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Dream Chasing as a College Kid

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Saint Martin’s University is unique in that, being a small, private institution, it can be both flexible, and attuned to the needs of each individual student. This is something I was often told throughout my first few semesters here, but did not fully comprehend until this year. Prestigious American politician and lawyer Robert Ingersoll once said that, “college is where pebbles are polished and diamonds are dimmed.” This caused me great concern when I first decided to pursue a career in entrepreneurship. I saw college as a place which trains and produces excellent employees, but not necessarily entrepreneurs. All of the great entrepreneurs I know of, such as Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel, dropped out of college to build their companies. This was heart breaking since I can’t imagine quitting my track team and leaving this place before graduation, yet, I did not want to delay bringing my business ideas to life. It appeared as though to chase one dream I would be forced to give up another. Thankfully this proved not to be the case.

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Because SMU is dedicated to the success of each individual student, I am able to continue my athletics and maintain good grades while also building a business
As I began creating the ground work for my business, I found that being a student at SMU did not inhibit my progress at all. On the contrary, it proved to be immensely advantageous! Every professor to whom I reached out for help or advice was more than happy to oblige in any way they could, some of whom worked in departments I had no academic affiliation with such as engineering.

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The new Panowicz Foundry proved to be an invaluable asset. I spent many late nights hunched over one of its high caliber design computers or playing ping-pong as I waited for a new prototype to finish printing on of the 3D printers
In addition, when I approached my adviser asking if I could use my company in place of an internship she went above and beyond to discover that, although no such program was in place, she, helped by the dean of the internships, could design an entrepreneurship curriculum so that I could be awarded credits. SMU facilities, such as the new Panowicz Foundry, became invaluable assets as well. Now my business partners and I are nearly ready to launch our first company products, a feat that seemed nearly impossible a few months ago. The fact that I will be able to start and run a business while still finishing out my undergrad college education and career as a student athlete still blows me away. I guess that’s just one of the many benefits of going to a university like SMU.

Over half way there, Livin’ on a prayer

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Now that January has passed, its beginning to feel real that I only have three semesters left to complete my undergraduate degree. I’m over half way there. A few weeks ago I could say those words, but they didn’t really register. However, once February rolled around, all that changed. Questions such as, “What are your plans once you’re done?” and, “How will you pay for graduate school?” quickly have become of genuine concern. I’m  realizing that these questions are ones I can no longer casually brush off and avoid. In front of me, are real decisions and obstacles I will have to confront very soon. Wasn’t it just a few months ago everyone was telling me it’s okay, even beneficial, to not have a bullet proof plan right now?

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SMU Campus Dec. 2016, just weeks before the realization hit
“Don’t worry,” they’d say smiling, “College is all about finding your passions and trying new things. The worst thing you can do is become stressed!”

Yet, now I’m faced with the reality that those things alone won’t be enough to secure my future. I’m about to be hurled into the real world and must be prepared to financially support myself, pay for graduate school and build a life. Am I ready for this? I can rattle off accounting and finance formulas, fill out balance sheets and income statements, quote Robert Frost and write a killer research paper on global economic trends, but now I’m faced with the reality that those things alone won’t be enough to secure my future.

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Its crazy to think in three semesters I’m leaving this place (Jan. 2017)

I must be able to use these skills in a way that both makes money and adds value to the community. For the past decade or so, I’ve been going to school to learn and acquire all these different puzzle pieces. Now, I am transitioning into the next phase of my life where I will have to put them all together. This is, on one hand, very daunting, but also extremely exciting! I think the reason this transition is so frightening is due to the uncertainty it brings. School has with it a sense of security. If you fall, someone is always there to catch you. In the real world, that security is gone. With that lack of security, however, comes freedom and opportunity. I will have the opportunity to grow and build something unique with the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired. I will be making money instead of spending it on college tuition and textbooks. I can become as successful as I push myself and strive to be. Yes, I am nervous about what the future may hold. I’ve always hated uncertainty. But, I’m also excited and looking forward towards my new future. One thing is certain, whatever happens, I know it will be quite an adventure.

Supporting The Future

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When I was choosing a college, Saint Martin’s was the practical choice, not my first choice. I had grown up in Olympia and went to high school only a mile away from the campus. Plus, I knew that going to Saint Martin’s meant living at home and going to school with my big sister; not the exciting college experience every seventeen year old guy is looking for. Because of this, I initially didn’t considered SMU as a viable choice, and instead, looked at schools such as Boise State, The University of Washington, Washington State, Northwest Nazarene and Grand Canyon University. When my mom told me I should still apply to SMU, I distinctly remember laughing and responding, “yeah why not.” I appeased my mom and applied but didn’t consider SMU in earnest because, at the time, it didn’t seem to be the school I was looking for.

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High School Graduation Spring 2014

However, when I received my scholarship award letter, I started seriously considering attending Saint Martin’s. College debt loomed as a real possibility for my future and as I compared the numbers reflected in my SMU scholarship award letter to the packages I got from other schools, graduating debt free became a very attainable goal. Was moving away worth $30k of debt? And, as much as I hated to admit it, I really liked the Saint Martin’s campus and people. So, two weeks before classes began, I committed to SMU with no idea how good of a decision I had just made for myself. It wasn’t until several weeks later that I started to fall in love with the place. Now, two and a half years later, I can’t imagine going to college anywhere else. Opportunities I could not have imagined have presented themselves to me as a SMU student. For example, I am currently a part of the track program that’s more of a family than team. Additionally, I have an on campus job as part of the Social Squad in the marketing department, which is uniquely matched to my abilities and complimentary to my interests and major. I’ve also had the distinct advantage of developing positive and beneficial relationships with professors and staff members that I strongly believe I would not have had access to anywhere else. All this started because Saint Martin’s made achieving a college education possible in a way that wouldn’t become a burden of debt I would have to carry for years into my future.

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SMU Gala 2016

College is the start of a new phase in life and I’m grateful that Saint Martin’s made it possible for me to not only get a great education and make life-long friends and memories, but also become prepared to enter the post-college world debt free and ready to make a positive difference. Now as a student and university employee, I am able to see and participate in the events and fundraisers, such as the Saint Martin’s annual Gala, which make those opportunities possible for me. I am able to meet and thank the people who support my dreams and aspirations, as well as those of hundreds of other young people. Standing there, watching SMU’s patrons give hundreds of thousands of dollars and knowing that they are doing it for students like me is humbling and extremely inspiring. It is a reminder as to why I wake up every morning for lecture, and stay up all night studying for exams and writing papers. Some day it will be my turn; supporting students and education will be my responsibility. However, right now my job is to place myself in a position where I can assume that responsibility.

To those who are in the place I was two and a half years ago, trying to make that life-altering decision and pick a university, I would strongly encourage to consider the long term effect your choice will have on your life. Ask the tough questions, be honest with yourself and know that there are people all over ready to support your dreams like they do mine. Then, after you’ve chosen a school, get excited because you will undoubtedly have, like I did, many amazing opportunities come your way.

Be Proud, You Earned It

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Pole Vault has proved to be one of the most difficult things I’ve had to learn as a college athlete
Currently, I’m on my third year in collegiate athletics. It’s been three whole years of paperwork, meetings, training, ice-baths, battling injuries, traveling and competitions. Yet, after three years, I still often feel almost embarrassed explaining to others what exactly I do and why. I catch myself down playing it with phrases like, “it sounds way harder than it actually is,” or “it’s not all its hyped up to be.” However, to be totally honest these phrases are lies. It is as hard as it sounds, so hard that at times I wonder what kind of sane person does this. To me, it is as awesome as it sounds too. It is rewarding and empowering, proving to me what I am capable of and that’s why I do it. I love track and I love the life of a college athlete. So, this begs the question, why do I still feel the necessity to down play the life of an athlete?

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Strength training, drills and then drills that incorporate strength training

I think the answer is a combination of two things. One is the high value our society places on equality, and the other is the human desire for approval and affirmation that we are all the same; no better, no worse than the other. Now, let me quickly clarify something. Equality and equal opportunity are two very different things. According to Webster’s Dictionary, equality is the “state of being equal,” and equal is “being of the same measure, quantity, amount, or number as another; identical.” However, equal opportunity is…,”not discriminating against people because of their race, religion, etc.” I am all about equal opportunity, but not so much equality. I want to help build a world where everyone has the ability to pursue their dreams. But what kind of world would it be if everyone had the same identical dreams and aspirations? I think it would kinda suck.

Our society has become so tied up with equality that we are making people feel like being uniquely different and distinct is a bad thing. It tells us that if we are different, others may not accept us. It tells us that being proud of our achievements means putting others down. But this isn’t true at all. I am proud of what I do, not many others can do it. But that doesn’t make me better than someone else, just different. The same applies to people who are gifted in music, science, computers, acting, public speaking or any other skill. Being proud of what you do doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

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At the end of the day, smile because life is good and everyone is incredible in their own way
I believe the world would be a much more productive and functional place if everyone understood and held to the idea that individuals could and should distinguish themselves and take pride in what they do. That’s what I envision SMU continuing to be and continually becoming. A school where everyone is, not only given equal opportunity to pursue their passions, but where each student is actively and mindfully encouraged to take pride in their successes and achievements. This is the beauty of a small university; in a small university setting a mindset such as this is very realistic and attainable goal. All it takes is for us, as individuals, to look at ourselves and each other differently and to take personal responsibility and initiative to develop our gifts and passions and pursue excellence. We, as fellow students, also should recognize and encourage one another. A mentor of mine once told me that the only time I should be looking down on another individual was to pull them up. With this outlook, we will be destined, often times counter-culturally, to distinguish ourselves in a meaningful and useful way in the world, for the betterment of ourselves and those we impact.

New Year, New Beginnings

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School is back in session which means I have to start getting back into the swing of things. Part of me is sad that summer is over because now I have to do things like spend money, do homework, take exams, and never sleep. However, part of me is extremely excited because I now get to spend more time with my friends, and I am one year closer to graduation!

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My new home in the Burton apartments

In addition, Fall is here bringing with it flannel shirts, hot apple cider and coffee, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and rainy nights. How can you not be excited for that? What’s even more exciting is that I am no longer a commuter student!

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Thankfully I have a kitchen so I can cook my own meals if needed
During this past summer, my dad suddenly found out that Intel is shutting down many of its smaller plants, including the facility where he works, and is moving many its the managers to Hillsborough Oregon. Although this was sad news because my family has to sell my childhood home and move away, it brought with it many good things. This move provided a more gradual transition for me to move out, leading up to my big move off to graduate school. Also, living on campus made my life much easier in managing work, practice, school. I might even be able to have a social life this year!

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Although excited for my new life on campus, saying goodbye to my family was very hard
So far, although I miss my family and home, I really love living on campus. Everything is close, all my friends are right here, and life in college is just simpler. I can go to practice at 6am and still make a nice breakfast before 8am lectures. Then afterwards I can go take a nap in an actual bed (not in my car like previous years) before my next practices. After living on campus, I honestly I don’t know how I survived as a commuter student before. Although I miss my family a ton, I am looking forward to all the adventures this year will bring.

Reflections

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It’s finally SUMMER!!! A few weeks have passed since school got out for the year, grades have been posted and we have all had a chance to decompress.

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Olympia Ted X Conference, Fall 2015

Naturally, I found myself reminiscing about this past year. My involvement, performance, and experience. What things did I do good and what things do I regret doing? It is possible that I was too overloaded. How can I reconfigure things to be more successful next year? Did I devote enough time to my relationships? How can I do better and be better?

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UW Open, Winter 2016

The more questions I asked, the more I realized what things I value and want in my life. And as I thought about it more, I began mentally formulating a plan. It is still in the preliminary phases, but it’s slowly coming along.

Stepping back, I can see that I could have done more to maximize my study time. In four hours of total silence, one can accomplish what could have taken two days. Now, being away from my friends, I realize much more how important people are. Moreover I realize how easy it is to overlook them in the struggle for academic, athletic and financial success. I thought about my time management and my level of commitment. Being extremely involved provides the opportunity for success, but can also destroy it if taken too far.

Do I wish I had done some things different? Of course. I regret not making more of an effort to meet and talk to new people, be more approachable, and spend time with the people I care about. I wish I would have made myself more effective by studying smarter and committing to less. And I wish I would have lived more instead of simply burying myself in work and school. However, this is how growth happens. Revisiting the past highlights the good things done and the things that should be improved. It provides clarity and hopefully direction. That’s the real reason we are all here at college, to receive direction and clarity in our lives.

We students are told daily that college is all about learning.

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Saint Martin’s University Graduation, Spring 2016

However I think it is presumptuous to believe that one can learn nearly everything required to be successful in this short span of a few years. I would counter that college is all about learning how to learn. We are here to instill within ourselves the ability to look back on our choices, critique them, learn from our mistakes, and move on. Never forget to celebrate the successes, but also correct the shortcomings. I’m excited for next year, for the changes that it will bring, for yet another chance to grow and learn. I’m excited because with each year I am here at Saint Martin’s, I see myself growing into a man ready and able to not only take a place in the world, but to revolutionize and improve it.

Collegiate Summer

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The summer is a special time. For a few months the rain stops, the sun comes out and college students have a brief chance to recoup and catch up on life. Between the end of August and the beginning of May, school is all consuming. Every student is doing the same general things; study, eat, sleep and stress.

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Summer 2016 at Saint Martin’s University

Summer is different. It gives each student the freedom to accomplish the things they were unable to do in the school year. For some, this is getting work experience through a summer internship. Others may use the summer to study abroad in another country. Still others take summer classes so that they can get into the working world as soon as possible. Many, like me, take on a summer job throughout to build up their resume and bank account.

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SMU students working on campus for the paint crew, Summer 2016

Whatever the path, summer is a time to take a break from the stress of the school year and channel that energy into other areas of productivity. Of course rest up and enjoy your summer, but don’t waste this time. Read some good books, make some money, network, gain work experience, travel, get in shape, finish that last season of The Office that has been evading you for the past few months. These college summers are precious. Soon, we will be working and there will be no summer break, so make the most of them!

Stay tuned, I’ll be posting again shortly!

~~~Andrew Kier