GVSU professor gives ‘last lecture’

Courtesy / gvsu.edu
Kathleen Underwood

Courtesy / gvsu.edu Kathleen Underwood

Hannah Lentz

More than 100 Grand Valley State University students and community members attended Kathleen Underwood’s “last lecture” on Thursday, where she told the audience that college is a gift of time and an opportunity students will not get again.

“It is highly unlikely that you will ever be in a position where you will get the chance to be this in control of your life,” Underwood said. “Take a chance to do the things you love during this time where you can be whoever you want to be.”

The annual lecture event, hosted by the Student Senate, was inspired by the book “Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, a former professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Pausch wrote the book after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer so that he could pass on life lessons to readers.

Underwood, director of the Women and Gender Studies program and professor of history, gave her own life lessons and addressed the audience as if it were the last lecture she would ever give.

“The experiences and chances that I took in my life have stayed with me and even affect how I teach in the classroom today,” Underwood said.

She suggested that students follow their own path, even if that means taking some breaks from college along the way. Underwood, herself, took seven years to graduate from the University of Colorado. During that time, she traveled to various locations around the state engaging in service and other politically related activities.

She stressed the importance of being the person who says “yes” to life and asked those in the audience to take a class just because it interests them, take the opportunity of an internship, or study abroad.

“Don’t be afraid to do something that scares you,” she said. “In the end, it could change who you are and give you a new outlook.”

Relating her presentation back to GVSU, Underwood compared the university as a whole to the Knowledge Market in the library. She explained that there are opportunities all around campus to get involved in and learn elements of life from.

“I want the classroom to be a community of shared learning,” Underwood said. “There are multiple paths to finding your passion and multiple roads to success. All that matters is that you find what motivates you and sparks your enthusiasm.”