Student Profile: Brian Shaw '12 — Move Mountains, Change the World

Brian ShawSenior Brian Shaw is not the average Saint Mary’s student, although he does exemplify every aspect of the Lasallian tradition.  He just goes far beyond the average and into the extraordinary.

Brian is a senior biology major from Gustine, California, a town with a population of fewer than 5,000 people. Coming from a small town, Brian adapted well to the small community at Saint Mary’s College. As a freshman, his motto was “Why not?” With this mindset, he attended a showing of the film "Invisible Children," a movement and organization seeking to end the conflict in Uganda and stop the abduction of children for use as child soldiers. He admits that he had never heard of “social justice” before attending Saint Mary’s. However, after learning about social justice, he realized its importance.  Brian Shaw, along with senior Kendra Capece, saw the need for students to address social justice issues and created (SUP)pport Justice, an organization that brings together students seeking to bring social justice to people globally by organizing outreach programs and awareness activities on campus.

As a senior, Brian sees that his time at Saint Mary’s is limited. After graduation, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health and is currently applying to medical school. Looking back, he realizes that he has found what he looked for as a freshman — a way to define himself.  At Saint Mary’s he found the support he needed to make a difference in the world by solving public health issues. In high school he thought of being an engineer, but because of his experiences at Saint Mary’s, he realized he would not be doing “enough to help people.”  

His interest in health grew from being part of Peer Health Exchange, a student-led nonprofit organization that provides health education to teens in the Bay Area through peer-led health workshops. Brian served as the co-coordinator for Peer Health Exchange in his sophomore and junior years and  continues to be involved as a senior health educator teaching students how to make healthy decisions about drugs, abusive relationships and sexually transmitted infections.

Brian received much of his inspiration from the book “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder. The title comes from a Haitian proverb that describes how the resolution of one problem leads to the discovery of another problem. Brian knows the mountains he will be facing leaving Saint Mary’s, but he is fully prepared to move beyond those mountains and change the world.