By Brittany Martin

Meredith McGee ’23 smiles; Harshil Bhavsar ’23 smiles; Fatimata Cham ’23; Kaitlyn Hilley ’23 smiles

To celebrate their accomplishments and look back at their time at the College, we asked the 2023 George Wharton Pepper Prize nominees: What specific memories or experiences made Lafayette feel like home to you? Here are their stories.

Fatimata Cham ’23

Fatimata Cham smiles

“One experience that made Lafayette feel like home to me was definitely some of the events with NIA and Girl Up. Girl Up is a club I founded to help spark conversations about gender inequity in all its forms. NIA is a preexisting organization dedicated to building space for women of color on campus. Through these organizations, whether it be through the executive board or the events like Big Sis/Lil Sis or Self-Care Sundays, I have felt community with the other women in the room and have felt like I was at home.” –Fatimata Cham ’23, 2023 George Wharton Pepper Prize recipient (government and law, women and gender studies)


Dylan Gooding ’23

Dylan Gooding looks to the right.

“Taekwondo is something that has been a part of me my whole life (I started in kindergarten!) and was something I wished to continue at Lafayette. So freshman year, you can imagine how happy I was to see that there was a Taekwondo Club. I have loved my time learning new forms and serving as a mentor for others, and overall it has been an amazing experience. I’m so appreciative that I was able to continue taekwondo during college, and it has served as a nice connection between home and Lafayette.” –Dylan Gooding ’23 (economics, government and law)


Meredith McGee ’23

Meredith McGee smiles in front of Lavender Lane.

“The creation of OUT and Lavender Lane made Lafayette truly feel like home. Through these organizations, I was able to establish a deep connection with my chosen family who has supported me throughout my time at Lafayette. Without these organizations, I would not have been able to meet my closest friends or be able to do half of the things I do on campus.” –Meredith McGee ’23 (biology, history)


Jefrey Alexander ’23

Jefrey Alexander smiles.

“Lafayette College hasn’t just felt like a home to me, it has been a home. This is most evident by what occurred at the very beginning of the pandemic: While everyone packed up their belongings and headed back home for an indefinite amount of time, I faced the reality of what it meant to be doing life on my own. At least I thought I was completely on my own, but Lafayette College reminded me that I mattered to it far more than I ever allowed myself to believe. Not only did the benevolence of the school keep me from experiencing homelessness, but the community around me stopped me from manifesting my internal sensation of isolation into a physical reality. So, this is a shoutout to the many people who have kept me grounded, who have hugged me, who have reminded me that I’m loved; you are the reason Lafayette College feels like home.” –Jefrey Alexander ’23 (psychology)


Swati Pandey ’23

Swati Pandey smiles.

“For me, home means vulnerability, compassion, honesty, and encouragement. More often than not, we are so focused on big achievements that we tend to forget how these accomplishments are but culmination of smaller successes. So for me, there isn’t a specific defining moment when Lafayette felt like home, but it was every tiny interaction- starting from [senior associate director of admissions] Eugene Gabay’s email wishing me a warm welcome to the College to reflective banters at Grossman Library to an increasing sense of comfort while conducting experiments at Prof. Robert Kurt‘s lab—that has made Lafayette feel like a space that accepts me while encouraging me to be better.” –Swati Pandey ’23 (biology)


Kaitlyn Hilley ’23

Kaitlyn Hilley smiles

“The Quad has always been and continues to be the place where I feel the most like Lafayette is home. The Quad has become my happy place where my friends and I, as well as the whole Lafayette community, can enjoy each other and the beautiful campus. I can remember specifically during the spring of 2021 when COVID was still very prevalent and anxiety-producing on campus, the Quad was one of the places where the community could come together safely. Whether it’s a quick lunch or spending the whole afternoon, the Quad has always provided me with a sanctuary and mental rest amid a hectic schedule and classwork.” –Kaitlyn Hilley ’23 (biology, government and law)


Charlie Mirsky ’23

Charlie Mirsky thinking in a game of chess.

Spending time with friends at the McKelvy House makes Lafayette feel like home more and more every day. Hanging out with Prof. Benjamin Cohen in the gardens, chatting with Prof. Cohen after Sunday discussions, and playing chess—with Prof. Cohen—are some of my favorite highlights. Also having my Eminem magazines around always makes my room feel more homey.” –Charlie Mirsky ’23 (government and law)


Annie Krege ’23

Annie Krege smiles in front of a spotlight.

“Surprisingly, what made Lafayette feel most like home was a time when I was not physically at Lafayette. During my freshman year, I was cast in the Marquis Players’ production of Footloose. Because of the pandemic, we were sent home and had to cancel the show, but the entire cast Zoomed together a few days before what would have been opening night. Despite the physical distance between all of us, I felt astonishingly at home amongst my newfound community. This moment solidified my belief that Lafayette was where I belonged. Later on, it inspired me to get more involved in Marquis Players in leadership roles, through which I continued to build this community in order to share a sense of belonging with others.” –Annie Krege ’23 (English, film and media studies)


Harshil Bhavsar ’23

Harshil Bhavsar smiles in front of large windows.

“During my first semester at Lafayette, I struggled to find a community where I felt like my identity mattered. It wasn’t until I went to my first LEADERS meeting in the fall where I became empowered by Prof. Khadijah Mitchell and other students to make my voice heard, because students who are first-generation college students like me aren’t always given the same opportunities. LEADERS provided me with professional competencies and a home where I felt elevated and my challenges understood by the community around me. This sense of belonging translated to my work with the Landis program Generation Next and offered me an outlet to give back to my community by mentoring future first-generation college students at Easton Area High School.” –Harshil Bhavsar ’23 (neuroscience, biochemistry)


Thalia Newman ’23

Thalia Newman smiles, sitting.

“I started to feel at home at Lafayette during my sophomore spring semester. After nearly a year of taking classes from the other side of the country on Zoom, coming back brought the excitement of returning to a community. I began to notice and appreciate the small moments—things like cooking dumplings in the basement of Easton Hall with a friend who lived on my floor, enjoying backyard picnics with my family from my sorority, and laughing and dancing through the finale of The Wedding Singer as a sudden rainstorm drenched our closing performance. Compared to freshman year, I spent less time running from building to building, jumping from activity to activity, and more time appreciating the human connections and community that I had here. That community and the people that were a part of it were what truly made Lafayette feel like a home that semester, and for each one since.” –Thalia Newman ’23 (biology)