Student Post: The Struggle of Choosing a Major When You’re Indecisive and Interested in Everything

I read an article once that claimed that the average college student changes their major four times before graduating. I may be alone in this opinion, but I think that person was miscalculating. How do you start a fresh four years of life where everyone is telling you that “you can be whatever you want,” without wanting to give everything a try? I feel like I’ve had enough majors for everyone at Grand Valley!

I’ve never been one to answer a question with, “I don’t know.” Rather, I was quite the opposite. So, I waltzed into my freshman year with a very strong-headed idea that I was certain of what I was going to major in and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.


Good one, self.

After taking my first semester of classes I realized the world of opportunity in front of me and I wanted to take it all in. I eventually got ahold of the course catalog and drove myself crazy with uncertainty. All the options made my head spin. I was a social work major, turned psych student, turned bio buff, turned pre-med pupil, turned neuroscience nerd (and don’t even get me started on minors). Changing majors is quite literally as easy as the push of a button.

All of the back and forth created a looming feeling of anxiety any time someone brought up the topic of education and career goals. They seem to be the only things people are interested in. It’s almost as if they’re the default conversation starter when meeting new people, and I know that I am just as guilty of asking everyone’s least favorite questions.

“What are you studying?” “What do you want to do with that?”

It’s terrifying!

And I don’t mean to burst anyone’s bubbles, but we can’t all be Meredith Grey (but wouldn’t that be the life).

Now, countless advising appointments and mental breakdowns later, I’m confident of two things. First, we have advisors and mentors for a reason. They want us to utilize their expertise and pick their brains to figure out what’s next. Second, we’re meant to be unsure in college. We just have to fight through the confusion in order for it all to be worth it. People rarely come to a decision about the rest of their lives on the first try.

So here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: I’m never actually going to know for sure. And that’s okay! Even with the stress that comes with all of this decision-making, I think that’s the beauty of the phase of life we’re in right now. We get to choose the path we’re on, and we can either run down that path or take it one step at a time.

Jordan Beckman

Jordan Beckman is a sophomore in the honors college studying Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychology. She is on leadership with Campus Ministry and spends her free time adventuring, petting dogs, and drinking coffee.


Student Post: How a Pre-dental Student found Environmental Studies

Freshman year I thought college was just like any other school experience; all I had to do was take the classes that would get me to the point of applying to dental school. I never anticipated falling in love with a field, which seemed to have nothing to do with dentistry.

It all started with my Honors freshman sequence, Food For Thought. I signed up for the class because it seemed like fun! Who wouldn’t want to talk about food for an entire school year? I quickly found out it was much more than just talking about food. I learned the different ways food is grown and processed and how these details have massive impacts on our planet. Not only did I learn all the ways that we impact our planet, I learned how the planet also impacts us.

I learned the benefits, physically and mentally, of being outdoors, as well as the health benefits of eating certain food groups and avoiding others. We learned all of this through a variety of teaching techniques, ranging from readings to classroom discussions to watching documentaries.

My favorite part was getting to apply our learning out at the Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP). At the SAP there is no passive learning. Unlike other classes where you might be able take notes all class without actually knowing what you are taking notes on, at the SAP you learn something and apply it right away. You can develop your interpersonal and problem-solving skills by working with the interns, farm manager Youssef and classmates on projects there.

It is safe to say that after Food For Thought my eyes were opened to an entirely different way of viewing the world, and there was no turning back. I found a passion for the environment and for sustainable food production that drove me to pick up a minor in Environmental Studies and also work towards a Certificate in Sustainable Food Systems.

Now, three years after Food For Thought, I have had countless classes out at the Sustainable Agriculture Project and it has not only helped me grow as a student but has also taught me a few things about myself. Beyond discovering my passion for taking care of our planet and knowing where our food comes from, I also learned the importance of disconnecting.

As a biomedical sciences student, my mind is always on the move and it is easy to get stressed out with to do lists running through my head all day long. However, when I went out to the farm it forced me to set aside my phone, computer and to do lists and just let go. Whether I was digging up the soil to prepare a garden, or out weeding, or harvesting, being out at the farm was meditative to me. It taught me that no matter how busy life may become it’s important to take time for you and connect with nature a little bit.

You may be wondering how this ever connected back to dentistry. Well, it turns out that the food we eat can greatly impact our health, I know, shocking. I hope, as a dentist or orthodontist someday, that I will be able to share my experience with my patients and spread the importance of knowing where our food comes from. So, come graduation I will not only be graduating with a degree in Biomedical Sciences, and a minor in Environmental Studies, but also with a completely different view of the world and I think that is exactly what college is all about.



Alyssa Schutzenhofer is a senior here at Grand Valley. She is a Biomedical Sciences major, Pre-dental student and an Environmental Studies minor. In her free time she enjoys hiking, kayaking, and gardening.

Faculty Post: Pursuing Passions

One reason I love working at GVSU is that we faculty are free to follow our intellectual passions. I came out of my English graduate program with a special interest in political rhetoric, and my first significant publication was a rhetorical analysis of arguments for and against the 1991 US invasion of Iraq. Some years later, my most important journal publication argued for a particular method of placing first-year students into the appropriate composition course. Now I’m publishing a book on 1890s women bicycle racers. At many universities around the country, such variety would be frowned upon—and would likely jeopardize my ability to get tenure. Not so at GVSU. Here, we honor free inquiry and see value in chasing intellectual passions, wherever they lead.

Pic 1

My interest in 1890s women’s bicycle racing started with a postcard my wife saw in Big O’s café in downtown Grand Rapids. Tillie, the Terrible Swede. The fastest bicyclist of her sex. These words excited Sue’s intellectual passions, and after quite a bit of research she ended up publishing a children’s picture book about Tillie.

To celebrate, Sue and I rode our bikes to Chicago, Tillie’s hometown, stopping along the Picture 2way to give presentations at schools that normally couldn’t afford author visits. In Chicago we met Alice Roepke—Tillie’s great-niece—who owned four volumes of Tillie’s scrapbooks, along with dozens of other documents and images, stowed away in a cabin in Minnesota. Always a sucker for memorabilia, I knew I had to see those scrapbooks. And when I did, I knew I had to write a book.

My research confirmed that women’s bicycle racing in the 1890s had been one of the most popular sports in America—yet I could find almost nothing about it in recently published sources. It was as if the women never existed.

Picture 3

That was 2013. Three years later, I had a full manuscript and a book proposal. Here’s the pitch I used when sending the manuscript to publishers:

“Spurred by the emergence of the ‘safety’ bicycle and the ensuing cultural craze, women’s professional bicycle racing thrived in America from 1895 to 1902. Unlike the trudging round-the-clock marathons the men (and their spectators) endured, women’s six-day races were tightly scheduled, fast-paced, and highly competitive, and the best racers of the era—Tillie Anderson, Lizzie Glaw, Dottie Farnsworth, and others—became household names. They were America’s first great women athletes. Despite concerted efforts by the League of American Wheelmen to marginalize the sport and by reporters and other critics to belittle and objectify the women, these athletes forced turn-of-the-century America to rethink strongly held convictions about female frailty and competitive spirit. Alas, because of one highly publicized but poorly managed New York City race in January 1896, the sport was dismissed early on by eastern critics. Nevertheless, over the next six years it drew large and enthusiastic crowds across the rest of the country, from Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Chicago to Minneapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, and New Orleans—and many smaller towns and cities in between. The negative eastern bias unfortunately prevailed, and the sport has been almost entirely ignored in sports history, women’s history, and even bicycling history. This book is the first to give these pioneering athletes the place they deserve in those histories.”

Women on the Move: The Forgotten Era in Women’s Bicycle Racing will be published by the University of Nebraska Press in October. If you’re interested in learning more, come to Cook-DeWitt on Wednesday, February 7, at 6:00 p.m., when I’ll be reading from the book and sharing some of Alice’s wonderful images.



Roger Gilles is Professor of Writing and currently serving as interim director of the Frederik Meijer Honors College. After growing up mainly in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Professor Gilles earned a BA in creative and professional writing from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and an MFA in creative writing and a Ph.D. in rhetoric and composition from the University of Arizona in Tucson. He joined the Grand Valley faculty in 1992.

Faculty Post: Balancing Work, Rest and Personal Research

What is a sabbatical? One can trace its lineage to the Hebrew word, shevat, which refers to a scheduled period of rest. The anglicized term “sabbath” in European and American cultures can be traced back to the Judeo-Christian influences on academic culture. Today, while the term has become more “secularized” in Academia, its function remains.

In Academia, “rest” does not mean stopping work entirely but having freedom to direct one’s focus elsewhere.

During a typical semester, much of a professor’s time is spread across a number of different areas: serving on committees, teaching classes and independent studies, and conducting and publishing research. And with the pace that cultural expectations for teaching change, effectiveness in the classroom many times requires keeping up on quickly changing trends in pedagogies and technologies.

In many cases, because a professor’s personal research is self-regulated, it tends to take a back seat to other things with more immediate concerns or deadlines. In my situation, for example, research for my own scholarly activity tends to decrease as I focus on preparing for committees, classes, and other university activities.

Though the summer offers time to catch up, it is sometimes nice to have a longer period to finish a large project, such as a book. Sabbaticals provide professors that opportunity.

During my sabbatical, for instance, I was able to spend time as a visiting research fellow at Yale University and conduct research in Italy for a book that is now in print with Routledge.

Taking some time away from my normal obligations permitted me a greater amount of time to finish my research and edit the manuscript before submitting it to the publisher. And that was good for a project that required additional research beyond what I had done before.

An even greater benefit to my sabbatical is that I am able to bring the fruits of my research into my classrooms to enhance my teaching for the benefit of my students.


Cataldo1Jeremiah Cataldo is Associate Professor of History in the Frederik Meijer Honors College. He earned his Ph.D. from Drew University, a Master in Philosophy from Drew University, a Master in Ministry from Bethel College, and a B.A. in Religious Studies from Bethel College. He is the author of numerous books and journal articles, including his two most recent: Biblical Terror (Bloomsbury, 2017) and A Social-Political History of Monotheism (Routledge, 2018). Of late, his research has been on two related areas: how social and political desires shape monotheistic traditions, and how dominant interpretive traditions of monotheistic texts preserve cultural prejudices. A strong supporter of cultivating well-roundedness in mind and body, he enjoys woodworking, multi-day backpacking, running ultramarathons (he has completed 100 mile and 50 mile distances), training in Taekwondo as a third degree black belt, and has recently started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He teaches Alliance and Conflict, Terror of Monotheism, and Textual Tease. 

5 Tricks to Mastering Registration

Now that the third week of classes are starting and everyone has gotten somewhat comfortable with their classes, it is time to focus on the future. Yes, that inevitable but dreaded time of the year: registration.

Although registration isn’t fun, it can be bearable if you get prepared and start early, so here are our best tips for registration season:

1. Check out your myPath. You can find this by logging into MyBanner, going to student, student records and then myPath — Degree Planning and Evaluation. MyPath is helpful to see what classes you’ve taken and what is left before graduating. Thinking of changing majors or adding a minor? Hit the what if tab and you can see how that changes the rest of your college schedule!

2. Meet with both your academic and honors advisor. Make your registration morning easier by planning out what classes you need to take for the next year and double check that you aren’t missing any requirements before graduating. Check out some walk-in advising hours for every discipline here. You can call our office to make an appointment or watch the announcements for walk-in advising hours. It is also a great time to ask about any career or major changes!

3. Figure out what day you can register for classes and set an alarm. Class registration is determined by the number of  credit hours that you have completed by the end of this semester. You can find the registration calendar here. Don’t know where to find that number? Use myPath to see how many credit hours you have by looking at the credits applied number.

4. If you’re taking Honors classes, check out their course descriptions around March 1. Honors courses don’t put their class descriptions in myBanner, so head over to our website and find the course descriptions here on March 1.

5. Create a sample schedule for registration day. Remember that you register for spring/summer 2018, fall 2018 and winter 2019 all at once. Lay out on an excel spreadsheet or sticky notes to ensure that you remember the course numbers and alternate options so that your registration goes as smoothly as possible!

Now that you’ve set yourself up for success, go out and register!

Student Post: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare, but do we always follow the lesson? If I have one regret from college, it is that I rushed college and completed my degree in 3 years.

If you were like me and came into college with a bunch of credits from either AP, IB, or dual enrollment, you quickly saw that you could finish your degree in less than the typical 4 years. This sounds great: you save money, you save time, and you can start your career earlier. However, I will argue that it is more beneficial to spend at least 4 years at Grand Valley.

In a blink of an eye college will be over; if you complete your degree in less than 4 years, it feels more like half of a blink. The most important lesson I have learned in college is that most of your learning happens outside of the classroom. It is the activities you become involved in, opportunities you take advantage of, and people you interact with that truly enhance your learning. The material you learn in the classroom is important, don’t get me wrong, but I believe that no matter what your major is, there is so much more you can learn from being involved on campus that will help you develop socially, academically, and professionally. For example, my involvement on campus as a Resident Assistant (RA) has taught me how to interact with a diverse group of people and handle tough situations. I truly do not think I would be the person I am proud to be today if I was not an RA.

Now, I said that rushing college was my one regret. However, I would also like to argue that every mistake is an opportunity, and that there are ways to turn regrets into positives. As my undergraduate time at Grand Valley began coming to a close, I felt like I was not finished. I felt like there was more to learn, more to experience, and more to accomplish before I started a new chapter in my life. However, I felt like it was too late to change anything because I was almost finished with the classes I needed for my degree. So essentially I felt stuck, and I felt that by rushing college I was missing out on a whole year of being involved in other activities.

After much reflection, I recently decided that I am going to delay my graduation and study abroad in Norway for a year. Rushing college was my one regret, but I am now able to turn that into a positive because I have the time and space to study anything I am interested in and immerse myself in a different culture for a whole year. This is an experience of a lifetime, and I am beyond excited for it.

So, my advice is simple: be the tortoise and do not rush college. Take advantage of your time at Grand Valley to learn and experience as much as you can. I believe you should go through life without any regrets, but if you do have any regrets, view them as opportunities to create something positive. If you rush college, consider other educational opportunities you can take advantage of. The possibilities are endless, so make sure you get out there and get the best education you can!



Patrick MacDonald is a senior majoring in Accounting. He plans to study abroad in Norway for a year, and then go on to graduate school for either Accounting or Student Affairs. On campus Patrick was an RA, a Student Assistant for the Honors College, and an Accounting Tutor. He enjoys working out, exploring the ravines, and watching Netflix.

5 Tips to Ring in the New Year

Welcome Back!  We hope you had a restful break and enjoyed your time with family and friends.  Sometimes a break can do us a lot of good and now that a new year has started we can all take some time to be intentional about how to start the new semester off on a good foot.  Here are five tips to do just that!

Top 5 Tips to Ring in the New Year in the Honors College

  1. Set Some Goals!

Choose one goal that is academic in nature, one that is related to your social life, and one for your personal growth.  For instance, I might consider 1.) Getting my required reading done before class 2.)  Making a new friend and 3.) Using my free GV Rec Center membership.

Harry Potter / via giphy

     2. Visit Your Faculty!

Make it a point to visit each faculty member in the first three weeks of class.  This helps your professor get to know you and for you to break the ice and start asking questions.  The more you get your professors involved in your learning, the better off you will be in the long run.

The Office / via giphy
  1. Visit Your Advisors!

Registration will roll around sooner than you think!  Take the time in January and February to get a plan in place by visiting your major and Honors advisors.  You can ask questions, get a map for next steps, and start planning ahead.  Stay tuned to the Honors Newsletter for weekly updates regarding walk-in and Honors advising appointments.  Also, check out this link for information regarding major advisors:

The Big Bang Theory / via giphy
  1. Dig Deeper!

Now is the time to really begin taking advantage of all the opportunities at Grand Valley.  Look into that study abroad option that has been on the back of your mind.  Consider investigating internship opportunities or talking to a professor about research.  Have you thought about your Honors senior project yet?  Each step you take will help you build your resume and get experience in the things that you enjoy the most!  It’s a WIN-WIN!

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 via giphy
  1. Try Something New!

Get out of your comfort zone and take a walk on the wild side!  Join a new club or try a new kind of food.  When we go out on a limb and test out our assumptions we can be pleasantly surprised!  Allow this New Year to bring in some positive change and growth.  The opportunities are endless!

Keeping up with the Kardashians  / via giphy

Basically, this is your ballgame and you will get out of it what you put into it.  Seize the day and remember that we are here to support you. Make 2018 your best year yet!