At a young age, while facing adversity in my own learning, I had an epiphany that learning is subjective and can transform individuals in a personal way. This realization helped me overcome my learning adversity and understand that I had a personal learning style. Learning became my life’s quest. I became an educator to share my love of learning and transform students’ lives by introducing them to ways to find their own learning styles.
—Lauren K. Foster, Germanna Community College (lead photo Lauren K. Foster in fourth grade)
I was eighteen years old with two children before anyone informed me that I could attend college. To learn that there were pathways for people like me—a nontraditional and underrepresented student—to financially afford and excel in obtaining a higher education was lifegiving. I became an educator to understand why some individuals do not know about the possibilities of how to attend and succeed in college so that I could alleviate those barriers. The power of knowledge is most potent when shared and acted upon with others for the greater good of all.
—Rochelle Plummer, King’s College
I was raised in a border town in Texas, the type of place that knows struggle. My grandmother was my legal guardian, and she was widowed at forty-three—left with five of her nine children still at home. And she had me. Life was hard, to say the least.
School was a world of riches to me, a place of affirmation and the hope of a much, much brighter future. I became an educator because teachers saved me over and over again when I was growing up. I wanted to do that with my life—help others like me.
—Michelle Cantu-Wilson, San Jacinto College
My mom gave me a book by Sigmund Freud when I was sixteen years old. While other boys were talking about cars, I was reading about the human mind. Our family would talk about social issues at the dinner table, reflecting the Jewish intellectual tradition. While we were not formally religious, we had a strong intellectual orientation. When I got into the doctoral program in clinical psychology at the University of Georgia, I wanted to be a full-time therapist. But I soon learned that doing therapy was not as wonderful as I thought. For one thing, you often could only help people a little bit or not at all. Not like in the books and movies. In graduate school, I did research and taught a course on the psychology of adjustment. I loved it. Being a university professor seemed like the job for me.
—Russell Eisenman, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
My first semester in college, I fell in love with the study of philosophy because of a brilliant teacher and mentor who challenged me to excel. He instilled in me a passion for engaging with others around questions of life’s meaning and purpose and how to live a good life in the absence of a good society. At the same time, he demonstrated how both the classroom and the community provide forums for humanities practice and an opportunity to translate scholarly expertise into helping individuals grapple with the most fundamental questions of human existence. I wanted to follow his example of service to others—especially those who have been denied access to excellence in liberal education—through teaching and scholarship.
—Lynn Pasquerella, American Association of Colleges and Universities
Photo: Lauren K. Foster in fourth grade. (Courtesy of Lauren K. Foster)