Molly Kessler: Honors College Alumni Spotlight

Through the eyes of Honors College Alumn, Molly Kessler, we are able to see how the Honors College impacted her time at UWM and how it opened up the doorways for her future. Molly’s degrees include:

  • B.A. English: Professional and Technical Communication, 2013
  • M.A. English: Professional and Technical Writing, 2014
  • PhD English: Professional and Technical Writing & Rhetoric of Health and Medicine, 2017

Molly explains her time in Honors with the following essay:

You there, with the blonde hair, what do you think? Should 18 year olds be required to volunteer or serve in the military for 2 years before college? In front of a room of strangers, the spotlight was suddenly on me. Not to mention, the short, white-haired man calling upon me seemed completely unbothered that he was posing this question to a room of 18 year olds who had indeed chosen not to volunteer or join the military, but instead head straight to college. I was flustered to say the least.

I smiled, blushed, and sheepishly answered, I suppose I think we should all have the chance to pursue whatever it is we’d like. Forcing myself not to turn back to my parents, sitting rows behind me watching this scene unfold, I looked around and realized that all the other recent high school graduates attending this new freshmen orientation with me, were just as nervous as I was. Somehow though, the man leading this discussion (who we would all come to know as Dr. Chuck Schuster, then Director of the Honors College) managed to break the ice, and a lively debate regarding the pressures of being young adults, the college experience, and what we hoped to gain from heading straight to UWM unfolded. By the end of the Honors College orientation, all of the students were lined up at the front of the room, beaming with excitement as we waited to introduce ourselves to Dr. Schuster and various Honors College staff.

I remember this scene from my undergraduate history well because it was the first of many wonderful Honors College experiences fondly cataloged in my memory. Over the course of my undergraduate career, I took as many Honors College seminars as I could, working to push myself academically and socially as I overcame the shyness I once felt at that Honors College Orientation. I learned to speak up, trust myself, and relish in the satisfaction of stimulating discussions in Honors seminars on topics ranging from Disney to travel literature to devious cinema.

However, it wasn’t just the time spent in class that made my experience in the Honors College memorable. Becoming involved in the Honors College as a Peer Mentor enabled me to get to know instructors, advisors, and students more closely. In this role, I developed leadership, public speaking, and collaboration skills that I undoubtedly have relied upon each and every day since graduating with my Honors degree and Bachelor’s in English from UWM. Such experiences in the Honors College not only made me feel like I had a family within my UWM community, but helped me discover and pursue my career as a college professor.

Thanks to the encouragement and support of Honors College instructors and advisors, I have completed my Master’s as well as my PhD in English here at UWM, and I have been fortunate to work for UWM’s Student Success Center and Public Engagement and Science Communication Laboratory, as well as The Walt Disney Company. And, I am excited to be heading down to Tennessee this fall where I will bring my UWM and Honors College pride as a new Assistant Professor of English at the University of Memphis.

I’ve no doubt that from the moment I walked into Honors College Orientation seven years ago, I have been shaped in immeasurable and invaluable ways by incredible relationships and experiences I have developed through the Honors College. As my time at UWM comes to an end, and I begin the next stage of my career, I know that my time as an Honors student has prepared me to pursue my dreams, and for that, I am forever grateful to be an Honors College alumni.

To find out more about Molly’s dissertation, please click here