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My Story Started at GRCC: A geography course and a professor's mentoring led to Cadey Korson working around the world

July 19, 2021, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Start at GRCC and go anywhere. Every former student has a story to tell about how GRCC gave them the education and opportunity to be successful.

Many alumni credit GRCC for setting them on their career paths, but what if you don’t know what you want to do?

Cadey Korson discovered GRCC was the perfect place to figure that out.

She had no idea what she wanted to do with her life when she started college. She dug into general education courses. And -- as has happened to many other GRCC students -- one class began to really interest her: GE 210 Cultural Geography.

“One day, after class, the professor stopped me and asked what my plans were,” Korson said. “After telling him I was considering international relations -- and that my parents said I could study anything I wanted as long as I got a Ph.D. -- he asked if I had considered geography. ‘You can do the same things as you could with a degree in IR, but you’ll get paid to do it.’

“I was sold!”

After earning her associate degree in 2009, Korson completed a bachelor’s degree in geography, international relations and French at Aquinas College. She then earned a master’s degree in geography at the University of Missouri and a doctorate at Kent State University.

“After that, I headed overseas for a two-year postdoctoral research position in human geography at the University of Oulu in northern Finland,” Korson said. “Travel is one of the things that drew me to geography, so it’s no surprise that I have spent my time working and traveling around the world.”

She has conducted fieldwork in the South Pacific and delivered papers at conferences in England, Turkey, Greece, Serbia and Sweden. Currently, she’s the senior lecturer in geography for the School of People, Environment and Planning at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand.

“Among other things, this means that I am responsible for teaching some of our undergraduate and graduate classes, supervising graduate students, applying for grants and doing research, publishing, and organizing outreach events,” she said.

Korson has recently added the role of outreach coordinator, organizing camps for high school students and working with teachers. She’s built a YouTube channel to help with this work.

She returned to GRCC in 2018 to deliver a lecture for the Geography Department and notes that she still keeps in touch with professor Michael DeVivo and other mentors here.

She has many fond memories of her first college experience.

“It is hard to pick just one: When I was dual enrolling as a 16-year-old and my history professor suddenly put a chair on the table and asked the class, ‘How do we know this is a chair?’ Or swapping Hawaiian recipes with my geology professor? Or maybe it’s all the field trips I took in my geography courses.

“Clearly, my favorite memories are the people, and the ways in which they made me feel welcome in a new and challenging environment.”

Korson credits GRCC -- but also her husband and family -- for helping her on her career path.

“The low tuition costs and flexibility to take courses I was interested in (that still fulfilled my undergraduate general education requirements) was a significant benefit of GRCC,” she said. “It gave me the freedom -- financial and academic -- to investigate different career options and potential areas of study. The smaller class sizes meant that I got to know my classmates and professors, facilitating a supportive network that continues to benefit me.”

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