“Do it because you love it.” That’s the credo of the Amateurs, a co-ed a cappella student singing group that’s become a favorite campus diversion for graduating senior and Plymouth, Minn.-native Andrew Schupanitz.
The phrase also is an apt motto for his academic career, which has taken him from would-be pre-med freshman with strong interests in biology and chemistry to standout student scholar whose research probes the subtle nuances of economics, literature and philosophy, with a focus on 17th- to 19th-century France and America.
Recently, his academic potential was recognized with a $32,000 Beinecke Scholarship for graduate study in the humanities and social sciences. A major in The Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities in Arts & Sciences — from which he will receive a bachelor’s degree May 18 — Schupanitz is one of only 20 students in the nation to receive the Beinecke in 2006.
“The Beinecke Scholarship constitutes a great and well-merited vote of confidence in Andy,” says Ian MacMullen, Ph.D., assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences.
“The award recognizes the sophisticated nature of Andy’s interdisciplinary work in the history of ideas, work that encompasses economics, literature and philosophy. He is a credit to Washington University.”
The fork in the road between medical school and humanities came in his first semester when Schupanitz enrolled in the freshman Text and Tradition reading program and in an economics course with Douglass C. North, Ph.D., the Spencer T. Olin Professor in Arts & Sciences and co-recipient of the 1993 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
“I thought it would be neat to take a course taught by a Nobel laureate, so I signed up for North’s course as soon as it opened,” Schupanitz says.
“An adviser steered me toward the Text and Tradition program, and those courses got me thinking about issues underlying the ‘great books’ of Western civilization,” he adds. “My studies are a melding of these two areas.”
Named a Howard Nemerov Writing Scholar, Schupanitz spent an intensive year studying abroad at Oxford University.
“I don’t think I’ve ever before read so much in such a short time,” he says.
Schupanitz used Oxford’s five-week spring break to cram in a whirlwind tour of Europe that included trips to Ireland, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.
College of Arts & Sciences
In addition to his academic work, Schupanitz is co-director of One in Four, an all-male student group that provides rape education and prevention programs.
The group takes its name from a U.S. Department of Justice statistic that one in four college women has been raped or suffered attempted rape. Schupanitz traces his interest to a teenage experience in which his close friend was raped by an acquaintance.
“Students can be uncomfortable talking about rape, so our group provides students with training that helps them facilitate discussions and raise awareness about how men can help prevent sexual assault and rape,” he says.
Schupanitz also has a passion for music. Growing up, he took voice lessons and performed in school plays and choir. But he figured music would take a backstage to his college studies. Somehow, he managed to do both, finding time to perform tenor solos and develop new song arrangements as musical director of the Amateurs.
The 14-member group, a campus fixture since 1991, just issued its fifth full-length CD, “mmm … Pie!” Schupanitz contributes solo performances on “This Love” by Maroon 5 and “Mass Pike” by The Get Up Kids.
After graduation, Schupanitz plans to gain political experience working as an intern in Washington. Then, his Beinecke Scholarship will help defray the cost of graduate studies, perhaps in law or a joint doctoral program that combines law with history.
Down the road, he’s considering a career in teaching or maybe the Foreign Service.
No matter where he ends up, it’s a good bet he’ll remain true to his musical credo: “Do it because you love it.”