It wasn’t the ending Sarah Venesky ’20 had envisioned.
The senior applied math major was reveling in her final days of college and eagerly anticipating walking the stage in a just a few short weeks to accept her Texas A&M University diploma as friends and family looked on, four years of hard work finally recognized.
Then came the outbreak of COVID-19. On-campus classes were suddenly canceled, proper goodbyes were left unsaid and then the announcement that Venesky and the rest of the graduating Class of 2020 dreaded most: Spring commencement would not be taking place as planned.
But rather than dwell on the disappointment at present, Venesky is instead choosing to direct her energy toward reflecting on her personal academic journey, one punctuated by personal growth and milestone life experiences that ultimately led to her cherished goal of earning a degree. And nothing, she says, can take that away.
“It’s disappointing to not have that moment onstage at graduation, but I still have that air of celebration,” Venesky said. “I feel like my time at Texas A&M is where I really found out who I was as a person, and I feel good about where I am in life. It’s been a learning experience in more ways than the purely scholastic.”
That learning experience began in 2016 when Venesky enrolled at Texas A&M as a freshman. Like many students, she initially struggled with which degree plan to pursue. Venesky at first chose to major in business and perhaps one day follow in the footsteps of her mother and father, both of whom had forged successful careers in accounting.
She soon realized that she wanted to forge her own path and decided to study mathematics instead.
“It was not an easy switch to make,” Venesky said. “But I had taken a business math course and really enjoyed the material. I realized that math was what I wanted to do.”
By the time Venesky was a sophomore, she was taking math courses that most students don’t take until their junior or senior years. Her fearlessness in the classroom and determination to succeed was admired by her faculty mentors, including Heather Ramsey, an instructional assistant professor of mathematics and lead undergraduate advisor in the Texas A&M Department of Mathematics.
“Sarah has always stood out to me as a student who sets high standards for herself and works tirelessly to achieve her goals,” Ramsey said. “As a soon-to-be graduate of Texas A&M University, she will be an outstanding ambassador for the Department of Mathematics and a former student we can all be proud to have in our Aggie family.”
Venesky notes that while she’s always had a proclivity toward math, it was not a skill set that came easily. She would put in hours of study time on a daily basis to better herself. The hard work paid off in more ways than a respectable GPA; it taught her that she enjoys a challenge, something Venesky says she thrives on.
“My thought process is very logical, so formulas and math concepts were things that I could think through and make sense of once I understood the reasoning behind them,” she said. “I wouldn’t say I was always good at math, but that was the subject that made sense to me over anything else.”
It also taught her that she enjoyed sharing her knowledge with others. In her free time, Venesky found fulfillment in tutoring classmates. She was also an active member of Aggie Actuaries and served as an officer for the Math Club, where some of her favorite moments were leading math demonstrations for local elementary school children.
Venesky believes any time not spent bettering herself academically should be spent sharing her love and knowledge of mathematics with others.
“I think a lot of people dislike math because they just don’t understand it,” Venesky said. “I love helping people get to the ‘oh, I get it’ moment and seeing their fear of an upcoming test or assignment turn into confidence. Sometimes it just takes a different way of explaining things.”
Venesky, an Ohio native, moved to Dallas with her family in 2004 when she was 6 years old. And although she wasn’t born in the Lone Star State, she considers herself a Texas girl through and through. It was when her oldest brother enrolled at Texas A&M that Venesky’s entire family fell in love with the university’s charm and tradition, setting off a chain reaction that resulted in all six Venesky siblings (three older brothers, an older sister and a younger brother) ultimately attending Texas A&M.
When it came time for Venesky to make her own college choice, her parents, now die-hard Aggie enthusiasts, encouraged her to apply. It wasn’t exactly a hard sell, as she recalls it.
“I just loved the culture of Texas A&M, and it was a no-brainer for me,” Venesky said. “I was looking at it as, ‘O.K., where do I want to be for the next four years of my life?’ Definitely here.”
Despite her lifelong affiliation with the school, adjusting to a new environment wasn’t easy. After an initial period of uncertainty, it wasn’t long before Venesky was able to find her niche within the Aggie family. Before long, being on campus felt like a second home.
“You have the same friends for so long, and then you’re thrown into this new environment.” Venesky said. “Then you find that there are so many places to fit in at Texas A&M. I quickly found a lot of people with similar interests as me, and they were just as intense about the things they like as I was.”
While her chapter at Texas A&M may be ending, the next one is just beginning. Venesky is focused on her career and already has a position lined up as an actuarial associate with Fidelity Investments that she is hoping to start in June. She says her family also has plans to throw her a mock graduation ceremony in the near future so she can have her moment to don her cap and gown.
But before she goes, Venesky wants to leave younger Aggies with a parting message.
“There are going to be so many times where you’re pulling all-nighters and cramming for finals, and it becomes hard to see past it,” she said. “Just keep your eye on that light at the end of the tunnel. It’s going to be hard work, but it’s going to be O.K.”
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