In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2021 from a wide array of disciplines.
Honors Fellow Daniel Bascuñan-Wiley ’21 discovered the human service studies major during the Winter Term of his first year at Elon.
“The major just made sense because every class I took with an HSS professor became the class that pushed me the most to think critically about who I am and how I interact with the world,” he said.
One of six 2021 Elon Year of Service Graduate Fellows and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Bascuñan-Wiley was named by human service studies faculty as an outstanding member of the Class of 2021. In addition to his studies, he put much of his energy into service with community organizations focused on education, criminal justice reform and public health
Tell us about your multiple research experiences.
I participated in three undergraduate research projects. My two-year Honors thesis was on the Chilean Awakening and the anti-government protests that took place in Chile in 2019. I selected that topic because I was in Chile studying abroad when the protests started. I am a Chilean-American, so the project gave me a chance to take a deeper dive into Chilean history and write about some of the things I was feeling and seeing back in 2019.
My second project was a look at the Food Empowerment Series, a program I designed and implemented during my HSS senior block semester internship placement at Healthy Alamance, a local public-health nonprofit. I looked at the efficacy of empowerment-based models in site-specific programs.
The final project is a joint paper with my father and brother that continues the exploration of Chilean identity and sensibility that I began looking into in the honors thesis. I presented twice at the Spring Undergraduate Research Forum and will be on a panel at the Latin American Studies Association congress.
What are you proudest of from your time at Elon?
My proudest accomplishment at Elon is definitely being able to develop a whole web of meaningful relationships on and off campus. Whether it be with new friends here at Elon, professors, staff members, community partners, co-workers, farmers, or my favorite baker, I have roots here in Alamance County that make me so fulfilled.
How did your relationships with professor influence your experience?
I had many faculty mentors during my time. My favorite part of the HSS department is how personal and available every single one of my professors was. Associate Professor of Human Service Studies Bud Warner and Lecturer in Human Service Studies Monica Burney were my two biggest supporters over the four years. I did research with both of them and each one had a unique way of letting me stumble my way through different obstacles — their wisdom and kindness allowed for so much personal growth during those stumbles.
What are your plans after graduation?
I will be a member of the incoming cohort of Elon Year of Service Graduate Fellows and continuing my work with Healthy Alamance. I have plans to stick around the county for a few years doing human service work. I then want to travel back to Chile for a few years to work on farms. Then I hope to return to North Carolina for graduate school and come back to Alamance County.
What advice would you give to future Elon students?
That finding a “balance” to life during college isn’t some fixed goal. It’s a journey that never ends. You don’t wake up one day and are suddenly balanced. Instead, it is okay to move in and out of balanced periods as long as you keep growing and having fun.
What’s your favorite Elon tradition?
Cramming for finals in the “Harry Potter room.”