As rising high school seniors both Lauren Kessler and Alex Richard attended Millsaps' International Cultural Awareness Program during the summer of 2007. In May they will both graduate with the distinction of being the first students to experience the International Cultural Awareness Program and earn a Millsaps degree.
"I had never felt so at home before in a school setting," Kessler remembered of her first experience at Millsaps during the summer of 2007. Students in the International Cultural Awareness Program spend a week on campus before travelling to Yucatan, Mexico for a week.
Alex Richard, Class of 2012, sets up bird nets early one morning during Winter Intersession classes in Yucatán, Mexico
"The professors are so passionate about their work and students and it really stood out," Kessler said.
The program, designed to cultivate cultural awareness and an understanding of life in a developing country, began in 2007.
A native of White Castle, Louisiana, Kessler learned of the program from her high school college counselor. Richard, from Mandeville, Louisiana, first heard of the program through a Millsaps admissions counselor and describes his experience with the program as an "extended college tour."
During the time on the Millsaps campus, Richard remembers going to a Mississippi Braves baseball game, eating at local favorites CS's and Sal & Mookies and going to the movies - all activities that have become favorites during his college days.
"I think my decision to come to Millsaps was heavily influenced by the ICAP program," he said. "I was able to spend so much time immersed in the Millsaps community that I felt very comfortable in my decision to attend Millsaps College."
Both Kessler and Richard returned to Yucatán, Mexico during their undergraduate years. Kessler took an international business class last summer and Richard returned during winter break for a course in conservation biology and Yucatan ecology.
"We visited many of the same cities and seeing how they have developed over the last five years is amazing," Kessler said.
"I knew from the ICAP program that I would be happy here. The small classes, personal relationships with professors and liberal arts business education have impacted my life in so many ways. It's amazing to see how much I have learned about myself in these last four years," Kessler said.
Next year they both have big plans - Kessler will stay at Millsaps to work towards an MBA and Richard will enter medical school at Louisiana State University - Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.