"Friendly's paid for my first year, and Newick's paid for my last three," Peg Kirkpatrick likes to say of the jobs she worked to pay her own way through UNH as an undergrad.
The Concord, N.H., native says that at the time, it was doable to work your way through a college education. These days, she's seeing it's not that easy.
As assistant to the dean of the College of Liberal Arts, she says, "I see students working now and I wonder how they are going to do it."
She spent her first two years of college studying business, but she realized she missed the English classes she took in high school, and she also recognized that being able to write well was just as important as what she was learning in business school, so she switched into COLA to be an English major at the end of her sophomore year.
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After graduating in 1992, she was a hall director for four years, before coming to work in the dean's office, where her student affairs experience came in handy in the academic realm. And by earning a master's degree in sociology in 1998, she finds she has even more insight into academic trends.
"I realized pretty quickly I love it; I'm working with students in a different sense from my previous positions. I'm able to find trends in majors, track freshmen yield, figure out why certain majors are more popular than others in any given year ... I'm looking for patterns, reading data, examining outliers — I wasn't able to do that before. I'm using what I learned in class pretty much every day."
It's a close-knit team in the COLA dean's office, and Kirkpatrick says she enjoys all of the various projects she works on. "I'm a grunt and I don't mind being a grunt," she says, happily. "Every day is something different."
She even admits to enjoying the tough talks with suspended students — because the success stories when they come back and show how much progress they've made are always impressive.
One of the first times Kirkpatrick donated to UNH, she directed the money to go to community scholarships — all because of one student.
"She was really struggling, couldn't make ends meet. She was buying her books late into the semester so she could afford them, that kind of thing. Her experience motivated me to give," she says. "We have incredibly motivated students in the college who are putting together unique and amazing experiences. Helping them succeed is a gift for both me and them. I can’t wait to see where they’ll go and what they’ll accomplish."
She says she's fortunate because she works in a department where she gets to see deserving students and gets to know their stories.
"Those are the things that are personal. You can see the direct need, and you know that the money is going to students who will directly benefit from it. I'm thankful for my degrees, and I feel it's a gestalt thing; I'm keeping an eye toward helping, in any way, those students who could use it."