An associate’s degree was only the beginning for March Phonphiboun.
The Mathematics and TRIO work study student began his studies at MCTC in 2010. “In high school, I wasn’t in an academic state of mind,” said March. “I barely graduated, and when I got to MCTC, my performance kept getting worse.” After seeing his first semester grades, he began asking himself some hard questions. “I had had enough. It was then my journey with self-discovery and improvement began.”
March worked hard—both in his studies and in tandem with his studies. “I had to pick up part-time jobs during college to help pay bills,” March said. “On top of studying, dealing with personal issues and working to improve myself, it was a difficult time for me.” During his time at MCTC, March fed his interests in leadership and interpersonal communications. “There are so many things you can do when you develop leadership skills. You begin to notice life working for you.” In December of 2012 March graduated with honors, receiving his associate’s degree in Liberal Arts. However, he wasn’t done learning.
March’s ideas, experiences and personal growth had given him energy and a new direction to pursue. In January 2013, March began a new course of study at MCTC: mathematics. This time, he was empowered to use his new skills and confidence to apply for a scholarship to help pay the way.
“An adviser in the TRIO Starting Point program suggested I apply for the Mark M. Welter World Citizen Award,” said March. The application called for an essay addressing how people of the world are connected to one another. “In my essay, I wrote about how world citizens aren’t so different from one another. As a team, world citizens can expand the existing pool of knowledge.” March also described his concept of a program aimed at making STEM fields approachable to non-STEM majors.
Last fall, March joined the North Star STEM Alliance and had the opportunity to attend the national conference for the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers in Philadelphia. “Among countless things, the conference taught me the importance of networking. Communication skills can be one of the biggest assets you can have, especially when moving laterally within a company or organization.”
This will be March’s final semester here at MCTC. He will transfer to the University of Minnesota in the spring of 2014 to pursue a master’s degree in computer science. “Every day is an opportunity to learn and improve,” said March. “I like to believe that once you stop learning, you stop living. I’m getting ready for the future.”