For Crowley-Nowick Leadership award recipients Eric Wuesthoff and Dominique Carey, the UMass iCons program goes beyond academics: it is a tight knit community beyond the UMass Amherst campus.
This particular award, given annually, focuses on students that embody the iCons mission. Specifically, open-minded students with strong leadership and teamwork skills are recognized. And these students are not selected by professors: instead, students nominate fellow peers they believe would be a good fit for the award. The people nominated the most make it to the second round, where peers select students they think deserve the award off the list.
And for Wuesthoff, this peer aspect was the most important part of receiving the award.
"It’s kind of outside the iCons structure,” Wuesthoff said, “outside professors giving their input, it’s all about just the impact you’ve had on your peers and the people around you."
For Carey, actually receiving the award was the best part.
“It was nice to win because it was a group effort from all of the seniors!” she said.
Both Wuesthoff and Carey are involved with the program far beyond their iCons classes. Wuesthoff is a very active member of the iCons Alumni Network, also known as iCan. Upon getting involved with the network during the spring of his sophomore year. He works with one of the coordinators Isaac Han and other alumni and helps connect them with current students in the program. And currently, Carey and Wuesthoff are pushing iCan members to work with students on resumes and career advancement.
And during the summer after her freshman year, Carey worked as part of the program as an educational innovation intern. Her work focused on developing iCons-inspired case studies for high school students. She also has a hand in networking within the iCons student body about different aspects of the program.
Carey said with a smile, “I’ve kind of taken a gorilla marketing approach where I’m just like ‘hey, you like the iCan! You’ve been to events and you enjoy it! Go bring your friends.”
And while their efforts are not always successful, Carey and Wuesthoff believe the program best achieves its mission when members go beyond the classroom. This passion is what keeps them engaged and involved.
“It’s a program that is largely self sustaining, it’s a program that relies on the passion of the leaders and of its students,” Wuesthoff explains, “and I feel like in order to, not justify, but to really show CNS or UMass just how amazing the program is, it takes a lot of devoted students to show the investment they are willing to put into it.”
As their time in the iCons program comes to an end, both have reflected on not only the professional growth that the program has provided, but the personal growth as well. iCons has helped Carey feel empowered by science.
“We were thinking of making mechanical crill to solve the great pacific garbage patch for our first iCons project,” she recalls, “and of course it distilled way down from that, but it was kind of cool to be able to be like ‘yeah, let’s do anything!’”
And the program has taught Wuesthoff to accept his failures.
He explains, “I truly have learned from how I have stumbled in iCons, so that’s something I didn’t expect but that’s been very informative.”
As for post-graduation plans, the path for both is still unclear. Wuesthoff is looking to gain experience in conservation and ecology through research positions, while Carey hopes to work after undergrad before returning to school to receive her doctorate.
But regardless of graduating from the program, one thing is clear: the 2018 Crowley-Nowick Leadership award recipients have pushed to make the program stronger, and both will surely bring their iCons skills far beyond UMass.