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.



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 He is pictured (left) with J Schwanke, the creator of  “J Schwanke’s Life in Bloom.”


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.


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.


Student Post: 47 Short Days


It was only 47 days ago that the new school year began.

We are already halfway through the semester, but also, only halfway through the semester. My freshman year has already been filled with some great times and some not-so-great times, but I am happy to be where I am right now.

The honors college has been an incredibly special experience already. From my sequence to my Live Learn Lead I have been pushed more than I thought, but I have also grown way more than I ever could have imagined. I remember reading the syllabus for my sequence, Design Thinking for Social Product Innovation, and thinking ‘what on earth have I gotten myself into.’ I knew it was going to be a lot of work, I mean it is an honors class after all, but I didn’t really understand just how much it actually was.

But coming into the semester, I knew I could do it, and I wasn’t too worried. I had numerous AP credits and a college credit from Notre Dame so I figured I was prepared for my college transition. Very quickly, though, I realized I was not as prepared as I thought. It wasn’t so much that the material was too difficult and I was under-prepared, it was the workload. the seemingly impossible task of managing my time wisely. And in addition to transitioning onto a new campus, new classes and new friends, I was also trying to understand time management and finding balance in my life.

By the middle of September, I had my first feelings of doubt. I had a panic attack and felt like school was just impossible for me. I know college isn’t for everyone, and I was starting to think that maybe I was one of those people. All of a sudden the combination of my sequence and my calculus course got to be too much and the stress overcame me, I was ready to drop them both right then.

However, thankfully, I went to walk-in advising before making any rash decisions. Meg and Kelly helped me organize the rest of my classes to a more do-able workload, while encouraging me to stick it out a little bit longer in my sequence.

I’ve made it through week seven in my sequence and I would be lying if I said I never thought about dropping ever again, but I haven’t seriously considered it. I know how lucky I am to learn from people like Dr. Lane and Professor Lafferty. Their way of teaching is unlike any other and they bring such unique experience to the class. I also can feel myself changing thanks to the class. It also offers me a whole new perspective on world and learning opportunities unlike any other.

Sure, I may not be getting all A’s like I was so used to in high school but I am learning to be okay with that. Grades were always the priority but if I have learned anything in my less than two months of college it’s that the grades aren’t what matters. What matters is your actual learning, which does not mean an A. It means understanding.

These past 47 days have been filled of highs and lows but those highs definitely make it all worth it. This is just the beginning and I cannot wait to see where I go from here.

Grace Kulin



Grace Kulin is a freshman in the Frederik Meijer Honors college who is currently undecided. She loves watching HGTV, SpongeBob, working out and wearing Lululemon. She also loves working with people and is hoping to work in the medical field. 

Student Post: Reverse Culture Shock

When I signed up to study abroad for six weeks in Ghana, I felt that I had a decent grasp on what I was going to get out of the experience. I would meet new people, gain a deeper appreciation for another culture, and get some credits out of the way. While all of those things certainly happened, there were some aspects of studying abroad that nobody really talks about. More specifically, nobody talks about what it’s like when you return.

The end of my trip didn’t really hit until my last flight landed in Grand Rapids. As soon as the plane touched the ground, I started crying and didn’t stop until I left the airport. It was really difficult to explain to my family why I was crying, they had assumed it was just because I was happy to be home. Don’t get me wrong, I was really excited to be home. I had missed my friends and family, as well as hot showers and driving my car. However, this was an emotion that I couldn’t and still can’t completely describe. I quickly became frustrated with how difficult it was to explain my experience to friends and family. Even now, I’m struggling to write this post in a way that I feel accurately depicts how this trip has impacted me. Beyond my difficulties in verbalizing my experience, I have come across people who aren’t very accepting of the things I have learned. While almost everyone has been really supportive of my trip, I’ve had a few people tell me that couldn’t wrap my head around why I loved it so much. For some, I think it’s just something that you don’t understand unless you actually do it.

The other thing that I had to deal with upon arriving home was reverse culture shock. Reverse culture shock is exactly what it sounds like, a somewhat turbulent readjustment back into your own culture. For me, this showed itself in a few different ways. First, I felt bored and restless. My purpose felt kind of foggy and it took me a little while to feel like my brain was 100% back in the United States. I also really missed a lot of things about Ghana, especially the people. I had absolutely loved being surrounded by happy people all of the time during my six week stay. Even strangers said “good morning” and “how are you;” I ended up feeling kind of isolated once I had returned home.

While all of this sounds kind of negative, I am so grateful for it. These uncomfortable experiences have forced me to reflect a lot on some important concepts, both personal and universal. I can’t believe how much I have grown as a person not only during my trip but also since returning. While I may not be able to express all of these changes to others as well as I wish I could, I feel a lot more comfortable in my own skin and I would definitely recommend studying abroad to anyone who has questions about the world or themselves. I can’t promise that it will be all sunshine and rainbows, but that’s what makes it study abroad and not a vacation.



Maddi Miller is a junior in the Frederik Meijer Honors College majoring in math and minoring in general business and statistics. She enjoys the cooking channel, spicy foods, hanging out with her sorority sisters, and dancing like no one’s watching. For more insights on her study abroad trip, check out the blog posts on the Ghana Honors Study Abroad Facebook page.

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: 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.