Honors Alumni Spotlights
Kirstyn Wildey graduated from the Frederik Meijer Honors College in 2011, and worked as a student assistant in the Honors office during that time. Kirstyn was recently featured by GVSU Alumni here! She is currently the senior associate at the law firm of McDonald Hopkins LLC in Cleveland, Ohio. Kirstyn had the honor of being selected for the 2022 edition of Best Lawyers in America: Ones to Watch in the areas of Banking and Finance Law, Public Finance Law, and Real Estate Law!
Alex Peskin graduated from the Frederik Meijer Honors College in 2020. Alex double-majored in Biomedical Sciences and Behavioral Neuroscience. Currently, Alex works as an oncology research coordinator while applying to medical school. Alex explained that his Honors Senior Project "had a profound impact" on his future career plans. The senior project allowed Alex to apply the research skills that he learned during his undergraduate experience, allowing him to "enhance (his) skills while developing an enjoyment of the craft". Alex's advice to current or future Honors students is to "take advantage of the support and expertise you will have at your disposal as an Honors student. There are plenty of faculty members, within and outside the Honors College, who would be happy to help you develop a project idea or investigate areas that are intriguing to you. Use this as an opportunity to explore your interests, beyond the traditional curriculum".
Ashley Rapp graduated from the Frederik Meijer Honors College in 2018. Ashley majored in Psychology, with minors in Applied Statistics and Women Gender and Sexuality Studies. Currently, Ashley is an epidemiologist at Henry Ford Health System. Reflecting on her Honors experience, Ashley noted that "being in the Honors program developed (her) both personally and professionally, and in a variety of ways. First and foremost, the rigor of the program prepared (her) for graduate school. When (she) started (her) graduate program, (she) was already equipped with the writing and critical skills that the program was trying to teach". Ashley credited Microbes and Society as being her favorite Honors course, explaining that "it was a really cool way to learn" and a lot of what she learned in the class she still uses in her life today! Ashley's advice for current and future Honors students is "to not sweat the small stuff. There is so much to learn and experience throughout college, and making perfect grades does not need to be your #1 priority. Take advantage of all the opportunities that the Honors College and your university has to offer, and take the time to care for yourself".
Jarod Collier, a 2020 Honors College alumni, graduated with a major in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics. Since graduation, Jarod has been working as a full-time Software Engineer at GE Aviation in their Edison program. Jarod is now supported by his employer in obtaining his Master's Degree in Computer Science! Jarod explained that his Honors experience was "invaluable as it gave (him) the opportunity to work on (his) leadership skills as well and public speaking skills". Jarod's favorite Honors class was his freshman year sequence- Alliance & Conflict. In this class, Jarod explained that he grew as a person, as a result of the huge amount of effort that he placed into the course. Jarod's advice for future and current Honors students is "really just to try and get out of your comfort zone. Being in the Honors College us really an incredible opportunity and if you're not willing to get out of your comfort zone, you won't be able to grow as much as possible".
Daniel Chung, a 2014 honors graduate, majored in biomedical sciences. Currently, Daniel is an Inpatient Clinical Pharmacist at Ascension Providence Healthcare System. Daniel has a variety of responsibilities in his position, including rounding the medical ICU, Neuroscience ICU, helping with inpatient hematology/ oncology issues for chemotherapy, and providing additional inpatient pharmaceutical services including anticoagulation monitoring and antimicrobial stewardship. During his experience in Honors, Daniel felt that he had some of the best years of his life, due to his close friends met in the program, and faculty that were always willing to help. Daniel explained that he developed such close relationships with his professors for continued guidance, even after graduation! Daniel's advice for current and future Honors students is that "the Honors College is a great way to not only pursue your academic goals with the many tools that are provided by them, but also to meet many new people. I would recommend going around and introducing yourself to new people, as you never know if they'll remain some of your best friends for the rest of your life! Also take full advantage of the kindness of all the Honors College professors. They are all there to help you succeed"!
Ashley Rapp, a 2018 Honors alumni, recently worked with Governor Whitmer to end the period tax in Michigan. Check out this article published by The Oakland Post here! According to the article, Ashley was an active advocate for accessible menstrual supplies for the GVSU food pantry, and has continued that advocacy in the metro-Detroit area after graduation.
Katherine West graduated from the Frederik Meijer Honors College in 2018. Katherine majored in Public and Nonprofit Administration with a concentration in Community Development Planning. Currently, Katherine is the Communications Coordinator at the Children's Advocacy Center of Kent County. There, she manages communications and fundraising to help lead the effort against child sexual abuse. Katherine explained that through her Honors experience, she grew professionally with opportunities to network and gain industry expertise. Katherine's Honors experience fostered a passion for being a lifelong learner, both formally and informally. Katherine went on to graduate from Central Michigan University with a MSA concentrating in Philanthropy and Fundraising in May 2021! Katherine's favorite Honors course was her Senior Project, which gave her an opportunity to work with a faculty member and conduct research that was applicable to the evolving world of nonprofit administration. Katherine's advice to current and future students is to "embrace the unknown and your time at GVSU day by day. It goes by quickly, and soon you will be nostalgic about days spent in Niemeyer or spending time with friends on campus. Give yourself breaks and take care of yourself, you don't have to have everything figured out by the time you graduate or any point in life".
Kelly Martin graduated from the combined engineering degree program in 2021. She received her Master's in Biomedical Engineering and her Bachelor's in Product Design & Manufacturing Engineering. Kelly currently works as a Design Engineer for Tekna in Kalamazoo. Kelly explained that living in Niemeyer helped to shape her future, as she immediately surrounded by like-minded people who were academically focused and had similar interests and goals to hers. The honors curriculum also helped Kelly to shape her soft skills, such as technical writing, public speaking, performing research, and leadership. Kelly's favorite Honors class was "Technology and War in the West". For current and future Honors students, Kelly's advice is to avoid competition, and be collaborative! Kelly explained that she never would have made it through the program without the camaraderie and support that she got from other students who shared in her experiences.
Rachael Voorhees, a 2004 honors alumni, graduated with a degree in Public Administration. Rachael is currently the Executive Director of Words Alive, a nonprofit connecting children, teens, and families to the power of reading. Rachael's honors experience allowed her to build a community of friends and colleagues with a variety of interests, passions, and expertise. Rachael's best advice for current or future honors students is to take the time to experience life at Grand Valley, especially in the Honors community. Rachael explained that living and learning together is how we add richness, freedom, and depth to our lives. Rachael challenges students to stay up late and debate concepts, challenge the norms, be open to a different vantage point, and- through it all- listen and learn from one another.
Jennifer Landino graduated from the Frederik Meijer Honors College in 2011, after majoring in Cell and Molecular Biology. Currently, Jennifer is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Jennifer's work is funded by the American Cancer Society and she studies how epithelial cells (likes those that make up your skin or line your gut) regulate cell division to maintain gut health. The honors program allowed Jennifer to connect with classmates who supported her and challenged her to grow during her time at GVSU. Jennifer also explained that the opportunity to get involved with undergraduate research had a huge impact on her life and inspired her to pursue her Ph.D. Jennifer's favorite class in the honors curriculum was Trauma, Culture, and Memory. Jennifer's advice to current or future honors students would be to invest in your honors classmate friendships and help each other through the ups and downs of coursework and college life. Celebrate the small victories and enjoy your time together!
Kyle Hart, an honors college alumni student, is a member of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council. This organization protects environmental resources in West Michigan, which Kyle became involved with while volunteering for a river cleanup with the WMEAC. Kyle is now a full-time staff member and works with the WMEAC's rain barrel workshops, zero waste initiatives, and stormwater education. During, Kyle's time at GVSU, he majored in Natural Resources Management and served as president of the Student Environmental Coalition.
Emma Merlington graduated from the Honors College in 2020, and majored in nursing. Currently, Emma works as a Registered Nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor. Emma explained that her Honors experience helped her to become more well rounded by taking classes outside of her major. She also learned a lot about different subjects and they inspired her to pursue different opportunities on her study abroad and current career. The leadership and problem solving junior seminar with Mayor Rosalynn Bliss was Emma's favorite Honors College class. Emma's advice to current or future honors students is to take advantage of the opportunities offered to you at Grand Valley and the Honors College. The resources on campus are amazing, so make an effort to reach out and get involved. There are so many people who want to help you find your place and succeed!
Rachel Paris graduated from the Frederik Meijer Honors College in 2017. Rachel majored in Allied Health Sciences, with an emphasis in Pre-PA studies. Currently, Rachel is the Student Recruitment Coordinator for the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR. After graduation, Rachel took a gap year and worked as a substitute teacher prior to enrolling in graduate school. Rachel graduated with her Masters in Student Affairs Administration from Michigan State University in May 2020. Rachel explained that the Honors College experience shaped my future by building a community of scholarship and friendship that has carried into my life today. The friends and experiences I had as a Resident Assistant have transformed my passion to serve students in higher education and invest in my campus community. Honors provided me an environment to develop my leadership by offering challenging and engaging courses outside of the sciences. For any current or future honors students, Rachel's best advice is to be your authentic self. Don’t be afraid to pursue your passions, and be confident that everything will work out.