Posted on: August 25, 2020
When Kate Snelson was a first-year student, any time she wanted to speak in class her palms would sweat and her heart would race. In most of Kate’s classes she could sit off to the side of a lecture hall and stay silent. But every week, twice a week, Kate knew that when she went to her U101 class she would have to participate. “As a freshman, I was painfully introverted. I was going through so much but I didn’t feel comfortable or know how to speak about it to anyone. Thankfully, my instructor, Duncan Culbreth, never gave up on encouraging me to speak in class. He never let me shut down.” Kate recalls that she would not have talked in class had it not been for daily check-ins and get-to-know-you activities.
I struggled a lot. I was horribly homesick, I had roommate issues, and I realized that my major wasn’t a good fit. There was a lot going on. Once I started sharing, I realized that other students in the class were going through similar things and that I wasn’t alone.
- Kate Snelson
The more Kate talked in class, the easier it got. U101 became a space where Kate felt safe enough to talk about what she was going through. “I struggled a lot. I was horribly homesick, I had roommate issues, and I realized that my major wasn’t a good fit. There was a lot going on. Once I started sharing, I realized that other students in the class were going through similar things and that I wasn’t alone.”
Duncan encouraged Kate to talk by getting her to share one of her passions, photography. “She has a wonderful eye for photography and always had really gorgeous photos in her presentations. I think encouraging her to talk about her photos, helped her come into her own. She became a very open and very honest person about her first-semester struggles and I would like to think that a lot of the other students in class responded to that.”
Kate also credits Duncan with helping to point her to on-campus resources that helped her navigate some of her issues. One referral, in particular, changed the course of Kate’s time at Carolina. After a one-on-one conversation, it became clear that Kate was struggling with her major, and Duncan suggested that Kate meet with an Exploratory Advisor to learn more about the process of changing majors. “At the time, I didn’t even know you could change your major, and I definitely didn’t realize that there was an entire resource for that. If Duncan hadn’t pointed me in the right direction, I never would have gone. That changed everything.”
My goal is to help any student who feels like I did. I want to help students out of a place that feels hopeless, and to point them in the right direction and help them be successful.
Thanks to Duncan’s persistence and Kate’s resilience, Kate was able to develop a community where she felt comfortable speaking. When Kate was a junior, she became a University 101 Peer Leader so that she could create a safe and empowering community for other students. Kate’s students describe her as kind, approachable, funny, and helpful. One student shared that Kate lights up the classroom with her personality. Now, Kate is in her first year as a graduate student in Appalachian State University’s Student Affairs Administration program. “My goal is to help any student who feels like I did. I want to help students out of a place that feels hopeless, and to point them in the right direction and help them be successful.”