A Conversation with Minerva Student Emily

Meet Emily, a student in the Class of 2021 | Nov 25, 2019

Quick Facts

Emily Garlock

Alaska, United States


Arts & Humanities — Historical Forces
Social Sciences — Cognition, Brain, and Behavior


Describe your academic background.

My educational experience has always been somewhat untraditional. In elementary school, I attended a Japanese immersion program, with half of the day taught in Japanese and the other half in English. In fifth and sixth grade, I was homeschooled. During this time, I learned Geology by going to the Grand Canyon and studied English by creating a model using Polly Pockets for a book report. For middle school, I decided I wanted to go back to “real” school and had three different options: a traditional school and two alternative models. I ended up at Steller Secondary, one of the alternative programs, which focused on self-directed learning. From the beginning, I had the opportunity to teach a class, create my own class, choose the classes that interested me, and engage in new ways of learning. For my senior year, I was accepted into a dual-enrollment program with a local university and finished my high school graduation requirements as a university student.

Why did you choose to attend Minerva?

Continuing in a non-traditional academic model felt right for me. I had no desire to listen to lectures, instead, I wanted engaging discussions on meaningful topics. When I learned more about the academic model at Minerva, I was intrigued.

In addition, what drew my attention to Minerva was the travel. “Travel” and “wanderlust” are popular buzzwords these days, popping up on every Instagram feed and in travel blogs left and right, but Minerva offered more. Growing up I’ve been fortunate to travel abroad and my family also hosted two exchange students. From these experiences, I came to greatly appreciate the differences and the similarities of people from new cultures and backgrounds. I have a passion for learning about other cultures by immersing myself in new places and new experiences. When I saw that I could study in seven cities in four years, I was hooked.

However, Ascent [Minerva’s admitted students weekend] was what fully convinced me that this was the right school for me. When I arrived in San Francisco, I was a nerve-racked, anxious mess. Two hours before the events began, thoughts circulated in my head that I wouldn’t make friends, that no one would like me, or that I had made a mistake. But then I met someone. And we started talking. And then I met more people, and I started to make friends. I felt something different in those relationships. The conversations were different. The people were different. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I just knew that these were my people.

Tell us about a collaboration with a Civic Partner that you are proud of. Which partner was it, and what made you proud of the collaboration?

In San Francisco, I collaborated with the Global Brain Health Institute of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) on a project called Multimodal Intergenerational Social Contact Intervention (MISCI.) This project helped socially-isolated older adults by pairing them with college-aged students to help mitigate the effects of dementia.

This collaboration also corresponded with my final project, in which I explored the impact of sharing narratives on brain health and mental well being. Being a part of the MISCI pilot project gave me insight into the research world, where I learned about cognitive science, brain health, and, also, discovered my passion for this field. At the end of the year, all of the pairs presented the projects they had worked on together. Seeing the relationships and bonds across generations was inspiring.

What do you enjoy most about being a part of the Minerva community? How would you describe the community?

Weird. Very weird. But beautifully so. While I can only speak for my class, I have never been a part of a community so open, caring, and trustworthy. I’m not saying everyone is my best friend — but the mutual feeling of belonging is here. I found my people, I found my place. I found a home.

What would you tell another student who is considering Minerva?

Be prepared. The Minerva experience is not easy. It pushes your boundaries and your limits. It challenges your thoughts, perceptions, and expectations. It both disappoints and surprises you. There are still some growing pains as a new university, but it is also one of the most amazing, worthwhile experiences of my life. From stepping off a plane in each new city to going on midnight runs to Bob’s Donuts and hiking up to Corona Heights to watch the city lights — if Minerva is the right school for you, you’ll know.

Why do you think it is important to be a global citizen?

Our world is more interconnected than ever before. It has never been so critical to remove stereotypes, to challenge cultural divides and beliefs, and to redefine what it means to be who you are and where you are from. Being a global citizen makes you question everything you thought you knew. It doesn’t give you answers but raises more questions. It makes your curiosity grow in a way that it will never stop.

How did you hear about the Civic Project with The Whole Shebang?

Mayur, from The Whole Shebang (TWS) came to Civitas, an event connecting students with local community leaders in each city. He has heard about Minerva from his friend who worked with students last year on the Hyderabad Poetry Project. He told me about the music events TWS was in the process of planning and I was incredibly interested, both because of my love of music and my experience with event planning.

TWS was like a family. We had each others’ backs, whether sick or having a bad day or overwhelmed, we could count on each other to help out. These were the kind of people who pick you up from the airport in the middle of the night, who bring you food when you haven’t eaten, and who remind you how valuable you are. Most workplaces are not like this, but nonetheless, the environment of people I work with will be a key factor for me in choosing my future professional opportunities.

Describe your role and the projects you worked on.

Soon after joining, I was put in charge of organizing, planning, and executing the Open Mic Poetry event. Despite some hiccups, such as our sound guy canceling the day of, the event turned out quite lovely, with many performers who both signed up ahead of time and who decided on the spot to share one of their poems.

My daily responsibilities also included copywriting, curating social media content, directing Instagram stories, and writing advertisement scripts. Basically, whenever something needed to be written, they handed it my way.

What knowledge, skills, values or attitudes did you develop over the course of the project?

The two skills that stand out to me the most are cold calling and writing. Cold calling strangers, seems like a trivial task, but for someone with anxiety, it was very challenging. Additionally, for many of them, English was not their native language. However, I wanted to do well and, eventually, the practice helped built my courage and confidence. Collaborating with TWS also improved my writing skills as I was able to work on new forms of writing, such as drafting a Bollywood love story and creating a marketing pitch for a company TWS wanted to represent. I believe that confidence and writing skills are transferable to every industry, every field, and every career path imaginable. These are skills I know I will continuously build upon moving forward.

If you were inspired by Emily’s story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world, apply to join Minerva today.