Sam Scoma is a Ball State senior who majors in English (her concentration being in Rhetoric & Writing). She has been placed onto the Top 100 Students list for the 2021-2022 school year, which recognizes 100 juniors & seniors that represent Beneficence both in and out the classroom.

How has being a Top 100 student impacted how you view your work while at Ball State? 

I have never performed with the goal of recognition, but instead, simply for scholarship’s sake. I love to make things challenging by regularly pushing the boundaries of my capabilities and enriching my knowledge by stepping out of my comfort zone. All the work I do both inside and outside of the classroom is a part of my ongoing process of establishing limits and learning how to overcome them.

That being said, it is certainly an honor to receive external recognition for my work. Everyone doubts their ability at times, and validations such as these can sometimes reaffirm that I am making the right choices in “going the extra mile” in all that I do—especially during times of burnout and stress.

How has your time in the English Department been worthwhile to you? Do you have a moment that sticks out to you as the most beneficial? 

As a rhetoric and composition major, I’ve learned so much useful information on the best ways to communicate and persuade, which is highly valuable to me. I intend to become a dentist, so in a field that’s constantly villainized by the media, it’s very important to know how to establish trust with your patients or persuade them to undergo a treatment that they’re feeling apprehensive about. Many potential dental candidates believe that all they need to know is treatments and the science of it all, but I disagree–effective communication is the most important aspect for retaining patients and building long-term, trusting relationships.

Perhaps the most significant moment I’ve experienced in the department was coming to terms with my fear of and resulting unfamiliarity with social media and the resulting isolation from my peers. This occurred via a project which Rory assigned, and as I completed it, I began to realize that my fear was a bit irrational. I even began to consider using it in the future, as dentists’ pages which humanize the profession are becoming popular! Thanks to this project, I began to overcome one of my fears and even consider conquering it.

Professor Lee’s letter of recommendation for you noted your creative and out-of-the-box thinking in some of your classes. How do you feel that your unique way of thinking reflects you as a person? 

If you know the Meyers-Briggs test, I’m an INFJ, the rarest type. I am truly an advocate, and I feel that my purpose is to assist and inspire others; this brings me satisfaction. Therefore, with everything I create, I aim to capture the attention of my audience through unique framing, such as a narrative of my social media ineptitude as a makeup tutorial parody using products such as eyeshadow in the shade “self-doubt.” Once I’ve captured their attention, I craft my messages with empathy to uplift my audience. Everything I create has emphasizes curiosity and empowerment for the audience, because I want to push everyone to become more thoughtful, cognizant people.

Your letter of recommendation also mentioned your successes during your time at Ball State’s Japanese Club. How has your time with this organization impacted your worldview regarding different cultures? Also, how has your involvement impacted your English studies? 

headshot photo of Top 100 student Sam Scoma with her ferret

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a mixed-race family; it was only when l brought my Filipina Grandmother to elementary school for Grandparents’ day and saw that she was the only Asian in the room that I realized we weren’t “normal.” I grew up hearing tales of the other side of the world and listening to music in foreign tongues. That being said, my time as Japanese club’s president has affirmed my views on the necessity of a rounded worldview because we are all human beings and desire to be affirmed as equals. I’ve heard many a story of my aunts being told to “go back to your country” or chased after simply because they were “exotic.” This behavior is completely inappropriate, as it is a very hostile display towards another human being with values, hopes, and dreams just like you.

When I met our Japanese foreign exchange students through BSU’s Japanese Club, I was inspired to work even harder. Their culture values independence far more than America’s, and these students have worked incredibly hard to learn English and travel so very far away to a place so different from their own in every way—culture, language, and even weather. I used my time with the organization to learn even more about Japanese culture and to, most importantly, provide a safe space for those students from the racial attacks which my own family has undergone.

(I don’t actually have an answer to the second half of the question, as I’ve always held these values as a mixed-race individual, so I never needed to have an “aha!” moment about culture and race; the club simply affirmed the necessity of worldliness for me. I have always tailored my work’s accessibility for a diverse audience because I myself am an amalgamation of culture, which I apply to my work, rather than just using the heterosexual, white male lens.)

Lastly, how has the ongoing pandemic affected how you go about your college life? Do you have any tips for those who might have struggled with the adjustment? 

I’ll tell it to you straight—burnout is very real. Thanks to the pandemic, I’ve experienced huge bouts of loneliness, as I’m sure many others have. The pandemic brought about extreme social isolation (thanks Zoom) and transferred an extremely heavy pile of personal responsibilities onto our shoulders. During this time, I saw myself as having two choices: either 1) slump into depression and let my work suffer (aka “wallow” in self-pity, cursing the situation I’d found myself in), or 2) consider doing some serious self-coaching.

During the last few years, I’ve learned to create my own happiness by viewing the world from a new lens. Regular walks became a staple of my routine and appreciating the normalcy of nature was extremely grounding—amidst our human turmoil, ants are still lugging their food home and the clouds passed by unscathed. Additionally, when I felt most helpless and “down,” I wrote down one “negative” and two “positives” from the day. Now, I’ve never been a diary-keeper, but just writing down my woes and worries allowed me to transfer them from my mind. I also was lucky enough to have the most wonderful roommate whose mood never soured. My fluffy ferret, Pixie, was essential to my wellbeing during this time.

Amidst this historical event is the perfect opportunity to make personal lifestyle changes for the better. Yes, college is supposed to be fun, but the pandemic has provided us with a valuable peek into what life as a “real adult” is like—it’s all personal responsibility! Use this time to test-drive some changes, whether it be journaling, exercising regularly, budgeting funds, adopting a new hobby, and most importantly, making your own happiness.

You can connect with Sam on Instagram.

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