Meet Spring 2023 Valedictorian Lindsey Shrodek
Summa Cum Laude
Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Honors College
If you ask Cleveland State University Valedictorian Lindsey Shrodek how she would describe her life up to this point, she will tell you she is a city tree, one that faces the seemingly impossible task of growing while surrounded by concrete and buildings.
“They typically start small, in a humble plot of land, expanding beyond their fence and cracking the concrete around them,” she said in a recent interview.
At CSU, she majored in economics and philosophy (pre-law), blending her two passions. Philosophy classes underscored her curiosity about the world around her; economics classes would help her tap into her more analytical side.
Being in a comfortable and engaging environment, she began to find her “roots” in the community. Academically, she found it important to come to class prepared and curious, learning about economic and social systems that contribute to social injustice and inequity, her passion for finding solutions to these issues drove her to success in her coursework.
She would get involved with CSU Democrats on campus—participating in community politics and eventually elected treasurer of the organization, handling funds for events on campus and ultimately led to her involvement in phone banking and campaigning for Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the Georgia runoff elections. The following year, she was elected president of CSU Democrats.
Participating in a 10-week program with Bluniverse Foreign Language School, she designed and instructed an English curriculum for non-native speakers. Working with CSU Disability Services, she took notes for students in undergraduate and law school courses.
She then moved toward exploring the legal field. Over the summer of 2022, Lindsey secured a contract law internship with Avangrid Renewables—a company developing major offshore wind projects on the east coast such as the Park City Wind and Commonwealth Wind projects.
During the fall of her senior year, Lindsey began to metaphorically “break the concrete,” focusing on senior research and submitting a paper on American income disparities to the Downtown Review, where she was approved for publication in the journal’s Spring 2023 edition.
She hopes for her research to bring light to issues of structural injustice and provide possible solutions.
Cleveland State University: Can you tell us about the moment you decided to move forward with CSU – your “yes, this is the college for me” moment if you will?
Lindsey Shrodek: I remember being on a bus ride home from a high school event and having my mom Facetime me. We had been waiting for a letter in the mail from CSU’s honors college and it had finally arrived. She opened it with me on the phone and I remember hugging my friends and crying tears of joy when I read that I had been accepted.
My initial interest in Cleveland State came from my discovery of their honors college pre-law program and the opportunities offered after graduation. Not only did the honors college offer relevant opportunities to my area of interest, but Cleveland State as a whole was also very connected to the city around it, making it easy to get involved in the community, even if you grew up somewhere else. My decision was solidified when I first got to interact with the community.
The Dean of the Honors College at the time, Elizabeth Lehfeldt, had made everyone feel so comfortable and welcome. I remember her calling to congratulate me and I just thought, “Wow, I am so excited to be a part of this community.”
CSU: What put you on the path to your majors? Were there any defining moments or inspirations?
LS: On Sundays, I would visit and discuss my life with my grandpa over dinner. My grandpa was always learning something new. He always had a book in his hand, a new story to tell, or wanted to talk about the latest current events. Funnily enough, I ended up choosing to study the same concentrations he did when he went to college at Ohio University–Economics and Philosophy.
I admired that my grandpa was very curious about the world and an advocate for doing what was right. As we spent Sunday nights discussing the state of democracy, ethics, and economic systems, I knew that these were fields I was curious about as well. Choosing economics not only allowed me to learn how to analyze empirical patterns through data analysis but also the historical reasoning behind those patterns.
Philosophy allowed me to critically examine history and question what I thought I knew. A wide range of philosophers such as Michel Foucault, Karl Marx, Sandra Bartky, and John Stuart Mill sparked my interest in the wide field of philosophy, critical theory, and application to real-world issues. With Economics and Philosophy, I was waking up every day and learning more about issues that mattered to me. I think my grandpa inspired that curiosity and the drive to become a better person.
CSU: Once you started into your major classes, did your perception of that course of study change?
LS: I originally had philosophy as a minor but added it as a major when I took the class Philosophy of Gender and Race with Dr. Sonya Charles. This class was a seminar-based course discussing issues related to defining gender, race, and sex. Before taking this, I had thought philosophy was very focused on religious and abstract issues, but after taking this I realized philosophy plays a very real role in helping to identify structural inequality and providing solutions for it. As I got deeper into the field of philosophy, I realized that it also trains your brain to recognize good and bad arguments in everyday life– sometimes in a mathematical way. Classes such as symbolic logic with Professor Schultz-Bergin help your brain break an argument down to its core tenets and use mathematical logic to see if it is internally consistent.
In Economics, I think there is often the stereotype that the field ignores social issues. I found this perception to be completely incorrect. Not only are there many theories that allow students to dig deep into the root of class conflict and structural inequality, but econometrics provides a tool for students to pinpoint areas of inequality with empirical evidence. These econometric tools can provide evidence for life-changing policy suggestions that further social equity. For instance, classes such as Public Sector Economics with Dr. Yilmaz and Healthcare Economics with Dr. Grossmann are subjects that cover how economic theory and empirical evidence can be applied to social issues such as healthcare access, welfare programs, and income inequality.
CSU: What was the best class you’ve taken at CSU – or the class you enjoyed the most – and why?
LS: This is a hard question. I would have to say Modern Political Thought with my professor James Pawlik. Though this wasn’t categorized as an economics or philosophy class, it covered topics with crossover from both fields. I looked forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays because I got to learn about some of the most monumental political scientists and philosophers across the ages and their application to the modern political climate. Professor Pawlik’s lectures were extremely well-researched and captivating. On top of learning about philosophy itself, I got to learn fun details about the lives of certain philosophers from Plato to Jeremy Bentham. I think the class made me realize that every topic is interdisciplinary and there is never information that isn’t relevant to your field of study.
CSU: How has CSU cultivated your character, values, and standards of excellence? How do you think you’ve changed or grown during your time at CSU?
LS: I think Cleveland State University has taught me that it is okay to take up space. Growing up, I noticed that women were excluded from many academic and professional spaces, whether it be as casual as getting talked over while sharing an opinion, or as large as being bullied out of an activity they loved. I think because of this, I was often hesitant to participate in activities I really enjoyed because they were male-dominated. Cleveland State University made me feel comfortable enough to step out of my comfort zone and share my ideas.
Believing in yourself is a long journey that requires unlearning negative self-talk and doubt. CSU provided me with reassurance and support– whether it be through the Career Center, my professors, my academic advisors, or my friends.
CSU also taught me the importance of lifting the community around me. We are all where we are because of the support others have given us at some point in our lives, and I wanted to be that support for others. CSU and the City of Cleveland provided me with countless engagement opportunities such as working with Cleveland State Disability Services, helping local schools include more young women in competitive debate, or volunteering to help with vaccine distribution at the Wolstein Center.
All in all, CSU was the perfect place to learn how to love myself and love my community.
CSU: Aside from being University Valedictorian, what stands out to you about your CSU experience?
LS: We have a very close community here at CSU; I think the community cares greatly about making sure everyone feels safe, included, and engaged. One community I particularly enjoyed was the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Honors College. The honors college allows students to take both upper-level courses in special topics and experiential courses. One of my favorite experiences was taking Honors Yoga with Professor Foundran. Her class and her instruction were a testament to just how much Cleveland State faculty cares about their students. I loved honors yoga so much that I took it twice! It was a great way to balance the time I put towards academics and work and personal growth and rest.
CSU: What is your favorite CSU memory?
LS: One of my favorite memories was when one of my professors took the class for a coffee run during a day our classroom had temporary last-minute maintenance. We got to discuss what we were working on while walking and enjoying how beautiful it was outside. I think this shows that Cleveland State professors not only care about the education of students but also their well-being in the classroom.
On this note, I have had so many great memories like this with my professors and classmates: whether it was enjoying baklava during end-of-year presentations, a classmate offering notes after I had to miss a day of class, complementary coffee during a final, or having a professor sit down with me and discuss how life is going, the CSU community genuinely cares about the wellbeing of those around them.
CSU: What’s next for you in life and how has your experience at CSU prepared you for it?
LS: I will be attending law school next fall and I am attending the University of Virginia School of Law. Ultimately, I want to work in the judicial system to create more equitable decisions.
CSU has prepared me to continue my journey toward this career. Philosophy allowed me to interact with arguments and hypothetical scenarios daily–something law school has no shortage of. My economics coursework provided me with experience in analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and formulating an argument. These analytical reasoning skills are, in my opinion, extremely applicable to the world of law.
CSU: What advice would you give to the next class or a freshman in your major? Any parting words?
LS: Cherish these moments with those around you and always keep in touch with your friends, even if life gets in the way. Sometimes you bump into people that you may not have seen for a while– make time to go get coffee with them! The same goes with professors and faculty; if you had a person that impacted your life, reach out to them! We are a mosaic of the community around us and life is so sweet when you spend it with people you care about.