Beyond the classroom

GVL/Brianna Olson    
Victoria Stevenson

GVL/Brianna Olson Victoria Stevenson

Alyssa Rettelle

The African American and Latin American Alumni chapters at Grand Valley State University held a panel discussion on Jan. 27 called “Life Beyond the Classroom” to talk about how to prepare for future careers, how to find balance between work and personal life, how to be a unique individual in a work environment and how to be successful during and after college.

The panel of individuals leading the discussion featured GVSU alumni. Adriana Almanza, Scherron Walton, Felip Ballesteros and Dr. Talawnda Bragg were on the panel in person, while Aaron Lewis, Courtney Adams and David Colado were speaking over conference call from Detroit.

One of the questions brought up was how the panel dealt with challenges when coming to GVSU. Walton said her biggest challenge moving to Allendale was being in a new and different environment and how learning from others’ mistakes should be a priority.

“Making connections with other people and being intentional about your connections and relationships is important,” Walton said. “Surround yourself with likeminded, goal-oriented people. Make sure you council up and talk to someone wise before making any decisions.”

Another question asked was how to get your undergraduate or graduate degree with all the challenges along the way. Dr. Talawnda Bragg said coming to GVSU was hard for her, but being honest with herself helped her move on.

“Coming to GVSU was a culture shock for me,” she said. “In high school, I was the top of my class in Inkster. I found when I got to GV there were some deficits and I had to go back to get caught up. Finding a mentor and making a connection and really exploring things helped,” Bragg said. “I want to encourage you guys. If you have something in you, it might have been placed there for a reason, so go for it. But also become familiar with delayed gratification.”

Adriana Almanza said confidence is key to success.

“One of my biggest struggles was confidence and know-how,” she said. “I don’t come from a family that knows. I wasn’t confident in school. I wasn’t sure if I should really have been there. So learning how to balance school and family was a struggle, but you should have confidence in yourself.”

In addition, Almanza said she wishes she could change how she used her resources.

“I didn’t use any resources as an undergrad,” Almanza said. “I didn’t know they existed when you came to college. I thought it was just coming here, getting it done and graduating. But I learned there’s a lot of resources and I highly stress using them. Use the writing center, get help with your resume, that’s what faculty and staff are here for.”

All the panelists agreed that students should use the resources the university has to offer, get involved with the community, prioritize work, go to classes, take job shadowing and internship opportunities, be professional while using social networking sites and create a LinkedIn account to professionally network while keeping an open mind.

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