Grand Valley’s Office of Fellowships debuts ‘Dream Big’ workshop series

GVL / Bo Anderson

GVSU Junior Kristen Wellman looks at the Dream BIG display in Niemeyer. The Office of Fellowships Dream BIG campaign encouraged students to display their dreams on the clouds displayed.

Bo Anderson

GVL / Bo Anderson GVSU Junior Kristen Wellman looks at the Dream BIG display in Niemeyer. The Office of Fellowships Dream BIG campaign encouraged students to display their dreams on the clouds displayed.

Lizzy Balboa

What do Golden Globe nominee Patrick Sheane Duncan, White Sox pitcher Matt Thornton and Former President of the Republic of Palau Tommy Remengesau have in common? They all drew on their experiences at Grand Valley State University to make a name for themselves and advance in their careers.

While some Lakers dream big and set their sights on careers that are often scarce and competitive, many are content with taking jobs only in Michigan, West Michigan or even the Grand Rapids area.

“One thing that we realized repeatedly when students come to meet with us is that its just always kind of a challenge to get students here to think bigger and to think about the opportunities that exist outside of Grand Valley and outside of West Michigan,” said Jackie Dickinson, graduate assistant in the Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships.

Dickinson said the office is looking to change the depth of alumni pursuits with its first Dream Big Workshop Series, which she said are meant to get students to consider their career possibilities and imagine their potential.

Amanda Cuevas, director of the Office of Fellowships, said the series would help students realize the scale of their life goals and figure out what a ‘game plan’ would look like to actualize their dreams. Cuevas said the office will get students a few steps closer to where they want to go.

“Our tagline in the Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships is ‘Discover. Dream. Destiny.’ so we want to really encourage the Grand Valley community to be thinking bigger, to be dreaming bigger and, as a part of that, to consider applying
for nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships,” Cuevas said. “We want to find out what students particular goals and dreams are so that we can then see if there are any nationally competitive awards that might align with where they want to go.”

She added the workshops will help students discover the types of leadership and service opportunities they should get involved in to be competitive for the awards they wish to pursue.

Although the Chronicle of Education recognized GVSU as one of the nation’s top producers of U.S. Fulbright scholars in 2010, Cuevas said she looks to expand GVSU’s alumni profile and secure more nationally competitive fellowships for students who want them. An increase in award winners would also benefit future GVSU students by broadening their network and giving current Lakers a chance to connect with successful alumni.

“Of course our goal is to be able to get more scholarships and fellowships, students being awarded these types of fellowships and being able to grow our network,” Cuevas said. “We are developing a network of alumni that we are able to connect current students with.”

The different Dream Big workshops will help students develop professionalism, learn how to get professional
recommendations, make good first impressions through E-mail and identify their strengths when writing personal statements.

Cuevas said the skills acquired through the workshops will be beneficial for students applying for both fellowships and graduate schools, which also require impressive personal statements.

“There’s a value added in the pursuit of the process,” Cuevas said, “ So students really gain confidence, they gain a focus in who they are and where they want to go and what their next steps are, and without a doubt, students then as a consequence start dreaming bigger, they start thinking bigger, they start applying to graduate and professional schools that they may not have otherwise considered.”

Cuevas and Dickinson will be facilitating the workshops, which are open to both undergraduate and graduate students of all programs. Certain time slots will be geared toward freshmen and sophomores and others will be intended for juniors and seniors.

Students can attend each of the five workshops from Mar. 15 to April 4. For more information on the Dream Big Workshop Series, visit the website at

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