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!