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At Ease

"So much of my W&L education was learning how to analyze, how to think critically, to make the connections."

Christina Lowry '14 U.S. Army Chemical Corps Fort Drum, New York

Six months after graduating from W&L, 2nd Lt. Christina Lowry '14 is looking for an apartment near Fort Drum, about an hour north of Syracuse, New York, and just a few miles from the Canadian border. "I'm willing to pay a couple of hundred more per month for a garage just to make sure the car will start in the morning," she said. The week she began her search there was seven feet of snow on the ground, so a garage seemed particularly appealing.

Lowry is preparing for life in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps at Fort Drum, where, for the next two years, she'll be a chemical officer for a helicopter unit. "At 22, the Army has put me in charge of $1 million worth of equipment and 20 to 30 people," said Lowry. "My job is to train my unit to respond to a chemical, biological or nuclear attack, but since no one has hit us with any of those in decades, I'll be sitting in a corner doing paperwork. Most of that will include assisting with plans and operations, as well as keeping the unit's status report up to date. I'm responsible for every person and every piece of equipment under my command. I have to hope 18-year-old Private Snuffy doesn't lose his canteen or rifle in the woods, because I have to account for all of it."

It seems a long way from the ivy-covered walls and white columns of her alma mater, but Lowry says her double major in German and religion, as well as the many politics classes she took, primed her well. "So much of my W&L education was learning how to analyze, how to think critically, to make the connections." She referred to Gen. George C. Marshall's maxim that the U.S. must always be prepared for the next war. "As an officer, as a leader, I need to be looking ahead at both the global picture and my unit. If I sense there's something not right with one of my men, I need to solve it before it becomes a bigger problem. When I watch the news, I'm paying attention to any country that's showing signs of economic, religious or political unrest and thinking about the terrorist group that's most likely to react to that situation. Will this become a problem for us now or in 10 years?"

Lowry grew up in Stuttgart, Germany, where her parents were teachers for the Department of Defense at the U.S. Army base. She joined high school JROTC so she could compete with the rifle team. "I ended up doing so well I became second in command of my unit. My instructors encouraged me to apply for an ROTC scholarship, and getting one made it possible for me to attend W&L."

At W&L, she joined Pi Beta Phi; won a 2013 American Translators Association Award for her translation of the German musical "Elisabeth"; wrote an article for W&L's Political Review on the political tension surrounding Muslim immigrants in Germany; wrote a paper for her capstone course on chaplains in the military; and worked in Lee Chapel. At VMI, she fired M-16 rifles; flew in a UH-60 Black Hawk; navigated obstacle courses; took classes on leadership; traveled to Tanzania and Germany on ROTC summer programs; and served on the Dining In committee.

"It was bit of a challenge, bouncing back and forth between the two different worlds," Lowry admitted. "My sorority sisters always cracked jokes when I came into dinner in a sweaty uniform after I'd been out in the field, and at VMI, the cadets eventually stopped staring at the girl in the sundress walking through the dining hall. It was a transition, but that's what being in the Army is all about -- your success depends on how well you can roll with the punches and how quickly can you adapt."

Lowry is required to serve in the Army for four years and can then move into the reserves or the National Guard for another four years, unless she chooses to stay in the military. "I'm a little bit jealous of my National Guard friends who have homes and families. They have more stability in their lives. Right now, I don't know how I'll feel about staying in the Army. There are a lot of ifs--if I get married, if I have kids, where I'm stationed. But this is a great way for me to begin life right out of college. I get a lot of training, I get to see the world, and I have access to educational opportunities that the Army will pay for. I'm just getting started."

A Life of Consequence

By combining the benefits of a liberal arts foundation with emerging technologies and interdisciplinary perspectives, our students head into life after college equipped with the habits of mind, strength of character and essential knowledge needed to pursue lives of consequence.

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W&L's motto, "not unmindful of the future," underlies the University's commitment to providing a liberal arts education that is vital and relevant in the 21st century. By combining the benefits of a liberal arts foundation with emerging technologies and interdisciplinary perspectives, our students head into life after college equipped with the habits of mind, strength of character and essential knowledge needed to pursue lives of consequence.

For over 250 years, Washington and Lee graduates have been making landmark contributions to the world. Its alumni are leaders in business, journalism, medicine and many other fields. The number who have held top posts in government--27 U.S. senators, 67 U.S. representatives, 31 state governors and four Supreme Court justices--is testament to the University's commitment to fostering the ideals of visionary leadership.

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As President Kenneth P. Ruscio stated in his 2009 convocation address, "What has distinguished us, I firmly believe, is not a rhetorical commitment to character, but a deeply effective history of students becoming aware of their responsibilities to others, and later leading lives of service that bring distinction to themselves and to this University."

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W&L alumni include 31 governors, 26 senators, 67 congressmen and 4 supreme court justices.
34 W&L students worked in service-related Shepherd Internships during summer 2014
95% of W&L graduates who apply to law school are accepted. For medical school, the acceptance rate is 92%.
13 W&L graduates joined the Teach for America corps in 2014, making the university one of the top 20 small colleges and universities sending graduates into teaching service for the second straight year.
Roughly 25,000 alumni are part of the W&L network, with 81 chapters all around the world.

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Washington and Lee University provides a liberal arts education that develops students' capacity to think freely, critically, and humanely and to conduct themselves with honor, integrity, and civility. Graduates will be prepared for life-long learning, personal achievement, responsible leadership, service to others, and engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society.