Portrait of Female Furman Student

Emma Zyriek '17

Hometown: Bel Air, Maryland

Major: Political Science and Music

By the time Emma Zyriek arrived at Furman thanks in part to a music scholarship, she was beginning to have doubts about the music part. It took voice lessons on campus and a singing job off it to prove that her talent was opening doors, not closing them.

“I realized I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities here,” she said. “And I think that was a really big change in the way that I’d seen myself and my life in high school, where everything was spoken for and everything was planned out. Music is the gateway into all of the other things that I am becoming a part of at Furman.”

A determination to not major in music became a memory, and Zyriek turned her focus away from law school to embrace political philosophy classes. She was a Shucker Leadership Institute Fellow as a freshman and became secretary of EROS, the campus LGBT organization, as a sophomore (now she is president), but nothing has changed her life more than serving as a choral scholar at First Baptist Greenville Church.

Inspired by the community she felt, Zyriek joined Exploration of Vocational Ministry (EVM) and met Furman Associate Chaplain Maria Swearingen, who became her mentor. Zyriek “devoured” the books Swearingen gave her, finding herself more with each turning page.

“For the first time, I thought maybe I am a person who identifies with a specific faith tradition, because before that I wasn’t raised in a religious environment, and that wasn’t something I thought was super relevant to my life,” she said. “I’m planning to apply to divinity schools, and I don’t know if I’m going to go into ministry or non-profit work of chaplaincy, but I’m really excited to be opened up to more ideas than I had ever imagined.”