Student Post: A Junior Seminar of Service

According to the book Ice Cream Social: The Struggle for the Soul of Ben & Jerry’s by Brad Edmondson, “[b]usinesses are the most powerful institutions in the world, and they could become the world’s most powerful forces for social change.” This notion from Ben & Jerry’s created the idea of a social venture, a for-profit company created to advance social change.

This idea of a social venture sparked my interest in the class “Designing Social Ventures” that I took my sophomore year at Grand Valley as my Junior Seminar through the Honors College. Being a newly-declared business major and coming from a not-so-business background, I thought that this class would allow me to explore exactly what a social venture was, and give me insight into what possibilities that I had in a career that’s typically full of people trying to make as much money as possible.

The class did just that, as well as gave me many more skills that I was not aware that I would learn, nor fully realize that I would use, until now. This is a notion that many of us feel in the Honors College, and at school in general. Professors assign us different projects and tasks which at the time may not seem valuable, but in fact turn into something that will help us for the rest of our lives. This was one of those classes.

We began the class by discussing what “dialogue” truly means. A dialogue is not just a discussion, and it is especially not a debate. Instead, it is a conversation in which the members of a group get to know one another on a deeper level, and each person in the group speaks based on their learned experiences. The group sits in a circular form and there is typically not a facilitator. At the time, I did not fully understand this type of dialogue because, in the course of the class, we simply read about it in a book and tried in class once or twice. It was frustrating to me because it just seemed like busy work and something that I would never use.

Today, in my role as an intercultural mentor, in my role as a Resident Assistant, in my role on Student Senate, and even in interactions with my friends, I use this strategy all of the time, and am now able to fully understand the skills that my professor attempted to teach me two years ago. Speaking based on learned experiences is something that has proven to be so incredibly helpful in a time of divisiveness and differences of opinions. This is one of the many other skills that I learned in this class that I now use all of the time.

As far as exploring the idea of a social venture, this is something that still sparks my interest. In class, we discussed many times what types of companies were truly social ventures and which companies were not. Many companies try to exhibit the idea of corporate social responsibility, but how much of the company’s profits need to go towards social justice in order to be considered a social venture? This provided enriching discussion as a class and, like I said, is still something I think about often, especially going out into the real world with a corporate job soon.

This class also provided the opportunity to give back to our Grand Valley community. We split into four groups as a class, each of us working on a different social issue related to Grand Valley. I was split into a group to create a 5K race that would directly benefit the food pantry that is on Grand Valley’s campus as well as spread awareness about what the food pantry does. This process to plan a race, work in a group full of different personalities and perspectives, and keeping the purpose as the focal point was quite an experience. In the end, we had over 50 people attend our race and we were able to actually design what we considered a social venture. All of our proceeds were donated to the food pantry and we truly did have a fun race. It felt like we really did make a difference.

The Honors College at Grand Valley has given me so many opportunities and experiences such as this one that have helped me learn skills that ended up being critical in my development as a college student and as a person in general. I now have found how important it is to me that a corporation has a greater social mission than simply gaining profits, as well as how important it is to incorporate dialogue into every conversation that we have to truly understand one another. The Honors College does this and so much more for its students. Find out what it can do for you by joining today!




Ella Fritzemeier is a senior studying Finance and Economics with a minor in Spanish. She loves serving the university through being President of Student Senate and a third year Resident Assistant. When Ella has spare time, she enjoys running, watching The Office, and hanging out with her friends. She is looking forward to graduating in April and moving forward with her career at Whirlpool! Go Lakers!  


Alumni Post: Laker for a Lifetime and Lifelong Friendships


While touring colleges, I immediately fell in love with GVSU. My first visit was in the summer and the campus wasn’t as busy, but there were still multiple students and professors who asked us if we needed help finding anything. When I returned for my “official” tour, my mom and I wanted to see what the campus life was like outside of the brochures, so we went to a Laker basketball game. Again, students greeted us, and one of them offered us extra tickets.

I knew it was the place for me and it was the only school I applied to. While I contemplated applying for the Honors College, I sent an email to a student I found on the Honors College office website. She wrote me back quickly and was incredibly friendly. Ultimately, she solidified my choice in attending the Honors College at GVSU.

At the Honors College orientation, I met a girl named Katie. Little did I know, Katie would end up being my “blind” roommate that fall, the Maid of Honor in my wedding six years later and my lifelong best friend. I also met other Honors students that I would eat lunch with at Kleiner and dinner with at Fresh Food. We would have study parties in the hall and play video games in the common areas. We would go bowling, pick apples or go to midnight showings of Harry Potter. These are great memories that I have of developing my identity, learning life skills and making lifelong friends.

From an education standpoint, the Honors College allowed me to achieve my dreams more efficiently. I was able to complete my undergraduate credits in 3 years and begin Physician Assistant (PA) school my senior year. This allowed me to complete my Masters degree and graduate as a PA one year early. My classes encouraged higher level thinking skills that I continue to use today. It also helped me to learn to set high standards for myself and I used those skills to push myself by presenting at the PA statewide conference this fall. My senior project involved doing research on an antibiotic resistant bacteria and its impact on the healthcare system, which I continue to encounter in practice today.

It’s hard to summarize my experience at GVSU’s Honors College. I grew both personally and intellectually. I am so thankful that was the path I chose to further my education as I am happily employed at my dream job and love being a physician assistant.


Elizabeth Harris grew up in Clarkston, MI and began attending GVSU in Fall 2005. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biomedical Sciences in 2009 and received her Master’s of Physician Assistant Studies in 2011. She is currently a Physician Assistant at an Internal Medicine/Pediatrics office at Spectrum Health Medical Group. She resides in Grand Rapids and is married to another GVSU alum.

5 Reasons to Join FMHC

So why should you join FMHC?

If you’re a current or prospective student at Grand Valley State University, you may be wondering what opportunities there are for you to succeed. The Frederik Meijer Honors College is one that you should definitely consider! Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. Develop Skills: Students will develop their abilities in the classroom allowing them to gain more than just information. When you hone your skills as a critical thinker, creative problem-solver, and polished writer, you can take on any challenge with confidence.
  2. Connect with Opportunities: Frederik Meijer Honors College faculty members will also put their experience and knowledge to work for you. That may mean helping you identify opportunities, such as scholarships, internships, and research; fielding questions about careers in our disciplines; writing substantive letters of reference that can make a difference, or even contacting a colleague at another university on your behalf.
  3. Improve your Writing Skills: One goal of the Frederik Meijer Honors College is to enhance students’ writing abilities. Throughout the Meijer Honors College, professors challenge the students to improve and enhance their writing skills, which are becoming increasingly important in today’s business world and in many professions.
  4. Set Yourself Apart: Graduate program admissions committees and employers look for people who set high standards for themselves and excel; those who prefer the less traveled but more challenging route.
  5. Join a Community: The Frederik Meijer Honors College also includes an integrated living and learning environment promoting intellectual curiosity and an enthusiasm for learning that will live on well beyond our students’ undergraduate years. The Glenn A. Niemeyer Learning and Living Center offers students the opportunity to take classes in the same building in which they live.

The Frederik Meijer Honors College is a resource to help students identify opportunities, make informed and reflective decisions about career goals, and to prepare students inside and outside the classroom to be competitive for the best jobs, graduate programs, professional programs, and fellowships.

Visit our website for more information about how to apply!

Student Post: Why Honors College?

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As a senior in high school searching for a good postsecondary “fit,” I realized that I was more attracted to public universities due to the numerous resources made available to students. I ultimately chose Grand Valley because of their honors program in part, due the fact it felt like an academic home within the greater Grand Valley community. The faculty to student ratio was much smaller than non-honors classes and I had access to an increased level of mentoring from faculty.

The honors college is designed to spring board students through their program and into a phenomenal career. I was part of the American Civilization sequence, which met most of my general education requirements and ultimately paved the way for me to graduate a semester early with a double major.

The faculty within the honors college is superb. I have had the privilege of working alongside Dr. Paul Lane in a multi-disciplinary innovation project with a local manufacturer. Here, I picked up the skills necessary to operate as a team while under pressure from corporate partners to deliver. I also worked alongside Dr. Linda Chamberlain in the National Science Foundation’s iCorp program, networking with C-suite level executives. These are opportunities I never would have heard of if it was not for the network I had found within the honors college.

This brings me to last point on the honors college and why it is so valuable, which is ability to pursue what interests you. In the honors college, you have a freshmen sequence, junior seminar as well as a senior project. My favorite course was the senior project because you are allowed to create your own class. You partner with a professor, set your goals and get to work. This freedom in studying what you want with you want proved to be a phenomenal learning opportunity.

The Frederik Meijer Honors College challenges students to capitalize on their capability and supports them throughout their college career through engaging classes and active professors. I will caution any student who is thinking that the honors college is the opportunity of a lifetime —it is— but it is in reality the vehicle for opportunity. Engage in your freshmen sequence, pick a topic meaningful to you and study it for your senior thesis, read the honors newsletter for internship postings and connect with your professors.


Connor Payne is a senior studying Business Management and Management Information Systems. While wrapping up his final semester at GVSU you can find Connor hammocking in the Ravines, penny boarding around campus or exploring Grand Rapids. He is looking forward to his career with Deloitte Consulting in Detroit and is a proud Laker.

Alumni Post: The Road to Success is Full of Bumps

It’s difficult to describe the courses and education you receive from the Honors College at GVSU. Sure, you can anticipate that the material will be more challenging than your standard gen-ed courses, and there is a certain level of prestige in being a part of such an incredible organization. When I joined Honors in my Freshman year, I anticipated that more would be expected of me as a student, but nothing truly prepared me for the multidisciplinary style of learning that at times was uniquely challenging.

For my science sequence, I decided to take Human Body in Motion. It was a year-long course that encompassed elements of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. As none of us in the class were majoring in any of those fields, and I anticipated that we would learn the fundamentals of the biological sciences in a direct and practical manner. We would learn the various theories and formulae, receive a general overview, and I would continue on my merry way back to my Political Science major. Oh, how wrong I was.

On our first day of class, our three professors sat the class down and started handing out the syllabus. We were told that for our first exam, we needed to understand the fundamental formulae of Physics, but they would not be provided to us. Rather, we had to develop our own “operational definitions” of weight, potential energy, force, and others, using a random collection of office supplies. The standard formula for weight is W = mg, with “m” meaning mass and “g” meaning gravitational acceleration, with standard units in kilograms. Simple, direct, to the point, easy to throw into an equation. Now, imagine trying to create a mathematically accurate formula for weight using none of those terms. You could only use paperclips, string, and a ruler, and once you constructed the formula with those items, you had to apply that formula to measure a wide range of complex scenarios. I felt like I was in some form of high-stakes kindergarten, and almost wished I had taken a standard Physics course instead. Here’s a list of formulae, here’s how you use them, complete these equations, have a nice day!

This was a repeating theme throughout the course, and despite the initial frustrations, we eventually learned the actual formulae for our exams. But there won’t always be a formula to plug in. A problem may not resolve itself through rote procedure. Sometimes, in order to get past a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, you have to adopt an unconventional way of learning. It has been a skill that I have carried with me throughout my post-graduate career.

After graduating in the spring of 2013, I moved to Austin, Texas. It is an epicenter of state politics. There’s no snow, and there are taco trucks on every corner. For me, it was an absolute paradise. I quickly found myself embroiled in the 2014 election cycle, as I was field director for a local City Council race. For those of you who are considering volunteering for a political campaign, let me give you a behind-the-scenes look at managing one. You have to hit the ground on day one with a fully-fledged voter outreach strategy. You have a pool of registered voters, and you have to identify which of those have voted most often, who they’ve voted for, whether or not they are likely to vote, whether or not they are likely to support the campaign financially, and the most effective way to reach out to them. You have to decide when to knock on their doors, when to call them, when to send them emails, and how to win their vote. You have to do this over and over again, and everyone involved in the campaign has a different idea as to what the most effective strategy should be.

Your consultants, who largely seem paid to walk into your office to provide sage wisdom, tell you how to run the campaign. And then your volunteers, long-time community residents, tell you how to run the campaign. And the candidate will tell you how to run the campaign. And every single one of them will have completely different strategies. And then you have to work to receive endorsements from newspapers, political organizations, and other elected officials. And then you have to pay for all of it. The hours get longer as you get closer to election day, and days off become a thing of the past.

It’s stressful and exhausting and I absolutely love it! You definitely have to have a certain kind of crazy to pursue a career in politics, and I lovingly like to think that I cultivated that unconventional crazy in the Honors College. There were never any simple solutions, and every day some new obstacle presented itself. Fortunately, on election night, my candidate won 75% of the vote and earned her seat on the Austin City Council. I would not have succeeded in that role had I not learned to think as geographically far outside the box as my sanity would allow.

The celebration went well into the night, and then I got my first eight consecutive hours sleep in three months. My candidate went off to work, I enjoyed a couple months of R&R with my win bonus, and then reality slowly set in as my checking account dwindled and the cost of living continued to rise.

My resume was filled with political experience, and I was two years away from another election cycle. Job hunting was frustrating, but I eventually found myself in the field of sales and account management. I went into the interview with nothing but a non-traditional resume and great references.

The first question I was asked was, “what on your resume connects you to a career in a business environment.” My answer was simple: “I graduated from a multidisciplinary Honors program, and I’ve managed a political campaign in a race with ten candidates. I’m used to 60-hour weeks, no weekends, and I’ve developed skills in social media marketing, field canvassing and customer outreach, leading discussions with high-level administrators and officials. Every one of them relates to this role indirectly, and with enough coffee, I can accomplish anything you can throw at me.”

I got the job two weeks later. I now work as an account manager for a range of non-profits and political organizations around the country. Every day, I help clients make the most of their federal funding to best assist the populations they serve, including the homeless, the LGBTQ+ community, at-risk youth, nurses, clean energy activists, social workers, and countless others. I am able to succeed at this job because of my academic background – my studies in Political Science and the critical thinking skills I gained through the GVSU Honors College.

Granted, there have been a number of bumps and bruises along the way. Struggle is something that is almost synonymous with adulthood at this point. College tuition is now more expensive than ever, and a college degree is no longer a guarantee of career after graduation. The cost of living continues to rise, and economic inequality is only becoming more prevalent in the U.S. The road to success is not easy, regardless of how you define it for yourself. Sometimes it may feel like the courses you are taking are doing little to prepare you for life after college.

I encourage you not to fall into that trap. You are a new member of the Frederik Meijer Honors College, and that is not something that is easily accomplished. You have the skills and mind to accomplish anything that you set your mind to. It will not always be easy, and sometimes you may be stuck trying to solve a complex problem using nothing but simple office supplies and unconventional thinking. Face those challenges head on, and take each one as a new learning opportunity. Set goals for yourself, and make them lofty. Make them ridiculous in scale and scope, and then you run for them and ask yourself how every accomplished task brings you one step closer to the success you’ve defined for yourself.

Life is not a checklist of clearly labeled steps to “success.” It’s an ebbing and flowing tide of obstacles, failures, and triumphs. It will dare you to abandon your goals and settle for less, and occasionally drive you down a road you never thought you’d take. If that road seems too easy, then you’re likely going the wrong way. I believe that the Honors College will give you the best advantage you could ask for, by challenging you every step of the way. Now get to it and give em’ hell, Lakers! I’ll be rooting for you!

bio-pictureMatt Harvey is a native “Michigander”, and a four-year resident of Austin, Texas. He graduated from Grand Valley State University with a degree in Political Science, and a minor in Criminal Justice. After graduating, Matt worked in the political sphere as a campaign manager and education policy consultant for school districts across Texas. Currently, he works for Social Solutions as an Account Manager for a wide array of non-profit clients, and empowers them to achieve the best outcomes for the populations they serve. He has also had the opportunity to travel to over 40 countries around the world, and is especially fond of Germany and the Czech Republic. If you’re ever in Austin, you’re most likely to find Matt at the movies, outside with a good book, or brunching and testing the boundaries of a mimosa’s champagne/orange juice ratio.