Kathleen O’Leary, academic advising graduate student, won the Division of Continuing Education’s 2013 Distance Learning Essay contest. Students were asked to answer the question, “How has distance learning at Kansas State University affected the way you are reaching your goals?” Congratulations to Kathleen! Here is her winning essay.
My name is Kathleen O’Leary. I am a 49-year-old K-State graduate distance learning student pursuing an M.S. in Academic Advising. It’s been 20 years since I completed my B.A. degree, and I am excited to say that I’m more than halfway through my second semester in the master’s in academic advising program. I am learning a tremendous amount about the academic advising profession and am already applying everything I’ve learned. Online learning wasn’t an option when I was an undergraduate, so it’s been a positive learning experience for me. What a great way to earn a degree!
I moved to Montana in 2010 and started working for a small, “grassroots” 2-year college in the Bitterroot Valley. The college was barely two years old, with approximately 100 students and two classrooms. I found myself in new territory and well outside of my comfort zone as far as my skills and background were concerned; however, playing a part in the birth of a brand-new college in a very rural community was and continues to be unbelievably exciting!
Impoverished, homeless, unemployed, single parent, recovering addict, abused, unprepared, elderly; these are common adjectives describing the “non-traditional” students to whom I serve as academic advisor. These are the students who have become my greatest passion. Never in my life have I seen such motivation, perseverance, willingness, invested effort to succeed and hope. These students have earned my greatest respect as well as my commitment to provide them with the highest quality of service and advising that I am able.
Kansas State University’s distance education program is providing me with the quality education, tools, knowledge, confidence and understanding necessary to empower me to be the academic advisor that our students need and deserve for a positive and successful college experience. Best decision I’ve ever made!