Photo by Walt Hacket | Left to right: Hannah Atwood, a senior in environmental studies and management, talks with Career Advisor Kristina Hunt after Sept. 5 grad school seminar in the Humboldt Scholars Lab .

Fact and Flattery

Nearly 40 students listen to countless timelines and strategies designed to impress future professors in the position to decide their fate
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The Academic and Career Advising Center hosted a grad school workshop for science majors in the Humboldt Scholars Lab in the library Sept 5. Career Adviser Kristina Hunt attempted to prepare prospective graduate students for what’s to come when applying to colleges across the country.

Hunt clicked through slides aimed at arming students with application information and timelines often available, but almost never compiled into one place. The presentation was designed to streamline the process and nuances of applying to grad school.

The to-do list was lengthy but calculated to optimize time and resources. The tips were varied, but insightful; ranging from hunting for fee waivers, to rationalizing a gap year, to quantifying the social compatibility of prospective new research groups.

After the last slide faded, two students attending the seminar had mixed reactions to the workload ahead.

Hannah Atwood, a student of environmental science and management, left convinced her window to apply had already shut.

“I should have been at this presentation last year,” Atwood said.

Atwood redrew the blueprints from research to a career in teaching.

“I started working with a youth program when I moved here last year,” Atwood said. “And as Kristina mentioned experience in research being important, it made me realize that I already know I enjoy working with kids.”

By shifting gears towards education, Atwood stands to save thousands of dollars and can expect to earn teaching credentials in one year at HSU.

Though Atwood left the seminar courting other options, one student left with hope for the lengthy process.

Junior student Matthew Lotakoon, who studies Hydrology in the Forestry department, is looking forward to grad school, and wants to be “at 100 percent.”

“I want to put together a plan like I did in high school,” Lotakoon said.

Assembling a plan hasn’t always been easy for Lotakoon. During his first two years at HSU, Lotakoon, like many others, struggled with balancing a full schedule and his part in the many clubs he’s joined. That’s in the past. The weight of what’s ahead isn’t stopping him from attempting to be the first in his family to bring home not only a college degree, but a Ph.D.

Hunt sees many students in both Atwood and Lotakoon’s position. Building the foundation to implement the dream of grad school or otherwise is what she does daily in the Career Advising Center.

“I try to pave a path,” Hunt said.

She deals with many different types of students. Some, Hunt said, come in twice a week. Those students are on their own path to graduate school. It’s Hunt’s job to help put it down on paper. Others, she sees only once and is left to wonder.

Hunt does have hope for the job prospects surrounding students pursuing careers at any level in science. Though the sciences, especially environmental, have seen public funding slashed, Hunt says there is hope in the private sector.

With environmental innovations being funded by corporations, there are still research jobs available, with potentially higher pay. Hunt noted that companies like Apple are likely to pay scientists more than the federal government would.

Science students at HSU have options after graduation. There is research work to be done right here in Humboldt County. There is still more literally everywhere else.

Regardless of the next big step the seminar reinforced something for Atwood, a senior looking at graduation, that most students can relate to.

“Applying for school again,” Atwood said. “It stresses me out.”

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