BYU Today

A Mosaic of Talents


ladyBy Aimee H. Hansen, ‘02

YEARS of hard work, long hours, and overwhelming debt are on the horizon for Charis Van Dusen Thatcher, ’02, yet she views the future with nothing but optimism.

Thatcher and her husband, Stephen H. Thatcher, ’02, graduated from BYU in April as zoology majors, and together they will enter medical school in Wisconsin in the fall. Thatcher is also interested in getting a master’s of public health after her MD.

“I come from a why not? family,” she says. “I grew up asking myself questions like Why not dream? Why not go places? Why not be a doctor? We’ve never had a lot of money, but we’ve always been dreamers.” At age 22 Thatcher has already been places and done things that seem out of reach to most people.

Thatcher spent May and June of 2001 in the Dominican Republic on a service-learning study abroad. She was one of nine BYU students sent to train health workers through a program set up by the Pan-American Health Organization and the Humanitarian Services of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Thatcher’s recently completed honors thesis is based on her experiences in the Dominican Republic. In it she explores how teaching critical-thinking skills affects health awareness and sanitation among those who live in poverty and whose lives are dominated by limiting social customs and traditions. Thatcher and her husband are currently doing follow-up research on a summer internship in Ethiopia.

Lynley Rowan, ’92, an adjunct professor in the Health Sciences Department and a faculty advisor for the Dominican Republic program, admires Thatcher’s sensitivity and outgoing personality. Rowan says, “Charis is hardworking and she’s not afraid to go out of her comfort zone. In the Dominican Republic Charis didn’t speak the language but worked hard to help and communicate with people. She’s a natural leader, and she’s dynamic in front of a crowd.”

Thatcher’s ability to perform in front of a crowd serves her well. She’s a two-time national champion in dramatic duo and has acted in several plays. She has also been a key member of a BYU speech and debate club.

Writing poetry is yet another developing talent. Her poetry has been published in Reader’s Digest and several on-campus magazines. “I like writing poetry and acting because I like things that make me think about life and why we’re here and how we treat people,” she says.

Thatcher’s success is explained, at least in part, by her ambition.

“I’ve applied for every scholarship—ever,” she says with a smile. “That’s how I get involved in things. Because I knew of the potential scholarships, I even applied to Miss America and was a finalist for Miss Minnesota.”

In February Thatcher earned a USA Today 2002 All-USA College Academic Honorable Mention award, ranking her as one of the nation’s top 40 students in leadership, scholarship, and service.

Thatcher says she has enjoyed her college years at BYU. “One of the greatest blessings of being here at BYU is seeing the amazing things other people have done. It’s inspiring. I’ve loved being around so many people—a mosaic of talents and attributes.”

Acknowledging that the support and blessings she receives are what motivate her to dream high, Thatcher says, “Both the Church and my family have encouraged me to be and do all I can. Having these kinds of influences creates a great sense of stewardship; if you’ve been given a lot, you really ought to be doing a lot.”