When he first entered ETSU as a freshman, Dustin Gilmer thought grades were the most important thing. While grades are indeed very important to this honors-in-discipline physics major, he’s learned that other opportunities afforded by college life are highly beneficial, as well.
After his freshman year, during which he got to know the staff and fellow students in the Student Organization Resource Center as a student worker, Gilmer participated in ETSU’s Brenda White Wright Emerging Leaders Academy. “That’s the defining moment of my college career,” he said. “It really brought me ‘out of my shell’ as a student. I learned a lot about myself, and I also learned a lot about leadership on campus, and diversity.”
Gilmer became active as a sophomore in the Student Government Association, for which he now serves as secretary of allocations. In that role, he manages the distribution of student activity fee monies to student organizations through the Buc Fund. In addition, he has helped new and prospective students become acclimated to ETSU as a member of the Preview and Orientation Leaders Organization and as a former Admissions Ambassador, and has shared his academic knowledge as a TRIO Programs peer tutor.
Gilmer is also putting the leadership skills he’s developed to good use as he works to establish two new student organizations at ETSU.
The first is a TEDx chapter, which is expected to launch during the spring 2017 semester. TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, is a non-profit organization that works to spread ideas on many topics, from science to business to global issues, through conferences and TED Talks. A spin-off program, TEDx, allows communities to establish their own, independently organized groups following the same model, and Gilmer has applied for a license for a chapter to be formed at ETSU.
“One of the reasons we wanted to bring it to campus is because a lot of students come to class to get grades, so they can get a degree and get a job,” he said, “but college is also about learning and bettering yourself. That’s what the TED organization is about – learning for the sake of learning – and bettering yourself, not having to worry about a grade or going to class just because you have to be there to get your degree.”
Gilmer is also an avid researcher. In fact, it was his affinity for research that led him to change his major to physics from pre-med, and he is currently participating in research both as a McNair Scholar at ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine through TRIO Programs and for his senior honors thesis on the topic of leadership in science. In keeping with that, the second new student group he is working to establish is an organization for undergraduate researchers.
“Several other schools have organizations designed to promote undergraduate research on campus and bring together those who do undergraduate research into a community,” Gilmer said. “This leads to a better understanding of research. It helps students to have a better knowledge of what some other people may be working on, and could lead to more collaborative research when students find they’re working on projects that are related.”
This new group, he says, will not be a chapter of a national organization, but will be unique to ETSU, patterned after similar organizations at the University of Tennessee and Duke University, which Gilmer and others have studied to learn more about.
Gilmer, a Blountville, Tennessee, native who is scheduled to graduate in May, is applying to graduate schools, and plans a career in biomechanical engineering or mechanical engineering.