Leadership Training in Colorado

This past summer, I spent 2 months in Winter Park, Colorado with H2O Church, a campus ministry, to develop leadership skills and to engage with the gospel in new ways. While we were there, we also worked for 40 hours a week at the YMCA.

The main thing that was transformed in me during this trip was a love of nature and an appreciation for the natural world. Colorado, and specifically the Rocky Mountains, is one of the most beautiful places in our country. This is mainly due to the alpine conditions, and the amazing lushness of the mountains underneath. Luckily, during this summer, I was able to experience nature like never before, due to the weekly hikes I went on in my time off. Although I liked hiking before I went, it was not until this summer that I found peace in hiking. Now, I see it as a useful way to unwind after a long week, and a great way to center myself before a new week. This appreciation for nature has also given me a new fire for doing my best for the environment.

As mentioned above, it was the frequent hiking that most changed my life. Most important was hiking Long’s Peak, which is a mountain that is over 14,000 feet high. To summit it, my group left at 2 in the morning, and it took us at least 7 hours. During the hike, there was a 7,000 feet elevation gain, and in total we hiked 14 miles that day. Hiking something as challenging as this gave me many more skills than just my outdoor skills.

It taught me to rely on other people. The group I hiked with was one of many different skill levels and preparation levels, but all 20 of us summited that morning. There were some very tricky parts of the trail and times that you needed others to help you climb up. This is similar to everyday life. There are tricky parts, and there are going to be other people with more experience or a different perspective that can help you.

I also learned that I am stronger than I think, and that endurance is just as mental as it is physical. On the way back down the mountain, I was very very tired, but I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. This perseverence has obvious applications to everyday life, particularly in college, when assignments can feel overwhelming. Spending time in the intersection of motivation and perseverence was truly transformational, because it showed me that even tasks that seem impossible can be conquered one step at a time. This is something that I was previously lacking.

This change is important to my life because I have found that gaining a love and appreciation for nature, along with learning to ask for help and increasing my endurance has given me a better idea of who I want to be. It has also taught me how I want to handle problems. Spending time in nature, as well as excercising, are both shown to have a significant impact on reducing anxiety. Anxiety is something that I struggle with and I have no doubt will continue to be a problem as I move through various stages of life. Therefore, learning to control it in such a positive way is very important. Additionally, skills like learning to ask for help and perseverence are valued in the work force and will help me greatly.

My Journey Towards Cultural Proficiency in an Educational Sector

Hello! My name is Emily Vinson and I am a current third year here at Ohio State. I am an early childhood education major with a passion for leadership and cultural proficiency. For my STEP Leadership Project, I wanted to see how education, leadership, and cultural proficiency all worked together in an educational setting outside of the classroom. I designed and implemented a self-conducted personal cultural proficiency trip to Washington DC. I challenged my own ignorance by visiting landmarks, museums, and educational settings that I was unfamiliar with such as the African American Museum of History and Culture and the National Museum of the American Indian. I also met with seven individuals who work in education related sectors outside of the classroom that were all extremely unique and different from one another, and had the chance to shadow and meet with the principal of an International Baccalaureate School that has students from over 40 different countries!

Although my trip to Washington DC was only four short days, it was one of the most educational experiences I have ever had. In the past year, I have discovered a passion for wanting to eliminate inequality in education. Specifically, working to close the achievement gap and incorporating cultural proficiency into elementary level curriculum. To do this, I began considering programs such as educational policy and public policy at the graduate level.  As I approach graduation sooner rather than later, I have begun to think about post-graduation plans. I was very on the fence about if I wanted to go into the field or attend graduate school immediately following graduation. One of the goals of my STEP Project was to gain recommendations and advice from the various individuals I met with in DC by hearing about their personal journey and current position in an educational sector, and apply it to my future career goals. The other goal of my project was to get a glimpse of how cultural proficiency and leadership can be engrained in everyday elementary curriculum. I am very happy to say that both goals were accomplished!

When I first started STEP, I had no clue what I wanted to do for my project. A lot of my friends were studying abroad during Maymester or doing an internship throughout the summer, neither of which were an option for me due to my summer job. As I pondered it more, I knew I wanted to create a project that was so unique I never would have the chance to do it again. I spoke with my STEP advisor, and we began discussing my passions, my personal and professional goals, and my daily life. I told her about the classes I was taking at the time that focused on cultural proficiency and inequality in education, and I explained to her that I believe the two topics work together in education (or at least should). To integrate cultural proficiency into a classroom, one must be working towards cultural proficiency themselves. This is where my project began. I started writing down all identities I was ignorant towards, including their history. Knowing I only had four days in DC (and out of those four days, only two days to be a tourist), I picked the identities I wanted to study first based on their accessibility to my trip and the likelihood that they could be in my future classroom. The identities I chose were African Americans and their history, Native American/Indigenous People and their history, and English Language Learners (ELL). I hope to study all identities and their history throughout my life, but I wanted to choose these three as I learned through research that Washington D.C. has great resources to support these three identities and their history. A part of continuing my journey towards cultural proficiency, which I should make a point of stating is a life-long journey because one can never become “completely culturally proficient”, I visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of the American Indian. This was my first time visiting each museum and I cannot wait to go back. I was not able to get through either museum completely because the history and information within the museum hold so much depth, but from what I did see, I know the history we are taught in school of African-American and Native American/Indigenous People is NOT historically accurate. As I reflect on my experience in DC, and look ahead to my future classroom, I plan on teaching the truth, not the history some would prefer us to teach.

Outside of the National African-American Museum of History and Culture

Another key aspect of my trip that led to me accomplishing one of my goals were the meetings I had with individuals in an educational sector. Although I feel very in tune with my passions and what I was put on this Earth to do, I am still figuring out exactly “what I want to be when I grow up”. That was the main reason behind setting up these meetings and conference calls was to get an idea of what a career in leadership, cultural proficiency, and/or educational policy could look like. As mentioned above, I met with seven individuals in two days, all very different from one another in the best possible way. I met with a man who works for the National PTA, a woman who has a very established reputation in the field of early childhood curriculum and now runs her own strategy consulting group, two individuals from the National Academy of Education, an alum of Ohio State who did Teach for America, the executive director of Women in Government, and the Principal of an International Baccalaureate in Virginia. It was incredible to hear about their career paths and how they got to where they are today. They offered me great advice, and after having multiple conversations, I decided I am going to pursue a job in the field immediately following graduation and plan to attend graduate school to study educational and public policy after having taught in an elementary school setting for 3-5 years.

The next key aspect of my trip that led to me accomplishing my second goal was the very last meeting on my trip. I had the chance to meet with Dr. Donna Synder, Principal of Randolph Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia. Dr. Synder came in as an interim principal at the beginning of last school year, and since then has implemented changes and relationships that will last far beyond her years as principal. Being the leader of a school with students from over 40 countries who speak over 20 languages is no simple task, and I found myself in awe of the dedication she has to her students, their families, and the community. She gave me a great piece of advice when I asked her about a recommendation for future career plans, and she told me that “There is nothing like being in the classroom. You will amaze yourself when you look back at all you have learned and what you give to your students. You may find that what you think you are passionate about now can change once you teach for a couple years. Take your time and get your feet wet first because like I said, there is nothing like it”. Dr. Snyder is a leader, an advocate for multicultural education and English Language Learners, and one of the most dedicated educators I have ever seen. I appreciate her welcoming me into her school and giving me so much to take away as I look to begin my own journey in the classroom.

My STEP Project made a huge impact on my life. It made me rethink my professional goals, plans for the future, and passions. My STEP Project allowed me to grow in both personal and professional ways that I never would have imagined. As I look towards the future, I am equally nervous and excited to begin the job search for my dream teaching position, and soon after begin searching for graduate schools. No matter what may change, I know who I am. I am and forever will be on a journey towards cultural proficiency, I am and forever will be an advocate for children, and I am and forever will be a Buckeye.

Go Bucks!


Attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference

For my STEP Leadership Project, I attended the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Orlando, Florida, a computer science conference celebrating and exploring diversity in technology.  While there, I attended a variety of sessions, talks, and panels discussing women’s experiences in tech, professional development advice, and networking opportunities.

I attended the Grace Hopper Conference as the co-president of ACM-W, a club on Ohio State’s campus that supports and empowers women in technology.  ACM-W was able to send a total of 25 girls to the conference this year, more than doubling our numbers from 2016.  Being able to attend the conference myself and take a lead role in the planning to send so many girls to the conference was an incredibly transformative experience for me.  In 2016, I attended Grace Hopper as an ACM-W member and benefitted enormously from the friendships and connections I gained from it; however, in 2017 while attending Grace Hopper, I not only gained wonderful friendships but also a renewed passion to lead ACM-W as co-president and carry out our mission: supporting women in tech.

In the opening keynote of the conference, Melinda Gates spoke about how the world badly needs change for women, and needs it now, saying, “No more standing by as her dreams bump up against biases and barriers,” urging women in the audience to be a force of change for what they want to see in the world, and this was profoundly impactful to me.  Hearing her speak reminded me of the reasons that I accepted a leadership position in ACM-W originally: I wanted to be the change I had hoped for when I was just beginning college.  Hearing that keynote re-inspired me to continue working towards that goal, to help as many younger women as possible.

In addition to attending the opening keynote, the conference consisted of a variety of sessions, lectures, and workshops throughout 3 days that I was able to attend, and many of those were also equally inspiring and impactful.  For example, I attended on the first day of the conference a panel consisting of women who had all worked on the technology team for the Hillary for America campaign.  Every single one of them had a unique, incredible story about stopping their lives when Hillary announced her candidacy to be part of her campaign and their diverse backgrounds were a reminder that no matter where you’re from, you always have a chance to be part of something incredible.  Hearing their stories was an inspiring reminder to pursue what is important to me, regardless of if it is conventional.

A second interaction that really inspired me at the conference, too, was an additional quote from Melinda Gates’ opening keynote, where she said, “The next Bill Gates may not look like the first one.  Not every great idea comes wrapped in a hoodie.” This was an eye-opening experience for me and was a particularly impactful quote; it was an important reminder that every day in computer science, stereotypes of what a programmer “looks like” are continually reinforced, despite their dangers.  Her quote was an excellent reminder to never underestimate someone based on their appearance and an excellent reminder to me that, as a leader, it’s my responsibility to take lead in challenging stereotypes and being a vocal supporter of all people in tech.

Finally, I attended a session on the second day of the conference called “So you want to be an entrepreneur?” discussing the realities, hardships, and adventures of entering the Silicon Valley start-up culture.  This session was by far one of my favorites, of the several dozen I was able to attend over three days.  The session included a panel of women all with experience being entrepreneurs in tech, discussing their successes and failures and giving advice to the younger women in the audience.  A huge takeaway from this session for me was the resounding belief that I can and will persevere in tech after rejection of many forms.  Their experiences and stories were a needed reminder that the reality of being a woman in tech is that you will experience unfairness, you will experience unjust situations, and you will experience failure.  But they emphasized that the key to success is perseverance through everything.  To me, that was a much needed reminder and something I hope that, as a leader, I’m always able to embody and pass on: staying resilient in your hardest moments.

Overall, attending Grace Hopper this year has been one of the most impactful experiences of my semester.  This year was my first time attending the conference as a co-president of a club and because of that, I had an incredible experience meeting top female leaders in technology, hearing them speak, and getting to interact with them.  Every woman I met at the conference proved to be a wonderful role model and excellent example of what it means to be a leader and be a mentor and even be a friend, and that was incredibly inspiring for me to watch and learn from.  From being at this conference, I significantly strengthened not only my own belief that I can and will succeed in this field, but my belief that every woman I know can and will succeed as well.  And as a leader, it’s my responsibility to help them along the way, much as the leaders I met at Grace Hopper have helped me.

STEP Leadership Reflection

Name: Collin O’Neill

In the late summer, I hiked the approximately 150 mile Big Seki Loop trail in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. This hike refined my leadership skills and cemented my resolve to become a leader in the practice of sustainable engineering.

My understanding of myself and the world surrounding me changed drastically while completing this STEP Project. First, I thought that places so deep into the wilderness would be immune to the effects of human pollution, but this was not the case. At the top of every beautiful mountain overlook, visibility was much lower than I had expected. Upon completing the hike, I researched this lack of visibility, and it turns out it was due to air pollution from neighboring cities. Due to the surrounding mountain ranges and air currents, the air pollution from these cities becomes trapped in the area until it builds to visible levels. This served as a harsh reminder to me that human activity and pollution can have poorly understood and profound consequences all over the globe, even in places that lack immediate proximity to large populations. I also grew to understand that preservation of the natural world must come as much from a place of respect as of care. Additionally, I learned how valuable experience and working with others are to accomplishing my goals.

In terms of my understanding of myself, I realized that I must be motivated not only by a love of nature, but also a respect for it. I certainly did not feel great love for nature when getting swarmed by mosquitoes so thick I could barely inhale without sucking one in, but at these times I was forced to acknowledge that I was dealing with forces not at all within my control. This lack of control I personally experienced made me acknowledge the lack of control that we have in the consequences of environmental pollution. This added another layer to my desire to protect nature, as it now comes not only from a love for it, but also from a respect for the often uncontrollable forces that we risk tampering with.

One of the more mentally trying periods of the hike occurred during days three, four, and five. Almost had to turn back. After a relatively grueling first three days, I arrived at the Palisade Creek Crossing. Although it bore the name of “creek”, I encountered a roaring river that would have been suicidal to cross at the designated point. On the other side of this creek was the relatively tame John Muir trail and the remainder of my hike. Due to the dangerous nature of the crossing and the little time remaining in the day, I made camp on my side of the creek. The next day, I woke up and began scouting upstream for a more favorable crossing, but after several hours of hiking with little luck, I had to return to the campsite. At this point I was despondent, as I was convinced I was going to have to turn around, re-hike the same trail I just had, and end my hike early. Since this plan would leave me with ample time, I spent the rest of my day camped at the crossing. At the end of the day, two experienced woodsman (one of whom was bleeding from a cut above his eye) emerged from the path I had just been walking. I told them the river was impassable and that I planned to turn back. They looked at the river next to me, sat down with a detailed topographical map, and proceeded to find an ideal river crossing upriver using elevation lines alone. I was somewhat skeptical, but after a two mile off-trail hike the next day, we found the exact spot he pointed to on the map. Lo and behold, the river was wide, shallow, and slow there, and we made an easy crossing onto the John Muir Trail. From this I learned that to be successful, you must be willing to accept guidance when you need it, especially when you do not have a clear idea what to do.

My encounter with these helpful hikers and the entire trip taught me the value of experience in being successful. It was these hikers’ experience that enabled them to find a passable crossing. This experience was the difference between my hike ending in disappointment and an amazing trip. I also gained valuable experience just as my hike progressed. The first night, setting up camp, purifying water, and making food were painful and time consuming endeavors. As the hike progressed, however, these things became second-nature. This accurately reflects the general process of learning, as things that seem difficult at first become easy with time. The value of experience will stick with me.

Every single one of these changes will be significant moving forward in my life. A healthy respect for the power of nature will be crucial in becoming a leader in the field of sustainable engineering. I also believe that everyone would stand to benefit from knowing that the consequences of our actions cannot always be fully understood. An openness to accepting help will be obviously beneficial in every aspect of my life. In academics, I will not always understand everything presented to me. In these moments, it is crucial that I am willing to seek help so I can continue to learn and grow. A willingness to accept help will also be necessary as I begin my career in a very technical field, as there is knowledge that will best be learned by being passed on from others.  This passing of knowledge also highlights the value of experience. There will inevitably be things I do not know moving forward, so it will be valuable for me to remember that these unknowns can become simple knowledge with work and time.

Chicago Summer Mission with CRU

Name: Anna Weber

Type of Project: Leadership

This summer I had the privilege of participating in a ten-week summer mission with Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU) in the city of Chicago. While in Chicago I had the opportunity to build relationships and grow with other Student in CRU during weekly meetings and Action groups. As a part of Community team, I participated in planning group meals and activities that would encourage interaction and friendships between all of the students on summer mission. I also spent time helping support the CRU movement at the University of Chicago by engaging in discussions and sharing with students and staff across the campus.

When I first arrived in Chicago, on June 2, 2017, I was feeling about a hundred different emotions all at the same time. I was overjoyed to be beginning a project that I had spent so many months carefully planning but at the same time, I was incredibly nervous. As I stood outside the airport waiting for my ride into the city, it dawned on me that for the first time in my 20 years of life I would be living on my own, in a city I knew very little about, with strangers that I had never met before. This was a terrifying prospect for me. While living on my own wasn’t totally out of the ordinary for me, because I had never lived far from home my life was always influenced here and there by the thoughts of family, friends, and others. I still had a certain level of dependence in my life that existed. Stepping out of my comfort zone to attend summer mission in Chicago, gave me the freedom to develop independence and gain insights to develop ideas and opinions of my own.

One of the cool parts about my summer that really allowed me to grow as the opportunities I had to meet and build relationships with students from colleges across the country. By engaging in discussion and getting to know each of my peers on the project I was able to learn a lot about backgrounds and experiences that were different from my own. One of the close friends that I made over the course of the summer had grown up in a neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. One night over the summer while a group of us were on a long train ride back to our apartment he began to talk a little more about what growing up in this neighborhood was like. As a student from suburban Columbus, I was not well acquainted with what this area was like so it was really fascinating to hear about the experiences of someone who had grown up in the area. He talked about the way that exposure to violence and crime in these areas is a normal part of growing up. This was such an interesting perspective to hear about because it was one that I was so unfamiliar with. Having conversations such as this one throughout the summer was really enlightening for me and opened my eyes to the ways that other backgrounds might be different than my own and how that is able to shape them.Another exciting opportunity that the summer provided me with was the chance to grow

Another exciting opportunity that the summer provided me with was the chance to grow on my own spirituality. Prior to my summer project experience, I wasn’t frequently challenged to think critically about my beliefs and when I did come across challenging questions I had the ability to turn to my close friends and family to help me think through the questions that I had. While I had the ability to do this myself I really had never been challenged to do so and therefore I generally stayed within my comfort zone. The step of faith that I took to participate in Summer Mission with CRU, was one of many that I took throughout the summer that allowed me to grow more independent in my beliefs and to grow spiritually. AS the summer progressed I was challenged by questions from other students on summer mission and I engaged in discussion that deepened my own understanding. I also become more and more comfortable with sharing my experiences with others on my project and throughout the Chicago community during outreach events. By the end of the summer after countless community events, I left Chicago with a deeper understanding of my faith from sharing with others and growing from my own experiences.

While in Chicago I also experienced a lot of growth emotionally. This summer was the first time in my 20 Years that I had ever lived anywhere more than a 20-minute drive from home. This was an exciting experience for me but one that also come with a lot of challenges that I had not ever had to face. One of the biggest reasons this was challenging was because when I experienced hardships I couldn’t go home and “decompress” and while this isn’t something I would frequently do while in Columbus, just knowing that home is only a short drive away can really change a stressful situation. This was probably one of my biggest fears when coming to Chicago because let’s face it, even when you are a college student, homesickness is a real thing folks. It was especially challenging because not only was I adjusting to being away from home but I was also adjusting to a completely unfamiliar city and a whole group of people whom I hadn’t ever met before. Over the first few weeks, I definitely had some days that were easier than others but I learned my way around more quickly than I anticipated and made many friends. The homesickness faded quickly and I was able to navigate the challenges he summer threw at me from, getting a job, to helping plan community events for my peers. It was amazing to see how powerful making connections and friendships with others can make an unfamiliar and somewhat scary place seem like a home. By the time I left Chicago in August I felt like I was leaving my home all over again.

Over the ten weeks I spent in Chicago, I learned a lot about myself and how to grow and adjust to a new setting without all the resources that I am used to having here in Columbus. I grew into a more independent thinker and gained insight from other about things that I hadn’t ever thought about before. The challenges and experiences that I was exposed to will be valuable as I work to make an impact on the world throughout my carreer and beyond. The exposure I had to new and unique backgrounds of others allowed me to expand my worldview and broaden my social horizons. I developed independence in my beliefs that will allow me to think critically about how and why I make the decisions I make and I developed important communication skills that I can continue to use as I pursue my goals. Each part of my growth over the course of the summer has helped refine some of the skills that are essential to helping me become a positive communicator that can effectively express new and innovative ideas. Whether in the classroom or in an office I will be able to draw from my growth during this experience to help me think with a wider perspective that I was able to see prior to my summer experience.

Shed Aquarium Adventure with some of my Roomies!

Community Team Group Photo

White Sox vs. Indians Game

Staff vs Students Kickball Game!

Emergency Medicine in the Wilderness

Emergency Medicine in the Wilderness

Jillian Harrington

A Leadership Experience

This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to learn about the thrilling field of wilderness medicine.  Through the University of Colorado School of Medicine, I participated in an Emergency Medicine in the Wilderness program designed specifically for pre-med undergraduate students.  The first week of this program occurred at the Anschutz Medical Campus where I attended lectures, networked with medical professionals, and practiced skills in an educational environment that I would need for an emergency situation in the wilderness. The second week of the program put this knowledge and skillset to the test as we camped and backpacked our way through Golden, Colorado, facing emergency scenarios along the way. With minimal resources and an elevation of 9,500 feet, we were forced to work skillfully and efficiently to “save” our peers and instructors in a variety of simulated emergencies.

Although the purpose of this program was to learn about wilderness medicine, I ended up learning the most about myself. I was mentally and physically pushed throughout this experience in ways I never thought possible. Our first week of lectures and labs was a rigorous schedule of learning, sometimes ten hours per day, that mimicked a true medical school format. Our second week in the wilderness was even more difficult as the simulated emergency scenarios could occur anywhere at any time all with the added pressures of backcountry living.  This high demand uncovered a resiliency I did not know I had and the high-stress environment revealed my ability to remain calm and rational in a variety of situations.  Other than these revelations, I learned an incredible amount of skills and methods to treat a patient in the wilderness and about emergency medicine as a field. Our lectures and faculty presentations from physicians, physician’s assistants, paramedics, wilderness experts, and hospital administrators taught me how a hospital functions and what roles the emergency department plays.  Health care is a major topic of current political events and I was shocked to see the stark effects of recent health policies in such a short amount of time.  This program truly changed what I thought I knew about not only about myself, but about medicine as a whole and the future of healthcare.

One of the most enlightening experiences I had during this program actually occurred on the first day. I had the opportunity to take a break from lectures to shadow paramedics at a local fire department in Aurora, CO and ride along with their EMS team. Although my time with them was thankfully uneventful, the paramedics shares dozens of stories about medical cases they have seen and common reasons they are called throughout the community. After mentioning I have an interest in obstetrics, one of the paramedics began sharing stories of the seventeen babies he has delivered and began teaching me terminology and techniques for a successful delivery with little to no supplies! The rest of the team had plenty to share as well from tips on how to stay calm during an emergency to tools in their medical kits and how to use them.  This shadowing experience was only a small portion of my itinerary but it was incredibly valuable to see the implications of emergency medicine at the community level.  Here, EMS workers have the special ability to provide emergency care and public health education to their own neighbors.

Of all the lectures I attended at Anschutz medical campus, my favorites by far were those that allowed me to engage in hands-on learning.  The undergraduate pre-med curriculum is largely focused on abstract ideas in basic science.  This program, however, gave me an opportunity to actually learn medical principals such as how to build a shin splint, what medications to give to a patient suffering from altitude sickness, and even how to diagnose different causes of abdominal pain.  Our lectures were a very realistic introduction to medical school and gave tremendous insight into the process of becoming an M.D. or P.A.  Because we were actively involved in the learning process, we as students also had the unique opportunity to be each other’s patients and practice splints, tourniquets, and other first aid with our peers. Not only did this program allow me to have a greater understanding of medicine from a physician’s perspective, but also appreciate the empathy and compassion desired from patients.

The second week of this program at Camp Granite Lake in Boulder was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Our lectures continued in the wilderness setting and topics were directly applicable to our environment, especially those relating to altitude. Work was balanced with play however and we were fortunate to end our educational sessions with hiking, rock climbing, and exploring our surroundings.  This week was centered around realistic emergency scenarios and practicing these skills in a genuine wilderness setting reiterated my training from the first week.  Here, I developed great confidence in my skills and an ability to thrive under pressure with merely a backpack’s worth of supplies.  Our scenarios varied in regularity and extremity from a simple case of heat exhaustion to a complex triage of patients injured in rock fall.  Though I spent the beginning of the program afraid of this intensity, I grew to love not knowing what cases would come next and watching myself become more efficient with each challenge.

These two weeks in Colorado left me with memories and skills I will take with me in my next years at Ohio State and beyond. In the academic setting of Ohio State, I have a reignited passion for medicine and greater understanding of my professional trajectory. In my everyday life, I am confident in my ability to thrive in the midst of an emergency and help those who cannot help themselves.  I am now a certified Wilderness First Responder trained in CPR and have a strong foundation of emergency medicine knowledge and leadership experience to help a patient in the wilderness.

Emergency and Wilderness Medicine

Alex Crum


I participated in the University of Colorado’s Emergency and Wilderness Medicine program. During the program I was able to learn how to treat implications in an austere environment ranging from cuts and blisters to major trauma. The first week of the program was lecture based at the University of Colorado Anshutz Medical Campus, while the second week of the program took part at a campsite in the Rocky Mountains to further solidify the material through practical scenarios.

The program transformed my understanding of myself, as well as provided a new perspective. I entered the program without knowing anyone, and left with a large network of individuals, like myself, who all developed leadership skills, a new understanding of teamwork, and a stronger connection to medicine. Before the program, although I could effectively communicate with colleagues, and associates, these interactions were all in controlled settings. Through the practical scenarios, I learned how to manage and cooperate in situations where time is short and stress is high. This newfound skill can be applied to a variety of situations. For example, maintaining the “keep cool” mentality while facing an obstacle could be practical while subduing stress preparing for an upcoming midterm. This skill is applicable in any circumstances because it is advantageous to quickly analyze the situation, see all variables, consider potential obstacles, and formulate the best strategy through the implication instead of making hasty decisions and potentially making the circumstance worse.

The first week of the program took place at the University of Colorado Anshutz Medical Campus. Throughout the day we would attend lectures on a range of topics such as altitude sickness, common respiratory issues, trauma basics, pediatric emergency medicine, and more. Practicing the techniques during practical scenarios further solidified some of the material. We were able to continuously develop our techniques of applying splints, making a tourniquet, etc. After learning about the cardiovascular system and some implications we explored, visually and actively, the main organ through cow heart dissections. Learning about a variety of topics made me realize the importance of obtaining a deep understanding of the basics, because treatment is the manipulation of these basics. For example, mountain sickness is caused by the decreased availability of oxygen at higher altitudes. Therefore, in an actual event where an individual is experiencing altitude sickness symptoms, since I know that it is caused by a lack of oxygen being transferred to parts of the body, then I know that to treat the options are to provide the individual with oxygen through an apparatus, or descend elevation.

Outside of the classroom based learning, many of us took advantage of the resources by shadowing in the emergency department at the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH), and also participating in EMS ride-alongs. This provided the opportunity to explore the emergency medicine specialty through active observation of the physician’s interactions with patients in treating their illnesses. Seeing the interpersonal relationship between patient and physician solidified even further my desire to pursue medicine. The EMS ride-alongs gave a different perspective to medicine outside of the roles of the physician in treating a patient, proving that the treatment of the patient is a group effort. My time spent with both activities made me appreciate the social aspect of medicine. During undergraduate education, our required pre medical curriculum makes us focus on the physical science of the mechanism behind the disease. However, in real world practice, medicine has many more components to it. The social aspect of communication with the patient, and building rapport with comfort and confidence in your words is sometimes overlooked when thinking about the responsibilities of a physician. But these are essential qualities that a physician must have in order to gain the sufficient knowledge of what the actual issues are from the patient, and to provide the patient with a safe healing environment and support.

Practicing the scenarios in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains helped strengthen our understanding of what to do in particular emergency events. It also made certain techniques available to practice that we were unable to practice on the medical campus, such as how to make a litter out of tree saplings to help evacuate a patient that has an unstable injury. Being given a situation, having to analyze the environment for clues to pick up on, discovering the complication and formulating a plan to combat the complication and considering future obstacles was beneficial to practice what we learned in lecture. It also helped to build our communication skills through collaboration with our team members, and it also helped to develop a new pattern of thinking in high stress situations. This was really exercised during scenarios where multiple patients were involved because our group of responders needed to divide the duties but keep each other on the same page. The importance of staying calm, and being precise in observing and decision making, is translatable to a multitude of situations not just related to wilderness medicine. If the person who is trying to help solve the issue is stressed, and is not careful with every action, then there is potential to make the situation worse.

These changes and experiences have already impacted myself professionally, and aided in my personal development. My ambition to be involved in medicine professionally has been reaffirmed by participating in this program. The skills that I have learned, how to deal with difficult situations systematically and realizing the necessity for efficient collaboration with others, for example, will only make me a better physician, a better student and a better responder in the future. Without effective communication, one part of a whole will cease to benefit the whole, and in many cases may hinder the overall progress of the whole. But when each part maximizes the distribution of responsibilities, and can reliably communication then efficiency can be maximized to accomplish any task. Being a physician, and the rigorous process of becoming one will present me with many different situations where my teamwork, leadership, and problem solving skills will be put to the test. With this transformative STEP experience, I now have traits that will help me succeed.

Healthcare Immersion Experience

My STEP signature project focused on creating a personalized learning experience throughout the summer. I hope to attend graduate school to become a physician’s assistant and I used my STEP project to help me experience the heath care field in a way I never had before. I became a state tested nursing assistant (STNA), shadowed physician’s assistants, and volunteered at a hospital.

This experience was transforming for me for many reasons. I did not set any expectations for my experience in the beginning because I was not completely sure what to expect. But, I ended up loving every moment of my project from start to finish. I began this project knowing that I love to help people, but not having an outlet for this passion. I ended this project with experience helping people as well as a way to continue doing so in the future. I learned a lot about myself because the difference between knowing what you want to do and actually doing is huge. Caring for another individual is much harder than it seems , but is also incredibly rewarding in the end. Each step of my project gave me inside about the medical world and about myself.

Seeing patient care from different perspectives gave me an inside look at what I would be doing daily later in  life. I assumed that this would be easy for me, but sometimes it can be hard and sometimes it can be very sad. Even though I thought I was strong and could handle seeing  most everything, there are things that can still affect me. For example, during the clinical hours of my STNA training, I actually had to work in a nursing home helping to feed, clothe, bathe, etc. the residents. This was hard because these people used to be young like me and now they cannot do anything on their own. Upon reflection after this clinical, I was sure that choosing healthcare was the right decision for me. I was passionate about each resident I cared for and felt so successful after making them smile or knowing that I had done a good job. I know that it is easy for people to go through the motions in this sort of job, so I knew that if I didn’t enjoy what I was doing it would be just as easy for me to fall into this routine. But, it makes me happy to help other people and I learned that this work is hard but very rewarding. I am also happy that I completed this project because it has given me confidence in the path I have chosen which was something I didn’t have before.

My STEP signature projected consisted of 3 parts and each contributed to my transformation over a one month period in their own way.  As I mentioned before, my STNA class had a big impact  on my transformation. I learned how to care for someone on the most personal level which is something I have never done before. I was able to grow in my love for helping others and obtain a certification that will allow me to work in the hospital and do it for a living which is a huge step in my journey to becoming a physician’s assistant.

Job shadowing was another thing that impacted my transformation.  I shadowed a physician’s assistant at Beacon Orthopedics in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was able to observe during clinic hours and during outpatient surgery. Clinical hours were great because I was able to actually see health care from the eyes of a person that I aspire to be. I was able to observe bedside manner and how to communicate successfully with a patient. I also got to see exactly what a PA does when assisting in an operating room which is something I would enjoy doing during my career.

As a volunteer at Good Samaritan Hospital, I helped out in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where premature babies are taken care of until they are healthy enough to go home with their parents. Here, I was able to cuddle babies as well as participate in activities that made the families feel comfortable and welcome in the unit. Cuddling is a technique used to calm babies that were exposed to drugs and alcohol in the womb. The contact with another person calms them and helps as they go through painful withdrawals from the drugs. This opened my eyes to a serious health problem in our society and one that I would be interested in working with more in the future. Many babies are born with neonatal abstinence syndrome

The transformation I made during my project is vital to my personal and professional goals of getting into PA school and becoming a PA. This project created a confidence about my career path in me that I did not have before. I gained shadow and volunteer hours that will help me get into graduate school. I made connections with a PA who can write me recommendation letters in the future, which will also help me in getting into graduate school. Also, my new certification will allow me to work in a hospital and gain the patient care hours that are the most important necessity in my graduate school application. Overall, this project has really increased my chances of one day achieving my dreams and I am very happy about that! I feel much more prepared for the future after gaining real experience and giving myself the chance to continue doing this for the next few years before I begin graduate school.




Here is a picture of me during my shadowing experience in an operating room!


High Sierra Leadership Expedition Reflection

1.This summer I embarked on a 23 day backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail. The experience challenged me in ways I never could have expected, thus allowing me to grow physically, mentally, and emotionally. During the 23 days of backpacking our group of 12 participants trekked through snowy mountains, hiked over arduous mountain passes, crossed flowing rivers with glacier runoff, cooked dehydrated food over portable stoves, and slept in tents. We did not see civilization for the entirety of the expedition, but we did meet interesting people from all over the world and witnessed sunsets over mountain ranges that I could not have dreamt of.

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

A single day has yet to go by when I do not think about my experience on the High Sierra Leadership Expedition. When my mind wanders I see the golden hour illuminating the mountain faces until they glow. I see the wildflowers scattered around my feet and I hear the constant rush of water. I reminiscence on the beauty of nature and the most physically and emotionally challenging experience of my life. The John Muir Trail pushed me outside of my comfort zone numerous times every single day for 23 straight days. There was no way to predict the challenges and unexpected situations that each day brought, and from this I learned the value of truly living in the moment. On the trail, the map accurately shows milage, elevation change, and bodies of waters, but it cannot tell us the water level on a river crossing, how deep the snow will be or how our bodies will react to elevation. Once I accepted that every day would be long and require my full attention, I felt a release. No longer would my my thoughts be occupied by worries about the future or consumed by planning; instead, my attention focused on the present moment. Quite honestly, I did not have any other option, for gingerly walking over a fallen log with a 45 lb. backpack in order to cross a fast-flowing river made my senses hyper-active. Experiences such as this, seemed intimidating at first, but I had no other option except to push myself outside of my comfort zone. The JMT also exposed me to the power of the mind. When I felt physically and emotionally drained, I thought to myself, “I am here, and I am alive.” Repeating these words reminded me of how lucky I am to be surrounded by such natural beauty and how I am mentally tough enough to continue. I wholeheartedly believe that without this positive mindset, I would not have completed the trek. I take these lessons that I learned on the trail to heart, doing my best to live in the present and think with a positive mindset.

Experiencing these challenges allows me to grow in my daily life in Columbus, OH. Whenever I am faced with an obstacle or a tough situation, I remind myself of how I pushed myself mentally and physically on some grueling days on the trail, and I think if I could conquer that challenge, then this is menial. The High Sierra Leadership Expedition also helped me realize who/what I associate the most meaning with in life. On the trail, I could not communicate with family or friends at home, I could not appreciate a warm shower or a real bed, and I most definitely could not surf the web or post on social media. In the front country, I take all of these little things for granted, and when I was disconnected from it all I found that my heart ached the most for my family. My family provides me with constant support and motivation when times get tough, and not talking to them during the most intense month of my life pushed me out of my comfort zone. I learned how much I appreciate them and I realized that relationship truly are the most important things in life. I did not feel behind or left out because of not checking social media, and this helped me fully understand that in order to draw the most meaning out of my life, I need to cherish my relationships with people. Being pushed so far out of my comfort zone also taught me how to be self-sufficient. I carry this new-found knowledge with me in school by acting accountable for my actions and understanding that if I really want something then it is up to me to put forth the effort to work for it.

When reflecting on who I was before and after the trip I see a girl who is more determined, more grateful, and adventurous. Overall, I learned the value of entrusting your life to others, working collaboratively and I truly believe that I can do anything that I set my mind to.


Twelve participants embarked on the backpacking trip, and the majority of us began the journey with no prior backpacking experience; therefore, the first few days of hiking proved vigorous and taxing on the body and mind. I think we all internally questioned whether we were up to the challenge. On the morning of the third day on the trail, one of my peers vocalized his concerns to the group. He explained how he felt worried that he would not be able to complete the 190 miles and scared that he was slowing the group down. His concerns were legitimate, but he was psyching himself out too much. Everyone reassured him that he was not alone in his doubts, but that he had to believe in himself.I shared with him my techniques for coping with doubt, which included thinking positively, practicing gratitude for a body healthy enough to move and carry oneself up mountains and for having the opportunity to be out here enjoying the stunning views. I also stressed the importance of looking at the bigger picture. Yes, our body’s ached from the miles and weight of the pack, but that soreness would soon turn into muscle and by the end of the trip not only would we return physically stronger, but mentally stronger. This experience taught me that if we can push through hump, which already felt like the most challenging task of our lives, then any issue at home or at school will seem menial and we will conquer it with no problems.

Experience similar to the one described above interweaved themselves periodically throughout the entirety of the trip. These moments of weakness followed by reassurance opened my eyes to the power of maintaining a positive mindset. I learned that thinking positively makes every experience more enjoyable and makes every goal seem more achievable. From these experiences, I saw how having a positive mindset motivates those around you, and contributes to an overall well being.


This change is transformational and valuable to my life because I feel like I have adapted a new mindset that will allow me to be a healthier, more productive and more charismatic version of myself. When one is truly present, then he/she enters a state called flow, and we fully experience the things going on around us. Acknowledging this will prove valuable for all aspects of my life because life is sure to be filled with experiences and in order to grow from them, I need to be present.

The High Sierra Leadership Expedition also influenced my life, for I learned what it felt like to be pushed outside of your comfort zone, and grow from it. I noticed that while reflecting on the trip, I wouldn’t dwell on the bad stuff, instead I would reminisce on the experiences that made me feel alive. I found this interesting, that we remember things as better than they were, and I think that this can be partially attributed to the fact that it is often from negative experiences that we grow, which is vital for being happy. This realization relates to my future plans for I know that I will seek out experiences that facilitate personal growth for myself and others.


For more insight on my experience visit my blog  . 

For more photos visit my website.

Leadership Development: A Summer with Kids

1. This summer, I had the opportunity to work full-time as an assistant teacher in a preschool for children, ages four and five, with disabilities. The summer program lasted for ten weeks and allowed me to work with the lead teacher to design and carry out activities, learning centers, and trips for the 20 children we were in charge of. We came up with ten different themes, and each week had its own theme that the activities and trips were centered around.

2. I have always had a passion for dedicating my time to helping others, especially those in dire need such as the homeless, sick, and dying. I have had the opportunity to volunteer in various homeless shelters in the Cleveland and Columbus area over the past several years and in hospitals and hospice facilities. However, my STEP signature project allowed me to step slightly outside of the healthcare setting and into a new environment with a lot more responsibilities than I had ever been used to. I was now in charge of 20 children with special needs with the help of just one other teacher. As cliche as it may sound, words can not even begin to describe how much this program allowed me to grow into an independent, confident, and responsible leader in just ten short weeks. I went into this position not knowing if I would be able to get anything out of it. Being responsible for so many children who all needed so much attention seemed like a task I was not ready to handle. I had no experience with this particular age group, and I felt overwhelmed and apprehensive. However, I quickly learned I just needed to have an open mind and let myself learn as each day went on. I learned skills such as patience, which is crucial for working with special needs children, especially at such a young age. Patience was always something I struggled with; being pre-med, I am used to a fast-paced and always moving lifestyle. My STEP experience allowed me to truly practice patience every single day, and now I am able to adjust my outlook on life and allow life to move at its own pace. A future in the healthcare field will require an immense amount of patience on a daily basis, and this experience helped me to practice this important virtue in a way I would have not typically thought would do so.

3. Throughout my STEP experience, there were a variety of events and interactions that took place that allowed me to grow as an independent leader. For example, I had the responsibility of leading daily activities for the group of children. I had no prior experience working with this young age group of children, and on top of that, I also did not have prior experience working with children with special learning needs, like ADHD, PTSD, and underdeveloped motor skills. Throughout the summer, I learned something new every day about these children and how they best learned. I was able to tailor an activity to each of their needs, so that they were able to participate in what was planned for the day. This made each child feel special and appreciated, which was a goal I had in mind throughout the summer and strived to accomplish each day.

Once a week, we took the group of children on a trip that went along with the “theme” of the week. For example, one week we went to the Great Lakes Science Center, a personal favorite of mine! The kids were able to participate in science experiments appropriate for their age, explore the center, visit the planetarium, and much more. I was beyond excited for this trip especially, being a science major. I was able to bring my passion for science to the trip and help engage the children in the activities they were participating in. The kids had the time of their lives, and we all were able to learn something new that day. I made sure to keep each child’s personal learning needs in mind throughout these trips, one of my responsibilities as a leader. Each child learned in a different way, and some needed more time and attention than others. While this made the summer slightly challenging because there was such a large number of children in the group and only two leaders, I truly do think it helped me rise above my comfort zone and put a large load of responsibility on me, helping me to grow into a more well-rounded leader.

Finally, the aspect that I admired the most about my STEP project was the interactions and relationships I made with not only the children I took care of all summer, but also their families. While the program only lasted a short 10 weeks, I built such strong relationships with the children and their families that I will be able to cherish even after the program ended. The families were so appreciative of my dedicated time and attention I put forth in order to help their children have a fun-filled, educational summer. The families of the children had to put a great deal of trust in me to have me spend 40 hours each week with their child, helping them to develop skills necessary to help them excel in life and in their education.

4. My STEP signature project has left me with memories and lessons I will never forget, no matter where life takes me. At first, I was skeptical when this opportunity came up. Being pre-med, I felt like I had to do something directly related to healthcare. However, at the same time, I realized that I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone that would allow me to strengthen my leadership skills, something that is absolutely critical in the healthcare field. I am so thankful that I chose this specific STEP project regarding leadership because I feel like I am capable of so much more and have grown into a stronger leader, even if the experience only lasted a short ten weeks. Before going into this summer, I was nervous about having to care for so many children and lead them through a new activity each day of the week. It was extremely challenging and frustrating at first. As the days went on, I dedicated my time to these children and built strong relationships with them and their families, so that I could better understand what was best for them, how they learned, and what their needs were. It got easier as time went on because I was able to form such strong bonds with them. I knew I loved working with kids for a while, but this experience definitely strengthened that passion for me. It takes a great deal of patience and passion to work with children, and I do believe I have that. The field of pediatrics is one that I have considered pursuing after attending medical school, and this STEP project was just another experience I now have that will allow me to get closer to obtaining that lifelong dream of mine.