In the fall of 2020, Kyle Polen will be a Sophomore Flinn Scholar at ASU’s Barrett Honors College studying biochemistry and global health. We connected with him to chat about how his experiences in the Honors College have changed his first year at Arizona State.

Tali Sulcas (TS): So great to talk to you Kyle, thanks for taking the time. As you know, we’re working this week on shining a light on the excellent variety of student organizations available to one in college. Are you involved in any other organizations on campus?

Kyle Polen (KP): Last year I was an Undergraduate Student Government- Tempe Senator (for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) and an intern for USG before that. It was an incredible opportunity to be involved in political decisions affecting ASU students. Now I am an undergraduate research apprentice through the SOLUR program, in which I am a part of a lab using stem cells to investigate neurodegenerative diseases.

TS: That’s incredible. What events on campus or student interactions piqued your interest in becoming involved on campus?

KP: An important catalyst for on-campus involvement throughout my first year at ASU was Barrett, the Honors College. In my first week alone, Barrett provided excellent advising that helped me narrow down my interests. There were also plenty of tabling opportunities for clubs, where leaders in the organizations set up little “stalls” that one can approach to get more information and chat to students. The atmosphere in the Barrett courtyard is electric during events like these and definitely inspired me to seek out opportunities.

Kyle Polen (left) attending an event honouring the senate at ASU’s Chabad organization

TS: To what extent have you found most of your friends stem from your involvement in these on-campus organizations?

KP: Barrett is extremely valuable for a first-year student. The community is fostered by its own dining hall, residential area on campus, and unique course offerings. It truly makes a large university feel smaller, as I always look forward to seeing people in passing. I’d say a lot of my friendships stemmed from this community, and that first-year support network is invaluable.

TS: You speak highly of the atmosphere of being a part of Barrett, the Honors College. How has Barrett specifically added value to your university experiences and what advice would you give to someone looking to apply?

KP: The Honours College experience at Barrett is very unique to ASU. It’s referred to as “the gold standard” for a reason. It’s selective, and the application involves writing essays as well as some additional paperwork. Barrett is a big part of why I chose to come to ASU in the first place because of its unique culture and rigour. As I always say, you can make a large university feel smaller, but it’s tough to make a small university feel any bigger. I think Barrett is truly the best of both worlds due to its offerings of a large public university’s resources alongside a small community feel.

TS: Seems like an incredible experience. What are some valuable lessons you’ve learned so far as a member of Barrett?

A student’s first year at a big university can be a daunting transition, but Barrett promotes an excellent “Carpe Diem” mentality. Students and organizations thrive by taking the first step and trying new things. One of the biggest takeaways from my first year was to keep an open mind, which is certainly easy when surrounded by many inspiring individuals in the Barrett community.

Kyle working in the wet lab at the prestigious Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

TS: What are your favourite memories from your involvement at Barrett thus far?

KP: “The Human Event” is a seminar course that all first-year Barrett students take. The roughly 20 person class is set up so that all the students face each other when discussing different texts and ideas. The two semesters of that class yielded some of my most fond memories in Barrett so far. I will always be thankful for the mentors and mindset that “The Human Event” provided me.

TS:  I love that answer, totally something that I would say, I’m such a nerd for literature. What is your advice to incoming students regarding finding an organization on campus that enhances their own experience?

KP: The best advice I can give to an incoming student is not to get too far ahead of yourself – take opportunities as they come. My most anxious week as a freshman was the week before classes even started! I was eager to get involved but not sure what the “perfect” organization was for me. For an incoming student looking for the “perfect” organization, I’d say to just take that first step without hesitation – it opens the door to many future opportunities. Chances come and go, so it’s best to try everything and narrow down your interests from there.

TS: Thank you so much for your time, Kyle. Loved having you here.

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 Interview conducted by Tali Sulcas (Student Contributor)