By Gabbi Hall, Integrated Marketing Manager
When the university set out on a second cross-country bus tour last spring, the theme was the same: a journey celebrating student success. The route, however, was different — taking the team to Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon and South Dakota, just to name a few stops. The new route enabled the crew of 15 to meet more students and alumni, deliver diplomas to those who couldn’t make it to graduation, and make distance learning a little less distant by introducing students to their favorite advisors and faculty members.
After departing April 6, the two teams drove more than 10,000 miles in the “Big Blue Bus” and an SNHU Sprinter van. Starting in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the crew met with active-duty service member Alex Romero, who is earning his B.S. in Business Studies.
From there it was nonstop. The bus crew met more than 60 students and alumni, including Lt. Tim McMillan ’15, a police officer in Garden City, Georgia (see related story in this issue), and Marcia Erickson ’14, the CEO of a nonprofit in South Dakota — both of whom pursued higher education to better their communities. Active-duty service members such as Michael Hangge ’15, an M.A. in English and Creative Writing graduate (see related story in this issue), shared their stories of taking classes during multiple deployments. Military spouses such as Amanda Stites, an M.S. in Psychology student, inspired us with their passion for education in the midst of the many other challenges they face.
Many students and alumni tracked down our teams using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so they could meet the crew and get an SNHU T-shirt. In the small town of Wall, South Dakota, Mike Steffen — a public administration student and the EMS director — stopped by when he saw the bus making a pit stop.
Of all the students the crew met, some of the most excited were our recent graduates. The crew delivered 25 diplomas to graduates who were unable to make it to the commencement ceremony in Manchester.
“I see it as a punctuation mark, an exclamation point in my life,” said B.A. in English Language and Literature graduate and diploma recipient Steve Pomper ’15.
In addition to spontaneous and planned meet-ups, there were three Pop-Up Student Unions in Nashville, San Francisco and Seattle. Nearly 300 local SNHU community members attended the events, which featured representatives from SNHU Career, Alumni Engagement, SNHUconnect, COCE Academics and Advising.
Attendees were able to walk in and access many resources they would find in a traditional campus student center, plus stop by the giveaways table to grab T-shirts, water bottles, notebooks and other university gear. The Pop-Up Student Unions centered around lively panel discussions moderated by Chief Academic Officer Dr. Greg Fowler. The discussions ranged in topic from managing time as a student to navigating the career search, and they proved to be a great way to engage the group in larger conversations about the impact of their educations.
The crew met great people on the journey.
Here are just a few of them.
M.A. in English and Creative Writing
Columbia, South Carolina
Zuri Wilson-Seymore is a poet, and she knows it. “Poetry has been my passion. Since I was 13, it served as a security blanket to express myself with various worldly issues,” she said.
Wilson-Seymore also knew that she wanted a career, not just a job. That’s why she decided to return to school for a master’s degree. She hasn’t been disappointed.
“There’s so much that I’ve experienced since being a student at Southern New Hampshire University. Growth – if I had to sum it up into one word. I have grown so much as a writer,” she said. “I like the challenge that Southern New Hampshire University offers in all of the writing classes.”
Wilson-Seymore noted graduate school has been intense, but the support of her academic advisor, her classmates and even the librarians who helped her with research has helped her face the toughest academic challenges.
“I’m developing lifelong relationships – both friendships and business,” she said.
When people ask Wilson-Seymore why she chose to attend SNHU, she talks about the people. She may be far away, but she still feels connected because “the advisors make themselves available. And if my advisor has left for the day, there’s still someone else available willing to assist.”
Mark Keyser ’15
B.A. in General Studies
Have you ever taken a 22-year break from something? Can you imagine starting it up again?
That’s exactly what Mark Keyser ’15 did. Motivated by his children, he decided to return to school to complete his undergraduate degree.
“I had gone to school for five years and was two classes short,” he said. “I was able to transfer over almost my entire curriculum, which I was very thankful for.”
When it came to taking his final classes, one faculty member, Cathy Winterfield, made a particularly strong impact by proactively reaching out to assist Keyser with a crucial assignment.
He had never experienced academic support like that. He also received outstanding support from his academic advisor, Robert Thyberg, whom Keyser said was always encouraging him to take advantage of available resources and checking in to ask about his program.
The SNHU crew delivered his diploma, with Winterfield and his family present, at the student union event.
Marcia Erickson ’14
M.S. in Community Economic Development
Pierpont, South Dakota
In early May, the SNHU bus trekked to northeast South Dakota to visit Marcia Erickson ’14, an alumna who lives in a small farm town.
When she’s not driving the grain cart during harvest season, she runs a community housing and economic development organization called GROW South Dakota.
“We serve about 10,000 people annually in a variety of programs, from housing loans to business loans to emergency services,” she said. “We own apartments; we developed and own a couple of schools on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.”
In the nearby town of Eden, for example, which has a population of 100 people, positive change has a big impact.
“We provided a loan in that small community and it was a small manufacturing company, and I think it employed 10 people,” she explained. “Ten people in a population of 100. Huge impact. And you know you’re changing lives, you’re improving people’s lives, by what we do on a daily basis.”
Erickson’s family homestead was built in South Dakota in the 1890s, and six generations of her family have now lived great lives there.
“I love rural South Dakota because of the beauty, the landscape,” she said. “Because it’s where my family is, because I can farm, because I can be a nonprofit leader, because the community knows you and takes care of you and takes care of everyone in the community.”
Her husband often asks, when she leaves for work, “Are you off to save the world again?”
Her response? “Yes, I am.”
Want to read more about the journey? Check out the blog at succeed.snhu.edu.