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First-generation student prepares for graduate school, soon to publish her research

As a high school senior, Amanda Weston planned to attend a state school and become a veterinarian. Now a senior in college, Weston’s career plans may have changed, but she’s experienced some major accomplishments along the way.

Weston found out about Lyon College when her high school choir director told her to find something to do during study hall. Weston wandered down to her school’s cafeteria, where a Lyon admissions representative was talking to students.

A follow-up campus visit proved transformative. When her high school counselor asked her to reconsider her scholarship at another school, Weston firmly replied, “Lyon, or I’m not going to college [at all].”

It’s April, and Weston is just a month away from Lyon’s commencement ceremonies. Looking back over the past four years, she recalls how much things have changed.

“I actually came to Lyon because I was torn between pre-med and pre-law,” she said.

Now a political science major, Weston has been accepted into Arkansas State University’s political science master’s program.

Smiling, she said, “it’s a really big accomplishment for me because I’m a first-generation college student.”

Weston has discovered she is amply prepared for grad school, perhaps more so than her future colleagues. As part of her senior thesis, she conducted research using Stata, a software for statistics and data science not normally used by students until graduate school.

When her graduate program found out she was already familiar with Stata, faculty members expressed their surprise and told Weston she would be at an advantage.

In March, Weston had the opportunity to present her research as an undergraduate panelist at the Arkansas Political Science Association conference.

“I was looking to see if there’s any correlation with the strength of partisanship with the time spent on social media by different generations,” she said. “I was really nervous because honestly, I didn’t think I’d get accepted [into the conference]. I was going to have to work really hard at it, but it would be worth it.”

She is also working with her mentor, Assistant Professor of Political Science Dr. Jaeyun Sung, to publish her research. Two publishers have contacted her so far.

When asked about what she wants to do after completing her master’s, Weston said she is split between law school and a doctoral program.

“I want to be able to take people on service missions and hopefully become a professor so I can take groups of students,” she said.

During her sophomore year, Weston found out about the chance to take a mission trip to Thailand with Lyon’s Baptist Campus Ministry group. She stayed in Bangkok, Thailand, for two months teaching English during her summer break, and the experience changed her outlook on service work.

“If you go and build something [on a mission trip], then you actually take away from the community, because there’s people there that could have done that,” she explained. “But as an English teacher, by speaking English, we have this gift we can share with people.”

Weston’s college career includes membership in her sorority, serving on Lyon’s Campus Ministry, and joining color guard with the Lyon College band.

“When I think of Lyon, I automatically think of how connected everyone is,” she said. “On the other side, there’s the academic part of it. I’ve gotten to do all these amazing things. My research wouldn’t have been possible without the professors I’ve had mentoring me and the accomplishments Lyon has given me.”