Proftalk: Talking “firsts” at this year’s opening event

Proftalk's talking "spotlight" happened in the Owl's Nest this past Tuesday. -Photo courtesy of Proftalks

On Wednesday, September 12, students and faculty talked about “firsts” at this year’s opening ProfTalk, taking place at the Owl’s Nest in the Student Center.

Natalya Figueroa, a junior biophysics major, shared a story about her first day of college at just fifteen years old. She described her feelings as her age was revealed to her classmates.

“I started hearing the waves of whispers reach me saying things like, ‘she shouldn’t be here’… and, ‘is she still in high school?’” Figueroa said. “And there’s nothing worse than having an entire class staring at you and you not knowing what to say.”

She described feeling isolated from her classmates and regretted her decision to reveal her age. However, she later learned to embrace what had initially stood between her and her peers.

“What I didn’t realize was that they were as intimidated towards me as I was to them,” she said. “I started to own being different from my classmates.”

Constantine Alexakos, the director of the Chamberlain Student Center & Campus Activities, finished the evening by giving a talk about the journey that led him to Rowan all the way from Pensacola, Florida. His story started four years after he dropped out of college, working at his family’s kitchen. He was dissatisfied with the direction his life was moving towards and decided to make a change.

“I started setting myself some goals, and my goals were simple, I wanted to run five miles by the end of the summer, I wanted to re-apply to college, and I wanted to go back to school,” Alexakos said. “Not only was I running five miles by the end of the summer… I was running ten miles every day. [Then] I went back to that same university that I dropped out of.”

Alexakos ended up graduating from the University of West Florida and has ran a total of six marathons since. He decided to come work at Rowan while getting his masters and, a couple years after graduating, came back to work as the director of campus activities at Rowan. As director, he created Rowan After Hours, a beloved program which is still thriving to this day. After eighteen years at Rowan, Constantine has now made the decision to move back to be with his family in Pensacola and start a business with his brother.

“Eighteen years later I’m finally heading back home,” Akexakos said, “I always told myself that I’m going to go when the time is right and last year I started feeling like the time was right.”

The next ProfTalk will take place on Tuesday, October 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the Owl’s Nest. The theme will be “Spotlight” and food will be served.

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