Lilly Howard came to USI as a girl who lived in the country, eating out of the garden and hand feeding deer. As a first-generation student, she experienced culture shock on her first day on campus. “After I took my assessment test, I got so lost. I wandered over to the Orr Center and asked a girl how to get back to the apartments.” That girl, Haley Alexander ’16, became a life-long friend who not only drove Lilly back to her apartment but opened her world exponentially. Haley expanded Lilly’s friendship circle to include students from all over the world. "I can honestly say that I didn’t miss the experience of traveling abroad. I got that through all my international friends. They brought me the culture, music and food of their countries. The only think I missed was the scenery. There are plenty of ways to explore the world at USI, if you are open to them."
Lilly chose a variety of clubs and organizations to join from Activities Programming Board (APB) to the Vegetarian Club. The skills she learned as the program chair of APB her freshman year led to planning awareness events for the Black Student Union and KESHO.”.
Being open to new ideas didn’t come easy for Lilly as a first-generation student. "Being open takes effort," she says. "It takes flexibility in thinking. It takes listening. In the real world, people don’t listen. People give up on people too quickly. That’s why I love USI. They really put students first. They make sure students have the resources they need to succeed."
The experiential learning and skills she gained at USI led her toward a career in higher education. She will enter Indiana University’s graduate program in student affairs next fall. "My best laid plans never go where I expect them to go. I’ve learned it’s just easier to be open to change."×
When Austin Wolf came to USI, he was planning to be an optometrist. He had always wanted to help people, and even job-shadowed his own eye doctor. As a biology major, he loved the classes. He loved the subject matter, loved picking his professors brains. He didn’t love the idea of medical school.
He switched his major to undecided and worked with Aaron Adkins in University Division to discuss his options. Austin wanted to combine his interest in health care with his fascination with business and entrepreneurship, and found that health services would be the perfect combination of the three. "It pays to keep your options open," he says. "I stress that as an Admissions Ambassador on tours all the time. There is a negative connotation with undecided majors; however, there shouldn’t be. If you spend the first year investing in yourself and figuring out your passion, you’ll actually save a lot of time and stress as opposed to switching half-way through college."
Working with Career Services, he found an internship with Tri-State Orthopedic Services where he was able to collaborate with surgeons on blogs and learn about compliance issues in health care. “As my time progressed, my supervisor and the human resources generalist at Tri-State worked to give me as much exposure as possible,” he says "They took the time to utilize my strengths. And when the time came to look for a job, they were my cheerleaders."
As he head to graduation, he has already secured a job with Deaconess Health Care as a human resources recruiter. When he next comes back to USI, it will be to find other students to invest in through internships that will increase their skills and likelihood of success.×
Reeya Vyas admits to being shy in high school. When she came to USI she was content to study something practical, but after a semester of being practical, she knew she had to try something outside the box. "I was always a little bit of an introvert," she says. "But a misconception is that introverts don't want to be around people. The more I was around people in college, the more I wanted to have a job where I could have a little practicality but also a lot of creativity in what I did."
After her first marketing class, she found the perfect blend of science and art. What she learned in her graphic design classes complimented the science of marketing. And what she came to understand was that business classes can be a lot more creative than what she thought. "It's been a real journey. I've taken classes I never thought I would enjoy. I even pushed myself to join clubs I never thought I would."
Reeya combines her love for creativity and practicality as an assistant lab coordinator for the Romain College Social Media Lab, where her focus is on developing content and strategy, following trends in social media, tracking user behavior, scheduling video shoots, and assisting with filming in the studio. She has also used her graphic arts minor in designing the graphics that are used with the College’s social media channels..
She admits that freshman Reeya is completely different from the senior Reeya, who will be one of the Reflection speakers at Fall Commencement. "There's a lot of pressure to declare a major when you first come to college," she says. "Don’t succumb to that pressure. Go with what's beyond your comfort zone. Don't be afraid to try new things. Don't be afraid to grow. It makes you a better individual."×
The process of learning never came easy for Marlee. She lamented over siblings who seemed to have photographic memories while she toiled over color coded index cards, meticulously recopied notes and experimented with word association games.
When she took the Strong Interest Inventory test, she was dismayed by the career in farming, lawn care or the military it recommended. She met with a career readiness advisor and retook the test. This time, the results pointed her to a career in education. She was surprised. Once she compared both test results, she could see similarities. As a teacher, she could plant metaphorical seeds, provide nurturing care and be a strong authority figure.
At Mt Vernon High School, she found herself using her father's Marine voice when trying to get the attention of her students. And, like a sergeant at boot camp, she finds her charges to be a little low on motivation and discipline. "Like my dad, I can talk loud. I let them know my expectations; I let them know what they can expect from me; and I get to know them. If you don’t get to know them, they certainly don’t respect you."
Marlee credits both USI and Mt Vernon High School with giving her an amazing student teaching experience. Together with her coordinating teacher and University supervisor, she was able to iron out some minor bumps in the road. "I can't say enough good things about my experience at Mt. Vernon. The school is like one big family and they welcomed me right in. I learned so much from the teachers and the students." Now Marlee looks forward to providing that same knowledge to other student.×