The 21-year-old from Richmond Hill, just outside of Savannah, graduated with honors from Berry College on Saturday with degrees in both math and physics.
It’s indisputable that Berry has several accomplishments under her belt, having graduated a semester early. But Berry said she hadn’t planned on staying at Berry College for as long as she did.
“I was originally planning on being in the engineering program at Berry and then transferring to Georgia Tech,” she explained. “I tried to take a lot of math and physics classes so I would be really prepared when I got there, but then I decided I would rather stick it out and get those two degrees because I wanted to know more.”
During her sophomore year, Berry said, she approached the physics department, inquiring how many classes she should take that next semester.
“They told me to take all the ones that were offered, and I thought they were crazy,” she said with a small laugh. “So I ended up taking two math classes and three physics classes one semester and because I did that, I didn’t have classes left to take next semester. It just kind of worked out. … I thought, why not graduate early if I can?”
While Berry admitted she rarely left her dorm room during that time because she spent so much time studying, she said she was glad she decided to pick up such a heavy class load.
“It was the semester that I learned the most,” she said. “I learned that I can balance that much and so it was helpful to me in that way.”
But Berry wasn’t always studying, she said. In fact, the graduate held several jobs throughout her time at Berry.
“I worked at the middle school, I was a freshman mentor,” she said. “I also graded for the math and physics departments and tutored in math. I also was involved with Habitat for Humanity. I was involved in an unofficial club called The Dead Poets Society, which is a math problem solving club.”
Through The Dead Poets Society, she went to many conferences and represented Berry College in competition teams for math, she said. Berry was also in honor societies Phi Kappa Phi and Omicron Delta Kappa. She also won the college’s Lawrence McAllister award, meaning she was the physics student of the year, as well as being an honorary member of the Daughters of Berry.
When Berry was asked if she had any memories of her college years that stood out, she said she was once walked to class by someone out of the ordinary… a deer.
“My freshman year when I was walking to class, a deer actually walked with me the whole way from the Science Building to Cook, which was weird,” she said. “So I talked to it, I was like, ‘Hey… what’s going on?’ Which nobody believed me about later, but it really happened.”
Berry said her professors Todd Timberlake and Ron Taylor definitely had an impact on her, as did all her professors who were her mentors. “My professors, all semester, have been (joking) about how they’re going to fail me just because they don’t want me to graduate early,” she said. “So, the fact that they like me as much as they do makes me more confident in who I am.”
She said it was the small student population, hence small class sizes, that enabled her to foster beneficial bonds with her teachers. “I think that because I have had the opportunity to have close relationships with my professors, I’ve become confident in myself and my ability to solve problems,” she said. “My professors, who I think are brilliant and a thousand times better at things than I am, they expressed (their confidence in me) in different ways, and it helps me to be more confident in who I am and what I can do.”
Because she was so involved and studious during her time at Berry College, it’s a wonder that she was able to accomplish all that she did. But for Berry, that equation was simple.
“I put in the work that I need to to get the grade that I want to,” she said. “I know how long an assignment is going to take me so, if I need to not go do something, then I will do my assignment. I know how to balance it.”
Berry said it helped that she isn’t a procrastinator.
“I try really hard, if I’m given an assignment, to start it that day so I know how long it’s going to take me,” she said. “So if something comes up, then I still can say I can do it, but I still know how much left I have to get done and how long it will take. I just try to put my best foot forward in every class I have and work as hard as I can.”
Berry said she has applied to several schools and aims to earn her master’s degree and eventually her Ph.D. But until then, she plans to relax and get a part-time job.
Though her undergraduate years are behind her, Berry said that her time spent at Berry College was a wonderful stepping stone in her life’s pathway.
“It took me a long time to realize that while academics are a crucial part of your experience, college is about a lot more than getting good grades,” she said. “It’s about building relationships, developing your passions and figuring out who you are.”