Homecoming week held a lot of exciting on-campus activities. Amidst the fun, current Duhawks had the opportunity to learn from alumni through panel discussions. There were different alumni panels going on at the same time for different education disciplines.
Amongst those who served on the general panel, which was hosted and directed by the CEL office, were Liz Elsbernd Kruse (’08), Rachel Gunderson (’09), Tommy Giovingo (’06), Ben Layer (’03) and Carolyn Windberg (’12).
In talking about their personal experiences, the panelists, though they had different experiences, all shared the common view that their time here at Loras was memorable and presented them with great opportunities that are helping them succeed in life.
Layer said that he made connections with President Jim Collins and other people here at Loras and that those connections came in handy for him when he was in graduate school.
“It was cool to have that 30-minute connection with someone because of my Loras College connection,” he said. “Jim is a very personal person. Once you make that connection, don’t just make it, but use it.”
Adding to that, Elsbernd Kruse said that for her, the most enjoyable and helpful experience was studying abroad in Spain. She encouraged everyone who can to study abroad because “it helps you discover who you are and learn to interact with people from different cultural backgrounds than yours.”
Explaining how internships helped them while they were students here at Loras College, Giovingo said, “It is very beneficial to try something new, especially in an environment like Loras College where it is OK to fail or make a mistake.”
To add to that, Gunderson offered an example as to how trying something new can be helpful in the long run.
“I was a deejay at this radio station and I knew no one listened to the radio station, but I kept at it. The manager at the time had to go away for some time and left me in charge. It was a great learning curve for me. Trying new things helps you know what you like and don’t like, and gives you a clue of the direction you want to take in life.”
A lot of us wonder why we have to take classes such as the infamous Democracy and Global Diversity (Democ) and other liberal arts classes. Windberg said that students who are taking the course may not see it now, but the classes actually do pay off in the end.
“I think ‘Democ’ helps in the sense that you have to know what you want and be able to put that into words, to think critically… and ‘Democ’ really helps you learn how to counter arguments,” Windberg said.
Gunderson added that in her workplace, where she has to meet and talk with people who work in different projects than hers, she has to be able to “understand their point of argument and to see things from their perspective,” and she believes another required class, MOI, helped her with that.
Before receiving questions from the audience, the panelists were asked to share the “greatest lesson” they learned as Duhawks and their “greatest regret.”
While most of them spoke about wishing they had studied abroad, Layer said, “I think I am a great example that it is never too late to change. For my few years of college, Art Sunleaf (dean of student life) had a file on me because I was a nuisance, but that changed, and he too was surprised when I made a complete turnaround. My biggest regret was worrying so much about what I was going to do. I changed my major about three times before I settled on psychology, but somehow I managed to graduate in four years.”
Layer continued to say that students shouldn’t worry much about what they are going to do after college and to focus more on enjoying the experience and trying different things. He said the campus has created a platform for students to learn and discover themselves. He also talked about why he takes so much pride in being a Duhawk.
“People here make meaningful connections,” he said. “They care about where you are in life and where you are going, but most importantly they remember you. You meet them 10 years later and they remember you. Not just a polite kind of ‘I-remember-you,’ but they sincerely care and remember the time they had with you.”
Most questions from the audience were focused on soliciting advice from members of the panel. However, one member of the audience wanted to know why each one of the panelists either went off to graduate school or to work for some company instead of starting their own business.
Three of the panelists said the jobs they have at the moment are the right fit for the career paths they want to pursue. On the other hand, Layer and Giovingo said they had interest in entrepreneurship, but have other responsibilities now — families — that made a reliable source of money a key concern. Layer advised those who are interested in taking the entrepreneurial path to start now while they don’t have other responsibilities and obligations.
In closing, Faye Finnegan from the CEL office thanked everyone for coming and extended her appreciation to the panelists for coming to Dubuque to share their experiences with students. She further encouraged students to step by the CEL office to take advantage of the many services they offer.