Touring Gustavus as a senior high school student from Edina, Minnesota, Sophomore Communication Studies Major Stella Hadjiyanis never expected to fall so hard.
“My tour guide was an international student majoring in music education but had never done music before Gustavus.” Stella said. “I thought it was so inspiring that at Gustavus you didn’t need a super heavy background in a certain field to get started and follow your passions.”
Stella was also impressed by the work-life balance she saw stressed throughout her tour. “I loved the community here, especially in a liberal-arts setting. To me, it is so important to balance classes, extra-curriculars, relationships, and self-care, and I really wanted to find a place that would allow me to do all those things.”
True to her word, as soon Stella entered Gustavus in the fall of 2017 she began actively pursuing a liberal arts education that would allow her to follow all her passions. While Stella is a Communication Studies Major, she is also pursuing a double minor in French and Film and Media Studies with an emphasis on Studio Art. Stella has been studying French for over thirteen years since entering a French immersion program at six years old but took a three-year hiatus to learn American Sign Language. Now at Gustavus, Stella is excited to pursue the language again, as it has helped her on her trips abroad, which have included trips to France, Switzerland, Cyprus, England, and Greece.
Stella’s liberal arts mindset doesn’t pertain to just academics but applies to her standpoint on extracurriculars as well. “The most important thing that incoming Gusties can do is get involved,” Stella said. “But don’t spread yourself too thin. There are so many amazing organizations on campus it is easy to sign up for them all. That’s what I did my first year, and I had to learn to choose a few activities that were really important to me.”
Ever an overachieving Gustie, Stella’s ‘few activities’ include participating in Gustavus Women in Leadership as well as serving as the Vice President of Mentoring with Tate Peterson, working as a Gustie Guide, volunteering as the Social Media Coordinator for the Campus Activities Board for a few semesters, singing in Vocal Jazz, the Social Justice Choir, volunteering as a Gustie Ambassador, helping ignite the Gustavus chapter of College Guides, and working in the fine arts department.
While Stella says it is impossible to choose a favorite organization, she will always have a special place in her heart for College Guides. Founded last year, College Guides looks to serve historically underprivileged students at the high school level, encouraging them to apply for a college education. Last year, Stella served two schools in the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area, connecting with about forty students. Teaching her high school students how to utilize very important to Stella, who walked her students through the FAFSA as well as scholarship applications. Stella has always had a passion for working with others and hopes to extend College Guides to more high schools in Minnesota, so more youth can have the opportunity to go to college. Right now, College Guides is able to reach students in the cities because the mentor/mentee program is hosted through online communications, but one day Stella hopes to be able to connect with her students in person.
“Being Greek Orthodox and a minority at Gustavus,” Stella said, “I am really able to relate to my students and I think that helps them become more confident in what can be a tough time.”
A fellow member of one of Stella’s organizations, Gustavus Women in Leadership, Junior Communication Studies Major Ella Garry says, “I’ve seen Stella grow to be more confident and passionate about all the organizations she’s involved in. She brings an engaging spirit to all the Gustavus Women in Leadership meetings and events that really bring the group together.”
In her free time, when she is not participating in her various organizations or taking Communication Studies classes in Beck, you might find Stella creating art. “I love painting.” Stella said. “All things; painting, singing, dancing. After my internship in the Marketing and Communications Department, I discovered that I love learning about graphic design. I have only taken a few art classes, but you can always find me in the music building or painting in my room.”
While Stella has enjoyed the art and media classes she has taken for her minor, such as Video Art, she also discovered her love of courses outside of her direct major. “There will always be classes I want to take!” Stella said. “Last semester I took Women and US History. Before this class, history was never really my thing, but Professor Misty Harper is so wonder and so passionate, it really gave me a new perspective on history and allowed me to talk about events I already knew about, only in a new light.” Right now, Stella is enjoying Rhetorical Criticism as well as Astronomy.
Whenever you see Stella on campus, don’t be afraid to say hi. “My favorite thing about Stella is her ability to be there for anyone who needs it and putting smiles on faces across campus!” said close friend Sophomore Elementary Education Major, Nora Mohamed. “She is very caring and such a ball of sunshine and joy. I was at the state fair with my family the summer before my first year at Gustavus and heard someone scream my name. Stella and I followed each other on social media but had never met before. She ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug and at that moment I knew we would be friends!”
Inspired by her own introduction to Gustavus, Stella is now a Gustie Guide and enjoys showing others the school that won her heart.