Trailblazing student receives standing ovation

Audra Gamble

When Grand Valley State University senior Elizabeth Dugan sang “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” before a packed Fieldhouse at the August Convocation, the “Sound of Music” song held a personal and symbolic meaning for her as the first in her family to attend college.

“The song speaks toward finding and obtaining your dream no matter the struggles that you must face along the way,” Dugan said. “This speaks directly toward my own journey.”

Dugan’s own academic quest has come with its own challenges, but the Bath, MIich., native continues to meet them head on. The GVSU senior is one of eight children and is the first in her family to pursue education at the university level—embarking on the journey with only her own determination to guide her. The success she has found is a result of her perseverance and self-reliance.

“I am the first of seven siblings, two parents and four grandparents to be continuing in higher education,” Dugan said. “As a result, the entire collegiate experience has been one of self-determination and discovery.”

Though now a Laker, Dugan did not begin her education at GVSU. Before transferring to GVSU in 2012, she attended Lansing Community College for two years. As Dugan is the first one in her family to pursue a collegiate degree, she had to learn the ropes herself.

“Neither of my parents had gone to a university or anything,” Dugan said. “They had no idea what to do or how to help. So, the downfall of that was I had no idea how to do anything, other than to look it up online.”

This did not deter her.

“I have supported myself fiscally [throughout] my entire academic endeavor, often working two or three jobs at a time in order to do so,” she said. “The most jobs I have held at one time [were] five.”

Despite the challenges she has faced in pursuing a university-level education, Dugan consistently finds success. On top of the opportunity to sing at Convocation, last winter semester she placed in the GVSU Music Department’s Concerto Competition 2013. She was one of two GVSU students selected to perform as a featured soloist, singing with the GVSU Symphony Orchestra.

Dale Schriemer, Dugan’s voice professor, praises her efforts.

“She sings beautifully and she rises to the challenge,” Schriemer said. “I know she appreciates (the opportunity). Her performance (at Convocation) was well received, earning a standing ovation from the entire Field House.”

The fact that Dugan has followed her dreams to college serves as an inspiration.

“She’s the first college-bound in the family,” Schriemer said. “Now, she has younger brothers and sisters who I think will go to school. She’s blazing a trail, in a way, for her family.”

And Dugan will continue to blaze the trail, as she said she hopes go on to get a Master’s degree in vocal pedagogy after graduating in the spring.

“Singing is like air to me,” she said. “I cannot imagine life without the joy of making music. Creating music has allowed me such joy that I want to give that passion and joy to others.”

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