When asked why she chose to combine economics and anthropology for her major areas of study at The College of Wooster, junior Bailey Connor glibly replied, "Why not?"
A resident of The Woodlands in Texas, about 45 minutes north of Houston, Connor acknowledges that those two disciplines typically don't go together, but for her, they offer an opportunity to explore two fields that she finds particularly interesting. "I thought that the two subjects could complement each other and make a really cool I.S. project [Wooster's nationally acclaimed mentored undergraduate research experience]," she says. "I also thought the two would provide me with an excellent foundation of background knowledge for life."
Connor's path to Wooster originated with her mother, Karla Hammett, a 1985 graduate who went on to a career in speech pathology. "My mother just loved Wooster, and she talked to us a lot about it," says Connor, "but I said, 'mom, none of us is going to Wooster from Texas.'"
Little did she know. A return to Wooster by Connor's parents for her mother's 25th reunion in 2010 inspired her father, Tom, a pilot with United Airlines, to sing the praises of her mother's alma mater.
"He said, 'Bailey, you know, you really should look at Wooster,'" says Connor, "'it's a really cool school.'"
So she visited campus during the summer between her junior and senior year of high school, and knew almost immediately that this was the place for her. "The beauty of the campus and the fact that everyone was so welcoming really made an impression," says Connor. "I also liked the academic options and the chance to run cross country."
Connor wanted a small school, and there aren't many in Texas, so before long, she was packing her bags and heading for northeast Ohio. She arrived several weeks before classes began in August of 2011 to join the cross country team — a group she affectionately refers to as "a second family." She soon made connections with Wooster Christian Fellowship, and continues to participate in a group Bible study session every Tuesday evening.
Among the many opportunities that greeted Connor at Wooster, the one she found particularly appealing was the concept of entrepreneurship, so she joined the club (now known as "Launch") and began to explore her options. Wooster's Center for Entrepreneurship put her in touch with Reach Trade, a coffee-for-clean water enterprise in Peru. After meeting with the principals of the fledgling company, which is based in Wooster, Connor was offered a summer internship that was funded by an APEX (Advising, Planning, Experiential Learning) fellowship. She spent six weeks in Peru, where she tackled several projects outside of her comfort zone, including a video that chronicled the country's rampant water contamination and efforts to alleviate the problem by installing filters on public faucets.
"It was a really cool cultural experience," says Connor. "It also taught me a lot about the importance of being willing to try new things and learn new skills. My internship with Reach Trade showed me that it is possible to have a sustainable business that is also socially conscious. Most importantly, I learned that if you want to do something, then do it."