I have always been a person with a plan. Goals and lists and dreams order my steps. But when I got to college, things were different. I knew who I wanted to be—a minister to children and families; helping people has always mattered most to me. But I had no idea how to get there. There isn’t a specific college degree that teaches you how to help people. I needed a problem-solving tool belt—not just a problem-solving prescription.
That’s where MTSU and a degree within the College of Liberal Arts stepped in. Liberal arts empowered me to fulfill the calling I have always known by allowing me the space I needed to grow. Through my Communication Studies education, I have learned over and over again how to consider the perspectives of other people, creatively solve problems through cognitive flexibility, and—most importantly—develop the ability to display true empathy by stepping into pain with others and walking out with them hand-in-hand. These skills have come out of learning practical disciplines such as public speaking, intercultural communication, interpersonal communication, and the theory behind human needs.
Flash forward—here I am at 20, with the job I would have picked in my wildest dreams. I minister to children and families for a living. I use my problem-solving tool belt every day. At 19, I was given the position of site coordinator over a refugee youth program in Smyrna, where I work to bridge gaps between marginalized people and their new American homes. There are over 30 families I get to advocate for physically, financially, educationally, emotionally, and spiritually.
It was only a few years ago that I was told by someone I love dearly that I would never be able to make any money in the nonprofit world. I remember telling my peers I was going to MTSU and not receiving the affirmation I expected. Here I am now—standing in a position so fulfilling I would willingly do this if I did not make a cent, earning a livable and generous wage as a college student. If I had not chosen a program in CLA, I am not sure I would be the person who gets to do this every day. I am not sure I would be the person who knows so much about the beauty of the Karen, Zomi, and Burmese refugee peoples.
MTSU has allowed me to get an affordable education while serving the community I love. My liberal arts story is that out of this education has bloomed an ability to bring heaven a little closer to Earth.