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News for Nate Schall

One Capstone Down, One to Go!

“One Capstone down, one to go!” was the caption of my Snap Chat story yesterday.  Capstone projects are pretty common for majors here; they are basically like a final research project or presentation.  I am a Geography major, so all semester I have been busy plotting over 450 bus stops and seeing how accessible each neighborhood is in Grand Rapids–all 156 of them!  If you’re really curious, Grand Rapids is about 63% accessible, which is pretty good compared to the 55% national average!

It was awesome getting help along the way from Dr. McCluskey, my advisor and Geography department chair, and Dr. Clinthorne, who teaches the Geographic Information Systems class (It’s a mapping and interpretation program.. quite fun!).  I have six other classmates, and all of their presentations look pretty good, too!  Even though I am finished, I am not finished.  I will be featured among science members at the student research symposium at Aquinas College in the upcoming weeks, and I have to make a slideshow about my research.  On top of that, I need to finished my capstone for my Community Leadership major, too.  I better get to work!  Wish me and the soon-to-be graduates luck!

Serving in New Orleans

I am so thankful to have served St. Peter Claver Church and School for the third time through Aquinas’ Service Learning Department!  I could go on for hours about how much I grew with my team and with relationships there, but I would be typing for hours.  So, here is the synposis.  We spent a week at the service of one of the nation’s largest traditionally African American Catholic churches.  It was founded by an American saint, St. Katharine Drexel, in 1920 after the white parishioners abandoned the current church and left a shell.  Today, it is a dynamic place that has changed the landscape of the Treme neighborhood.  All 14 of the people on the service learning trip were Aquinas students, and we were impacted so much, each in our own individual ways.  Each night was spent eating beignets and spent reflecting with the group.  Wow.  My heart is a little heavy right now thinking back on all the fond memories, and it is difficult to articulate how moving it was for my personal growth.  Regardless, I am so thankful for the opportunity!

Ash Wednesday & Aquinas

I wish every day were Ash Wednesday; probably the one day it’s acceptable to have a dirty face!  People across Aquinas are starting to begin their Lenten sacrifices or supplements.  If you don’t know, the season of Lent allows Christians some preparation time before the celebration of Easter.  About 40 days before, Ash Wednesday is meant as a sign of humility by intentionally placing ashes on foreheads.  Despite its humble intentions, it is always fun to compare ashes with other friends: some marks are huge, puny, and some are just blobs!  Although Lent is a time to contemplate, a few friends and I are already looking forward to Easter.  You see, Aquinas partners with an awesome church in New Orleans called St. Peter Claver.  Four of us Saints miss them so much, that naturally we felt called to visit the parish on Easter Sunday!  I am so thankful that Aquinas gives us these wonderful opportunities like connections with places all across the US.  Happy Lent, bloggers!  Stay warm!

Leadership Week

At Aquinas, the icky weather is not deterring leadership all around campus!  The second week of the spring semester is Leadership Week at Aquinas, where current and potential leaders are showcased and exhibited throughout campus!  Each day has a theme.  For instance, yesterday was Interfaith Day: a day to encourage dialogues across entire spectrums of beliefs in religion, spirituality, etc.  As a practicing Catholic, I always find greater appreciation for my faith through these stories, and of course the awesome ball pit in the Moose! This Saturday, I am really excited to present at our annual Leadership Day.  I am presenting about the Dominican Charisms of study, prayer, service, and community.  The best part of the week is that the leadership keeps going on!  I am so thankful for all of the leadership opportunities the past 4 years on and off campus.  Go Saints!

Finals Week!

To many students, this is the most important week of the semester!  My final exam week is the pinnacle of all I have learned throughout the semester.  My weekend consisted of alternating rounds of notebook, social media, textbook, and SnapChat checking.  I was at home helping my father recover from a procedure, but the stories my friends were telling on campus made me envious that I was in Indiana!  The Local ‘John’s (Jimmy Johns and Papa Johns) around Aquinas are probably the busiest they have ever been: giving gourmet pizzas and sandwiches to students distracted from hunger at 1 in the morning!  It all sounds a bit manic, but there is something special about the week.  The small weight off your shoulders after you finish an exam, the exciting 10pm exam breakfast rudely interrupted by a fire alarm, and the students cramming in the chapel at Mass praying for successful exams and safe travels.  I am going to miss it all next year.  Yes, I am going to miss it all!  My hope and prayer is that my AQ family has a safe rest of their semester and break.  See you next semester!

The Next Step

This is my final year here at Aquinas!  105 weeks of school down, 23 weeks left.  Many people ask me what I want to do after my time here, and until last Saturday, I was pretty ambivalent about my choices for next year!
Some students choose to attend graduate school after their time here, and in my mind, gradate school just wasn’t for me.  However, with encouragement from professors, friends, and family, I looked at schools in Indiana (my home state) with programs of my dream career: Urban and Regional Planning.

My fellow saint, Simone, and I traveled to Muncie, Indiana to Ball State University to see what they have to offer.  Even though it was a state-funded university, it is smaller and has that same relaxed aura that Aquinas has.  I was hooked.  Meeting the Dean of their School of Architecture and Planning was the highlight of our trip: we talked about all of the exciting urban projects in Grand Rapids and other Michigan communities.  We had a great time.

Alas, my mom texted me during the tour and said that I was accepted student graduate school!  What a great way to end the tour.

I wasn’t a great student at first: I never was graded above a B on a paper during my first semester freshman year.  In fact, most were C’s.  After getting connected to the writing center and meeting with professors, my grades began to improve.  Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive for the analytical writing portion of the GRE exam (the test that most graduate schools require; it is similar to the ACT).  Thanks to my help here at Aquinas, I scored in the top 20% of exam takers on the writing portion.  Thanks, Aquinas!

I hope to one day be a Ball State Cardinal, but wherever I go, I will always carry my inner AQ Saint spirit wherever I go.

Reflections About Homecoming

Being a senior, I am a bit embarrassed to admit I attended my first ever Aquinas homecoming this year, but better late than never!  My morning started out with running my first 5k!  It was refreshing running through campus on a crisp Saturday morning.  Plus, Nelson, our menacing mascot, let me give him a big, sweaty hug 26-minutes after the starting shoot off.  But did I go back to Knape House and shower?? No, of course not!  

Next was an off campus destination to attend an alumni baseball game.  Fellow ambassador, Casey Wila, asked me to sing the national anthem, which was pretty terrifying, I must admit, but I survived!  I was on homecoming court among some pretty spiffy people.  They came from all walks of campus: Diversity and Inclusion, student ambassador, writing center consultants, psychology majors, intramural sports champions, sustainability interns, the list goes on. What a fun experience that was!  My jaw is still a little sore from all of the smiles.  The court paraded around the inflatable garden, the social tent, and even Wege Cafe.  Why not?!  After that (this is only 1:00pm), I was able to socialize for a bit of time at the major/minor mixer, where I was able to meet past and present Community Leadership students.  It’s amazing what some of them are doing: executive directors, advocates, student-driven initiatives.  It was very uplifting.

Next, the great chapel grounds blessing took place!  Several students, alums, and dignitaries were there.  The media was there, too.  We may have gotten as much attention as the pope!  What a big deal!  It was great seeing so many people in one place.  We then processed to the present chapel, where I was graced to read during a special Homecoming mass.

Well, then it was 6pm, so why not go into the social tent.  Live bands and many friends and alums were there to greet me with congratulations.  The atmosphere was infectious.  I almost had a feeling that I was on vacation right on campus.  The pinnacle of the visit was seeing my very own admissions counselor, Ashley, the person who made me fall in love with Aquinas, in the tent!  She had recently moved to Indiana, so seeing her was a great blessing.  Then, what?  How about an early bedtime, Nate?

Overall, AQ Homecoming will resonate with me as one of my favorites memories of Aquinas.  There’s no doubt to it! The campus was even more vibrant, jovial, and fun than in everyday measurements.  I must say I sure miss the smell of food trucks, the presence of inflatables by the Arts & Music Center, and the heavy traffic of trams carrying octogenarian Saints (Would you believe me if I said they were on the inflatables too?), but the fresh autumn air, the mums all over campus, and the Fall drinks at the Moose Cafe are definitely pacifying my feelings.  It’s truly great to be a Saint!

New Orleans Bound

Today may be cloudy, dreary, and cold, but all I can think of is a place that typically has 75 degree weather and sunny skies in February!  In just four weeks, my friend, Elizabeth, and I are leading a service trip to New Orleans during our Spring Break.  The Service Learning Department works year-round to give students the opportunity to sacrifice their spring break for a week of service.
Let’s take things back to last semester. I had three choices of how to spend my fall break: work, get fat at home, or a service-learning trip.  Seeing that I had already done the former two, why not try a whole week of service?  As I was browsing through the trips, the New Orleans trip caught my eye.  The service included spending time with K-8 students at a church founded by St. Katharine Drexel.  I couldn’t resist!  I applied and was accepted!
The trip was phenomenal. Eight other students and our adviser (Aquinas’ Director of Residence Life) were blown away by the instant community that was built, not only between ourselves, but between us and the city.  New Orleans has made an impact on all of us: St. Peter Claver School, the French Quarter, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the Lower Ninth Ward, and of course the world-famous beignets from Cafe Du Monde.  Somehow I knew that my fall break was not the last time I was going to be in the Big Easy.
Now, it is my turn to give back!  We are taking a total of 15 great students down to Louisiana in just 25 days!  Even though there is still so much work on my end, everyone’s eagerness and plans make the planning process beyond worthwhile.  Elizabeth and I are trying to keep traditions alive, but we are also trying to give this specific trip its own flair and dynamic.  Wish us luck!  By the way, please please PLEASE challenge yourself on a service learning trip here at AQ!
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