Senior Mike Vaughn: vice chair of AAC, experienced playwright, looks to future in social work

Determined not to simply get his diploma and graduate, senior Mike Vaughn has worked hard to leave a mark at Geneseo.

A sociology and psychology double major, Vaughn is also the vice chair of the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) and helped to coordinate the recent and ongoing Professor Recognition Ceremony. He has also spent the past two years writing a play, "A Guided Tour," scheduled to be performed later this semester.

Vaughn, a Nassau County native, started working with AAC as a junior. "I wanted to help encourage academic discussion outside of just classes and lectures," Vaughn said. He described his work with the group – a standing committee of the Student Association – as "helping academic clubs – such as the French or psychology clubs – plan events, secure funding for their groups and coordinate with other student groups on campus. AAC tries to get students to engage with academia outside of the classroom."

Vaughn was instrumental in the creation of the new Professor Recognition Ceremony. While in the past professors themselves typically handled recognition, Vaughn said that the updated process has greatly benefitted from student participation, as over 200 students recently sent in nominations. "We wanted to ask the students what professors they thought acted as more than just a scholar, but as a mentor, a friend, an advisor as well," he said.

In addition to his work with AAC, Vaughn admitted to being swamped in the development of "A Guided Tour." The play is an autobiographical journey that grapples with a wide array of psychological issues, tackling sexuality, suicide and other often off-limits topics in an attempt to make them more approachable and less taboo.

Inspired by a class project started roughly two years ago, the play has been a labor of love for Vaughn. "Some issues in the play are very personal to me, and it was tough knowing what I wanted to essentially tell the world," he said.

The logistics of staging a play, however, were tough to reconcile. "Everything being portrayed in the play is, in a way, far removed from my own experiences," Vaughn said. "What I want to say has to go through the script, then the director, then the actors and last the audience. How is my story going to be interpreted?"

Challenges aside, Vaughn said that the play, which will be performed in Sturges Auditorium on April 13 – 15, has been more love than labor. "I really want the play to serve as a jumping off point for the things it discusses. Mental health can be a tough topic, but I want to show people how we can impact our friends and those we consider family in a good way," Vaughn said.

Though Vaughn said he sees playwriting as a dream job and that he hopes to do more of it in the future, he is currently waiting to hear from several Master of Social Work programs, where he sees himself post-graduation. Social work, he said, might be one of the best ways to truly change people for the better.

In fact, Vaughn's thoughts on "A Guided Tour" may just sum up his approach to whatever his future holds: "The play speaks to the heart of what I want to get out of my education – to learn something but ultimately give something back to other people," Vaughn said.

He continued, "I want to foster some sort of change, I want to help people see that things can get better and that by just doing little things can we help each other realize that."