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Aaron Volk
More Than I Imagined Seniors reflect on accomplishments and look ahead

​Aaron Volk

Graduation year: 2016

Majors: Pre-medicine, Spanish for professional use

Minor: Biochemistry

Activities: Mortar Board, TriBeta, Reading/Writing Center tutor

Post-grad plans: Pursue Master of Infectious Disease and Immunology at Loyola University, Chicago

Why Augustana?

When I began to apply to colleges, I was attracted to Augustana from the start because my grandparents have always lived in the Quad-City area; as such, this area has always been a sort of ‘home away from home’ for me. I liked the idea of being so close to my grandparents and the rest of my mom’s family. Additionally, I heard only great things about Augustana’s faculty, including how willing they are to establish individualized relationships with their students. Because of that, I felt confident in choosing Augustana because I knew that I would not just be another nameless face in a crowded lecture hall.

Are you where you thought you'd be four years ago?

No. When I began my career at Augustana, I had convinced myself that I would enroll in a medical school immediately after graduation; I foolishly refused to consider the value of any other post-grad options. Now, I am thrilled to be among a small handful of students enrolling in Loyola’s infectious disease and immunology master’s program. I still intend to pursue both a medical and doctorate degree. However, four years ago, I would have been appalled at the thought of putting off my med school plans for two years in order to allow time to cultivate other interests.

Who helped you?

I have enjoyed both fantastic faculty and a tight-knit group of friends during my time at Augustana, the combination of whom has helped me to get to where I am now. As I mentioned above, Augustana boasts faculty who work to cultivate constructive relationships with their students, which significantly contributes to the overall experience that Augustana offers its students. I would not have allowed myself the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree prior to medical school, for example, had I not been urged and guided by one particular instructor. Finally, I think that everyone needs a strong network of friends who will push you to succeed and who are there for you when you inevitably need help. I am lucky to have befriended many such incredible people during my time here.

A peak experience?

When I was a sophomore, I was awarded the Tredway Library Prize for First-Year Research for an essay that I wrote during my third term as a freshman. Aside from the significance of the award itself, the experience motivated me to continue to improve myself as a writer, a critical thinker and as a student in general. Now, having recently completed my Senior Inquiry project, I can look back on my prizewinning paper from my freshman year to see how far I have come. Holding in my hands my completed 40-page Senior Inquiry — tangible evidence of how much I have grown as a student in four years — was definitely one of the highlights of my time at Augustana.

What did you learn about yourself that has surprised you?

I have learned that, much to my surprise, I enjoy teaching and helping my peers. Through my work in the Reading/Writing Center and while studying together with classmates and friends, I have found that I am able to learn by helping others learn.

How did you use Augie Choice?

I used my Augie Choice dollars to travel to Nicaragua for two weeks for a service-learning trip. In Nicaragua, about 20 of my peers and I assisted in the setup and operation of multiple free health care clinics.

What will you miss the most?

I will miss late nights studying in the library with my friends. I will miss running to and from Iowa across the river via Centennial Bridge. I will miss Mississippi Mud Revel ice cream from Whitey's. I will miss chatting with my professors between classes. I will miss the ease of being located within a short walk of my best friends. I will miss the Augustana community that has been my home for the last four years.

Advice for the Class of 2020?

Avoid blindly closing doors to new experiences and opportunities that have been opened for you. It is always helpful to have a sense of purpose and direction; however, you must also allow yourself a sense of adventure. One of the most rewarding benefits of a high-quality education is that your future will not be set in stone unless you want it to be; on the contrary, you will have countless options available to you. Do not be afraid to pursue them, even if only for a short time.

“Aaron’s academic achievements suggest that he must be extremely bright and work incredibly hard. Both are true, but those qualities are not what I will remember about Aaron. While he is smart and hard-working, it is his generosity that truly distinguishes him. Aaron holds himself to the same standards whether he is writing a paper or tutoring a peer in the Reading/Writing Center. His interactions with tutees unfailingly show a patience and empathy that rarely develops in someone with his gifts. It carries over to the classroom, where he regularly enters complicated discussions with a fearlessness that gives courage to his fellow students. I’ve known him four years now, and the only thing he hasn’t shown an aptitude for is sleeping. But just wait until Aaron puts his mind to it...”

— Dr. Margaret France, assistant professor, English