A heartfelt farewell from Ashley Kanak, our Graduate Assistant, as she moves to Georgia.
As I look forward with excitement about beginning a new chapter of my life, I realize that I would not be heading in the direction I am without every person and every experience I had in Minnesota and the Honors Program. No matter how short or long of an interaction I had with students, faculty, and staff each person was part of my journey. I have collected many new stories, experienced adventures, and watched as characters developed and blossomed.
I took a unique path on my journey to Minnesota which all began in New Hampshire. Here I worked at Camp Robindel, a seven week long camp for girls which changed my life. I was able to meet new people from all over the world, many of which I still talk to thanks to technology and Skype. I developed my leadership and facilitation skills working with children and further developed my passion for teaching. After camp I returned to Georgia wondering where my life was going to take me next. I believe it was in October that Jolly, the camp assistant director, called me and asked if I wanted to go to graduate school and work in a place that would foster my leadership development. Of course I said yes even knowing this place was in Minnesota and I started to believe I would freeze solid upon arrival. After interviewing for the Graduate Assistant position for the Honors Program and receiving an acceptance letter from the Educational Leadership Program at the university, I began the mental preparations for a drastic climate change. I arrived in Minnesota in January on a day with -45 wind-chill, which on the bright side, I do not believe it has been that cold since then!
When classes began so did my work in the Honors Program. There was so much to learn about competencies, course requirements, and language development – oh my! Fortunately there are some highly motivated faculty and staff working in the office who care greatly about the future of the program and the individuals who will have an impact. Dr. Chris Corley is an inspirational educator and mentor who wants everyone to succeed and receive the best educational experience possible. Watching him teach the Developing Your Mentor Philosophy course impacted me to the point that I draw some of my educational philosophy from his methods. Ginny Walters is an innovative mentor, leader, and advisor to myself and the students she interacts with. She uses creative educational methods that are focused on student needs and finds inspiration in their success. Sadie Anderson is a multitasking professional wonder woman. Her drive to develop her own leadership skills through involvement in community organizations is something I admire. Dr. Anne Dahlman is a wonderful educator who looks to foster innovative practices in order to create positive educational experiences for students. The students I have interacted with make me want to be a better learner. Everyone is so highly motivated, passionate about their fields, and constantly looking for new ways to experience life. All of these people helped me to develop my passion for peer mentorship and allowed me to put into practice many ideas and concepts over the past two years.
I know that I will see all of you again. The faculty and staff are publishing in journals, presenting at conferences, and I believe will make the headlines one day about new educational practices. I know that all of the students will have an impact on the world in their own ways. It might be publishing in journals, developing new research models, leading corporations, or saving lives but each will positively impact the world on a global scale. I encourage the students to be lifelong learners, to experience as much as possible, and to always remember the importance of reflection.
The Honors Program at MNSU changed my life for the better and I will always value this experience as the one that shaped me into the leader I am today.