Merritt Taylor, Ph.D. Grand Valley Admissions

Daniel Kuipers

Major:
Liberal Studies

Class Year:
2011

Hometown:
Holland, Michigan, United States

Current Position and Employer:
Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Sustainable Energy Financing, LLC

What campus did you attend? What drew you to the liberal studies major there?
Holland and Allendale, but I finished most of my classes in Holland. I switched over from natural resource management. When I was working with natural resource management as my major, I took an internship that dealt with renewable energy. The more I got involved with that, the more I found a parallel to the liberal studies program. Energy was just one part of the sustainability pyramid. I had to draw things form the social pillar and the economic pillar. Liberal studies helped me draw from a breadth of different programs, allowing me to really further my studies and education.

What did you like most about the program?
The professors were all fantastic. They thought very similar in that they all recognized that it's important to have knowledge on many different subjects to be able to communicate many different ideas, to be able to be part of an informed discussion. For example, working with engineers I have to be able to talk a lot in numbers and be able to share ideas. Also, the flexibility of the liberal studies program was important. Being able to take classes online or at night was a huge draw for me.

What was your emphasis area and how did you choose the courses to complete it?
My emphasis area was sustainability, economics, and environment in society. I combined the courses I took in natural resource management with my full-time job. When I was a natural resource management major I took a job helping to write grants around energy projects. I found that there were a lot of things that I was learning in real-time that there wasn't a curriculum for. So, I was able to have most of my higher-level classes be practicum-based because of this experience.

How did your liberal studies degree and emphasis area prepare you for your current career?
Probably the single most valuable tool that I learned was the ability to listen to other parties. Because I don't view myself as an expert in many fields, I am now able to take their viewpoint, their insight, and digest it from a liberal studies perspective. I can ask myself how would I view it from many perspectives - as a grant writer, as an economist, or from a political perspective. I'm able to approach an issue from many different ways and deal with the problem at hand.

What post-graduation accomplishment are you especially proud of?
As a student, my business partner Kyle Denning, another GVSU alumnus, and I were able to start and formulate a business operating on three different continents. One of the continents being Africa, I am especially proud of that. Since graduation, I have become certified to conduct dairy farm energy audits, which allows me to have the same weight as an engineer when dealing with energy projects on dairy farms.

Would you recommend a liberal studies major to prospective GVSU students? Why?
Yes, I would. I think the reason why is because I believe very heavily in the concept of sustainability. And sustainability encompasses such a wide variety of fields. We need to be environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable. And there is such a tendency to approach things laser-focused in what you learn in other disciplines. They don't allow enough time to let you learn and go through the thought processes that will actually bring about change.

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