How did you overcome the challenges you faced in earning your degree?
For much of my post-secondary education, I struggled and grappled with my learning hurdles. My fear of failure and the voices of doubt would rear their heads, and often times I thought I was kidding myself to think I belonged in a master’s program, much less be able to complete it successfully.
However, with the support of Stout's incredible Disability Services, my professors, my cohort, my loving and diligent partner, Alex, and the words of my mother, I was able to overcome much of these wrongfully instilled negative beliefs.
I'm also thankful for my ever-present companion, my dog Maxwell. He was 17 and with me throughout all of my master's degree and passed on right before the final semester started. He was a fundamental and crucial reason for my success.
Dr. Klem will always stand as a beacon for me from this day forward. He reminded me that learning disabilities were not the end of my potential, and there was no need for me to fear living beside them. He not only modeled how far a person can go when they grow past labels and imposed limitations placed on those with disabilities in our society, but he helped me to re-create my beliefs in myself. He challenged me and pushed me to remember I am not defined by disabilities; I am profoundly capable and sometimes I just need to remember that and move forward with confidence.
I am thankful for Dr. Klem, who truly instilled in me a new and renewed sense of who I can be when I live with my truth and not against it. I am changed because he believed in me enough to challenge old narratives and support me in making way for a capable human who leaves this institution knowing she can share this hope to inspire others.
What are you most proud of as you finish your degree?
Education has been an uphill battle for me for all my life. The day I was accepted into the program, I could hardly believe my professors saw potential in me. I had put off attempting to get a master’s degree for a decade due to being terrified I would not be capable enough to succeed at this level of academics.
Walking across the commencement stage, I felt a sense of accomplishment that is hard to express in words.
I am a changed human because loved ones, professors and peers believed in me. I not only celebrate graduating with my master’s, but I celebrate graduating from old beliefs that people with disabilities are any less capable than anyone else.