Advice to new students: You get out of Tech what you put in
May 2, 2017 | Atlanta, GA
Shannon Marie McGeary was already volunteering in her community as a high school student at Mount Paran Christian School in Kennesaw, Georgia. But McGeary, who is graduating with a B.S. in Biochemistry, had even more chances to pitch in and help while at Georgia Tech, thanks to programs like Student Ambassadors, FASET Orientation, and Alternative Service Breaks (ASB).
Even though medical school beckons for the future physician, McGeary’s first job after graduation gives her another chance to make a difference.
What attracted you to Georgia Tech?
Because I was interested in a pre-med degree, I did not see any compelling reasons to attend an engineering university. I am also from an Atlanta suburb, and I wanted college to be a time when I could venture far from home and learn to be independent. But once I toured Georgia Tech, I realized that it was my home.
Throughout my first year at Tech, I fell in love with the campus, the traditions, and the unique passions of all my classmates. While I never imagined coming to Tech or loving it, I cannot imagine myself now as anything but a Ramblin’ Wreck.
How would you describe your life before enrolling in Georgia Tech?
Apart from academics, I enjoyed sports and community service. I was very involved in athletics at my school and spent most of my free time practicing or playing in tournaments with my travel softball team. I also loved to volunteer in my community. I spent most of my free Saturday mornings at the local Horizon League, a baseball league for kids with disabilities. It was so rewarding to be able to share the sport I love so much with kids who otherwise would have been excluded from the game.
What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?
I think the most important lesson I learned at Georgia Tech was through an Alternative Service Breaks trip. We traveled to Memphis, and we worked with a local food bank to address food insecurity in the region. It was inspiring because I was able to meet students from different circles of campus who all shared a common passion – service.
I never expected Georgia Tech, a school known for its engineering and research rigor, to inspire me to create a change in the community, especially through service.
Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?
I’ve had many great professors at Georgia Tech, but if I had to pick one that had a profound impact on me, I would choose William J. Baron. After struggling through the material in Organic Chemistry I, I thought that I would be one of the least successful students in his Organic Chemistry II class. However, through his clear teaching style and availability for help outside of class, I was able to get an A, something I thought wasn’t possible!
At a time when I was questioning my decision to be a biochemistry major and feeling discouraged about the prospect of being a doctor, Dr. Baron reminded me why I chose this major in the first place.
What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?
One of my most vivid memories was at the 2014 Orange Bowl. I travelled to Orlando with my closest friends, and Georgia Tech beat Mississippi State minutes before we rang in the New Year. I have never felt so proud to be a Yellow Jacket!
If you participated in experiential learning activities, what was the most valuable outcome of your experience?
I participated in the 2014 Language for Business and Technology (LBAT) study-abroad program the summer after my first year. I traveled to Mexico and Ecuador with about 20 students to learn Spanish through business and history classes. We even had the opportunity to travel to the Galapagos Islands!
The whole experience was eye-opening, from living with a host family, to trying new cuisines, to making friends in the host universities.
What advice would you give to incoming freshmen at Georgia Tech?
You get out of Tech what you put in. If you seek out organizations and people with similar interests and passions, you will absolutely love your time here. If you keep to yourself and don’t give back to the school or community, you will probably walk away with a mediocre Tech experience.
Georgia Tech has so much to offer, whether through student organizations, community service, intramural sports with your friends, study abroad, or research. If you choose to engage in a couple of things you are passionate about outside of academics, you will develop into a more well-rounded graduate who truly loves their alma mater.
What feedback would you give to Georgia Tech to improve the campus experience for future students?
Encourage us to learn the material outside of lecture. Although most people groan at the idea of group projects, they are actually very beneficial in creating study groups, and even friendships!
Where are you headed after graduation?
I am headed to San Antonio, Texas to teach middle-school life science through Teach for America. The science knowledge I have gained from Tech, as well as the social awareness I’ve learned through ASB and other student organizations, have prepared me to teach students who have been overlooked.
After Teach for America, I hope to attend medical school and then serve traditionally underserved populations here in Atlanta, or wherever life takes me.