Citizen Scholar Sisters Draw Inspiration from the Program

As one experience begins another is about to end – Grace Beltowski, a senior Professional Writing major, and Rachel Beltowski, a freshman Film Studies major, are two sisters in the College of Arts & Letters’ Citizen Scholars program. Grace will graduate from MSU and the Citizen Scholars program in May 2020, while Rachel is just beginning her journey with the program as a first-semester freshman. 

“Growing up with Grace as she was going through the program, I heard all of the different things she was doing, and I was always interested,” Rachel said. “Then, when I heard about the Citizen Scholars program at orientation, I knew it was a perfect fit for me.”

The Citizen Scholars program launched in Fall 2016 as an initiative to prepare undergraduate students in the College of Arts & Letters for meaningful careers and leadership roles post-graduation. As a collaboration between all departments in the College of Arts & Letters, the program is designed to prepare high-achieving, diverse, and engaged students for life beyond college in an interconnected, 21st-century world. 

My experience with Citizen Scholars has given me access to many different resources that I would not have otherwise had at my disposal. The connections that I have built with professors, faculty, and my peers have enhanced my college career.

Grace Beltowski, Professional Writing senior

“My experience with Citizen Scholars has given me access to many different resources that I would not have otherwise had at my disposal,” Grace said. “The connections that I have built with professors, faculty, and my peers have enhanced my college career.” 

Students who complete the Citizen Scholars program receive a $5,000 scholarship, which can be used for study abroad, study away, undergraduate research, internships, or other enrichment opportunities. 

Grace used her funding to study abroad in Peru where she focused on environmental communication. 

“That experience was an extension of my learning in the classroom, and it is one of the many examples of a real-world application of my skills that the program has provided me,” she said. “I would not have been able to go on that trip if it was not for the Citizen Scholars program.”

As a newcomer to the program, Rachel is most looking forward to using her funding for study abroad or study away. “No matter where you go,” she said, “I think it is a really great experience for everyone, and the Citizen Scholars program is extremely helpful in getting you there.” 

Girl wearing a green short sleeve shirt with white writing and grey pants smiling and standing on top of a mountain
Grace Beltowski in Peru during her Study Abroad program
that was supported by the Citizen Scholars program.


Rachel also has high expectations for how the program will boost her education. 

“The specific classes, like the Freshman Seminar, are going to be helpful in learning how to manage college life, and more specifically, the College of Arts & Letters curriculum,” she said. “I also think this is a great program for learning how to give back to the community, which I know will strengthen my overall education.”

As for Grace, she says the program has far exceeded her expectations in every way. 

“I did not know exactly what it was when I started because it was new my freshman year, but I was looking for a way to extend my education beyond the classroom, and it did just that,” Grace said. “Over the past three years, it has absolutely changed the way I think about my major. It made me realize I can use my skills as a writer not just in the typical context that I once thought, but in ways that also make a positive impact on any area of study or any future job I may have.”

Grace credits specific faculty members who have made certain moments in the program stand out to her the most, including Sandra Logan, Director of the Citizen Scholars program, and Sarah Whitaker, former program coordinator. Logan urged Grace to join the Snares to Wares class in the spring of 2018.

This is a great program for learning how to give back to the community, which I know will strengthen my overall education.

Rachel Beltowski, Film Studies Freshman

“The class was a beneficial extension upon my Citizen Scholars learning. It was with students of many different majors, but we were all working towards a common goal of helping the organization, and that was a moment for me when it all clicked,” Grace said. “It showed me that I am not just a Professional Writing major using my skills for writing-related things, but I can use them to have an impact on something greater like the Snares to Wares initiative.

“The whole point of the Citizen Scholars program is to combine different interests and work with people of different backgrounds. For me, the program has been about finding those connections between our different goals and interests to work together, and the Professional Writing major is a great supplement to that. Professional Writing has given me useful writing and communication skills for many different fields and it has been a great outlet to perform the things that I learned as a Citizen Scholar.”

As of now, Grace says she is leaning towards a career in publishing. 

“I do not know what capacity I want to do that in, but I do know I want to continue working with writing and editing,” Grace said. “I have also had great experiences with environmental communication and sustainability so, whatever I do, I want to find a way to incorporate those areas into my work. I want to know that I am using my skills to make a difference, solve problems, and contribute to some sort of greater good.”

Whatever she chooses to pursue, Grace says the Citizen Scholars program has given her the confidence to do more than she initially thought she could do with her skills. 

[The Citizen Scholars Program] has cultivated in me a mindset to take risks and find connections where they may not always be obvious. Going forward, the confidence to seek new opportunities is going to be a huge factor for me in my future career efforts.

Grace Beltowski, Professional Writing Senior

“I interned at a biological station this summer, and I do not think I would have had the confidence to seek out and apply for that type of experience had it not been for the Citizen Scholars program. It has cultivated in me a mindset to take risks and find connections where they may not always be obvious,” she said. “Going forward, the confidence to seek new opportunities is going to be a huge factor for me in my future career efforts.” 

Meanwhile, Rachel is looking forward to all the educational opportunities she will experience through the Citizen Scholars program.

“I want to gain more communication skills, and I think the program really helps with that,” she said. “I am also hoping the Citizen Scholars program will provide me with great networking opportunities, and that is another big factor of why I joined.” 

Grace offers the following advice for students considering joining the Citizen Scholars program: “I would say definitely do it. The Citizen Scholars program has broadened my horizons of what I see as the possibilities for me beyond my college experience and the impact I can make with my skills and interests. It can be hard to find your niche in the Professional Writing major, but this program has shown me that there are endless opportunities to be had.”