Education by Exploration: Gerald Quinlan

BVU senior Gerald Quinlan has traveled to and studied in Costa Rica, Spain, and Australia during an undergraduate experience marked by multiple majors, learning opportunities, and scholarships. The student-teacher believes fully in his BVU professors and the power of philanthropy.

One may not know that a future teacher will have visited three countries, a world-renowned cancer center, learned another language, and swam with Tiger Sharks in Australia’s Ningaloo Reef all before graduating from college. For Gerald Quinlan '19, that’s exactly what he set out to do at BVU, a place where he met his “extended family.” 

His interests began in optometry, then biology—a world of study that pairs well with his enthusiasm for all living things. On a January Interim trip in 2016, Gerald’s professors led him through ornate cathedrals and taste-tested the delicacies of several cities in Spain, further developing his passion for the Spanish language and culture. The biology major, who had already witnessed modern research techniques at one of BVU’s Mayo Clinic visits and interned at a water-testing facility, quickly realized how valuable adding a second major in another language would be to his future. “As I look toward teaching, I realize the importance of learning another language and about lifestyles different than my own, and I also learned that a Spanish teaching license is in high demand. No matter what majors I chose, my professors and advisor all wanted me to succeed from the beginning.” 

“You have to work hard and prove yourself in order to receive this special funding from donors, and the opportunities I’ve been awarded—such as going to Australia—really make me believe in the power of philanthropy.“

Gerald Quinlan '19

Gerald also discovered the significance of immersing yourself in research while traveling, and with the help of BVU professors, planned a spring semester abroad Down Under. After losing his mother in December of 2016, Gerald thought a semester in Australia was no longer in the cards for him. “I learned that life can get hard pretty quickly, so what’s important is having a good support system; mine was made up of family and BVU friends, staff, and professors.” 

He then applied for BVU scholarship funding to support his dream of traveling and learning. 

In Australia, Gerald was able to work with many critically endangered species, participate in ongoing research, and much more. 

While learning that things don’t always go as planned, the support from Gerald’s professors and hard work in the classroom took him on another adventure to Costa Rican sloth and toucan rescue ranches and the top of an active volcano in January 2018. As part of a three-week J-Term trip, where he stayed with a Costa Rican host family, Gerald and other BVU students studied Spanish at a local language school in the mornings and took in the country's historical sites during the afternoons and on weekends. “I was only there for three weeks, but it’s turned into a lifetime connection.” Gerald returned to visit his host family on his own last December. 

His good grades and participation on campus secured him several other scholarships based on his academic merit and dedication to succeeding. “BVU is always willing to work with students and their families to help pay for school and other learning opportunities. They treat you like family here.” Gerald says that his professors are “professional, but real.” He explained that he is often invited to their homes for dinner and has gotten to know some of their families as well. 

Gerald is currently student teaching and has applied to BVU’s master’s program in Teacher Leadership, Curriculum, and Instruction with an emphasis in Teaching English as a Second Language. He is currently exploring options to teach abroad while earning his master’s. Gerald hopes to fully immerse himself in another culture and language, earn his Ph.D., and eventually become an education professor.