Skyler Hanson started 2020 with eagerness and excitement for what was to come. She was entering her final undergraduate semester, taking classes she was interested in and passionate about while in line to graduate with Honors in spring. On top of all that, she just got the news that she was accepted for the graduate program of her dreams at the University of Oregon Master’s Industrial Industrial Internship Program with an emphasis in Optics. As we know now, 2020 didn’t shape out quite as anyone had imagined. Classes moved online and the expectations of her final semester were uprooted but not lost.
Skyler is a physics and mathematics double major. As if that weren’t enough, she also completed many women’s gender and sexuality classes. There, she discussed her unique perspective as a woman in male-dominated spaces like math and physics classrooms and workplaces. “Being a woman in STEM has been interesting. Sometimes, it has felt strange being the only woman in a group or the only woman in the lab for research, but I was able to participate in the conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics which helped me with confidence and understanding my Imposter Syndrome and to conquer it.”
While juggling two very difficult majors, Skyler also participated in the Honors Program. She enjoyed this part of her academics because it allowed her to step outside of her major requirements and explore other things that interested her. “I got to learn about Ojibwe culture, game design, love, knots, and homelessness, to name a few topics. These courses made me not just a better student, but a better human being with a more broad understanding of the world. I have two favorite honors courses: Ojibwe History and Culture with Dr. Wendy Geniusz and Question Everything with Hans Kishel and Eric Jennings. Ojibwe History and Culture gave me a greater appreciation for the people whose land I live on and deepened my understanding of how colonization affects so many aspects of daily life. Question Everything blew my mind because I began to understand the ways in which the media we consume operate to change us. These are things I would never have been taught in my major classrooms, and the ability to discuss these complicated topics with peers was a great experience.”
Although this semester was not what she had envisioned, Skyler has been keeping busy with school work and grad school preparations. She advises anyone considering grad school to, “reach out to professors there and just ask them about their research and the program you're considering. Call the program director, too, and the alumni. If you show that you are interested, they are likely to remember you and it's a lot harder to say "no" over a phone call than it is in an email. Also, advocate for yourself and ask for financial assistance from the programs you're going into.”
Alongside many hours of homework and future planning, Skyler has been keeping busy during quarantine by going on long walks and spending as much time as possible in nature. “Reading lots of books and walking is what’s keeping me sane right now.”
Her fierce dedication to her studies alongside her thirst for knowledge across many disciplines is the epitome of a well-rounded student and individual. The University Honors Program is proud to call students like Skyler Hanson one of our own and we wish her luck in the next step of her academic journey.