From left: Seniors Charlotte Scott, Seth Goldstein and Liliana King will deliver student reflections honoring fellow Class of 2022.5 members at Brown's Midyear Completion Celebration on Dec. 3. Photos by Nick Dentamaro/Brown University

Date November 30, 2022
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Midyear Completion students extol enthusiasm, empathy ahead of ceremony

At Brown’s Midyear Completion Celebration on Saturday, Dec. 3, three student speakers will aim to inspire fellow students while honoring the unique achievements of this year’s .5ers.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — At any Brown hockey, football or lacrosse game, one would be hard-pressed to find Liliana King and Charlotte Scott missing from the stands. They’re likely dressed up, cheering for their friends, holding up signs and defending their home turf from competitors’ taunts.

It’s all in a day’s work for the two friends, both seniors concentrating in history and economics, who said they have taken it upon themselves to become Brown’s biggest fans.

Lili King and Charlotte Scott
King, left, and Scott met their first year at Brown during an ice cream social. Four and a half years later, they will deliver a joint address at the Midyear Completion Celebration.

“We’re at every sports game, we’re always in the Ratty and we literally went to CPax’s [Brown President Christina H. Paxson] open office hours totally unprepared, just to tell her how much we love Brown,” King said.

It’s fitting, then, that they will mark the end of their Brown educations together on stage, delivering a joint address as part of the Midyear Completion Celebration honoring the University's Class of 2022.5.

King and Scott are among 235 “.5ers” who will complete Brown degree requirements in December, most of whom will take part in the annual Midyear Completion Celebration on Saturday, Dec. 3. Scott, King and fellow .5er Seth Goldstein will offer student reflections at the ceremony; Dean of the College Rashid Zia will preside; and the Dallas String Quartet and University a capella group the Chattertocks will perform.

Reasons for finishing studies mid-year vary widely. Some students arrive mid-study as transfer students from other institutions. Some take time off to intern, volunteer or work. Others leave to travel or pursue creative projects. Sometimes academic or medical issues motivate a leave.

For King and Scott — and many members of the Class of 2022.5 — the decision was spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Liliana King and Charlotte Scott: Embracing enthusiasm

When the coronavirus arrived in Rhode Island and students had to leave campus housing in March 2020, King and Scott moved in to King’s mother’s childhood home in South Kingstown, R.I., each taking a floor. They navigated lockdowns, quarantines and pandemic life together, sometimes not seeing each other all day until they sat down for dinner to talk about what happened in their virtual classes earlier.

But when plans for the Fall 2020 semester were announced, Scott said, they — ever the economics students — had to weigh the costs of not taking leave. Given the public health conditions at the time, many courses would be held remotely. Access to common areas, like dining halls and libraries, would be restricted and in particular moments, even off-limits. Large social gatherings and events would have to be paused.

“I just thought, ‘What are the main things I love about Brown?’ and it was all those things,” Scott said.

Having made their decisions, Scott traveled back overseas to her native London, where she researched bonds for a new investment group and narrowed down her career goals in the finance industry. King assumed a leadership role in the marketing department of an ice cream company in her hometown, Pittsburgh, where she enjoyed seeing the fruits of her work when she walked into grocery stores and saw pints she designed lining the freezer aisles.

“ I gained a wider appreciation for the community here, and the diversity of thought that you can just encounter by bumping into someone on campus ... They all have the coolest stuff going on, and you can’t find that anywhere but Brown. ”

Liliana King Class of 2022.5

Taking leave, they both agreed, was invaluable. They were able to dedicate time to their professional interests and learn exactly what it was that they were each passionate about.

King said she had zero regrets about taking leave, but she ultimately started to feel pulled back to Providence.

“[Being away,] I gained a wider appreciation for the community here, and the diversity of thought that you can just encounter by bumping into someone on campus,” King said.

While she said she loved the company of her pandemic pod in Pittsburgh, “it wasn’t the same as having 6,000 people who all come from different places and have these crazy projects or passions they’re pursuing,” King said. “They all have the coolest stuff going on, and you can’t find that anywhere but Brown.”

So when it was time to return to campus, King and Scott said they embraced every opportunity with enthusiasm. Whether it was being the only students in remote classes with their cameras turned on, waving wildly to friends across the College Green or joining new sports, the duo committed to being all-in. And they loved it.

“Here we are, seniors on a full meal plan, and we’re fully camping out in the Ratty for probably 8 hours each Sunday,” Scott said. “Just sitting there and waiting for people to come hang out, because that’s what I missed most — those things that you don’t really think about until they’re gone.”

Things that are missed, things that are taken away, things that are given up — those will be themes in the speech they’ll deliver on Saturday. But they will also illuminate themes of perseverance, enthusiasm and, of course, smart investments. Using their economics studies as a framework, King and Scott will examine the opportunity cost of Brown, engaging in a conversation-style speech that asks, “Was it worth it?”

Spoiler: It’s an enthusiastic “yes.”

Seth Goldstein: Building it better

For fellow .5er Seth Goldstein, the pandemic similarly motivated the decision to take leave, though he said he was considering the option before COVID-19 hit.

After graduating high school, Goldstein took a gap year before enrolling at Brown. An ardent political advocate, he spent the fall of 2016 in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, volunteering for the Democratic party. Wisconsin was poised to be a key state in the race, but Goldstein’s political anxiety was underscored by a cruel irony: Just three months shy of his 18th birthday, he was unable to vote.

Since then, he said he felt a gnawing obligation to play a role in preventing a repeat of the 2016 presidential election that ended in a loss for the Democratic party.   

“I was like, ‘Okay, I have skills in organizing. I know how to talk to people. Maybe there’s something I can do in terms of helping us win this next election,’” Goldstein said.

So when Fall 2020 drew nearer, the senior, concentrating in the land, water and food security track of environmental science, decided to head back to Wisconsin for the semester. But there was never the question of whether Goldstein would return to Brown, or even when: “It was a no-brainer to come back,” he said. “The whole time, I was thinking, ‘School’s going to be a lot easier than organizing for 60 hours a week in rural Wisconsin.’”

In Wisconsin, Goldstein dived head first into his civic duty, leading volunteers, establishing rapport and educating voters across the state.

“It ended up being a great experience — I mean, it was really hard and I would never do it again, but it was good practice in terms of recognizing how much I can get done in a set amount of time, and in learning different ways to build relationships,” he said.

The desire to find creative, enduring ways to connect with community has been a cornerstone of Goldstein’s time at Brown.

In addition to participating in the Brown Outing Club and Brown Outdoor Leadership Training, Goldstein became a facilitator for BWell’s Masculinity 101, helping his peers examine topics like gender and male privilege. He was a student facilitator in the Community Dialogue Project for three years and also took part in the Transformative Justice program; he said his engagement in programs like these has helped form the basis of how he views relationships.

“Since almost the beginning of being at Brown, it’s been clear that I’ve learned more from the people here and the relationships I’ve built,” Goldstein said. “The people I’m in community with have really, really shaped how I think about things and have been my biggest source of learning.”

It’s the community at Brown — those relationships — that Goldstein had in mind as he drafted his speech for the Midyear Completion Celebration.

He will draw inspiration from the classic Yiddish folktale, “Something from Nothing,” about a young child who takes their favorite blanket everywhere. Each time the blanket seems like it might be damaged beyond repair, the child’s grandfather lovingly reimagines the material and transforms it into something entirely new for the child, until a single button remains.

What happens when that button is lost?

Goldstein’s speech on Saturday will offer his classmates a fitting alternative to the original ending.

“Why is it that when we love something more and more, it ends up getting worn down?” Goldstein said. “What if we could have a different kind of love, or a different kind of attention, that can actually strengthen something instead of wearing it down? This is the power of relationships as a way to create transformative change.”