Today we feature Alexzia Lyons, a junior Liberal Studies major. Alexzia is from Durham, North Carolina and previously went to North Carolina Central University, where she dual enrolled as a high school and college student. She discusses how she decided to come to Rowan, her experiences and involvement around campus, and advice to other students interesting in picking up another language.
How did you choose Rowan?
I am originally from Durham, North Carolina. While back home, I went to early college high school at North Carolina Central University, where I was dual enrolled as a high school and college student. There I earned 58 college credits and was a political science major. However, I realized that I did not like political science, and I switched my major quickly.
In my final year, when applying to colleges, I got this email repeatedly from Rowan. It was like, “Come check out Rowan, come check out Rowan!” Meanwhile, I needed to find out where Rowan was and knew little about the university. I was planning on staying in state for college because it would be easier for me to visit my family. However, when I was about to graduate, I talked to Rowan and had a great experience with my admissions advisor. They discussed everything that Rowan offered in detail, and after getting a scholarship, I decided to give Rowan a chance. So I went on a tour, and I enjoyed it. The rest is history.
Were there any other schools that you looked at or just Rowan?
I did not look too far out, mainly because I dislike the cold. So, therefore, my decision to go to Rowan was a surprising one. When I finally told my family I was going to Rowan, they were like, “What!? You are going to New Jersey?!”
My mom’s reaction was more focused on supporting me as I wanted to venture off on my own in a new state, while my dad harped on the fact that New Jersey is a cold place in the winter months and has snowfall. However, I was excited to take on a new journey and create new experiences for myself, so I decided to come to Rowan.
Can you talk a little bit about how the opportunity to take college level classes while in high school advanced your adjustment to college curriculum at Rowan?
Within my experience, my high school was directly in the middle of a college campus. I was placed into college classes starting in the second semester of my freshman year of high school. These classes began with teaching the basics of college curriculum like freshman seminar and rowan core classes.
Being introduced to college-level classes so early was extremely helpful. Coming out of high school, a lot of individuals are not given the experience of college life prior to attending college. I was exposed to the process of meeting with my advisor to sign up for classes and also simply being located on a college campus, which prepared me for circumstances I could not have experienced elsewhere.
With having the opportunity to take college-level classes while in high school, I came in as a junior with 58 credits. So technically, I was supposed to be graduating this year. I decided because I love Rowan so much to actually stay another year and take on another language class.
What is your current major?
Previously, I was a political science major and when I first came to Rowan, I was an international studies major because it was similar to what I was previously doing. But I found myself not really happy with my major, not any fault of Rowan, morally just because I am interested in law.
After deciphering what majors would most likely transfer credits and what fields I was interested in, I took international studies. For a decent time I was happy with my classes but I continued to explore other majors where I then landed on Liberal Studies while focusing on Law and Justice. I’m a lot happier with where I am right now with Liberal Studies.
What sparked your interest in law and justice?
The school I went to is big and known for its law program. I am still deciding, but I am interested in law school. Law and Justice might be helpful to obtain the background and basics of that field if I decide to pursue it in the future. If I am not attending law school, I am still considering going for my MBA. My plan as of right now is to get my J.D. MBA once I leave here.
What can you do with a law and justice degree?
Law and Justice opens up a lot of different opportunities and different professions. Depending on your interests and strengths, you can explore many different job opportunities. A lot of kids who are my major want to go into the FBI or law enforcement. Law and Justice majors also have the ability to really secure [a position in] any government, even if it’s at the state level. Personally, I want to go into law school and then explore the opportunities of being an attorney if possible. There’s a lot of kids who want to be judges, FBI, police officers, social workers and more.
I don’t want to be in court every day. But as a lawyer, depending on where you go, you’re not going to be in court every day. I think for me, I found a real interest taking my civics and economics class where I learned about how the state system works and like what goes into making a law and regulations. I would be more interested in that field.
I am a military kid and I’ve talked to a military lawyer about what he does. I have also talked to a patent lawyer about what she does. I would also love to travel abroad and practice my profession elsewhere without being stagnant.
What are the benefits to learning different languages?
Well, any job is more exciting when you know a different language, especially if you want to travel abroad or even set yourself apart from other candidates within a job search. Learning a language is extremely beneficial. The more languages you know, the more opportunities and doors you will open up for yourself.
Personally, I like learning new languages to expand my knowledge and intelligence but it is also very interesting to learn about other cultures.
What is sign language? How does it work?
A lot of sign language is dependent on your facial expressions and where you hold your hands. It’s not too difficult to learn. I knew a little bit of sign before coming here, which is part of the reason I decided to take the course on. I like that sign forces those practicing to convey their messaging through facial cues; I think that’s very powerful. Sometimes you don’t have the words or a way to communicate that a lot of people don’t think about as a language.
Can you talk about the sign language class and what learning is like by a non-verbal class?
It is interesting because it is not a class you can really take notes or sit through regular lectures. Like anything else, practice makes perfect, and to fully understand how to communicate by sign language, you need to use sign language. One day in class, we played charades. That was an exciting experience and allowed us all to practice conveying a message without verbal communication.
Can you talk about how the staff and faculty help better yourself?
I would say for me, most of the faculty and staff that I’ve encountered have been very helpful and have tried to guide me into the right direction. My advisors have been great working with me, especially when I wanted to switch my major and explore my new options. My advisor also referred me to the career counseling where I talked to someone there with guidance on career advancement and preparation.
My language class professors have all been great. They’ve all been encouraging me to practice, study and ask for help if needed.
How did you get involved with being a CA at Rowan?
I am a CA because my CA within Chestnut Hall was excellent last year and made a lasting impact on me. While being seven hours away from home and unable to pick up my things and go home frequently, it was a little difficult to adjust to the distance. For the CA’s to make me feel included, take time to have conversations with me, and ensure I was supported, made me feel special. I wanted the opportunity to impact others the way that my CA impacted me and my life.
What do you do as a CA?
As a CA I am in charge of about 19 residents right now. Basically, I check in and make sure my residents are okay. I walk the buildings on night shifts to make sure everything’s ok from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m., and on weekly we’re on duty from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. If a resident is locked out of their dorm then we would help them with that issue or if there was a noise complaint then we would contact those responsible.
How do you see that this position of being a CA is going to help you grow as a person?
I am a people person. I like to work with people and let them know what is happening. It will help me with my management and organizational skills; it is much about what you can do to effectively get out information, help residents that need help, and also meet deadlines in the future about where you are doing.
Why did you decide to get involved with SJICR?
When I came to tour Rowan, I actually walked around and visited a club fair that showcased what is available on campus like clubs and organizations. I met Dr. Joanna Murphy and she talked to me about SJICR and what they do on campus. SJICR is the office of Social Justice, Inclusion and Conflict Resolution. SJICR focuses on supporting students of all backgrounds and providing physical space and bringing together resources for underrepresented and underserved students at Rowan University.
What’s the impact that you want to have?
I would love for people to feel included. With Rowan being a PWI, predominately white institution, I feel as if a lot of people on campus are not aware of the resources available to them. If you’re LGBTQ or a person of color, you may be timid to ask certain questions because you’re nervous.
My biggest impact would be to make people feel included or let them know that they have that resource on campus and that’s the whole reason Hawthorn Hall has SJICR. SJICR exists to provided a safe space where issues can be addressed.
Do you think there’s anything that the University could better themselves whenever it comes to diversity and inclusion?
I’m not sure because we actually really have a lot of international students. Of my time here, I’ve made myself feel included. I cannot speak for others or their experiences. I think it’s about if the university wants to advocate for more diversity and inclusion.
Where does your passion for others come from?
I think that’s partly a family thing. My parents have been separated as I have grown up; my dad was in the Army and he was always away a lot being in Iraq and Afghanistan. I grew up in a pretty loving household. Over time I have developed a passion for caring for others because I have experienced that hands on. I want other people to feel that way; I want them to feel loved and included and have that support for each other because that is how I grew up.
If you had one message to incoming students, what would it be?
My number one piece of advice would be to leave your room. Go sit in the Student Center, or go sit in the Library and do your homework. It’s easy to make friends when you attend events and continue to push yourself out of your comfort zone. There are a lot of different ways to get involved on campus and you can do it in a small way or a big way. Rowan has so many clubs so just find something that you’re interested in and try to get involved in that in any way.
Are you in any clubs?
I am not really currently in any club just because being a CA (community assistant, formerly known as residence assistant) and being a student worker is a lot. I was interested in BID (beauty in distress), which is a fashion club, and they put on a Fashion Week here at Rowan. I also was Interested in the Pre-Law Society because of my interests in becoming a lawyer. They are a really big group. But they do a lot of good preparation for people who don’t know about law and the LSAT prep and talking about the 3+3 programs available.
What would you say to someone who is a little bit intimidated by taking a different language?
I would say, first, make sure you have time for in your schedule by talking to your advisor. Once you get into class, you find out whether you think you can do it or not. If you never test the opportunity then you don’t even give yourself the option to withdraw because you never tried it.
I decided right out the gate that I wanted to take a certificate of undergraduate study for my classes, because it’s four semesters and you get a certificate for it. But if you have extra credits that you kind of just want to explore, take it. You can also just join the club for the language you are interested in; there’s a lot of language clubs. That’s how one of my other CA’s is involved. She knows like four or five languages so she’s a modern language and linguistics major. However, she’s in the Italian Club and also seeks out extracurricular activities as well.
If you could sum up your experience thus far at Rowan in one word or phrase, what would it be and why?
Positive. I would say Rowan does a lot of things for me as an out-of-state student who didn’t really know what they wanted to do. Rowan has a lot of resources and they have tried to make it a positive experience. For instance, when you go to the Financial Aid office, they will try their hardest to work with you to get whatever financial aid you can get. If you go to the Career Advising center, they will help you with tutoring.
I think Rowan has a very positive outlook as well. I’ve seen a lot of events to help you thrive. Rowan truly tries to give you resources for to make your life experience better.
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