Sea Kayaking

For my project, I went to Everglades National Park and 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Florida through the Outdoor Adventure Center sea kayaking trip. These parks contain a variety of organisms, many of which could have gone extinct had it not been for conservation efforts in the area. I photographed multiple different wildlife species located within the park in order to motivate others to see the importance of conservation.

Prior to my project, I researched some of the endangered species of the Everglades as well as a little bit of the history of the area. I knew about human interaction that caused many species to become endangered as well as conservation efforts that were put into place to help protect and save those species. Knowing about these efforts and reading about them before leaving for my project, I thought I already understood the fragility of an ecosystem. However, reading about it and seeing the organisms that are being impacted are completely different. I thought I understood the importance of conservation before but after seeing species that were impacted and living among beautiful landscapes that could have been destroyed I have a new, deeper appreciation for conservation.

One species of bird that became well known in the Everglades area is the snail kite. The only place in the United States where snail kites are found is in the Everglades. Due to disruptions of water flow in this area, snail populations were greatly impacted. The snails of this area make up a majority of the snail kite’s diet so when snail populations were influenced, it caused the snail kites of Florida to become endangered.  One day we found an extremely small snail riding on one of the kayaks and seeing it really put the importance of conservation into perspective. It was clear that human impact could greatly influence the ability of this tiny creature to survive. However, looking at this snail I could only think of its huge impact. Without this snail, the snail kite can not survive here. Something barely noticeable could have been wiped out by our negligence and as a result caused many other species to go extinct.

While taking my photographs, I wanted to make sure I was not focusing solely on animals since the plants and other organisms play such a huge role in maintaining the ecosystem. I attempted to take one photograph of a plant species for every animal species I photographed. Then while camping on one of the islands, I found a single purple flower growing from a vine and thought it would be a great organism to include. However, while I was taking the picture a butterfly flew into the flower and pollinated it and another followed soon after. Later on I found a flowering cactus and as I began photograph it I noticed a bee flying around the flower and landing inside.

In this moment I realized how foolish it was for me to try to photograph animals and plants separately as a means to show the importance of conservation. Conservation is about preserving ecosystems not just individual organisms so showing them as individual organisms devalues the importance of conservation. Some people might not care if a species of butterfly goes extinct but if it does pollination could become impossible for the flowering plant. Other people might not be bothered by a species of cactus being wiped out completely but when it causes bee populations to decline more importance can be weighed to the cactus. The entire ecosystem of the Everglades is dependent on interactions among species like this which is why it is so fragile. When these interactions are interrupted or stopped, it can be devastating.

Without the conservation efforts that have been put into place, many species around the world could have gone extinct from human impact. Reading and hearing about the importance of conservation has always made me a firm supporter of conservation efforts but seeing the fragility and interplay of organisms within an ecosystem has had a much larger impact on me. I no longer just agree with conservation but have sought out ways I can help currently as well as influenced my career plans to take a conservation based approach.

Creativity in Clothing

My STEP project was to design and sew my own pieces of clothing for both professional settings and casual settings and to develop my clothing construction skills. I was able to cover a portion of the purchase of my own sewing machine and buy materials for my designs using STEP funds.

Clothing is an important part of how we present ourselves to the world. How you dress can be an important nonverbal cue to how you are feeling or how you want to be perceived. Throughout this project I had to come to terms with my style and how I wanted to be perceived by others in a multitude of settings. I pride myself in having a rather serious personality, but I wanted to show through my clothing choices that I also have creativity and a lighter side to my personality that I oftentimes have trouble expressing. This project allowed me to actively choose how I wanted to present myself in both professional and nonprofessional situations.

The first part of the STEP project I completed was to make the casual pieces. I wanted to have a lot of fun with the casual pieces. I have been sewing for many years, but always for competitions that are very construction-focused without much room for deviation from a printed pattern. By throwing away a strict pattern, I was able to express myself more fully . The piece that I am most pleased with is an apron. This has both a practical aspect and a fun aspect. I spend a lot of time baking and cooking, so having an apron was essential. Normally I would have made a solid colored, relatively plain apron, but because this was just for me and I was using STEP funds, I really went out of my way to find a piece of fabric that spoke to me. The end result was a cute dachshund-themed apron that not only shows my love of animals but also helps me get in touch with my creative side.

The other part of my STEP project was to create a professional outfit for future interviews and professional events. For these settings I wanted to have something that showed my professional side, but also made me stand out a little bit. For this, I was able to deviate from a standard navy-colored wool skirt and add a bit of flair to it by contrasting with peach-colored details. I made a cream shirt as well, and added a bit of pleating around the neck to make it stand out. Altogether I was able to create the desired professional-yet-unique look that I was going for. It just so worked out that another of my casual pieces, a scarf, went well with the outfit and added another fun element that can make the professional-looking outfit into something I could wear more casually as well.

Making these pieces of clothing helped me to realize how I wanted to be seen. Each design decision I made revealed a little but of my character. Anyone who pays attention to how other people dress will be able to figure out a lot about me: my interests, my personality, how I want to portray myself. I was able to really express myself through this medium and develop my skills in the meantime. Sometimes working without much of a pattern was a challenge, but the results were some of my better pieces. Through this project I was able to explore my personality and develop my creative sense.

My STEP project will benefit me in my future plans. Not only was I able to get a better sense of how I want to convey myself to the world and grow as a seamstress, but the clothing and accessories I created will help me in upcoming endeavors. I plan to go to veterinary school, so having a professional-looking outfit will be good for school interviews. By developing my design and technical sewing skills and purchasing my own sewing machine, I am giving myself a tool set to make more outfits for the future and save myself a lot of time, money, and frustration at not being able to find exactly what I want at stores.  I have learned how to express myself more fully through sewing.

Nature Photography in Colorado

My signature project was a photography trip to Colorado where I could practice landscape photography techniques. This trip also allowed me to build and diversify my portfolio.

Going on this trip to Colorado allowed me to take photos of a landscape that I do not normally have access to. Through this process I got to understand how much more goes into this style of photography than just the shot.  I also gained an appreciation for how much effort landscape photographers have to put in just for each photo.  After a week traveling to many different parks, I have many new photos and a mini collection.  My portfolio and my skills have improved after having this experience.

The mountains and rocky landscape provided different challenges than Midwestern landscapes.  I learned to adjust my lighting settings to fit the harsh contrasts off of rock formations.  I also tried to practice at different times for different kinds of lighting. I found that this is more difficult than I would have thought because it requires lots of planning beforehand. This was something that I was not familiar with prior to the project.

The best light is often in the early morning so to catch the light at the right time requires knowledge of the area in order to know when the best time of day is for those specific rock formations. Additionally, I had to know how long it would take to get to the location and where the best location is all before leaving for the park.  It also means getting out before dawn so that there is enough time to set up.

Another thing that is unique to landscape photography that I did not realize prior to this trip is that it is more difficult to get a lot of unique shots because you have to travel to a whole new park to get a new mountain or rock formation for the subject. All of these things I was able to learn through practicing in Colorado and will assist me in my future photography endeavors.

I was able to escape my photography comfort zone and try a new style out.  Normally I stick to either macro or abstract photography. I found that it was difficult to leave this mindset while shooting but the landscape in Colorado helped me more easily get away from this and look for a different point of view than I normally would.


Idiot Went to Nashville: A Reflection

In June, I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee with the aim of fully immersing myself in the city, particularly in its legendary music scene. While there, I wrote a daily travel blog called “Idiot Goes to Nashville”, which can be found at Currently, I am in the process of taking information from the blog and the notes I took onsite, and interweaving the observational and more personal aspects of the experience together into a longer form and more cohesive piece of writing.

When I proposed this project in April 2016, I was on the precipice of entering my first semester in the journalism major, which I would start pursuing in addition to my English major in August 2016. At the time, the idea of entering into the world of journalism absolutely terrified me. Having started out my college career as solely an English major, I was able to develop my skills in writing without having to leave my comfort zone all that much. As I went through my first two years of college, I found that I really enjoyed writing non-fiction, but then realized that, unless I just wanted to write about myself all the time, learning how to interview, and essentially just talk to people, was a very important step to take going forward. Being an incredibly shy person, the concept of me going out and talking to people to write something was absolutely terrifying. So, in addition to the Journalism coursework that I’d start to take the following academic year, I wanted to pursue a project that would both help me to face the fears I have toward the more social aspects of nonfictional writing, and on a creative level, would allow me to take what I’ve learned on both the creative and journalistic sides of writing and mesh them together into something that is a blend of both. Essentially, I wanted to work to develop a substantial piece of writing that is centered in the world of creative nonfiction, but with the more concrete edge that certain journalistic writing practices would provide.

The biggest transformation that I experienced over the course of completing this project was in the way that I view myself, and particularly my confidence about my ability to reconcile my anxieties with the kinds of writing that I want to do moving forward. This project came with its challenges, some expected and some unexpected, but the fact that I was able to objectively handle and adapt to these challenges and changes that came along has taught me a lot about myself. I’ve learned that being scared of things doesn’t mean that I’m actually unable to do those things. I’ve also learned that I have the ability to handle and adapt to changes in circumstance that will inevitably occur during the course of a long-term project such as this one, and that change in the creative process can actually be a good thing. On a practical level, I’ve learned a lot about how to travel on my own, learned how to blog and make my own website, and how to take notes and what kinds of writing practices work or don’t work when trying to write something substantial about a travel experience.

At the time that I proposed this project, the big finale of my project was to go to Bonnaroo, a massive music festival located just outside of Nashville in Manchester, TN. But, because I proposed this project about a year before I actually was set to begin, I was unable to foresee that the CMA’s and Bonnaroo would be during the same weekend in 2017, and as a result, hotel prices in Nashville skyrocketed. Since hotel prices the week of Bonnaroo and the CMA’s ended up being more than my entire budget for this project, I had to change the dates that I was going to the week after. This change in dates meant that I just lost a big aspect of what I originally planned to write about. I was forced to kind of change my angle, which originally was going to be more centered on how the mainstream and underground aspects of the Nashville music scene intersect, to one that more concerns how Nashville’s music scene looks like to an outsider on a normal week. The project ended up being less focused on the idealized, hyped-up version of what Nashville would’ve been on the week of Bonnaroo and the CMA’s, and more focused on what Nashville actually looks like, which I think ultimately served my project well. This significant change to my original plans for this STEP project really scared me at first, and I was unsure about how I could adapt to these changes and still come out the other end with a solid product. Adapting to these changes in logistics and to the reality check in regards to actually being able to get pre-planned, sit-down interviews when not writing for a specific publication, was definitely a challenge since I tend to kind of freak out when unexpected things like this happen. Keeping this in mind, the fact that I was objectively able to handle the situation and come up with a solution really helped me see that I’m a lot better at adapting to changes and coming up with solutions that I originally thought.

Even though it was difficult to get pre-planned, sit-down interviews for this project, I did find that I was actually able to get a lot of cool insight and information from observations, or from just going up and talking to people. Even having a casual conversation with someone can be pretty scary for me, but through this project I learned a lot about how to make this aspect of writing nonfiction easier. It’s really helpful content-wise to actually go out and talk to people and, through working on this project, I’ve learned that people are generally okay with just chatting about something, particularly about something that they’re interested in. For example, one of the things that I did while in Nashville was spend a day going to a ton of record stores in the area. In one store, the person working there was playing something really cool that I hadn’t heard before, and when I checked out, I asked if he had any copies of what he was playing in the store. He said he didn’t, but instead he sold me his personal copy of the record. After that, we just kind of chatted about music for a bit, since we had similar tastes. This kind of interaction wasn’t really too groundbreaking or anything, but it was easy to approach, since it was just a casual conversation about music, and I ended up getting a lot of good information about the store I visited, and some personal details about someone who works there.

Overall, the main things I’ve gained through this experience is essentially the knowledge that you can still get a lot of important information out of causal interactions and through observing people when you visit a place you’ve never been to before. Through some of the challenges I faced leading up to this project, I found out that I actually am able to be fairly flexible with things, and that it sometimes can be good when things don’t work out exactly as planned. When things go differently than planned, that doesn’t necessarily mean that things went wrong. Also, the fact that now I have some experience in putting some of these ideas in action, my confidence in my ability to handle these kinds of situations in the future has increased a lot. Its still a process, but this project has really helped me to see that I’m actually capable of a lot more than I originally thought I was.

My personal and professional transformation in terms of self-confidence as a result of my STEP Signature Project is incredibly significant for my life moving forward, particularly considering that I am going to be graduating college in a year. I’ve been studying how to write for the entirety of my college career, and having the opportunity to apply the things I’ve learned through my coursework to a project that I’d be unable to do in a classroom setting is something that is absolutely invaluable. On a purely practical level, as I continue to work on the long form piece of writing that is developing from my travel experience, at the end, I will have a writing sample of substantial length and quality. Also, if I later write for a publication where I have to go to an event, or travel “on assignment”, I can now say that I already have some experience with writing in that way, which will be very important as I continue to develop my writing career after graduation. Most importantly though, I’ve learned that I’m actually capable of doing quite a lot, and that just because I’m nervous about certain things, doesn’t mean that I’m unable to do them.

Cooking & Baking My Way Through Junior Year

Over this past year, I had the opportunity to take a variety of cooking and baking classes through a few different mediums. I was also able to purchase a Kitchen Aid mixer with a spiralizer attachment so that I could further cultivate my skills at home.

By attending these cooking classes, I was given easy access into getting to know a crowd of people (mostly women) who share at least one thing in common with me – that is the love of creating a good meal! The way cooking classes are set up, I ended up working with one to three other participants to create the meal or dish of the class. Being in small groups, it was fun to have the opportunity to get to know a few people fairly well. While in these groups, I was intentional as I could be to ask good questions to get to know them better.  I had the opportunity to talk with many different personalities, with many different walks of life. Through this I was able to see how fortunate I am to have grown up in a stable family and in a country that allows me to pursue my dreams. I learned that life truly is short, and we must enjoy it and make the most of the time that we have.

Perhaps the most transformational for me was meeting many people who grew up in other countries and came to the US in young adulthood. I met 4-5 of these ladies, and it was interesting to hear how it was a dream for them to move to the US. As an immigrant child (my dad moved here from Italy when he was 20), I loved hearing their background stories and learning what traditional dishes are to their respective countries. One sweet and gentle woman, Ervila, I got to talk to the most as it was just the two of us in a group. She grew up in Bulgaria and had moved here with her husband shortly after getting married. They moved here because the “opportunities are endless” and wanted their kids to grow up in this environment. Now her daughter is in her 20’s and works with victims of sex trafficking all over the world.

I also met one lady who was diagnosed with terminal cancer who was living up her last couple months of life. This was the third time she had been diagnosed with cancer and the doctors promised her it would be the last. It was so humbling to see this lady, sick and worn out from pain, still working diligently to enjoy the life that she has left. Not wanting to be pitied, she worked with her might to participate as much as she could and to enjoy what may be her last cooking class. I admired this woman’s will to work and the fact that she wasn’t just working to fight through another day, but fighting to enjoy it.

In the classes I also had the chance to learn brief histories of the cultures from where our food came from. For example I took a baking class where we made German Chocolate Cake and I was surprised to learn that the recipe was created by a homemaker in Texas in the 1800s! The only reason it is called German Chocolate Cake is because instead of using typical baking chocolate, a different type of chocolate, called German chocolate, was used. German chocolate is almost a mix of baking chocolate and milk chocolate as it is sweeter than semisweet chocolate, but still has the properties of it. This is just one example of how the history greatly impacted my view of the recipe.

Through this opportunity I had a chance to learn how to relate to others well, as well as continue to grow my love for the art behind cooking and baking. It was eye opening and so enjoyable to be around people who have the same passion as I do, yet come from completely different walks of life. I cultivated a skill of talking with people much older than me with many different experiences, and am confident this will come in handy as I prepare to enter into the business world. My love for cooking grew as I began to appreciate the different flavors and styles of cooking that each culture provides. I am eager for the day when I will be able to host dinner parties or perhaps teach my own cooking classes! Thank you for this great opportunity.

Brewing Science

Name – Tucker Bade

Project Category: Artistic & Creative Endeavors

1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.
Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.
My STEP Signature Project consisted of studying the brewing process, and eventually brewing beer on my own. By gradually building up the complexity of my brewing technique, I went from brewing using concentrated extracts to brewing directly from grain and hops.

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

Through researching and engaging in the brewing process, I have learned how to really apply the information that I study. Through classes alone, this is rarely possible, because even projects in class generally have a structure/pattern to follow. In the case of brewing, I started with no foreknowledge of what I would be doing, and built myself up to brewing beer from scratch. This transformation required lots of research in order to begin, but ultimately led to trial and error. In engaging in the brewing process, I found that I had developed a passion for something that I had never done before. This is something that could not be taught in a classroom alone. My brewing experience also gave me the opportunity to develop relationships with professors and TA’s who were interested in my brewing project. I was able to relate some of the information I learned in order to brew to my organic chemistry classes, and was able to discuss brewing with both my professors and teaching assistant. Furthermore, working with a professor in the field of food science allowed me to build a relationship with a professional in the world of brewing. Besides professional relationships, my STEP Signature Project has helped me to create stronger personal relationships. Because many of my friends and family members are aware of my project, people often requested “tours” of the brewing process. Through this, I was able to spend a lot of time with family and friends either explaining the process or actually brewing with them. This has helped  me to feel much more at home in Columbus, especially because of the vibrant brewing community the city hosts.
3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?
Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.
Throughout my project, I was fortunate enough to be able to work with a professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology. Though my project was primarily carried out through research into each step, questions about how/why certain procedures were followed cropped up occasionally. Having a resource with so much knowledge on the brewing process and the chemistry and biology behind it was tremendously helpful. Also, having just turned 21 a month before my first brew day, it was good to have someone with a better palate to critique my finished product, and give pointers on things I could change. For me, this was a very unique relationship to be able to have: it isn’t every day that you get to share a beer you made yourself with a professor who teaches brewing science. Furthermore, as a result of this project, I have discovered the brewing science class at OSU, and will be taking it this fall.
Another key aspect of my project was the act of brewing. Being able to bring my research to life was a fascinating experience in which I had to allow myself to fail often, and learn to correct my errors. This experience has been unlike anything any of my classes have prepared me for – no longer was my work only on paper. For me, this was a very important experience. I have always been very hands-on, and being able to see the project through to the end satisfied my need for education to have practicality. In doing this, my passion for brewing grew, and pushed me to work harder in my classes, such as biology and organic chemistry, that helped me to understand more about the brewing process.
 Finally, I believe that brewing has made me feel much more at home in Columbus. Through sharing the brewing process with friends, I have been able to build deeper relationships with people who I otherwise would only be acquaintances to. Also, the city of Columbus is host to dozens of micro-breweries (and a larger brewery as well), and a lively brewing community. It has been a wonderful experience to talk with brewers in the Columbus area, and to learn from their experience.
4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.
In the future, I hope to use my education at OSU to pursue a career in manufacturing food on an industrial scale. Through brewing, I have learned a significant amount about food safety and manufacturing. Hopefully, brewing at OSU will be a “foot in the door” at a company that aligns with my interests. Outside of my professional goals, brewing gave me a new interest in biology and increased my interest in organic chemistry – yeast are fascinating organisms, and it is interesting to be able to look at them through the lenses of both biology and chemistry. I believe that my interest in brewing intensified my interest in both of these topics, urging me to work harder in class, and delve deeper into the topics than I would have otherwise.

Jennie McAndrew; Creating a Theatre Camp

My STEP Signature Project was the creation, coordination, and execution of a five-day-long summer camp that focused on using theatre as a way to bring community to incoming high school freshmen. After working with the Gahanna Lincoln High School theatre program for 18 months in preparation for the camp, in June 2017, the camp took place.  After four days of camp activities, the students performed a short production for their loved ones and the community.

At the beginning of my STEP project, I was in my second year of college, while I am now entering my fourth. My project was created from my love of theatre, a passion I had yet to explore at the collegiate level.  I was convinced that I had to leave it behind after high school to pursue my academic interests; however, my STEP leader and cohort encouraged me to take a risk with my project.  Ultimately, this artistic and creative endeavor, for me, was about taking risks.  I had been very cautious in my schooling, taking the coursework I was told to, applying as soon as I was able for my Communication Analysis and Practice major, and powering through GEs to ensure I graduated on time.

While I still maintain that diligence in my academic, professional, and personal life, deciding on my STEP project was the first step I took in exploring learning beyond the classroom.  Though they were not required for my degree, I began to challenge myself by taking theatre classes.  I was reminded of my love of theatre while also realizing how it could be incorporated into my passion for behavioral science research. My outlook on how my passions could be incorporated into my academics and my future was widened throughout the course of this project.

In the 18 months leading up to my STEP project, I brainstormed with my STEP cohort and leader about the end goal for my project. Though it seemed daunting, I knew I wanted to ultimately execute a summer camp for incoming freshmen at GLHS.  After a lot of encouragement, I finally took the step to start making my dreams a reality.  I spent many days, weeks, and months collaborating with my high school theatre teacher and the GLHS International Thespian Society chapter to develop the summer camp.  While at times I had doubt that the reality would ever match up with my vision, the GLHS Theatre Department always believed in our shared values and unique abilities.

At the beginning of 2017, armed with both a vision and a plan, I contacted faculty members at Gahanna middle schools.  Though I expected hesitation, they too bought into the vision of using theatre to connect students.  With their incredible support and dedication, I was able to get in contact with twenty rising freshmen for the 2017-2018 school year who were interested in the camp.  From there, I developed a lesson plan for the camp, focusing on all aspects of the theatre experience.  The lesson plan was spread out over four days, and included open discussion, improv activities, acting lessons, set building, scene work, and trust building.  At the end of the week, all of these lessons would come together for a final performance,

While being in charge of coordinating the camp allowed me to practice skills in organization, flexibility, and imagination, the transformation I experienced truly resulted from the relationships I built with others.  The ITS leaders were dedicated to this project, not only because they believed in the theatre program, but because they believed in me.  I earned their trust and respect, which made me even more determined to succeed.  My high school theatre teacher has always been a mentor to me, and she made it clear every step of the way that this project was my own.  Though she was there for support, she trusted me make to all of the decisions.  These relationships helped me find my confidence in myself and my abilities.

Ultimately, the greatest relationship I developed over the course of this project was with the students attending the camp.  On the first day, they arrived timid, skeptical, and reserved; but over the course of the week, they too began to buy into my vision.  They warmed up to one another, willing to take risks and make mistakes and have fun.  Their original performance, on a set they had built themselves, brought tears to my eyes.  Their creativity and talent blew me away, and I could not have been more proud of them.  While my mentors and peers had helped me find confidence, the students had helped me find joy.

Though this project, dedicated to my love of theatre, did not make me change my major or switch career paths, it reminded me the lessons theatre can teach. By allowing myself to work on something I was passionate about, rather than something that was easy or required, I gained valuable attributes that I can carry with me in all aspects of my life:  confidence and joy.  I now strive to find joy in my academic endeavors and display confidence in my personal decisions; but ultimately, I conclude this project more excited than ever for my future.  As I am entering my last year of undergrad, I will have the confidence to apply to grad schools that I believe will bring me joy.  I accept the challenges ahead of me, and I cannot wait to look back a year from now on how my STEP project helped me in my final semesters.  When I am a behavioral science researcher, I intend to approach each task with confidence and joy.


Sunny Kwok Yoga Instructor License

My STEP Signature Project gave me the opportunity to dive deep into the art of Yoga in the pursuit of a yoga instructor’s license with the Samyoga Institute. In this 10 month process, I met with a class of 16 students for one weekend (hereby termed Yoga Weekend) a month, 10 hours a day for a total of 200 hours of yogic instruction. Unlike most other programs, Samyoga Institute requires that their teachers-in-training complete interactive assignments (IAs) between our monthly meetings. In addition, in the second half of the program, we are required to complete an “Internship” where we tested our skills by teaching an 8-week yoga class! Finally, at our final 10th Yoga Weekend, the 16 of us graduated, receiving our Yoga Diploma, fully-certified.

My first day in class was a torrent of emotions. Coming in, I had a very misconstrued image of the true identity of yoga. My first interactions with yoga was a class I took at the RPAC in the fall of my sophomore year here at OSU, and what’s more it was a Power Yoga class (which I now know to be a Vinyasa). These sessions are much more dynamic, and at OSU they are aiming to be a good workout more than anything else. My image of yoga was just that, simply a fun way to workout, exercise that keeps me entertained for an hour and a half. Additionally, I imagined yoga to be a sort of skeleton key to unlock the degrees of motion within my joints. Sitting in my first class, I thought about what I wanted to gain personally from this process: strengthening my body, instruction for safely performing a larger variety of yoga poses, and also a dramatic increase in the range of my flexibility. Little did I know how limited my mind was on that first day.

Looking around the room I saw 15 other students, many of which were much older than me (averaging in the late-30’s, early 40’s). As a matter of fact, I later realized that I was actually the youngest student that’s been admitted into the program. As my mentor often laments, Yoga has become more a trend for the more rich and affluent population. Here I was, a poor college student sitting in the midst of entrepreneurs, city councilwomen, school principles, jewelers, practicing psychiatrists, the list goes on and on. These were largely people who have settled in, started (even finished) raising families, and are successful in their life; people who are prepared to gain their yoga license to add to their arsenal of abilities and knowledge. I was more than a little intimidated in this room full of people who weren’t just older, but way more experienced in both yoga and in life.

As the year progressed, however, I found my mind expanding in the most unexpected of ways. First and foremost, my relationship with my fellow teachers-in-training easily broke through my initial fearful first impressions. As a part of the program, we were split into four “family groups” of four students each. This setup worked to bring us together quickly, as well as provide us with an immediate means of support and communication between the monthly yoga weekends. It didn’t take long for my initial stereotypes against age to disintegrate due to the respect and comradery from every single student in the program. It took me longer than I’m willing to admit to understand that in our situation, everyone was on the same boat. Regardless of how much knowledge of yoga the other students came in with, we were all there to learn and enhance our understanding. Once that realization struck me, I became much more comfortable and much more productive during our weekends.

Without doubt, the most difficult part about my project was absorbing the ridiculously large amount of knowledge that our mentors were trying to impart to us. It comes as no surprise to me now to hear that some yogis spend years in training in order to truly be considered a master of yoga. In order to earn the first level of RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher), teachers must complete an accredited 200-hour program. 200 hours is barely any time to dig into yoga, and the more we learn about anything, the more we realize how little we know! Furthermore, this program’s focus is also on the aspect of teaching yoga to others. A large portion of the program was understanding how the human body functions, moves, as well as how one might cause harm to it. As yoga instructors, students entrust us with their bodies, and we are tasked with maintaining and/or improving their body, mind, and soul. I’ve found that I love the style of learning required in practicing yoga. It’s simple really, for how can we understand the movement of the body better than simply experiencing it ourselves? Learning with Samyoga always included lectures (Anatomy, History, Derivations), personal and group practices (Asana, Prana/Mantra, Meditation), and discussions (Family Groups, IAs, Ethics). This combination allowed me to truly integrate what I’ve learned, in a way that I’ve rarely encountered in the US education system. Their teaching methods solidified the knowledge into my mind without a lot of noticeable efforting from my end, simply because of how naturally the information was digested.

Before long, I got used to the groove of our Yoga Weekends. Then, half the year passed and it was time for us to begin our “Internships”. Suddenly, we were required to apply our knowledge to people other than ourselves! I decided to run an 8-week program in my residence hall at OSU (I’m an RA), Balancing your College Chakras to reduce anxiety and increase self-awareness. The time required in planning and preparing for just the first day was easily 50 hours within itself. I had to advertise my event, work with student housing to reserve a space four two whole months, rent equipment from the RPAC, write-up a draft of my lesson plans for my mentor, the list goes on and on… Waiting in my reserved space that first day was very unrepresentative of the nature and goal of my internship, I was sweating and anxious thinking about things like: Will people show up? What if I forget something important? What if I hurt someone? Can I pull off that relaxing and soft yoga voice? When the first students began to show up, my nerves decided to amp up another level. My introduction was scripted, but I could feel the shakiness of my voice and I couldn’t help wonder if I might not be able to do this. However, when the music started and I dimmed the lights, my education instinctively took over, and to my surprise, my voice automatically became firm and gentle. After my first class, the prep time dropped (hitting about 20 hours a week), and my class continued to grow. My students begin to warm up to me, and to my absolute ecstasy, start to ask me questions! It was a chance for me to truly prove to myself that I have learned something from my commitment to this project. I soon realize that I can confidently answer most of my students questions, and what’s more, I can confidently point them toward resources that can provide more detailed explanations if I didn’t clearly know the answer. Most importantly, I’m no longer afraid to be simply say “I don’t know” in the face of the unknown. It’s safe to say that I’ve become more comfortable with my strengths and limitations.

Throughout this process, I constantly felt surges of discomfort and unfamiliarity. Every time I conquer a mountain, I find myself face-plant against the next peak, each taller than the next. While I don’t believe many people would claim to enjoy the feeling of being outside of their comfort zone, I can say that I’ve become more open-minded and less stressed in these situations. I’ve always seen myself as more of a go-with-the-flow person in the game of life, but this project has definitely challenged my willingness to simply flow in any direction life pushes me. I’ve learned to set boundaries, to understand and push my limitations in a productive and safe manner. This is a skill that I believe will be invaluable in pursuing any goals in my future; it’s important to be able to recognize your own edges before you go tumbling over it.

On a different note, I did indeed find an improvement in my flexibility, and it is just as dramatic as I had hoped for. However, I know understand what it means to be truly flexible, both physically and mentally. To be physically flexible entails that you’re mentally prepared to adjust your posture in any pose to best suit your body structure. Yoga is meant to help you find balance and clarity of mind, a predecessor to meditation, as well as a great form of exercise; yoga is NOT straining the body to match those perfect models on magazine covers. There is no competition in seeing who can make you feel the most comfortable in your own body. My experience with Samyoga Institute brought me closer to myself, much closer than any other experience I’ve had.



Devin Chen Virtual Reality Project

My STEP project was to develop a prototype virtual reality game for the HTC Vive using Unreal Engine 4. Most of the work involved writing game logic in blueprints and C++ as well as creating 3D models and textures for the various assets used by the game.

This project is still in progress, but I’ve gained valuable experience managing project teams while doing lots of the smaller work involved. I’ve found that I enjoy diving into new concepts and some of my team members also pointed out that I am very slow to throw away any work done; even if the design leads to a dead end. Getting to experience virtual reality also changed my perception of the world around me. Seeing and interacting with a world that I helped create is a uniquely surreal experience.

One of the first things that I had to do when starting out was getting a team together. Usually it’s not hard finding a motivated group of people to come work on a video game, but finding people with the correct skill set is a different challenge. I ended up having an average of 3 teammates: an animator, a modeler, and a programmer. There was a decent amount of attrition within the team as people started jobs and relationships, leaving lots of unfinished assets that we had to leave behind despite my objections. This also led me to be kind of a jack of all trades within the team. Taking up a little bit of 3D modeling and sound design in addition to programming and planning.

I did struggle a decent amount with scope creep (which happens quite frequently to projects like these) and I was a bit too eager to create varying prototypes of different mechanics that I liked. Sometimes it came up in a new locomotion concept that I pushed too early and broke the current version. Other times I created a different branch that never made it in. There was also a bit of a challenge migrating to different versions of Unreal Engine since there were many releases as optimizations of the engine went on

What was most amazing was being able to step into these worlds that we stared at for hours. Being able to break things and find strange errors was frustrating, but stepping back in after they had been fixed felt very personal for some reason. It may just have been a new developer mindset attached to a virtual reality based god-complex, but it was something I don’t think I’ll be able to feel the same way. An interesting tidbit that all VR users will be able to relate to is the sense of constantly being in VR during the first weeks of use. Seeing the boundary grids almost appear in real life after a session really makes you think about the future distinction between digital and analog worlds.

For me, this project really put into scope what it means to be an indie game developer. Unfortunately, I don’t think its the life for me. I love the people that worked with me and I had fun along the way, but thinking about release, uncertainty, and the hours I’ve put in make me realize that I would much rather commit myself to many interests instead of one singular one. However, I’ve learned some very valuable programming and modeling skills in the process.


Kristina Mancuso Actuarial Project

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

As an Actuarial Science major, there are a number of certification courses and exams you need to take in addition to your schooling in order to be competitive in the actuarial/risk management field. My STEP Signature Project consisted of studying for and taking a few of these exams. The STEP funds went to purchasing the study materials (books, online course access, etc.) and the exam fees.

  1.  What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

The biggest change I noticed in myself was a better understanding for how much hard work and dedication it takes to be successful in the career path I chose. The exams associated with the actuarial path are extremely difficult, and it is a huge investment (both time-wise and financially) to take and pass these certification exams, which is something I didn’t realize to the full extent before my project started. I learned throughout this year that I need to be much more disciplined regarding my education in order to get to where I want to be. Going in to this project, I assumed that I could study a few hours here and there and then show up to the exams, pass, and move on to the next one. As it turns out, I could not have been more wrong. The first exam I took was SOA Exam FM. I did not pass the first time, as I thought I had studied enough when in reality I did not. I had to take this exam twice more to pass. This project made me a little more grounded and realistic about what it takes to reach my goals, and now I have changed the way I work toward them. I plan much more actively, I allocate much more time to work on them, and I use that time much more efficiently.

  1.  What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

My STEP Signature project was much more focused on myself and my personal goals so within this project, I didn’t get much interaction with others that would lead to my transformation. There were, however, a few things that happened that lead to the transformation. Simply put, my project was a year of trying to balance an additional workload with my already difficult course load at Ohio State. At times, it felt like I was attending two different universities full-time. These two things, along with having two part time jobs, put me in a pretty stressful situation in the past year.

I struggled balancing everything and wasn’t too sure that I would make it out on top. I continuously got better at managing my time, but it still wasn’t completely adding up. I finally decided it was time to start using my stress to push myself forward than to let it get to me and hold me back. It wasn’t an immediate change, but looking at my situation at the beginning of my project and then at the end, the differences are incredible. I realized that I was always going to have things that add stress to my life, so instead of trying to live stress-free, I decided that being proactive with my stress was the best option.

Overall, my transformation was largely just one big realization. Before college, I was easily able to set and reach goal after goal. Once I got here, I didn’t realize it would be so much different than high school, and I began to feel like I was falling behind, or losing my edge. I had many moments where I thought I wasn’t good enough for the goals I was setting, and lost confidence in myself as a student and as a future professional. My realization was that it takes a lot of hard work to get to the places that are most worth it. Things don’t come as easy anymore, and quite honestly they aren’t supposed to. I am looking forward to how much I can do with my newfound realization and how far in my career, and in life in general, it can take me.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

This change is significant in my life because it not only applies to the academic goals that my project focused on, but I can use this in every aspect of my life in general. I have a history of being the person that lets stress get to them and gets discouraged when obstacles present themselves. Throughout this project, I have learned to let my stress push me toward my goal rather than in the wrong direction. This new adaptability will help me combat any obstacle put in my way, whether it be in my personal, professional, or academic career. I am very much looking forward to how I can reach my current and future goals with my new approach to doing so.