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PCAL Stories

Stories about our liberal arts majors and their unique Hilltopper Journey.

We are proud of our liberal arts students that #ClimbWithUs. Learn more about their victories, their struggles, and their personal journey to the TOP in the stories below.

Maria Siewers


Siewers wants to make change both locally and globally

Siewers wants to make change both locally and globally

Photograph by Jared Zweben.

For Maria Siewers, a junior from Bowling Green, KY majoring in sociology with a concentration in family, gender and sexuality, understanding the world has been a driving force.

“Humans are social beings and there is so much to learn about us when we understand how and why we act the way we do,” Siewers said. This interest is what led her to study sociology and pursue an education both within Potter College and abroad.

Siewers attributes her interest in sociology to the semester she spent studying at Harlaxton College in Grantham, England. While abroad, her interest and understanding of the discipline was piqued as she saw how different societies operated first-hand. Siewers said that this experience has also motivated her to pursue a graduate degree abroad – particularly in Europe.

Siewers links her interest in a global understanding to her experience in Potter College. She started as a gender and women’s studies minor but switched to a sociology major when she discovered her passion for the discipline. Her favorite course has been ANTH 343: Anthropology of Gender, which opened her up to a different perspective on the subject. 

Along with sociology, Siewers is studying communication disorders in the College of Health and Human Services. Siewers hopes to combine her two majors to pursue a career in speech pathology working with people transitioning genders. Additionally, her passion for ensuring others can confidently and effectively communicate led her to take additional coursework in the Department of Communication. Though she does not pursue a degree in the Department of Communication, Siewers believes helping others communicate the way they want will lead to a more just and fair world.

While her studies may not be confined to one discipline, she said this has only expanded her knowledge and proved beneficial. Siewers believes her experience at WKU has equipped her to be a successful global citizen and changemaker.


For more information about the Potter College of Arts and Letters, visit: https://www.wku.edu/pcal/

For more information about the Department of Sociology and Criminology, visit: https://www.wku.edu/sociology-criminology/index.php

For more information about the College of Health and Human Services, visit: https://www.wku.edu/chhs/

For more information about the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, visit: https://www.wku.edu/communicationdisorders/


Elma Jašarević


Jašarević forges connections as first-generation college student

Jašarević forges connections as first-generation college student

At the age of two, Elma Jašarević, a graduating senior from Bowling Green, moved to the United States with her parents due to the Bosnian Genocide. As early as middle school, she knew she wanted to become a criminal prosecutor. Pursuing that aspiration, Jašarević chose to major in Criminology and Political Science.

"The reason I chose to go into law is that I want to help stop things like that from ever occurring again,” Jašarević expressed. “A lot of people have the same goal and vision - I'm just trying to do my part to help."

While looking for options to pursue her future career, Jašarević fell in love with WKU and the opportunity it presented while on a campus tour.

"I could stay here in my hometown, which I love, and I can also get a degree in my field," Jašarević said.

Additionally, Jašarević was excited to join a program with a smaller student-teacher ratio and more opportunities to get to know her professors and peers. Throughout her college career, Jašarević has felt the impact of that supportive network – especially as a first-generation college student.

"I had so many unique experiences that people who weren't first-generation wouldn't have. I didn't have a person in my family I could go to with questions, so it was a process of trial and error," Jašarević said.

However, Jašarević did not face those experiences alone. Thanks to her classmates and WKU faculty and staff members, she found a helping hand at every turn. In her first days on campus, she collaborated with a fellow first-generation college student to map out the best routes to their fall semester classes and notes on important campus buildings. 

Jašarević also developed strong friendships and connections in her classes and as a peer mentor for the Department of Sociology and Criminology. Through her studies, she met a wide variety of individuals - but the most unforgettable memory came from her penology class, which discussed prison management and the treatment of offenders. 

"One of my favorite memories at WKU is meeting two of my best friends as part of a group project. Ever since that project, we have been great friends and had fantastic study sessions. Even though they are off doing different things now - Austin is in the United States Army and Melanie is a social worker - we are still connected," Jašarević said. 

In addition to making personal connections, Jašarević helped facilitate networking and learning about career opportunities for a wider group of classmates. By serving as a peer mentor for the Department of Sociology and Criminology, she aided in coordinating a wide variety of outreach efforts, such as a freshman welcome event, a Women in Justice panel, and a peer mentor takeover on the department's Instagram account. 

"We had over 20 speakers come to the Women in Justice panel. It was so awesome seeing all of these women in different positions coming to speak to us, share their perspectives, and how they reached their positions," Jašarević said. 

Most recently, Jašarević helped organize a Federal Law Enforcement Panel, featuring panelists from the U.S. Marshals, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, and more. She worked closely with Dr. Holli Drummond, Head of the Sociology and Criminology Department, and Penny Bowles, Deputy Chief – Support Services Bureau for the Bowling Green Police Department, to contact the speakers. Through her efforts, Jašarević helped facilitate opportunities for her peers to network, speak with professionals in the field, and meet new friends. 

Reflecting on her journey, Jašarević noted how WKU has helped her find herself, both personally and professionally.

"I used to be a very shy person – meeting people, having classes, being a peer mentor, all of those things helped me get out of my shell. I will always be thankful to WKU for that," Jašarević said.

Jašarević noted that numerous faculty and staff members positively shaped her WKU experience and offered unique connections to the local community.

"All of our professors are so passionate about what they do - it makes me know that I'm picking the right degree for me. They reassure me that this is what I want to do, that this is the profession I want," Jašarević said. 

In addition to the supportive, tight-knit network, Jašarević noted the value of applied learning and community connections in her classes. 

"I love that WKU has adjunct professors - such as Deputy Chief Penny Bowles and Instructor Tambra Steelman - who are actually in the field. It really helps give you a different perspective, and they have so many connections," Jašarević said. 

Jašarević knows the power of networking firsthand, through her position at the Commonwealth Attorney's Office for the Eighth Judicial Circuit. Aided by a coworker at her part-time job who also worked for the Kentucky State Police, Jašarević gained an internship at the Commonwealth Attorney's Office. She later advanced to a position as a runner in the office, giving her firsthand experience in her field. Together, Jašarević's majors and practical experience gave her valuable insight into her future career. 

"I want to learn why our world works the way it does. Through my courses, I can learn why people do the things they do and gain a better understanding of other people," Jašarević said. 

Looking back, Jašarević expressed her gratitude for all of the individuals who helped her along the way - most notably, her family. 

"Coming from a family of immigrants who moved across the ocean to give me a better life, I always had standards I held myself up to. My parents pushed me to be the best person I can be - telling me that I am smart, I am more than capable, and I have got this. I owe all my success to them," Jašarević said. 

After graduation, Jašarević plans to pursue the next steps toward becoming a criminal prosecutor – studying for the LSAT examination and seeking admission to law school.

"I know I can do this. It is now up to me to get that better life," Jašarević said. 


For more information about earning a degree in Sociology and Criminology, visit https://www.wku.edu/sociology-criminology/.

For more information about earning a degree in Political Science, visit https://www.wku.edu/political-science/.


Nyla Rogers


Rogers gains confidence through classwork, student organizations

Rogers gains confidence through classwork, student organizations

When searching for a student who embodies the WKU spirit, look no further than Nyla Rogers, a senior from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, majoring in criminology and Chinese.

Rogers is an active presence all over campus. She serves as chapter president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., where she has managed, planned and created events to serve the community. “Being a part of this organization has taught me how to be more confident in myself and what I have to offer to the world,” Rogers said.

Rogers is also active in WKU Housing and Residence Life. She serves as a resident assistant in Minton Hall. Through this position, she serves as a resource to her peers and plays a key role in ensuring student success. Rogers is also active with the Intercultural Student Engagement Center Academy. She said ISEC has fostered the growth that has made her into the successful young woman she is today.

Rogers said her experiences in Potter College of Arts & Letters (PCAL) have not only helped her academically succeed but help others too. With the array of classes the college offers, students are able to expand on subjects both inside and outside their major. Rogers said her favorite class in PCAL had been the criminology course “Homicide and Serial Homicide” with Dr. Carrie Trojan.

Along with criminology, Rogers is developing her skills as a global citizen by studying Chinese. Through the Department of Modern Languages, she has studied abroad in China twice – spending three weeks in Tianjin and two months in Shanghai. She has also spent three weeks studying abroad in Italy.

Rogers was able to study abroad by earning the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The scholarship helps undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need to study overseas, gain proficiency in diverse languages, and experience new cultures.

When discussing her time in Shanghai, Rogers said, “that was one of the best experiences I had while studying abroad as my language skills became significantly better.”

Rogers’ aspirations extend far beyond campus – in fact, they cover the entire world! After completing her studies, Rogers hopes to work for either the FBI or the United Nations. She is determined to make a positive change in this world with her background at WKU and PCAL.

Rogers’ successes – both on and off the Hill – have prepared her to make an impact at WKU and across the world. The future is bright with leaders like her.

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 Last Modified 1/8/21