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Stockton ’24: Setting the Example for the Next Generation

Whether it’s a Sphinx Club TGIF, a student organization’s open house, a department lunch talk or a Little Giants basketball or football game, you’re sure to see him there.

Austin Stockton ’24 is one student who consistently shows up, eager to learn something new or cheer on his peers.

Austin Stockton ’24

“I’ve always loved learning about different cultures, different societies,” said the psychology major and film and education double minor from Palestine, Indiana. “I believe embracing diversity is pretty much required of you to be a well-rounded liberal arts student.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself and the world around me just by being in this environment,” he said. “Getting involved on campus and building connections has really helped me get a better sense of what I see in myself.”

Stockton arrived for his first year at Wabash to a campus that had reconfigured classrooms and living spaces, mask and distancing requirements, and little in-person social gathering due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jane Hardy, senior associate dean and professor of Spanish, recalls having Stockton in a two-part linguistics course that spring. She was surprised by and admired the freshman’s excitement to be a college student at such an unprecedented time.

“I have taught that class (modern linguistics and language variation and change) for years,” Hardy said, “and I can confidently say that Austin has been the most enthusiastic student I’ve ever had in that class.

“The class started at 9:45 a.m. and I arrived by 9:30 a.m. to get everything set up to teach students both in-person and on Zoom. He was almost always the first and only student in the classroom before I showed up,” she continued. “He would be wiping down the tables and as soon as I walked in the door, he’d start talking about the day’s reading or topic or previous day’s topic.”

That attentiveness has carried on as Stockton continued his tenure at Wabash, Hardy explained.

“I have not had him in class since, but every single time I see him on campus—almost without exception—he will mention something related to those classes or something he’s seen in the news or watched in a video related to language and linguistics,” she said. “He’s always expanding on his learning and so excited to share what he’s discovered.”

Stockton, a first-generation college student, said it took him some time to build up the confidence to get involved in and outside of the classroom.

“The fall of 2020 was a very hard time in my life, and I think a lot of people felt that way because of COVID,” Stockton said. “I felt like everything was falling apart. I felt isolated and kept asking myself, ‘What am I doing here?’”

As the semester ended and Stockton went home for break, he took time to “comprehend and decompress” his feelings. He did his research and reflected on the resources he had available at Wabash for help—like the Writing Center, Quantitative Skills Center and Counseling Center—and refocused on his goals.

 Wabash students, including Stockton, got the opportunity to meet with Eli Lilly staff this fall to learn about finance and marketing careers at the company.

“It was definitely a bounce-back period. I focused on why I wanted to go to college in the first place: to get a degree and do something meaningful in this world,” he recalled. “That following semester was really good. I woke up a lot of mornings and said, ‘You know what, you’re here. Let’s try to make something of it.’”

Stockton definitely has made the most out of his time at Wabash.

He’s a member La Alianza, ’shOUT as an ally, The Bachelor, Asian culture club, card club, and film club. He’s the founder of a new autism and neurodiversity awareness club. He’s worked as a crew member for the College’s video broadcast team and as a summer mentor for the Wabash Liberal Arts Immersion Program (WLAIP). Additionally, one of his proudest moments was being voted Top Geed, the highest honor given to a member of the Independent Men’s Association (IMA).

“I’m proud of how far I’ve come,” Stockton reflected. “I really got to socialize, make connections, make friends, and be more outgoing. It really helped me get out of my shell and understand why Wabash is Wabash.”

Bobby Horton, professor of psychology and WLAIP program coordinator, said he’s proud of Stockton’s accomplishments and growth over the last four years, especially when it comes to the senior’s efforts in advocating for neurodiverse students—those who have autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, depression, anxiety, dyslexia, Down's Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, schizophrenia, and much more.

Horton recalls Stockton participating in a panel discussion last spring, hosted by English Professor Crystal Benedicks, that focused on issues of neurodiversity on campus. Stockton, along with Hawk Ricketts ’23 and Former Wabash Psychology Professor Emily Abel, shared their experiences living with autism, discussed misconceptions of the disability found in media, and ways the community can be more inclusive.

“Austin has always been very expressive about his own autism spectrum experiences and his drive to do better for himself and the community, but I remember being blown away by his display of leadership and professionalism,” Horton said. “It was a setting where it felt like there was a lot of genuine education and connection going on.

“His work on the neurodiversity front has brought a very new perspective to campus that other students just haven’t before,” he continued. “He is a great example of why Wabash can be a really special place. It’s a place where students can mold the institution into a place that is better for the next generation of students.”

Hardy said Stockton’s advocacy for neurodiverse students has also inspired her to be more mindful and inclusive in the classroom.

Stockton is a member La Alianza (pictured), ’shOUT as an ally, The Bachelor, Asian culture club, card club, and film club. “There are a lot of people who are neurodiverse in one way or another. I think Austin’s willingness to be open, public, and to bring these issues to people’s attention will pave a way and make it easier other neurodiverse students who come to Wabash,” she said. “It also makes faculty more aware when we’re teaching. I’ve started thinking more about my students, how I interact with them, and what my expectations are with their behaviors in class. Because of him, I’ve learned that it’s up to me to see things I didn’t necessarily think about before.”

With comprehensive exams just around the corner, Stockton looks forward to having fun and enjoying his last few months on campus with his brothers before graduation. His goal is to secure a career in marketing.

“Thinking back to who I was freshman year, I’ve grown a lot as a student and a leader. I’ve developed more self-esteem and confidence, and feel like I have made an impact here,” Stockton concluded. “I couldn’t have done it without everyone who helped me feel like I belong here at Wabash.”