Many students are often apprehensive — sometimes even shy or introverted — when they begin their college career, but those are often the ones that have the greatest potential to grow.
Elizabeth “Eli” Laydon is graduating with a degree in psychology and has big plans for her future.
She said she has always been interested in how the mind and body work, and she hopes to end up working as a homicide detective or forensic psychologist.
Laydon, who described herself as a shy person, said she knew the University of New Mexico was a good fit for her when she visited the campus.
“I did a tour here, and I told my mom and dad this is where I want to be,” she said. “This is the type of culture and diversity I really enjoy and it was an easy choice from there.”
And the shy kid from Pueblo, Colorado wasted no time adapting to college life, taking on some jobs that required direct interaction with the student population.
Laydon said she knows she comes off shy and quiet but would encourage people to seek out people like that in life, because it is often the shy people that have the best stories. And the graduating senior is no exception.
If Laydon looks familiar, perhaps it is because many have seen her at the theatre in the Student Union Building helping run the UNM Mid-week Movies. She knows most patrons on a first-name basis and even commits their favorite snacks or beverages to memory.
It’s the kind of thing that makes people feel welcome and important — which was a job responsibility she was tasked with when she worked in New Student Orientation.
Laydon said both jobs taught her several important skills and allowed her to learn about people.
“I think it’s really important to listen; not everybody has grown up the same way,” she said. “It helps build a broader spectrum of diversity and acceptance here, at UNM.”
Laydon said there were several changes she experienced coming from Colorado — the first of which was what constituted a snow day. She sounded disappointed when a snow day was announced and she expected to find streets snow-packed, only to be met with a little bit of frost and ice.
Another was her fondness of chile. Eli said Colorado is proud of its chile as well, but she has actually fallen in love with that of New Mexico, which she said might devastate her parents if they found out.
But one of the biggest changes in Laydon’s time at college may come when she decided to get involved in Greek life. She said her father encouraged her to try things out, and although she was anxious, it had a major impact.
Laydon said sometimes it is easy to attend college and continue to do the same things one did in high school, but sometimes it is necessary to step out of a comfort zone to grow as a person.
She became a member of Pi Beta Phi, started helping women find out what chapters to pledge to, became a “big sister” to someone in the sorority and even ran for Homecoming queen last year. She said there was no way she could have envisioned running for Homecoming court one day back when she was a freshman, but Pi Beta Phi helped her branch out and continue getting involved in new things.
Laydon said she and her “little sister,” Mimi Voung, were inseparable from the moment Voung joined the sorority.
Voung said Laydon has been everything one could ask for in a mentor. Both said they have shared deep conversations, late-night (sometimes early morning) study sessions and enjoyed a lot of fun along the way, including a spur-of-the-moment trip to California.
But things weren’t always easy for Laydon along the way. She credited one of her bosses, Andrea Marquez, and her mother as “go-to” people that have been there for her. Laydon said Marquez never sought to steer her in any direction but allowed her to talk things out and figure out what she really wanted.
She said her mother, Darlene Laydon, always found the balance of telling her when she needed to suck it up and when to talk some time for herself.
“It’s okay to think about stuff...It’s not okay to dwell,” Darlene Laydon said. “You think about it, and you move forward.”
Eli Laydon had to take some time to think things over and said she decided to change her major pretty late in the game. But she didn’t seem to have any second thoughts, offering that her advice to other students would be to trust their gut.
Eli Laydon said people know what they want and thinking about what their strengths and passions are can help guide them. And if it means making a change to be happier down the road, then it is probably worth it.
She also seemed to have a special relationship with her brother and father, saying she loves racing dirt bikes and driving ATVs when she goes back home.
Darlene Laydon said although her daughter was very shy, she played several different sports as a child and was very competitive. She said Eli stands at about 5-foot-2 on a good day, but never backed down from a challenge even if others were bigger or faster.
Laydon’s mother recalled when her daughter competed against Missy Franklin at a swim meet in Colorado. She said she remembered her being so excited that she was ahead of Franklin at one point in the event, not realizing she had been lapped by the future Olympian.
But that competitive fire has apparently been something that has continue to serve as her fuel. Her mother said, “Her curiosity is her drive,” and Laydon has a desire now to understand people so that she can be better equipped to help them.
Darlene Laydon said she and her husband know that graduation is just the first step in what will be a fabulous life her daughter is going to create for herself.
“I am so proud of my daughter — not just for the things she does, but for the person she has become,” Darlene Laydon said. “She is going to lead a great life no matter what she chooses.”
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball, football and tennis. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.