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Apr 14
Student Spotlight: Jenna DeCarlo & Dan Gage

When asked to introduce themselves with a fun fact, Jenna DeCarlo and Dan Gage almost immediately bring up an apparently infamous quote once uttered by Gage: "We bleed Honors & Scholars in the best and worst way possible." During the interview, though, it seems to be only in the best way; the pair of close friends is constantly teasing each other, mentioning funny memories, and being enthusiastic about their H&S involvement.

Gage is a 4th year biology major from Salem, Connecticut, and is a member of Biological Sciences (BioSci) Scholars. Though his parents met when they attended OSU, they never pushed him to go here. However, starting out as a Buckeye football fan, Gage eventually became a fan of the academic side of the university as well. He had been interested in biology since he took a course on it in high school, and he knew that OSU had a strong program with many options for specialization. He realized that attending OSU would help him work toward his goal of attending medical school and becoming a physician. In addition to being a very enthusiastic Scholars member, Gage does research for a comprehensive cancer center and works as a T.A. for Organic Chemistry. As a more concrete fun fact, Gage estimates that he has been to Disney more than ten times since childhood.

DeCarlo, also a 4th year, is from Charleston, West Virginia. Her go-to fun fact is that she once rode in a hot air balloon over the Serengeti, which she insists was not that scary. She is an Honors student majoring in Speech and Hearing Sciences with minors in Spanish and Developmental Psychology. When she started out as an Exploration major, she learned about the differences between broad and narrow fields, and decided that Speech and Hearing struck the perfect balance, giving her a clear career path but still many options and a variety of people she could someday work with. DeCarlo also works in the Autism and Child Language Learning Lab and does ABA (applied behavioral analysis) with kids who have autism. She is a part of Student Leadership Advocates and was involved during her sophomore year in The Girls Circle Project, which seeks to empower the voices of girls and women through service learning and discussion groups. DeCarlo recalls that her Honors visiting day as a prospective student set the tone for her entire college experience. Specifically, she remembers being impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication of the H&S Ambassadors, joking that they were suckers for being up at 8am on a Friday to help with the event. "And now I'm going to be at the Union at 8am tomorrow," she laughs. "I'm a sucker."

DeCarlo shares an anecdote about the "The" in "The Ohio State University," noting that legend has it that the word is actually an acronym for Tradition, Honor, and Excellence. After thorough research, she was disappointed to learn that this was not an official acronym. However, she says, "It speaks a lot to the community and three things I've tried to adopt in my time here." (Luckily, H&S has a clever acronym of their own with the G.O.A.L.S.​!) Gage notes that OSU is unique because people tend to have a huge amount of school pride and a sense of honor for being a part of the community. Students really embrace their decision to attend the university, maybe even as much as DeCarlo and Gage embrace their decision to be a part of H&S…maybe.

For Gage, one of the major ways H&S has affected his time at OSU has been by allowing him to connect with people he never would have met otherwise, people who live on opposite ends of campus or have completely different interests. He also adds that in H&S, resources come to the students rather than students having to seek them out. DeCarlo seconds this, noting that she has enjoyed befriending the Kuhn staff, making friends with other H&S students, and finding connections for future opportunities.

Both DeCarlo and Gage have been H&S Ambassadors for four years, served on the Executive Board for three, and emceed the H&S Launch this year. They agree that their favorite H&S event (besides maybe All-Skate) is Scholars Day, when they get to meet incoming Scholars students and their parents and introduce them to the program. Gage says he can always feel the excitement in the air throughout the day as the students ask questions and seek out whatever they're interested in. "We showcase our own experiences, and that allows us to reflect on them," he says. For similar reasons, DeCarlo always looks forward to orientation, especially the parent session. "It's finally real for these students and families attending OSU," she says. The students tend to be "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" and as for the parents, she does her best to ease their concerns about their kids going off to college.

Of course, hosting the Launch wasn't exactly boring, either. Gage claims that he was offered the opportunity to be an emcee as a compromise after he was not allowed to have a dunk tank at Kuhnival. Though they didn't rehearse at all until three days before, they were happy with how the day turned out. Well, for the most part. "I thought it was gonna be my big break," Gage says, "but not a single student has come up to me and said they recognize me." Before he can elaborate further on the disappointing lack of fame the Launch brought forth, DeCarlo interjects. "So, what he meant to say is that it was exciting to be the students' introduction to this group that has meant so much to us," she clarifies.

In fact, DeCarlo and Gage have enjoyed their time at OSU so much, they are not quite ready to leave. DeCarlo is going on to earn her Master's in Speech and Language Pathology here, planning to work with kids who have developmental disabilities. Gage will be attending medical school here to become a physician. Hopefully, they will still find the time to pursue their non-academic goals. For Gage, this means travelling to Europe. For DeCarlo, this means seeing a sunset on every continent. "Three down, four to go," she adds.

Though they love Columbus, Ohio, both Gage and DeCarlo have done some travelling in the past four years. Gage went on a week-long service trip to Panama with a group called Global Brigades. Their mission was to provide me​dical care to communities in need. "I got to view how healthcare is applied from a global perspective," he says. "It showed me a passion I'll have in my future as a physician." DeCarlo went on a trip to Spain through OSU's Global May Madrid program. She recalls that it was particularly interesting to watch herself slowly integrate into the culture, whether that meant adjusting to meal times or taking on the more laid-back ("no pasa nada") attitude. By the third week, she felt much more at home than that first day when the Spanish contact for the trip managed to identify her and her friend by "looking for the wandering Americans."

As they try to answer the final question of the interview—which involves funny anecdotes from H&S events—they both scroll through the GroupMe app on their phones. After a few minutes, they finally decide on a worthy tale. People who stay up-to-date on the H&S Weekly may recall Scholars student Will Wahl​, who was the youngest contestant to ever compete on
Survivor. Unsurprisingly, this makes him a bit of a celebrity in the community, so when DeCarlo and Gage prepared to interview him for an Ambassador position (which he ended up receiving!), they knew exactly who he was. However, they decided it would be best to treat him like they would any other student and not even mention Survivor. This plan was ruined pretty quickly when Gage, without thinking, greeted him by asking if he was "surviving" freshman year, a slip of the tongue that DeCarlo instantly picked up on. Later, she had her own embarrassing moment. After concluding a successful, engaging interview entirely devoid of TV references, they asked a final fun question that would normally sound innocuous enough: "If you were stranded on a desert island, what five items would you bring?" However, when it came time for DeCarlo to pose the question, she could not hold back her laughter, and they had to admit that they wanted to hear about Wahl's time as a Survivor contestant.

But the anecdotes don't end there. "How many can you write?" they retort when asked how many they want to share. They spend several minutes reflecting on other fond memories from the past four years, trying to decide which ones would look best in print. "I did meme myself once," Gage offers. DeCarlo sighs. "That's not how memes work, Dan."

by Christina Szuch, H&S Student Staff Writer