Outstanding graduates: Jonathan Graham, class of 2023
Jonathan Graham — adventurer, Danforth Scholar and chemical engineer — says he’s excited for what comes next
Jonathan Graham is an explorer.
A Danforth Scholar, a two-time study abroad student and an engineering student, Graham has had unique opportunities — both in the classroom and beyond— to find his place in the world by learning more about the people with whom he shares it.
“My experiences have given me a better perspective on the nature of meeting people,” he said. “It’s something I deeply value, and my time abroad allowed me to further explore the notion of creating profound connections with strangers.”
Those connections, along with his engineering training, will be essential to Graham’s ongoing efforts in sustainability and agriculture.
This May, Graham will graduate from the McKelvey School of Engineering with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. As someone with a passion for sustainable farming, he said he appreciated how the chemical engineering program at Washington University in St. Louis included in-depth study of the environment and energy and gave him space to make engineering personally impactful.
“The combining of fields makes sense and feels natural,” Graham said. “I thought pursuing chemical engineering would give me a better idea of how to approach my interests in renewable energy and organic agriculture.”
His drive to expand his global connections led Graham to study abroad in Madrid, Spain, and Reykjavik, Iceland, where he gained a new perspective on his work at home. He said the picturesque landscapes of Iceland in particular motivated him to keep an adventurous spirit even after he returned to St. Louis.
“It was easy to be swept up in the almost overwhelming beauty of the country,” he said. “There was something brand new wherever I looked. That kind of beauty and novelty lives everywhere and is waiting for someone to pause and appreciate it.”
At WashU, Graham was involved with Cultivating Connections, a student organization that aims to build relationships with refugees through farming. The group partners with the International Institute in St. Louis to prepare soil for farms where refugee communities can grow crops native to their home countries.
“The experience taught me the impact extending a hand can have on people and how a little help can go quite far,” he said. “It’s a lesson that has affected how I approach my studies as it’s given me a better sense of how what I am learning is rooted in actual work, with actual people and actual problems.”
While he doesn’t have any specific post-graduation plans set yet, Graham's not letting that damper his enthusiasm for what comes next.
“I’m looking between jobs and graduate schools right now, and I’m excited by how uncertain the time ahead of me looks,” he said. “I’ve learned to trust in myself and what feels right, and I know that I will be okay with how the cards fall.”