Student Strives to Get Most Out of College Experience

Sara Amell

Sara Amell, left, with fellow Minuteman Marching Band members

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In high school Sara Amell ’14 (sociology) participated in many different clubs, like Model UN, National Honor Society, and band. “I love getting involved and learning new things,” she says, noting that it was band that introduced her to UMass.

“The same year I attended my first UMass Band day, my sophomore English teacher revealed that she had been a section leader in the UMass band,” Amell explains. “I had so much fun that day, and again when I came back my senior year. I also had the fantastic opportunity to stay at UMass for five days at the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy. That’s when I fell in love with UMass and knew that it was my school.”

In her first year Amell chose to be part of a Residential Academic Program (RAP) that catered to undecided students. “That’s when I took my first sociology course, Social Problems, and became intrigued with the idea of researching and actually trying to find solutions to the issues our society faces every day.”

Raised in an environment where people reach out to help others, Amell says classes like “The Family, Immigration,” and “Gender and Society” furthered her interest in community service. “Mixing that with the research aspect of sociology makes the major perfect for me.” This year Amell is working as an undergraduate research assistant for Professor Steven Boutcher.

“This experience will help me start building the skills I will need to do my own research one day,” says Amell. “There are so many important steps to research that it is important to study and practice them with guidance when you are getting started. His help will eventually lead me to see what I need to do if I want to make it as a researcher.

Academically, Amell was never afraid to step outside the boundaries of her major to try other things. “I even got out of my comfort level and took some math and science classes, which aren’t the easiest for me! Professors and TAs are always so willing to help, even if the subject matter doesn’t come as second nature.”

Since high school Amell has known that she’d be paying her own way through college. “I started then to save by working as a lifeguard and teaching kids to swim. Since then I’ve done many more jobs, including two wonderful positions on campus and two each summer, but sometimes things can be difficult to balance. Every year I have to ask myself, ‘can I afford another year?’” So Amell was thrilled when she received this year’s Class of 1945 Merit Scholarship. “It means a little less time working and a bit more time studying.”

Being a part of the Minuteman Marching Band has been an extraordinary experience for Amell. “I’ve met so many of my closest friends through band, and I’ve been active in Tau Beta Sigma, the band service sorority.” Band has developed Amell’s endurance and leadership skills, too. “You learn that practicing the right way over and over can really perfect what you are going for. It’s fantastic to go out and play for any audience. We bring great energy wherever we go.”

The future for Amell is still an unknown. Before making her way to grad school, she hopes to find a job with a nonprofit advocacy group doing some type of research, or helping to create events that address social issues. “I’m passionate about many different areas: immigration, education, women’s issues, and LGBT rights. And I want to pinpoint what I want to focus on for my master’s or even PhD.”

For now, Amell plans on maximizing her senior year. “Really getting involved changes your whole mindset and rounds out the college experience. It helps shape you and brings a better understanding of other people and their values. I tell people to choose something they like, something they are passionate about, or maybe something similar to what they’ll be doing after graduation. Just do something!”