STEP Reflection

Name: Brady Woods

Category: Artistic and Creative Endeavor

Step Reflection

The main activities of my STEP project entailed driving across the country, exploring several national parks, perfecting my photography skills, and journaling/self-reflection. This trip was a solo expedition which challenged me to plan every detail as well as acclimate to each situation on my own allowing for personal growth. This project forced me to grow physically, mentally, spiritually, socially, and more.

This project allowed for much personal growth. Before this expedition, I had never been west of the Mississippi, only traveled with my parents, and never been alone somewhere I wasn’t familiar with. Personally, I grew in several different ways. I grew more confident in skills I knew I possessed. I grew to be more social and confident speaking with strangers. I understand better what my limits are, but also how to push myself to get the best out of me. On this trip, I realized what some of my fears are, but also how to take advantage of my strengths to overcome those fears. I learned a lot about this country and expanded my understanding outside of Ohio and what I have here. I learned how to be more self-sufficient, and figured out what I do need and don’t need in my life. I grew as a photographer and found a passion for nature and the beauty of it. I learned just how great the national park service is and that they are protecting not only nature, but history as well. During this whole project, I acquired and grew in several skills that can directly translate into my life like organization, planning, budgeting, and physical/mental toughness. I realized lastly the importance of several people in my life, but also how to succeed on my own.

During my trip, several changes and transformations occurred. First, I grew socially. As an RA at Ohio State and working several different jobs that require being social I knew I was a people person. Out West and especially in the National Parks it is important not to travel alone due to dangerous conditions whether that be the trail or wildlife. On one hike, I was on a slim trail with two 1000 plus feet drop-offs on either side, and before I went on it I talked and became close with a family from Utah. We looked out for each other, called on dangerous spots, and also they taught me so much about Utah. It was really cool to make a connection like that so quickly.

I grew in confidence in myself during this trip. I was someone who when I got scared, would back out of a lot of situations whether that be running or public speaking. There were a few times on this trip where I was pushed to be uncomfortable, but instead of turning around, I kept going. Angels Landing hike in Zion National Park is one of the scariest things I have ever done as you climb up a rock face. I got to the first look out and turned around because I thought there was no way I could make it, but after a few steps back I realized I may never get an opportunity like this again so I pushed myself and made it to the top. I can use this in my everyday life in that I might encounter a situation that I am not ready for and instead of backing down, I keep going because that opportunity could change my whole life.

My knowledge as a whole for this country grew a lot during this trip. I choose to journal, record, and capture my whole trip. If there was something I wanted to know more about like, how the Arches at Arches National Park were formed, I found it online. The Arches started forming 65 million years ago and through geologic changes with plates shifting and continued to form through erosion with rain and wind. Eventually these arches will fall as they are pushed to their limits. The parks aren’t only beautiful, but have history as well like Badlands/Black Hills and Native American tribes. I also talked with park rangers to pick their brains about what their lives are like and their overwhelming knowledge about the parks. This can be useful in my future in a few ways. First, as a pharmacist I have a requirement to do continual education. I need to be willing to seek out knowledge to be the best at my career. Also, once I graduate I can go straight into the workforce with my PharmD. I think it is important to seek out those who know more for advice and help, and being confident enough to do that is something I picked up on this trip.

As I traveled and learned more about this country, I learned ways to be most efficient and cost effective. I traveled with mostly snacks so this way I didn’t have to stop to eat meals and could eat while I drove. I would begin looking for gas stations as soon as I hit a half tank so that I wouldn’t be stuck in the dessert with no fuel. I always took the fastest route and rarely back tracked. This trip taught me many skills about planning and then adapting that plan so it best suited my needs. I think this is important for my future. As a pharmacist, especially a clinical pharmacist, I may come into each day with a plan of what I need to do. However, at a hospital everything is always changing. I had to adapt to adapt my plan out West a few times due to road closures or severe weather. However, I still greatly enjoyed it. Being adaptable is so important in a hospital as well.

Photography was a bubbling passion of mine before this trip, but through photos this trip is something I will never forget. Taking over 1000 photos and multiples of every landscape can seem time consuming, but when you see that right image it is all worth it in the end. I put together a picture book and also have an Instagram account with some of the images I took. I was able to use the skills I learned from Photo I, enhance them, and have pictures that captured each place and moment. Going forward this project inspires me to do more photography, to continue to learn more, and to travel the world taking more images to remember each trip by.

The end of this journey really summed it up. I decided to drive straight back from Aurora, Colorado which is near Denver to Canton, Ohio where I am from. The drive is about 20 hours and it took me a total of 22 hours to get home. During this time, I did self-reflection and thought about my trip. I am happy I choose this as project because I was able to grow myself so much. I found new passions and grew on old ones. I saw and learned things I never knew about this country that I live in. It was hard being away from a support system, but I did it, I made it. I really learned who was there for me during this trip as people reached out to me throughout to make sure I was okay. Though most not directly, I learned skills that will help me as a pharmacist like physical toughness. Long drives and hikes can be taxing, but nothing will be harder than 10-hour days on my feet the whole time, but I can’t wait to be able to make a difference in my patients’ health. This trip helped me grow.

Here is a link to my Instagram:

STEP Reflection – Hurricane Maria documentary

Name: Frances Avila-Soto

Type of Project: Artistic & Creative Endeavors

My STEP signature project involved going to Puerto Rico to film interviews with people regarding how Hurricane Maria affected them and still affects them 8 months later. I used STEP funds to buy a camera and visit Puerto Rico for 10 days in May for filming.

Though I myself am Puerto Rican and have gone to Puerto Rico many times since leaving the island at age 3, this project did change my view on the Puerto Rican people. While conducting interviews, there was one theme that I kept noticing: resilience and community. Many interviewees explained how communities came together during and after the hurricane to help each other and to make sure that everyone stayed safe, including people that they didn’t have close connections with. Additionally, even though the hardships that Hurricane Maria brought have been long-lasting, the Puerto Rican people continue to be strong. They continue to live their lives as normally as they can and stand up against any injustices/unfairness regarding the slow Hurricane relief and US intervention. Though they exhibit a lot of resilience, that is not to say that the hurricane did not have a large psychological impact on the islanders. Many people expressed how traumatizing the experience was and how apprehensive they are about the upcoming Hurricane season.

This change in my perspective happened because of the interactions I had with the interviewees. Some of the people I interviewed I had close connections with, such as family and family friends. But others were individuals whom I had never met. Yet, all of the people I interviewed showed vulnerability and a willingness to tell their stories, which I know is not easy, especially when recalling traumatic events. This openness stemmed from the fact that they know the importance of their stories. The people in Puerto Rico know that the US has nearly completely dropped media coverage regarding Hurricane Maria. They also know that the island has not fully recovered from Hurricane Maria, and they need to get their voices out there for change to occur.

Thus, through the people I interviewed, I learned the importance of vulnerability and storytelling. When I first thought of the idea for this project, I said that I wanted to join together multiple stories to form one cohesive narrative of what’s happening in Puerto Rico so that people outside of the island could know the impact of Hurricane Maria. However, I learned that it’s not so simple to obtain one cohesive narrative when post-hurricane life has so many nuances and perspectives. Many things changed in people’s lives, and for me to try to condense it down to one storyline is unfair to the complexity of the full stories. Therefore, as I edit the footage I have obtained over the summer, I will try to cut out as little as possible and let stories speak for themselves.

I would be lying if I said that conducting these interviews didn’t affect me emotionally. Seeing how much damage occurred to people’s houses and how little some people have been able to recover was truly shocking, and seeing how emotional people got when they explained some of the damage to me was heartbreaking. Even more heartbreaking, in my opinion, was listening to the fear in people’s voices when they talked about the upcoming hurricane season. One thing was obviously clear: no one is ready for another hurricane like Maria to hit the island. Many expressed that they would sooner leave the island they’ve called home for so long than to have to live through that experience again.

Feeling the emotions of the Puerto Rican people and learning more about the heart of both individuals and communities is something that I find extremely valuable. Not only did my perspective change, but I feel that I learned how to greater emphasize and listen to people. This is of great importance to me as an aspiring doctor. Doctors treat patients who are in some of the emotional/traumatizing times of their lives. Knowing how to listen to the concerns of those patients is key to being able to reassure them, which is why I think conducting these interviews helped in terms of my future career goals. Additionally, I think that these skills are valuable for any person to have in terms of their personal relationships. A person who can emphasize with others can build stronger and long-lasting relationships, which is fundamental to personal happiness.


Here are two pictures of destruction (roadside mud slide and damaged house). Interview clips were too large to post.

STEP Reflection – Elements of Creative Photography on the Mogollon Rim

Name: Marissa Fireman

Type of Project: Creative and Artistic Endeavors

Brief Description

I attended a photography workshop offered by the Arizona Highways Organization that took place in the Mogollon Rim in Arizona.  During the workshop, I received instruction from a Northern Arizona University photography professor, took photos at several locations in Payson, and participated in a group image critique.


During my STEP Signature Project, I learned a lot about myself as both a photographer and as an individual.  The workshop transformed my view of my surroundings by showing me the value of more slowly taking in my environment and challenging me to develop intentional composition of photographs.  I consider myself to be an introvert, but this experience has led me to understand that spending time with people who share a common interest allows me to come out of my shell.  I used to assume that I would feel self-conscious when I am less knowledgeable than the people around me. However, my positive interaction learning from more experienced workshop attendees transformed my outlook on this situation.

Causes of Transformation

One of my favorite parts about this workshop was that we spent about three hours at each location that we photographed.  This relaxed schedule prompted my transformed view of my surroundings.  Since nobody else in my immediate family pursues photography, the photos that I typically take during my travels are framed very rapidly.  By taking more time to think about what I what I wish to express, I am able to take photographs that are more clearly and intentionally composed.  I captured the image of the water splash by throwing a rock into the lake.  It took me several attempts to experiment with shutter speed and the direction of my toss before I was able to capture the size and shadow of the splash I wanted to depict.  I sat in the same spot for about ten minutes before I was able to snap the shot of the blue jay.  This amount of time enabled me to apply the rule of thirds and to highlight the blue tint in the water to accentuate the bird’s color.

Another valuable aspect of this workshop was the opportunity to immerse myself among a group of unfamiliar people.  My interaction and connection with fellow attendees spurred my deeper understanding of reasons for my introverted tendencies and allowed me to acquire ways to break from these tendencies.  After this experience, I feel more confident in my ability to build connections with other people.  Our common interest in photography initiated conversations about other shared passions such as travel and volunteering.  I met an older gentleman who showed me stunning photographs that he had taken in the Galapagos Islands and in a macrophotography class.  His geographical and generational background were different from my own, but we were amazed at how much we had in common.  This unexpected friendship has inspired me to continue to take advantage of the diverse population at Ohio State and to continue broadening my social circle.

The image critique at the conclusion of the workshop was a unique learning opportunity for me.  My participation in the critique instigated a change in my assumption that I would feel self-conscious around more knowledgable people.  This session was the first time that I was ever able to exchange commentary with a group of more experienced photographers.  I enjoyed seeing other photographs that people had taken in the same locations as me that depicted a perspective completely different from my own. As people commented on my images, I felt lucky to be a part of an atmosphere that was both constructive and positive.  This attituded alleviated any unease I had about my lack of experience, and my observation of other attendees’ work motivates me to continue growing as a photographer.

Significance of Transformation

The changes brought about by the completion of my project are significant to my personal life as well as my professional life.  The joy I felt during the workshop affirmed my desire to further pursue photography and to maintain balance between my academics and my outside interests.  This journey also supported my growth as a future math educator.  The group I was a part of ranged in age from a father of a first grader to a retiree.  As a teacher, I will be connecting with a wide range of people including students, colleagues, and families, and the diversity among the workshop attendees has made me comfortable in approaching such an environment.  The image critique brought my attention to the value of lifelong learning and demonstrated a positive form of evaluation that I hope to emulate in my own classroom.  The experience made possible by the STEP program has allowed me to build new relationships, to further pursue a passion, and to develop a better understanding of myself.


STEP Interview 2018

Katie Turner


STEP Interview


I interviewed Dr. Hillary Shulman, a professor of communications at The Ohio State University. She walked me through her journey in the field of communications and how she became a professor. Dr. Shulman attended the University of Wisconsin in pursuits of her undergraduate degree and stumbled upon the major of communications by accident. She always knew she wanted to pursue a career that had something to do with people, and something that was creative. Due to lack of information regarding what jobs existed beyond the main “doctor, lawyer, teacher” she felted pushed towards public relations as it seemed like a human centered industry. Going into college with an idea of a career in mind, she was determined to study communications. After taking communication classes, she realized that she thoroughly enjoyed the material and that class provided new perspective in thinking about strategic communications. Starting her senior year of college she had thoughts of being a professor.

After admiring her previous professors, she wanted to emulate them in her own way. Sitting in classes with hundreds of other students, she realized she wanted to do what her professors were doing, and teaching seemed to be fun. Constantly flowing with ideas for her future classes, the idea of becoming a professor made sense to her. After getting her undergraduate degree she took a year off from school, and would recommend that time off to others. After managing an ice cream franchise, and saving money. She decided to attend graduate school to get her masters in communications. Continuing her education she started at Michigan State University in pursuit of a PhD. Doing research, networking with her peers who shared similar interests, she enjoyed the challenge that higher education brought. Now a professor at The Ohio State University, she focuses her time not spent with students or in class researching the intersecting relationship between communications and politics. Studying college students, she is researching ways to write political messages that connect with young people and encourage them to engage and start thinking about politics. Her career goals now are to acquire tenyur and continue to get young kids interested in politics. In 5 years time, she would like to broaden her campaign, and target more than just college students. Eventually she would like to reach the demographic of high school students and underrepresented youth populations.


STEP Reflection 2018

Katie Turner


Artistic and Creative Endeavors


For my STEP Signature Project, I traveled to New York City, the heart of culture, art, and entertainment. For 4 days I explored New York’s entertainment industry, off-broadway shows, and unique neighborhoods. During this trip, I practiced my artistic passions of photography and videography.


Before going to New York for the first time, I always had a mental image of what it would be like which created expectations for me about what New York would actually be like. Actually going to New York, I was able to see for myself what the city was like and experience New York in a way I couldn’t if I had just read about it or saw it on television. Being in New York for the first time shattered the romanticized ideals of New York that were constructed in my mind from movies and television. The media had shaped what I knew about New York and I was able to change my perspective regarding what I thought about New York.


After going to New York I realized that I would never want to live there. Due to the continuous nightlife, impatient nature of New Yorker’s, and crowds everywhere you went, it was easy for 4 days in New York to feel longer. Seeing all the working class people, and watching the actors in the plays I saw, motivated me to work hard in my own life and to participate the climb for success. Seeing how passionate others were about their jobs and what they were doing inspired me to be passionate about my interests and work harder in my own life.


Going to the off-broadway production of Single Rider opened my eyes to the people in front of me performing were not much older than myself. Everyone in the production looked younger than 25 years old. Seeing my peers working hard and doing what they love sparked something in me to realize that I can start accomplishing my goals now. There is no reason that I can’t start living the life that I want in the future, today. Also, seeing Lobby Hero, another off-broadway show starring two famous movie actors, with other famous movie and television stars watching in the audience in front of me, I realized that celebrities are just people too. They were there for the same reason I was, to watch an off-broadway show. It made me realize that everyone has different paths in life and we are all meant to fulfill our potential in whatever field that may be.


Taking a tour of NBC studios at the Rockefeller Center gave me a new appreciation for television production. I never realized how many people, cameras, wires, lights, and tedious details go into making one episode or one segment of a television show. Seeing the sets in real life, it was a surprise as they were much smaller in person that it appears on the screen. The tour allowed me behind the scenes access and helped me to better understand how much effort and work it takes to make the show. Watching shows such as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live I have a greater appreciation and understanding that it is a lot harder than it looks to produce and not everyone can do it. Being on set and at the Studios in the heart of Rockefeller Center peaked my interests in the entertainment industry.


Participating in walking tours in New York City, I explored neighborhoods such as SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, and Greenwich Village. These walking tours provided information of the rich history that New York had to offer and allowed me to explore the neighborhoods without having to worry about where I was going. The pressure of navigating the intricate city was taken off by the expert tour guide. I learned that most people who live in the city do not know the information that we learned while on the tour about their very own neighborhood. From learning about where the term “The Big Apple” came from, to learn about the underground Speakeasy’s that were started because of the prohibition, I was able to learn an immense amount of information outside of a classroom. This made me realize that I do have a passion for learning new things and exploring new places and being taught wasn’t confined to the four walls of a classroom. My passion for learning reignited in New York and made me want to learn more. Traveling and experiencing New York truly changed my perspective on the world. Being in New York made me believe that anything is possible and that if I work hard enough I can accomplish my dreams, whatever they may be. They made me realize that there is a whole world outside of Columbus, Ohio that I haven’t even begun to explore. This trip has inspired me to want to explore more cities and travel outside of Columbus to experience what the world has to offer me. With every new place you go to you meet new people and get to explore new neighborhoods and it opened my eyes to make me realize that there is more to life then just what is in front of me.


This change of perspective is extremely significant and valuable for my life as it helped motivate me to see that if I work hard now, I can create a life for myself that is better than what I am experiencing now. It has motivated me to want to do well in school in order to create a foundation for myself, a stepping stone, so I can get my dream job eventually. Although I don’t know what I want my exact job to be I know that working hard I will be one step further in accomplishing those goals. I have had ideas about becoming a travel blogger and I would love to make that a reality one day. I know there are many people who are doing that now and they are exploring the world while documenting their journeys. Traveling to New York has sparked many fires within me in terms of wanting to travel, explore, and continue learning even outside of a classroom.