There are students at every college and university who simply go to class, do the assigned work and graduate with a degree. There are also students at every college and university who tend to seek out opportunities to further their educational experience. Gustavus senior communication studies and history double major Ava Goepfert fits squarely in that second category.
On campus, Goepfert is involved with GAC-TV, is a Gustavus Ambassador, and works as a tutor in the Writing Center. Off campus, she volunteers at North Intermediate Elementary School, spent a semester studying abroad, and has recently presented papers at three prestigious undergraduate conferences. She describes herself as the “over-involved Gustie”, but wouldn’t change any of her experiences during her four years at Gustavus.
“Ava’s development as a reflective and critical thinker exemplifies the virtues of the liberal arts experience,” Assistant Professor of Communication Studies Pam Conners said. “Each semester, she strives to fine tune and hone the skills and knowledge she has previously learned. I’m continually impressed with Ava’s commitment to learning more and better. She never rests on previous accolades; she wisely treats accomplishment not as an end, but as means to pursuing greater challenges.”
In the spring of 2013, Goepfert was able to present papers at three different academic conferences. She was one of 30 students to have a paper accepted at the DePauw Undergraduate Honors Conference in Communication. Her paper was titled “George Wallace and the Schoolhouse Door: Authority to Segregate,” which she wrote for her Rhetorical Criticism course at Gustavus.
Goepfert also wrote a research paper titled “From Home to Dorm: First Year Students’ Meanings of Home”, as part of an independent study January Term course. She was able to present the paper at the St. Thomas Undergraduate Communication Research Conference in late-April and then again at the National Communication Association’s Undergraduate Honors Conference in Washington, D.C., in mid-May.
“For me, attending conferences is an opportunity to explore academia outside of our institution,” Goepfert said. “It was incredibly beneficial to talk to scholars outside of Gustavus and learn about communication studies as a discipline, and to also explore what it means to write scholarship. It also gives students a chance to connect with other students who have similar academic interests. It’s a world of intellectual curiosity that is hard to replicate during our everyday life. Students who attend conferences also get to showcase what it means to be a Gustie academically and uphold the College’s core value of Excellence.”
Goepfert has definitely found a home in the Gustavus Communication Studies Department. She credits several faculty members in the department for helping her develop into the student she has become.
“Patty English and Pam Conners in particular have pushed me to excel academically. I have taken multiple classes from each of them and we have developed this relationship where they can be quite frank with me with the understanding that it makes my papers and presentations better in the long run,” Goepfert said. “Pam is the professor who has pushed me the most when writing papers and presenting, and has made me both a stronger writer and a more thoughtful contributor to discussions and conversations. I strive to rise up to the standards she sets, and aspire to follow the deliberative and mindful model she sets for every one of her students. Patty was the first person I took a class from in communication studies, and gave me a great introduction to the discipline. In addition, Leila Brammer has also been influential to me. She met with me as a prospective student and from then on has helped foster my intellectual journey in college with infinite encouragement and wisdom.”
After Goepfert’s busy spring, she jumped at the opportunity to work with Emeritus Professor of Geography Bob Douglas on a documentary this past summer. Goepfert’s experience with videography came in handy after Douglas received a grant to film and create a documentary about Southern Minnesota Welsh heritage. This fall Goepfert is continuing her tradition of involvement on campus by serving as a teaching assistant for Conners’ Rhetorical Criticism class.
“I really love being able to help the students within the class with a sometimes difficult area of communication studies and watch them grow,” Goepfert said. “It’s also helping me develop my own research by interacting with different methods and learning through teaching.”
“Ava’s contributions to the classroom elevate the learning experience for everyone, including me,” Conners said. “Inquisitive, prepared, thoughtful, and critical, she views every class discussion as an opportunity to test ideas and to make illuminating connections between the subject matter and the world in which we live.”
After graduation this spring, Goepfert will be entering “The Real World.” While her next steps are currently unknown, she is excited for what the future might bring.
“My hope is to eventually go to graduate school, but I am definitely taking a year or two off to get a job and reassess,” Goepfert said. “I am hoping to find a job that continues to challenge me but gives me space to explore different aspects of the job world.”
“Ava’s work ethic and communication skills will delight employers in many fields, so her options upon graduation are limitless,” Conners said. “Without a doubt, her critical and pedagogical sensibility as well as her talent for research make her a prime candidate for graduate school.”
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin