A student stands in her front lawn wearing a graduation cap and gown and face mask. She holds a sign with a handwritten message on congradulations

In their own words

Members of the Class of 2020 reflect on a disoriented semester

Share this page via facebook Share this page via twitter

Across the country, virtual commencement ceremonies replaced traditional walks across the stage, and the pomp and circumstance graduates and their families had anticipated.

For the GVSU Class of 2020, the announcement of postponing April’s commencement ceremonies to October was another in a series of disappointments as they left campus without a sense of finality.

Four seniors profiled on these pages reflect, in their own words, what a Grand Valley degree means to them and offer a peek at their lasting Laker Effect.

In the words of Grace (pictured above)

The French department has helped me gain a plethora of knowledge and competency in French, which I would love to use in a job as an interpreter. Learning about linguistics in the English department brought me lots of insight into French, English and how our world is impacted by language.

I am quite nervous thinking about finding a job, to be honest. There are so many options, I feel a bit overwhelmed with the task of finding one that is the right fit for me, and where I can bring a positive impact when using my French skills.

I will never forget studying for a year in France. The memories I made there, and the knowledge I gained about myself and about the world will surely stick with me for a very long time. I am beyond thankful to the professors who put so much time and effort into providing a beneficial college experience for me, especially during the chaos of a global pandemic.

I have been a student my whole life, and I will miss the rhythm of student life, as well as the chances to meet new friends from all walks of life. I hope life after Grand Valley gives me just as many opportunities to learn and mature. 

Jowei standing in front of their house wearing a grad cap, gown, and an orange face mask; holding a whiteboard that says "Trust the Process"
Jowei Yek: Bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations; Hometown: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

In the words of Jowei

I knew everyone at Grand Valley was rooting for my success. In my major, I had a team of faculty and staff who were steadfast in assisting me academically and challenging me with real-world applications, like being a part of the National Student Advertising Competition team.

Grand Valley has been my home for the past three years, which made it hard for me to cope with its transition to online learning. I had to call off many events that I had been planning with my student organization. Then more disheartening news, like the postponement of my graduation ceremony and my friends’ decision to return home, as many of them were international students.

I am looking at graduate programs that would fit with my envisioned vocation in diversity, inclusion and equity. Whether my next move will be entering the working world or continuing my education, I will plan on bringing my Laker Effect with me wherever I go.

My journey at Grand Valley has been a jovial blend of love and growth that exceeded my expectations. It allowed me to flourish in an environment where I can be unabashedly myself.

Brooke standing on her porch wearing a grad cap, gown and floral print facial mask holding a piece of paper that says "Onto the next adventure"
Brooke Yang: Bachelor’s degree in allied health sciences; Hometown: Grand Rapids

In the words of Brooke

There was not a proper goodbye to professors and friends, and I was not able to enjoy the last month of being an undergraduate student. Completing classes online was a bit lonely since I was not with anyone to study or socialize.

It’s kind of weird, but I didn’t feel out of place when I was at Grand Valley. My classes promoted that learning does not ever stop, it continues forever by paying attention and attending to activities that can enhance my knowledge to perform better. I had classes that taught the flaws and strengths of the medical field, which motivated me to be a better worker. 

I’m excited to start a job as a pharmacy technician at Meijer; it’s a good entry-level position for people who want to jumpstart a medical career.

I think my Laker Effect will be that even the smallest actions can have a positive impact on people. Taking the time to ask someone how they are doing can make a difference. Words and actions will positively affect someone, whether you know them well or not.

Kenny standing outside their residence wearing a grad cap, gown, and a face mask; holding a handmade sign that says "We did it together"
Kenny Sullivan: Bachelor’s degree in nursing with a minor in LGBTQ studies; Hometown: Saline

In the words of Kenny

I didn’t expect campus to shut down completely, nor that I would suddenly have to find housing off campus. I was no longer able to work at the library but applied for financial hardship. 

There was a lot of loss occurring all at once and, for a while, I didn’t know how to process it. By processing each moment, one at a time, I can still be productive and feel well despite our collective situation.

I had avoided looking into the medical field because I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it with the rigor or the blood. However, when I really invested time into looking for careers, I loved the direct patient care a nurse provides.

I’m waiting to hear back about my applications at Spectrum Health. I always had plans to invest back in my community; I completed an LGBTQ studies minor to be better prepared for advocacy work.

I hope to combine what I have learned with my nursing degree to support local nonprofits, system training or nursing research. I hope to have a Laker Effect by improving culturally competent care in Grand Rapids and elsewhere.