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Eyebrow-born student inducted into college’s prestigious honour society

“It’s a pretty good way to show how students are not just there for academics, but for other things too.”

It was quite the surprise for student Josée Aitken to receive an email from her college saying she had been inducted into one of the institution’s most prestigious societies.

Aitken, 21, from Eyebrow, Sask., is in her third year at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., where she is majoring in junior environmental science with minors in geography, chemistry and biology.

She is also a member of the college’s Sustainability Club, which runs a community garden; the multicultural club, which promotes diversity on campus; the environmental and biology club; the women in science and engineering club; and the women’s ice hockey, rugby and golf teams.

She learned recently that she is one of 42 students to be inducted into the Aquinas Society this year. Named after St. Thomas Aquinas, the society “recognizes students of superior academic ability and achievement who are involved in significant extracurricular activities,” according to the school’s website.

Membership is open to juniors and seniors with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.4 — on a scale of 4.0 — who have attained the dean’s list for at least four of their semesters. Aitken’s GPA has been 3.7.

“It’s pretty cool,” she said by phone from her parents’ farm near Eyebrow. “It’s a pretty good way to show how students are not just there for academics, but for other things too.”

Aitken admitted she didn’t even know what the society was about before receiving the invitation. However, she thought it was an honour to be asked to join. She had to meet certain entry requirements, though, before she was fully accepted. This included writing an essay about all of her extracurricular and volunteer activities for the last three years.

The third-year student explained she participates in these activities since she enjoys them and it’s a way to stay busy. It also allows her to meet people and make friends.

Aitken particularly enjoys hockey since she can volunteer with her teammates off the ice. Being a member of the science and engineering club allows her to encourage more women to enter the field, while she also supports initiatives that help keep the campus green.

While minoring in three subjects might seem overwhelming, Aitken explained she started in chemistry but wanted to focus more on the outdoors since she is passionate about that area.

“And my parents (Robert and Éleese) were shocked that I wasn’t going into environmental to start,” she remarked.

Since Aitken had already started her first year as a chemistry student, she only needed a couple more classes to make that program a minor. Meanwhile, her biology minor “was a mistake” since she took classes thinking she needed it for her major, but was told she didn’t. So those classes also ended up counting as a minor.

With her geography minor, she didn’t have to take a full set of classes, but only had to pursue one class that was considered a core requirement.

Aitken is considering pursuing a master’s degree after her bachelor’s program finishes, which could include studying geography, environmental information analysis, or zoology.

Having grown up on a farm near Eyebrow is one reason Aitken is passionate about the outdoors, she explained. Her family also visited national parks in Canada and the United States, where she enjoyed taking photographs of those locations and reading every sign along the trails.

Aitken moved home in mid-March after her college closed its doors due to the coronavirus. However, the learning hasn’t stopped, since she is taking online classes and still submitting homework.

“It’s been hard. I am very much an in-person, in-class person,” she said. “I enjoy being in classes. I benefit strongly from actually being face to face with professors. With the online, while I’m still learning from them, I don’t seem to be as motivated to do work.

“I am a good test taker, but I struggle with assignments a bit more sometimes.”

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