Student Spotlights

Kristi Rosenthal’s non-traditional journey pays off with academic honors

It may have taken Kristi Rosenthal 22 years to earn her bachelor’s degree, but her persistence has paid off. She’s not only the first in her family to graduate from a 4-year university, but she’s on the Dean’s Honor Roll as well.

Kristi RosenthalRosenthal began taking college classes in 1995, hoping to earn her BA and become an elementary school teacher. But she left without a degree because she was already finding success as a preschool teacher. “My return to school was spurred on by a new career goal which requires an MS degree, which, in turn, prompted me to complete my BA,” she says.

After graduation this May, Rosenthal intends to pursue a master’s degree and eventually become an occupational therapist. “I have worked with children and adults with developmental disabilities and absolutely loved it,” she says. “I want to continue that work on a professional level.”

Rosenthal is helping her family to develop a college-going culture. While her grandparents’ schooling ended at 8th grade, her parents and three of her four siblings attended community college or vocational training after high school. She is the first to pursue a higher-level degree. It’s a status she says she treasures. “Knowing that I am modeling a path through higher education to my nieces and nephews is a high point in my college experience.”

One of the factors that helped her maintain high grades was not having to be employed during school, which enabled her to commit fully to her studies. Other strategies, such as sitting in the front of the class and paying full attention during lectures also helped. “It can be overwhelming to try to integrate a whole course full of new information into one’s knowledge base,” she says. “Identifying which items need what level of attention has been important. Being able to do this is crucial because understanding the big picture and being able to apply that knowledge can actually help when learning the details.”

She encourages students to approach their instructors if they are struggling. Fellow students are also a great resource when trying to process information. “I always make sure that I have contact info for several people in each class,” she suggests. “Even if their understanding is just slightly different from your own, together you can often figure things out.”

Making the Dean’s list is a notable achievement, and Rosenthal says it feels good to know that her hard work has been recognized by the university. “However, I try to remember to be just as proud of the smaller recognitions,” she says. “I once received a note from a professor thanking me for being so attentive in class. That note means just as much, if not more, to me as making the Dean’s list.”

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