Long Ho and Grace Pallissard pose in academic regalia

Past, present & future: Winter '22 graduates reflect on their personal journeys

Life is full of many adventures that can lead down an infinite number of paths. For many graduating this semester, their paths will intersect for one brief moment at the winter 2022 Commencement ceremonies. 

Two upcoming graduates reflect on how their personal journeys got them to where they are now, and what lies ahead during this exciting time in their lives.

Long Ho poses in academic regalia in the Mary Idema Pew Library
This semester, Long Ho will earn a bachelor's degree in general management
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

Past meets present

By Michele Coffill

Long Ho, who will earn a bachelor's degree in general management, has more than a diploma to celebrate this year.

This July will mark the 10th anniversary of when Ho's family arrived in Michigan from Vietnam. "We left in 2012, I was 12 years old and in the sixth grade," Ho said. 

He will be the first in his immediate family to graduate from college and said that was the reason behind his family's move from Vietnam. "The main purpose for why we came here was for me to get a good education. In Vietnam, the education system is so competitive," Ho said.

The family stayed with a relative before finding their own home in Wyoming. Ho said Wyoming High School had a diverse student population but not many Asian students. He learned more about Asian culture when he arrived at Grand Valley in 2018. Ho's roommate introduced him to the Vietnamese Cultural Association and he was soon active in the Asian Student Union and other student organizations.

"The Asian community on campus has been a great support for me, not only for personal development but also academic achievement," he said.

Last August, Ho served as a student leader during the second Asian Student Orientation. He is a student worker for the Graduate School.

Ho plans to apply to Grand Valley's Master of Public Administration program. As a first-year student, Ho was a computer science major and then changed to management information systems. It was the business courses in that program that piqued his interest enough to change his major a third time, to general management, and set Ho on a course to study public administration.

"I didn't think I would go on to graduate school but I learned I really like working with people and learning how to solve problems within an organization," he said. "I would like to work on the administrative side of an institution, maybe working with public policy."

Grace Pallissard poses in academic regalia in the Mary Idema Pew Library
Grace Pallissard will graduate with a bachelor's degree in natural resources management
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

The future is bright

By Sheila Babbitt

As graduation grew near, Grace Pallissard searched for jobs that would allow her to be immersed in nature while contributing to its health and conservation. 

Eventually she discovered a job outlining the need for a botanist to assess and monitor remote land in the desert of Nevada. 

Inspired by time spent outdoors and sustainable living arrangements, Pallissard’s degree in natural resources management will be put to use immediately following Commencement. 

Pallissard will be working for a consulting and engineering firm that does contract work for the Federal Bureau of Land Management. The firm works on projects that often involve ecologically conscious landscaping and hydraulics that require botanists to make sure the ecosystems in which they are working remain balanced.

The job requires eight-day shifts, hiking to remote locations in the desert to assess soil health, take inventory of plant life, spread seed, thin invasions and occasionally oversee prescribed burns. 

Pallissard is not at all intimidated by the challenge of spending uninterrupted stretches of time in the desert. “I’m excited for the opportunity to preserve and connect with nature as my full-time job.”

Pallissard gravitated to this major after a summer living off the grid deep in the Appalachian mountains uncovered her passion for the outdoors. There, she and others lived off the land and were 100 percent self sustaining. 

“I went to West Virginia as a social work major, but seeing the beauty when the environment and people coexist drove me to make the jump to natural resources management,” said Pallissard. “I wanted to maintain that relationship.” 

Her classes up to that point had discussed many social issues in the world. “I knew I needed to spend my time doing something to make a positive impact, but I asked myself, ‘What positive change would be left to make if there was no sustainable ecosystem left for us to live in?’” 

These moral battles were overwhelming at times, but Pallissard found comfort in the natural balance of nature. “There’s an innocence about it that drew me in and brought me peace.” 

As she sets out to wrap up her undergraduate career, Pallissard reflects on her journey over the last four years. 

“Last summer I knew I had made the right decision for my future and my happiness in switching paths. I was working 50 feet in the air tied to a tree using a chainsaw,” she laughed. “I knew an office job would never be a good fit for me.”

The Winter 2022 Commencement ceremonies will be held on April 29 and 30. A livestream will be available here on the day of the event. Read more about the events here


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