GVSU student offers tips to find "cruise control" and balance work, school
September 07, 2023
Reagan Middleton has found what she called "cruise control" in terms of juggling schedules and responsibilities as both a full-time student and full-time employee.
There was some trial and error to get to this point, however, said Middleton.
The Maple City resident is now two semesters away from graduating with a bachelor's degree in allied health sciences from Grand Valley State University. While nearing the finish line, Middleton said her starting line proved difficult.
"My first year in college was 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic," she said. "I also missed a lot of the end of high school."
It was difficult to make friends and meet new people because of the health restrictions at her first college, she said. Middleton played collegiate softball and said she was grateful for the camaraderie of her teammates.
"My second year, I didn't play softball anymore and I was pretty unhappy," she said. "I remembered the University Center in Traverse City and did some research and found Grand Valley had an allied health sciences program, so I transferred.
"It was the best option for me. Grand Valley has been great."
Finding a career path within the health care field clicked for Middleton when she interviewed a Munson Hospital employee for a class project. During the interview, the hospital floor manager detailed her job responsibilities and Middleton said was intrigued and found some correlation to her own work as guest relations manager for the Leelanau Pines Campground in Cedar.
Thanks to the partnership between GVSU and Northwestern Michigan College, Middleton takes classes at both institutions. One of Middleton's Grand Valley courses had her and other students researching the area's water issues through a week of firsthand experiences on the Boardman River, Suttons Bay and at Traverse City's wastewater treatment plant.
The "Wicked Problems in Sustainability" class was taught by Kate Fairman, affiliate faculty of integrative studies. Middleton said advisor Jacqueline Abeyta recommended the class to her, saying it "would give a different perspective" to her usual load of health courses.
"It was really a unique experience. Throughout that week, there were lots of moments when you realized issues with water affect everyone," she said. "We were kayaking and learning about river dams and the impact they have on residents and wildlife. We scooped up amoebas from the bottom of the river to study. Water and its link to overall health became clearer to me."
The immersive week studying water issues concluded with group presentations before community leaders. Middleton said her group researched septic tank failures and learned that Michigan is the only state without a statewide septic code.
"There is not a statewide policy. That was interesting to me, in fact, the whole week was really interesting," she said.
Even though Middleton is nearing the end of her degree program, she said the first few weeks of a new semester still present a few challenges to work through before getting to "cruise control." She offered tips to other students, based on her experiences.
- Get assignments done early: "I organize my classes and try to get my assignments done 24 hours in advance. It's challenging to work and go to school full time."
- Take time for yourself: "Enjoy the rest of summer. Once school begins, it's hard to find extra time."
- Talk to your professors, ask questions: "I'm a quiet person. I know it's intimidating to ask questions. You may feel like your work is not up to their standards, but trust me, it is."