If you had asked me three years ago if I considered myself a leader, I would definitely tell you I was a follower. My goal was to get my degree and hopefully make friends with the same mindset that I had along the way. What I did not know was that my decision to join the Frederik Meijer Honors College would give me the opportunity to become a leader without even knowing it while providing me with a community of people that would encourage me to do anything I set my mind to. The first lesson I learned in my class “Live, Learn, Lead” was that being a leader is about guiding others to become leaders themselves and reach their full potential. Now here I am, three years later, and I currently serve as the chair of the Honors Mentor Council where I get to help welcome our incoming students through a mentorship program and the Honors Welcome Days.
When I started my time at Grand Valley as a freshman, I had the opportunity to go through the summer overnight orientation program and meet my first college friends. During this time I got to know other students who would be living in the same dorms as me, going to the same classes, and going through similar experiences. We got to know each other by playing games like Trainwreck and Body Body, stayed up late, and played team building games that confirmed my decision to be a Laker and made me excited to start college that fall. I still keep in touch with these people to this day!
Flash forward to August of that year and I was stepping foot onto the campus where I would be spending the next four years. At this time, I met my mentor and other students in my mentor group for the Honors Welcome Days. My mentor and I had the same major so we were able to bond over the classes I would be taking and hobbies that we both had. During this part of Welcome Week, my mentor guided me through how to use my meal plan, to scheduling my time wisely, and even through finding clubs and organizations that would give me an even deeper sense of community through my passions and interests. It was because of the amazing experience I had that I knew I would want to be that mentor for other students and make them feel as welcome in the FMHC as I was.
My experience as a mentor has been the most rewarding opportunity I have been given through the Honors college. One of the most important things we do on the mentor council is plan the Honors Welcome Days. This is a program that occurs 2 days before the rest of Grand Valley’s Welcome Week and is exclusive to the FMHC. During this time, first-year students will meet with their mentors with 5-10 other students who share similar interests. Together they will listen to the amazing faculty at the Honors College and staff throughout the university discuss how to get involved on campus and make their four years of college ones that will grow and challenge them. They learn about research opportunities, how to study abroad, and ways to make connections with both faculty and students. We also plan a lot of fun activities! Mentor groups go on a photo scavenger hunt of campus that always somehow turns into a contest of “who can submit the craziest photo.” They also get free frozen yogurt, play capture the flag, and meet up with other students who will be in the same freshman sequence as them for the year. The bonds made during this week are ones that show our students exactly what it means when we say that there is an unexplainable sense of community within Grand Valley.
Whenever I start to plan the Honors Welcome Days, I always look back onto what made me love Grand Valley and the FMHC in the first place. At the end of the day, it’s the community and friends I have made that inspire me to be a leader, no matter the situation. My absolute favorite part of being a mentor is helping others become leaders too. When you see someone you have mentored have the confidence to speak up in a group of people, interact in meaningful discussion, and take charge in uncertain situations, they have themselves become leaders. Honors is about so much more than getting good grades. Leadership and mentorship have shaped me into someone that confidently works towards my goals and gives me the skills to do so, then helping others to do the same. Joining the FMHC has been the best decision of my college career, and I know the skills they have taught me are ones I will carry with me as I go onto whatever my future has in store for me.
“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others” – John Maxwell
Erin Mulder is a junior in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University, pursuing a major in Medical Laboratory Science with a minor in Biology. She is passionate about helping others and learning about medicine. You can find her studying, hanging out with friends, or working as a phlebotomist. Erin loves being outdoors, yoga, and watching the Iron Man movies. She will be applying to PA school in August and hopes to work in family practice within an underserved community in West Michigan.