After graduating from Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School as an Alpha-Omega student, Lauren Toman ’16 took a turn very different from most graduating seniors. Already accepted at Harvard University with plans to study cognitive neuroscience, she deferred with the university to experience a gap year.
Lauren’s adventure started with conservation work in Australia, then to New York and then to Cape Town, South Africa, where she taught surfing lessons for a time. Upon coming back to Atlanta, she worked at the Shepherd Center and then enrolled at Harvard, where she switched her major to art historyThe gap year was a great time to learn about myself and know who I was going into college,” Lauren said. “I felt more confident about myself.”
The campus closure due to COVID-19 brought Lauren back to Atlanta in March 2020 to complete her classes online; she returned to Cambridge in September and recently was named a John Harvard Scholar, which is awarded to the top 5 percent of the junior and senior classes.
While her college courses still are conducted online, she needed access to the university library to complete her senior thesis. The topic is how art history’s emotional response plays into neuro-aesthetics.
Uncertain of the next step on her path, Lauren may relocate to a new city. “I’m open to any adventure,” she said.
She is considering a career in art business or a field that may allow her to work in both science and art. The use of technology or augmented reality in art displays is a relatively new trend, for example.
The influence of Harvard’s renowned business program also was not lost on Lauren during her time there. As a member of Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business* (HUWIB), Lauren co-organized the Business Oriented Leadership Development (B.O.L.D.) Conference, an event for female high school leaders. Speakers at the conference, which last year was attended by 300 high school students, have included business leaders such as Amanda Zuckerman, co-founder and creative director of Dormify, and human rights attorney Jessica Jackson.
“It’s a powerful and amazing event to inspire and educate these girls who get to learn from women leaders in business from all over the world,” Lauren said.
This year’s event will be virtual, Jan. 30-31, 2021. Keynote speakers include Libby Cantrill, head of public policy for PIMCO; Jennifer Piepszak, CFO of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.; film director Cathy Yan; and Shilpa Yarlagadda, CEO of Shiffon Co.
Event organizing and leadership are skills Lauren embraced as a student at HIES. She played varsity lacrosse and served as captain for two years. As president of Model United Nations, she organized a conference held at HIES.
When COVID-19 threw a wrench into her many plans last year and into this year, Lauren made the necessary adjustments and feels hopeful about the future, with her graduation on the horizon. “Even when things are difficult, you have to stay positive and figure it out,” she said. “I can find a way through any problem.”
* with 700+ members, HUWIB is the largest campus organization at Harvard.