Then I found Colorado State University

Lauren Bouman, a junior studying Economics, delivered this speech at the College of Liberal Arts donor brunch on October 29, 2016. 

The college of Liberal Arts teaches us to live our passions. On the surface that seems pretty self explanatory – it tells us to live doing what we love. However, my experience within this college has taught me that “live your passion” means so much more.

High school was interesting for me. I was in the International Baccalaureate program and it seemed like I belonged to a school within a school. Academically, I was supported beyond all measure, but something was missing. In my junior year I took an Economics class and the puzzle pieces of my life began to fit together. I started to develop passion for a world beyond my own and I found a path that I wanted to walk on well into my future.

While that aspect of my life was coming to fruition, I still felt something wasn’t quite right. Socially, high school wasn’t excellent. Being torn down by societal norms truly has an effect on a person’s overall self worth. But, my mom always told me not to peak in high school – that it wasn’t my time and so much more was coming my way. So, I studied hard, kept my eye on the prize and graduated with honors in academics and service. However, I was scared that college would lead me through the same four socially crippling years that high school had.

Then I found Colorado State University. One of the most memorable experiences I’ve endured throughout my time here actually happened before school started my freshman year. I was fortunate enough to attend the First Year Mountain Experience, a weekend at the mountain campus where individuals are brought together to grow as leaders and challenge themselves on high and low ropes courses. This experience changed my life, and I don’t say that lightly. I was able to be my truest self, with a group of diverse individuals that trusted me to hold them on a side of a mountain after knowing me for a mere 36 hours. These individuals allowed me to be a leader, and that was monumental to me. I found that I am a person that can make a change, take action, and support others through challenges both emotional and physical.

On the last day we hiked up one of the many peaks at the mountain campus. Our mountain leadership team asked us to walk back down alone, to take the time to reflect on the experience, and to think about what we want to do with our time at CSU. I was the first to take my solo hike and instantly I found myself in tears. I had never felt more proud of the person I was than in that moment. I allowed myself to be genuine and vulnerable and instantly I thought back to my mom. I sent her a tear-ridden thank you from that silent nature walk because for the first time, I knew I was starting my journey to my peak.

I share that story because after my mountain experience, I thought I wouldn’t feel that way again. I thought that I would have to ride that high for the next four years. But I was so wrong. The College of Liberal Arts has given me opportunities, relationships, and experiences that have brought me back to my nature place time and time again, especially within the Department of Economics. In the past year I have been able to create the Undergraduate Women in Economics Club, which started off as a challenge built by Claudia Goldin, a professor at Harvard. The initial goal of this challenge was to research the gender gap in the field of economics and understand why it is there. After starting the club at CSU I was able to plan a national conference that brought together representatives from across the country to discuss this topic. With this, the challenge has grown into an ongoing process that has brought together students, professors, and professionals across the United States.

Yet, none of those opportunities, people, or experiences would have been the same without all of you. Without the generosity of our donors, opportunities would be less frequent, people would be less motivated, and experiences would be less meaningful. As an economics major I know monetary value and I know the difference financial assistance can make. I want to thank you all. Our college, my department, and every student wouldn’t be as successful if it wasn’t for your generosity.

As the recipient of two scholarships within the College of Liberal Arts, I feel as if I am not only working for myself, but I am working to honor the individuals that have had blind faith in me by funding my success. Like my peers that trusted me after that mere 36 hours during the mountain experience, our donors trust the department and its students to make a difference in this world.

College becomes much easier to manage with the financial assistance of a scholarship. Without as much pressure on the cost of school, I have more time and energy to focus on my classes and bettering the community with which I am a part of. In the past year, I have obtained the presidency of two clubs an ambassador position, and I have completed a Resident Assistant position, all while being an active member within my sorority.

It is my hope to further my academic and extra-curricular success by attending graduate school. My goal is to obtain my PhD in economics, and with that I hope to make an impact on poverty within developing countries by issuing micro loans. Ultimately, I want to be where you all are one day. I want to have success in my life so that I can give a hopeful young student the financial backing they need to make a difference. I want to pay forward this gift of education that has been so graciously given to me.

College is a rollercoaster. Through its ups and downs, twists and turns, people can quite easily lose themselves. But how incredible is it when someone finds whom they are meant to be, the good they are meant to put into the world, and the ability to live their passion? That is what our motto means to me. It is not just a matter of doing what you’re passionate about. It is taking that passion and using it to make a difference in the world. So again, I say thank you. Thank you for allowing us to live our passions. Thank you.