Las Cruces – When Jeremy Calder completed high school, he got a job and didn't consider going to college. Now, the New Mexico State University senior is within weeks of graduating with a bachelor's in individualized studies, with minors in Spanish and German, and will be attending Stanford University this fall on a full five-year scholarship to complete his Ph.D. in linguistics.
"College was a last-minute decision for me," Calder said. "I was working at call centers for three years after high school and got so tired of it. I realized I needed a change."
After living in Oklahoma for a few years, Calder moved to New Mexico with his mother and saw an opportunity to change his life at NMSU.
While enrolled as an undergraduate, Calder tried a number of majors before he discovered an interest in linguistics.
"I took a linguistics introductory course and then tried Japanese," Calder said. "After taking more courses I kind of became obsessed with learning different languages."
Calder's interest in linguistics took him beyond the department's regular curriculum. He was soon considering the opportunity to continue his studies after graduation. Calder decided to carry out a major in individualized studies in which he could create a bachelor's that would meet the requirements for a graduate program. He worked closely under the guidance of NMSU linguistics professors Gabriela Buchenau, Linda Calk and Mark Waltermire to purse additional topics through independent study courses.
"These professors were so passionate about the subject and made it really interesting," Calder said. "They really helped in turning me on to linguistics."
Calder also undertook an honor's thesis.
In addition to his studies, Calder became active in the campus community. He was a founding member and first president of the Japanese and American People Accepting New Cultures (JAPAN) club, vice president of the College of Extended Learning Council and served on the Associated Students of NMSU election board.
When it came time to apply to graduate programs, Calder looked into various schools, including Stanford University.
"Realistically, I thought I had no chance of getting into Stanford," Calder said. "Amazingly enough, they were the first to contact me. I was shocked."
In March, Calder was invited to the Linguistic Department's Open House and a weeklong visit in which he and other hopefuls had the opportunity to sit in on classes, attend events and interview with faculty for the chance to attend the school.
"They put us through a gauntlet of interviews," Calder said.
Soon after returning from his trip, Calder was offered both admittance and a scholarship to complete his Ph.D.
"I'm really looking forward to the fall," Calder said. "I loved both the school and the city. The area is so electric and lively."
Calder will graduate May 7. He hopes to eventually have a career in which he can work to preserve endangered languages.