Class of 2021: Soccer captain, chemistry major makes her mark

Class of 2021: Soccer captain, chemistry major makes her mark

Sophia Bonser grew up exposed to the medical field through her mom who is an OBGYN. She always had an interest in healthcare. Initially, she wanted to be a nurse, then a physical therapist. But everything changed when she took her first chemistry class at Georgia College.

Sophia Bonser
Sophia Bonser

“I was very nervous about it because my whole experience with chemistry in high school was bad,” she said. 

Instead of a challenge, Bonser found she did well in the course. So well, she even caught the attention of her professor. 

“I pulled her to the side one day after class and talked with her about what her ultimate career ambitions were. I told her I thought she would excel as a chemistry major,” said Dr. Catrena Lisse, professor of chemistry. “Honestly, she is such a strong student I am sure she would have excelled at any major, but I selfishly wanted an opportunity to work with her.” 

That turned out to be just the vote of confidence she needed. She switched majors, joined Lisse’s research and found majoring in chemistry could open the door to a dream she’d kept hiding the back of her mind most of her life—becoming a doctor. 

Her well-rounded education in the Department of Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy offered her hands-on learning alongside seasoned professors. She conducted intense undergraduate research and took upper-level math courses setting a strong foundation for furthering her education. She’s even had the opportunity to serve as a tutor in the Learning Center.

Much like falling into the perfect major, Bonser ended up at Georgia College by happenstance. She knew she wanted to play soccer in college, but knew little about Georgia College at the time.  

“My dad actually told me about the ID camp for high schoolers. It was the day after my prom, and I was like, ‘I'm not going to go,’” she said. “Instead my dad said ‘Yes, you are,’  so I went, and I did really well.”

“Something that kind of stood out to me with the camp was the actual college players were there with us to answer questions,” said Bonser “Talking with them about going to school here and playing for the team—they just made it sound amazing.”

Bonser made the soccer team, was given a scholarship and became a leader early on. 

“I'm currently captain of the soccer team, and I have been since the start of my sophomore year,” she said. “I've just I've had a ton of incredible opportunities here that I did not expect to happen at all.”

The one-on-one connections made with faculty and coaches made the difference for her. She calls her former coach Hope Clark and Lisse personal mentors. She also credits her current coach Tinna Gallagher with being supportive during a challenging time of racial injustice in the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic death. Bonser was an effective advocate for active conversations around race and inclusivity.
“Coach Gallagher was there for me, and she organized a seminar discussion about race with our Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity last summer,” said Bonser. “We are currently also working to start a diversity and inclusion seminar for the whole athletic department to talk about what it means to be inclusive.”

A leader on and off the field, Bonser sets an example in her personal life, as well as her academic studies of the importance of hard work. 

“It has been a true pleasure getting to know Sophia over the past three and half years. Any problem or roadblock Sophia encountered with her research project; she never got frustrated or gave up,” Lisse said. “It is rare to find a student of her age with such a level of professionalism, respect and maturity with an ability to systematically problem-solve. I wish I could clone her or keep her around for a few more years.” 

Bonser plans to take a gap year before starting medical school. During that year, she hopes to join an elite program for pre-med students to become medical assistants in a hospital and be exposed to all things in the field. Her goal right now is to become a surgeon after completing medical school. 

She offers this advice to other students. 

“Be accepting of not knowing things until you know them. You’re supposed to learn in your classes not come in knowing everything,” she said. “Also take advantage of every opportunity that you can possibly take advantage of, within limits of mental health. Put yourself out there and form relationships.”