The last five years of my life as a student at MSU Denver have rewritten what was possible for me, personally, professionally, and as a civic member.

Six years ago, I was in a hole, stuck in a world of anxiety, depression, school avoidance, and hopelessness. I had been agoraphobic for more than a decade of my life, avoiding the things that scared me, and so avoiding the things that made life meaningful. I dropped out of school after 8th grade, not able to attend in-person due to my anxiety and not able to complete classes online due to my ADHD and depression.

When I was finally able to achieve my GED at the age of twenty-one, that significant milestone felt tainted with an underlying embarrassment, as I watched my friends graduate from college, get jobs, and begin lives that seemed so drastically out of reach for me. They moved on and I moved inward, my books and animal companions my only company and solace. I was isolated and unfulfilled, lacking ways to apply all I was learning from those loving creatures and eye-opening books I began to work diligently to untangle myself from the thorny cage of anxiety and depression, until I finally felt ready to enroll at MSU Denver in the Fall of 2017.

I encountered professors and courses that challenged me and nurtured me to my core, gradually building up my confidence and showing me I could live what I once just imagined. I went from school refusal to embracing school and excelling in my classes. One of the courses I took my first semester at MSU Denver was Composing Arguments. I started the class terrified of writing, despite loving writing in the past, as I had hit a wall with my writing. The professor helped me to see how I could make an impact with my writing.

A following semester I made a somewhat unusual choice of taking statistics for the behavioral sciences as a freshman. The professor was Dr. Cynthia Erickson and she helped me discover a love of math and numbers, and later asked me to be her teaching assistant. As her TA, I assist with the content creation and management for a new, online statistics course. Most importantly to me, I was able to help students tackle a course that many see as daunting initially.

One of MSU Denver’s core values, student-centered academic excellence, encompasses my experience the past five years. As a roadrunner, I have experienced how MSU Denver’s student-centered teaching and scholarship, matched up with a commitment to excellence, can truly change lives. I met professors who saw what I was capable of before I did, tailoring their teaching towards students like me who had diverse needs and challenges that not every college student typically has. I sometimes think about the person I was five years ago and what she would think if I went back and told her that in five years she would be a college Senior with a 4.0 GPA, President of the Psychology Research Club, and an award recipient. Or, even more crucially, a kinder, more confident, more knowledgeable person with goals of teaching at the university level and doing for other students what was so wonderfully done for me.