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SMC graduate talks transfer success

Transfer students can have it all. Elisabeth Fellows, 21, reached that conclusion starting at Southwestern Michigan College, then continuing to Grand Valley State University, where she’s a senior studying medical laboratory science to work in a hospital.

“I love science and the idea of helping people,” she said, but “I’m so squeamish I would be of help to no one in contact with patients, so nursing was not for me. It takes a special kind of person to be a nurse. I could literally do this anywhere in the world. My first exposure to medical lab science was at a mission hospital in Togo, West Africa, my junior year of high school in February 2013.”

Fellows, a 2014 Watervliet High School graduate and the first member of her family to attend college, had such a positive SMC experience she promoted her community-college decision on Facebook last summer.

“You don’t have debt looming over your head at age 20; you already have a degree; you get to experience college in multiple ways and can equally call both home; you’ve already mastered making friends — the best friends of your life — at your first school, so you know you will have no problem making new connections; when you’re lucky enough to have come from Southwestern Michigan College, you’ve been pushed and challenged by your professors and advisors, so you know you’re capable of being a first-rate student.”

“Because of such encouragement from your first institution,” she concluded, “you are able to access additional scholarship opportunities that can make your tuition at your new school phenomenally cheap.”

“I just want to thank everyone who encouraged me to take this route and supported me throughout the journey,” wrote Fellows, a 2016 SMC graduate. “I encourage those looking into higher education to consider the same path. Go with what’s best for you, not with what will please those too prideful to admit you can get the same quality of education and college experience from a school that won’t cost even half as much. Being a transfer student, you can have it all.”

“When I graduated high school, everybody talked about plans to go off to a big university,” Fellows said. “People kind of looked down on me starting at a community college, but I loved SMC.”

Not only does she live closer to Lake Michigan College than SMC, she lives on the same road.

Elisabeth’s younger sister, Emily, is graduating and following her to SMC.

“It’s easier on you financially to start here, which is not a bad thing,” Fellows said. “It’s easier to succeed in class because of the opportunity for one-on-one relationships with your professors in smaller class sizes. The fantasy I always had was going to Michigan State. Then I visited and it was so huge it didn’t feel right, like SMC. It’s beautiful here, but what really drew me is it’s close to home, but felt like I was ‘off at college.’ The first time I heard of SMC was when dancers and the choir performed in Watervliet.”

The 5-foot-2 former Miss Watervliet lived in William M. White Hall (meeting roommates from Coldwater, Elkhart, Ind., and Traverse City), worked in the Career Planning Center as an academic advising assistant and took up weightlifting at SMC.

“I was surprised at the variety of people I got to know from all walks of life in this small corner of the world,” she said. “At SMC I met Bruno Rodrigues from Brazil. He goes to Grand Valley with me now.”

She was crowned Miss Southwest Michigan last Aug. 14 from a Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties field of six to win a $1,000 scholarship.

She competed for 67th Miss Michigan June 17 in Muskegon in a field of 34 women ages 18-24.