UA student drops out, rebounds with Experiential Learning Center


After three and a half years as an undergraduate at The University of Akron, EbaNee Bond, dissatisfied with her major, unable to choose a career path and plagued with self-doubt, dropped out. 

It was a decision she would come to regret while working several low-paying jobs for the next year and a half, she says.

Then, when Bond had all but lost hope, she received an unexpected phone call from one of UA’s leaders in the area of student success.

“Nobody like you should be out of school,” he told her, remembering the potential he had seen in her. It was the same potential that Bond’s teachers at Mansfield Senior High School had seen – but which Bond could never find in herself.

“All my life – and I’m sure a lot of other minorities probably feel the same way – I’ve felt inadequate,” Bond says. “All my life I’ve been intelligent, but … I still never really felt that way.”

Aided by the Choose Ohio First STEM Scholarship, Bond returned here to resume her studies in engineering (her first major, before she switched to biology) – only to find that she had forgotten crucial skills and concepts.

“At the end of the second week of school, we had a quiz in dynamics, and I pulled out my calculator and realized that I didn’t even remember how to use my calculator – the big, graphing calculator,” she says. “I cried the remainder of the class period.”

“Overwhelmingly depressed,” she says, and lacking confidence, she finished the semester with a GPA of 0.00 – all F’s.

Bond says she spent the next two years rebuilding study habits with the help of peers. Gradually, her grades began to improve. 

Blueprint for her future

Then, one day, she spotted in Bierce Library what would prove to be an auspicious sign: a whiteboard advertising a networking event hosted by our Experiential Learning Center for Entrepreneurship and Civic Engagement, known as the EX[L] Center. The whiteboard read, “BLUprints to EX[L].” This reminded Bond of her favorite speech, from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., called “What is your life’s blueprint?” 

“I pay attention to things like that,” Bond says. “It felt like a sign that I should go!”

She attended the event and delivered a presentation on diversity in the workplace, called the “I Have a Dream Challenge.” Bond impressed Dr. Carolyn Behrman, co-director of the EX[L] Center. Behrman invited Bond to get involved in the center, which supports community-based, experiential learning on and off campus through programs such as the Akron Community Internship, where students intern with local business partners.

It was this internship program which, Bond says, was the “changing point” in her academic career, the point at which her potential – visible to all, but buried and hidden to herself – began to bloom.

Confident at last

The mechanical engineering major interned at Akron Global Business Accelerator, now known as Bounce Innovation Hub, which helps develop marketable ideas for technology-based startup companies such as the rapidly growing HungerPerks, founded by UA students. (Alumna Courtney Gras, recognized by Forbes as one of the top young innovators in the field of energy conservation, is the program director at Bounce.)

Bond excelled at the internship, and found in the EX[L] Center a group of friends – staff members and peers – who encouraged her to overcome her self-doubt, to express her ideas with confidence. 

“Here at UA, you can go to professors, and your ideas are valued,” says Bond, who had always been reticent in the classroom. “Just by them saying, ‘I think that’s a really good idea, you could do it.’”

One of those ideas was a Rethinking Race event, called #TheRightToBeHueman. Another was a campus workshop on environmental sustainability. With the sponsorship of the EX[L] Center, Bond successfully led both events, receiving “overwhelmingly positive feedback,” she adds. 

Bond also became a member of the EX[L] Center’s student advisory council, where, Behrman says, she has been “an incredible partner … creative, focused and full of energy.”

“I found what I didn’t know I was looking for in the EX[L] Center,” says Bond, who also is a proud member of the National Society of Black Engineers (in which she has held several offices), and who has been on the Dean’s List for the past three semesters.

Her most recent report card? All A’s.

Bond credits her remarkable turnaround to professors and peers at UA, and childhood friends, who “fed so much encouragement into [her],” enabling her to “believe in [herself].” 

But above all, she credits the EX[L] Center.

“I am sure once I am finished and look back on my college career, I’ll be able to say that the EX[L] Center has made the biggest impact on me as far as personal development and guiding the direction of my future,” she says.

Finding ways to pay it forward

Bond, who through the aforementioned Akron Community Internship program is currently working with Art x Love, a creative intelligence company in Akron, will graduate in May. She hopes to secure a technology commercialization position in Northeast Ohio. In the long term, she aspires to work in some capacity with middle school students in communities like the one in which she grew up.

“The biggest thing for me was realizing that there was no difference between the intelligent, quick-witted people who I grew up with and the people I’m in class with, except the people in class had more opportunities to believe that they could do it,” she says.

Having, through the opportunities afforded by the EX[L] Center, seen the flowering of her seed of potential, Bond hopes to nurture that seed in others. 

“I want to give kids hope, because hope helps heal. … My life goal is to feed positivity into people so much that they see the value in themselves to the point that they believe that by being themselves, they are worthy and that their ideas are worthy, and that they can make a meaningful difference, big or small … for themselves, humanity and Mother Earth.” 

Visit the EX[L] Center online to learn more.