In spring of 2017, I was admitted to Central Michigan University’s Honors Program. This semester, Fall 2017, I have been in enrolled in the Hon300 course. In this course the main objective has been to think critically about my experiences and the world around me. In doing so, I was challenged to complete five activities, each correlating with a different aspects/ concepts of the Honor’s core values.
There was not necessarily a theme to my choices in challenges, but rather I focused on opportunities provided by the university in which I would not typically have done. This idea can be further understood in my reflections on each activity. Some of my choices served as greater challenges than others, but overall I am satisfied with the experiences and knowledge I have gained from them. If I were to change anything about my project and the choices I made, I think I would have selected a different event for the ‘Exploring Diverse Ideas and People in a Global Society’. I believe I did not entirely fulfill my goal for this category or learn as much as I possibly could have. I wish I had taken the opportunity to learn about more about the diversity at Central Michigan University. My greatest challenge for this project was ‘Exploring Paths for Academic and Personal Achievement’ in which I chose to participant in a “no grade plan” for the semester. In this experience I was forced to focus more on the constructive feedback provided by my professor rather than a letter grade. Another large piece of this challenge was that it lasted the entirety of the semester while my other choices were only a few hours long. If I were to repeat this project, I would sought out experiences that would challenge me to the same extent as the “no grade plan” since this is the experience which I believe benefited me the most. Throughout this page I will reflect on my experiences from this past semester and think critically about the effect they have had on my personal growth.
‘Embracing Intellectual Growth, the Academic and Creative Life of the University’
I chose to attend the Study Abroad Fair on Tuesday, September 19th, from 6pm-8pm in the Bovee University Center. Studying abroad is something that I have considered doing but have not given any serious thought to. For me, the greatest stress that comes along with the idea of Studying Abroad is all the uncertainties surrounding it. The cost, time, and functionality of the entire process is what has been holding me back from pursuing the experience. By attending the Study Abroad Fair, my goal was to gain better knowledge about how studying abroad could be a feasible option for myself, as well as possibly creating an action plan to beginning the process of planning a study abroad experience. I hoped this opportunity would provide me with information on the assistance and services offered in regards to planning studying abroad, as well as my options for trips that I could take. After attending this event the idea of studying abroad would hopefully no longer be just a thought but a serious goal. I categorized this experience as ‘Embracing Intellectual Growth, the Academic and Creative Life of the University’.
When I attended the study abroad fair, the UC Rotunda was filled with booths for each location available for study abroad. Having no idea about the process for studying abroad or what I wanted to do, it overwhelmed me having little guidance as to what to do. I spoke with a couple of booths which the locations interested me. But what was difficult for me was knowing how the programs would work for me. Because this was not helping me accomplish my goal for attending the study abroad fair, I went and spoke with the booth specifically for the Office of Study Abroad. Here they gave me information about the office and how I can begin the process to gain more information and begin the process of planning a trip for myself. They specifically spoke about the informational meetings they put on every week called “Study Abroad 101”. I decided that the Study Abroad Fair was not the best place for me to prepare for a Study Abroad experience, and made plans to attend a Study Abroad 101 session the following week.
At the Study Abroad 101 meeting, an advisor from the office gave a clear timeline and checklist for planning the trip. He also provided information about the financial options available, such as less expensive trips and scholarships which are available. This reassured me that if I begin to plan my trip now I will have more time to apply for scholarships and plan out the finances of the experience. One of my other concerns was the functionality of studying abroad with my four-year plan. The advisor provided information about how students who study abroad typically do not graduate any later than those who do not. I also am very certain that studying abroad for a portion of a summer would be the best option for myself. Along with the information provided by the session, a link was given to take an online survey that will match me with an advisor who is best fit to assist me with my needs.
Although the Study Abroad fair itself did not provide me with all the information I had hoped for, it led me to a more personal informational session that did. I feel more aware of what my next steps must be in planning my trip and feel for comfortable with the process. I have gained more knowledge about what services the university has to offer as I embark on this new experience. Therefore, I feel I have ‘Embraced the Intellectual Growth, the Academic and Creative Life of the University’ through this experience.
‘Exploring Diverse Ideas and People in a Global Society’
I attended the “Speak Up, Speak Out; Justifying Force” panel on Tuesday, November 14th from 7-9pm in the UC Auditorium. I have never attended a Speak Up, Speak Out panel before and believed it would be a good opportunity for me to gain new knowledge. While being so focused on my academics I forget to spend time researching and building my knowledge on real world events. In doing so I have become ignorant to important topics and discussions. By attending the panel, I hoped to reengage myself to important topics and build my knowledge on them. During the panel I hoped to hear different arguments and opinions on the issue which will challenge me to think outside of my own preconceived notions and understand the viewpoints of others. Along with this, I wanted to challenge myself to actively participate in the discussion by asking questions which is something I would typically not choose to do due to fear. I applied this event for ‘Exploring Diverse Ideas and People in a Global Society’.
The “Speak Up, Speak Out” forum was on the use of force in different situations such as protests, resistance, foreign affairs, and law enforcement. In regards to force, I am most familiar with the argument in regards to law enforcement. During this experience I was exposed to more topics that I do not typically consider. Most of my knowledge and opinions on these topics are based off my lack of experience and personal connection to the issue along with a strong influence of the views of my parents. Therefore, by attending this forum, I was challenged to question my own ideas and beliefs by seeking to understand other’s. Before going to this event, I did not really know where I stood on the topic of force because of the mixed ideas and viewpoints I have been fed through media and the ideas of others. I was hoping to gain more insight and develop my own opinions based off of the outcomes of this event.
The panel consisted of two professors in the fields of Philosophy and Political Science, as well as a student from the organization Black Lives Matter, a student from the organization Students Advocating for Gender Equality, and an Officer from the CMU Police Department. There was not very much structure to the event, at the beginning the facilitator showed a few different videos on the topic and then opened the floor up to questions. Because of this I feel as though I did not gain as much knowledge as I intended to. My self-assigned task to ask a question during the forum was mostly a challenge because I did not know what to ask about. Because there was little information given about the topic it was challenging to ask a follow up question. For this reason, I only observed the forum and did not complete my challenge to speak up. Therefore, I wish I had used this opportunity to greater explore the diversity at Central Michigan University. Although I do feel I gained some knowledge on the topic, I was not satisfied with my outcomes from attending the Speak Up Speak Out Forum.
Something that I did take overall from attending the forum was recognizing all the opportunities that are provided by the university. I do not typically seek out these opportunities, but would like to do more so in the future. While at CMU this is my best opportunity to gain new insights and broaden my horizons, therefore I hope to take greater advantage of all the events and resources around me in the future.
‘Exploring Paths for Academic and Personal Achievement’
I chose to take HON300 with the no grade plan this semester. School and grades have always caused me high stress and anxiety. By not being able to access my grades throughout the semester, I hoped to be challenged to have faith in myself that I am doing my best without the reassurance of grades. Along with this, I needed to spend more time receiving feedback from my professor since I cannot know the definitive grade on my assignments. By only receiving feedback and not grades, I was forced to focus more on my strengths and weaknesses of the assignment rather than the grade. Along with this, by spending more time speaking with my professor about my progress I wanted to be able to create a more meaningful relationship with her. I hoped that this challenge would help me work towards conquering my anxiety about grades. I chose to use this experience for the ‘Exploring Paths for Academic and Personal Achievement’.
When the option of participating in the “no grade plan” was presented I instantly knew it was something I should participate in because of how much grades affect me. Despite the size of a challenge this would be for me, I was excited to see how I would handle it. At the beginning, I was not bothered much by not receiving a grade on my assignments. I appreciated the extra, in-depth, feedback I was receiving and felt more benefitted by it. Along with this, I had a meeting with my professor to discuss my decision in pursuing the no grade plan. During this conversation I reflected on my previous academic experiences. In doing this I began to see the root of my obsession with grades. Grades have been a large part of my identity and how I judge myself against others. By challenging myself to participate in the no grade plan, I was unable to compare myself to other students and therefore had to solely focus on my academic growth. The no grade plan became most challenging within the last weeks of the semester. Knowing how hard I had been working in all of my other classes in order to hold A’s to keep my 4.0, I began growing stress over losing my 4.0 to my HON300 class.
During the times I have been getting stressed about the potential of not receiving an A in the course, I have reminded myself that knowing my grade would not have necessarily changed it. Along with this, it has made me think more critically about why receiving a 4.0 is so important to me. I have not necessarily found a conclusion to this question, but am continually working on being more relaxed about this idea. I must work to be more confident in being successful due to being well rounded rather than due to having perfect grades. I do not think I could repeat this challenge or partake in it in any other course, but I am proud of myself for trying it this semester. It has allowed for me to reflect upon my values and challenged me to grow academically.
‘Becoming an Active Citizen Serving the Greater Good’
I chose to volunteer at the Isabella Community Soup Kitchen on Monday, November 13th from 11-1. Volunteer service is something that I have been very active in in my past. Last year I volunteered at least two hours a week in different settings, but this year it has not been made as great of a priority. This is due to my busy academic schedule and new commitments. With this being said, I would like to begin to invest more time into service once again. I chose to volunteer at the soup kitchen not only because it is a good opportunity to serve others but because it was volunteering in an environment I do not typically put myself in. In my previous volunteer experiences, I have worked in schools, with Special Olympics, and other settings with students with special needs. Though those are areas I am passionate about, I have not spent much time exploring other opportunities and causes. The Isabella Community Soup Kitchen was an opportunity for me to challenge myself to explore new passions and leave my comfort zone of previous experiences. This experience challenged my comfort zone because I attended this event on my own in a setting that was unfamiliar and working on a service project I was unfamiliar with. I would chose to use this event for ‘Becoming an Active Citizen Serving the Greater Good’.
The week before I went to volunteer at the soup kitchen, I went into the office to fill out paperwork and sign up for a time to volunteer. I was nervous about going into the soup kitchen because I was unsure of my surroundings and what I was doing. I had thought about asking one of my friends if they wanted to volunteer with me, but knowing that part of my challenge was doing this independently, I went alone. I typically consider myself an independent person, but this experience made me realize how I do depend on others when I am putting myself in a new situation. This was also seen when I went on the Monday to actually volunteer.
When I arrived at the Isabella County Soup Kitchen, a woman gave me a quick tour of the facility, gave me an apron, and pointed me in the direction of the woman who would be giving me further instructions. Being unfamiliar with the tasks or procedures that I was supposed to follow was the greatest challenge of this experience. The woman running the kitchen quickly threw me into the work without much direction. I like to be a well prepared person, and in this position I had to work with minimal instruction. I think this is why I do not choose to volunteer for organizations or causes I am not familiar with. I do not like feeling lost in the chaos and out of control of the situation. I really enjoyed meeting the people who came into the soup kitchen and the atmosphere I was in. But just struggled being the “newbie”. This is experience is one of my favorite that I chose because it was one of the most challenging for me. I feel I learned a lot about myself through doing this service independently, as well as found a new organiz
ation in my area that I can contribute to. I definitely intend to return to The Isabella Community Soup Kitchen to volunteer again, as well as use the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center to find more opportunities for service.
‘Participating in the Honors Community’
I chose to attend “The Camarena Consciousness Ceremony” on Sunday, October 29th at 8:00pm. The event had very little background to the event but from what I had heard about it, it sounded intriguing. The provided description stated the even had a relation to the practice of meditation and mindfulness, which is something I hope to incorporate into my life. I was hoping that the lessons I gain from my experience at this ceremony can teach me healthy habits I could begin. I have struggled in the past with unhealthy habits of self-control and hoped to learn more about how mindfulness can create more beneficial ones. Along with this, I believed it would be a good opportunity to meet and learn from more of the honors community. I have had very little experiences to get to know Phame and the other honors students and I wanted to use this experience to do so. I chose to use this event for ‘Participating in the Honors Community’.
When attending the Consciousness Ceremony I was slightly nervous because I had heard mixed review about the event and was I did not know very much about what I was getting myself into. I typically like to be a well prepared person, so having little information on the event I was attending was challenging to me. When I arrived at the event I was nervous because I was going to be going through an unusual experience with students who I did not know and therefore not comfortable with. Phame then gave a quick overview of what we were about to partake in and how the ceremony came to be. I found it very interesting to hear about his educational background and his interest in mindfulness. He later spoke more about the importance of mindfulness which was the biggest lesson I took from this event.
Although this event did not allow for me to get to know my fellow honor students, it did allow for me to get to know and understand Phame much better. As he spoke about his interests and experiences, I got a better glimpse at his personality and outlooks on the world. Something that I enjoyed about his interests was that the root of them is the idea of helping others. Phame studies and explores mindfulness in order to help students see their purpose and passion. This made me realize how great of a resource he and the rest of the honors staff can be to my success. Being able to participate in an “honors tradition” was a beneficial experience because it demonstrated the community which is honors. Something that I hope to continue to do more admittedly as a result of this experience is grow relationships with students and faculty in the Honors Program. This community of people can help to challenge the way I think and view my experiences, as well as to expand my comfort zone. “The Camerena Consciousness Ceremony” was one of the first of many future experiences in which my involvement as an Honors student will push me to excel.