Graduating seniors say goodbye to a complicated college experience


Amaya Lobato | Staff Photographer

Drew White, a senior majoring in supply chain management and business information systems, in the Cathedral of Learning.

By Alexandra Ross, Senior Staff Writer

Taron Suppiah feels like a completely different person now, compared to when he arrived at Pitt for his first year as a 17-year-old.

“It’s pretty cliche to say, but I think I came in as a boy and now I’m a man graduating at Pitt,” Suppiah, a senior psychology major, said.

Many graduating seniors experienced a range of ups and downs throughout their college years, thanks largely to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic reshaped the college experience for seniors who are now preparing to graduate in less than two weeks.

Drew White, a senior majoring in supply chain management and business information systems, said these adjustments prepared him for a workforce which now depends more on technology.

“We were really forced to make the adjustment to virtual things, and, you know, now it seems like that’s kind of going to stick with us as we keep going,” White said. “I tried to learn new things and, you know, adapt my skill set to match the job environment.”

The pandemic also limited extracurricular activities, such as clubs and sports. Olivia Miller, a senior rehabilitation science major and a member of the gymnastics team, said her team missed out on the postseason during her sophomore year. While they were able to compete during the 2020-21 academic year, she said they did so without any audience.

“Not having the same amount of energy that an audience and fans would bring, I think that absolutely affected our performance, in some capacity,” Miller said.

Despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic, seniors said they had many happy moments at Pitt, too.

White and Suppiah each said their favorite memory from their time at Pitt was the football team’s victory over Wake Forest in the 2021 ACC Championship game. White said he went to Charlotte, North Carolina, to watch the game in person, while Suppiah said he watched from the hill house of his fraternity, Delta Chi. According to Suppiah, the celebration on Forbes Avenue after the game was a moment that unified the whole Pitt community.

“It just seemed like a big moment of unity … especially when like, we really never really had that moment because [of] COVID, and it was just a good time for the whole student body to connect,” Suppiah said. “We all felt like we were one community in that moment.”

Reflecting on her experience, Miller said she’s happy she chose to come to Pitt.

“I’m really happy with the friend group that I have, and I’ve been really thankful for all the opportunities that Pitt has given me through my four years here,” Miller said. “I’ve had a great experience just being, you know, engrossed in the campus and just really getting to do everything that Pitt has to offer.”

Post-graduation plans for seniors range from traveling to attending graduate school to going straight into the workforce.

Suppiah said he is in the application process to become an accelerated nursing student, hopefully in Pittsburgh. Miller said she plans to travel and enjoy her time off before returning to Pitt in January for physician’s assistant school. White is moving to Phoenix in June to work for PetSmart, and said he plans to make the move into a road trip with friends.

When asked for his advice for younger students, Suppiah said they should make an effort to get involved on campus, especially by joining clubs or other organizations. He said his decision to join Delta Chi was “one of the greatest decisions I made at Pitt,” because of the valuable connections and friendships it brought.

“I met a group of guys that I can really connect to, but also gain a lot of useful things from,” Suppiah said. “I know people around the hospital systems here just from being in the fraternity, and I know people all over the country just from our alumni network.”

Miller also said the organizations she got involved with — such as the Blue and Gold Society, the Rehabilitation Science Student Association and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee — were the highlight of her four years. She said she especially liked the clubs that connected her with non-athletic students.

“My favorite memory/thing I’ve done has honestly been being able to find organizations and clubs outside of athletics to find a little bit of different, like, purpose and meaning in my experience here at Pitt, and kind of going out of my way to create different circles of friends that I don’t think I would have been able to connect to,” Miller said.

White said his advice for younger students would be that college is “the time to figure things out,” so they should “just try everything.”

“Go out and experience everything you can because you know, you’re gonna — you’ll regret it later if you just stayed home and did nothing,” White said. “Be open to possibilities, you know?”