(Published in 2019)
Ben Trumpinski is a Class of 2015 Flinn Scholar who graduated from Cienega High School in Vail. He is currently a senior at Northern Arizona University.
Flinn: What led you to apply for the Flinn Scholarship?
Ben: I actually had never heard of the Flinn Scholarship until about two weeks before the application deadline. I came from a high school that had never had a Flinn Scholar, so it really wasn’t advertised. I was chatting with a friend about “this amazing scholarship in Arizona” and decided to check it out. I started looking into it and decided it would be a mistake not to give it a shot, so I scrambled to pull everything together by the deadline and it ended up working out. (Hint: Just because I unintentionally waited until the last minute doesn’t mean you should!)
When offered the Flinn Scholarship, did you hesitate to accept it? If so, what considerations were you weighing?
Ben: Not for a minute! I had applied for a few out-of-state schools, and was offered some scholarships, but in my mind the benefits of Flinn far outweighed what I would gain by going to an out-of-state school. Plus, I do love Arizona, and didn’t mind the thought of staying here a few more years.
What has surprised you most about your Flinn Scholarship experience?
Probably the companionship between the Scholars. People talk about the “full-ride scholarship” and “research opportunities” and “travel” among other things. But you probably won’t hear, “and you’ll get to hang out with 19 other really amazing Scholars.” I never anticipated being as close to my class as I am. We see each other often, though we live hours apart. We help each other with grad school applications and even travel to other countries together. When I accepted Flinn, I never expected one of the benefits to be gaining 20 new best friends, but it was!
How did you choose NAU for undergraduate studies?
I actually started at ASU—NAU wasn’t my first choice originally! And my reasons for changing really had nothing to do with the academics of either school, but rather with the environment I wanted to be in. I love the small community of Flagstaff, which has led to lots of connections, both career and personal, that I wouldn’t have made at ASU. I also love the outdoors. When I’m having a rough week, I can go rock climbing, go hiking in Sedona, go skiing, etc. I could talk for hours about why I love Flagstaff. To be honest, there’s good and bad things about ASU and NAU. No school is perfect, and I’d be lying if I said my time at NAU has been perfect—which is the case for students at every university when they stop and reflect. But at the end of the day, it came down to the experience I wanted to have in college, going far beyond academics, and I’m very happy I chose to go to school in Flagstaff!
What is your major(s)?
Public Health with minors in Chemistry and Spanish
Was this your planned field of study upon entering college? If not, what caused you to change?
Not at all. I think I entered as a sustainability major, which changed to “undeclared,” which changed to “religious studies,” which changed to “kinesiology,” and the list goes on. College is a really cool time to figure out who you are and what you want with your life. And if you find that you don’t like something, you have the ability to change it. I jumped all around, asked different people for advice, switched majors, and switched universities before finally landing on public health. And I don’t regret any of it.
What has been the most important academic/on-campus experience you’ve had while at NAU?
This is a tough one, and honestly my best academic experience actually took place off campus. It was a class about the Colorado River Delta in Mexico and the restoration of the area. It was an online class that included a field trip to Mexico to see the delta and assist with restoration efforts. It was such an amazing experience, very educational and fun, even though it really had nothing to do with my major. It reminded me how passionate I am about the environment and how beneficial it is to take classes outside of your major.
What has been the most important off-campus experience you’ve had while at NAU?
I did an internship with Coconino County Emergency Management through connections with NAU and Flinn. I worked in disaster recovery plans. It was a fun experience, but there were a lot of meetings and paperwork, and I started to feel like what I was doing wasn’t really tangible—until the Tinder Fire of 2018 happened. It was one of the most catastrophic fires northern Arizona has had, and I worked for nearly two weeks in the Emergency Operations Center coordinating the response to the disaster. Though it was a tragedy, it was an incredible experience to be a part of the response and to be a resource to help the community pull together and recover from this disaster. It was incredibly rewarding and educational.
What will be your next step following graduation?
I’m honestly not completely sure just yet. I’ll be applying for the Fulbright Scholarship. We’ll see what happens with that. If that plan doesn’t work out, I’m hoping to get a job at a children’s hospital in Arizona or in Colorado while I prepare to apply for medical school. There’s also a chance that I’ll end up packing up and travelling for a few months.
What has been your most memorable travel experience as a Flinn Scholar? Why?
This is another hard one, and my answer is a bit obscure. I’ve had some incredible travel experiences thanks to Flinn—from sunrise hikes at the Great Wall of China, to touring one of the largest waterfalls in Asia, to zip lining through the rainforest in Costa Rica. But really, my most memorable experience was a dinner. It was the last night of our group seminar in China. My class was all together at a restaurant. It was memorable as there are only so many opportunities to get all of us together in one room. I mentioned earlier how these 19 people are some of my best friends now, and it was this night where I realized how lucky I am to have them, and how awesome it is to be a part of such an incredible group. I’ll never forget that night. It was a great end to an amazing trip.
What might candidates for the Flinn Scholarship miss that’s important for them to understand about the Flinn Scholars Program?
I always have lots of advice to give to potential Flinns, but the overarching theme in every conversation is do something and be passionate about it. In reality, it doesn’t matter what exactly you do, what your political views are, or where exactly you do it. What matters (to Flinn and in life) is that you have passions and are using them to make a difference. If you’re doing something because it will “boost your resume” or “look better to interviewers” you really won’t go far in the Flinn process. If you are not doing anything in your community, get involved. And if you’re already involved, be passionate and put your all into it. It’s your community, your life, your time. Go out and make a difference in something you care about. And don’t forget to have fun and make friends along the way.