Chemistry Major, German and Biochemistry Minors
How did you learn about Knox?
I learned about Knox from one of my high school football coaches, Dave Schoenwetter. He is a Knox Hall of Fame quarterback, and he convinced me that Knox would be a good fit for me. I'm glad I took his advice; I've had some of the best years of my life here!
How would you describe campus life at Knox?
Knox campus life is like a small family. Everybody looks out for each other, and you really feel connected to your classmates. It's such a cool feeling walking around campus between classes and seeing people you know everywhere you walk.
How would you describe academic life at Knox?
Academically, Knox is very challenging. Sometimes I don't quite know how I've been able to pull off playing two sports and get all my work done! At the same time, it is obvious that the professors here genuinely care about their students and are enthusiastic about the material they cover. It's great to know your professors care to get to know you and don't get frazzled by an unscheduled drop in if you need some help or just want to talk!
What surprised you about Knox?
The diversity at Knox really surprised me. I had heard that Knox was diverse, but sometimes I can't believe the backgrounds of some of the people I meet here. It is mind-blowing to know that I've been able to cross paths with kids from all over the world and all walks of life.
What about Knox stood out during your college search?
For me, the family atmosphere stood out right away, and I was definitely attracted to the opportunity to play two sports.
What activities do you participate in on campus and how have they influenced your experience?
Sports have been an integral part of my experience here at Knox. I have been a football player and a baseball player here for four years now, and it has been such a privilege to be able to compete in two sports while getting a high quality education. I have learned so much about myself and about life from competing at the Division III level that you just can't get in the classroom. (Photo at right: Michael Schroder playing football for the Knox College Prairie Fire.)
Which Knox classes and professors have been your favorites? Why?
All of the chemistry professors (Diana Cermak, Tom Clayton, Larry Welch, Mary Crawford, Andy Mehl) are definitely my favorites, and they are the reason I chose to be a chemistry major. They are approachable, knowledgeable, helpful, and enthusiastic about their classes and research. They also know how to have fun too! Some other professors I have had that really impacted me are Joel Estes, Brandon Polite, Todd Heidt, and Dan Peterson.
What has been your hardest class?
I think the hardest class I took was Methods in Organic Synthesis with Professor Cermak. Everyone knows that organic chemistry is tough, but this class was advanced! It blew me away from day one.
Is there a professor that has had a significant impact on your education, research, or career plans?
Professor Diana Cermak has had a significant impact on me and my career plans. When I came to Knox I had no idea what I wanted to do in the future. Working with her in her lab has helped me to grow as a chemist, and she is also always available to chat when I need some advice or just some reassurance. Professor Tom Clayton has also had a similar impact and has been my advisor since my sophomore year. He is another great guy to talk to and loves to help in any way he can.
Describe any independent study or research you have undertaken. What inspired you to pursue your independent study? What have you learned?
I have been working in Professor Cermak's organic chemistry lab since my sophomore year as an independent study. She actually approached me about working for her in the lab, and doing so has made me so much more independent and confident in the lab. I feel like it has been a great way to prepare me for my future career in the field.
What are your interests and hobbies?
I love playing sports and doing anything active. I’m also really into music and have enjoyed learning to play guitar for two years now. A few of my weirder hobbies include knitting, plants/flowers, and making jewelry.
Since you came to Knox, how have you changed?
I think my high school friends would be surprised to learn that I stuck with football despite being one of the smaller guys on the team. I think they would also be surprised to know about the liberal arts side of me that I have found: I have learned to play guitar and have posed nude for a few paintings for my friends in the art department. (Photo at right: Michael Schroeder playing baseball for the Knox College Prairie Fire.)
What campus jobs have you had while at Knox?
Freshman year I worked as a janitor in Seymour. Since then, I have been a TA for General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and I have also worked in the chemistry stockroom.
Have you done any volunteering or community service during your time at Knox?
Since my freshman year I have been a part of APO (Alpha Phi Omega), the co-ed service fraternity at Knox. I have done numerous volunteer activities; my favorites include Run-A-Thon, the Scarecrow Festival, and chocolate making for Valentine’s Day here in town.
What is your favorite place on campus? Off campus?
My favorite place on campus is the baseball field in the spring. Off campus is the restaurant Acapulco on Henderson. I love their margaritas!
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned at Knox outside of the classroom?
I feel like outside the classroom through sports I have played I have learned so much about what it means to be a team player and what it means to work so hard to achieve a goal and come up short. As kids we were taught that if you try really hard, things will work out and everything will be just fine. What I’ve learned is that sometimes you give your whole self, physically and mentally, and you come up short and it sucks. But how you handle yourself after things don’t go your way is what truly matters, and those who persevere will see their goals met in the end.
Any advice for high school students on their college search?
My advice is to go with your gut and don't worry about size too much. I came from a high school of 2,700 kids, so Knox has seemed even smaller to me than to a lot of my peers. But Knox has so many opportunities despite its size, and the personal care and attention you get here is exceptional. Don't get stuck in the mindset that you have to go to some big institution to get anywhere in life. Knox is a great place, and it can help you get where you want to be in life.
What are your plans for life after Knox?
I don't know exactly what life will bring after Knox, but my plan is to look for work and find my passion. Then I would love to go to grad school and get a higher degree. At this point, a lot is up in the air, though, and I'm ok with that. There's so many great opportunities out there, and I'm confident I'll find my niche.
(Photo below: Michael Schroeder, bottom right in black, in a group shot with fellow members of Alpha Phi Omega, the co-ed service fraternity.)