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Spring 2022 grad: Giselle Monette found inspiration and connections through courses, student orgs

Photo courtesy of Giselle Monette.

Giselle Monette, who grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, will be graduating in spring 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in community and environmental sociology (CES), plus certificates in American Indian studies and global health. In this Q&A, Monette talks about her experience as a Native student on campus and the organizations that welcomed her, the connections she made with faculty and peers, and her plans for a future career focused on health policy, community health, and/or community development.

Q: Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Madison and have felt like a Badger my whole life. I went to West High School just a couple blocks from campus.

Q: How did you decide on your program? Why did you choose it?
I didn’t decide on CES until fall of my junior year when I took the CES140 class with Jane Collins. Jane started the first class with a really thorough land acknowledgement that went through UW’s history as a land grant university, which was not something I’d experienced in a class before, even in my American Indian Studies classes. That really impacted me as a Native student. The rest of the class really spoke to me as well and I realized that CES covered a lot of topics I’d been interested in my whole life, specifically justice related. It matched my interests so well that I decided to stick with it and now I’m finding myself wishing I could stay even longer to take more CES classes!

Q: What were the most meaningful college experiences you had?
There were a lot of incredible experiences in my time at UW and in CALS. My most memorable experiences involve the incredible connections I made with staff, faculty, and my peers in the last five years. CES is filled with incredible instructors who are filled with passion and empathy as well as persistent students who love to make a difference. I’m so grateful I got to learn from them!

Q: When you think about your time here as student, what are you proud of?
I’m really proud of the impact I had as a leader in my student orgs, Wunk Sheek and Alpha Pi Omega. They both serve Native students on campus and I’m proud to have been a part of significant cultural programming, social activism in collaboration with other orgs, and the creation and maintenance of safe spaces for Indigenous students.

Q: What are your future academic / career plans?
I’m pretty undecided about where I want to go next. My time at UW has been very fulfilling but also overwhelming and I fully intend on taking the next year or so to chill and work. Then, long term, I’m considering attending law school or a master’s of public health program, or both. I’ve been inspired to work in health policy, community health, and community development, and I plan on taking opportunities as they arise.

Q: Do you have any advice you’d like to share with CALS students?
My advice to CALS students would be to take classes outside of your major. There’s tons of interesting courses in the college that can supplement your curriculum. I would also say to get to know other students in your major. COVID really interrupted my ability to do that, and I feel I missed out on some valuable connections. I also firmly believe student org positions are the best opportunities for growth on campus – don’t miss them by being too absorbed in just class work.