On November 20 I attended the STEP expo to see what projects others did in the past couple of years.

“STEP is the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program and it’s for all of the students who live on campus and are in their second year. With the STEP program as long as students go to the meetings and fill out the proposal students can earn up to a free $2,000 for any transformational experience that they want.

This advertisement to prospective students centers heavily on a $2,000 signature project. However, according to university officials, what this statement presents as merely boxes to check before receiving $2,000 in funding, is actually the core of STEP.

The program was founded with the broad goal of second-year success, according to university officials. Participants are required to complete a financial consulting meeting and three professional development co-curriculars of their choice.

The two main components of STEP, however, are group meetings within a “cohort” consisting of other STEP participants led by a faculty member, as well as the signature project, which is defined as a “transformational experience” that the student can earn up to $2,000 to complete. The project must fall into one of six categories: undergraduate research, education abroad, service learning, leadership, internships or creative and artistic endeavors.

STEP participants work to craft a proposal for their project throughout the year, pending approval by administration and provided the requirements of attending meetings, PDCs and financial consultation are met, the student will receive the money.

An analysis of university records showed that on average, 78.5 percent of STEP participants complete a signature project proposal and STEP students have, on average, a 3 percent higher retention rate.

Ohio State officials, though, argue that these numbers aren’t adequate measurements of success. The university instead places an emphasis on the cohort meetings and the student-faculty relationships they intend to foster.

The university’s emphasis on the group meetings is not reflected in faculty testimonials, student experience or the funding breakdown. They indicate that STEP’s primary focus is the signature project.

Both current and past participants also are required to attend the STEP Expo, an event highlighting the projects completed by the outgoing group. The expo is held twice a year and is the largest event put on by the program, adding to the public perception that the signature project is central to STEP.

STEP’s funding breakdown also indicates the program’s primary facet is the signature project.

Since the program’s inception in 2014, 70 percent of STEP’s total budget has been allocated toward signature projects. This amounts to $9.2 million out of a total $13.2 million.

Despite $13.2 million spent and five years of honing the program’s vision, the university seems to lack any clear mechanism for measuring the success of the program.

The university did provide partial data in the form of survey results from the year 2017. Despite requests for the data’s source and the number of participants interviewed, The Lantern was unable to attain such information.

The survey contained responses such as, “81% of students agree that being part of STEP is beneficial,” and “When asked whether they intend to complete their degree at Ohio State, 98.3% agree or strongly agree.”

The top two benefits students reported gaining from STEP “completing a proposal for and their experience in their Signature Project,” and “the fellowship for the Signature Project.”

The university identified faculty connections and peer communities as key determinants of second-year success, but instead, the program seems to revolve around a “transformational experience” and the Signature Project instead of the cohorts, which the university said was the core of the program.

Despite thousands of participants, half a decade of operation and millions spent, it’s impossible to measure STEP’s impact. The program was created to assist second-year students, however, the fact remains that there is little-to-no empirical evidence supporting whether it does so or not.”


Biology 4798, Scientific Roots in Europe

On October 8th I attended the “Biology 4798, Scientific Roots in Europe” Event, which is a study abroad program. I am not that interested in studying abroad, I was just curious about this particular program, since I am European.

The Scientific Roots in Europe program offers an opportunity for students to study science in a cross-cultural setting. The on-campus spring semester course is intended to give students a deeper understanding of the context in which significant discovery in the biological sciences occurred and continues to occur in England and France. In addition, students will further develop their skills in research and in oral and/or written presentations, and they will experience a different but comfortably accessible culture in London and Paris as the class visits sites discussed during the term. Students will research and discuss topics relevant to the history of biology, including the Royal Society, HMS Endeavour, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Kew Gardens and Cambridge University. After the first half of spring semester in Columbus, the group will spend spring break visiting traditional sites of historical and scientific significance such as the British Museum, Down House, the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle and other locations corresponding to the course topics. The course will resume after spring break and students will process their experience and complete a final project.


Travel Schedule:

  • Friday, March 6, 2020 (morning) Depart Columbus for London Heathrow airport
  • Saturday, March 7 Guided London walking tour and visit to Westminster Abbey; afternoon visits to British Museum and London Eye or Sky Garden
  • Sunday, March 8 Visit to Down House/Darwin Museum and tour of the village and cemetery
  • Monday, March 9 Guided tour of British Royal Society [free afternoon and evening]
  • Tuesday, March 10 Eurostar and local trains from London to Arbois, France
  • Wednesday, March 11 Guided walking tour of Arbois; Musée d’Art; Louis Pasteur’s House
  • Thursday, March 12 Train to Paris, Walking tour of Paris hotel neighborhood; Musée des Arts Métiers
  • Friday, March 13 Galerie de Paléontologie et d’Anatomie Comparée, Jardin des Plantes, Ménagerie, and associated resources; afternoon visit to Eiffel Tower
  • Saturday, March 14 Free Day
  • Sunday,March 15 Depart Paris Charles de Gaulle airport for Columbus (evening arrival)

Thanks to this informational session, It became a bit more clear how studying abroad works, but I do not think I am interested in studying abroad anymore. It is not because this session was bad, it is simply because I lived in Europe for 18 years, so I have already gained experience about how schools are in other countries. It might be interesting to study abroad on other continents where I have never been before, but I already have a lot on my plate, so I cannot really fit studying abroad into my schedule. My dream career is being a dentist in the U.S. Air Force, so I might have a chance to travel around the world!


References: Biology 4798 Informational Session Handout

Pay It Forward: 21st Annual Community Commitment

On Saturday, August 24th, 2019 I attended Pay It Forward’s 21st Annual Community Commitment, one of the largest single-day community service events held on a college campus. I also attended this event last year (see the first post on my page) where I write about my experiences as a volunteer at an animal shelter.

This year our group was assigned to a place called “Little Acorn Children’s Garden”, which is a natural, interactive children’s garden designed to teach health, happiness, and hope for a brighter future. Families can visit to learn, weed, and garden together, and most importantly this is a free service to families. Additionally, the organization that allowed us to volunteer here was the “Patches of Light”. Their mission is to assist families with critically and terminally ill children so that they can remain together during their hospitalizations and treatments. Their funding is used to pay for past-due mortgages, rent, and utilities. They provide phone cards, gas cards, grocery cards, and parking tokens. Many parents do not even have the comfort of knowing whether they can make it to the hospital on a daily basis. Patches of Light assists with emergencies such as auto repairs, housing for long-distance care, airline tickets, supporting families that stay at the Ronald McDonald House, extermination and/or purification items for bone-marrow patients’ homes and much more. They have assisted families throughout the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. They have also helped families from Africa, England, and Palestine.

What did our group do exactly to help? When we arrived at the scene, the whole garden looked pretty bad: There were weed and dead plants everywhere and as we learned most of the vegetables that grew in the garden got stolen. In no time, we transformed an abandoned-looking place into a nice-looking garden. We picked the rest of the ripe peppers, tomatoes, gourds, and eggplants and bagged them up. After that, we pulled all of the weeds out which just by itself made a huge difference. Another volunteer from a different group mowed the lawn, then we finally got rid of the dead plants finishing our job. Since we still had time to help with something, we emptied a barn, thoroughly cleaned it and reorganized it.

To be honest, I do not really like working in the garden, but it is always worth to help someone in need. Sadly, I do not think I will volunteer at this location again, since it is a 30-minute drive from campus, and I also do not have a car, which makes things more complicated.



ROTC Joint-Service Parade

On April 11, 2019, I volunteered at the ROTC Joint-Service Parade as an usher. But what is a Joint-Service Parade exactly? It is an event where members of Ohio State University’s ROTC programs march in uniform, salute and perform drill movements as part of an annual ceremonial presentation that dates back many years.

Why did I attend this ROTC event exactly? In one of my previous e-Portfolio articles, “The Forefront of Medicine: Life as an Army Physician” I wrote about how I got interested in ROTC, and why I considered joining one of the branches of the military, but back then I was not sure which one. After I wrote that post, I talked to a student who is in Air Force ROTC and is also in International Affairs at the same time. He then introduced me to the Air Force ROTC recruiting officer at Ohio State, so I could join at the start of the spring semester. Since I am a part of this program now, I decided that I wanted to volunteer at this awesome event, where all branches of Ohio State’s ROTC program participate.

The event took place on the Oval, and my job was basically to block one of the paths, so people don’t disturb the event by walking through the whole ceremony. Many would probably think that if someone sees at least a 100 people in military uniform performing a ceremony would go around the Oval for obvious reasons, but most people are just on their phone while walking and don’t realize what’s happening in front of their eyes. Every time this happened, I was the one who stopped that person and asked not to go through the ceremony.

I found it interesting that there is not much information about the parade on any of Ohio State’s ROTC websites, mostly those know about it who participate in this military program. Also, about 100 cadets participated in the event, which was hosted this year by the Air Force ROTC (it is hosted by a different branch every year).

Choosing & Using Sources-Cheryl Lowry Event

On Monday, February 25th, 2019 I attended an event at Thompson Library, where I had the opportunity to talk to the author (Cheryl Lowry) of the Choosing & Using Sources E-Book, which is a guide on how to conduct research. But before I write about my experiences with this event, I would like to mention a few things about the book.

I have never had to write a research paper, so this guide will definitely come in handy in the future. Although I already knew about most of the things listed in this guide, I learned about a lot of new rules when it comes to writing an essay. I found that I learned from two chapters the most; Chapter 2: Types of Sources, and Chapter 9: Making an Argument.

First, I would like to write about Chapter 2. Sources can be categorized by quantitative or qualitative information; objective or persuasive (and may be biased); scholarly, professional, popular publication; primary, secondary or tertiary source; and what format the source is in. Popular sources are mostly newspapers or magazines which are not very reliable sources (biased), professional articles are professional magazine articles which are meant for specific professions, and scholarly articles are for people who want to have a deeper understanding of a certain problem. People can also be used as sources, and it doesn’t mean that they have to have Ph.D.’s. For example, if you are researching homelessness, one of the experts could be a homeless person.

From these sources, you can get two types of information: Quantitative and Qualitative. Quantitative information is a measurable quantity, also called data. On the other hand, qualitative information involves a descriptive judgment instead of pure data. Although these statements are all useful, I believe the most important lessons to remember from this chapter, are that facts are not the same as opinions, and being objective. Opinions could be useful when convincing other people, but to stay objective and to avoid bias, opinions also need facts to back them up to make a solid argument, which brings me to my next point.

If you are making an argument, your goal is trying to convince others, which is a necessary skill for every professional job after college. One of the most important steps to make a quality argument is how you build up your essay. First, you should have reasons that your thesis is correct, or at least it is reasonable. Next, the evidence that supports each reason often occurs right after the reason the evidence supports. You should also acknowledge that some people have objections, reservations, counterarguments, or alternative solutions to your argument and a statement of each. Finally, having a response to each acknowledgment that explains why that criticism is incorrect is necessary. Sometimes you also have to concede a point you think is unimportant, if you cannot refute it.

With these thoughts in mind, I did not know what to expect before I stepped into the room, but I left only with positive experiences. First, I filled out a survey about the research guide, then I was given a riddle, which sadly I could not figure it out on time, but I was close to the solution. After that, we discussed what I thought of the book, and how the book could be improved.

Cheryl ended the event using the riddle she gave us as a metaphor of research: While doing research, you might find something new that has always been there, you just did not know about it. This is the most important thing that I have learned during the event.

Liyana-The African Superhero

In January 2019 I had the opportunity to see the movie “Liyana” and have a conversation with the producer, Aaron Kopp. The film is about a “Swazi girl who embarks on a dangerous quest to rescue her young twin brothers. This animated African tale is born in the imaginations of five orphaned children in Swaziland who collaborate to tell a story of perseverance drawn from their darkest memories and brightest dreams. Their fictional character’s journey is interwoven with poetic and observational documentary scenes to create a genre-defying celebration of collective storytelling.” /Rotten Tomatoes/

My English professor, Cathy Ryan told me about this opportunity, so I took advantage of it. I’ll be honest, when I watched the trailer before the movie, I thought that Liyana was going to be just a “bad literature movie”, that I probably would not like, so I only went because I have never had the opportunity to see a film producer in real life before. After watching it, my thoughts were a bit different. Without the conversation with Aaron Kopp, I would have probably skipped the whole event, and I also have the same opinion after seeing the film.

What I did not like is that the movie is not special at all when it comes to its story, it is just another tale of a superhero. Also, it is sad that the kids who created the story include an alcoholic parent, death, and rape, but other than that, there is nothing much the viewer can do with this information. Furthermore, the animations were as disappointing as in the trailer because they were basically just pictures of an animated world.

Continuing with the positive side, the movie itself is better than the trailer. It amazes me that kids who have created their own superhero have such a vivid imagination. Although the whole story is a cliché, I am sure that younger kids have a much better imagination than most of the adults. The part of the event I enjoyed the most was the director’s talk after the film, because — as I wrote before — I have never had the opportunity to attend something like this before. I did not ask any questions, but others did, so we did not just sit quietly staring at each other, which is a plus. There were some good and also bad questions, but it was enjoyable to see that the director answered every question in a professional way. I was also surprised to see that Aaron Kopp is a relatively young filmmaker because I expected someone who was in their sixties.

In conclusion, I am satisfied that I attended this event, since the film gave me new insights to the African life and culture, and of course I had my first opportunity to meet a real Hollywood producer, which was an awesome experience by itself!

Alexander Hamilton Society

On November 14thI attended a meeting hosted by the Alexander Hamilton Society. I am not interested in politics at all, but my roommate who is majoring in political science convinced me to go. He is a member since September of freshmen year, so I thought it was a good idea to try out something new. The meeting was held in Thompson Library in a conference room. What surprised me was that the meeting was held by students, and not by teachers/professors. During the meeting, we talked about President Trump’s visit to France, Midterm Elections results and foreign policy, OPEC oil cuts and technology in the military.


(Trump was more a focus last year because he was a special guest of French President Emmanuel Macron at the annual Bastille Day parade. This time, Trump was among more than 60 world leaders attending events marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. Paris has paid more attention to the solemn war memorial than to the American president. Democratic presidents like Barack Obama tend to be more popular with them than Republican ones because of their left-leaning politics. There is something about Trump – the avatar of an “America First” foreign policy who has clashed with Macron and threatened to pull support from the NATO military alliance – that really drives the French up a wall.

Oil markets are oversupplied and need active management by OPEC. The oversupply is largely in the light crude barrels produced by the U.S. as Trump pushes OPEC to keep prices low. Global markets are wary about trade dispute woes ahead of the G-20 meeting in Argentina on November 30thand December 1st, and OPEC meeting in Austria on December 6th.

A controversial Google contract with the U.S. military will not be renewed next year after internal and public outcry against it. The program itself was not particularly distasteful or lucrative but served as a foot in the door for the company to pursue more government work that may very well have been chief executive Jeff Bezos has defended his company’s effort to aid the US military with its advanced technology, after the bidding for government contracts by the tech industry triggered a recent wave of employee protests at some companies.)


In this group most people were conservative, but there was an extremely liberal student who had an unusual idea. She said it would be great to let China take over the world so there would be no more wars and world peace could be achieved. I was amazed that her opinion was treated with a lot of respect by the members of the Alexander Hamilton Society, and they explained why this would be a not so great idea. But she could not be convinced, and she ended up leaving. I am independent when it comes to politics, so it was good to learn a few things about the conservative side. Next time maybe I will go to a liberal meeting to compare the 2 sides.

The Forefront of Medicine: Life as an Army Physician

On October 16, I attended an event presented by the United States Army “The Forefront of Medicine: Life as an Army Physician” where a pediatric ophthalmologist, Maj James D Bowsher told us about his experiences as a doctor in the military.

The reason I was interested in the presentation is that I want to be a dentist, but dental school is not cheap, so I was looking for options as a freshman how I could reduce my graduate school expenses. One day I read about the HSPS scholarship that the Army, Navy and also the Air Force offers for people who are considering joining the military as a health professional. I read about this scholarship more and more, and on October 16 while I was walking to class I saw an Army stand that advertised this same exact scholarship. After some consideration, I talked to the recruiter who recommended me to go to this event which was in the evening that day. I also had some questions about ROTC, so I thought it would be a bad idea to miss out on this opportunity.

During the first half of the presentation, they told us about the scholarship in general: It pays for full tuition, books, $2200 monthly stipend, $20000 sign-on bonus, officer’s pay during fall breaks. This all looks good on paper, but I was more interested in the experiences of a current doctor in the Army. In the second half of the presentation a pediatric ophthalmologist, Maj James D Bowsher told us about the pros and cons when joining the military. He also took advantage of this scholarship when he was a sophomore in medical school. After graduation, he had to complete a basic training which he described as “fun” because doctors get less intensive training than real soldiers. Other than waking up early and doing physical training, he mostly played golf and rode his bike. Then he had to do a residency, but thankfully dentists are not required to do that, so my path is going to be a little bit different if I stick to my plan. But what is the working environment like compared to civilian hospitals? The answer is, pretty much the same, except that patients wear camo. One downside that he talked about was that the Army might send doctors to a base where they don’t really want to go, but at least they explore the world while they work as a health professional.

According to Dr. Bowsher, he did not regret his decision to join the Army, and he is still serving today. While giving the presentation, he was enthusiastic, and he seemed to have many positive experiences with the Army. After the presentation, he also taught us suturing techniques, which I thought was a very nice gesture. When the event was over, I felt more confident that I wanted to join the military sooner or later. I’m still not sure what branch I should join, but I’ll probably apply for ROTC in the next few months.

Pay It Forward: 21st Annual Community Commitment

On Saturday, August 25th, 2018 I attended Pay It Forward’s 21st Annual Community Commitment, one of the largest single-day community service events held on a college campus.
First everyone was sent into a big hall where the groups were assigned, then I took a bus with my group to a cat shelter called “Cat Welfare”. I volunteered at an animal shelter called “Noé” in Hungary before, so I already had something to compare it to. I can definitely say that shelters in the United States are much better. In Hungary, the conditions for keeping animals are unacceptable: everything is dirty, the cages are small and dark, and a lot of times there is not enough food to feed every “resident”. In contrast, I have not been to a single animal shelter in America where I could find anything bad, but seeing how many cats end up in shelters breaks my heart. Shelters usually have to take care of hundreds of cats, and most of the time they do not have any space left to take in more animals. This is a big problem that could easily be solved if there was a strict limit on animal breeding.
I was excited when we got to Cat Welfare because I love cats, and I also missed my cat who I could not take with me to college. My cat was adopted from Pet Smart and later my family adopted a dog from another shelter. I already had two cats and two dogs before, but this was the first time they came from a shelter. If anyone is still debating whether adoption is a good option, I can only recommend it. The day we brought our cat home, we could see how happy she was to have a real home. I have the same experience with our dog: When we brought him home and took his collar off, he looked at us for a few seconds, then he started running inside the house and licked everyone who stood in his way. From these experiences, I would not think twice about adoption again.
At Cat Welfare, there were many rooms that served different purposes. There was one big room for the “social cats”, one smaller room for the “shy cats”, another for the kitties, one for the newcomers, and sadly a room for cats with cancer. I liked that we could interact with basically all of the cats, even the anti social ones.
My group was divided into sub groups and were assigned different tasks. My job was to unfold and place newspapers onto a shelf, another group had to trim trees, and the third group packed cat food. When we were done with our tasks, we could play with the cats all morning, but mostly we were asked to play with the “shy cats” so they get used to having people around. I tried to play with them, but it did not work out that well: One of them bit my finger so it started bleeding, but other than that I had a great time volunteering at Cat Welfare, and I would definitely do it again!