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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Juan Manuel Ramirez

Chicago (Southside)

Philosophy Major, Psychology Major

Juan makes use of one of Knox's four-week research summer projects to expand his knowledge of environmental studies.

Juan stands over a beaker with a funnel connected to it near a sink in a science lab wearing a dark blue t-shirt, a red hair band, and blue latex gloves.

Can you talk about your experience as part of the four-week collaborative project Environmental Microplastic Sampling in Freshwater Systems of Knox County?

I did not have any experience in environmental studies, but I thought the topic was interesting. I worked alongside two other students and Katherine A. Adelsberger, professor and chair of environmental studies, to investigate possible traces of microplastics in Galesburg’s water and sediment samples. For those four weeks, we became experts on microplastics. Before we started collecting water samples, we did a lot of research and literature review on microplastics to understand the background. I struggled with this a little bit more because I had the least amount of knowledge in this area since I am more focused on philosophy and psychology. Focusing on environmental studies was foreign to me, but learning that background information, such as how the Galesburg water treatment facility operates, was interesting.

What has challenged you the most? 

I struggle with time management. I am involved in a lot of different things, and doing everything on my schedule is a challenge. I have gotten better throughout the years, but, especially my sophomore year, I would push myself to the brim with everything I was involved in. Learning to manage that better has been a significant challenge to overcome. On a smaller scale, as a first-year, I was not as confident in my math ability. However, during my first three years at Knox I took more math courses. While in the classroom, I reached out for help from professors and outside of class, I attended tutoring.

Which resources have helped you succeed? 

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), TRIO tutoring, and going to professors during office hours are really good resources. Upon arriving at Knox, it was nerve-wracking to ask professors for help. As I progressed, I became more accustomed to it. Another resource has been talking with my friends. We take some courses together because we are in the same area of study. If I am struggling, I can go to them for advice. Having a support group has been a big help. 

Could you expand on the role TRIO has played on your Knox experience?  

TRIO has been a good social support group. It was helpful to have a support group the week before my first term at Knox because it allowed me to bond with other TRIO students while participating in fun activities and getting into the rhythm of college life. My team leader was really on top of things and did a good job. Looking back, I see that TRIO had a big influence on me that first year. I had a sense of wanting to pay that back as a TRIO team leader afterward, so I try to do that for other students and help them out in any way I can.

Do any professors or experiences stick out to you as being especially impactful? 

There are a couple of standouts. Bright Distinguished Professor of American History and Chair of History Catherine Denial is one of the best professors at Knox. I have learned a lot from her, and she cares. She is really passionate about what she teaches. She wants to help you understand why you should be passionate about history and encourages us to have “wow” moments. She emphasizes having us learn these things and take them with us even after the term is over. She also does her best to bridge any disconnection between student and professor.  

Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy Brandon Polite is one of my advisors. As a high school senior, looking into Knox during one of the campus visit days, I sat in one of his courses and it left me knowing that I wanted to attend Knox. His classes are highly discussion-based, and his teaching style is very laid back. I like the analysis involved in philosophy courses. 

What advice would you give to prospective students?

Find something that you are really passionate about. The big plus of going to a small, liberal arts college is that there are a lot of different things you can study, apart from your major, that expose you to different subjects. There is so much being offered here. Dig around and see what classes are offered at Knox. If there is something that you are interested in, go for it. When you do things that you are interested in, you will have a much better time.

What advice would you give to current Knox students who have interests similar to yours?

Two things. One: take your time. You have a lot of time to think about what you want to do, not just with classes here at Knox, but with your future as well. When I was a first-year, I had my whole four years planned out. Even then, you don’t know what is going to happen. You don’t want to be directionless, but go with the flow. Second: explore. Explore different courses, organizations, and clubs on campus. You may want to join some as a general member or help out as an executive member in others. Go to events that are happening on campus. Whether it is a sporting event or a party, just go out there and explore whatever piques your interest. 

Juan is involved in two cultural organizations, Lo Nuestro and M.E.Ch.A., as well as Beta Theta Pi as a risk manager, and Student Senate as a diversity chair. Juan also has a work study position with the Department of Psychology as department secretary.

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Printed on Saturday, June 15, 2024