When Walker Trossen toured Michigan State University in high school, he had little idea of the impact he would have as a Spartan or how his time here would influence the direction of his career. Swayed by a strong Chinese language program and the conversations with faculty and an advisor during his campus tour, Trossen chose to come to MSU to further his education as a Chinese major. He later added a second major in Global Studies in Arts and Humanities (GSAH) in his sophomore year.
Having grown up with a number of East Asian Chinese friends, Trossen’s interest in the Chinese language began at a young age.
“I heard my friends speak with their families and I never understood what they were saying, but wanted to,” he said. “That was my main draw to learning the language.”
“The short-term goal for Citizen Scholars is to get programs created, and then in the future have new students come in to either improve and maintain those programs and/or create new ones.”
Trossen took four years of Chinese in high school and visited the country during spring break his junior year at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which cemented his interest in the language and culture.
Now a senior at Michigan State University, Trossen is looking forward to graduating in Spring 2023. During his time at MSU, he was part of the Citizen Scholars Program in the College of Arts & Letters, served as a Teaching Assistant for the Citizen Scholars’ introductory class, assisted students during summer orientations, served as a campus tour guide, and is currently designing a prep course for students who plan to study abroad.
He decided to join the Citizen Scholars Program after learning during his orientation how the program engages with the community through volunteer work and other projects. Open to all College of Arts & Letters majors, the program aims to prepare students for a lifetime of social justice, human rights, global awareness, and equity work in the arts and humanities by guiding them through experiences that enhance their academic work through research, internships, study abroad and away, and community engagement.
However, just as Trossen began to find his stride at MSU and in the Citizen Scholars Program, COVID forced him to head back home midway through his second semester. Not one to sit idly by, he sought out opportunities to stay engaged and started to intern for the Citizen Scholars Program. He also began working summer orientations and has worked for Citizen Scholars and summer orientations ever since.
During his junior year, he started working as a Teaching Assistant for the introductory Citizen Scholars class.
“It has been cool to see the growth of that class since I took it as a freshman,” said Trossen, who also has worked with the Citizen Scholars coordinators to refine the goals of the program and to shape its future. “The short-term goal for Citizen Scholars is to get programs created, and then in the future have new students come in to either improve and maintain those programs and/or create new ones.”
Trossen considers his work with incoming students one of his most valuable experiences at MSU. His high school class was the last to begin college before the pandemic, and he had a semester of remote classes before working summer orientations. Together, those experiences helped him guide new students through both in-person and virtual spheres of college life.
These experiences also have encouraged him to consider a career in academic advising in higher education.
“I’ve had three advisors in the time that I’ve been here, and all three have been great. I really would like to get into one of those more direct one-on-one advising roles.”
“I’ve had three advisors in the time that I’ve been here, and all three have been great,” he said. “I really would like to get into one of those more direct one-on-one advising roles.”
Trossen said he believes his final project as a Citizen Scholars intern will be his most valuable college experience and his greatest contribution to the College of Arts & Letters.
“Right now, I’m prepping a study abroad course for students to prep them before they go abroad. And I’m working directly with the Excel Network, as well as through Citizen Scholars.”
The goal of the course is to mentally prepare students for cross-cultural experiences by training them to develop a more culturally aware mindset.
After graduation, Trossen plans to work for University Christian Outreach, a ministry group that he currently is a member of. He also has his sights set on working in higher education and administration work.
His advice to incoming students, which he has refined and delivered during campus tours, is to go to office hours, take advantage of the university’s resources, take initiative, reach out to people working in areas you’re interested in, and explore cross-cultural experiences.
“Meet your professors and see what they’re researching or working on because chances are pretty good that if it’s in your field, you’ll be interested as well,” he said. “The only reason I got my internship is because I sent an email to see if they needed assistance. If I didn’t take that initiative and reach out, they weren’t planning on posting it as a job opportunity, at least not for a reasonable portion of time. You never know what can happen just by sending an email.”
Written by Austin Curtis