High Impact Learners

High Impact Learners: Opportunities with distinctive programs set Gettysburg apart

Brandon Tower '14, Sarah Johnson '15, David Gilmore '14, and Jeff Binner '14

Gettysburg College students are high impact learners. They participate in common intellectual experiences, conduct research, and engage with the community. They take advantage of opportunities -- both in and out of the classroom -- and their experiences profoundly influence their life and career paths, and better equip them to impact the world around them.

Gettysburg's distinctive programs set us apart from other institutions. Where else can you find a national college of liberal arts and sciences that also has a public policy institute with offices in D.C. and on campus, a music conservatory with internationally recognized faculty, programs for engagement with the Civil War mere steps from the Gettysburg battlefield, and a center for teaching 21st century leadership skills?

Read on to find out more about how four students are taking advantage of opportunities offered by the Eisenhower Institute, Sunderman Conservatory of Music, the Civil War Institute, and the Garthwait Leadership Center, and how their experiences are inspiring them.


High Impact Learner: Brandon Tower ’14, Eisenhower Institute

On the fall 2012 Inside Politics trip, after a day full of meetings with political insiders from former White House Counsel Fred Fielding ’61, to former presidential speechwriter John McConell, Brandon Tower ’14, exited his hotel to explore Washington D.C.

He eventually ascended the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and reread the Gettysburg Address.

Tower was struck by the connection. Gettysburg has been symbolically carved into Washington since 1922 when the Address was engraved into those walls. Almost a century later, the College’s Eisenhower Institute (EI) bridges the distance between Gettysburg and the nation’s capital, and shows students how D.C. works.

Tower began working in the EI office as a program assistant as a sophomore, planning and executing events on campus.

That summer, he interned in the regional office of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. This experience, combined with his work at EI, helped fuel an interest in government, but the Inside Politics trip was Tower’s first taste of Washington.

The trip is part of the semester-long mentoring experience led by Kasey Pipes, the Norris Senior Fellow at EI, and provides students with the opportunity to meet D.C. insiders.

“It opened up doors, at least mentally,” Tower said. “My experience normalized the abnormal. We were meeting so many accomplished individuals.” After the trip, Tower said he felt like he belonged in D.C.

Tower had two internship opportunities during the summer of 2013: at AARP in Washington researching the effects the Affordable Care Act on nurses, and at New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development, researching programs to boost the state’s weak adult basic education practices.

The state of New Jersey is thinking of starting a pilot program with grant money based on Tower’s research, a catalyst for revamping adult education.

Tower is now an Undergraduate Fellow at EI, which is an accomplishment that reflects the culmination of his experiences. This year’s focus is on U.S. Space Policy.

Tower, a political science and international affairs dual-major, said, “I have dreams of one day running for political office, be it mayor, governor, congressman or however I can make a tangible impact.”

He is studying space and shooting for the stars.

Learn more about the opportunities EI provides, with programs including Women in Leadership, Environmental Leadership, and Strategy and Leadership in Transformational Times, and more.


High Impact Learner: Jeff Binner ’14, Sunderman Conservatory of Music

Jeff Binner ’14 has a dream of becoming a professional composer—and he’s doing something about it.

As a gifted high school musician, Binner applied to 14 of the nation’s top colleges and universities in search of a music program that would allow him to creatively collaborate with faculty members and earn an exceptional music education. He found this and more in the Sunderman Conservatory of Music at Gettysburg College.

“I had never been to a place that was as friendly and welcoming,” Binner said. “The atmosphere of the Conservatory is very different than other schools. Students are very supportive and happy to help each other. The teachers really push the students to do their best and they offer many opportunities to help students succeed.”

Even as undergrad, Binner has partnered with many of the Conservatory’s distinguished faculty members on music projects, including renowned composer Prof. Avner Dorman.

“Since my first year, I’ve been meeting with him for unofficial composition lessons. Over the years, he’s become a mentor, helping to make my goal of becoming a composer a reality,” Binner said. “The biggest opportunity was being able to work with him on a movie score he was hired to compose.”

Binner has also written for visiting professional groups, such as The Da Capo Players, SHUFFLE, and The Amernet String Quartet, and performed in a variety of Conservatory ensembles.

“I’ve played in the Jazz Ensemble, Wind Symphony, and the Bullets Marching Band all four years, as well as temporary jazz groups for senior recitals and small chamber groups for performances such as Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale,” he said. “My musical ability has grown immensely due to my ensemble experiences. Not only do they offer opportunities to play interesting and challenging repertoire, but they also allow me to work with talented musicians and directors who are always teaching me.”

For Binner, Gettysburg College is the ideal location for students who seek to make music integral to their lives, whether as a career of life-long avocation.

“I would highly recommend the Sunderman Conservatory to other students,” Binner said. “I feel very prepared for the journey that I will be taking in the music business and I know that is because of the Conservatory and taking advantage of the many opportunities it provides.”

Learn more about the opportunities at the Sunderman Conservatory of Music, including degree programs, applied study, ensembles, and more.


High Impact Learner: Sarah Johnson ’15, Civil War Institute

It was Gettysburg College’s reputation for Civil War studies that drew Sarah Johnson ’15 here.

“I originally wanted to focus my studies entirely on the Civil War,” the history major and Civil War Era Studies (CWES) minor said.

So, just how did the junior instead find her passion for World War I? Two years after starting at Gettysburg, Johnson is applying for a Mellon grant to study Gettysburg and the Great War, recently presented on a Gettysburg alum who fought in WWI at the Pennsylvania Historical Association’s (PHA) annual conference, and is eyeing graduate school with dreams of digging deeper into World War I.

The beginning of Johnson’s career at Gettysburg looked like many students who are passionate about the Civil War. She was an office assistant in the CWES program and became the house leader at the Civil War house and a Civil War Institute (CWI) Fellow.

“I became a Fellow mainly to write for CWI’s Gettysburg Compiler blog and dialogue with others about the issues I am passionate about,” she said.

These experiences fueled Johnson’s passion for history, but it was a class taught by Ian Isherwood, assistant director of the CWI and an expert in WWI, which changed the course of Johnson’s studies. “Aftermath: The Experience of War and ‘Modern’ Memory” examined WWI and the Civil War, and their lasting representations in cultural history and literary memory.

That class was also Johnson’s first exposure to Musselman Library Special Collection’s Fritz Draper Hurd (Class of 1916) collection – the topic of her recent PHA presentation.

Johnson continues to develop her interests in both the Great and Civil wars. She’s doing an independent study with Isherwood on American involvement in WWI, and using files from Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, is researching the life of Lewis Horton, a Navy Seaman who was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing the crew of the U.S.S. Monitor.

It was her work on Horton, combined with opportunities to meet professional historians at the College’s Future of Civil War History conference that solidified Johnson’s passion for research.

“[At the conference] I got to meet historians like David Blight and my favorite, Frances Clark. It was an awesome opportunity that doesn’t happen every day. Dr. Clark talked to me about my research and even ‘liked’ one of my blog posts. Those experiences confirmed that I wanted to pursue academic research history,” said Johnson. “I love sharing the stories of individuals. It's humbling for me to bring Lewis Horton and Fritz Hurd back to life for the public. I love that I get to bring their stories to people in meaningful ways.”

Learn more about the opportunities CWI provides, including the Brian C. Pohanka Internship Program, the annual CWI summer conference, and more.


High Impact Learner: David Gilmore ’14, Garthwait Leadership Center

You can be a leader—really, you can.

This was senior David Gilmore’s revelation while attending his first Gettysburg College Garthwait Leadership Center (GLC) Emerging Leaders Retreat in February 2011. The eye-opening experience not only changed his outlook on his own potential, but also motivated him to get others involved in the GLC.

“That was sort of my moment where the light bulb went off,” said Gilmore of the retreat, which is designed for first-year students and sophomores eager to explore and develop their leadership skills. “I applied to the GLC that spring and got the job. As fate would have it, I now serve as one of the project leads for the very same Emerging Leaders Retreat.”

Gilmore, a health sciences major, is also in his third consecutive year as a project lead for the Leadership Certificate program, a one-year self-development process that helps students begin to reflect on their co-curricular experiences through a leadership lens.

“In my opinion, leadership is one of the most important disciplines that an undergraduate student can study and develop,” he said. “At the GLC, we believe that leadership potential lies within everyone and that developing it is a lifelong process. Therefore, if everyone has the potential to be a leader, all that really matters is how soon and how effectively you begin to refine these skills.”

For Gilmore, participating in the GLC has both enhanced his Gettysburg College experience and equipped him for success in the workforce upon graduation.

“I feel like a completely different person than I was in high school—more confidence, better group facilitation skills, improved public speaking, higher emotional intelligence and self-awareness—and as a result, I feel better prepared for holding a leadership position in the real world,” Gilmore said. “The GLC offers a multitude of incredible opportunities; it’s just a matter of students taking the initiative and taking advantage of these opportunities.”

Learn more about the opportunities that the GLC provides, including the Young Alumni Leadership Program (YALP), Student Organization Consulting, the Garthwait Leadership Summit (GLS), and more.

Read about other high impact learners at Gettysburg College: Aleksandra Petkova ’14, public service; Molly Reynolds ‘14, art; Julie Freed ‘16, leadership through active pursuits; and Helena Yang '14, student/faculty research.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Nikki Rhoads, senior assistant director of communications, 717.337.6803
Mike Baker, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6521

Posted: Tue, 22 Oct 2013

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