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Winning Essay

Rebecca Gulledge
Flathead Valley Community College
Kalispell, MT
(Instructor: Professor Miriam I. Lyngholm)

What is a Master Student?

What is a Master Student? Until recently, I would have answered by saying, "I can tell you what a Master Student is NOT — It's not me!" and that would have been partially true. Even though I enjoyed attending classes and was excited about learning new things, I was not a good student. I struggled with reading assignments and had difficulty with organization of long–term research and writing projects. I passed high school but did not have the confidence, motivation or skills to continue my education.

When I was nineteen I married and by the time I was twenty–six I had two children. My husband became disabled when our youngest child was three. At that time, I went from part–time to full–time work. I spent the next two decades being a wife, a mother and working at various jobs. With my income and my husband's disability checks, we were able to make it. When my husband died eight years ago, the same year, my older son left for college, I continued to work. Since my younger son received Survivor's Benefits, we made ends meet. However, last year my younger son left for college, and without his supplemental income, I have a hard time financially. Not to mention the fact that my job as a housekeeper did not challenge me. It was time for a change in my life. Getting an education seemed the way to start, so here I am?

In the past few weeks, I have learned about many skills and attitudes that a Master Student should possess. The ones that have really touched me personally and the ones I hope to master begin with goals.

A Master Student sets goals. Upon re–entering school, I had no specific goals. Once I had made a time line with specific goals in relationship to time, it gave this school adventure a real feeling, gave it meaning. I could see that I actually might be headed somewhere. All of a sudden, I had something to shoot for; I was motivated.

A Master Student is motivated. She sees the value of what she is doing in terms of her goals. Once motivated, she realizes that her choices have power, power to move her forward or to hold her back.

A Master Student looks at herself critically — with a positive attitude, of course! "I positively want to know what my weaknesses and my strengths are." This enables me to make choices that will help me to grow in my weak areas and let my light shine in my strong ones.

A Master Student knows her learning style. "Eureka!" What a discovery this was for me. It all made sense to me now. After all those years of not being able to make the grade, I wasn't "stupid" or "lazy." I discovered that my learning style was not being honored. I am a stage four learner: I like action, hands on, group activity, a lot of experimentation and a lot of body movement. I question "Why?" and "What if?" and "Where does this fit in my life?" When I was going to school, such questions were discouraged. Now that I know what my learning style is, I honor it and ask other to honor it — a Master Student lets others know her needs.

A Master Student takes charge and accepts responsibility for her life. A good lesson for me was "I create it all." At first I was very angry about being left behind and was discouraged because of my learning style. I fact, I spent a lot of energy resenting my lost opportunities. Then I realized the energy I was spending on resentment could be turned into something positive. I wrote a speech and shared my experience; I addressed problems that can result from not recognizing learning styles. In the speech, I pointed out ways to identify learning style and ways to get that style met. I received a lot of good feedback from the speech, and I think it actually helped other students.

A Master Student is honest: I know I still lack many skills. I can look at those deficits as roadblocks or as new routes to my destination. I can be totally discouraged by my problems, or I can "Love my problems." I now believe that by being honest with myself and with others, by "Being here now" and by keeping a positive outlook, I will succeed. A Master Student has faith in herself!