“Home is where I choose it to be, and I consider Villanova my home,” says Chemistry major and Philosophy minor Austin Rongo ‘24. Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, he has spent his past two summers on the campus, and plans to spend next summer on 800 Lancaster Avenue as well.
Villanova won Austin over with its beautiful campus and exciting acceptance email. Between his junior and senior years of high school, he took a road trip hitting Bucknell, Tufts, Princeton, Brown, and of course, Villanova. “As soon as I saw Villanova’s campus I thought ‘Wow, this place is awesome. I really like it here’ and I really liked my tour guide,” he shares. Then, alongside a bunch of friends and fellow applicants, he found out he had gotten in. “Villanova had the best admitted student’s letter I had received. As soon as you opened the email it said ‘Congratulations!’ and ‘Welcome!’ in a big flashy message. It was really cool for me,” he recalls.
Starting his college journey at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic has made each year an enjoyable, but very different, experience for Austin. “My first year was a COVID year, so classes wise I felt like I was in college, but the social scene was so different. You could only have four people in a room at once, and it was very hard to socialize. Sophomore year felt more like my freshman year socially, but this year I finally figured out my routine,” he shares.
However, he hasn’t let any of that time go to waste, and has dedicated much of it to valuable research here at Villanova, while still managing an impressive number of other endeavors. “The past two summers, I conducted research with my chemistry professors. My research focuses on making copper catalysts, which are greener than most other chemical catalysts, and we’re using them to polymerize rubber,” he explains.
He is also a part of Orientation on campus, and has served as an Administrative Assistant for the past two years. “Even though Orientation has only been 24 days for me total, I just feel like I’ve learned the most about myself as a person and have been able to give new students and other people in my life the best version of myself. I hope I taught them something valuable, and I know I’ve learned valuable things from the other orientation staff,” he says. He feels blessed and excited to serve as the Administrative Coordinator for next year’s orientation, and will work hands-on with the Office of First Year Experience this summer.
Last year, he was in the Sophomore Service Learning Community, and loved the involvement. “I had done service before, but I felt more connected with my service. Taking classes with others in the community opened my eyes to this experience I hadn’t had before, and it was really unique,” he reflects.
In addition to research and volunteer work, Austin plays club rugby and works as a Teaching Assistant for General Chemistry. “It’s really rewarding to see the students learn and understand something, and it’s been good to reinforce that base chemical knowledge that I’ve had,” he says.
After graduation, Austin hopes to receive a Fulbright Research Award in order to study and research abroad for a year or two after he leaves Villanova. As for career aspirations, he shared that he would like to conduct research, but is still deciding between two areas. “I’m thinking about ending up in pharmaceuticals. I like that kind of research, creating target drugs to solve any health related problems that we face as a society, but I also really like what I’m doing right now with rubber research, and even general polymer research,” he says.
In his time left at Villanova, he wants to dive into service again and give back to the Sophomore Service Learning Community. His senior year, he plans to rejoin and serve as a Peer Facilitator. His favorite part about being here so far has been the opportunities he’s had access to, as he feels there weren’t many presented to him in high school. “Whether it’s a community or something that you want to explore for yourself, I just feel like with any organization or class here, you’re really going to get something out of it,” he shares. He’s learned to go for things, even if he’s not quite sure he’ll like them. “Be bold. We have four years. If you’re on the fence about something, jump into it and see what happens.”
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As a Staff Writer for Villanova University’s Office for Undergraduate Students, sophomore Gabrielle Piccirilli shares the stories, experiences, and accomplishments of the students of Villanova’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.