Summer Internship: The Opportunity to Discover the Density of Your Quantum States…

by Tatiana Soboleva

tatiana

Being a junior in biochemistry last year placed me in the hot spot of academic development, and more importantly, the ardent desire to get outside my comfort-zone and explore new worlds. My prodigious excitement of this past summer was joining the summer research internship offered by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Utah State University through a fellowship I received with the help of the Office of University Fellowships.

Utah STate

Applying for my fellowship was quite a challenging process, but a rewarding one! In essence, the application required a thoughtful approach towards several parameters about myself as student, an objective auto-analysis if you will: discovering what tools I had in my tool box that made me of interest to the programs I applied to.  This was the perfect time to work closely with the Office of University Fellowships and professors from my department. They offered me great advice in connecting with research organizations I was interested in, including potential schools and labs that offer such opportunities. When it came to searching for specific fellowships and putting together my application, I found the staff at the Office of University Fellowships extremely helpful. They reviewed my applications multiple times, giving constructive and objective feedback. They helped me to write and re-write my essays until I had a well-rounded product that reflected my best personal capabilities, goals, and motivations.

Utah state 2

I pursued an inorganic and organometallic synthesis research opportunity and became part of a new scientific family- Dr. L. Berreau’s research lab. This is not an exaggeration- by joining the program, I became a member of an entire family where everyone was responsible for me and I was responsible for my project.

My experience at Utah State University helped me to determine my research field for my ultimate PhD career. I absolutely fell in love with the brainstorming of reaction design, its practical execution, and the analysis of outcomes and potential improvements.

During my internship, I learned a lot about the manner in which graduate school operates. I did observe only the summer work regime of the graduate students I collaborated with; however, I got an accurate image of what I could expect to see during my graduate studies. I was able to ask questions about graduate school experiences from the graduate students I knew in the lab. That helped me to understand what that realm of academia looks like. To summarize graduate studies in a sentence, it is a hard work! Graduate students spend a lot of time researching and studying. Working with graduate students gave me the opportunity to hear the heart rate of the lab.

lab

My fellowship opportunity let me clearly see the cracks in the walls of my knowledge in chemistry and biochemistry. It also revealed areas that I was interested in, but did not have a prior exposure to. I like to nickname my experience, “the diagnostic center for my academic car.” It might sound strange, but truly, it was exciting to be able to visualize what I need to remodel, refresh, repair and buy for my academic-knowledge car. I love shopping in this case!

A lesson I learned about the process of becoming a professional is that it is often staggered by a person’s inability to determine areas that need improvement. Gradually they become satisfied with where they are at; that is not what science is about! They have to be perpetually mobile; otherwise, the flame that was once lit in them will cease to exist with the lack of oxygen.

To conclude this short discussion, I would like to thank the scientific family of Dr. Berreau’s lab that adopted me for the past summer, showing me the path of my interests and giving me tools to get close to the destination; letting me perceive the density of my quantum states and inspiring me to extensively replenish my knowledge.

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Some of My Favorite Intercultural Encounters

An inspiring insight on culture as a warm welcome to campus by your Honors Director, Dr. Dahlman

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Global citizenship to me does not necessarily mean exotic travel to faraway places. Just traveling to new places without investing in learning about cultures is just that, traveling. Globally minded citizens engage with people from different cultures wherever and whenever.   It is my life’s mission to learn about other people, their cultures and views and promote intercultural understanding.

I would like to share just a couple of my favorite intercultural encounters and what I learned from them.  One of my favorite interactions has been with a student who I got to know in one of my classes many years ago at MSU, Mankato. She was from Egypt and had also lived in Kenya. She had lived half of her life in a refugee camp.  Coming to the U.S. and Minnesota meant an amazing opportunity for her both personally and professionally.  However, she faced many obstacles while in college.  Despite the fact that she was a brilliant individual, she wasn’t always able to demonstrate this through her language abilities. She told me that failure was not an option for her because her professional goals were not hers alone but that her hopes and dreams were also for the people back home in Africa. We stayed in touch when she graduated. I just saw her a month ago at the University of Minnesota, where she is currently in Medical School (and doing really well!!).  She has taught me so many lessons about resilience, hope and commitment.

When we talk about cultures, we don’t just mean ethnicity, race or different countries.  My next example deals with culture in terms of socio-economic status.  This incident happened last winter. I was sitting at a coffee shop in the Twin Cities on a Saturday morning. I saw a homeless person sitting on a park bench outside of the coffee shop.  It was chilly and he did not have a coat on.  From the corner of my eye I saw how he entered the coffee shop (I assumed to warm up a bit) but was escorted out as he did not purchase a drink.  I stood up and went outside to him and asked him if I could purchase a coffee for him. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Thank you ma’am.” I purchased a huge cup of coffee and a muffin for him.  Five minutes later I saw how he stood up and walked right into the coffee shop and sat down in one of the comfy leather chairs and drank his coffee.  That day I learned the lesson of human dignity and how we can do little things to help even if we cannot rescue people.

My last example of a cultural encounter happened last December when I was in Warsaw, Poland, to do a workshop for teachers there.  I take pride in the fact that I speak several languages and always try to accommodate communication by speaking the local language.  However, I don’t speak any Polish.  Many people spoke English there but not all. I noticed how people who knew very little English tried so hard so that we could communicate.  I felt bad as I was in their country and they had to accommodate to my needs.  I understand that English is a common language for people across the globe, but we still need to be aware of the truths underlying those communications, for example, who gets to speak in their language? How do we show respect through language choice and communication? How does language relate to power? That was a very humbling experience for me.  At a minimum, we should never just start speaking English, assuming that the other person speaks/understands English, but always kindly ask if that indeed is the case.

I look forward to a great year in Honors! I look forward to hearing about your intercultural encounters (old and new) and the learning that resulted from them. Always remember:

“Life begins at the end of our comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

UMRHC at Minnesota State is One Week Away!

by Tia Jacoby, ’15 (Communication Disorders; Farmington, Minn.)

marketing committee

Sajid Sarkar, José Lopez Munoz, Spencer Sulfow, Tia Jacoby, Haley Doran

The 2015 Upper Midwest Regional Honors Conference is rapidly approaching, and those of us that are a part of the course Exploring Leadership in the Context of Conference Development, are more than excited for the 26th of March to arrive. On our first day we were informed that our small class would be responsible for contributing to this huge event that would be hosted at Minnesota State University. Many of us had never attended a conference like this before, so we started the semester by visualizing our goals. The 2015 Upper Midwest Regional Honors Conference theme is “Confluence and Conflict” and will contain a variety of presentations for scholars to attend. Our class of fifteen highly motivated honors students has been excited from day one for the challenge of organizing such a respected event.

Our first step involved forming into committees. The five of us (pictured above in our spiffy honors shirts) compose the Marketing Committee. (If you see someone sporting an “Honors Crew” shirt at the conference, feel free to ask them for help!) We are in charge of spreading news about the conference and providing updates on social media. Look for tweets from us during the conference by following our twitter account: https://twitter.com/MNSUHonors . The other two conference committees are the Program Development Committee and the Hospitality Committee. The Program Development Committee worked hard to create the program for the conference and helped create the presentation schedule. The Hospitality Committee coordinated fun social events including ice skating, an ice cream social, and film showing. Our three committees have worked diligently to make this conference the best yet.

Exploring Leadership in the Context of Conference Development has been a challenging course that has taught us the vitality of organization. There are so many details that go into planning a conference, and not one of them can be overlooked. Planning this conference taught our committee how important communication is. Everybody has to be on the same page if we want to be successful. All three committees are thrilled for the big day to arrive so that we can continue to aid our honors community. Check out our honors website for even more information about the 2015 Upper Midwest Regional Honors Conference. We cannot wait to see everyone there!

Honors International Students Spotlight

The Honors Program at Minnesota State University, Mankato encourages students to study abroad and develop intercultural relationships in order to fulfill their global citizenship competency. Naturally, we are welcoming to international students who visit Minnesota State, and invite a number of them to join our Program during their stay. Three of these students who are currently with us have agreed to share their experiences.

Victoria

Victoria Camasmie, ’18

(Business Management and Marketing; Brazil)

I am enjoying my second semester here at Minnesota State and I have been having an amazing experience so far. Being far away from home can be hard sometimes, but I think feeling homesick is a very common feeling among all students, especially for those who are visiting from other countries. I believe international students bond with each other because we are all going through this same situation. One of the things I miss the most about Brazilian culture is our food. I also miss the hot weather back home. I knew Mankato was cold, but I did not know it was so windy!  It is difficult to come to a new place where the culture is so different from the one you grew up in, but living abroad and being able to speak another language is an experience that only one who goes through it knows how it feels. The world is so big and filled with different cultures! I want to know as many cultures as I possibly can. Intercultural exchange opens up my mind and gives me the opportunity to understand people in a better way. Being a member of the Honors Program, participating in extracurricular activities, and doing volunteer work has given me the chance to engage with the community and meet new people. I love living in Mankato. However, it is just the beginning of my journey into the world.

Prathibha

Prathibha Mangedarage, ’17 (Biology; Sri Lanka)

Coming to MSU from a diverse country like Sri Lanka which is home to many religions, ethnicities and languages, meant that diversity was not something new to me. I was pleasantly surprised when I got the opportunity to meet students from all over the world here in Mankato. I came to the US hoping to get a world-class education that I need to pursue a career in the field of Biomedical Sciences. But, my experience here has been much more than just studying to obtain a degree. My college career in the US has completely changed who I am and the way I see the world. The diversity in the United States has opened doors for me to explore various cultures and has helped me become a more culturally competent individual. As an international student, I also get to represent my country and culturally contribute to the community by sharing my culture with others. It is always a pleasant experience when I get the opportunity to share my views and values. My experience in the United States has taught me the importance of understanding people’s different beliefs and being respectful of them. The relationships I have made in the US have helped me to learn about American culture, break misconceptions and stereotypes, and have a better understanding of diversity. Through my experiences abroad I am becoming a better educated and well-rounded individual. I am able to think more critically and broadly about world views that I would not have elsewhere.

Sarah

Sarah Snoussi, ’18 (Electrical Engineering; Tunisia)

Coming to the United States was a dream coming true for me. I have always dreamed about coming to the States but never thought it would happen this soon in my life. I had been desperate, separated from my family, studying at a university in my home country with different expectations. The faculty abused my energy; I was like a robot studying day and night, Monday to Saturday, no weekends or vacations, dreaming I would make it to the next year. To be blunt, my dreams and expectations about higher education had vanished into old broken walls of disappointments and my deadly routine. When I first came to the United States, I had a strange feeling that I never experienced before, an amazement that took over me. I would wake up at 6 a.m. every day because I wanted to use every second of the day to enjoy and discover every corner of this little town called Mankato. I used to walk around campus with my camera taking pictures of everything, random things. I looked for things that reminded me I wasn’t at home anymore, not in Tunisia, that I was somewhere in my dream. It was an incredible feeling to enjoy everything, every little detail. I was never sad, never annoyed, and always thankful for being here in my dream. Studying no longer became a problem for me. It was a pleasure, something I did for fun. Back home I felt like the professors were so distant and strong. I was scared to negotiate with them and felt forced to simply do what I was told. At Minnesota State Mankato, it is different. Students are the center of attention, and everything revolves around them. The question is no longer “how can we torture the students,” but rather “how can we make them have the best experience and provide them with the best education?” I know this is hard to believe for a lot of Americans. I truly appreciate being here in the United States, even as an exchange student. Living this experience has created another dream inside of me. Maybe one day, my study abroad to the United States will foster big changes in my home country. Maybe I can be the start, the spark of that big change.

To learn more about studying at Minnesota Sate as an international student, please visit our University’s International Student and Scholar Services web page.

To learn more about the Honors Program or apply, please visit our Program’s web page.

Building a Framework for Understanding Cultural Differences

by Caryn E. Lindsay

With a diverse background of experiences from around the world, Caryn has been Director of International Programs since 2005. She has worked internationally for the U.S. Information Agency and for the State Department in Washington, D.C. and New York City. One of her most valued experiences was volunteering for a year with a women’s center in Prishtina, Kosovo. Caryn has lived in Germany, Chile, and Italy and has been fortunate to visit Australia, China, Ghana, Scotland, New Zealand and many European countries. She speaks German, Spanish and Albanian and is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota.

Caryn Lindsay

In the Honors Seminar “Becoming Global Citizens,” I attempt to share with students the things I wish I had known before studying and working abroad. It would have saved me some significant stress. Like the students, I love learning from people around the world, but enthusiasm is not enough. If we engage deeply with people with backgrounds different from our own, it can often lead to miscommunication and frustration. Why are “they” always late for appointments? Why do “they” talk so loudly — are they angry? Why won’t people offer me a ride home when they know I don’t have a car?  In short, why are “they” not acting as I expect?

Using Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, we are building a framework for understanding why behaviors differ and how we might step back, take a breath, and analyze the cultural differences at play in many of our interactions. I hope that the students will find the framework to be a valuable tool as they grow and develop in their academic and professional careers.

Having formed a common basis for understanding during our first few sessions, cross-cultural groups of three students are now beginning to work on a presentation. Each group has selected one of the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) study’s regional clusters. They will be responsible for creatively conveying the cultural characteristics of their cluster to their fellow students and applying the knowledge gained in the first sessions. The final project will then be to reflect upon the challenges and successes they had working toward a common goal in cross-cultural teams. I have designed this activity to replicate the teamwork within a multicultural environment that students can expect to encounter in graduate school and in their professions. Students will have an opportunity to practice working across cultures and then reflect upon the challenges this can bring. I hope that the students will develop the habit of reflecting on their interactions as they continue to improve their cultural competence. The students are engaging and interesting. I can only hope they are half as impressed with me as I am with them!

References 

Hofstede, G.H. Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work – Related Values.Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1980 (revised and expanded in 2001).

House R.J. et al.(eds.), Culture, Leadership, and Organizations: The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies.Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2004.

Teaching “Performance and Social Change” as an Honors Course

By Dr. Leah White

Dr. White is an Associate Professor and Director of Forensics in the Communication Studies Department at Minnesota State University, Mankato.   She received her BA degree in Communication from Concordia College, her MA in Speech from Kansas State University, and her Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Arizona State University.  Leah’s academic interests include performance studies, feminist theory and forensic pedagogy.

Leah White

I have taught the Honors Seminar “Performance and Social Change” twice in the past five years and both experiences have been highlights of my academic career. I proposed the course because my experiences trying to teach Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre techniques as a unit in other courses had been unsuccessful. I realized to successfully teach this material, I needed a course format focused only on Boal’s methods and I needed students fully prepared to take on the risks that come with using Theatre of the Oppressed techniques. The Honors Program provided me with the freedom to create this course, and access to students interested in taking on the challenge.

Although I am passionate about the course content and enjoy the opportunity to expose students to Boal’s work and the theoretical concepts behind his methods, it is the process of working with students to create an effective performance that excites me the most about the class. We begin the class with no predetermined performance goal, beyond a commitment to use the methods to address an issue of injustice present within the Mankato Community. The students choose the issue we will address and I work with them to find an appropriate performance opportunity. Performances grounded in Boal’s methods must emerge from the performers involved. Through storytelling and improvisational techniques, rough script outlines develop. Once I had taught students the methods I had to trust the students to work well collaboratively with only minimal guidance from me. As a person who thrives on schedules, plans and control, teaching this course has been a growth opportunity for me as well.

The performances went well both semesters. In 2011 we worked with 7th and 8th graders at St. Peter Middle School and in 2014 we worked with International Students at MNSU. My fondest memories of the classes, however, are not of the performances, but of the risks the students enrolled in the class took to get to the point they could present these performances. The course begins with students reading about and discussing concepts relevant to oppression and privilege. Many students have not yet had an opportunity to critically reflect on how their own lives are marked with elements of both privilege and oppression. Therefore, after a few weeks of intensive reading, but before we begin working closely with Boal’s methods, we take time to share some of our own stories related to these concepts. Students are asked to present a “Difficult Moments” narrative in which they share a memory of a time when they either experienced oppression, contributed to the oppression of another, or observed the oppression of another but did not intervene. These stories are difficult because we often shy away from openly discussing oppression and privilege. The discussions are frequently messy and emotionally charged. Yet, these experiences mark us in very deep ways and sharing them allows us to find points of commonality. Within this identification with others we are able to become proactive agents for change. I have been profoundly touched by the stories my students have shared during this assignment and the level of self-awareness emerging from the experience.

I believe when students choose to become members of the Honors Program they are making a commitment to being open to academic challenges beyond what other students will experience while at MNSU. This does not mean the classes are more rigorous in a traditional sense, but rather the classes are designed to disrupt one’s comfortable patterns and encourage academic reflection of difficult questions; many that may not have answers. I am very appreciative that the students enrolled in my Honors Seminar willingly embraced these unknowns.

How the Honors Program and Presidential Scholarship Benefit My College Experience

By Tyler Keller, ’18

Meet Presidential Scholar Tyler Keller, from Medford Minnesota. Tyler is one of our first-year honors students. He lives in the Honors Learning Community on campus and is studying Secondary Education and Mathematics. Keller says “I enjoy the Honors Program because of the sense of community. Through the Program I have built friendships I believe will last a lifetime.” Below he reports on his experience of starting college as both an Honors Student and a Presidential Scholar.

Tyler Picture

Sitting in front of a Presidential Scholar interviewer was one experience I will never forget. I remember feeling nervous, but trying not to show it. Once we got into conversation, my nerves went away. I asked a lot of questions and really took the time to get to know my interviewer. At the conclusion of my interview I had the opportunity to ask more questions to people from various organizations on campus, one of which was the Honors Program. I visited the honors lounge and met students, but was still hesitant about the idea of being in the Program. I was still unsure of what I wanted to do, but I decided to give it a try. This small decision has proven to be an asset to my Presidential Scholarship and has been very beneficial for my first year here at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

When I first arrived on campus for move-in day, I had so many emotions running through my head. I didn’t know anyone, the environment was completely new, and my parents were not there to guide me on this new journey. However, being in the Honors Program and a Presidential Scholar allowed me to take part in activities that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to. These experiences made my transition into college a positive one.

After move-in day, I quickly made friends with other students who also decided to live in the Honors Learning Community. All of these students were highly-motivated individuals who had school as their top priority just like me. Being in the Honors Learning Community not only gave me the chance to familiarize myself with the Honors Program, but also build relationships with other first-year students. Many of us have been in the same classes and worked on homework together. It is nice to have a study group to count on in difficult classes. The honors faculty and staff are also very helpful. I have found myself going to them whenever I need a reference, help with writing a paper, or even in search of other scholarships.

Through my involvement in the Honors Program, I have been able to participate in unique activities and opportunities. In the beginning of the year, I participated in a scavenger hunt around campus with other students in the Program. It was a lot of fun and allowed me to explore campus. I also helped with a service project for the Make a Difference organization. Together as a Learning Community, we collected food from Mankato neighborhoods to donate to ECHO Food Shelf. Additionally, my first-year class elected me as their class representative in the Honors Student Council Executive Board. Through this position, I have had the opportunity to discuss future Honors courses, attend Honors events, and work with honors upperclassmen. This experience has been really great for me as it has given me something to stay involved with.

In September I had the chance to help out at the Purple and Gold Gala, a formal event where scholarship donors are recognized for their continuous support to the University, as a Presidential Scholar. The night included a delicious dinner and dessert bar. In the spring, the other Presidential Scholars and I will have the chance to visit President Davenport at his house and then attend a hockey game in the President’s suite. As a Presidential Scholar, I also get my very own mentor. Through monthly meetings, I have gotten to know my mentor very well and she has helped me with everything from registering for classes, to serving as a reference, to facilitating connections.

By being an honors student and a Presidential Scholar, I have been allowed to participate in many exciting events and activities. Both programs have been beneficial for my development and I am excited to see what the future holds.

For more information about the Honors Program, please call (507)-389-5191 or e-mail honors@mnsu.edu