By Alicia Davids, Communication Department Intern
Abby Zwier ('09) has a passion for learning but always had a difficult time choosing a specific area of interest. She entered Calvin completely undecided about her major and spent two years taking classes from multiple disciplines. When it came time to choose her major, Abby ultimately decided that a versatile CAS degree would open doors and lead to countless opportunities. Abby's degree has done just that.
Zwier graduated with a Rhetoric (now titled Strategic Communication) major and a Philosophy minor. Abby's four different internships at Calvin helped her discover her preferences in the workplace. Her two experiences at law firms helped her decide that law wasn't for her, but taught her how to adapt to different work environments. Zwier characterizes her internships as "some of the most valuable things" she did during her time at Calvin, where she was able to learn through hands-on experiences. "Participating in all of my internships has really helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses better," Abby said.
After graduating from Calvin, Abby entered the workforce for one year as an employee at Home Repair Services, a nonprofit specializing in post-purchase homeowner services in Grand Rapids. Abby had interned at the same company during her final semester at Calvin as a part of the Comenius Scholars program, which teaches students about nonprofit work while giving them the opportunity to work in one at the same time. This internship transitioned into a full-time position as the Energy Program Coordinator. Abby reflects on her time at the nonprofit as a "wonderful transition into the working world." Although she enjoyed her job, Abby wanted to keep learning through further formal education.
After her coursework at Calvin, internships, and a full-time job, Abby decided that she "was not ready to move on from academia quite yet" and wanted to continue developing her research and writing skills in graduate school. She is currently working on her Master's degree in Communication at Colorado State University. For her Master's thesis, she is examining the portrayal of romantic teenage relationships in films like Mean Girls and A Walk to Remember and the messages they send about what these relationships should look like. She gets to do "a little bit of everything," as her work combines media, rhetoric, and interpersonal communication and describes her experience as "incredibly eye-opening."
Abby is able to see the close correlation between the courses she took at Calvin and her experience in the work world and at graduate school. She credits the CAS department with giving her "the tools needed to come into the graduate program as a competent writer and critical thinker." These skills Zwier developed at Calvin through courses like Rhetorical Criticism and Gender and Communication have been crucial in every environment where she has worked.
Her advice to future CAS students is to take as many upper level courses as possible because this is where some of her favorite classroom experiences occurred. She also suggests getting to know the CAS faculty, who are "smart people and wonderful mentors." By teaching her how to communicate effectively, Abby's CAS classes built a solid foundation for success for the rest of her life. As she explains, "Since we communicate all day, every day, communication is a pretty important thing to know how to do well!"