WSP UNC-Chapel Hill 2020 Cohort Spotlight: Quinn Dziwura and Helen Olson

Quinn Dziwura, Active duty in the U.S. Army


Quinn Dziwura

What was your educational experience prior to WSP? Would you consider yourself a confident student?

I graduated from Peachtree Ridge High School in 2016 with a 3.6 GPA. Since joining the Army I have completed 86 credits at Troy University and have maintained a 3.74 GPA. I would consider myself a confident student, although there are definitely moments of uncertainty across all subjects. My mom is a fantastic middle school teacher and raised me to place value in education from an early age, so with support and backing from my mother, I became a confident student.

Had you participated in any sort of virtual learning before? If so, how does your WSP experience compare to that?

I have completed 29 credits of online courses at a local community college prior to my WSP experience. I felt that I learned more from WSP in one week than I did during all my online courses, especially because of the one-on-one time with professors and complete sincerity of all the fellows and professors.


Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

I was very much looking forward to my time with WSP this summer and I was curious as to how an online WSP course would operate but all my expectations were drastically exceeded. I had also heard only great things from past alumni, so I was very excited to see what WSP was all about.


What have you learned so far that you think will be helpful as you pursue your degree?

I think I can speak for the entire WSP UNC-Chapel Hill class when I say that we all left this past week with a drastic improvement in our writing ability. Professor Lithgow and all of the reading tutors helped us reduce the intimidation of writing and provided students with sincere and genuine one-on-one help throughout the entire course.


What was your favorite session, and why?

I honestly have to say that the opportunity to meet (virtually) and speak with General Petraeus was second to none. That session kept right in line with WSP’s theme of exceptionalism in everything that they do. It was amazing to see the former ISAF Commander and Former Director of the CIA give us his viewpoints and opinions on the argument of renaming military bases as well as his wise words and advice on leadership.


Are there any instructors or fellows who have made a difference for you?

I mean it when I say everyone made a difference to me. Lisa, Derek, and Kal were all so down to earth and helpful with their insights, discussions, and genuine one-on-one interactions. Professor Lithgow, Allen, and Scypzak were all incredibly professional and helpful. The UNC-Chapel Hill professors gave me an idea of the expectations and standards at such a well-respected university.


Is WSP having any effect on how confident you feel as a student?

I am so much more confident in my journey to education and transition from the Army after attending the WSP UNC-Chapel Hill program. I not only feel more confident as a student but also more confident in my friendships and connections within the academic veteran community.



Helen Olson, U. S. Marine Corps veteran


Helen Olson

What was your educational experience prior to WSP? Would you consider yourself a confident student?

In high school, I was not incredibly involved. I would go to class and do my homework for the sake of passing the class. I was always warned that this type of student never survived in college. When I joined the military, I began to change that attitude at the Defense Language Institute (DLI), where I was required to learn Mandarin. However, I was still not confident that I could apply my newfound dedication in a traditional educational setting. When I got out of the military, I talked myself out of applying to certain colleges due to self-doubt. WSP has helped me gain confidence in my abilities to excel and be engaged as a student and has encouraged me to believe in myself.

Had you participated in any sort of virtual learning before? If so, how does your WSP experience compare to that?

This was my first virtual learning experience. WSP has made it possible for me to prepare for the virtual classroom setting this upcoming fall.

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

Writing has historically not been my strength. The opportunity to get a refresher before starting as a freshman this fall encouraged me to apply for WSP in the first place. WSP, though, proved to be much more than a refresher.

What have you learned so far that you think will be helpful as you pursue your degree?

Aside from the topics covered in the sessions, we were introduced to many intangible factors that will help us to be more prepared for college. One of the most important lessons I learned was how to be a student in college rather than a veteran in college. The fellows and many of my classmates shared experiences that have provided me with guidance on how to have a successful college career.

What was your favorite session, and why?

Any chance I got to be put in a small group with my classmates and fellows was my favorite. These “breakout groups” allowed me to grow closer to and interact more with my fellow students, despite our physical distance.

Are there any instructors or fellows who have made a difference for you?

All the fellows made an impact on me. It was clear that they elected to become fellows because the program helped them and because they genuinely care about helping others. They helped me understand that none of us are alone in our transition into higher education. Their experiences were both unique and relatable enough to provide inspiration to everyone in the course.

The instructor that made the most significant impact on me was the writing professor from UNC, Dr. Hilary Lithgow. I came into the course uncertain as to how I would approach even a first draft of a college essay. The lessons that she led imparted knowledge on me that will guide me through my future writing assignments. During the editing process, she always took a genuine interest in our essays and encouraged us to grow as writers. She sat in on the other lectures to make sure that she could understand our essays and writing process more thoroughly. Overall, she was dedicated to us the entire week and proved to be a thoughtful professor.

Is WSP having any effect on how confident you feel as a student?

YES! I thought I had to know everything and felt very insecure about being inexperienced in higher education. On the first day, one of my classmates said, “I know nothing, so learning will be easy.” This mantra is one I embraced throughout the program. I learned that the most crucial part of education is to listen and engage and to strive to improve yourself constantly.

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