Making the Most of MSU

Lizzie Oderkirk at Michigan State UniversityLizzie Oderkirk, a senior from West Bloomfield, Michigan, majoring in Professional Writing, has made the most of her time at Michigan State University. She is a scholarship winner, study abroad participant, undergraduate researcher and student organization champion. 

Why did you come to MSU? 
I chose MSU because I didn't want to be too far from home. I was familiar with the campus after attending 4-H Exploration Days for several years, and Professional Writing was the perfect major for what I wanted to go into at the time (book editing). Much has changed since then, but Professional Writing still fits me like a glove!

You received the William J. Lowe Endowed Scholarship from the College of Arts & Letters. How has that affected your experience at MSU?
I was honored to be awarded the William J. Lowe Endowed Scholarship for Undergraduate Study in Ireland for $1,000. I put the money towards my study abroad program, Cultures and Storytelling in Ireland and the UK, a fantastic three-week program led by Liza Potts about fan studies and participatory memory.

Without this scholarship and others, I would have had to drain my personal savings account to afford the program, and may have decided to stay home and work instead.

What have you been involved with, on and off campus?
I was a reader for Red Cedar Review's 50th issue, an editor and then editor in chief for SCImag.com, and now I am the managing editor for The Offbeat. In all of these, I played some part in helping to publish and promote others' writings. With The Offbeat, I also handle the background administrative tasks and work with the other student staff on developing their production management skills. I'm also the president of MSU's chapter of Golden Key International Honour Society, where I help plan and host social and service events for members and the campus and local communities.

I have worked on several different undergraduate research projects, mainly with Assistant Professor Ben Lauren for a study abroad app, and with Associate Professor Liza Potts on a website for a local Sherlock Holmes scion. Because of my work with these projects, I have been able to present at four different conferences including SIGDOC 2015 in Limerick, Ireland, and FSN 2016 in Norwich. I also was able to attend 221B Con 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia, which is a fan convention for Sherlock Holmes, where I discovered I have a deeper passion for fan studies and the Sherlock fandom than I thought.

My study abroad experience this summer was definitely the most life-changing experience I've had during my four-year college career. I had a traumatic international travel experience previously and study abroad was never on my bucket list. I was really nervous to travel again in a similar situation, but I was with a great group of people and a very supportive professor. I learned so much about myself and came back with a desire to travel more and a need to be involved in the fandoms I love. 

What advice would you give current students entering MSU and the College of Arts & Letters today?
Have an idea of what you want to do and try to get experience in that area to see if you really want that, but keep an open mind. You never know what your classes will teach you, and maybe you'll discover a career path that you never even considered. It's ok to change your plans. I've changed mine just about every semester I've been here, and I wish I hadn't been so stubborn about it in the beginning.

Don't be afraid to be involved in things you enjoy that have nothing to do with your professional goals.