The 3 “Ships” That’ll Make College Smooth Sailing

It’s been four years since I graduated from GVSU with my degree in Business. I spent my first two years of school living in the Honors College and I always look back on my time very fondly. In fact, that time went by way too quickly and there are a few things that I think are especially important for current students to reflect on while in this stage of life.

Internships. I cannot stress enough how important it is to complete at least one internship while you are in college – whether during the summer or the school year, paid or unpaid. Most programs even offer credit for internships, so don’t miss out on that opportunity! Internships are critical because they provide you with precious real-world experience that almost every employer requires, even for entry level positions. Working part-time in your desired field and/or for an organization you’re interested in is a great learning opportunity. For some, it solidifies they are heading down the right path, but for others, it’s a heads up that you might need to pivot – something that is better done before you graduate if you can help it. Plus, if you perform well, you might just get a job offer! I interned at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan during my senior year and was lucky enough to secure a full-time spot after graduation, which provided much-needed stability for the next chapter of my life. Schedule a meeting with the Honors College advisors and let them help find the right internship for you!

Mentorships. Forming a relationship with a mentor figure in college is something I think is highly underrated. Often students believe this is an experience better saved for later in life, when you’re actively headed down your career path. However, now that I mentor a college student, I can clearly see the benefits and how such a relationship can positively shape your future. I have had the pleasure of guiding a GVSU senior along in his endeavors – everything from his class schedule to resume to job offers – he actually calls me his “life coach”. This mentorship has been of great value to him because he doesn’t have to navigate this tricky time on his own and can rely on some of my knowledge and experiences. Think about the people you interact with who are further down your desired career path and those you consider wise – maybe you work with them, volunteer with them, or you are both part of the same social or professional organization. You can explain that you’re looking for a mentor or you can just start asking them questions to learn more about how they got where they are now. Either way, just soak up what you can!

Friendships. This one may seem obvious, but it’s definitely worth including. Chances are that you are making some incredible friends right now and are having the time of your life. After all, college is the only time where your responsibilities and freedom are perfectly balanced – you are out of the house, but you don’t have the full weight of employment and bills piled on top of you. What you are experiencing now and those you are experiencing it with will make a lasting impression. However, what you may not realize is that after graduation, people’s lives start going in many different directions. Your friend whose hometown is on the other side of the state might return there; another friend might get a job offer across the country; or maybe you’re the one moving away from the people you used to see every single day. I met three amazing people my freshman year in the Honors College and we are still close, but unfortunately do not get to talk or see each other nearly as often as we’d like. Change happens and that’s okay, but cherish the time you have with your friends now because the college experience will be gone before you know it.

College can be some of the most fun and influential years of your life to date! Capitalize on this time by getting a head start on your career, absorbing some great advice, and appreciating your friends. After you graduate, you’ll be glad you did!

 

Kalset Bartlett

 

Kelsey Bartlett is a GVSU Honors College alum and will complete her Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications degree from Eastern Michigan University this year. She works at Indiana University Health and manages internal communications for their two flagship hospitals.

 

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Alumni Post: What does Honors have to offer?

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

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.

 

Student Post: A Career on the Breakfast Table

I never thought the Trix Rabbit would help me get a job.

After all, “Trix are for kids,” not college-educated adults, right? But it’s a lifelong love of whimsical breakfast mascots and their commercial escapades that has made me what I am today: an Advertising & Public Relations major at Grand Valley State University at the outset of his fourth and final year.

I won’t bore you with the fully fortified story, but I have many fond childhood memories of bonding with friends and family over the wacky ads we saw on TV. From Lucky Charms’ purple horseshoes and Heinz purple ketchup to NERF guns and Nintendo games, these 30-second glimpses into imaginatively advertised worlds were as enchanting to me as the Saturday morning cartoons they were sandwiched between.

When I finished high school with no clear career goal and a penchant for writing, I knew one thing for certain: I wanted to re-create these memories for a new generation of kids, and maybe even redeem the often disparaged field of advertising through wholesome nostalgia.

But how could I do it? As an Economics major? A Marketing major? The answer seemed unclear, until I went to a student-to-student Q&A session during my overnight Honors College orientation—at this point, the Honors College had already won me over on its promise of independent learning and its progressive, general education-replacing first-year curriculum—where the wonderful (and recently graduated) Jaclyn Ermoyan told us she was an Advertising & Public Relations major.

I had no idea GVSU offered a full major on just advertising, and after making an eager internal promise to investigate the program, the rest was history. Here I am, 3 years later: president of Grand Valley’s Advertising Club and proud member of the university’s winning National Student Advertising Competition team, with a second major in Writing (to evolve my copywriting), a Gold ADDY Award to my name and a name made for myself in the professional West Michigan advertising community.

So while I quite literally have that night in the Honors College Multipurpose Room to thank for my success and professional satisfaction, that’s far from the only way the school’s innovative educational approach has helped me thrive. During my freshman sequence, Social Product Innovation—still the most challenging (in a good way) course I’ve taken at GVSU—I was taught to tackle socially beneficial entrepreneurship from the ground up. The course showed me the design thinking process, gave me the chance to write an enlightening paper about McDonald’s innovative marketing, and encouraged me to become a self-starter—by crafting a pair of fair trade, fish leather mittens.

How did I use this self-starting stimulus? I created my own cereal blog, a passion project that has brought together hundred of thousands of breakfast lovers across the globe, made me lasting friends, and given me a unique conversation-starter with advertising pros nationwide, who love to hear how someone with a niche interest built a brand for himself from the ground up and learned valuable digital marketing skills in the process.

The takeaway? Take your passion and make it happen. You’ll be surprised by how many doors are opened by demonstrated drive alone—whether you’re writing about Cocoa Puffs, Coney Islands, or carnivorous cryptids.

And while I love GVSU’s Advertising & Public Relations program, I also have my Honors junior seminar to thank for polishing the copywriting skills I’m forever honing. Despite having a different academic focus, Professor Stillerman’s Sociology of Consumption looked at consumerism through the lens of the receiver, helping me better understand how to meaningfully speak to consumer pain points and craft compelling narrative myths through “Cultural Strategy.”

The takeaway here? Look at your field of work from a different angle. An interdisciplinary perspective can help you see the two faces, so to speak, when all you saw before was a face.

I still have a year of university life left, but thanks to the Honors College’s professional environment and refreshingly “non-academic” approach to self-inspired learning, as well as the countless extracurricular engagement opportunities presented through the entire School of Communications, I already feel readily equipped to enter the working world.

So while I don’t know exactly where I see myself in five years, I can see the limitless potential afforded to those who grow communities instead of just going to class. Oh, and I can definitely see why kids love the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Dan GoubertDan Goubert is an incoming senior, set to graduate in Spring 2018 with a B.S. in both Advertising & Public Relations and Writing. Dan has a passion for combining his two areas of study and has recently started his third advertising internship in agency copywriting. When he’s not strategizing for Grand Valley Advertising Club or writing academically, Dan can be found geeking out online about the newest Oreo cookie variety or obscurest ’90s Pop-Tart flavor.

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.

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).

Student Post: It’s Never Too Early

Grand Valley promotes studying abroad tremendously. There are fairs, thousands of pamphlets, presentations in most classes, and tons of students in Kirkhof desperately trying to get your attention.  When I first arrived at Grand Valley, I had the preconceived notion that studying abroad was only something I could do as an upperclassman. Those amazing trips were just for seniors, for people who had their lives (and senior projects) figured out, for people who were ready to leave their families and friends for three months. However, at the beginning of winter semester in my freshman year, I began to think about what I was going to do with my summer. I didn’t enjoy being home like most first-year students, and I needed to do something to better myself—but I was a freshman. The semester before, I had taken a Live.Learn.Lead class in FMHC that focused on owning your education. I reflected on this class and realized that the number of credit hours I had did not affect how mature I was, or how well I could understand life in another country. While I had this empowering feeling, I applied to the Honors Service Learning trip in Ghana, Africa. I still hadn’t completely convinced myself that I could travel across the world and live in a third world country for the summer, but what harm could be done by applying?

I didn’t even tell my family when the acceptance emails arrived, and I went to the first meeting still unsure of how I felt about the trip. However, after hearing the excitement from the other accepted students and listening to heartwarming stories from the professor, I knew it was exactly what I needed. I would have the opportunity to volunteer in hospitals, clinics, and schools, to understand life from a completely different viewpoint, and to make forever friends who would experience every moment with me—which is exactly what I did.

I left for Ghana on June 9th, ready to spend the next seven weeks learning all that I could and soaking up every part of the most exciting journey I’d ever been on. We stayed with a Ghanaian family in a hostel, which quickly became home. On the second day of volunteering in the hospitals, I had already seen more than I ever could while shadowing a doctor in the United States. With every minute, I was further understanding the meaning of ‘third world country’ and developing a deeper gratitude for the life I was given.

After returning, I was at a loss for words to explain what I had learned and how I felt. I had the time of my life. I was completely humbled by the happiness and love I found in each person I met, as well as the beaches, landscapes, and animals I saw. This wasn’t, and still isn’t, something that can be put into words. It is something that MUST be experienced.

Reflecting on the day I applied to go to Ghana, I can’t believe that I ever thought I had to be an upperclassman to study abroad. In my opinion, going as a freshman benefitted me more than if I had been a senior. For starters, I didn’t have any plans for the summer after my freshman year. I didn’t have an internship or an amazing job at a hospital or a school, and none of my friends were getting married or having babies. I wasn’t missing anything. Furthermore, this experience will help me, not only with applying to medical school but with the rest of my college career. Being able to see the ins and outs of medical care up close solidified that the degree I am working toward is exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life. Also, having experience abroad shadowing doctors and working in hospitals and clinics gives me a better chance to do the same things here. I now have a better understanding of the world and of life, which I can use in each of my other classes. I can relate almost anything to my experience in Ghana. Finally, studying abroad my freshman year gave me the courage to take control of my education and ensure that I am getting exactly what I want out of my college experience—and it gave me time to study abroad again.

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Lauren Robb is a sophomore in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at GVSU, majoring in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Applied Statistics. She enjoys playing intramural sports, being outside, and hanging out with friends. Lauren loves learning about medicine and health care through her job as a scribe as well as her volunteer work. Her one piece of advice for all GVSU students is to study abroad at least once, no matter how long it’s for!