Name: Lauren Knauss
Type of Project: Internship
My STEP Signature Project is an internship working for the office of First Year Experience as a Peer Leader. The responsibilities of my position fluctuate throughout the year, but in the summer months they include orientation duties such as leading small groups and completing outreach to students. Throughout the academic year I will do continual outreach to first year students and help get them started, make connections, and get answers during their first year at Ohio State.
Through this experience I have learned a lot about myself and my view of the university and the world of higher education has been transformed. At the beginning of this position we had an extensive three week long training where we really focused on exploring ourselves and learned a lot about higher education and the theories behind it. My view of the world was transformed when I meet the diverse group of students that would be Peer Leaders with me. I thought that I knew who I was and what I valued, this group of people challenged my thinking and helped open my mind to new ways of thinking and different viewpoints.
I can honestly say that my relationships with my 32 fellow Peer Leaders and 8 members of the professional staff in the office of First Year Experience have transformed me in more ways than I even know. This group of people have come together with one purpose, to help first year students succeed at our university. Our adopted motto, “It’s not about us,” is truly something that we embody. It is also a motto that I want to adopt in my life, I want to live a life that is about helping others and not one that is focused only on self-gain and advancing my personal interests. Every time that I talk to one of my co-workers I learn something new and they continually challenge me to be a better person. These are the type of people that I want to be surrounded by throughout my life.
One activity that I feel played a major role in my transformation was our training session on strengths. I really enjoyed our focus on strengths and I learned about my strengths and how they come into play when working on a team that is composed of members that have different strengths. I never really understood how my strengths could be used to benefit not only myself, but others. One activity in particular that changed my understanding of myself was when we had to describe one of our strengths to 10 people and explain how it would come into play through our role as Peer Leaders. This was very difficult to me because many of my strengths fell into the executing category and I was the only person who did not have any relationship building strengths. My team members reassured me that my strengths were valuable and they were so kind.
Another activity that really transformed my thinking was learning about some higher education theories. I am a very strategic thinker and I like to see data and facts to prove things. This did just that for me and it helped me put my job into context and realize what a huge role I am going to play in many first year students college experience. It also made me realize how much Ohio State as a university has invested to make sure that the students are having the best college experience as possible. I never knew how much thought went behind each decision the university makes, and I now know that the students’ interests are taken into every decision that is made.
This transformation is very significant in my life. I have explored the world of higher education and I am now seriously considering a career in this field. I have talked to my supervisor about graduate school and other experiences that I could gain to learn more about higher education. This internship has now changed my professional goals and my future plans.
Most importantly though is that I now put others before myself and think about how my actions and decisions affect others. This position was supposed to be about me having an impact on first year students’ college experience, but I can honestly say that this position has made my college experience phenomenal and has changed my life. I have already formed friendships that I know will last a lifetime and will impact my life in unimaginable ways.