Buck-I-SERV trip to Honduras

I participated in a Buck-I-SERV Farm to Cup trip to Honduras over winter break. While abroad, we visited coffee farmers and learned about the coffee growing process, as well as the struggles and concerns of entrepreneurs. We also collaborated with Serve Hope to build a house for a farmer in need and assemble water filter with local residents.

Change came about in a few different aspects for me on this trip. First, I gained a better appreciation for bilingualism and how difficult it can be to be new to a language. Thrown into a Spanish speaking country with little knowledge of Spanish, I truly understood how scary and disorienting it can be to not be able to navigate or interact with anyone well. Similarly, I’ve learned how important conversation can be in bridging cultures. There was a lot I didn’t know about Honduran culture, and my first few days were quite confusing as a result. But as I talked to farmers and locals and eventual friends throughout the trip, I learned so much about their history and way of life. That shed much light on their culture, and I left a more knowledgeable and well-rounded person due to those conversations.

Spending time in a country where I did not speak much of the native language, I was faced with a rather significant language barrier. Right after our plane landed in Honduras, me and another girl headed for the first coffee shop in sight to recharge. I had practiced a few words that would help me, like “café au lait” and “grande”, so I felt confident enough to try to make the transaction. All went well until the cashier asked me a word I didn’t know, and I froze in a panic. Do I say yes? No? What would I be getting myself into by doing so? Seeing my confused, frozen look for a few seconds, the cashier grabbed a packet of sugar to indicate what she was saying, “azúcar”. That feeling of panic and embarrassment continued to be my companion throughout the trip. I was excited to meet new people, but terrified to start a conversation with them in the fear that I wouldn’t be able to hold my end of the conversation. After a day or so, I made an important connection that would make an impact on my future interactions, both on the trip and after. I remembered the face that I had to have been making that day at the coffee shop and realized that I had been on the other side of that counter and that conversation before. Since I serve at a coffee shop that many international students frequent, the confusion over a few words had happened multiple times before. I realized that, for some of these students, just having a conversation can be an exhausting thing to do some days. But also, I knew that I had wanted to help them in those situations but didn’t always know how to. By going to a new country, I was able to put myself in the shoes of people that I saw often and better understand what they were going through, and how I might lend a hand in little ways. This understanding doesn’t just apply to international students at OSU, but to immigrants and visitors to the US in general.

Cultural differences between the US and Honduras made themselves clear rather quickly. The slower pace of life in Central America was significantly different from the rushed and quick pace of the States. I had to remind myself many times that I didn’t need to constantly be engaged and working on something. When I allowed myself time to relax and mingle more in our free time, it became apparent why this calmer pace is such a prominent way of living. When we slowed down between events and project, me and my group had a chance to talk to each other and to locals. The resulting conversations shed light on the differences (and similarities!) between our cultures, and we got to learn much more about the lives of the farmers and Hondurans in general. We learned their perspective and struggles, and we also got to discuss our own perspectives and clear up any misconceptions that existed. While the hands-on service was satisfying and left a physical structure to benefit the farmers in the long run, the conversations we had made quite an impact on me and will stick with me for years to come.

Something that I had to be vigilant about is not succumbing to the savior complex on my service trip. It can be so easy to think that, if only I could come in with the right skills and resources and enough time, I can fix problems that are plaguing people in developing parts of the world. It’s a well-meaning but ultimately condescending and unsustainable point of view. My role on the trip was a supporter, rather than a provider, and throughout this trip I was reminded time and time again of just how proud and self-supporting Hondurans could be.  For example, we spend an hour one day helping a group of local women create water filters for their households. The instructions were in English, but most of the women only spoke Spanish, so my group served as helpers and facilitators. Rather than putting the filters together ourselves and giving them to this group of locals, we worked to convey they instructions as they assembled the filters. They were able to assemble these filters by themselves, and therefore provide clean water for their families for decades to come. Another proposed project on this trip was to construct a chicken coop for a coffee farmer. Upon arriving in Honduras, we learned that we would no longer be working on the coop. The farmer, Kenya, had decided that she had enough materials and help to build her own coop, and she wanted Serve Hope to use their resources to help another family in need. Instead, we visited Kenya’s farm and she taught us how to pick coffee cherries (which was a much more difficult task than I had been anticipating). Rather than accepting help that she did not ultimately need, Kenya taught us more about her story and farm, and the difficulties she faces as a small farmer and entrepreneur.

In my current job at a coffee shop, I have coworkers and customers who have English as a second language, so I understand their struggles better now. I’ll keep my uncomfortable experience at the coffee shop in Honduras in mind as I interact with my own customers in the future. Taking a few seconds to pause and help someone understand something better will help them feel more comfortable, and it’s a genuine effort to bridge any gaps between us.

Similarly, I’m going to need to bridge differences and find compromises in the future. Whether it be between different interest groups as I work with natural resources, or personal conflicts that may arise through my life, I’m going to encounter people with a range of backgrounds and experiences and I’ll need to find some middle ground. Through my time in Honduras, I met quite a few people who had lived very different lives from me, and despite this we could find common ground and chat over coffee or a meal together. I got to know these people better in spite of, and honestly because of, our differences.


Buck-I-SERV trip to Biloxi, Mississippi

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.

For my STEP project, I traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi with Buck-I-SERV. During the week-long trip, we had the opportunity to work with Community Collaborations in the gulf area community in Mississippi. Each day we either went to the Moore Community House and the Boys and Girls club and worked with children or we did some form of restoration and conservation work at several different sites which consisted of pulling weeds, moving trees and whatever else was asked of us.

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.

My STEP signature project allowed me to grow as an independent person. What is unique about Buck-I-SERV trips is that often you don’t get paired with people you know, which is what happened in my case. I met the people that were also attending the trip briefly prior to leaving, but I didn’t form relationships with them until we were in Mississippi. Usually, I did not like going places alone or with people I didn’t know. Not knowing anyone on the trip, however, forced me to get out of my comfort zone and thus make an effort to formulate relationships and fostered opportunities to learn a lot about others, myself and Mississippi. I left the trip with several new friendships and a newfound sense of control over experiences that I have.
Prior to getting ready to leave for Mississippi, I knew little about the state. I was unaware that Mississippi was also hit very hard due to hurricane Katrina and they are still recovering from it, much like Louisiana still is. Something else that I did not know is that Mississippi as a state is relatively poor and underfunded. I wasn’t sure how my service for a week would make a difference, for in the grand scheme of things is not a long time or a lot of work. But after meeting the people of Mississippi who were extremely grateful for what we did for their community, I realized that our efforts were making a difference because we were helping in ways that otherwise they would have had to pay for or would of not have gotten done at all. We got to work with many organizations that only function off of volunteer support and thus helped me recognize my impact.

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.

The transformation regarding relationships and independence began once we left Columbus. I ended up sitting by myself on the bus and at our first stop, I felt like I had no one to talk to or hang out with. Thus I was nervous that this would be a representation of how the week would go. After having this mindset of negativity, I decided to change and I wanted this trip to be an experience I wouldn’t forget and thus I would try to make it fun. I then approached a girl I had briefly talked to at one of our pre-departure meetings. She too knew no one on the trip, which made me realize that everyone was in the same boat for the most part. We started to talk as we traveled down to New Orleans and we came to realize that we had a lot in common. As the week went on, I began to learn more and more about the others on the trip and we began to formulate friendships and memories. The whole mood of the trip would’ve been different if I would’ve kept the mindset of “not knowing anyone will make the whole trip awkward”. I am glad to have met the people on the trip and to have kept in contact with many still.
One of the conservation sites we went to was the Pascagoula River Audubon Center, which is a preservation site for the organism and ecosystem surrounding the Pascagoula River. This certain experience was unique and stood out to me because it was a big and beautiful center that highlighted the hidden beauty of the Gulf of Mississippi, yet they only had 1 and a half employees. This circumstance made me really aware of the impact I could have on this non-profit and the land because of the lack of help they have on a daily basis. What we did in the two days we were there definitely took a weight off of their center’s shoulders and allowed them to focus on educating and exposing the community to the rich environment that is in their backyard.
The other aspect of our service was working with the youth of the community. We went to two different locations to help out and one of them being the Boys and Girls Club. When we got there, I figured we would only be there for a few days and that the kids would not remember us or care that we were there. However, after interacting with the kids, helping them with their homework, and playing games with them, it made me aware of how the short amount of time we spent at the Boys and Girls club can affect their whole day or even week. The ladies who are in charge are very sweet and have big hearts, however, the kids connect differently with us as teenagers/young adults than with them. Again, I realized that my quantity of service doesn’t necessarily represent the quality or impact of my service. These kids enjoyed our time with them and we ended up having a great time too.

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.

As mentioned previously, I was skeptical about what ways my service would make a difference, if any. I knew that I wanted to do service and that I love helping people, but the needs of Mississippi seemed bigger than what I could do. Leaving the trip, however, made me realize that no service effort is unimportant. What we did that week in Mississippi will forever help their community recover from hardships, or if anything at least make their life easier for a week. When working with children, It was just as rewarding for us as it was for the kids we got to spend time with. This has changed me personally in that I want to have a mindset of “I am making a difference” in all aspects of my life because I can truly make a difference in my community, personal life, and professional life. I am going into a helping field (occupational therapy) and while that will be my professional career, I hope to have my personal time be filled with volunteering in my community and beyond. This trip has left a taste in my mouth for serving and I do not want to stop and I want to take others along with me.

World’s Toughest Mudder

Rebecca Kozel

Type of Project: Leadership

I chose to participate in World’s Toughest Mudder to help develop my leadership skills and to challenge my attitude about my physical capabilities.I was inspired to create this project by the Buckeye Mudder Club and their dedication to fitness, leadership, and giving back to the community. World’s Toughest Mudder is a 24-hour obstacle course race designed to test stamina, mental grit, and physical fitness.

I am more mentally tough than I thought I was before this project. Going into this race, I had no idea what to expect. The longest consecutive race I had ever run before World’s was only 8 hours, which was only a third as long. I was not prepared for the amount of time that I would be running in the dark or the extreme temperatures I would experience. This project helped improve my communication skills; I was able to work on communicating quickly and efficiently with all of my teammates and each of the pit crew members after each lap. They asked every team member a series of questions every time they returned to the pit area and I was able to tell them exactly what I needed to eat, what item of equipment needed to be changed, which muscles hurt, etc. Competing in World’s helped me to change the way I approach new challenges; it gave me the confidence I need to see them as an opportunity to grow and experience something new. I made the most of every situation, even when I became hypothermic, and I learned that choosing to stop and rest my body when I needed a break is not the same as quitting. This race was both a mental  and physical battle that would not have been possible without our pit crew and the incredible members of the Buckeye Mudder Club. Even through the race was an overall positive experience, I faced many challenges that made me want to quit over the course of those 24 hours.

Leap of Faith obstacle


The very first lap of the race, known as the sprint lap, went well and I was feeling confident that I would be able to reach my goal of 50 miles. About half-way through the second lap, which is when the obstacles begin to open, I arrived at a water obstacle called Underwater Tunnels. In order to complete this obstacle, participants had to swim under three sets of barrels that were partially submerged in water. The air temperature was 43°F and the temperature of the water was about 58°F; I found it difficult to make myself go underwater because I was so incredibly cold. Luckily, a kind participant helped me swim underneath each set of barrels and I was able to pass the obstacle. However, I spent too much time in the water and my body temperature began to decrease faster than I was able to generate heat. When I got out of the water my muscles were stiff and no matter how much I tried to run, I could not stop shivering. I was so discouraged that I didn’t want to keep running anymore. I didn’t want to be freezing cold and miserable.

When I finally returned to the pit area, I was able to switch to dry clothing and put on my wetsuit, but the damage had already been done. I went out for my third lap but still could not get warm; my body temperature had dropped so low that I was hypothermic. I decided to stop running for a while and get warm, but I was still shivering even after sitting under layers of dry robes, blankets, and even a sleeping bag. I knew that I was going to have to take off my wetsuit, put on more dry clothing, and just wait until my body temperature went back to normal. I’m not exactly sure how much time I spent in the pit trying to get warm, but I believe it was close to 5 hours. A huge portion of time was now gone, and I started to get angry at myself. I was angry that I didn’t put on the wetsuit sooner, angry that I didn’t change into dry clothes faster, angry that we still had to go through many water obstacles even though it was so cold. It was around 12am when I decided that I was not going to let myself be angry; I got up, put on my wetsuit, and started to run again. I was still cold but the shivering had stopped.

There were many times during the race that I was running alone through the woods in the dark, with not a single person in sight. There was a brief moment when I realized that there were bears in Georgia, but that just motivated me to run faster. My muscles began to ache but I knew I still had a long way to go. After spending so much time in the pit, I gained a new perspective on the race: my attitude would determine my fate. If I chose to be angry and pessimistic, then I was not going to finish the race. However, if I chose to be optimistic and to continue to push myself forward then I would cross that finish line no badly I wanted to stop. By 8am I was both physically and mentally exhausted. I continued to push through the cold and ran 20, 25, and finally 30 miles.

Crossing the finish line for the last time

Competing in this event brought me closer to my teammates and our pit crew volunteers. It was an honor to represent The Ohio State University and show everyone at the race how passionate our club is about teamwork, leadership and perseverance. I didn’t reach my goal of 50 miles, but I was content with my mileage and incredibly proud of my teammates who also ran between 30 and 60 miles. I now realize that a leader is not always the most outspoken person in a group but is not afraid to speak up when something needs to be addresses. A leader is not afraid to face necessary challenges in order to succeed and supports their teammates in times of adversity. Leaders make it a priority to listen to the people around them and make decisions that will benefit the group as a whole. True leaders know when to let others lead. I have learned many valuable lessons throughout the course of my project and I will continue to grow my leadership skills. I will be able to use these skills throughout my life, especially in my current job as a camp counselor and in my future professional career. Competing in World’s Toughest Mudder transformed my life in a way that I was not expecting and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in something so exhilarating.

Buckeye Mudder Club participants and pit crew members

GitHub Universe 2018

From October 16th to October 17th, I traveled to San Francisco, California to participate within a tech conference known as GitHub Universe 2018. GitHub Universe 2018 had a large amount of companies participate in it that utilized GitHub within their companies. I was able to talk to and listen to numerous employees of these different companies and get their input on how to be a leader within the tech industry.

Prior to visiting GitHub Universe, I was not entirely sure if working within Computer Science would provide the environment I wanted within a job. I did not have much experience within the job-field and did not know what I expected or wanted. After visiting GitHub Universe 2018, I realized that the people I interacted with all embodied what I wanted within a job and job environment. I was able to talk in depth with several spokespeople from different companies and some provided very good insight for my future.

One of the people I spoke to was from the Mozilla booth and he was able to give me advice for how I should project myself within the Computer Science world. He was able to provide information about how to better prepare myself for entering the job-force. Some of the key things he mentioned was that it is very helpful if I learn something that I actually want to learn on my own. A lot of the times, people will learn one thing and stick to it, despite there being better alternatives. If I am able to find something I am heavily interested in, then companies will be more obliged to work with me since my passion and work ethic should display itself strongly. This information seems somewhat obvious after hearing it, but it is very helpful to hear this type of information from someone who has been in the same position that I have been in before. I was able to talk with the spokespeople of Mozilla for about an hour after the official conference ended and it was one of the highlights of my trip. I did not think that I would be able to get as good of a takeaway as I got when speaking with Mozilla and I am very appreciative.

Programmable Tunnel beside Mozilla’s booth at the entrance of GitHub Universe 2018

Along with this, I was able to participate in a number of sessions that covered numerous amounts of tech topics. One of the sessions that I participated in was titled “Built to grow: How the world’s largest company creates a codebase that scales.” The session was hosted by Fiona Tan, the SVP of Customer Technology and AI at Walmart. Although I was not very familiar with the topic that she was talking about, it was very helpful to hear her speak about how she manages the information she is given since she is a Senior Vice President. This displayed to me that a leader must be well-informed and helpful to their team for them to be an effective leader. Without this, a team will not run as effectively as possible. With a company as large as Walmart, it was initially difficult to relate to Tan. Personally, I have only worked in small teams within classes and jobs, but I know that the information that she gave will still be helpful when used on a smaller scale.

Fiona Tan, SVP, Customer Technology and AI (Walmart) during the “Built to grow: How the world’s largest company creates a codebase that scales” session

Another session that I attended was titled “Is your engineering team high-performing? How to measure team speed and quality.” During this session, Rob Zuber, CTO of CircleCI, talked about the different aspects of working within a team. Zuber went in depth about working with different team sizes for different projects and what number of people is the most effective. I found this somewhat interesting because before attending this conference, I assumed that big companies all worked in  large teams, but this is not true. Many companies form small teams to work on different projects so that they are able to work on their projects in the most time efficient and effective manner. Zuber drove home the idea that you should “Invest in effectiveness” which means that he believes that teams should work together to be as effective as they possibly can. There is no reason to have a large amount of people working on a small project if the same project could be completed better and more quickly with a smaller team.

Rob Zuber, CTO (CircleCI) at Is your engineering team high-performing? How to measure team speed and quality

My main takeaway from Zuber’s session was that larger quantity does not always mean better quality. Sometimes, it is hard to understand this, but some companies can have serious issues with something like this. I believe I will be able to use the information Zuber projected to become a better leader within the tech industry. Many of the people at GitHub Universe 2018 are very informative and wise in what they say. The speakers are people who have many years within the industry and know what they are talking about. I am very happy with the information that I received from this conference because initially I was not entirely sure how this conference was going to go. After going to GitHub Universe 2018, I would like to participate in similar conferences when I am more developed within the tech industry. If I utilize the information that I received from this conference with my already known knowledge, I believe I will be able to become a better leader for teams I work with in the future.




JNF College Summit

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two

or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project


I attended the Jewish National Fund’s College Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. At the Summit, I learned about the many ways that Israeli citizens are helping the world with advancements in technology and medicine and how the country has been sustained throughout its history with the support of American Jews, who may not even have a connection to Israel outside of their involvement with JNF.


  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.

Before attending the Summit, which took place simultaneously with and in the same location as the JNF National Conference, I believed that most Jews who were involved in the organization had the same or very similar political beliefs and affiliations. This assumption led me to other preconceived notions about the adults who attended the conference, such as that most of them were older and wealthier. However, my beliefs were shown to be far from true. JNF is officially a nonpartisan organization, and while it was clear that many of the speakers and panelists and the Summit had political disagreements, what was more important was that all of them were concerned with anti-Semitism and reckless, unfair rhetoric against Israel. In addition, I heard from several young adults who were just starting out their careers but still believed strongly in JNF’s mission.


  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.

In an unfortunate coincidence, this year’s JNF College Summit took place during the weekend of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, where a white supremacist murdered 11 Jews praying in temple. When news broke of the shooting and its severity during the Saturday morning of the Summit, the entire weekend was reshaped.  Previous guests had discussed the challenges Jews in America face and now these challenges were now confronting all of us front and center, no matter our background or ideologies. The necessity of increased security at Jewish facilities in both America and Israel, and I and several other attendees now worried about security being an issue at the Summit itself. To have sat in services much like the shooting victims only the night before was a sobering experience unlike any other.

On Sunday morning, the keynote speaker for the full conference (college and adult attendees) was New York Times writer Bari Weiss, a Pittsburgh native. Instead of her originally planned speech, she told us about her native city and what growing up Jewish in Western Pennsylvania had taught her. It was clear that the community was incredibly valuable to her, and it mirrored my own feelings about the Jewish communities in Cleveland, where I grew up, and here at Ohio State. Weiss’ recounting of the conversations she had with her siblings and classmates following the shooting showed me the very best of dealing with grief and firsthand tragedy, and the value of simply being there for each other. More than anything, this is what has kept me active in the Jewish community no matter where I have gone, and Weiss reaffirmed my experience.

The other impact the shooting had on me was showing me the power of group resiliency. On Saturday night, a Blue and White party was scheduled for the full conference, complete with food, dancing, and games. It was never a question about whether we could still have this party in the wake of senseless tragedy—we had to show our peers, and ourselves, that we refused to spend our days living in fear. By expressing ourselves and our Judaism only hours after a man acted on his hatred for people just like us, we immediately placed a silver lining on an unimaginable day. Throughout my life, I have always been an optimistic person who seeks to see the good in every situation, and the JNF College Summit was an extreme example that showed why this trait is so valuable.


  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.

               Attending the JNF College Summit provided me with another avenue to get involved in the Jewish community no matter where I end up in the world, and I realized that supporting Israel goes beyond politics, even when it may seem like people’s lives are at stake. Being at the Summit during the Tree of Life shooting forced me to confront the tragedy head-on. I could not hide from it and try and numb the pain as I would on a normal day. I had to talk about it and make my voice heard, because everyone around me was doing the same. By being thrust into an uncomfortable and unavoidable situation, I learned a lot about how I cope with difficult events and how I communicate my discomfort with other people. By seeing the response of speakers like Bari Weiss, I have gained a better idea of how I will respond the next time fear strikes to a group of people close to my heart.


The Ohio delegation to the 2018 JNF College Summit

The view from our hike on the mountains near our hotel

Bari Weiss speaking to the full conference about growing up in Pittsburgh


Materials Science & Technology 2018

For my STEP Signature Project, I attended the Materials Science and Technology (MS&T) 2018: Technical Meeting and Exhibition. The four-day conference was held in Columbus, Ohio, and is the largest forum addressing materials’ structures, properties, processing and performance across the international materials community. The forum is organized in a joint partnership between professional societies in hope to give attendees a broader range of technical sessions and expertise. Though a large percentage of attendees are professionals in academia and the industry, the conference also caters to undergraduate students. Students are encouraged to network and participate in competitions and poster presentations. Through MS&T 18, students were able to showcase their skill set while developing an interpersonal relationship with the materials community.

Upon entering my major, I had a huge fear of not belonging. Compared to my classmates, I felt inadequate and ignorant to what MSE was about. As I was attending the conference, I really came to understand that MSE is for me. Opposed to the department here, the MSE is actually extremely large. I knew MSE, like any other engineering was international, but I didn’t expect the community to be so widespread but still close-knit. The professional societies played a vital role in connecting the community regardless if they are in industry or academia. I learned that our MSE department’s dynamic mirrors very closely to the rest of the community. Though everyone is a professional, we all appreciate puns and bonding over the processing of materials. It was fun to watch professional bond over the silliest things.

Though I still feel as if I’m falling behind my classmates since I do not participate in research, I couldn’t help but be in awe at all the research undergraduates were doing. Some people out there, are really that smart.

However, I was even more amazed at the students who turned their characterization images into art. An exhibit at the conference showcased an entire gallery of students’ pieces created from scanning electron microscopy and other characterization imaging. The winner was this “Phantom of the Opera” inspired SEM of phosphate.Not only were the art impressive, the original imaging was gorgeous, and the students had actually processed the material themselves. This was the reason why MSE was appealing to me. I had an artistic and design background, but due to the way I was raised, I was tunneled vision into believing that if I went into STEM, I’d have to give up art. Seeing this exhibit made me realize that’s not the case.

The talks and sessions I attended were also very interesting. My classes are only teaching the fundamentals, so most of the topics are too comprehensive, but I learned so much about the different existing processing and manufacturing techniques such as additive manufacturing. However, the talks did not revolve only around the industry and research, there were multiple sections dedicated to improving the undergraduate program. These talks given by professors were focused on guiding and engaging the individual students. I appreciate that the older generation are looking out for incoming engineers.

Furthermore, MSE Club participated in the Mug Drop Contest. Though, I did not create a mug this year, it was fascinating to see all the different designs other schools made. MSE Club had wheeled thrown our mugs out of clay. However, ceramics covered a wide range and one school made glass mugs. One of the two glass mugs did not shatter after multiple drops, but actually bounced! After watching this contest, I’m motivated to create my own mug, and see it survive the drops. However, there are also other contests I am interested in getting involved.

My biggest accomplishment was the interactions I had with my own classmates (especially those in MSE club), other schools and people in academia and the industry. Since I had my doubts, I had a hard time interacting with my classmates, but this conference helped be more confident and bond with some of them. It’s only been a month, but I became good friends with them, and we all suffer in our major together. This is a huge accomplishment for me, because in general, I do not like asking for help. By becoming friends with those in my major and understanding that I’m not alone, I’m not afraid to ask for help.

With respect to my professional career, I have a better understanding of the direction I will go in. I learned that I like to enter the industry upon graduation and go into to manufacturing of metals. I hope to eventually work with textiles, but for now, I am really interested in the metals. The steel professional societies coordinated a mini career fair for steel companies, and I able to prepare and network. Unlike the Engineering Expo back in September, this career fair was informal, and I had an easier time talking to the recruiters. It really helped build my confidence since the Engineering Expo is huge and can be extremely overwhelming. Companies are terrifying, but the recruiters (whether they are from HR or the actual engineers) are just people.

Furthermore, I attended the ASM Women in Materials Engineering Breakfast, where I networked with professionals and students. These interpersonal connections I was making was helping me realize that even though the real world seems terrifying, these communities are here to support and that as Vietnamese American female, I am never going to be alone.

Overall, these realizations are not only helping me develop professionally, but also better myself as a human being. In other words, I went into this conference with certain expectations and goals, and though most things did not occur as expected, my goals were met. I figured out my career goal, I networked and discovered some of the different sectors of the MSE field. However, I also learned how to improve myself with regards to networking and presenting myself professionally. This conference may appear monotonous since its specifically for the material’s community, but I learned more than just the technology and processes being presented.

STEP Signature Project in Winter Park, Colorado

Mary Macleod

Type of Project: Leadership

For my STEP Signature Project, I spent 11.5 weeks in the mountains of Colorado working at a YMCA while participating in a leadership program through my church on campus, H2O. During the program, we met three times a week for session where guest speakers would come in and discuss different topics from leadership to faith. While working at the YMCA, my job was in the food service department working in the kitchen.

Going into my STEP Signature project I knew that I enjoyed being comfortable and that I did not like going out of my comfort zone. Experiencing this summer spent out in Colorado made me realize that going out of your comfort zone and doing uncomfortable things is not that bad and can even be fun. This summer I also realized just how big the world is and how many different cultures there are. Living in the United States, we are a very patriotic bunch that, I believe, are very content and tend to want to stay focused just on the greatness of our own country and culture. This summer I got to experience and learn about other cultures that made me register how closed off and small minded I was. Prior to my Leadership Program and working at the YMCA of the Rockies, I was not a huge fan of international students. I lived in Morrill Tower my freshman year with a number of international students where I did not have a good living situation or experience. After this summer, I can 100 percent say that my opinions have changed.

Over this past summer, I worked in the kitchen at the YMCA of the Rockies as a cook’s helper. My job as cook’s helper was crazier than I expected and one of the hardest jobs I have ever had to do. We prepped for, prepared for, and fed up to 800 guests per meal, three times a day. For a majority of the summer, it was not a great time and I questioned if I had made the right decision going out to Colorado. As I look back on it, the thing I believe made it all worth it was the people that I worked with.

The kitchen staff at the YMCA of the Rockies was one of the most diverse group of people I have ever seen in my life. Snow Mountain Ranch had a program that enables international students to come and work at the YMCA from all over the world. My coworkers were from everywhere; Malaysia, Spain, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Columbia, China, and the Philippines just to name a few. I not only got to work with these international students every day, but also got to become friends with them. I got the privilege to experience each and every one of their cultures every day. Every Tuesday night of every week, there was a presentation on a different country given by the students from that country. There, they got to present and show off their countries, explaining their histories and favorite parts of their homeland. It was an amazing time where I got to see the passion and pride that each international student had for their country. They all got so excited to be able to share and teach about what made their own country so special. My favorite presentation was probably the one on Colombia. My close coworker and friend—Andrés—is from Colombia, so he was presenting. During the presentation, Andrés and the rest of the international students from Colombia taught us how to salsa. It was so much fun!

Not only did I just get to experience different cultures at work and on Tuesday nights, but I got to hang out with my international coworkers outside of work too. On a couple of occasions, we would all get together at night and everyone would cook a dish from their country. These were my favorite nights where I really got to experience the different cultures first hand and get to hear about what the international students enjoyed about the United States and what they also missed about their home—mostly they missed the food.

I truly enjoyed getting to learn about the different cultures, but I enjoy the friendships I made even more. I believe that my STEP Signature Project this past summer was vital to me as a human being. I learned more than I could have ever imagined and was submersed in an environment where it was impossible to be closed minded and stay in ones’ comfort zone. Because of this past summer, I will no longer seek to remain where it is comfortable, but choose to pursue opportunities where I can embrace and learn about others and their cultures. I now know how to go out of my way in situations and be better at meeting new people, always keeping an open mind and keeping misperceptions away—a way of life and a set of skills that I would have never gained without my STEP Signature project.

Nate Smith’s Leadership STEP Experience

This summer I was fortunate enough to use my Second Year Transformational Experience stipend to attend H2O’s Winter Park Summer Leadership Training Program (WPLT). This program focused on finding ones vocation and teaching the leadership skills to get closer to the occupational calling – whether in the ministry or not, reading through Samuel 1 & 2 to observe the life of David, and working at the YMCA of the Rockies at Winter Park Resort in Granby, Colorado. I focused on shaping my professional skills to obtain a Co-op for the fall semester in my current major, Industrial and Systems Engineering, leading a life to be a man after God’s own heart, and working 40+ hours a week preparing food for the buffet style dining hall in the resort.


During my time in Colorado, I was very much challenged professionally. I have never been very strong in with professionality since I have always wanted to keep it real with the people I interact with. I have never enjoyed the act of networking to truly network – however, when networking to try and get to know the person and appreciate them for their strengths, weaknesses and abilities, I excel; for I am passionate about people. Therefor the job search, seemingly existing as number oriented and superficial, was not my thing. However, if I wanted a “real-life” job experience, I would need to push through and try with maximum effort for interviews. I applied to 30+ jobs before realizing that my resume had the 4th applications employer still left in the subject line. A rookie mistake.


I was crushed but counted those other 25 resumes as loss and moved on. I reached out to the Engineering Career Services to ask for assistance in the job search. I was hoping to let them know that I was still intensely searching for a position for fall of 2018, even though it was late in the job search, and if maybe they had an employer who reached out again for a late co-op/internship I would be interested. ECS responded telling me they had no other job opportunities and with improvements on my resume. I was once again defeated – I had been through ENGR 2367, Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity new member resume workshops, and multiple teacher, parent and friend resume critics, but once again my resume still had errors.


I was given the advice to reach out to my network, that “the best success comes when you can make a connection at the company as well to try to help get your resume passed along”. This news hurt again, because I have always relationally networked and asking others for assistance seemed to me like I was using them to forward my resume, which lacked connection. I got over my pride and reached out to an engineering group-chat for a little help if they could connect me with current employers or other college recruiters. However, my relaxed informal message was, understandably, taken with the attitude that I hadn’t been trying earlier in the summer. I received a message from a good friend detailing better ways to network with more specific interests. The truth was – I would have taken anything that got me out of school for the Fall 2018 semester.


My Spring 2018 semester was riddled with apathy, waves of slight depression, and over-stressed with no attempts to fix up my act. I received C’s and C+’s in four of my five classes – not comparable to my 3.2 GPA from the three semesters before. I needed a break from school. The lack of major classes, having only taken a single two credit hour Industrial and Systems Engineering class in my four semesters, terrible sleep schedules, and losing my interest in activities which I once found zeal, had left me hungry for an experience that would re-activate my fading excitement at The Ohio State University.


After the error in my resumes, the response from ECS, and the inefficient attempt to use my network – was at rock bottom crying on the ground in my dorm at Winter Park LT. I called in to work and told them I would be an hour late – I needed to gather myself. I called all four members of my family; Nobody answered. I called the WPLT men’s leader and set up a meeting to talk the next day. My mom called back – we spoke, I calmed down, she walked me through my drafted responses to my friends who truly wanted me to do the best I could when reaching out to my network. I thanked them for their responses and took what they told me to heart.


The next day I spoke with Kyle Winters on my job search. After over an hour of discussion, we came to a conclusion. I had talked about what I wanted, what I thought my parents wanted and what I thought was truly best for the long term – but not once did I pray and ask God what their plan for me entailed. I had tried to really take over the professional portion of my life, one of the more insecure aspects of my life. Not once offering myself to my Lord and asking what they wanted for me in the Fall of 2018. The next day I prayed my first of a series of prayers to God. In my prayer I spoke on what I wanted and how I wanted to achieve it but told God to block each of my efforts if it was not the plan for me. I was not going to pray and stop trying for what I wanted to do for the Fall, however if all of my efforts failed, it was not defeat, but rather destined. I would keep my head up, never feeling defeated knowing it was God’s plan.


This was a major shift in mentality. Not only was I reassured in my second strong attempt to search for jobs, but I knew my insecurity was abolished – for if I did not receive and offers, even any callbacks, I knew it was for the better. Luckily, I never had to face that situation to see if I would truly believe it. Within two weeks of my prayers, I had received four call backs, two interviews and potential part time internships for the Spring 2019 Semester when I would be back at Ohio State. I ended up with two offers and plans with a different company for the Spring semester. I accepted an offer and prayed a prayer of thanks.


In this reflection, which is a self-reflection consisting of my own opinions and reactions – which in themselves are justified because I felt them, I recognize that I have been my own vice in many of these times. During the 2018 Spring semester, I was not active enough to change my ways, during the summer I made the mistake of keeping the wrong company name in the objective line, and during the summer I was insecure in my professional skills – leading to hastily made network messages and a defeatist mentality. Although these faults could be others easily assessed strengths I knew them to be my weaknesses. However, I could mask these weaknesses while in the constant movement in Columbus or Cincinnati – surrounded by fun friends and good times. With nothing but work and leadership activities, I had plenty of time in Colorado to critic, observe and assess my attempts at my professional achievements and downfalls. Without the alienation from the norm I would have never recognized what needed to be done in order to address my insecurities. I am extremely grateful for this experience sponsored by STEP.


There have been multiple valuable changes stemming from these realizations. They are as follows: I do not want to have to fake it till I make it. I will remain the real Nathaniel Andrew Smith throughout my Job search and will not be compromising to fit a mold that I believe needs to be fit for a position. If that role does not fit who I am then I am not meant for it.

On the other hand – another change to my mentality is that I recognize I must do things that I will not enjoy in my life time. I will be uncomfortable in certain professional settings and I must remain calm and collected to pass through those tough times. These two realizations are symbiotic. An uncomfortable situation is a moment in time while an entire faking to fit a mold for a position could last the career.

Continuing, I have learned the true value in pausing and reflecting. I prefer to live in the moment without a reflection on yesterday and without a worry for tomorrow. This has benefitted me and been to my detriment. I understand the reality that the future is better with at least a bit of direction – direction which is learned from pausing to analyze past experiences and reflection on actions of the past to plan for better action in the future.

Overall – the Leadership Training workshops, the 40+ hour working experience and the reading of the Bible were informative, exciting and great experiences, but they all fell short to the alienation and challenges that reared their head in the wake of isolation from daily hustle and bustle that no other local or, to my understanding, planned abroad trip could have exposed. I have returned with more time to work and plan for future semesters, re-evaluate my major and set a simple plan for the Spring semester and Summer to follow. I will continue to grow in faith, in professional skill, and confidence that I have a place in the work force, a spot that will openly welcome my desire for innovation and social change.

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Leadership Training Program with H2O Church

Emily Miller

Leadership Project

  1. My STEP signature Project was focused in the Leadership category and was a summer-long Leadership Training Program with my church. This consisted of three nights a week, as well as one entire day a week, where we got to do fun things in community together, like sharing meals and exploring parks around Columbus, as well as bringing in speakers to teach us what it looks like to live a life following Jesus and be a leader in the Church.
  2. I felt that I grew in many ways as a result of my STEP project. One way in which my understanding of myself changed during this time was that I learned that I can handle much more than I previously thought. Because of my project, I had many things on my plate and was forced to learn to juggle them. It was a struggle to not let any of the balls drop, but I feel that I was strengthened in my perseverance in the process. I learned about time and money management, how to balance and maintain friendships, how to take time for myself amidst the chaos, and most importantly pursue Jesus above all else.
  3. One relationship that helped me recognize the importance of juggling all of the areas of my life was with my friend, who I also was blessed with the gift of living with, Alexa. She is a strong woman, one that has tirelessly built into me and pursued me boldly. She has taught me many things about processing life’s hardships and I trust her greatly. I believe that it was God’s grace to me that I got to spend so much time with her and see her every day because, as a result of the Leadership Training Program that was my STEP project, some really hard things came up in my life and she was there to help walk me through things and process things. She is very much an advocate for self-care and she helped me understand the importance of taking time for myself, even when there are many other things going on.One experience that helped me recognize that my life was being transformed during my STEP project was my job as the Supervisor for the Day Camp I worked at. This was the largest source of my constant stress and lack of time, but it was so worth it. Getting to care for and tenderly guide over 700 children was no small feat, but I believe that no better work could have been done. I saw myself learning how to manage the staff under me and I supervised them and I also am certain that I grew in empathy and problem solving skills, as I strove to provide the most exceptional camp experience for every child that would be under my care.

    The most important relationship that led to life transformation during my STEP project was with Jesus Christ. The point of this project was to get to know my Savior deeply and understand more of my Father’s (God’s) heart for me. I can confidently say that I experienced God reach down from Heaven and pull me out of the deep waters that I felt I was drowning in. He rescued me because He delights in me, His daughter, and this was an incredible truth to experience while doing my STEP project. While I was busy with work and the Leadership Training Program, Jesus led me, through the Holy Spirit in my heart, back to Him. Even though my time was limited, He helped me carve out time to spend with Him and in His word, the Bible. Though it felt like I had no time and I usually just wanted to sleep, I chose my King and He was faithful to bless me with peace, joy, love, kindness, and goodness as a result.

    4. All of these transformations are of the utmost value in my life. Getting to grow in close, life-giving relationships with friends, the ability to exceptionally work with children, and my walk with Jesus will serve me exponentially in the future. For example, I desire to be a counselor for children, so my time with the day camp children was an invaluable experience because I got to learn new management techniques and learned more about building trusting relationships with the kids, especially with the ones who had rougher home lives. As for Jesus, I desire to follow Him for all of the days of my life. I want to fight for life to the full and for truth and for genuine love and joy in my life and desire to share this with the people around me. This STEP project helped me create the foundation for a life with my good and kind Shepherd and I cannot wait to see what God does next with me.

Alexa and I

Everyone who participated in the Leadership Training Program

Attending the UNAVSA-15 Conference

Name: Elizabeth Dang

Type of Project: Leadership

For my STEP Signature Project, I chose the leadership route by attending the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations (UNAVSA) Annual Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Georgia from August 2-5th, 2018.   This conference brings out college students and young professionals that are involved in the Vietnamese community to come together to network, collaborate on projects, and become more invested in Vietnamese culture.  As part of my project, I presented a workshop on anti-Blackness in Vietnamese Nail Salons and was also a Family Leader for the conference.

I have been very involved within my local Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) community on campus and also am involved in the Midwest.  I have always been one to discuss much need topics with others and had previously presented this workshop at two other conference.  Every group that I present to is different with different narratives, ideas, and emotions regarding this topic.  The group I tend to speak to usually consists of a group of Vietnamese Americans who share the same narrative of growing up with refugee parents owning a nail salon.  Every time I present this workshop, I am able to see the validation I give to attendees who may not have people in their environments to discuss these topics, but here in this space, they are with those who understand and empathize with them.  That is transformational to me- seeing people speak about their experiences and being reassured by others.

I believe that having discussions and opening dialogues are important to first start the spark.  In my workshop, I talk about the history of how Vietnamese people became a dominant force in the nail industry.  I also talk about the relationship between store owners/employees and their customers, specifically Black customers, and why there is always a headline about nail salon fights.  My workshop dives into this complex relationship and gives attendees tips on how to have hard conversations about anti-Blackness with their friends and families.

In the workshop, I show two videos from Anjelah Johnson, a comedian who is known for her stereotypical caricature of a Vietnamese nail technician.  To most, that video is funny, but to us Vietnamese/Vietnamese Americans, we are reminded that ours and our parents’ efforts to make a living are constantly made fun of.  We are reminded that APIDAs (Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans) will forever be perceived as “other” and the “forever foreigner.” In my workshop, I provide a space for those affected to talk about these issues, which in turn, validates their feelings and emotions about portrayals like these.  I then transition into the topic of why when our community struggles with issues like these, our community still perpetuates anti-Blackness.  I give attendees five different tips on how to fight this so that we are not continuing this behavior and further contributing to it.

It is transformational for me to see people from different parts of the Midwest and North America come listen, learn, and speak about an issue that affects them or an issue that their community further contributes to.  It is important for me to start this dialogue because if no one starts the discussion, then the problems will persist.  We do not want to be complicit in issues that affect other people of color and should focus our energy on fighting towards equity and not fighting each other.

This transformation matters to me because it builds not only on my ability to publicly speak and present, but I have a moral obligation to giving back to my community through education and support.  It matters to me personally because no community is perfect- we are all constantly improving and changing. It is important to start the conversations to correct harmful behaviors in hopes of one day living in an environment where all are welcome and included.