Alumni Post: Unique and Profitable Opportunities

I love science. Whether I’m riding my bike, sweating through a Detroit Lion’s third quarter or enjoying a Detroit Lion’s fourth quarter, I’m probably thinking about science. I’m the type of person that can enjoy watching paint dry because I’d argue it was never wet, to begin with. I can enjoy talking about the nature of tape because it manages to be sticky despite the fact that there is no “sticky force” found in any physics textbook I’ve ever read. What do these anecdotes tell you about me? I like to observe the world not only for its beautiful phenomena but also for the circumstances under which its phenomena are enabled.

With this in mind, I’ve been reflecting on the good fortune that’s come my way over the last few months in the form of graduate school admissions decisions. I’ve been wondering what the circumstances must have been that enabled my current path forward. It can’t be that I had a good GPA because GPA alone does not a valuable scientist make. It can’t be that I’ve worked hard because hard work alone does not ensure that the energy was spent in the proper direction. It’s not that my parents told me I could achieve my dreams and thus enabled my actions toward doing so because support alone is not enough. It can’t be that I’m just smart because I’ve just told you that I’d argue about whether or not paint can be wet.

However, it seems to be some combination of these things that enabled my dreams to become my real future. While I don’t currently have a curve or an equation that describes the circumstances under which somebody can experience positive admissions decisions, I can rest assured that every opportunity in the world was available to me at GVSU. This hasn’t always been my perspective, but as I’ve traveled to numerous institutions and met with faculty and students, I’ve realized how fortunate I was to have GVSU’s resources at my fingertips while the other applicants did not. Not every applicant had mentors who cared as deeply about the wellbeing of their students as they cared about the progress of their students’ projects. Not every applicant had the hands-on experience that is offered at primarily undergraduate institutions. Not every applicant had professors who were so invested in their students that they offered review sessions on Easter Sunday. Not every applicant was able to live in the building where they’d later meet their professors for office hours. Not every applicant was able to be a resident assistant for 2 years, to work in multiple labs, to speak at national conferences, and to experience life as the business head of a startup.

In only three and a half years, GVSU Honors offered me all of these experiences and many, many more.

Anyway, I’ve only recently appreciated the unique and profitable circumstances that exist in Allendale, MI. I was fortunate to attend GVSU, enroll in Honors and benefit from a program whose circumstances (people, support, environment, etc.) enable incredible possibilities for its members. I can only hope that I might have contributed to that environment in some way.

Usually, when I picture somebody staring through a window, I hope that they wonder to themselves why the window is transparent while the wall is opaque. However, I hope that you, while staring through your window and admiring this fine spring day, wonder to yourself what the circumstances must have been to enable your future. Similarly, I hope that you take advantage of the opportunity to contribute to the circumstances that will enable somebody else’s future as well.

 

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Joel Francis is a recent alumnus of Grand Valley State University (’16), where he studied Cell & Molecular Biology and Chemistry. During his time at GVSU, he worked in multiple labs and served as a Resident Assistant in the Honors College. He was born and raised in metro Detroit before moving to Grand Rapids. Joel is an avid Detroit Tigers fan, a cautious Detroit Lions fan, and also enjoys woodworking in his spare time. He will enroll at Stanford University in the Fall to begin working on his Ph.D. in Cell & Molecular Biology.

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Outstanding Senior of the Year Post: Honors & Opportunities

Gloria LaCourse is the Meijer Honors College Outstanding Senior of the Year. In this blog post she reflects on the Honors College, GVSU, and the opportunities they provided for her.

Entering the Honors College orientation in 2013 was terrifying and exciting at the same time. Gathered with hundreds of the brightest students at Grand Valley, I was unsure where I would fit in or if I would ever find my place amongst the brilliant minds surrounding me. College can be a scary place, but the faculty, curriculum, and atmosphere of the Frederik Meijer Honors College provided the warmest of welcomes and the brightest of futures.

Looking back at my past four years here at Grand Valley, it’s hard to believe how far I have come. When I entered, I feared the unknown, and unwilling to venture into uncharted territory. Now I am graduating this April with many experiences that I’d never imagined possible.

The Honors College heavily promotes studying abroad, promoting students to gain a global perspective of the world. One of my favorite experiences was my trip to Rome to present my Honors Senior Project. I had the opportunity to stand alongside the Director of the School of Accounting as I presented my project titled Family Owned Businesses: International Charitable Contributions & Tax Savings. Not only did I gather a vast array of knowledge from my Senior Project, but I was able to immerse myself in a diverse culture where I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. I also studied abroad in London, allowing me to further develop a global mindset in an increasingly diverse America.

My study abroad opportunities were life changing, but my greatest experiences at Grand Valley occurred within my Honors courses. I had the privilege of taking Professor Benjamin’s Big History course during my freshman year. Professor Benjamin instilled in me a passion for learning that surpassed anything I thought possible, developing our discussion-based class into a big family in the process.

In addition to Big History, my science courses weren’t simply classes where I memorized cell structures or the human anatomy. My journey throughout college has focused on real issues throughout the world, not just the details of the basic reading, writing, and arithmetic. We weren’t encouraged to compete, but instead we focused on collaboration. Every other Honors course I have taken has had a similar effect, encouraging us students to genuinely listen to and understand each person’s way of thinking to inspire intellectual conversation and deep learning.

Throughout my four years at Grand Valley State University and the Frederik Meijer Honors College, I have been able to develop an inquisitive mind and deep values that influence every aspect of my life. In addition to finding my new beginning and future here, I found a voice for myself that may not have been possible anywhere else. Although I am leaving in only a few weeks, the Frederik Meijer Honors College is my home.

image1 (1)Gloria LaCourse is a senior honors student set to graduate in April of 2017 with her Bachelors in Business Administration. She was given the 2017 Frederik Meijer Honors College Outstanding Senior Award and is attending Ohio State University next year to obtain her Masters in Accounting. Gloria’s passions include reading, taxes, and her puppy Blue-Ivy!

Student Post: Exciting Opportunities Await You

The most exciting moments of my education have been those that I never saw coming. When I went to the National Collegiate Honors Council annual conference last November, I had no idea what I was getting into. While I had just wanted to go to an academic conference for the heck of it, I did not know the family I would find at NCHC. Among students, faculty, and scholars from all over the country, I was suddenly thrown into a whirlwind of passionate people unlike anything I had ever felt before. At the 2015 conference, I was lucky enough to connect with other writers from Nebraska, North Carolina, Maryland, and everywhere in between. We formed an instantaneous community.

More than that, these practical strangers were able to inspire and challenge me. Tiffany, a biology student from NC, impressed upon me the veritable adventure she had experienced through Partners in the Parks, a program through the National Parks. Her enthusiasm spread, contagious as wildfire. By opening herself and her stories up to me, Tiffany lent me some of her own curiosity, causing me to go to Hawai’i with PITP last summer.

The two weeks I spent there were educational in the realest sense. I was exposed to ways of thinking that I hadn’t previously encountered. Through hiking volcanoes and engaging with the Parks’ staff, I was fortunate enough to glean a knowledge of both Hawai’ian culture and geology, as well as how the two coincide. This further fueled my deep devotion to interdisciplinary knowledge. Seeing how the Hawai’ian people viewed the island as a place of life and spiritual importance gave me a better and broader understanding of the environment as a whole; it made me love it even more.

I loved that honors had empowered me to do this and that NCHC was a place for people to be both academically and personally challenged. To me, this represented exactly what traditional education often missed: the real passion of learning and sharing the knowledge one learns. This led me into my next involvement with NCHC in a more academic and professional setting.

Inspired by Tiffany to run for the Board of Directors, I took an immense leap of faith and did so. Surprisingly, I won. At my first Board meeting this past February, I was surprised by how incredibly quirky and passionate everyone else on the board was. I would be hard-pressed to find a more dedicated bunch of people anywhere else, and Honors has allowed me to do all of this: to serve as a student member on the Board of Directors of a non-profit, to clamber up and over a volcanic crater in Hawai’i, and to make friendships I fully expect to last a lifetime. Honors is incredible in this way.

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Annie Livingston is in her third year here at GVSU, where she studies English, Writing & Spanish, which somehow translates to studying how to make every class about poetry. Annie believes in radical softness and belief itself. She hopes to dedicate her life to words in as many ways as possible, and has previously been published in Brainchild (2016 & ’17) and Voices (2016).