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It CAN be done!

Changing the world through studies and service

How do you describe a typical Honors student? Hardworking? Communicative? A critical thinker? Or how about a student who, other than excelling academically, is a researcher, skier, entrepreneur, spelunker, aspiring pilot, and sailor - who also happened to hitchhike across Africa last year?

 “My best friends always describe me as an enigma,” laughed Hunter Lindsay, an Honors student majoring in molecular biology. Hunter grew up in Colorado, where a childhood defined by extracurricular activities and academic achievement fueled a desire for interdisciplinary disciple scholarship. “Whenever there’s something to be achieved, I want to do it.”

As Hunter continued telling his story, it became clear how true that was. As he began college, he initially felt like his thirst for interdisciplinary thinking wasn’t being quenched. “It felt like I was being indoctrinated into just a major, or a certain way of thinking, and I didn’t want that to shield me from other perspectives.” Another worry hung over his head: “What’s the point of these four years if I’m just going to memorize things and forget soon after? I need to learn how to think.”

Luckily, two things changed his college experience for the better: (first) Honors and (second) the Crocker fellowship. In the Crocker fellowship, Hunter worked with five other individuals in different majors to create a product that improved the human experience. Then the Honors program opened his eyes to how possible it truly was to explore his diverse interests. Hunter dived into several other campus experiences, including research groups for Alzheimer’s disease and alcohol addiction. Recently, Hunter became the head of the Alzheimer’s research group, where he discovered that research up to that point had been slow because for the past FIVE YEARS, the group had been studying the wrong protein!

Hunter attributes to his success a degree of rational skepticism: “I’ve learned the importance of questioning absolutely everything…When we question our fundamental assumptions, we can understand human nature and how the world actually works.”

Hunter’s leadership experience in Honors was also defined by excellence in research. Working with a team of researchers at Stanford, Hunter focused on treating and revolutionizing therapy for pancreatic cancer. It might seem intimidating to work in such a professional setting. Hunter definitely felt that stress, but he didn’t see it as a problem - in fact, he argued that “Imposter syndrome is one of the best things you can have,” because it inspires you to learn more, work harder, and fulfill the role you’ve been assigned.

If that all wasn’t enough, last year, Hunter decided to take a month-long journey across the African continent. Having served his mission along the Ivory Coast, he longed to return and learn more about the land and culture. He planned to travel from Morocco and eventually fly out of the Ivory Coast. If that sounds daunting, it’s because it is: “Everyone in the US said to me ‘you’re either going to die or get kidnapped.’ When I talked to people in the region I was traveling to, they said ‘You won’t be able to cross any of the borders.”

Despite the warnings, Hunter continued researching and talking to individuals about his trip’s feasibility. Eventually, he found a person who had completed the same journey some time before. This individual told Hunter it was possible, but couldn’t be done in just one month - it would take at least three. Hunter’s response? Glee! “So it CAN be done!”

After careful planning and coordination, Hunter touched down in Morocco without any idea of what to do or where to go. Miraculously, he encountered a group of missionaries soon after arriving, one of whom was his old companion’s younger brother! The missionaries helped him find a contact who could help him travel. Hunter acknowledges that his hard work wasn’t the only thing that made the trip possible: “Every step of the way I saw the hand of the Lord.”

Along his journey, Hunter used internet cafes to communicate with family and friends in the US. At one of these cafes, Hunter recalls that a man entered and sat down with some food. Before eating, however, this man offered his food to everyone else in the cafe. This simple but selfless act touched Hunter, and upon returning to the United States, Hunter was inspired to write his Honors 320 essay on the great question “What do we owe the world?”.

Hunter elaborates: “Each of us has a unique combination of skills, of traits, of assets. And we’ve been born in the world at the time that we have. So the question is, what do we owe this world that we live in? Do we have to dedicate ourselves and our lives to making the world better, or can we just live in and consume it?”

“Most disciplines say we owe the world whatever we’re willing and able to give it. I think it goes deeper. There’s no true model - no way of thinking - why people might do good or offer food. But even so, the vision I have for my life is to improve the human condition by living longer, healthier, and more spiritual lives.” Hunter quoted a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s: “When I do good, I feel good, and that is my religion.”

Hunter is currently in Alaska training to receive his pilot’s license. His studies and service prove the point that while there may not be one single way to describe a BYU Honors student, world-changing is a good start.