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).

Skip the Advising and do it the Hard Way: 5 Reasons Not to See Your Advisor

Advising is a hassle and no one likes it. Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t bother meeting with an advisor:

  1. Meg and Kelly, the new Honors Advisors are really boring people and some would consider them downright mean. They are closed-minded, unsympathetic, and not even helpful. They won’t help you brainstorm, share their experiences, or offer support if you’re going through a difficult time.
  2. Meg and Kelly have never been abroad, especially not to places like El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, England, Thailand, Ghana, or Costa Rica. They will certainly not encourage you to travel either—forget helping you or referring you to places where you could get funding to travel. They don’t care about any of that!
  3. Why get a thumbs up before graduation? How about you show up to commencement and risk your name not being called because you missed something. It’s worth risking another semester at GVSU just to save a few minutes now!
  4. Meg and Kelly are not at all connected across campus. If you are interested in research, job opportunities, and more, they won’t know where to send you. Plus, that’s not their job!
  5. Meg and Kelly are notoriously unavailable. They don’t respond to emails, don’t have openings on their calendars, and never hold open advising sessions. They twiddle their thumbs, come in late and leave early, and basically spend their time on Facebook and Instagram, keeping their office doors closed and avoiding contact with students.

Actually…..In case you couldn’t tell, Meg and Kelly have a good sense of humor and are both excited about being advisors within the Honors College. Combined, they have spent over 20 years working in the fields of higher education, non-profit, international development, k-12 education, and community engagement.  They will both be teaching a section of Live.Learn.Lead in the fall semester and they look forward to meeting you.  Stop by the office or call to schedule an appointment or pop in for open advising sessions that are publicized in the weekly FMHC announcements.

Student Post: Conferences, Presenting as an Undergrad

When you hear the word “conference,” it can sound big and scary. They’re not only reserved for graduate students and scientists, though. I have been fortunate enough to present at a conference twice now in my undergraduate career, and hope to present at more before I graduate. I am a part of the GVSU Honors Mentor Council, where we plan the welcome days for Honors first-year students. I was a mentee as a freshman, became a mentor as a sophomore and was accepted onto the mentor council for the second semester of my sophomore year.

At the very beginning of my sophomore year, I received an email asking if anyone would like to attend the National Mentoring Symposium in Indianapolis. Shortly after, I found out that I was going to help present at the conference, and I hadn’t even started my own role as a mentor yet. I thought going to the conference would be fun, but presenting would be not only be a great thing to put on my resume, but also a great experience to better my presenting skills.

I’m not one to willingly speak in front of large groups of people. I always stumble over my words, and speak too quickly when I get nervous. No matter how much I practice, there is no saving myself. Needless to say, I was terrified before I attended my first conference. I was working with Erin Koren and Glenn Miller, two members of the mentor council at the time. Luckily, they already had the proposal submitted and approved, and even had a general outline of what they wanted to present. They were nice enough to let me choose what part I wanted to present, and helped me feel more confident in myself. We practiced the presentation a few times so we knew we would fill the full hour slot, and if I got nervous and spoke fast, Glenn was prepared to ramble during his sections to make up for my lost time. Without these two wonderful people, I don’t think I would have had the confidence to go through with it.

Once we got to the conference, all of the nerves set in. The first room that we started in to eat breakfast and listen to the key note speaker held close to 500 people. Luckily, when we presented during our concurrent session, we only spoke to maybe 30 people at the most. They all seemed to love our presentation, and were very active in participating, which made everything a lot more comfortable. Comfortable enough that when given the opportunity to present a second time, I jumped at the chance! This past fall, I was asked to present a second time at the same symposium. This time, I took more of a leading role when submitting the proposal and abstract, and Emma Hahs and Darby Naheedy helped me present. We all had such a great time this fall and I think we all learned a lot.

If I had any advice to give to anyone considering presenting at something similar to the National Mentoring Symposium, it would be to take the opportunity in a heartbeat. I never would have thought that something like this would ever affect me as much as it did. My first conference made me realize that I wanted to be a part of the mentor council and make some changes based on what I learned at the conference. I also learned that I am capable of accomplishing things that I am absolutely terrified of. I learned a lot about myself, and about mentoring through both of these conferences, and I plan to take any conference opportunity that comes my way.

 

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Kate Langmeyer is a third year honors student studying wildlife biology and nonprofit administration. She was born and raised on the east side of Michigan before moving out to Allendale to attend Grand Valley State University. She is a part of the Honors Mentor Council, as well as on e-board for the GVSU belly dancing club. During her free time, she can be found reading quietly or watching documentaries. She hopes to one day work in marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation. 

Student Post: 5 tips about your Honors Senior Project

As an Honors College student, it is required that an Honors Senior Project is completed. Originally a daunting task, I have since come to the end of implementing my project. Here’s what I learned along the way.

Own your education.

Sure, classes can help you get a degree. But does that degree help you get the job you want? Your Senior Project can be used as a way to bridge the gap between what you have been studying and what you want experience in.

Use this as an opportunity to learn and grow.

There are few limitations when it comes to choosing what to do your project on. Learn to love the guidelines (or lack thereof) and choose a project that you are passionate about. Have a topic that you want to learn more about? Always wondered about an aspect of your studies but haven’t been able to take a class? Now is the time!

Choose something that has a real impact.

The Grand Valley community extends further than just GVSU faculty, staff, and students. Use your project to get out into the greater community and solve real problems. Work toward getting your project on ScholarWorks or copyrighted by the end of the semester. A project with an impact can be applied to any field of study.

Do something that you wouldn’t have done ordinarily.

Branch out. Diversify your skill set. Use this opportunity to grow your weaknesses into strengths. You could write an essay on something you already learned or you can challenge yourself to do something you aren’t comfortable with.

Work smarter, not harder.

Honors students get stuff done. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of procrastinating and too much Netflix, but at the end of the day, the assignments get done. Focus on working efficiently and managing your time, which means start planning now, whatever year you are, for what you want to do.

Don’t go it alone.

Oh, and if no one has told you, you don’t have to do your Project alone! Partner with another graduating senior to take on a problem that you both aim to solve. Working with another student not only helped lessen the workload, but it helped us tackle even bigger problems.

If it hasn’t been made clear yet, I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to complete an Honors Senior Project this semester. Not only did I learn about myself and my interests, but I was able to change the lives of others through my work and meet incredible people along the way. Working on this project opened new doors to me, but also helped me create lifelong friendships that I might not have made, had I stayed in my comfort zone.

Get started today and remember that you can change the world.

jaclynJaclyn Ermoyan is a senior in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University, pursuing a major in public relations and minors in nonprofit administration and international relations. Jaclyn is passionate about Grand Valley and spends much of her time working at her campus jobs. You can find her tweeting or snapping for University Communications and for the Career Center, or serving as the clerical assistant to the executive secretary for University Development. Jaclyn is currently serving as the CEO of Grand Valley’s student-run public relations firm called GrandPR. She is still learning about herself and her interests, so she is always looking for new ways to get involved, meet new people, and contribute her knowledge and experience to new projects.