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Graduating Senior Hopes to Apply What She Has Learned to Helping Children in Africa

By Janlyn Thaxton, HSU Media Relations Coordinator



Tessa McGinnis is one of eight Hardin-Simmons University students who will walk the stage during graduation ceremonies with a perfect grade point average. During McGinnis’s time at HSU, she has participated in the HSU Honors Program, become an avid ballerina, a running enthusiast, and honed her interest in economics and finance into a dream to help disadvantaged children. “My dream job would be helping impoverished children in some way,” says McGinnis. “I particularly have a love for Kenya and really enjoy the people and culture a lot.” Tessa has been on four mission trips to Kenya, and this summer, will head back to the Nyanza Province where she has been studying the culture and has made many friends with the people living there. {{more}} As a member of the HSU Honors Program, Tessa has been so inspired by the people and the culture that she based her required year-end research project on her study of the Luo Tribe, saying it was the people there who inspired its theme. The part of the Luo Tribe Tessa has studied the most extensively is primarily a fisherman society, living on the western and southernmost shores of Lake Victoria, and speaking primarily Swahili and English. Tessa came to HSU from Wimberley, Texas, ranking in the top ten percent of her class, and enthusiastically setting her cap for an intensive program for highly motivated learners. Simply applying for the Honors Program meant writing an essay, going through a rigorous series of interviews with HSU professors, and then ultimately being approved by the Honors Admissions Committee. Ultimately, Tessa was one of only 20 students out of dozens of selected applicants chosen to participate. Honors students represent a wide variety of majors, with Tessa coming from the Kelley College of Business. Dr. Tom Copeland, director of the Honors Program, says, “Honor students have the opportunity to do a different kind of learning, often learning from each other in lively group discussions.” Because the Honors Program was established to provide an enriched, educational environment for undergraduate students of exceptional promise, many seek enhanced learning opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom. “Theories of Charitably Sourced Development within the Nyanza Province, Kenya,” is the result of Tessa’s work outside of the classroom. In her Honors capstone research project, she applies what she has learned in her business administration classes to her study of the culture she has grown to love. “I wanted to create a plan that would help develop their economy in a self-sufficient, culturally appropriate manner,” says Tessa of her research. “One day I hope to implement my capstone project,” she says with conviction. Tessa started going on mission trips during her freshman year in high school, with previous trips including Mexico, Romania, South Korea, and Uganda. As for her continued interest in Kenya she says, “I don’t know how exactly to explain it…I guess it just grabbed at my heart.” Her trip this summer will include continued support for churches planted there. “We feel it’s very important to stress the continued relationship between church plants and ourselves so they do not feel like we have abandoned them. Also on this mission trip we will do a lot of evangelism in the community. This includes talking to people in their homes, the marketplace, schools, and prisons.” As McGinnis gets set to graduate, she looks back over the number of friends she has made while at HSU. “I actually met my closest friends the first week of classes during freshman year. That was definitely God working there. They have really helped me grow spiritually and overall become a better person.” McGinnis says she has a love-hate relationship with running, which she has continued to cultivate while a student at HSU. She also reached for a new art form that she has grown to love. “I spend three to five hours a week dancing at a local ballet studio every semester. I danced before college, but I never took ballet before, so I had a lot to learn. It’s been really fun and is a gorgeous art form.” Besides looking forward to her trip to Kenya this summer, Tessa will concentrate her focus on job opportunities and has already begun looking, primarily in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Even though she will be among 269 graduates from HSU heading out in all different directions in life, she says, “I really enjoyed the friends I made here at HSU. They are all great people, and I hope to have them in my life forever.” As for professors she credits, “I have really learned a lot from Dr. Tom Copeland through the Honors Program. Dr. Fei Gao, Mr. Jodie McGaughey, Dr. Doug McIntyre, and Dr. John Hill have all really taught me a lot about my major field of study and about being a better person. They have also helped me a ton in my job search.” Candidates for graduation culminate their college careers, Saturday, May 11, 2013, in Behrens Auditorium during one of two ceremonies, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tessa, graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, has also been selected as a candidate for Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges. She walks the stage at the 2 p.m. ceremony.

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