Following is a Q&A with one of the 1,375 students who received a diploma May 6 at UW-Stout.
Name: Kayla Steinmetz
Hometown: Chippewa Falls
Major: Special education
Awards, honors: Chancellor’s Awards
Why did you choose UW-Stout? After doing some college browsing, I concluded that UW-Stout offered the most flexible degree in my desired field, cross-categorical special education K-12. Luckily for me UW-Stout was also close enough to commute from my hometown of Chippewa Falls. Once I started sharing my interests in UW-Stout, I learned that several of my high school teachers are UW-Stout alumni. Through my curious questioning, common responses started to appear. They expressed excelling at UW-Stout was possible due to the focus of hands-on instruction. My decision was sealed!
What are the biggest challenges you faced in earning your degree? My financial standing was probably the biggest struggle. I decided to pay on my loans as I went.I worked throughout the entirety of college, sometimes two jobs. To save money, I took as many general education credits as possible at a local technical college. I benefited from knowing I would end up at UW-Stout because I could double-check that all my credits would transfer smoothly.As a result, the four-year degree took me six and I am still graduating with debt, but it’s less than most. I had a fair share of struggles but I got through. Two sayings helped me through college. First, “Fear is the mind killer,” and I found myself saying this in times of worry. The second saying I heard from a classmate, “Colleges are meant to weave out the weak.” Every time I hit a bump and I thought I was about to crack — trust me it happens frequently — I told myself, “I am not going to let them weave me out!”
What stands out among your college experiences? At UW-Stout I started to love learning. For the first time in my life history, ethics, religion, culture, economics and even politics became fascinating to me. I will forever be thankful for the guidance provided by professors and peers at UW-Stout. I have developed into an individual who yearns to be a lifelong learner, as odd as it may seem.
What’s next? Before graduation, I was offered and accepted a job at the school were my student teaching took place, Chetek-Weyerhaeuser Midde/High School. Thankfully, this made life after college a lot less uncertain. I am eager for my first year as a special education teacher and I look forward to growth that follows. On the personal level, my partner and I got engaged two years ago. We mutually decided it would be best to hold off on the planning until the completion of college. I am happy to say we now will start planning our wedding. The college chapter in my life is complete, for now. I will make sure to enjoy whatever lies ahead.