Alumni Update: Gillian Clouser LCHS '19

Alumni Update: Gillian Clouser LCHS '19
Posted on 12/13/2017
ClouserMost Liberty graduates are better prepared to attend an Ivy-League college than most college freshmen who do, according to LCHS alumna Gillian Clouser who is completing her first semester at Yale.

Gillian got a visit last Saturday from her former high-school headmaster Mr. Schaffer who sprung for breakfast in exchange for a delightful “Alumni Update” interview conducted at a 19th-floor restaurant overlooking Yale’s distinctive New Haven campus (see nearby photo). The 2019 Valedictorian’s sagacious thoughts are of an inspiring, and insightful nature:

“Liberty was so important in all of my academics, and life. It would be wrong to leave any of it behind,” she said. “I love Liberty, and all the people I met there, and the connections I made.”

Gillian said she wants Liberty students to appreciate the remarkable times they’re in. “It is a good thing to remember that your time from age 18 to 22 is unlike any other in your life, and so I think you shouldn’t be scared to reach beyond what you know,” she said. “I know I have really grown, and become a more mature person in the last few months since I’ve been away from home.”

It’s sweet irony for one, who struggled through high-school chemistry, to now find herself excelling as a Yale chemistry major with plans for medical school. “Thanks to Miss McIrvin (now Mrs. Sullivan), I’m more prepared than a lot of other chem-majors are,” Gillian said with a grateful smile.

She’s even joined a specialized comprehensive chemistry group. “We study quantum mechanics, organic chemistry, and transition metals and solid states solely. It includes a chemistry-lab course that meets three times a week for 50 minutes, and the lab is four hours.”

Gillian is learning at a faster pace than ever before, and churning out more work. She claims her Liberty training is helping her adapt nicely to an Ivy-League pace. With first-semester coursework done, final exams are pressing.

Her first college math class taught her to use differential equations to model systems of biology. “We learn about things like vector fields, and solving other biological problems,” she said. “It was difficult, but I have learned a lot. Mr. Lovely really helped me. His pre-calculus course stretched my mind further than I knew it could be stretched.”

Gillian tested into Yale’s highest-level Latin course – level five – an accomplishment feted by only two other freshmen. In a class of mostly juniors and seniors, she covered Aeneous to Romulus. “We read Virgil, Livy, and Ovid. We read about 150 lines per day,” she said. “It was really interesting.” Gillian’s mom is LCHS Latin instructor Mrs. Kimberly Clouser.

Gillian took a course in cultural anthropology mainly comparing African culture to Western civilization. That led to a job as a lab assistant washing, cataloging, and organizing 50,000-year-old bones from Malawi; and 1.5-million-year-old specimens from South Africa. Some bones are humanoid, most from animals that may have been hunted, and their bones used for tools.

So far, the transition to college has been “incredible.” Gillian has met students from nearly every walk of life. “The discussions and conversations challenge everything I’ve learned, and believe,” she said. “In the dining hall, you often walk into deep discussions about politics, or scientific discoveries, or any academic topic.”

Student-life at Yale is organized somewhat like the LCHS House System. Students reside in one of thirteen dormitories assigned to distinct House-like “colleges” consisting of 100 freshmen, 100 sophomores, and 100 seniors.

Gillian is assigned to the Timothy Dwight College whose mascot, coincidentally, is the Red Lion just like her LCHS House Domus Justitiae. “T.D. is really into winning every intramural-sport competition possible,” she said with Red-Lion pride.

The system eases Yale initiates in finding their place. “I really get along with my roommate and suitemates – all from throughout the country,” she explained. She lives among a diversity of students including ones from Ukraine, Japan, Mexico, and Norway. “You walk around campus and hear so many foreign languages being spoken,” she said.

Gillian’s biggest surprise? “I knew I’d have to get used to restructuring my academic day,” she said, “but maybe I didn’t realize how much.” Her classes run anywhere from 10:00AM to 4:00PM, and the schedule is different each day. “I’ve got activities, labs, jobs, and service projects that sometimes run from 6:00AM to 10:00PM. There are so many libraries on campus, it was an initial challenge to find places where I can study best; but I’ve got that dialed in now.”

“My Liberty work ethic really sticks with me,” Gillian said. “You’d be surprised how many students here, as accomplished as they are, don’t have the solid study skills we acquire at Liberty. I also notice interdisciplinary connections in my instruction here more, because of how well Liberty connects lessons across the school.” For example, she regularly applies Latin roots learned at Liberty when solving chemistry problems in college.

Asked which Liberty lessons stand out, Gillian answered, “The whole English department – Mr. D, and Mr. Tullius were my most recent teachers. On all of the papers I’ve written (at Yale), I’ve received really good feedback about my writing. On one paper, the professor wrote, ‘Very good idiomatic language,’ plus other good feedback, which I feel would be expected; but, it turns out a lot of other really smart students just didn’t get the grammar instruction we do at Liberty.”

Gillian’s bearing is confident, poised. “I’m working harder, and learning more, but I’m less stressed, and sleeping more! I attribute that to Liberty’s emphasis on teaching students how to be good students, and to teaching us essential knowledge,” she said, indicating Yale is a good fit.

“It’s academically rigorous, and it’s a fun place to be. The community is vibrant,” she noted. “There’re always fun activities to do as well. It’s very Liberty-esque, which is what I was looking for in a college. I owe so much to (LCHS college counselor) Mrs. (Diane) Campbell.”

Gillian’s advice for current Liberty students: “First off,” she asserted, “it does not pay to be cynical; and, hating on things will only make your experience bad. Group-organized activities may not seem fun at the time, but looking back, you’ll realize they really are, and you’ll miss them.”

“Secondly,” citing recent research she’d read, “the amount of sleep you get the night before an exam is very influential on how well you’ll do. It is always better to give yourself a cut-off time, maybe 1:00 in the morning; then, just go to bed. The five, or six hours of sleep you’ll get is better than the extra hour you would have studied at that point. It will be better for your grade, and also for your general well-being.”

Thirdly, Gillian recommends making time for non-academic adventures, especially with friends. She recently hiked to East Rock where you can see the whole Yale campus, and out to the Atlantic Ocean. She went to the Harvard-Yale football game, an annual spectacle with its own set of traditions, some going back over 200 years; and, she plans on road-tripping to Cambridge next year with friends for the rematch.

She remarked on how Connecticut’s two-and-a-half months of fall colors stands in glorious contrast to the normal week or two for Colorado aspens. “Plus, the colors are much better. There are lots more varieties of trees,” she added.

“It’s gorgeous here.” Go Bulldogs!