‘I thought WashU was Disney World’

We want to share another alum’s perspective today. The following was written by Jes Minor, who is now in her second year of an MD/PhD program in anthropology. She credits WashU for helping her throw out her plan and try everything that interested her…but why am I telling her story? She tells it quite nicely below.


When I first visited as a high school senior, I thought WashU was Disney World. Abundant spring sunshine sparkled off the blushing bricks of the campus buildings. Smiling students played Frisbee in Mudd Field. And the South 40 actually looked like a theme park village.

The illusion ended the next day when 70-degree sunshine warped into stinging wind and rain — authentic St. Louis-style, it turns out. Still, when I called home that night, shivering from the walk back to my host’s room, I was smiling.

At that time, I was wrestling with the multiple selves that inhabited my 18-year-old body: a humanist, a scientist, and an aspiring clinician. I was afraid I would have to starve one or two to nourish the other. After talking this over with professors and deans, I discovered during my visit that I could nurture and blend all of my selves into my academic and extracurricular student life at WashU. Inspired and encouraged, I enrolled.

I came into my first year with a spreadsheet. I knew what I would take when; which summer I would study abroad; and the names of the organizations I hoped to join. The opportunities for social science, humanities, biology, and service seemed so much to pack into four short years —I felt like I needed a plan!

But as my pre-med requirements stifled my scientist-humanist self, I shook up my spreadsheet and became as indomitable and unpredictable as the St. Louis weather. I carved time away from Orgo and Bio to conduct my own research, setting the schedule for my experiments while developing my scientific reasoning skills. When it came to course decisions, I wanted to try it all and wanted no one telling me what I had to take. With the support of an equally maverick major adviser, I hand-selected my International and Area Studies courses each semester, sampling history, philosophy, political science, religious studies and anthropology.

My research and my anthropology coursework changed my career path. Once committed to clinical medicine, I began contemplating an academic career and graduate training in anthropology, specifically an MD/PhD. As I struggled to decide whether to delve into anthropology research, I consulted with five close advisers: my major adviser; my academic adviser; my Annika Rodriguez Scholar adviser; my pre-health adviser; and a professor of mine, a soon-to-be second major adviser.

I met with the latter in his office, each of us sipping on mate cocido, an Argentine tea. His confidence in me, rooted in his understanding of me as a student and as an individual, alleviated my doubts. I dedicated the remainder of my college career to medical anthropology research and applied to MD/PhD programs in Biocultural Anthropology. He was among the first emails when I was accepted to Yale University, where I am currently a second-year student.

WashU gave me more than my original spreadsheet had projected. Rather than a major in IAS and a minor in Spanish, I graduated with double-majors in IAS and Spanish and a minor in biology. While I had planned to study abroad for a summer in a Spanish-speaking country, I pushed beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone and spent a semester in China conducting ethnographic research and learning Mandarin.

During my senior year, I connected with my WashU community in ways I never thought possible: by caring for patients and teaching younger medics as field director of the Emergency Support Team; by supporting sophomore students as a resident advisor; and by leading classes and convocational songs as part of my faith group.

Thinking back to my first impression of WashU, I realize now that high-quality, springtime landscaping enhanced that first weekend with Disneyesque magic. But thanks to curricular flexibility, advisory support, and research and leadership opportunities at the university, I am living my dream.

There’s something to be said about places where dreams come true.