Wilson award winners inspired by campus life

By Kevin Graham

Emily Tissot and Maxwell Van Raaphorst know a little bit about getting involved.

Mixing their experiences, they have traveled from the humid coasts of the Dominican Republic to the classical villas of Spain, published articles in scholarly journals and founded clubs.

Tissot and Van Raaphorst, who served as this year’s student liaisons to the Oakland University Board of Trustees, have been named the recipients of the 2012 Wilson awards — presented to one male and one female senior each year — recognizing outstanding academic, leadership and citizenship qualities.

Amidst the backdrop of exotic travels and fancy titles, their best advice to students is to start off at “home.”


‘Everything is an opportunity’ 

Tissot, a double major in Spanish and anthropology, applied to Oakland while doing a year of service in the Dominican Republic. There, she taught English, public health and worked in a nursing home.

In addition, Tissot has done service work in Peru.

Since returning to the U.S., she has applied this spirit of involvement and service to OU. Tissot is an active member of the Honors College, president and founder of the OU Spanish Club and a BOT liaison.

She has also served as resident assistant in housing, participated in an OU sponsored archaeological dig in Israel and published and contributed to the first Modern Languages Journal.

Tissot said her professors were a big influence on her involvement.

“I see in everything I do an opportunity to learn in some way, or to gain knowledge from someone,” she said. “I started being involved because I saw all these professors that were super involved. I knew that spending time with them was going to enhance my education beyond the classroom.”

Tissot said students wishing to grow more from their college experience should attend office hours with their professors.

“Just sit and have a conversation with them,” she said. “Enjoy the knowledge that they’re trying give you.  Make sure to get involved with different groups on campus, anything you’re passionate about.”


Finding your passion

Van Raaphorst has studied abroad in Oviedo, Spain, co-authored an article published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and served on the student program board and student life lecture board at OU.

The biochemistry major also helped organize an OU-hosted Science Olympiad competition and worked as an orientation group leader.

He said his involvement was just a matter of wanting to take advantage of the opportunities put in front of him.

“My mother said once that OU was like a 5-star hotel, in the fact it had so many amenities to offer,” he said. “Get your free T-shirts, join a student org, talk to your professor after class, do an (intramural) sport.  It’s all free, so use it.”

He emphasized the importance of students finding something they enjoy doing.

“I can thank my involvement on campus for many life skills such as: public speaking, small group facilitation, conflict resolution and many more quality life skills,” he said. “Find your passion and excel in it. You will meet some cool cats along the way.”

Van Raaphorst plans to finish research with Dr. Nessan Kerrigan and work in industry before going back to school to get his master’s in chemistry and business administration.

Tissot and Van Raaphorst will be recognized during the commencement ceremony.

For more information regarding the Wilson Awards and other awards, visit www.oakland.edu/dean_awards


Contact Staff Reporter Kevin Graham via email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @KevinGraham88