I entered Clemson with a rock solid plan for my future. I knew that I wanted to get a B.S. in bioengineering and then continue on straight into a Ph.D. in bioengineering and become a professor at a research university.
As my time passed, I continued happily in bioengineering, but I also began to get involved in programs outside of my major. Specifically, I got involved with Clemson’s New Student Dialogue diversity education program during my junior year. It is difficult to say what made me decide to get involved with this program, but I believe it was a combination of having a great experience with One Clemson as a freshman and my desire to learn about everything (even outside of the world of bioengineering!).
I didn’t know what to expect, but looking back, I can safely say that becoming a peer dialogue facilitator changed my life. Learning about and implementing dialogue between incoming freshmen and transfer students opened up an entirely different world of skills and experiences for me. I learned to introspect; I learned to listen; and, most importantly, I learned to really open my mind and experience real empathy for others.
I already possessed those skills, but the New Student Dialogue program allowed me to realize that they were there and that they are just as important to develop as my problem-solving, engineering-based skills. I also became involved with the new Intergroup Dialogue program for students of all levels. In that program, I was able to find my voice as a peer leader. I worked closely with my co-facilitators and my supervisor to help shape the curriculum, which gave me the confidence to take ownership of my own education. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world.
These new experiences allowed me to get in touch with a side of myself I had previously discounted. My newly honed interpersonal skills needed an outlet, but I was shocked to find that perhaps my trusty “life road map” wasn’t leading me to a career that would enable me to reach my full potential. I was so passionate about bioengineering; how could I have been so wrong? Was it even possible to reconcile my scientific, bioengineering life with my empathetic, Peer Dialogue Facilitator life?
After quite a bit of denial, self-doubt and pro/con lists, I came to realize that I needed to adjust my plan. Spring break of my senior year, I sat down and took a serious look at where I had been and where I thought I was going. I came up with not only a new road map, but also an entirely different destination! I applied and was accepted to Columbia University’s master’s of bioethics program. I finally found a way to use my medical background and my interpersonal skills in a way that complement each other beautifully!
It is amazing for me to look back at the naively confident freshman I was when I first came to Clemson and compare her to the adventurously open-minded first-year master’s student I am today. Bioethics, like bioengineering, is a field of unknowns that I am excited to explore. Even so, the idea of changing my plan a month before graduation was almost as scary as the prospect of moving from Clemson, South Carolina, to New York City! But I am thankful every day that I was able to trust my instincts and seize this amazing opportunity. Without my experiences of self-discovery in the New Student Dialogue and Intergroup Dialogue programs, I wouldn’t have had the courage to take this giant leap of faith. I got what I consider to be a very well-rounded education by taking ownership of my learning and getting in touch with myself.
Always and forever, Go Tigers!
I’m Alanna Walker, and this is my Clemson.