January 2017

Fearless on Every Front: The Graduate School Perspective teaser image
It was late September and the fall semester was in full swing at Texas A&M. The campus buzzed with excitement as new students continued to define their new identity as Aggies. As a first year graduate student, I was part of the incoming student body that was excited for what our future at Texas A&M had in store. In my first few weeks as a student, I quickly learned that one of the best ways to learn of happenings around the university was to check my student email. Messages from student organizations as well as university announcements and newsletters are sent directly to students through the university email system. One email I received really made me realize that Texas A&M graduate students are fearless on every front. Here’s my remembrance of the thoughts that crossed my mind that warm September afternoon.

My eye and thumb worked in perfect coordination as I scrolled through my university emails on my phone. I briefly read through each of them and deleted the ones I didn’t need. Then, I opened one that caught my attention as it read “Fearless on Every Front” on the subject line. It was from President Young and announced that Texas A&M would use the phrase “Fearless on Every Front” for its national branding campaign. President Young explained the university had recently been ranked as #1 in service by Washington Monthly and is “fueled by a commitment to help, create, solve and challenge each other – for the good of the world.” He summed up his respect for the university by explaining we are all fearless on every front.

As I finished reading the email I began to think about what President Young had said and if any of it really applied to me. I thought his compliments were well deserved by the university, but as someone just starting out at Texas A&M, could I really consider myself to be fearless on every front as well? After all, being fearless means to not be scared of anything. Was I the only grad student who was terrified of failure and feared I had made the wrong decision in returning to school? Certainly I wasn’t the only new student at Texas A&M who questioned if they really had what was necessary to succeed at such a prestigious university? Then, I thought to myself, “What was it that I really feared?”

I believe that to understand what you fear, you have to know what causes you to fear it. After some thought, I realized what I feared the most was change. The possibility of failure as the result of making a big life change can be a very scary thing. I would argue the fear of change restricts most people from following their dreams and developing into their full potential. The changes associated with enrolling in graduate school are extreme and can cause students to feel enormous amounts of anxiety as they put their friends and family on hold to continue their education. Graduate students can also feel as if they are taking a chance by enrolling in graduate school. Some students may have to quit working full time to return to school, others may have to travel far from their home to pursue higher education. Regardless of the situation, most students ask themselves if the risk of attending graduate school is worth the reward that could result from this great change.

I continued to ponder these thoughts over the next few days until I was on my way to the first ever Texas A&M Office of Graduate and Professional Studies (OGAPS) Blog Ambassador meeting. About the same time I had received the “Fearless on Every Front” email, I had received an email from OGAPS requesting applications from graduate students who would be interested in serving as blog ambassadors for the OGAPS office. I was interested in the opportunity as I had recently started a personal blog and wanted more opportunities to improve my writing skills. I was also looking to be a part of a graduate student organization in which I could be active in so I applied to be an OGAPS blog ambassador. Soon, I was excited to find out I was accepted into the program. The day of the first meeting had finally arrived and I walked across campus towards Evans Library where the meeting was to be held when something caught my eye. 

I saw three banners hanging side by side from the front of the Academic building. One paid tribute to the university’s 140th birthday, the second one simply had the Texas A&M logo on it, and the third said “Fearless on Every Front.” It was at that moment when I realized that just like the rest of the Texas A&M student body, I too was fearless on every front. The banners overlooked the university from their perch and stood as symbol to unite us all. I started to understand that it was alright to be unsure of where my graduate studies might lead because I was not alone in my journey. Certainly, I had taken a chance when I returned to school to pursue a graduate degree, but making a change of this caliber required some strength and determination on my part to begin with.

I continued to stand in front of the Academic Building and study the “Fearless of Every Front” banner. I then developed my own definition of what it means to be fearless. In my mind, being fearless means to never stop learning. The way I see it, learning leads to change, and change leads to growth. As a graduate student, I might have made a huge life change by enrolling in graduate school, yet this change was nothing to be feared as it will eventually lead to personal and professional growth. I observed the banner a bit longer before I turned and continued on my way to the meeting. As I walked I came to the conclusion that anyone who decided to pursue their goals and dreams and make the life changes that come with enrolling in graduate school at Texas A&M truly was fearless on every front.

Matthew Pfeifer | Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications

Howdy!  My name is Matt Pfeifer and I am pursuing a Master of Science in agricultural leadership, education, and communications; I hope that by furthering my understanding of leadership and workforce training I can improve the lives of people in rural America.

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