Student Spotlight: Transforming Lives through Advocacy and Artistry

Student Spotlight: Transforming Lives through Advocacy and Artistry

Hannah Lyons ’24

When selecting a college, Hannah Lyons ’24 knew she wanted to play softball and have a four-year collegiate experience. She chose Wilson because it was one of the few American Veterinary Medical Association accredited schools with a four-year Veterinary Nursing program. She also picked Wilson because campus felt like family from the beginning, especially after meeting the softball team. “I knew it was going to be a tight-knit school where I would know everybody, and I would have great connections,” she said.


In addition to being a member of the softball team, Hannah has also served as a Phoenix Leader, Student-Athlete Mentor, and president of the Veterinary Nursing Club. One of her favorite activities has been welcoming new students to Wilson as an admissions tour guide. “It was great showing everyone the Wilson love and giving off that Wilson vibe, sharing the open and friendly community.” She applied this same sense of hospitality to her two-year service as president of the Allies Club. “Wilson helped me find out who I am as a person and I felt free to be whoever I wanted to be here,” she said. “[As president of Allies], I just wanted a safe space for everybody to come together and to be themselves.”

During her sophomore year at Wilson, she was offered the newly created position of campus student representative for Rarebreed Veterinary Partners, an integrated network of partner practices that collaborates and shares resources for a thriving veterinary community. This position enabled her to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion around veterinary medicine.

Through a vet nursing career fair held on campus, Hannah found an internship at an emergency hospital in Philadelphia, something she never thought she would pursue. She credits her professors with encouraging students to seek new experiences when searching for veterinary nursing internship opportunities.

“It has been a pleasure to watch Hannah navigate her academic journey at Wilson College. She was always open to exploring her academic options. Hannah has been dedicated to her education and committed to veterinary nursing. I have no doubt she will make a difference in the lives of many animals,” shared Tammy Ege, associate professor of veterinary nursing.

When she is not at Wilson, Hannah works part time at Forest Avenue Animal Hospital in her hometown of Dover, Dela. She will start a full-time position there in the fall and, as an animal welfare advocate, hopes to one day own an animal hospital or rescue center. “Wilson has definitely been one of the best experiences of my life so far and I think it’s also setting me up to have great experiences throughout life.”

Eli Kababa ’24 MFA

Most people with a spinal cord injury would never think about heading back to school for a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance, especially when it has been 21 years since the last time they were in a classroom. That is what Eli Kababa, a street dance artist and educator from the New York City metro area, did. After a car accident in 2015, Eli suffered from injuries that continued to deteriorate, and he was losing his ability to walk. Then, during the pandemic, his DJ business and dance education company shut down, so he began applying for new jobs. Realizing his resume was not yielding the roles he seeked, he began researching graduate schools, driven not just by his career goal of teaching at the university level, but also by a desire for personal growth and development.

Eli began his career as a teaching artist in the New York City Ballet’s Education Department, where he also co-founded and directed the Garden State Dance Project, a hip-hop dance education company. In 2015, Eli joined the staff of The 92nd Street Y in New York (92NY), working as a facilitator for their Dance Education Laboratory (DEL) and authoring the “Hip-Hop to the Top” curriculum for K-12 students and teachers.

Eli believes hip-hop can transform lives, schools, and communities, and he has long been an admirer of hip hop artist Rennie Harris. When Eli’s DEL colleague Shakia Johnson-Barron, a 2020 graduate of Wilson’s MFA program, discovered he was looking at programs, she recommended Wilson and shared how Harris was her mentor. “The fact that Wilson had Rennie Harris was huge,” said Eli, so he applied.

Eli struggled both academically and physically when he began our graduate program. In fact, his physical challenges would require spinal surgery at the end of his first year. He also worked extensively with Joy Merchant, assistant director of Wilson’s Academic Success Center, who met with Eli once a week during his second year in the program. “Joy helped me get the resources I needed. I would not be graduating without her,” he said.

The hip hop dance circle, known as the cypher, was the subject of his research thesis. “Decipher” focused on uncovering hidden meanings and exploring the person who enters the circle, why they enter, and the story they bring to the event. He completed this work under the artistic guidance of program mentor Rennie Harris and received a grant for the performance requirement of his project.

Joshua Legg, dean of The School of Professional and Graduate Studies, said, “[During his time at Wilson,] Eli evolved as an artist and as a human being. The surgery was his catalyst. If he had delayed it, I am not sure he would have come as far as he has. His determination allowed him to not just rebound from that, but also to complete the program and receive recognition in his field. He displayed that thing that is quintessential Wilson—real grit—a critical component of our community, and he embodied it. Eli is a true phoenix.”

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