Thursday, March 20, 2014

Creating a Campus Community!

Hello there!

It has been a while since the last time I had a chance to stop by and write about what is going on here at Westminster College. 

A couple weeks back I receive an invitation to participate on a little marketing research to determine the college's strengths that should be the focus of the advertisement campaigns. Anyway, among many different discussed topics we talked about how inclusive is our campus and the sense of community that can be found across the college. At first I was hesitant to say that I felt like we were an inclusive community. However, after careful evaluation of my current situation and acknowledging the many good relationships that I have developed on these two semesters, I have to say: I have found my place in our community. 

Now, why is this important to the marketing company? and even more why should this be important to all of us? Well, everybody is looking to belong somewhere; that is the very reason why we chose friends, activities and relationships. We need to feel like we belong! This couldn't be more important, in a completely primary level the sense of community is one of our basic needs as human beings and a major factor in determining our attitudes and personal trials as we evolve and mature. 

During our time as students we are expected to prepare ourselves to provide society with the best of our service in whatever area we chose to develop. I believe it is not possible to achieve this goal if we do not enjoy our time making mistakes and killing ourselves trying to fix these mistakes. I believe that being part of a close community is a great part of enjoying our time as students. Think about it in this way, no matter our choices today (good or not as good) they are OUR decisions, and no matter what we will never have the chance to take the same decision on the exact same situation and time ever again. We don't know what will happen in 10, 5 or 1 year from now, even more we don't even know what will happen 15 minutes from now. So we might as well be with the people we like, in the place we belong while not knowing what the future will bring to us!

This open the discussion to two dilemmas; first, how do I find my place on this large community? And second, how do I make sure everyone else feels like they can belong if they choose to? Finding our place in a larger community is not as complicated, it all comes down to determine who we are and what we like to do. For me I am a transfer student who really love to play volleyball. I've played VB for years and when I transfer here I learned about the indoor VB club. I decided I would gave it a try and soon enough I was part or a community of people who share the love for the game as much as I do; eventually I developed good relationships with some of the students who attend to the games. I would say this; being part of a community begins with you. 

Finally, I believe we are responsible to ensure everybody has the chance to find their place in our community. It is true that we can't force anybody to enjoy the things that we like; however I believe it is our duty to ensure that everyone is free to express what they like in hopes to find mind-like people to develop friendships and build communities. That is our responsibility, and as long as we continue to do that we can see our large community evolve and grow while new smaller communities are built and create. 

I hope we can all relate and keep in mind our first times on campus while we tried to find our place. I hope we all had people who were willing and open to accept who we were. And I hope we become the people who accepts and invites new comers to open themselves to this amazing campus community!  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Time for Change.

Hi there!

I said before that this semester is being a crazy one, however I didn't even know how crazy it would end up being! I reached a point in my education where I needed to ask myself what is going to happen? where I want to be? but most importantly, how in the world I am going to make it happen?

Well, I am not 100% sure yet, but I want to believe that I am taking the right steps towards my goals. My dilemma started when I realized that I have been trying to complete a double major in Finance (my area of interest) and Accounting but I didn't have a clear plan for once I completed them. So I asked myself what I would like to be doing in 3 years, 5 years and 10 years form now? and to my surprise none of the possible scenarios included me doing accounting work. I always knew that I wanted to complete my BS in Accounting to have it as background for my career, and I believe that all I need is to know a bit more than the basics to achieve what I want. Therefore, I decided to complete only my Finance degree since I have already taken more than the basics in Accounting and, if I wan to be honest, all I want is to be done with school ASAP!

At this point and thanks to my decision I am only two semesters away to achieve my BS in Finance and hopefully to start and new stage in my life. Now is all about planning ahead and make sure I can meet the requirements for graduation in time. I am excited about what is coming and knowing that is only two semesters away makes me feel a rush, I wan to be done but I also want to be ready to face what comes next. So far my life has been pretty straight forward, I woke up everyday knowing that I want to be a good student and learn as much as possible, and although I have held different employment positions, school has been always my priority. Soon that is going to change; work and family life will be on top of everything and that is a scary thought, all the sudden I am not longer bound to the school expectations and the world and its "endless" opportunities are open to me; but a questions will undoubtedly rise: now what? 

I read somewhere that an average college student will change his/her major at least 6 times during the duration of their studies. I can see now how is that possible, as you mature your plans and your ambition for the future matures with you and even more you identity is expose in the same process. You start wandering who you are and who you want to be; plus the exposure to different subjects helps you to determine the area where you can feel you will succeed in life. This is exactly what happened to me; I was determined to complete both programs Accounting and Finance, but then while taking my Corporate Income Taxation class I realized that I don't love accounting enough to go through the pain to learn about the complex tax system and code that we have in the US. It was a wake up call and help me defined my path, so I couldn't be more grateful. 

So there you have it, the story of how I change my plans, major and deadlines. I hope you guys can see that a drastic change is not always a bad thing and it could sometimes be the right call. So, don't be afraid to explore your options while you are here in school. If there was a time and place to make mistakes it would be now and it would be here, because once this window we call college is close, is close for good and we are left to face the consequences of our choices in the "real" world. For now I am glad I had the opportunity to have so many people on campus willing and ready to help and provide me advise based on what is best for me and what I want.

Keep up the good work, we are almost half way through the semester and good luck to y'all with your midterm exams!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Crazy Semester!


It has been a crazy yet rewarding semester so far, and we have not even reach the half-semester mark! As I have mentioned in the past I am a transfer student to Westminster College currently on my second semester of my double major (accounting and finance) degree. Last semester I finished all my lower division remaining classes and this semester I was ready to face the upper division classes needed in my degrees; or so I thought. 

True is that I was not even sure how to begin to plan my current semester, let alone the upcoming semesters. I knew that I needed to find some kind of guidance; I just didn't know where to look. Following my previous experience at other colleges I supposed I would need to find an individual who will advise in many different areas or majors and hope that he or she would know what to do. However, since I am in my junior year I was told that I needed to find a professor within my own majors to be my advisor. This is great, you can't imagine how many times in the past I wished I could talk to someone who studied the exact same things that I am studying and share my plans and ask my questions knowing that he or she would certainly know where I was coming from and be more likely to offer useful counsel. 

So after an excruciating search for great advsiors I was able to score two of the best professors in the Gore School of Business. Now why are they great advisors? and how to take the most out of your academic experience at Westminster College? On my opinion they serve as great advisors for several reason, being the most important of them: keep the student's best interest first. Let me give you an example, I can honestly said that I had a pretty simple and easy transfer process to Westminster College however there were a couple classes that I took before as lower division classes that didn't replace the "same" upper division classes at Westminster. So I talked with my accounting advisor and after reviewing in detail that the classes content and my level of knowledge was equivalent to the classes offered here I was able to receive credit for the classes that I took before. This is to me a great example of my advisor putting my best interest first, she knew that this would help me to graduate faster and it would save me some money. 

How to make the best out of your academic experience at Westminster? This is something that I am still learning, however I have catch a thing or two. Finding a good advisor that meet your needs is crucial if you wish to succeed in your role as student and if you wish to be ready for your professional career after graduation. Although, having a great advisor is not everything, you must do your part by speaking your mind, asking your questions and expressing your plans and ideas. I have learned that a big portion of the prestige and good reputation that is given to Westminster College is due to its faculty and their efforts to see the students succeed by going the extra mile to ensure the students understand the concepts, find the best path to achieve their goals and take advantage of all the opportunities available to them. So there you have it, find a good advisor and don't be afraid to communicate with your advisor.

To conclude today's post I want to share with you one of the most amazing concepts that a professor could explain to me as of why she puts so much effort to ensure we do great in her class. She said "today you are my student, tomorrow you are my peer and I must make sure you go out as an outstanding professional." You can't find that kind of commitment in just any college, I am just glad I can find here and now!  


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

And we're back!


Here we are again! A new semester starts with a mix feeling of anxiety for the new classes and wishing to go back to break. However, regardless of the desire to continue on the past break this semesters seems promising for me and for anyone else at Westminster College. 

It is the beginning of not only a new semester but a new year, and the opportunity for a new beginning for all of us. At this time of the year everybody is being bombarded with all sort of new year resolution "tips" but in reality it all comes down to: 1. keeping your goals real, 2. keep track of your progress, 3. set a date to see it realized and 4. set a goal that actually requires effort on your part (otherwise they are mere dreams.)  

I decided to write about things I wished I knew on my first week of classes as a transfer student at Westminster College. I hope this results helpful for any of my transfer fellas who start attending this semester to this wonderful institution.

  1. Food at Shaw is actually affordable and tasty. Good job to the guys and gals at Bon Appetit - keep the good food coming! 
  2. Take advantage of the concierge desk and read the emails they send. Most of the times that is the only way to know about the discounted tickets and events for us, the students. In most cases the events are great and saving a few bucks is never a bad idea.
  3. If you have a question about anything related to your degree and/or what classes are best for you just find a professor and walk in! Seriously, you won't believe the time and effort the professors put into helping and mentoring the students. 
  4. As student you get a free membership to the gym facilities (including the pool and climbing wall) but you also receive a second membership for your partner (spouse or special one) for an incredible reduced price per month. 
  5. Westminster College houses the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy events each month. This is a great opportunity to listen from a diverse group of internationally recognized presenters and even do some networking. Plus topics are always interesting.
  6. Parking on campus can be difficult (specially around noon) and the permit is somehow pricey but if you ride a motorcycle (I love my  motorcycle) then you get to park for free! Plus there are more than enough areas around the parking lots where you can easily find a spot! 
  7. Finally, for all of us employment is a big concern to our futures, that is why I think you should know about the Career Resource Center. They are here to help the students to find a path into the future, from revising your resume and cover letters to practicing job interviews and helping you find internships and employment. It is a great resource!

I hope this helps a little in the process of adapting to a new environment here at Westminster College. Remember we are probably smaller than most of the schools around and that means we are a close community; so get out there and make some friends! Happy new year and happy new Spring semester to y'all!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Finals at Westminster College - Climbing Life Lessons!


I just finished my first semester as a Westminster student and I am exhausted. I had lots of final projects, presentations and exams. It is amazing how the scenery of the college changed over the past week; I have never seen the library so crowded before.

Everyone seemed to be over stressed - some of them even at the edge of going crazy! But we are at the end and most students are done or almost done with this semester's finals. Now it is time to get ready for the winter break and enjoy while we wait for the holidays to come! There is all sorts of things to do to relieve the accumulated stress during finals week. There is: skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, snow tubing, or if you are like me and don't even know how to do any of that (and you are in Utah) there is always your bed, a warm blanket, good food and tons of good movies!

Anyway, it is time to get serious - not really. During this past semester I had the wonderful opportunity to get introduced to a new sport discipline: Indoor Climbing. I never thought about practicing indoor climbing, or any climbing for that matter, but when I was presented with the opportunity I decided to give it a go. You see, in my country people don't go around climbing rocks for fun, but I must admit it was an amazing experience. I can see now, under a new light and a renovated respect, why people around the globe enjoy this wonderful sport.

At the end of the semester I was asked to present on a climbing topic that I found interesting. It wasn't hard to find my topic: "The Spirit of Persistence". Now why am I telling you all this? And how is it related to finals week? Well, in my opinion climbing has a lot to teach us regarding life, and for me and every other student at Westminster College "life" means school for now. I found a very interesting video while preparing for my final climbing presentation. It is a TED talk gave by Matthew Child on 2009 named "9 Life Lessons from Rock Climbing". I will refer to these lessons while comparing them to prepare and survive finals week, but I think they can be apply to just about anything.
  1. Rule #1: Don't let go! - As simple as it sounds it is a critical rule. Often our minds give up much sooner than our bodies. I think this rule here is: don't give up, even if you feel you can't go on. Remember the worst week of the semester can only last ONE week. 
  2. Rule #2: Hesitation is bad - I think there is a time for everything; there is a time to have fun, to over think things and to do things. When it comes to prepare for finals you should act and properly prepare for them. Do not hesitate, that will lead to procrastinate and eventually to fail. 
  3. Rule #3: Have a plan - Put the time and effort to plan and organize your work in order to be more efficient (i.e. prioritize) and to be more effective in your preparation. 
  4. Rule #4: The move is the end - Often we believe that reaching the top is all that matters. However in life we must remember that each individual move defines whether we succeed or fail. In our time as students we must know that it is not all about getting a great score in the final exam, but to put the work throughout the semester so when we reach finals week we are well prepare and less stress.
  5. Rule #5: Know how to rest - As important as hard work can be, it is crucial to know your limitations and understand that you will perform better with a rested mind. It is important to take care of yourself in order to perform as desired.
  6. Rule #6: Fear sucks - We all have our challenges with specific classes or topics. Having said that you must remember that if you let fear in your mind you will be thinking on the possibilities and the consequences of failing rather than focusing on the task in hand.     
  7. Rule #7: Opposites are good - Once we tried and tried to succeed using a specific method with no results we should think of alternative ways to achieve what we need. I believe that in some cases doing things in a different way may result in achieving new goals that seemed impossible before.  
  8. Rule #8: Strength doesn't equal success - Often we believe that possessing an specific quality required to perform successfully is enough to guarantee good results. It is not. Being smart is not enough to succeed and survive finals week if proper planning and preparation did not take place.
  9. Rule #9: Know how to let go - I know rule number one says "Don't let go!" However not every story has a happy ending and once you reach the point where you know you will fall you must be ready for it. Sometimes we work and work to succeed and regardless of our efforts things don't turn out as we want. It is not the end of the world, you can always retake the class in future semesters or work harder in other classes to bring back up your GPA. 
Here is the actual video, I am sure you will enjoy it!


I hope you can see and appreciate this speech as much as I did. Please feel free to leave comments I am always interested in knowing other people's opinions. Have great break and happy holidays to you all.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Exemplary Achievement Award


Over the past months I have been asked - by friends and people that somehow learned about my award at Westminster College - for "suggestions" on the application process. Although, I don't feel I am the best person to get counsel from, I will do my very best.

First of all, you should know that the application process is different this year. However, I took the liberty to dig around in order to provide you guys with the best info possible. 

What is the Exemplary Achievement Award? As described on the college website, it is a scholarship that seeks to "Reward exceptional achievement, ... to honor students who will enrich our community of learners as they embody the high value we place on excellence."  

*Hint: as you write your essay keep this idea on mind. Try to answer the question: How can I enrich the community at Westminster College?

What are this year awards? This year Westminster College has decided to increase the total dollar amount to be distributed among the winners. Three scholarships of $25,000 will be awarded. In addition, twenty-five scholarships of $4,000 will be awarded. That is an impressive total of $175,000 waiting for the right students.

* Hint: You!

Who can apply? Freshman and transfer students, attending Westminster College as members of the up coming Fall 2014 class are eligible. I must also indicate that international students (like myself) are eligible to apply. This scholarship requires a separate application.

*Hint: You must apply and be admitted to Westminster by Monday, February 3, 2014. Award application must be in the admissions office by 5:00 pm on February 3, 2014.

How do the awards work? Let's suppose that you are chosen to receive one of the three $25,000 scholarships. This scholarship will override ANY institutional scholarship offered previously. For example: let's say that you were offer a $16,000 merit scholarship due to you GPA or ACT/SAT scores, well this new award will replace the previous $16,000 offered. 

Now, let's suppose you are awarded one of the twenty-five $4,000 scholarships. This new award will be on TOP of any previous institutional scholarship. In the same example, let's say you receive $16,000 for GPA or ACT/SAT scores, now you have a total $20,000 scholarship.

*Hint: This scholarship is guarantee to you for 8 semesters and can ONLY be use on Fall or Spring semesters. 

As mentioned before, this year the award application operates differently. I will explain the process, requirements and finally I will offer my advise on what to include in the application.

This year the application process encourages students to choose one category in which the student feels his or her performance, contribution or development has been worthy of consideration. There are a total of seven different categories and at least three awards will be distributed in each category. 

The categories are as follow:
  • Significant participation in community service and civic participation.
  • Work experience and entrepreneurship.
  • Resilience in the face of hardship or disadvantage.
  • Promoting equity and understanding.
  • Outstanding leadership.
  •  Distinction in the Arts, Humanities, or Sciences.
  • Alvin & Helene Richer Academic Excellence Scholarship (Minimum 3.7 GPA; 27 ACT or equivalent) 
The requirements to apply for this award are:
  • Be admitted to Westminster College attending the Fall 2014 class by February 3, 2014.
  • Complete the Application Form.
  • Personal essay explaining the achievements that support the category you chose and how you will enrich Westminster's community. 
  • A professional resume and a list of all your awards, activities and other achievements. 

Lastly, my suggestions while completing your application:
  1. Apply now to the college. The application fee is being waived and you can start developing good relationships with the college and its staff members.  
  2. Remember that Westminster College, as any other great school, strives to recruit the best of the the best. Having said that, try to choose your best examples to described who you are and what you can do to improve the student body and the college as a whole. 
  3. Take the time to write a direct yet meaningful essay. You are trying to represent yourself, and you shouldn't undersell your achievements. In addition, I know that if I was reviewing the applications and found an essay that is three paragraphs long I would think to myself "hey if you can't put an effort on this why should I put an effort on you?"
  4. Remember Westminster wants to develop a culture of evidence throughout its students, so include as much evidence of your achievements as you possibly can.
  5. I believe most of you have worked hard for years and develop good relationships (professional/non professional) on the way. Ask for recommendation letters to support your character and achievements. 
  6. You may be excellent in more than one of the categories listed above. Choose the one that you feel better represents you. 
  7. Although, I don't know the evaluation process I imagine that they look at the extend and meaningfulness of your achievements. Go in details to help the committee understand your efforts and depth of your contributions.
  8. If you are not done with your classes yet and you have a chance to improve your grades; do it! You will be in a better position at the time of the evaluation. 
  9. I know the application says to include ONE professional resume and and ONE list of activities. I would encourage you to have a professional resume and an activities resume. Do it professionally.
  10. Stay truthful and humble. I know many of you have achieve great and amazing things. However, if you look up to the sky there is plenty of room to grow. At Westminster is all about personal development and success.
  11. Finally, if you have a clear goal and vision of where you want to be or how you see yourself in the future; share it. Explain how attending Westminster College can help you achieve your dreams and goals. 
I hope this can help you to successfully apply for the Exemplary Achievement Award and hopefully help you to be awarded for your achievements. I look forward to meet some of you next year, let me know if I can further help you.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

My Westminster Story

I want to start my blog by telling y'all about how I ended up attending Westminster College. After deciding that I wanted to come to the US to complete my higher education, I started to look into schools in Utah (my family had friends living here, that is what brought me here in the first place.) After talking to a few people I decided to came to the LDS Business College. Although I had a good experience there I wanted to experience life while attending a bigger institution but I knew I would hate to be part of a class size of 300 students, so I ended up transferring to Salt Lake Community College by 2011.  Once attending SLCC I discovered that although class sizes were small, the school lacked a sense of community; I decided that it was up to me to enjoy my time at SLCC. I was attending to my classes while doing everything I could to get involved in extracurricular activities by doing so I had the opportunity to develop some of the most amazing friendships with students and staff.

I knew I needed to start looking at other schools since my graduation date was getting closer and I was not done with my higher education. At first I looked into the most common options: The University of Utah and BYU. I was determined to keep my options open and I kept in mind how much I enjoyed my classes whenever I had the opportunity to develop good relationships with the instructor and my class mates. I looked everywhere in the state and out-of-state, even out of the country! I am sure the recruiters hated me at college fairs, since I was there asking a thousand and one questions to some of them and yet I didn't seemed to be sold to any; I continued my search for my best fit.

A few months passed, by then I had cleaned my option list and removed BYU, Weber State, Utah State, and The University of Utah along with other out-of-state universities. I knew they were all good institutions and I knew I could have done a great job attending any of them but I also knew they were not what I was looking for. One day a good friend of mine asked me if I have contemplated the idea of attending Westminster College; he then proceed to explained that it was his dream school. I wasn't sure but I thought I'd gave it a go so I decided I would stop by their expo table whenever I had a chance. Here is where everything started.

A met Jeff Vandersteen on the hall of the Student Center at SLCC, I had an informative yet funny discussion with him. We talked about why should I chose to attend Westminster College; Jeff did a good job to sell the school name to me so I decided to stop in person and see what was all about. He told me about the class size, student-professor ratio and great reputation. A few days latter I stopped at Converse Hall (the admission building at Westminster College) with my wife and daughter to learn a little bit more and to see in person the quality in service provided by the recruiters. 

I must admit that I am harsh when it comes to rate the service I receive; as a matter of fact many of the schools from my list had been removed due to what I saw as lack of professionalism and customer service. Many recruiters left me with a "you are lucky if you can get in" kind of feeling. 

Anyhow, once I was at Westminster College I had the opportunity to meet with another representative, Alexandra Steed. This time it was a completely different experience; our conversation was merely professional focusing only on the things that I wanted to know. At this point I had completed a limited number of applications since I wanted to be really sure before I even submit a request for more information to any school. Anyways I was really impressed with the gathered information, the staff I've met so far and the campus as a whole that I completed my application right there! I remember thinking to myself how great it was that I didn't have to pay for my SLCC transcripts to be brought over. 

I reached the point where I needed to complete applications and submit documents to the schools that I have chosen so far. My never ending list had now only 5 schools throughout the US; only Westminster College was located in Utah the remaining were in Virginia, Oregon, New York and California. I received early admission decisions from three of the five universities and withdrew my application to the other two a few weeks later.

Everything came down to  my top three options (Oregon, Virginia and Utah.) I kept constant communications with all three institutions but I must say that having Jeff constantly coming to SLCC helped a lot on my decision. He let me know of an opportunity to apply for an special award called the Exemplary Achievement Award three days before the deadline! (nice work Jeff, LOL) Anyways, I rushed to get all the requirements together, write my essay, fix my resumes, gather recommendation letters and filling out the form; it was all worth it since the big prize was a $25,000 scholarship per year while finishing my education at Westminster College. I remember getting to the admissions office at 4:55 pm (deadline was 5:00 pm) and handing over my application while fighting to recover my breath.

A few weeks passed and one day it finally happened; all my previous hard work to keep a good GPA, to be involved and stayed actively engage in community and school projects and service finally paid off. I received a call from my International Student recruiter (Leanna Kowallis; who is also awesome) at Westminster College letting me know that I have been chosen to received the award. (you know how you always hear of all this nice stories about people wining things but it never happen to you?) I couldn't believe it, I was extremely happy since it represented the opportunity to stay in the state and received our second baby while avoiding all the moving out of state trouble and it also represented the opportunity to receive quality higher education at a minimum fraction of the cost.

I didn't know then but the number of applications exceeded 400 students hoping to get the same scholarship; I didn't know then how much this school was going to meant for me and I didn't know then that even without the special award the education that I am receiving here is worth every sacrifice I can possibly made and more.

So this is my Westminster Story, I know it's not finished just yet but I'd like to believe that it will be great!