Canyon 49 dinner celebrates Honors PAC students
Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by Gracie Lott
GCU News Bureau
Wednesday night, several students who successfully completed this year’s PAC program gathered to Canyon 49 Grill’s outdoor patio for a socially distanced dinner. The event, hosted by Honors College Program Manager Dennis Williams, offered students a safe opportunity to engage with their peers in PAC for the first time since the semester started.
The evening consisted of multiple raffle opportunities for students to collect Honors College “swag,” choose a meal from a specialized Canyon 49 menu and the announcement of PAC award recipients.
“This is the first and only time we’ve been able to get together in person as a group,” Williams said. “We were really just there to celebrate the group completing the program.”
PAC, which stands for Professional, Academic and Career, is a 10-week program that offers participants multiple opportunities to network, practice essential professional and leadership skills and push themselves to get out of their comfort zone and establish a greater sense of preparation for the professional world. This semester, the program looked a little different, with events and assignments taking place virtually rather than in person.
For many, 2020 has been a rough year to say the least, but Honors College Associate Dean Dr. Breanna Naegeli said it didn’t stop PAC students from engaging fully in the program and taking advantage of every learning opportunity they could.
“I am exceptionally proud of all of the students who started and completed the entire 10-week program,” she said. “Ten weeks is a lot of time to commit to and, for many students, they’re doing classes through Zoom, online coursework, virtual events and Zoom fatigue was really starting to kick in, especially at the tail end of the semester. However, these students really prevailed and committed to the mission of professional growth.”
At the end of the event, Williams distributed completion certificates to attendees and announced the top students in the program. Students eligible for the top awards not only completed all the tasks, they also went above and beyond to establish not only an impressive resumé but also display immense growth.
The Honors College leaders said it was difficult selecting the recipients of the top three awards because so many notable students met the qualifications.
“It was very, very, very close,” Williams said. “We had several students sort of in that top tier. All of those students are really engaged and participate to an extent. But then we have that competitive group as well, so we made it a fun competition.”
Ashley Larson received the third-place Gold Award, Ethan Connery earned the second-place Platinum Award and Andrew Jennings took home the first-place PAC Champion Award.
“I am very grateful to be able to have this position,” Jennings said. “The PAC Program in general is an amazing opportunity to really challenge myself and see where I was able to go. It definitely was a project of determination, and I’m really proud that I was able to pull through.”
For Connery, the program allowed him to exercise his competitive side in a friendly way while also acquiring skills for the future.
“I’m happy that I got second place,” he said. “I’m a competitive person and definitely wanted to place high.”
Although the program had to adjust to minimize the chances of spreading the virus, Connery said the program still offered him numerous opportunities to build his professionalism.
“You’re always going to lose that special in-person touch that meeting and interviewing with people in person has versus over Zoom when you see the little squares on your computer screen,” he said. “Overall, I found it was easier in a different sense to go to extracurricular events on the scorecard. All I had to do is RSVP for a workshop and click the link, so it made it easier in that sense.”
For Larson, her placement in the top three came as a shock.
“I never really thought of myself as someone who could thrive professionally,” she said. “I didn’t really have the skills, I’m not super good at resumés, I’m not all too great at interviewing and being comfortable. But through this program I’ve just gotten to learn so much.
“I really just feel so grateful because it really has given me skills that I’m going to need, and I’ve just gotten so much more comfortable interviewing.”
As for advice for their fellow students, the trio emphasized that the key to success lies in determination.
“I think the best thing that you can do is decide from the very beginning to go at it your hardest, to do your absolute best and believe that you can do it,” Jennings said. “When you have that mindset of ‘I’m able to accomplish this, it isn’t too much for me and I can do it,’ I think that really sets you up from the start.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]