Commencement Speaker Selected

Aria Ballance '19 in the seats of the theater. Photo by Mackenzie Bath.

The class of 2019 will be represented at commencement by Aria Ballance ’19. Ballance has a chemistry major, a theatre minor, an extremely busy schedule and an outstandingly positive attitude. Her time at Lewis & Clark has been colorful, and she said that she would not have it any other way.

Ballance is the President of the Alumni Association and was nominated to be the senior speaker by someone in the alumni office. At first, she thought that she could not do it. She said that the writing process had always been daunting for her, but she had lots of feelings about LC.

“I didn’t believe in a perfect fit school when I was applying, but Lewis & Clark for me has been a perfect fit,” Ballance said.

Despite her fears about writing, she had some extra time over spring break and decided to give it a try. Ballance started by putting down memories and feelings from her four years, including everyone that helped get her through. She presented this speech in front of a committee and the ten other nominees. The next day, she got a phone call telling her that she had been chosen.

Ballance’s speech will include anecdotes and stories from her time at LC, focusing on her gratitude for the community she has gotten to be a part of. She credits the entire chemistry department with being an invaluable support system. Chemistry professor Julio de Paula was her advisor all four years, including being her thesis advisor this semester. In fact, Ballance was unsure if she should do a thesis. A thesis is optional for chemistry majors and she was worried that she would not be able to take on the task. Looking back, she is glad that de Paula gave her the confidence to go for it.

The theatre department also helped Ballance become the confident woman she is today. Ballance said that Associate Professor Rebecca Lingafelter was crucial to her development of resilience and belief that she was smart and capable.

“I’m no use to anyone if I’m not taking care of myself,” Ballance said.

This was a lesson she learned from Lingafelter and plans to hold with her in the future. This will help her during her ten weeks at the University of Utah this summer, where she will be doing biochemistry research as part of a National Science Foundation program for undergraduate students before she applies to grad schools to get her doctorate in chemistry. She is currently gaining research lab experience doing photocatalytic water treatments with de Paula.

Ballance’s energy and passion shine through in everything that she does. Her goals were lofty at LC, but she managed to finish her major and minor, go abroad, be an resident advisor and have a thriving social life.

“I have finally allowed it to click that when I do tell people what’s going on in my life, everything just gets so much better,” Ballance said. “Something that helped me was not falling in love with the big idea of chemistry or the big idea of theater, but falling in love with the tiny little things, like getting to put on my lab coat, or the feeling of when the lights go down.”

For her, it’s all about falling in love with the world. Ballance expressed nervousness about speaking at commencement, but the positive reception from faculty and friends made her excited. Ballance looks forward to being able to thank the LC community for giving her such an amazing experience.

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