Past Scholarship Winner: Austin Fitzgerald

Today’s Feature Friday post is a little different. We will be interviewing our past scholarship winner, Austin Fitzgerald. Austin won our scholarship in 2018 when she put together the Mindstrings Violin tutoring program. You can see her original video she submitted here. 

Austin has been at the University of Chicago for two years now. She has kept in contact with MindStrings and has been working on a way to become qualified for the program to accept donations. 

Since then, she has also become involved with a program on her campus called South Side Free Music Program. Her role is a violin teacher offering free lessons to the youth on the south side of Chicago. She is using this resource to hopefully have MindStrings expand to Chicago where she is located, however, COVID-19 threw off her plan. While Zoom and other online video call platforms may be an option, the majority of the students she would teach do not have this accessibility in their homes. This is something she is still working on. 

Another way Austin has found to serve with her music ability while at school is by playing the violin to cancer patients at UChicago’s hospital. This is part of her MindStrings outreach program and she is working on recruiting others to do this with her. 

Austin is double majoring in Pre-Medical and Anthropology with a biology minor, she has been busy in her studying! She is the current Co-President of the African and Caribbean Student Association at the University of Chicago. On top of this, she has been exploring her interests in childhood development and social mobility through her job as a research assistant at the Thirty Million Words Center for Early Learning + Public Health. Way to go Austin! 

We are extremely proud of Austin and all of her accomplishments at college, especially during this difficult time where the pandemic has halted some of her plans. 

If you would like to learn more about our scholarship and see how you can apply, check out our scholarship webpage. 

Tips For Graduating College Students

College graduation has recently come for many students and is still in anticipation of other seniors with graduation in the spring. This time of life can come with a mixture of emotions- excitement that college lectures are a thing of the past, worries for future plans, or fear of the unknown. I have asked trusted friends, family, and colleagues their best advice for graduating college students and have come up with this collective list of important things to remember during this big change in your life. 

  1. Stop stressing about a job. The most typical response by far was to stop stressing about jobs and career paths after graduation. There are a vast amount of options each major in school can lead you. Jobs will open up and work out, while others that seem perfect may slip through your fingertips. Important things to remember while job searching after graduation:
  2. The perfect job rarely exists. Which is okay because it leads to my next point.
  3. You most likely will not be in this job for a lifetime. Gone are the days where you choose a career path and stick with the same occupation until retirement. Typically, people spend 3-5 years in the same job before getting promoted or finding a new job. If you don’t find the perfect job, it’s okay because it will likely change. 
  4. Finding an entry-level job right after graduation doesn’t always happen, and that’s okay. Keep searching and putting in the effort, don’t let the pressure of a graduation date stress you out about a job. You’re young, take time to explore, travel, or even find experience in your field to land a great job later in life. 
  5. You can choose to be passionate about whatever job you end up in. Take it from my husband, who grew up on a farm surrounded by cows, horses, and corn. He graduated with a degree in Business Administration and landed his first job managing a warehouse in a rental company for wedding supplies. If a farm boy from Utah can have a full conversation about chivari chairs and 90” round ivory tablecloths one day and then be sad the next day when he says goodbye to the company while he changes his career back to his roots in an agriculture-based company, anyone can be passionate about anything. 
  6. The years went faster than you thought they would. College graduation is already here? How did four (or three, or five) years go by so fast? They really do happen in a blink of an eye. 

Studying a subject that brings excitement into your life at a university can be so rewarding. You’ve spent hours and days in classrooms, taking notes, studying flashcards, cramming for tests, and collaborating with peers. Finally, it’s your day to shine and be recognized by many for the accomplishment you’ve made. If I were to leave one last tip, it would be this: walk at your graduation ceremony. Take the day to wear the cap and gown, show off your school’s tassel, and pose for every picture your family and friends want to take. You just dedicated four years of your life to studying and passing classes, you deserve this day. Congratulations, graduate!