Though Louie Ackelsberg grew up in a big city, he found no shortage of entertainment at Beloit.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect from the social life,” he says. “Then I saw Beloit is ridiculously fun.” Part of that fun came from Beloit’s extracurricular opportunities. “I love how many organizations there are,” the recent graduate says. “You can join whatever appeals to you.”
A lot appealed to Louie: Cross Country, Yoga Club, Track and Field, and Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. These diverse groups fostered rewarding friendships—and made Louie forget the student population was just 1300. “Beloit feels large because of the countless friends you make,” he says. “I made more friends than anyone I know at state schools.”
Louie found his peers just as valuable inside the classroom. Beloit’s discussion-based courses encourage student input, and Louie thinks that model benefits all. “The learning experience is mutual,” he says. “Students learn from professors, professors learn from students.” Class instruction impressed Louie, especially in his major. “The political science/international relations department has to be among the country’s best,” he says. “Each professor has a different teaching style, but all encourage critical thinking.”
Louie’s critical thinking skills sharpened during his semester abroad. In Durban, South Africa, he studied the history and implications of apartheid. Through lectures, out-of-class travel, and home stays, he was challenged to think about issues like economic development and gender equality. He also conducted independent research on a Durban shack community’s youth group.
“My time abroad was extremely important,” Louie says. “I returned to Beloit more confident to speak in class and connect my experiences to discussions.” Louie brought his newfound knowledge to a special project for his African Studies minor. With professor Beth Dougherty, he designed a curriculum for teaching South African politics through film.
Louie’s experience abroad fueled another exciting project: his senior thesis. Inspired by his Durban-based research, he explored how U.S. youth groups incite social change. “I created a framework for defining ‘youth,’” he explains. “It helped interpret the role youth activists played in the Civil Rights movement.”
Such rich opportunities—both academic and experiential—helped Louie graduate with a strong youth studies background. It’s helping him approach his next step: service in AmeriCorps’s City Year. He will help schoolchildren in his hometown of Philadelphia. As he returns to the urban setting he was once unsure about leaving, he remembers the fun he had at Beloit. His favorite memories? “Spending time with the Cross Country team,” he says. “The Olde English Classic race, hanging out with the team, and rafting down Turtle Creek are experiences I’ll really miss.”