Opportunities Adding Up
As her final semester at Georgia Southern University ended, things began to add up for Bailey Kirk (mathematics ‘18). Kirk has participated in the University Honors Program since her first-year in 2014. Throughout her time, she has taken advantage of opportunities such as peer leading, participating as an alternative break trip leader, and presenting her research at conferences. Each of these individual experiences inspired her decision to continue her education and pursue a master’s degree in teaching.
This June, she will begin graduate studies at Georgia State University. She was awarded the fully-funded Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. Her focus in graduate school will be on teaching in low-income schools. The next chapter of her life will be greatly influenced by her four years at Georgia Southern University.
Like any typical freshman, Kirk was placed in an Honors First-Year Experience course (FYE) during her first semester. Her class, Hispanic Culture through Film, helped to open her eyes to all of the opportunities offered to her by the Honors Program. Kirk grew very fond of her FYE professor, Doctora Leticia McGrath. Because of their close relationship, she was inspired to travel with Dra. McGrath to Costa Rica to participate in the Honors Program’s alternative break trip, Project Pura Vida.
“I loved being able to travel there and explore, but most importantly to volunteer in La Carpio. Working in that town literally changed my life. It influenced me to go on more alternative breaks, which solidified my life goal: to teach in low-income areas. This dream may be more difficult but ultimately so worth it by seeing the inspiration and life changing moments in people that need it most,” Kirk said.
This relationship also prompted Kirk’s choice to become a Peer Leader for Dra. McGrath’s FYE class in her second year. Kirk also became an Honors Ambassador where she talks with potential students about the opportunities in the University Honors Program. One of her proudest moments was during a scholarship event last year.
“I will never forget when one of my current FYE students came to me and said I was the Honors Ambassador that she talked to at one of the admission events. She said that I was the person that helped her decide to come to Statesboro, by talking to her and making her feel comfortable,” Kirk said.
Kirk also presented research at a conference during her first year in the Honors Program, and in the ensuing years, she continued to present her ideas at conferences, including her research for her honors thesis. “Everything I have presented had some roots in Honors, whether it be from Costa Rica or my honors thesis,” she said.
Like many honors students, Kirk was intimidated by the honors thesis. However, despite these initial fears, Kirk finally realized her passion for research. “My research presents the further analysis of the assessment data on College Algebra and prerequisite skills for Calculus. I found trends within the data that can be used to improve the teaching and learning of some concepts in College Algebra and Calculus,” Kirk said.
Now, through all these experiences, she has had the opportunity to travel abroad, present research at professional conferences, create lasting relationships with peers and professors, and influenced potential and first-year students through her Honors Ambassador and Peer Leader positions. Kirk knows that her experiences in the University Honors Program have allowed her to grow in and outside the classroom, and all of it has prepared her for her next steps as she moves on to graduate school.
“Volunteering becomes something that you just do naturally, and it never feels like a chore,” she said. “The research is something that you are passionate about and truly care to learn more about in order to expose others to new material. Everything may seem difficult, but there is so much support in the Honors Program. All that you need to do is reach out to a peer, a professor, or just take a short walk down to the Eidson House.”
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