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Walking in Their Shoes

Walking in Their Shoes

Kent Garrett, a current undergraduate academic advisor for a local Kansas college, felt limited in his ability to help the students he was advising. Mostly nontraditional, these students had been out of school for several years and struggled with writing — especially during their first few semesters. With a passion for his work and those students, Garrett decided to become a student himself so he could be of more assistance.

In search of graduate English programs, Garrett began looking at local institutions. A colleague who had recently completed the library science program at Emporia State recommended the program to Garrett, and it happened to be just what he was looking for.

In 2016, six years after completing his bachelor’s degree, Garrett enrolled in Emporia State University’s master of arts in English program.

“I work full-time and I’m married with two young boys, so I was ecstatic when I saw that I could complete my degree completely online! Not only has this allowed me to continue working at my current job, but it also allowed me to stay on track — even when my second son was born in the middle of my program,” explained Garrett.

During his graduate career, Garrett has taken coursework that falls primarily into three categories: literature, creative writing and composition/pedagogy, most of which have been instantly applicable in his current position.

“My composition/pedagogy courses have had the most application in my current role,” Garrett said. “Since starting the program at ESU, I have worked more closely with students to help them improve their writing. Normally, I suggest that students visit our Academic Success Center when they need help with their writing. Many of these students, however, work full-time and attend class entirely online. Obviously, I can relate to this!”

In such instances, Garrett makes the most of his advising role by reviewing the students’ writings, comparing them to the assignment requirements and providing suggestions.

“This may involve organization of the paper, identifying error patterns, connecting them with resources that will help them in the future or even just working through how to prioritize their time,” said Garrett.

This program has not only allowed Garrett to help others chase their goals, but it reignited a spark that he had once brushed off.

“Before starting the program at ESU, I had an idea kicking around in my head for a fantasy novel that I want to write,” he said. “The creative writing courses I have taken have really helped me start to hone my craft and put pen to paper. Despite having less time to read and write, I have actually found myself doing more of both!”

More responsibilities to juggle was expected, but the program flexibility and support by faculty and staff have allowed Garrett to be successful in this pursuit of further education. That progress, though, was accomplished through some unique learning methods and times, proving there is no rest for the weary.

“For me, the coursework was something I had to squeeze into the nooks and crannies of my life. Since all of my coursework has been online, I’ve been able to maximize my lunch breaks at work to make progress on my reading and assignments. I usually have some sort of audiobook playing in my car and on my phone that is either directly assigned by one of my courses or at least related to what I am currently studying. Still, the bulk of my coursework gets done at home once I put my boys to bed,” Garrett said.

All of the work put in from afar gave Garrett a glimpse of ESU’s quality and culture, and ultimately led to a trip to Emporia to visit campus and professors.

“I can’t say enough good things about my program! The courses have been fascinating and have taught me so much. The instructors have been flexible, easy to work with and very relational — especially considering I’ve taken every course online,” he said. “I’ve had such positive interactions with the instructors that I’ve actually made a point of taking a day off work each semester to attend a class session in person.”

Although an overall positive experience, Garrett never called the program “easy.”

“Caffeine has become my new best friend.”

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