Student Post: Designing the Future of Honors

This semester, the Design Thinking junior seminar was tasked with the challenge of making Grand Valley’s Honors College more distinctive. On the first day of class, we were split into three teams of six or seven students. Our professor, Professor Chamberlain, did this by looking at students’ majors, attempting to create teams of diverse thought.

To foster a productive environment, each team created a team charter which outlined the expectations of individual team members and the team as a whole. Next, we completed a design brief. Through this, our team’s problem statement was established. Each team chose an area of focus that they felt was extremely important.

For example, team Uncharted chose to focus on marketing aspects of the Honors College and creating a brand. Team PSI focused on the curriculum and improvements that can be made in order to make it accessible and applicable to all majors at Grand Valley. Our team, the Creativity Crew, wanted to shine a light on the lack of diversity in the Honors College.

At our first meeting, our team realized that we were a group of diverse students, which is hard to find in the Honors College. Not only were we racially diverse, but we were interested in and involved in numerous academic areas and student organizations.

The design thinking process, which emphasizes empathy with the end user, began with primary research. In total, we interviewed twenty-four of our stakeholders, people we felt were invested in our challenge.

Additionally, we completed secondary research, in the form of fifteen research bibliographies. Through our research, we discovered our top five need statements. In turn, these led us to our top five prototypes, our top two innovations, and finally, our decision to focus on the implementation of a service learning trip with a target of creating dialogue with a focus on diversity. We presented our final prototype at our innovation symposium, with the goal of receiving support from our stakeholders.

Speaking for our entire class, this semester was full of ups and downs. While challenging at times, we gained confidence in our ideas and our ability to implement these ideas. This course changed the Creativity Crew’s perspective on what a team is, but also redefined what it means to be a member of a team. Now, we are learning to embrace the unknown because it is full of potential possibilities waiting to be understood and innovated with.

(The Creativity Crew, from left to right: Taylor, Pierce, Lynn, Marisa, Alexis, and Darius.)

Lynn Doherty is an International Relations major, with minors in Business and Spanish.

Marisa Kahnt is a Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Leadership, minors in Human Rights and Psychology.

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Finals as Told by Louie the Laker

1. When you realize how much you have to do in so little time.

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2. And you start reviewing but you realize you don’t actually remember anything from the first month of classes.

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3. In order to get through the week, you reward yourself for everything. Like writing your name at the top of your paper.

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4. You find yourself having to make the decision between eating, showering and sleeping. And you choose sleep every time.

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5. When your friend brings you coffee and you are sure you have never felt so much love for someone before.

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6. Then your love for your friend, excessive caffeine, lack of sleep and stress kick in and make you super emotional.

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7. Despite setting 10 alarms, you still wake up late and have to run to your exam.

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8. When you read the first question and you know the answer.

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9. And then you go on to the next one and have no clue what it’s talking about.

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10. Turning in your exam and saying goodbye to your professor.

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11. Walking out of your last exam, defeated by the week.

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12. But then you remember that you get to go home and hug your dog.

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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.”

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.

 

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.

MaddieMiller

 

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.