More Than Just Tuition

Patrick Karnes, Konneker-Cutler Scholar ‘08

Patrick KarnesWhen I first learned that I had been selected for the Konneker-Cutler Scholarship, I was most excited for the full tuition the scholarship promised. From my first week on campus, however, I realized that the award offers so much more than money. Though the tuition was extremely helpful, it was the other elements of this program that pushed me to be the best that I could be and prepared me for life outside of the college bubble.

The weekly colloquia required scholars to take a relevant topic, become knowledgeable about that topic, and then discuss it intelligently with a group of students who were equally as knowledgeable, but likely had differing opinions. This was not a place where, like some of those large freshman classes, you could blend into the background and let others debate; rather, it was somewhere you wanted to speak up and add your input into the conversation. This forum provided me with an arena to hone skills that I have found translate seamlessly to my professional career as an engineer. Almost daily I am in design meetings with individuals who are as, or even more, knowledgeable than I am about particular subjects. Through colloquia I learned how to best articulate my ideas to ensure that they are conveyed in a productive way.

While the colloquia honed my skills in articulation, the summer experiences broadened my view of the world.  These experiences are designed to teach us those things that we could never learn in our normal course work. If there is one word that I could use to describe what these four summers taught me, it would be adaptation. Each of the experiences placed me in situations where I had to understand how to change course as needed and take on new challenges and responsibilities. Whether I was running out of fresh water in the desert, completing last minute tasks I wasn’t expecting during a volunteer or internship experience, or traveling with someone who lost their passport in the Czech Republic and had to sneak back into Germany, I became more prepared for my future professional life. When an employer decides to change our design at the last minute (as it often happens), I am able to analyze the new problem, tackle it, and effectively determine ways to complete the task.  My summer experiences taught me this skill of adaptation.

Another great portion of the scholarship was the relationships that scholars get to have with their benefactors. We are afforded the opportunity to develop a connection with individuals who have done so many amazing things in their lives. These people have remarkable drive and work ethic, and are extremely unselfish. They have chosen to give back so much to help out deserving young people. This relationship has shown me what I can do as long as I don’t stop striving to keep growing and learning.

My Cutler scholarship has helped me in so many ways already in my life. The tuition assistance was great and has afforded me many opportunities during and after college. However, the colloquia, the summer experiences, and the relationship with my benefactor, Dr. Wilfred Konneker, have given me skills which prove invaluable every day.  These things have made me incomparably thankful for the scholarship that turned out to be so much more than just tuition.

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