These Birmingham-Southern College students overcame countless obstacles to cross the stage this May—insight from the graduates


Birmingham-Southern College
Killian Kahalley, Lauren Barnett, Zionne McCrear. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

Starting your college career during a worldwide pandemic is just about as tumultuous as it sounds. From a campus shutdown to online classes and more, students had to quickly adapt to an extensive list of unknowns. We talked with three students from Birmingham-Southern College—a private liberal arts college—to learn about their unique experience and what it took to cross the stage this May to receive their diplomas as part of BSC’s 2023 graduating class.

Meet 3 of BSC’s 2023 graduating seniors

Killian Kahalley

Birmingham-Southern College
Killian Kahalley, May 2023 BSC graduate. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

Originally hailing from Spanish Fort, Killian is one of the first students to complete BSC’s new data science program. He will graduate from BSC this May with a degree in physics. After graduating, he will move to Huntsville for a job at CrossFlow Technologies, a military defense contractor.

Lauren Barnett

Birmingham-Southern College
Lauren Barnett, May 2023 BSC graduate. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

Lauren has led fellow students as Student Government Association President. From the city of Arab, she graduates from BSC this May with a degree in economics. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school at the University of Illinois-Chicago, continuing her passion for economics. 

Zionne McCrear

Birmingham-Southern College
Zionne McCrear, May 2023 BSC graduate. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

Zionne is an upcoming 2023 BSC grad from the city of Mount Olive. As a first-generation college student, she’s earning her degree in biology. 

Post-graduation, she’ll be taking a gap year before entering medical school, during which she will study for the MCAT and work as a Research Coordinator with Clinical Trials at UAB.

Zionne plans to relocate to Mobile to work as an Americorps Member with Mobile Baykeeper and the African Heritage Preservation Foundation this fall.

Meet more of the incredible students at Birmingham-Southern College.

Navigating college through a pandemic

Birmingham-Southern College
Zionne McCrear with Virginia Gilbert Loftin, Vice President for Advancement and Communications at BSC. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

We all remember the daily struggles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. From shutdowns and social distancing to desperate searches for hand sanitizer, a new challenge popped up nearly every day. 

BSC students were in the same boat, undergoing an extra set of obstacles like a campus shutdown, online classes and social distancing from professors, students and friends.

Here’s a closer look at some of the challenges students experienced:

  • Killian Kahalley: “There was a huge loss of student-professor connection as everything went online, and for the classes that didn’t go online, the social distancing and masks essentially killed any kind of discussion or small group work.”  
  • Lauren Barnett: “There was an underlying uncertainty that plagued every aspect of campus life—guessing how long the ‘two-week’ pandemic was actually going to last, wondering if social events and student organizations would ever operate as normal, and hoping that the BSC experience would again be attainable.” 
  • Zionne McCrear: “When classes transitioned online, it was a learning curve for everyone. I had to navigate a chemistry lab online which was very challenging for me. I was unable to be hands-on with lab equipment and ask immediate questions.”

Positive life lessons

Birmingham-Southern College
(Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

While 2023 graduating seniors like Killian, Lauren and Zionne had a college journey that posed more obstacles than most, they also picked up positive lessons and skills along the way. 

  • Killian Kahalley: “The pandemic helped students be more self-driven. It was a steep learning curve, but ultimately, I think it helped a lot of us be more independent and intrinsically motivated to do work.”
  • Lauren Barnett: “I think one benefit of the pandemic was that this graduating class learned how quickly things could change and to appreciate every moment we have gotten to be part of the BSC community.”
  • Zionne McCrear: “The pandemic came with a unique set of challenges that many people endured. It was very difficult pushing through a pandemic and staying abreast in classes. However, I am very thankful for attending BSC, because we were able to push through those obstacles together.”

Are you impressed by these upcoming 2023 graduates? You aren’t alone. After watching and guiding these students through their college education, BSC’s faculty and staff couldn’t be more awe-struck by this driven group.

“People like to talk about the fragility of this generation, but from what we see, these young people are tenacious and resilient. Every year of their college experience has brought new challenges, and I think they surely are prepared for pretty much anything because they’ve demonstrated what they are made of.”

Virginia Gilbert Loftin, Vice President for Advancement and Communications, BSC

Discover more about Birmingham-Southern College—visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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