As a recent (and extremely proud) GVSU Honors College graduate, I vividly recall some of the fears and anxieties that crept through my head as I neared graduation. During my last semester in Allendale, I knew that I would be enrolling in a master’s program in higher education administration/student affairs upon graduation, but I did not know where that would take me or what sort of work that would involve. Now, having successfully conquered year one of my graduate studies, I would like to offer some practical advice to those Honors students or alumni who may be considering an advanced degree (or two) to further their careers and personal ambitions.
Although my master’s program is easily built upon everything that I was engaged with as a Laker, I cannot emphasize enough that the wide range of high-quality opportunities that GVSU offers is remarkable. To prepare for graduate school and separate one’s self from the pack, the resources around campus can really set a student up phenomenally well for future success. Whether that’s studying a language abroad, completing an internship with any of the major companies in the Grand Rapids area, volunteering in poverty-stricken areas over spring break across the country, or combining all three of those outlets, GVSU is poised to give you experiences that can be tailored to shape your graduate school career before you even consider applying. In a particular way, Honors is stacked with resources and connections waiting to propel you confidently forward into the graduate school arena. In just over a year since leaving Allendale, I have had the opportunity to listen to other highly-involved students from across the country and have worked at a range of higher education institutions, and I can safely endorse GVSU as an unusually exceptional university in fostering so many superb life and career-altering possibilities.
Until I was interviewed by dozens of potential employers at multiple universities across the Midwest last spring, I don’t think that I realized the enormous importance of the graduate student’s relationship with their supervisor and academic unit. Searching for and cultivating a high caliber of connection with these two groups can indelibly influence one’s graduate school trajectory, as well as a student’s drive for producing excellent work. Gratefully, I can say that I have found an enriching work environment in my graduate assistantship. However, I would not have been able to identify the potential lying beneath the surface of that solitary interview last year without having thrived under the phenomenal support of the GVSU Honors College. I want to implore Honors students who are considering graduate school to search for professional programs with professors, administrators, and supervisors like those that characterize the hallways and offices of Niemeyer. You may not find another academic environment that has so many finely tuned components (there is only one Holy Grail, after all), but the importance of searching for such a setting may be an undervalued aspect of selecting a graduate school.
To say that I am extremely thankful for the Honors College, both personally and professionally, is a massive understatement. My four years were engaging and formative, and have strongly influenced what I aspire to in my graduate degree (an internship with my current institution’s Honors College is on tap for the fall!) and future career, and I hope that they are similarly foundational for other Honors students considering graduate school.
Finally, I would like to take a moment to publicly thank Dr. J for his incredible leadership at GVSU for the past 10 years. He and many of his administrative staff members (particularly Amanda Cuevas and Janaan Decker) have demonstrated what it means to build an exemplar student-centered academic culture, which has tremendously influenced my career path. I can only pray to make the same sort of personal impact on students that he and the Honors College had on me.
Brad Mueller (’16) is halfway through his master’s degree in Higher Education Administration and Student Personnel at Kent State University in Ohio. His graduate assistantship is with the Office of International Programs and Education Abroad in the College of Arts and Sciences, where he has the opportunity to engage with a wide range of internationalization and education abroad efforts. Brad has been fortunate to build on his experiences and studies at GVSU through his various internships at a number of Midwestern universities. In his spare time, Brad enjoys running, reading, and exploring northeast Ohio.