Student Post: All Ears on the Small Screen

As Honors students with lots of interests and pursuits, sometimes it’s difficult for us to set aside time for hobbies. Maybe it’s just me, but free time seems more and more like a fantasy world I’d love to visit! My class schedule isn’t crazy this semester. I’m taking ten credits here at GVSU, but I’m also working twenty-five hours a week as a professional hairstylist, and trying to be a good dad and husband. After I plop my book bag down at home, I’m often heading to the kitchen to cook dinner for my family. It’s a full schedule, but in my free time I focus on the hobbies I enjoy, one of which is songwriting. This year I’m working on a very special songwriting project – I’ve been hired to write, perform, and record the original music for a new show on PBS!

How did this happen? How did I just start writing the little ditties that will end up becoming the background music and the theme song for a TV show? I guess I’m still pinching myself.

Even though I grew up watching PBS as a kid in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I never dreamed I’d be making the music for one of those shows. It’s not that I don’t have experience. I’ve been playing in bands and writing original music for over twenty years. I began writing songs when I was fifteen – a bratty punk kid playing sloppy guitar while my little brother sang improvised lyrics in our tree house. A few years later, as a young college dropout, I started several bands in Grand Rapids, eventually booking gigs at places like Meijer Gardens, the Pyramid Scheme, and Founders Brewery. For the most part, though, I found it impossible to make money as a musician, and a few years ago I started putting my energy toward finishing my college degree instead of chasing music.

And that’s what I’ve done – I’ve focused on studying, catching the bus on time to make it to class, and keeping my GPA up. I have to admit, though, I was happily surprised when J Schwanke, a client of mine at the salon, pitched his idea to me while I was cutting his hair. He needed a boatload of original music for his new lifestyle TV show about flowers, and he wanted to know if I could write it for him. I jumped at the chance.

J is a flower expert, and has been fascinated by flowers his whole life. A fourth-generation florist, he’s fond of saying, “I was born at a flower show!” (And he actually was.) He travels nationally and internationally, working with florists, flower farmers, and floral product companies to promote a happier world filled with flowers. I’m just the guy who cuts his hair. But for a few hours every week this semester, I’ll be in the basement in my sweatpants, perfecting guitar riffs and rolling piano chords, trying to make background music that’s so happy and light, you won’t even notice it.

Keep an ear out next spring when you’re flipping through channels. “J Schwanke’s Life In Bloom” premieres on PBS across Michigan in May 2018. And if you’re a flower lover, contact your local station (WGVU!) and ask them to carry it. If the flowers don’t make you smile, the music will.

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Ben Scott-Brandt is a songwriter and professional hairstylist in Grand Rapids. He’s also a Liberal Studies major, an Honors student, and an amateur mycology geek. Listen online at benscottbrandt.com. He is pictured (left) with J Schwanke, the creator of  “J Schwanke’s Life in Bloom.”

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6 Things to Remember During the Last 6 Weeks

As we wind into the final weeks of the semester, tension grows as students become more stressed. Class projects that were assigned in the first week of classes are finally due, as well as papers, speeches and of course, final exams. As we wrap up the semester, take advantage of these 6 things in your last 6 weeks.

  1. Stress around finals becomes inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it should go unnoticed. Remember that the University Counseling Center is always available, even if you just want to go and talk out everything that you need to do. Students get 10 free sessions a year, so take advantage of them. Their website even has self-help tools that give tips and tricks to combat stress and help you relax.

 

  1. Assigned a speech and extremely nervous about it? Don’t worry, the Speech Lab specializes in speech delivery and is one of 16 communication centers with a nationally certified training program. A tip that many people don’t know is the speech lab goes beyond class assignments, but will also help with wedding toasts, sales pitches or award presentations!

 

  1. Although everyone is avoiding thinking it, this time of year is when the dreaded group presentations begin. The Knowledge Market specializes in presentations, helping to select topics, organize information efficiently and practice delivery.

 

  1. On top of helping with presentations, the Knowledge Market also specializes in research. Their research consultants work to gather peer-reviewed and scholarly articles, while helping to focus the topic and set you up for an awesome paper! Pair them with the writing consultants from the Writing Center, who brainstorm ideas, organize content and integrate research, and you’re sure to get an A. For your convenience, you can even work with a writing consultant from your own bed thanks to their online consultations.

 

  1. Although pushing final exams out of mind seems ideal, they’re right around the corner. Test taking skills are important to brush up on, and the Student Academic Success Center is here to help. They offer tutoring, academic coaching, academic skills resources and academic strategies. Need a quiet place to study or a room to study with others? Reserve a room at the library early to guarantee a whiteboard to study with.

 

  1. Although it can be extremely easy to forget to have fun, though getting out and about can be amazing for self-care. Starting on November 24, Rosa Parks Circle opens for ice skating at only $3.00 per adult, including skate rentals. While you’re downtown, check out the Grand Rapids Griffins, single tickets can be as low as $19, though many student orgs sell them at a discounted rate on campus. Grand Valley also has an event on Monday, December 4 with French Music for the Holiday season that you don’t want to miss.

Although there are only 6 weeks left until the end of fall semester, take advantage of campus resources and downtown Grand Rapids before heading home!

 

Alumni Post: What Adulting is Actually Like

Being a recent graduate of the Honors College, I knew that if I had survived my Honors sequence, I could survive anything–not really, but those are tough! What I wasn’t ready for was the transition from college to being an adult. Everybody always says “adulting is hard,” but I always thought that the statement in large part was sarcastic. What I wasn’t ready for was how very true  it  was. Although the transition from being in college to working a full-time job and other adult responsibilities has its challenges, I’ve learned in my six months of being a college graduate that it’s important to keep the same good habits that we learn in college.

In July I went through a lot of life changes: I began working at Whirlpool Corporation in their Internal Audit area, moved to a new city, moved into an apartment for my first time (I was a Resident Assistant in freshmen dorms for three years at Grand Valley), and have been attempting to do other adult-like things. In addition to all of these changes, starting in Internal Audit was an unfamiliar department for me as I had never studied it while in the Business College.

Yet even when I felt like I was in over my head, my college habits seemed to always come in handy. My Honors Sequence always challenged me to ask questions and further my curiosity, so why couldn’t it apply here too? I found myself diving into areas that I had never seen before, and asking the really tough questions, because that was what Honors had prepared me to do.

While I may not feel as though my skills are fit for the Internal Audit function for forever, Whirlpool is a large enough corporation that will allow me to grow and adapt within it. One thing that my time at GVSU taught me is that you have to take advantage of opportunities that come your way. If I hadn’t said yes to joining the internal audit function itself, I would not have had the opportunity to travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma or Atlanta, Georgia. Without saying yes to my co-worker inviting me to attend a Young Professionals Meeting, I wouldn’t have made many of my friends or had the opportunity to plan an event for our Young Professionals Network.

The habit of saying yes is something that took me very far during my four years at Grand Valley, and has continued to take me a long way in my three months of working in “the real world.” The transferable skill I learned in the Honors College is that it’s okay to be challenged and not always know exactly what you are doing. While we may stress out in the moment about what the outcome of the challenge will be (mainly whether or not we’ll get an A), we become talented in the mentality of faking it until you make it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch this Ted Talk.

While it is frustrating at times, it’s important to accept the challenge and learn as much as you can from it. If you make it a habit, it is a skill that will benefit you for the rest of your career, trust me.

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Ella Fritzemeier graduated in April 2017 with a degree in Business Administration (majored in Economics and Finance) and a minor in Spanish. She was able to travel for two weeks around Europe before starting at Whirlpool Corporation in their Finance Development Program, starting in the Internal Audit Department. Ella enjoys reading and exploring new places.

 

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.

 

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!