Like many of his classmates, Aaron Shepherd is weighing his options. He’s part of the 381 strong Class of 2012 that’s ready to embark on the world.
“The biggest milestone I’ve had here were the many opportunities afforded to me,” said Shepherd, a biochemistry major from St. Louis.
He’s currently waiting to hear back from the Georgetown School of Medicine for a post-baccalaureate program and has interviewed at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine.
Before he even walks up the stage Saturday, Shepherd turned down a teaching job back home due to a prior commitment to attend a summer conference for aspiring medical students at the University of North Carolina. Oh yeah, he also in the running for post-baccalaureate programs at Columbia University and Drexel University as well.
“I’ve got options,” he said.
Shepherd is a microcosm of the Class of 2012, which is the largest in University history. It’s a diverse class composed of students from 17 states and six nations: Ghana, Trinidad and Tobago, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Benin. But it also has a local feel as well with 133 graduates hailing from Orangeburg County.
There is also a great age range to the Class. The youngest graduate is Destynei Tiller of Orangeburg at 20. James V. Zeigler, Jr. of St. Matthews will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and religion at 61 years young.
Shepherd falls on the lower end of the range but speaks with a remarkable maturity. He’s already conducted a research internship at the University of Florida, which has linked Claflin and UF together through his project.
Shepherd studied the metabolism of fruit flies there and brought the project back to Claflin. His research mentors at both institutions are looking to write grant proposals jointly to fund the research, he said.
The study examines how the metabolism of fruit flies respond to environmental stress such as cold and heat. It has a vast array of applications such as pest control and toxicology, according to Shepherd.
One of Shepherd’s favorite aspects about Claflin was the flexibility his scholarship through the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College provided him. He was able to spend a semester abroad studying in Seville, Spain, which he called a fantastic experience.
Shepherd arrived at Claflin from a private school back home that had few minority students. He had met Director of Admissions Mike Zeigler at a college recruitment fair. Zeigler told him that Claflin could provide him with a scholarship. Shepherd had a desire to have a change of pace and geography in his college choice.
A visit to the campus sealed the deal.
“I toured many colleges. Claflin looked really beautiful and I was looking for a small environment. I was also sick of the weather out west. Ultimately, I decided going to an HBCU would be very beneficial and I was absolutely right,” he said.