rewarding. My first semester I tried acting — it was a ton of fun, and I still think it’s one of the most fun things in the world — but it’s one of the most fun things in the world that I’m terrible at. I soon realized that my destiny was not on a stage but behind it or around it, which I’m fine with.
Do you have a favorite memory from one of the shows you’ve worked on?
One semester I ran the Hyperion Shakespeare Company’s Scene Recital. It’s the most welcoming and fun show at Harvard: everyone who auditions is cast a part, and it gives you an opportunity if you don’t have a lot of experience and don’t want to play Servant Number Four. Trying to manage this group of 40 people had driven me mad — but in the end, I was tearing up.
What’s it like to watch something that you’ve produced?
It’s a little bit terrible. I don’t think I can watch anything I’ve worked on in a way that a sane person would. For example, [the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert and Sullivan Players’ production of] “Patience” had in its set an elevator, which had a floor indicator that we’d rigged up to be controllable from the light board. It didn’t always function well. So whenever I’d watch the show, it would be with immense anxiety, because sometimes it would start to move and then just flop over and dangle. It was terrifying! You watch for all these details that you labor over, that you put eight hours into — and then I asked a friend who saw the show what he thought of the elevator indicator, and he hadn’t even seen it.
Like most of the seniors featured in this issue, Matthew J. Reynolds ’19 didn’t expect to be one of our chosen 15. As a Molecular and Cellular Biology concentrator with a secondary in Global Health and Health Policy, he has been more preoccupied with figuring out his career plans after graduation; namely, when to apply for medical school, or where to travel and work once he leaves the Harvard bubble. Over his four years, Reynolds has served as co-president of Harvard Buddies, an organization that mentors and works with kids undergoing treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital, and researched the development of drug resistance to novel antimalarials at the Harvard School of Public Health, which is the subject of his thesis.
What is your proudest moment?
Through the Buddies program, I was working with a family there, for maybe six months, and they had a sad story – a single mother, and she had three young children – and she needed a lot of help, and I got close with the family over time. I started to help them get free flights back and forth from their home – they’re from Connecticut – and about six months later, I received a text, and she said, “We’re in Boston, we would really love to see you, will you come to the aquarium with us?” Long story short, I did not end up going, but the fact that they texted me meant a lot. I felt that I had made an impact on someone. I felt like I meant something to their lives.
Which celebrity would play you in a movie about your life?
Matt Damon, because he’s from here, from Boston.
Describe your dancing style.
Too much arms, apparently. Way too much arms. I’ve been told that I have to do what I do with my arms with my legs.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be, and why?
I’d pause time, because there’s not enough hours in a day. Get some extra time to do what you need to do.
Favorite bathroom on campus?
The new ones at Cabot Library, in the Science Center, with the hand-dryer sinks. They’re pretty cool.
Once upon a time, Monet J. Lee ’19 thought she was going to be a doctor and a violinist. She studied chemistry and practised religiously. Then came college, and with it, a desire to explore that overrode her notions of what life would be. She wound up concentrating in Economics, with a secondary in Global Health and Health Policy, but she found other ways to keep music in the tempo of her life: classes. Case in point: we’re sitting in Paine Hall, the Music Department concert building, and one of Lee’s favorite hideaways — and we’re talking about echolocation, dancing, and The Smiths.
What’s been your favorite class at Harvard?
A seminar on Alvin Lucier, who’s this modern composer. It’s taught by Professor Claire Chase, who’s this superstar flutist in the [music] department. It’s very modern music, the weird shit you would listen to and think, “That’s not music at all.” The first day, I remember my professor was like, “I gave you dot clickers. I want you to close your eyes and pretend you’re a bat listening to echolocation, listening to the interactions between sound and space.” It was very weird — I was like, “What the hell is this?” It was just a really unique experience; it completely undermined my expectations of what music is.
Describe your dancing style.
Painfully awkward but entertaining. I love ’80s music. I’m really into “Take on Me” by A-ha. David Bowie. Devo. The cheesy songs that your parents listened to, which my parents would always play at home. Really weird, but I’m not a good dancer.
Which celebrity do you want to play you in the movie of your life?
I’d say Joseph Gordon-Levitt, because the roles that he plays — I’m thinking “500 Days of Summer,” where he’s this romantic, this huge idealist — I think that’s me. He overthinks the little things. It’s either him or Zooey Deschanel in “500 Days of Summer.” I’m thinking of someone who’s kind of quirky, but also loves The Smiths.
Sofia Shchukina ’19 is, to a certain extent, a stereotypical Harvard student. She is an Economics concentrator who interned for McKinsey & Company during her junior summer, and she will be returning to work for them following graduation. Her background, however, is anything but. Shchukina grew up in Russia and attended school in England from age 12 onward, and is fully bilingual in Russian and English — but dabbles in other languages as well. FM sat down with Shchukina to learn more about economic crises and the aspirations of her nine-year-old self.
What is your thesis about?
My thesis is on financial crises.
Awesome, not that they’re awesome, obviously, but that’s super interesting.
No, that’s exactly how I feel researching them. You go through the country samples, and you’re like “Wow, no crises, this is so boring.” And then you’re like “Uh, that’s good, that’s really really good. No crises.”
When you were a kid, what did you think you’d be like at this age?
I was always a pretty ambitious kid, which is probably a typical thing for Harvard people, but at seven… I really wanted to be a writer for a while, so I thought I’d honestly make it by age 14. It would be a massive disappointment if you told my seven-year-old self, here I am, 21, no one knows my name.
What HUDS food best represents your personality?
If I had to pick a dhall food to embody me, it would 100 percent be the HUDS grilled chicken breast. A) because I’m pretty boring and basic like it, but B) because I literally eat it every day and it’s literally a joke with the people at the grill. They like see me and they’re like “chicken?”
When he speaks to you, whether asking or answering a question, Alan D. Estrada ’19 repeats a hand gesture reminiscent of a soft point. It’s not aggressive, as if he’s singling you out, but it’s also not vague — it’s a milder version of a “gotcha” pose, and it draws you in. An Applied Math concentrator, Estrada grounded himself at Harvard through his faith and involvement in community service. When he laughs, he takes his glasses off to laugh with his whole face.
What’s a class at Harvard that changed the way you think about something?
For quantitative thinking, [STAT 110: Introduction to Probability] definitely changed my perspective on how to solve problems and view the world inside that lens. In terms of morals, the one course that really helped me was [VES 150: Intermediate Film Production], and I think the most important thing I took out of it was learning to listen, to pay attention to things and slow down… To be able to pick up on the little things that some people might find insignificant.
Where do you see yourself ten years down the road?
I think I’m probably going to be in the technology field, but I know I’ll still be helping people.
Can you describe your dancing style?
You should ask my friends that question… I don’t care how I look when I dance, if that tells you anything.
What advice would you give to a friend starting Harvard as a freshman?
Be intentional about the things you do. Don’t let cynicism in. It’s an easy thing to pick up on, pretty quickly. But good things are always going to happen. This is definitely rooted inside of my faith.
If you were a HUDS food, what would you be?
What’s something you’re proud of?
I’m really proud of taking risks in my education. I think it paid off, in being able to go into something not knowing what it was going to be like. And taking really challenging classes helped me to dig deeper.
It’s 8 p.m. on the last Thursday of classes when I met Zuneera Shah ’19 in the Smith Center, at the tables by Bon Me. The people sitting around us are either typing quickly and staring into their computer screens or slumped in their chairs — everyone seems to be capitalizing on a second-wind or waiting for one. But, somehow, Shah is still bubbly and smiling at the end of the week (and the end of the semester). She’s headed off-campus the following morning and gone until Monday night, but she still makes time to sit down for a couple questions with FM.
If you could have four people at a dinner, living or dead, who would it be?
I think I’ll have coffee just because dinner is too fancy, and I would have to be fancy. But coffee is chill. I think I would want to definitely have bell hooks... Then Frida Kahlo, just because I think she’s really fantastic and was unapologetically herself. And then… this is hard! I would have to say Jhumpa Lahiri. Oh, and Arundhati Roy — two of my favorite South Asian writers.
If you were an ice cream flavor what would you be and why?
I think I would be something not too flashy and not too sweet but also really good. Not cookie dough. Strawberry? No, too fruity. Pistachio? Too specific. I think I would be hazelnut. It’s kind of classic, but it’s also really yummy and also has an interesting flavor. Author's note: Fifteen minutes after the interview, Shah texts me, rethinking her ice cream flavor. I really want to be rocky road because there’s a lot goin’ on in it, but it all comes together in the end which is pretty much my life.
What’s your dream scenario for you in ten years?
I don’t really know occupationally. I’m a senior so I should have more perspective but I really don’t. I mean I could say that in ten years if I was a writer and just chilling writing and having a nice time living in a nice warm place.
What’s something you’re tired of?
People asking me what my future plans are.
What would you title your autobiography?
“I Don’t Know How I Made it Here.”
What’s something you won’t be doing in ten years?
Hopefully I will not be Snapchatting. That would be sad.
If you could tell all Harvard students one thing, what would you tell them?
I would tell them to calm the fuck down. We all need to chill, seriously.
Correction: Dec. 8, 2018
A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated that Hernan A. Cepeda '18-'19 moved to Austin, Texas in third grade. In fact, he moved to Houston, Texas in third grade.
—Andrew W. D. Aoyama, Katie C. Berry, Anna Kate E. Cannon, Jensen E. Davis, Sonia F. Epstein, Vivekae M. Kim, Norah M. Murphy, Nina H. Pasquini, Drew C. Pendergrass, Emma C. Scornavacchi, Abigail L. Simon, David H. Xiang, and Luke W. Xu contributed reporting.