Feature Story

October 11, 2022 | By Marcos Crespo ’23 and Cole Hatcher

Kennedy Watkins ’25 discusses her company, Gilded Teas, at an ‘OWU Does Entrepreneurship’ panel held as part of the first OWU Connection Conference. She also has an office at the Delaware Entrepreneurial Center at Ohio Wesleyan University. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Making the Connection

Ohio Wesleyan Celebrates Learning at Inaugural OWU Connection Conference

No classes or tests occurred Oct. 6 at Ohio Wesleyan University, but lots of learning took place across campus at the university’s first daylong OWU Connection Conference.

The event was filled with panel discussions and presentations featuring Ohio Wesleyan students sharing how their participation in the university’s signature experience is helping them to create the personal and professional futures they seek.

In welcoming the community to the “historic, first-ever OWU Connection Conference,” President Rock Jones, Ph.D., said that when he meets prospective and incoming students, he often asks them what they care about, where they want to go, and who they want to be in the future.

“Today, we get the answers to those questions,” Jones said.

The OWU Connection, part of the university’s general education curriculum, is designed to help students “Think Big” (understand complex issues from multiple academic disciplines), “Do Good” (volunteer to help others), “Go Global” (gain international perspective), and “Get Real” (translate classroom knowledge into real-world experience through internships, research, and other hands-on learning).

In addition to the panel discussions, the day also included the annual Patricia Belt Conrades Summer Science Research Symposium, featuring students discussing their 10-week mentored research experiences and sharing posters of their findings.

Think Big

During the inaugural conference, Think Big panelists shared their experiences and answered questions from peers still planning OWU Connections:

  • Sisi Fish ’24, a Communication major, interned with the Summer on the Cuyahoga organization, completing marketing and illustration work for the nonprofit that works to facilitate internship experiences for students in Northeast Ohio. Fish utilized her interest in the Fine Arts field, adding that since taking graphic design classes at OWU, she’s “gotten a lot better even if I was very proud at the time of my first design.”
  • Lily Good ’23, a Bachelor of Fine Arts (studio) major, participated in the New York Arts Program and interned for three artists. “Getting to hear different opinions really helped me grow as an artist,” she said.” Asked about what it was like to work in Manhattan, Good told her peers, “It seems pretty daunting [at first], but it’s actually really easy. I was nervous, but I got through it.”
  • Katie Lee ’23, a Bachelor of Fine Arts (studio) major, interned for the New York Arts Program, which helped her fulfill a goal to “learn how artists live” as she plans her future. Lee also is working on a year-long Departmental Honors Project and received an OWU Connection grant to buy materials for painting, papier-mâché, and art book projects. Lee said the Honors Project is “helping me explore what future projects could look like.” Her work will go on exhibit in April as part of the graduating senior art exhibit at OWU’s Richard M. Ross Art Museum. 
  • Lily Herreid ’24, a Zoology major, worked with the Cleveland National History Museum and teamed up with the national Lights Out initiative to help reduce bird mortalities. Her efforts included sharing ways to prevent birds from flying into windows and helping those that needed rehabilitative care. Herreid encouraged everyone to help reduce bird deaths by turning off the lights during their migration season.
  • A.J. Lashway ’23, a triple major in Zoology, Environmental Science, and English, interned with the City of Delaware at its Wastewater Treatment Plant. As a sustainability coordinator, she monitored and pulled trash from waterways for chemical testing to assess water quality. Lashway said the internship was a “rewarding experience” and helped her to decide that she doesn’t want to pursue such fieldwork as a career.
  • Lee Leonard ’23, a Zoology and Environmental Science double major, traveled to Michigan to research how climate change affects plants experiencing drought. Leonard completed a lot of data collection and data entry, and confidently said, “I feel a lot better as a researcher and feel like I’ve grown as a person.” Leonard noted OWU’s Plant Ecology course provided a good foundation for the research.

Do Good 

Panelists shared the many ways they were able to volunteer in service to others, including the university’s annual spring break Interfaith Service Week, and how it will help to shape their futures:

  • Karli Walsh ’24, a Philosophy and Politics and Government double major, traveled to Chicago to conduct a series of interviews focused on people facing life incarceration. Throughout the experience, Walsh discovered how “dehumanizing the system is [to prisoners]” through interviewing an inmate facing a life behind bars.
  • Meredith Frymyer ’24, a Pre-Law and Social Justice double major, worked with the Lakota Youth Development group in South Dakota during a spring break service trip to support tribal natives and bring awareness of their rights. Frymyer also is president of Indigenous People Awareness Club and seeks to spark conversations regarding colonization. “I’m not in the position as a white female to tell their stories, but indigenous voices are not heard enough in the media.”

Go Global 

These panelists traveled the world for their OWU Connection experiences, conducting research, academic, and service projects that expanded their understanding of other cultures and customs:

  • Emma Zajac ’23, a Neuroscience, French, and Pre-Medicine/Pre-Dentistry triple major, spent eight weeks working at a hospital in Senegal, West Africa, caring for children with cancer. She also completed the study-abroad requirement for her French major by serving as a translator for her patients. The experience helped Zajac determine the type of work environment she prefers and strengthened her love of helping people.
  • Zynnia Peterson ’23, a Zoology major, went to Costa Rica to volunteer and help out with the daily care, medical checkups, and care of endangered macaws. “Volunteering is a good way to travel and network inexpensively,” she said. Peterson is a transfer student and earned an OWU Connection Theory-to-Practice Grant for her trip. “Everything was a fun learning experience, and I don’t think I would really change anything.”
  • Lucas Nathanson ’22, a young alumnus who majored in Business Administration, offered advice after having worked as a student with a marketing agency in Prague. While in the Czech Republic, he conducted research on local and international food companies and completed copyright proofing. Regarding his study-away experience, he said, “It’s a great opportunity to work in an environment where it is atypical to whatever you have done academically.”
  • Nathan Zuniga ’25, a Physics and Pre-Engineering double major, is studying abroad this semester in Sydney, Australia, at the Sydney Institute of Technology. While he has struggled with the time zone and with missing his fraternity brothers, Zuniga said, “Every time I go outside, it feels like an accomplishment since it’s so different from America.” He tells peers thinking of studying abroad “don’t be afraid” and go for it.
  • Annabel Benes ’24, an Environmental Science major, is studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) program. “Classes have been an adjustment,” she said, but “I’ve learned how to live by myself – like how to plan out my meals.” Overall, Benes said, the experience was the “opportunity of a lifetime,” and all of the panelists in the Zoom meeting nodded in agreement.
  • Jenn Lee ’24, a Business Administration major (marketing concentration), is studying in Prague as part of the Cultural Experiences Abroad (CEA) program. Lee said the area’s accessible transportation has allowed her to travel almost every weekend. “It’s helping me day-to-day to grow as a more independent person,” she said, adding that “OWU does a very good job in supporting your financial needs.” Lee concluded by advising her peers who are considering travel programs to “make the experience what you want it to be.”
  • Audrey Propp ’24, a Neuroscience major, is studying abroad at the National University of Ireland in Galway. While adapting to the “Irish attitude” has been an adjustment, Propp said, it is a “very relaxed atmosphere and there are no judgments since everyone is doing their thing.” She encourages students to “take advantage of their surroundings” if they decide to go abroad.
  • Jada Respress ’23, a Communication major, studied abroad at the CIEE Open campus in Cape Town, South Africa, and currently is in London, England. Respress had been trying to study abroad since her freshman year but hadn’t been able to until now because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The process with COVID wasn’t easy, and it was just getting pushed back so many semesters.” Respress said an important benefit of the experience has been “getting into a different environment and finding out what you like and don’t.”
  • Helena Von Sadovsky ’24, a Medieval Studies major, is studying abroad at the University of College Cork in Ireland. “The program has made things super supportive and great,” Von Sadovsky said, but she advised students to get a SIM card from their home country to make communication as easy as possible. Her other advice is to “be open-minded as much as possible.”

Get Real

Students participating in these panels had lots of helpful advice as they discussed their internships and other hands-on learning experiences with peers still planning OWU Connections:

  • Nilu Deb ’25, an Astrophysics and Computer Science double major, encouraged students to be open to learning new skills, networking, and developing their presentation skills. He also advocated for students to “always be prepared. Don’t leave anything for the last minute.” His experience involved completing biophysics research focused on “Improving Prediction Accuracy of RBPBind by Including Variable Footprint” at The Ohio State University.
  • Blake Johnson ’24, a Politics and Government major, also noted the importance of networking, as well as the benefits of “surrounding yourself with people who know more than you,” and working with OWU’s Career Connection office to identify opportunities and to be prepared to successfully pursue them.
  • Kara Cannon ’25, a Computer Science and Fine Arts major, is rethinking her path and planning to add a Business Administration major (with a marketing concentration) as a result of her internship experience. “It really helped me to figure out what I want to do with my life,” she said of her internship with Philadelphia-based Sports Reference. Her role included working as a user experience/user interface intern and conducting user interviews and focus groups. Cannon also encouraged every student to create a LinkedIn page if they didn’t have one already. “Personal branding is everything in the digital age,” she said.
  • Kennedy Watkins ’25, a Computer Science major, presented information about her company, Gilded Teas, at a special “OWU Does Entrepreneurship” panel held at the Delaware Entrepreneurial Center at Ohio Wesleyan University, where she has an office. Watkins gives a portion of her proceeds to support another of her passions. “I want to teach people about how STEM fields need more minorities,” she said, “more minority women like me.”
  • Nathan Scott ’23, a Business Administration and Health and Human Kinetics (Sport and Exercise Management) major, shared employment and internship information during an HHK panel. He has worked with the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department and Columbus Crew, among others, and earned his spot with the soccer team after making his initial outreach via tweet. His get real advice included “get used to hearing no” and always “take the interview,” even if you aren’t sure whether the job is the right fit. He also recommended that students “apply everywhere to get a baseline of where you are” in the skills you have and those you need to develop to get the position you seek.
  • Lauren Reich ’23, an Accounting and Finance Economics major, worked over the summer as an investment operations intern with Capital Group and has accepted a full-time position with the firm. She credits the Career Connection office with helping her to polish her resume and interviewing skills and encouraged students to “make sure you are keeping an eye out for connections,” including campus events, speakers, and alumni in your desired field. She also noted the need to make professional presentations, adding that this is “a skill OWU teaches really well.”
  • Savannah Domenech ’25, an Environmental Studies and Geography major, completed a summer internship helping to care for animals and plants as a sustainable agriculture intern at Delaware’s Stratford Ecological Center. Her hands-on help included collecting eggs, feeding chickens and cattle, and even fixing electric fencing. She suggested keeping in contact with OWU advisers and professors when looking for opportunities and to always “keep an open mind … put yourself out there, and overcome fear.” As for her most memorable moment, she used food to keep a goat calm during milking and one day when the animal escaped, it headed right for the milking station and the treat bucket. “I trained a goat,” she said.
  • Anna Edmiston ’23, an English (Creative Writing) major, participated in the New York Arts Program, working as an editorial assistant for the Video Art Experimental Film festival. “I wanted to explore career opportunities in my creative field that were practical,” Edminston said, adding that “the safety net of going to New York through the program made it more of a possibility.”

The next OWU Connection Conference will be held during spring semester, again inviting students to share experiences and to plan where they want to go and who they want to be.

Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s signature student experience, the OWU Connection, and the first OWU Connection Conference at owu.edu/connection and more about the Summer Science Research Program and annual symposium at owu.edu/ssrp.

Check out our photo album for more pictures from the Fall 2022 OWU Connection Conference!