When Zack McCormick started at Aims Community College, he was still determining his career aspirations. Like many people beginning college, he had some possibilities in mind, but needed to explore his options and interests.
Zack McCormick Found His Passion at Aims
Then something finally clicked. After taking a political science course, he was inspired to pursue a government and international relations degree.
“Aims is where I decided what I want to do. I decided to study political science because of an Aims class. And so, it was the beginning, and it just kind of snowballed after that.”
History and politics are subjects he is passionate about. “I always say that political science is the calculus of history," Zack said. “It's because if you think of it like math, every math class that you take is preparing you to take calculus, where politics is the same thing, where everything you learn about the past is preparing you to make decisions about now. So I always liked that.”
Zack is now a Junior at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC), transitioning there from Aims as part of the Aims2UNC program. He is currently working on a double major in political science and international relations. Zack is also pursuing minors in economics and French. He is considering doing a study abroad program in France, Ireland or New Zealand.
After graduation, he hopes to work with a federal agency or state government. “I’d like to work in intel, like the CIA, FBI, or NSA.” Another particular area of interest of Zack’s is working with an agricultural government agency, like the Colorado Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug Administration. “I've never lived on a farm in my life, but I just think economics and plants are cool.”
He didn’t start out with that direction in mind. “When I was a high school senior, I couldn't decide whether I wanted to do business or education,” Zack said. UNC is a top Colorado university for studying education, and the Monfort College of Business at UNC is also highly regarded. That is why he had UNC in mind.
Choosing to Attend Aims
There were several reasons that he attended Aims before transferring. “It’s a no-brainer not to go to Aims first because it transfers, and it’s close to UNC,” he said. Zack also decided to attend Aims, because some of his high school grades and test scores didn’t reflect his full potential for university admission. He called himself “a slacker” in high school. As one can tell by his story and ambition, he is anything but, with double majors and two minors in progress. Zack is proof that high school records don’t determine your success as much as perseverance, drive and ambition. Aims is an open-enrollment college; admission is not based on past academic achievement or test scores. It is a place where students can thrive and discover possibilities.
Another reason Zack chose Aims was its affordable tuition. College costs across Colorado continue to get more expensive. The average credit hour is $72 at Aims; the price is $313 at nearby four-year institutions. When he saw the cost of attending Aims, he couldn’t believe it. His first thought was, "there's no way that that's right." Zack also credits Aims for keeping the cost of college in check, “If I hadn't attended Aims, I would be in a lot of debt.”
Zack’s journey began online at Aims while the COVID-19 pandemic paused in-person classes. He lived in Delta, Colorado and came to Greeley when face-to-face learning resumed. When he moved to northern Colorado, he knew no one and rapidly found a home at Aims. “I quickly clicked with my classmates and then started working on campus and built a community,” Zack said. “It made Greeley feel less lonely, especially for someone not from this area.”
Exploring a Wide Range of Interests
In addition to Zack’s academic schedule and social life, he became involved in various activities outside the classroom. He found juggling these essential elements of the college experience to be complex yet rewarding.
“I think that college isn't hard. It's when you do college and something else. It's when you do school and work and school and friends, and everything together makes it challenging.”
One of the student groups he was involved with was Student Government Association (SGA). The SGA is the representative body for Aims students. “I'm really proud of what I did in student government,” he said, “even if a lot of my work was in the background, I still did a lot.” Zack worked as the Vice President of Finance within the organization. This included managing the budget and researching monetary issues such as student fees.
Zack took some elective classes in radio production during his last year at Aims and ran the Student Gov Weekly show on Aims Student Radio. “That was super cool,” He said. Zack interviewed Aims staff about SGA and other student-focused topics as part of the show.
In addition to gaining experience and skills on campus, Zack was involved in activities outside of Aims. The Career Services team assists with career exploration and provides students like Zack help with obtaining relevant work-based learning experiences. During the summer of 2022, he interned in Washington, D.C., with the Fund of American Studies program. The intensive program combines academic courses for credit, internships, housing, site briefings, guest lectures, a professional development series and a mentorship program.
Zack was placed at the World Shipping Council, a trade organization that provides a collective voice to policymakers regarding the overseas liner shipping industry. He researched potential offshore wind power locations. “It was my job to read the rules of the Coast Guard, look at this giant map and see where the trade routes were, and then cross-reference to where windmills were,” he said. Zack and his team would then make recommendations to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. “I've never seen the Atlantic Ocean, but I was really versed in where the boats went in the ocean.”
Zack found his passion for political science and international relations and explored a broad array of interests at Aims Community College. He will graduate from UNC within the next year and hopes to start a government career.
In this field, Zack is hopeful of creating positive change. “I can play my part and use my interests to make things better.”
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